Hebrews 11:1–2“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.”
Commentary from the sermon “Portrait Gallery of Faith — Part One” by Alistair Begg:
“These ancient people were commended on account of their faith. Of all the things that were true of them, of all the things that might have been written of them, the one unifying characteristic which finds them in this portrait gallery is the fact of their faith and trust in the living God. (See Heb. 11:4–40.) These individuals had nothing to go on except God’s promises. They took God at His word, and they regulated their lives accordingly. They regarded, as verse 1 tells us, the future as if it were present, and they viewed that which was invisible as if it were actually visible to their gaze. They believed what God said, and they lived their lives accordingly. And by doing so, they made a radical impact in their day. And we want to make sure that we do not miss the wood for the trees, and pause for a second and say: the same is true in our generation. Whenever an individual, a couple, a family, a church, a community is prepared to take God at His word and do what God says, that individual, family, group, community, church will make an impact in their generation. And for this reason, we want to pay careful attention to what they were doing so that we might emulate the pattern that they’ve established for us.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Commentary from the sermon “Grace, Faith, Jesus” by Alistair Begg:
“Grace is the source. Faith is the conduit. This is not a transaction whereby God brings to the table grace and we in and of ourselves bring to the table faith. Faith is not our contribution. Faith is our response. For the very faith itself, says Paul, is ‘the gift of God.’ Because you think about it, you say to yourself, ‘Why would I even listen to the Bible? Why am I actually beginning to consider this notion? How did this come about? It didn’t come about as a result of argumentation. I can’t fully explain what’s going on.’ And then we discover that we come to Christ only with empty hands. In fact, if you like, the grace of God is extended to us from, if you like, the hand of the Father, through the person of the Son, in order that I might reach out my tiny little hand and have it laid hold of by Christ. I wonder, have you ever done that?
“You see, because it was this that transformed things for Luther. And it is this, the discovery of salvation, that transforms religious or irreligious people into those who have become the followers of Jesus—the realization that salvation is neither an achievement of mind, but it is a gift. Nor is it a reward for my endeavors. If it were a reward for my endeavors or your endeavors, then we could boast about it. But since it is not, then we couldn’t boast. …
“… Well, this belief … the believing, the faith—means, as we rehearsed in question 21 from the Heidelberg, the nature of faith is to trust entirely on what God has done for sinners in Jesus. It is to look out of ourselves, not into ourselves.”
Romans 3:21–26 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Commentary from the sermon “Faith in Jesus” by Alistair Begg:
“Sin, wrote Luther, has crippled the ability of every person to make their way back to God. … It is only as we own up to that that we will lay hold of the free forgiveness that is offered to us in the Gospel. …
“… I said earlier that the story is faith from first to last. Will you just allow your eye to go down here and let me point this out to you? Notice how this is made clear again and again. Verse 22: ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.’ Verse 25: ‘a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.’ ‘It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.’ He’s then going to go on into chapter 4 … to bring forward Abraham as this great example and to make the point for his readers that Abraham was justified not as a result of the things that he had done, nor as a result of the things that had been done to him or for him and certainly not by him, but he was justified through faith in the promise of God. …
“God’s way of reconciliation is faith. Is faith. Not law but the principle ‘the righteousness of faith.’ And I want to say this again, because it is very, very important: this righteousness about which Paul is writing is not something that we are called upon to produce, as if we even could, but rather that which God has promised all the way through the Old Testament and that which God provides finally in the person of His Son.”
Romans 10:9–10 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Commentary from the sermon “A Call to the ‘Almost’ Christian” by Alistair Begg:
“To believe in Jesus, to put our trust in Christ, means to rely upon Him alone and therefore to cease to rely upon everyone and everything else that may have been important to us. When I come to trust in Christ alone, then I no longer am trusting in how many times I come to church. When I come to trust in Christ alone, then I’m no longer trusting on the basis of the family background that I’ve enjoyed. When I come to trust in Christ alone, then I am no longer bringing before Him ‘And I’m a member of the Rotary club, and I’m a fine man, and my wife is usually very nice to people, and we give out parcels at Christmastime, and could you please include that, Jesus, just when you’re thinking about me?’ As long as a modicum of that remains within your mind, you don’t know what it means to trust in Jesus Christ. The individual who believes in their heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead is coming and saying, ‘I don’t trust in any other thing. I’ve got nothing else to bring. I want to believe exclusively, cast myself helplessly upon you.’
“So it’s internal conviction, and … it’s external confession. … It is your public confession which gives verification of the change that has taken place inside. And this is why, you see, loved ones, there is no place for secret discipleship. There is no place for people sitting in here on a Sunday morning, saying, ‘Oh yes, I’m a Christian. It’s just I don’t tell anyone about it. Oh yes, I’m a believer, but I’m never going to confess it. Oh yes, I believe in my heart, but I don’t want anyone to know.’ You’re not a Christian! You’re an ‘almost’ Christian! You’re a waverer! You’re a wobbler! … How long can you sit out there on that fence? How long can you live this way? …
“While our believing in our hearts is a personal affair, it’s not a private affair. It’s crazy to say that there’s a fire when there’s no flame and there’s no heat. Bring your children into the room, say, ‘Come on and sit down by the fire.’ Well, there’s a fireplace, but there’s no fire, ’cause there’s no flame, no heat, no nothing. You’ve said, ‘Well, I’m a Christian,’ but there’s no show, no flame, no heat, no change, no nothing. It is an external confession of our lives which verifies and confirms our internal conviction that Jesus is Lord.”
James 2:14–17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Commentary from the sermon “False Faith” by Alistair Begg:
“When a man or a woman entrusts themselves to the Lord Jesus, when a man or a woman offloads their sin and discovers the forgiveness that Jesus brings, not only does Jesus forgive their sin, but He provides the Holy Spirit to live in our lives, so that ‘the grace of God’—Titus 2—‘that brings salvation … teaches us to say “No” to [all] ungodliness’ (Titus 2:12, NIV 1984) and teaches us how to live life in a way that is pleasing to Him. And so what James is saying is, ‘Since there are these two dimensions to it, what good is it if somebody just walks around saying, “I have faith, I have faith,” and there is no evidence in their life? Can that faith save?’ …
“Well, let me say it and say it as clearly as I can: do not mistake some general acknowledgment of God’s existence, or even the uniqueness of Jesus, as being evidence of saving faith. ’Cause if you look down at verse 19, to which we’ll come another day: ‘Even the demons believe’ there is one God. They do that, and it makes them ‘shudder.’ No, what you need to be doing is not simply assenting to the truth about Jesus but is also consenting to take Christ.”
Genesis 15:3–6 “Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Commentary from the sermon “Some Crucial Questions” by Alistair Begg:
“Now, let’s try our best to get this picture. Here is Abram, and he’s an old man. Okay? This is not a young guy. This is not a young fellow with all his future in front of him. This is a man who has been unsuccessful in relation to his relationship with Sarah in producing an heir for his family. And first of all, God says to him, ‘You’re going to have an heir.’ Now, that seemed phenomenally improbable. And then He takes him outside on a starlit evening, and He says, ‘Look up into the galaxies. Look up at the stars.’ And he looks up at that manifold beauty, and God says, ‘Count them.’ And Abram says to himself, ‘That’s impossible.’ And God says, ‘That’s right.’ And then He says, ‘Abram, as the stars up in the heaven, so shall your descendants be.’ …
“Abraham believed, and the Lord put him in a right standing with Himself. … Question: Was Abraham credited with a right standing before God because he was circumcised? Answer: no! He wasn’t circumcised until fourteen years after this event. You can read about it in Genesis 17. Question: Was Abraham put in a right standing before God because he obeyed the law? Answer: not for a moment. Why? Because the law wasn’t given until 430 years after this event. So for these foolish Galatians, who are beginning to think that a right standing with God is on the basis of doing this and having that done, Paul says, ‘Think the issue out.’ (See Gal. 3:1–9.) Abraham is the daddy of them all, if you like. Abraham is the father of faith. And there is a direct link between the faith of Abraham and the Christian era. Abraham was justified because he came to the position in his own life where he realized that he was utterly unable to do anything to put himself in a right relationship with God—that he came to the understanding that he must humbly depend upon God.”
James 2:21–24 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Commentary from the sermon “Abraham and Rahab” by Alistair Begg:
“Paul is stressing the faith that issues in works (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16), and James is stressing the works that issue from faith …. Paul is arguing that faith is the only means of being declared righteous—and that is a legal statement: being relieved from the realm of condemnation as a result of being of justified, which means to be declared righteous before God. And Paul is arguing absolutely and unequivocally that the only means of a man or a woman being declared righteous is through faith and faith alone. And James is arguing that works are the only way in which a man or a woman who has been declared righteous will be demonstrated to be so. So, if you like, Paul’s issue has to do with declaration, and James’s has to do with demonstration. …
“… James is not saying that a person is put in a right standing with God as a result of works. He knows his Bible, if you like, too well to say that. He understands what Paul has been saying. He and Paul are agreed on that. Paul is making sure that at the front end, the person who wants to use works as entry into heaven is confronted by sola fide. James is concerned that the person who wants to hold on to some scrap of testimony of paper that he once became a follower of Jesus and has done nothing about it and never gone on, he wants to confront that individual with the distinct possibility that what he declares to be a sincere faith is nothing other than a false, dead, hopeless, useless faith. And that is why it is so crucial.”
2 Timothy 3:15–17 “The sacred writings … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Commentary from the sermon “The Incomparable Christ — Part One” by Alistair Begg:
“Some of you … have begun to read the Bible in a way that you hadn’t been reading it before. It has been very, very difficult for you to understand. But somehow, in a way that is inexplicable to you, the mist is beginning to clear, and you discover now that as you are beginning to think these things through, some of it, at least, is making sense and is pointing you forward to Jesus, is dispelling the idea that genuine Christian faith is simply a leap in the dark: that you disengage your thinking faculties, you embrace your emotion, you discard reason, you move into the realm of wishful thinking, and when you get in there, then it all becomes cozy and plain.
“No, you could never come to that as a result of reading the Bible. It is far more daunting than that. It’s not a leap in the dark. It is, if you like, reasoned trust. Coming to an understanding of God’s wisdom expressed in Jesus, confronting us with our need of Jesus and the wonder of His love for us, is not like solving a mathematical equation but is rather more like embracing a person. As in marriage, there comes a moment of commitment.”
James 1:5–8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Commentary from the sermon “Asking God for Wisdom” by Alistair Begg:
“To believe here is more than intellectual assent. To believe here is an expression of trust, it is an expression of devotion. To doubt is more than simply saying, ‘I wonder if this is the case.’ To doubt is to refuse to entrust ourselves to Him.
“Again, Phillips’s paraphrase is helpful to me: ‘He must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not.’ … See, God knows whether we want help. In the same way, when you do Q and A over a period of time … you very, very quickly know whether the person is asking a question because they want an answer, or they’re asking a question because they want to annoy you, or they’re asking a question because they want to impress the people that they know what the question is. And so, very quickly you can adjudicate on that. You get it wrong sometimes, because you’re finite.
“But God never gets it wrong. He knows! He knows! Is this a sincere request? Is this somebody coming in faith saying, ‘Oh, heavenly Father, I need Your wisdom’? Or is it somebody who is playing the game, using the language, singing the song, but deep inside they say, ‘But if this wisdom comes out that I don’t like, then I reserve the right to just do what I good and well please’? That person is a doubter. That person is a nontruster. That person is not a believer. In the face of trials and fears and disappointments, to come to Him properly is to come to Him in childlike trust, asking God to help us to see things properly, asking Him to help us to see that our trials that he identifies here ‘of many kinds,’ that our sufferings are light and momentary afflictions, not worthy to be compared to the glory that is going to be revealed in us. (See Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17.) It’s going to take wisdom to see things in that way, isn’t it?”
Hebrews 12:1–2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Commentary from the sermon “Running the Race” by Alistair Begg:
“Do you ever look at yourself and say, ‘I don’t know if I’m making much progress in this race at all? I think I’ve been running on this spot all of my life. I keep passing the same lamppost. In fact, I’m not sure that I passed it yet. How am I going to perfect my faith?’ Not by a stirring of my moral integrity, as important as it is. Not by an emphasis on my devoted service. Not by focusing on my spiritual experiences, no matter how wonderful they might have been. But only Christ authors and perfects faith. That’s why when Paul writes to the Philippians, he says, ‘I am confident that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6, paraphrased).
“Fix your eyes on this compassionate Savior. Fix your eyes on the pioneer and the perfecter of faith. Fix your eyes on the one who was the devoted servant who came to do the will of God. Fix your eyes on He who is the effective high priest, who ‘sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:2, NIV 1984). Fix your eyes upon He who is the patient sufferer, enduring the ‘opposition from sinful men’ (Heb. 12:3, NIV 1984). And fix your eyes upon He who is the enthroned Lord.”
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