Friday, May 05, 2006

RC Sproul: On Justification by Faith Alone

RC Sproul is one of my heroes. I am blessed and thankful to be able to say that. I have learned as much from RC in print, in audio, and in personal conversation as I have learned from anyone. One of the most important lessons RC every taught me was how important it is that you turn your body on a pivot and not sway or shift your body on the back swing. Yes, as astute as he is theologically, he always impressed me with his knowledge of all things golf. My kind of man! But I digress. At the T4G Conference it was RC's charge to proclaim, once again, the indispensable doctrine of justification by faith alone. The organizer of the conference knew that no one in the past half century has articulated and defended this doctrine as feverishly and eloquently as RC. He was the right man for the job, and he delivered.
Justification by faith alone, said Martin Luther, is the article upon which the church stands or falls. While most in churches today preach for felt needs and emotional responses, RC reminded us that the heart of the gospel is justification by faith, and when that is lost or obscured what we have is what we have today - a weak, insipid, ineffective gospel where people are not justified by faith, but they are justified by death. This is particularly true among African-Americans.
Attend the funeral in an average African-American church and you will read in the obituary or hear from the remarks that the deceased professed Christ at an early age and was baptized. Therefore, we are to take assurance that he was saved and is safely resting in the arms of the Savior, regardless of his confession and lifestyle at the time of death. The reason that our churches can exist with such an understanding, such a dichotomy between biblical faith and popular notions of faith, is because preachers can preach with immunity a gospel void of justification by faith alone. Yet Biblical preaching, indeed Reformed preaching, has at the heart of it a justification that produces sanctification, both positional and practical. Could it be that the weakness we witness in the lives of Christians and the slow growth in sanctification is due to a lack of biblical preaching on the grounds of sanctification? Justification by faith alone is indispensable for our faithful living. Therefore we must insist that it is preached, that it is the warp and woof of our proclamation.
The war over justification is still raging. Regardless what some may say, the Reformation is not over. In fact, among African-Americans in our time, it is just beginning. The siren song of popular pulpits in our time is loud and seductive. Sheep are being lead astray with flattering words and flippant phrases. Yet the faithful ministers of God must continue to give a clear call and sound a mighty trumpet for sola fide (faith alone), that the true sheep of Christ may hear and prepare themselves for battle. RC has fought long and hard. May we, with like courage, take up the mantle.


The Professor said...

Dear Brother Carter:

I think you're on the money. The issue of justification is serious one, one that needs greater clarification in the Black Christian context. For years I have struggled to get out of a works righteousness understanding of salvation. What many people do not realize is that the Black church from its inception until now is rooted in the Old Testament rather than the new. For some reason the Old Testament message resonated deeper with the slaves of the past and this understanding of the Christian faith, however incomplete, still permeates the Black Christian tradition. Simply put the majority of Black Christians are wrapped up in Moses not Jesus and Paul. This has created a certain view of salvation that is based on works rather than on grace. This is especially prevalent in certain types of Black Baptist churches and nearly all Pentecostal ones. Until someone brings Black Christians into the New Covenant, our theology will always be deficient. We need teachers like Sproul but ones better suited to the Black context to articulate a theology that is both biblically sound and culturally sensitive. It is rather unfortunate that many white Evangelicals are abandoning Reformation principles in an effort to be more ecumenical. What is more important than a clear understanding of the salvation message? Just as we are discovering the real meaning of faith, many of our Reformed and Evangelical brethren seem willing to abandon it. Keep up the good work Brother. What you do is sorely needed in the church especially in the Black Church.

ajcarter said...

My Brother Professor,
I do believe your currency is good as well. Thanks for your comments. As we endeavor to re-present the truth of Biblical Christianity to evangelicals in general and African-Americans in particular, I am impressed with the need for as many voices as possible singing the song of the Sovereign Grace of God in salvation, as the ground of worship, and the fount of life. I got your email and will respond to you shortly. Thanks for checking in and do come again.