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True, Justifying Faith


Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

—Genesis 22:10–13


From hence we may learn the nature of true, justifying faith. Whoever understands and preaches the truth, as it is in Jesus, must acknowledge, that salvation is God’s free gift and that we are saved, not by any or all the works of righteousness which we have done or can do. No, we can neither wholly nor in part justify ourselves in the light of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness and if we are accepted with God it must be only in and through the personal righteousness, the active and passive obedience, of Jesus Christ his beloved Son. This righteousness must be imputed, or counted over to us and applied by faith to our hearts, or else we can in no wise be justified in God’s sight. And that very moment a sinner is enabled to lay hold on Christ’s righteousness by faith, he is freely justified from all his sins and shall never enter into condemnation, notwithstanding he was a fire-brand of hell before. Thus it was that Abraham was justified before he did any good work. He was enabled to believe on the Lord Christ. It was accounted to him for righteousness. That is, Christ’s righteousness was made over to him and so accounted his.

This, this is the gospel. This is the only way of finding acceptance with God. Good works have nothing to do with our justification in his sight. We are justified by faith alone, as saith the article of our church, agreeable to which the Apostle Paul says, ‘By grace ye are saved, through faith. And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place. They justify our faith, though not our persons. They follow it and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the Apostle James asks, ‘was not Abraham justified by works?’ (alluding no doubt to the story on which we have been discoursing) That is, did he not prove he was in a justified state, because his faith was productive of good works? This declarative justification in the sight of men, is what is directly to be understood in the words of the text, ‘Now know I, says God, that thou fearest me, since thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.’ Not but that God knew it before. But this is spoken in condescension to our weak capacities and plainly shows, that his offering up his son was accepted with God, as an evidence of the sincerity of his faith and for this, was left on record to future ages.

Hence then you may learn, whether you are blessed with and are sons and daughters of, faithful Abraham. You say you believe. You talk of free grace and free justification. You do well. The devils also believe and tremble. But has the faith, which you pretend to, influenced your hearts, renewed your souls and, like Abraham’s, worked by love? Are your affections, like his, set on things above? Are you heavenly-minded and like him, do you confess yourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth? In short, has your faith enabled you to overcome the world and strengthened you to give up your Isaacs, your laughter, your most beloved lusts, friends, pleasures and profits for God? If so, take the comfort of it. For justly may you say, ‘We know assuredly, that we do fear and love God, or rather are loved of him.’ But if you are only talking believers, have only a faith of the head and never felt the power of it in your hearts, however you may bolster yourselves up and say, ‘We have Abraham for our father, or Christ is our Saviour,’ unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, you shall never sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Jesus Christ, in the kingdom of heaven.

—George Whitefield, “Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:93–95.

Posted 2018·11·06 by David Kjos
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Posted in: George Whitefield · Saving Faith · The Sermons of George Whitefield

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