Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 3:27 “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By
what law? of works? Nay: but by the law
If salvation depended in any degree upon works, men would have room to boast, but since it is received by grace through faith, there is no room for bragging. Faith means total trust and acceptance of what Someone else has done. Hence, it involves humility and self-renouncing grace. Faith simply trusts and receives.
On that basis, boasting is ludicrous. One has nothing to brag about when he puts out a withered hand to receive bounty. Believing that God speaks the truth is no ground for special recognition. A helpless sinner leaning on omnipotence takes no time to glory in self.
We do not congratulate a starving man for receiving food, nor a beggar receiving alms. A man dying of thirst is not a hero because he reaches out and takes a drink of water. Likewise, dying condemned sinners have no reason to boast when they reach out in faith and receive eternal life.
Nevertheless, men are determined to crow their virtues, plume their feathers, and fan out their peacock tails. The human race prefers to doctrine that teaches salvation by works because it appeals to their pride. People are determined to try to do something to save themselves.
Few things are more despised by men than the doctrine of free grace. Men reject the notion that they have not even an inch of ground on which to stand before the tribunal of God.
No matter how sinful we are, we still want to hold up our filthy rags and claim some measure of merit based on them. But trying to mix grace and merit borders on blasphemy. It is preposterous to mix the precious blood of Jesus with the foul sewer water of our human efforts.
We seem to need at least some vestige of self-sufficiency as an opiate to our egos. Men want to be independent of God, even if it means damnation. While falling headlong into everlasting damnation, we would rather grab at the twig of our own good deeds than lean wholly on Jesus.
No man can ever be right with God until he confesses his own nothingness and leans totally on the finished work of Jesus. We must acknowledge that we have not even an ounce’s weight of merit to plead before God.
Boasting must be turned out of God’s courtroom once and for all. It can never be allowed again. There is no place for it, forever.
This must be constantly reiterated because moral pride is something we struggle against for a lifetime. You have to keep sweeping out pride because it keeps coming back. It is something you drive out the front door only to have it come back again at the back door.
Praise is the ever-recurring nemesis among Christians. I know. It homesteads in me often. I carry in my spirit many stitches from where God has had to do punitive surgery.
For years I have said that pride is the number one Christian killer. It is our most dangerous foe because you can be overcome with it and not realize it. One can be filled with pride without “feeling” proud. In fact, one of Satan’s most effective ploys is to fill you with pride while at the same time making you “feel” humble.
Pride is detected through our deeds, not our feelings. No matter how we feel, we prove our pride by our lack of prayer and Bible study. Pride is gaining a foothold when church attendance begins to lag. There are other tell-tale signs:
· After preaching a sermon or teaching a lesson, and you hear a voice from within saying, “Well done!”
· After praying with unusual fluency, and you hear in your mind, “Impressive!”
· When one of your prayers is answered, and you inwardly grin rather than fall down in awe and wonder.
· After you do a kind deed for another, and your mind says, “What a good person I am.”
· When you are on the mountain top with God, and the devil whispers, “You must be something special or else God would not have let you approach this close.”
· When your mind is not consciously attributing every good thing you have to grace.
Yes, pride can take up residence in our hearts and hide itself even from ourselves. I beg you to search it out constantly. Get it out before God has to lance it out with an arrow to drain away its blood.
Pride is obnoxious in the eyes of God. It is one sin that flies in the face of every attribute of God:
· His love bewails it as selfishness;
· His holiness hates it as sin;
· His sovereignty opposes it as treason;
· His justice detests it as presumption;
· His truthfulness attacks it as error.
God has uttered some of His most solemn warnings against pride:
* “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (PR 16:18).
* “Him that hath a high look and a proud heart will I not suffer” (PS 101:5).
*”Pride and arrogancy. . .do I hate” (PR 8:13).
* “The Lord will destroy the house of the proud” (PR 15:25).
God touches other sins with His fingers, but bares His arm against this one. God has furbished His sharpest swords against it. The first sin had pride as its essence. Eve, in her ambitious heart, desired to be as God (GN 3:5). The result was a blasted Paradise, a ruined world, and a suffering humanity. At Babel (GN 11) men attempted to reach up to God, but He scattered and confounded their language. Pharaoh lifted himself up against Heaven, but God broke his back and destroyed his nation (EX 7-14). Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the world, bragged of his honor, might and majesty. Immediately, while the words were still in his mouth, he was driven out to eat grass like the oxen. His body was covered with dew; his nails grew like birds’ claws; his hair grew like eagles’ feathers (DN 4:30-33).
Herod made a powerful oration, after which the people shouted, “It is the voice of a god.” Herod revelled in it, refusing to give the glory. Immediately the angel of God smote him, and he was eaten of worms (AC 12:20-25).
Let there be no mistake in your mind about this matter. God hates pride. It is the mother of sins, the epitome of evil. It smacks of men pretending to be God, lieutenants vying to be commanders-in-chief. Understandably, all the legions of Heaven are marshalled against it.
There is no place for pride in our hearts, and God will not let it tarry there very long. Cast it out yourself before God tears it out.
Romans 3:28 “Therefore we conclude that a man is
justified by faith without the deeds of
To put an everlasting stigma on pride, God ordained that the only way in which men can be saved is one that humbles them in the dust. Salvation by grace through faith once and for all throws mire and filth on all vain glorying.
But this is actually good news for us all! The fact that boasting is excluded means even the best of men can bring nothing to aid in their salvation, but it also means that the worst of men can be saved though they have nothing to bring.
A justification that is freely offered apart from works is obviously meant for all. It is for whosoever will come. God does not love men because of what they are. Therefore, He is not kept from loving them because of what they are.
God loves you. You do not have to pump up His affections. His love flows from Himself like an artesian well. He has made provision for your salvation, but you must respond by placing your trust in His finished work at Calvary. A drowning man has enough faith to believe a life-preserver can save his life, but unless he reaches out and takes the preserver, he will sink to a watery grave.
It takes more than intellectual belief to be saved. It requires confession of lostness, and confidence in the support of another. Your faith must be in a person, not in your deeds. Misplacing your trust is fatal. Over a century ago, a boat carrying two men was caught in the rapids above Niagara Falls. Rescuers on the shore succeeded in floating a rope to the men. One man was saved by reaching out and grasping the rope. However, the other man, in a confused panic, his mind stricken with terror, reached out and grabbed a nearby floating log instead. It was a fatal mistake. By clinging to the loose log he was borne irresistibly along to his death. The first man was saved because he placed his trust in that which had a connection with those on shore. In the same way, faith in Christ is our connection to saving power.
It is true that works appeal to our pride and our nature. They look like logs with which we can safely float along. At the same time the rope of faith looks flimsy, connected to something that happened on a cross some 1900 years ago. Nevertheless, you can trust it because God has chosen it as His way of saving sinners.
You must let go of your efforts to earn salvation, and flee to Jesus. Cling to the cross, my friend. It is our only hope.
Spurgeon often told of a naval captain whose young son once climbed the rigging of a ship until he finally reached the main-trunk. Once he got up there, he could not get back down. He had managed to get there, was standing on the flat round board and clinging to the mast, but could not come back down.
Immediately assessing the seriousness of his son’s plight, the captain called for a speaking trumpet. In a tossing sea the boy could not hold on to the swaying mast very long. If he fell to the deck, he would be dashed in pieces–only a mangled corpse would be left.
The captain shouted through the speaking trumpet, “Son, next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea.” That was the boy’s only chance for survival.
The youngster, however, looked down at the water and could not bear the idea of throwing himself into the roaring current. It looked angry, dangerous, a long way down. Hence, though his strength was ebbing, he held to the mast with all his might.
The father, realizing the inevitable, again lifted the speaking trumpet, but this time, in the other hand, he lifted a pistol. Pointing it directly at the lad, he yelled, “Son, the next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea–or I’ll shoot you!” The boy knew his father meant it. Hence, the next time the ship lurched to one side, the boy jumped into the sea. Sailors quickly rescued him and brought him back to the ship.
Now we, like the boy, are by nature in a precarious position incapable of saving ourselves. Unfortunately, we are holding on to our good deeds, like that mast, and we cling to them fondly, unwilling to give them up. The Captain of our salvation has diagnosed our plight. He knows our only hope for eternal life is to fall into God’s sea of love, Jesus Himself.
He first cries, “Sinner, let go your works and fall on grace.” We look down and see Him as too flimsy, too shaky, too risky, maybe even too easy. Our nature causes us to desire more substance than merely grace to rely on.
Hence, the Captain has to use His pistol: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” The weapon of destruction is pointed at us only to make us repent.
Friend, you have no real choice. You must either let go or perish. Oh, believe on Christ! You will never trust Him in vain. Bring all your guilt and cast it before Jesus.