Peace with God and False Peace
A sermon taken from Assurance: An Exposition of Romans 5,1 a volume in Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ series of sermons on the book of Romans, published by the Trust (pp. 14-29). Dr Lloyd-Jones died thirty years ago today, on March 1 1981.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1, 2)
We now proceed to look at the ‘peace with God’, that results from justification by faith, from the two sides – the God-ward, and the man-ward. Far too often it is taken even here in a purely subjective sense. While it is true that there are great subjective consequences of this peace, as I hope to show, it is essential that we should look at it first in a more objective manner. Peace of necessity involves two people; it is a relationship between two persons, and in this case it is peace between man and God. We must bear in mind that something has to happen on God’s side as well as on our side before peace can obtain. We must remind ourselves again of the position under the Law. The Apostle has shown us at length that from the side of God the position was that God’s wrath was upon us. He laid that down as a primary postulate as far back as the eighteenth verse of the first chapter where he says, ‘For the wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’. He is ‘not ashamed’ of the gospel because it deals with that and delivers us from it.
Here he is saying the same thing in a different way by asserting that we have ‘peace’ with God. Apart from justification, apart from that which has been done for us in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no peace between God and man. There is no peace either on God’s side or on man’s side, ‘for the wrath of God is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’. We should never forget that, but mankind is always very ready to forget it. That is why so many by-pass the Lord Jesus Christ and all his work. That is why so many pray to God without ever mentioning the Lord Jesus Christ. They see no need of him. They say, ‘God is love’ and believe that they can go to God directly just as they are. That is a complete denial of the Christian faith. It is the result of the failure to see that there is no peace between them and God even from God’s side, and that the wrath of God is upon them because of their ungodliness and unrighteousness. Before there can be peace between God and man, and man and God, something has to happen with respect to the wrath of God, which is a revealed fact.
The Apostle has already told us what has happened, in chapter 3, verses 24-26: ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.’ As we have seen, the great problem confronting the mind of God was this – How can God at one and the same time forgive a sinner and yet remain just and righteous and eternally the same? The answer is that God has sent his Son into the world, and has ‘set him forth’ as a ‘propitiation’ for our sins. That means that he laid our sins upon him, and poured out his wrath against sin upon the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only because he has done that, that God can look upon us with favour, and pardon us and forgive us and reconcile us unto himself. This had to happen before the wrath of God could be appeased and he could look upon us and deal with us in a new way. The Apostle asserts here that, in the light of what has happened in Christ, who was ‘delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification’, as far as God is concerned the wrath is no longer there, and he is at peace with all ‘that believe in Jesus’.
But it was necessary also that something should happen from our side, for by nature we are all at enmity with God. As the result of the blindness caused by sin, and our being drugged by the devil, we imagine that all is well, and often believe that we are pleasing God. But this is because we are ignorant of God. We have conjured up a god out of our own imaginations, we have projected our own thoughts, and we have thought that that is God. The moment we realize the truth about God we are troubled and disturbed and our natural enmity to him reveals itself. That is what happens to many people who have always thought that they were Christians, and have always been religious and godly. They suddenly awaken to the fact that the God whom they thought they were worshipping is not God at all, not the God revealed in the Bible, not the God who has revealed from heaven his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. The moment they see that, they hate God, they are no longer at peace with him. They had a false peace arising out of their own imaginations, but they were not at peace with God.
The Apostle teaches in many places that ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God’ (Rom. 8:7) and that by nature we are all ‘the children of wrath’ (Eph. 2:3) and ‘alienated from the life of God’ (Eph. 4:18). That is man by nature. He is afraid of God, he has a craven fear of God, a ‘fear that hath torment’. He is afraid of the very idea of God. He feels that God is some great tyrant waiting to crush him. He dare not think about death and the grave because of the judgment that will follow it. As Paul teaches the Corinthians, ‘The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law’ (1 Cor. 15:56]. The moment a man realizes the truth about God this feeling rises within him, and he is fearful and alarmed. There is no peace between such a man and God; rather is he troubled and afraid, disturbed and unhappy. He tries to find peace but cannot. He is afraid of God, afraid of death, and afraid of the judgment. It is surely obvious that before there can be peace between such a man and God, man has to be dealt with. And what the Apostle teaches here is that as the result of the perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that alone, all causes of enmity have been dealt with, and man can be at peace with God as God is at peace with him. On both sides there is this reconciliation, and there is ‘peace with God’. God at peace with us, we at peace with God. The communion between God and man, broken by sin and the Fall, is re-established.
That is the meaning of this statement that because we have been justified by faith we have peace with God. This is such a vital statement that we must examine ourselves in the light of it. The test of our profession of Christianity is whether this is true of us. Has our natural state of fearfulness with respect to God, our enmity with respect to God, been removed? The Apostle lays it down here that it is an inevitable consequence of justification. Notice that he does not say that the Christian is a man who is ‘hoping’ that this may be the case. ‘Being justified – having been justified – by faith, we have peace.’ We are not looking for it, we are not hoping to get it; we have it, we have got it, we are rejoicing in it. That is the statement, and that is why it becomes a test of our profession of the Christian faith. A Christian of necessity is one who is clear about this, otherwise he has not got peace. There is no more thorough test of our profession of Christianity than just this: are we enjoying this peace with God? There are many, alas, in the church, as there have always been, who dispute this altogether. They say that a Christian is a man who is hoping that he is going to be forgiven, and that at the end he will go to heaven. But that is not the Apostle’s teaching. We have peace, it is already a possession. He will say later on in chapter 8, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus’. That is the same thing. It is clearly important therefore for us to make sure that we are in this state of ‘peace with God’.
What does this mean experimentally or in experience? The first answer is that a man who has peace with God is a man whose mind is at rest about his relationship with God. He is clearly able to understand with his mind the doctrine of justification by faith only. This means that a change has taken place in his thinking concerning his relationship to God. When awakened to the truth about God and himself his thoughts would be something like this: Ah, there is God in his utter absolute holiness and here am I, a sinner and ‘in sin’. There is God’s holy Law and its pronouncements. I have sinned against it and cannot erase my past. How can I possibly stand in the presence of God? With Job he asks, ‘How can a man be just with God?’ He realizes that he cannot, and he is troubled and disturbed, and unhappy.
John Bunyan tells us in Grace Abounding2 that he was in that condition and in an agony of soul for eighteen months. The time element does not matter, but any man who is awakened and convicted of sin must be in trouble about this. How can he die and face God? He is aware that he cannot in and of himself, and therefore he is unhappy and troubled. There is no peace; he does not know what to do with himself; he is restless. Having ‘peace with God’ is obviously the opposite of that. It implies first and foremost that the man’s mind is at rest, and he has that rest because he now sees that this way of God, as provided in Christ, is really a way that satisfies every desideratum. Now he can see how this satisfies the justice and the righteousness and the holiness of God. He can see how in this way God can justify the ungodly, as Paul has already put it in chapter 4. He thinks it out and he says, ‘Yes, I can rest upon that; because God “justifies the ungodly” he can justify even me’.
You notice that I put this intellectual apprehension and understanding first. There is no peace between man and God until a man grasps this doctrine of justification. It is the only way of peace. And it is something that comes to the mind, it is doctrine, it is teaching. In other words we are not just told, ‘All is well, do not worry. All will be all right in the end; the love of God will cover you.’ That is not the gospel. It is all stated here, in detail, in this explicit manner; and it comes as truth to the mind. The first thing that happens is that the mind is enlightened, and the man says, ‘I see it. It is staggering in its immensity, but I can see how God himself has done it. He has sent his own Son and he has punished my sin in him. His justice is satisfied, and therefore I can see how he can forgive me, though I am ungodly and though I am a sinner.’ The mind is satisfied.
You will never have true peace until your mind is satisfied. If you merely get some emotional or psychological experience it may keep you quiet and give you rest for a while, but sooner or later a problem will arise, a situation will confront you, a question will come to your mind, perhaps through reading a book or in a conversation, and you will not be able to answer, and so you will lose your peace. There is no true peace with God until the mind has seen and grasped and taken hold of this blessed doctrine, and so finds itself at rest.
Having said that, I go on in the second place to say that the man who believes this truth and grasps its import is a man who knows that God loves him in spite of the fact that he is a sinner, and in spite of his sin. He was troubled before by the wrath of God. His question was, How can God love me and bless me? But as he looks at Christ dying on the cross, buried, and rising again, he says, ‘I know he loves me. I cannot understand it but I know he does. He has done that for me.’ It is not mere sentiment or feeling; he has solid facts of history to prove that God loves him. God does not merely tell us that he loves us, he has given the most amazing proof of it. The Apostle goes on to say that, and to prove it, in this very chapter, from verse 6 to verse 11. Nothing is more wonderful than to know that God loves you; and no man can truly know that God loves him except in Jesus Christ and him crucified.
My third answer to the question of how we may know that we are justified is also a most practical test. The man who has been justified by faith, and who has peace with God, can answer the accusations of his own conscience. It is essential that he should be able to do so, because thoughts will arise within, which will suggest to him, ‘This is impossible, how can you be at peace with God? Look at yourself, look at your heart, look at the plague of your own heart. How can it possibly be the case that God has forgiven you, and that God loves you?’ These accusations arise within our minds and consciences. If you cannot answer them you are obviously not clear about being justified by faith, and if you cannot answer them as they try to shake your confidence, you will again be miserable and unhappy; and there will be no peace with God. But the truly justified man can answer them, and thus he retains his peace.
Not only that; in the fourth place I go on to assert that he can not only answer the accusations of his own conscience, he can answer with equal firmness the accusations of the devil. Nowhere has that been put so movingly as in a verse of that great hymn of John Newton’s which begins with the words – ‘Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat, Where Jesus answers prayer’. It is the following verse:
Be Thou my shield and hiding-place,
That, sheltered near Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died.
Poor John Newton! Before his conversion he had been engaged in the slave trade and traffic. He had been a vile and a foul sinner. There was scarcely a sin that he had not committed. You can well understand therefore how the devil would rake up his past and hurl it at him. The devil would resurrect it all and cause it to pass as a horrible panorama before his eyes and then challenge him, ‘Do you still claim to be a Christian, forgiven and at peace with God?’ But John Newton had his answer, an answer that can silence the devil. He says in effect in that verse, ‘What can I tell him? I cannot tell him that I am a good man, I cannot tell him about my past or even my present. There is only one way of silencing him; “I can my fierce accuser face, and tell him Thou hast died”, for me and my sin.’
But it is only the man who believes in the doctrine of justification by faith who can do that. The man who believes vaguely in the love of God cannot do so, for the devil will not listen to him. The man who says ‘I feel happy’ will soon be made unhappy by the devil, for he is more powerful than we are. There is only one thing that the devil can never answer and that is the argument of ‘the blood of Christ’. ‘They overcame him’, says the Book of Revelation, ‘by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony’ (Rev. 12:11). Their testimony was a testimony concerning the blood of the Lamb. It is the only way. Can you do that? Can you do so with confidence, and in spite of what you may feel momentarily? If you can, and do, the devil will have to be silent; he will leave you alone. He will come back again, but you will always be able to silence him, and thus continue in a state of peace.
Another test can be put in this way: when a man has a true grasp of the doctrine of justification by faith he no longer has a fear of death, no longer a fear of the judgment. This follows of necessity. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews deals with that in the second chapter of his Epistle. He says that Christ has delivered all those who ‘were all their lifetime subject to bondage’. What was the bondage? ‘The fear of death’, which was controlled by the devil. Christ has defeated the devil, and has therefore delivered them from this bondage of the fear of death. These are very practical matters. Have you visualized yourself lying on your deathbed? What are your feelings when you do so? Are you still afraid of death? Are you still afraid of the judgment of God? If you are, you cannot say ‘I have been justified by faith and am at peace with God’. If your faith cannot stand up to these tests it is not truly Christian faith. The man who has been justified by faith has peace with God, and can say with Toplady:
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
The last test I suggest is one which I find increasingly to be a most valuable test in my pastoral dealings with people about spiritual problems. It is this: can you do all that I have been describing even when you fall into sin? It is understandable that a man should be fairly untroubled in mind and conscience when he has been living a fairly good life; but what happens when he falls into some grievous sin? A sudden temptation overtakes him and before he knows what has happened he has fallen. Here is the question. When this happens to you, can you still employ the argument I have been describing? I find that many are caught by the devil at that point. Because they have fallen into sin they query and question their salvation, they doubt their justification, they wonder whether they have ever been Christians at all. They lose their peace and they are in a torment and an agony. They have gone back, and have started doubting their whole standing in the presence of God because of that one sin.
Any man in that position is just betraying the fact that, for the time being at any rate, he is not clear about the doctrine of justification by faith only. Because if he believes that one sin can put a man out of the right relationship to God, then he has never seen dearly that hitherto he has been in that right relationship, not because of anything in himself, but because of the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work. When a man says, ‘Because I have sinned I have lost it’, what he is really saying on the other side is, ‘I had it because I was good’. He is wrong in both respects. In other words, if we see that our justification is altogether and entirely in the ‘Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified’, we must see that, even though we fall into sin, that is still true.
‘But’, you may say, ‘what a dangerous doctrine!’ Every doctrine is dangerous, and can be, and has been, abused. But this is the doctrine of justification by faith only. We have already been told in chapter 4: ‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ So we must never feel that we have lost everything because we have fallen into sin. If a man goes back over the whole question of his salvation, and his standing before God, and his relationship to God, every time he falls into sin, we must come to the conclusion that he has never clearly understood justification by faith. The Apostle surely makes it very plain to us here. ‘Therefore being justified by faith’, says the Authorized Version. But a better translation, the right translation is, ‘Therefore having been justified by faith’. ‘Having been.’ It is in the aorist tense, and the aorist tense means that the thing has been done once and for ever. You do not have to go on being justified; it is one act. It is this declarative act of God that we have emphasized so frequently, in which he makes a declaration that because he has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us, because he has already punished our sins in Christ, he pronounces us to ‘be just’ once and for ever. You cannot be just one day and not just the next, then again just the day after. That is impossible. This is a declarative, a forensic, a legal matter. It happens once and for ever; and therefore to query it because of sin is to display again some ignorance or uncertainty of the doctrine.
There, then, are six tests which, I suggest, we can easily and practically apply to ourselves.
Let me now make some comments. That is the statement, that is the position, but, again to be practical and helpful, certain comments are called for. Though what I have been saying is the truth with regard to justification by faith, and though it is true of everybody who is justified by faith, I still say that faith at times may have to fight. But I hasten to add that faith not only may have to fight, faith does fight, faith can fight; and faith always fights victoriously in this matter of justification. There is always the element of rest and of peace, and as we have seen, of certainty in connection with faith. Abraham we are told was ‘fully persuaded that’ – there is an element of knowledge and of certainty always in justifying faith. There must be, otherwise we cannot have peace with God. But at the same time faith may have to fight at times when the devil, as it were, brings up all his batteries. The greatest saints have testified that even to the end of their lives the devil would come and raise this question of justification with them and try to shake them. But faith can always deal with him, faith can always silence him. It may be a desperate fight at times, but faith can fight and faith does fight.
Let me use another illustration. Faith in this matter is remarkably like the needle of a compass, always there pointing to the magnetic north. But if you introduce a very powerful magnet at some other point of the compass it will draw the needle over to it and cause it to swing backwards and forwards and be most unstable. But it is certain that the true compass needle will get back to its true centre, it will find its place of rest in the north. It may know agitation, it may know a lot of violence, but it will go back to its centre, it always finds the place of rest, and the same thing is always true of faith. So the mere fact that we may be tempted to doubt, the mere fact that we may have to struggle and bring out all arguments, and go over the whole question again, does not mean that we have not got faith. In a sense it is a proof of faith, as long as we always arrive back at the position of rest. That is my first comment.
I am emphasizing that there is always an element of assurance of faith, but I do not mean by that, that there is always ‘full’ assurance of faith. There is a great phrase about the full assurance of faith in Hebrews 10, verses 19-22: ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus, let us go in’, he says, ‘with full assurance of faith.’ Now the assurance that I am talking about as a constant element in faith does not mean of necessity that ‘full’ assurance. There is a difference between assurance and full assurance. What I stipulate and postulate is that there is always some assurance. You can be a Christian, you can be justified by faith, and have an assurance of justification without knowing what Paul has in mind when he says, ‘The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God’. You can be a Christian without this full assurance of faith; but you cannot be a Christian without being justified by faith, and that always means an element of assurance, the ability always to come to a place of rest.
At times your faith may only just be able to get you to that place, but it does get there. That is assurance of faith though it is not the full assurance of faith. How many have been discouraged by that! The devil has got them into trouble because he has been able to prove to them they have not got the full assurance, and then he says, ‘Well if you have not got that, you have not got anything’. Some of the Protestant Fathers were tempted to say that, but surely they were wrong; and the Puritans were certainly right at that point, as were the great leaders of the Evangelical Awakening of two hundred years ago. You can be a Christian without the full assurance of faith, but you cannot be a Christian at all without having justification by faith and the element of assurance that is involved in that doctrine.
Unfortunately I have to make a third comment. I wish that it were unnecessary. ‘Being therefore justified by faith we have peace with God’ – and I have described the peace. But alas, there is such a thing as a false peace; there are people who think they are at peace with God and who are not. What then are the characteristics of false peace? We have to consider this because it is in the New Testament. John says about certain people who had been in the early church, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us’ (1 John 2:19). Take also the people described in the sixth chapter of Hebrews; they had had certain experiences but finally they are lost, they were never regenerate at all. We have to test ourselves and prove ourselves and examine ourselves, say the Scriptures, whether we are in the faith or not (2 Cor. 13:5).
What are the characteristics of false peace? It generally results from thinking that faith simply means believing, and giving an intellectual assent to certain propositions and truths. That was the essence of the heresy known as Sandemanianism. It is based, as the Sandemanians based it, on Romans l0:10, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus’. They taught, and teach, that any man who says, ‘I believe Jesus is Lord, I believe he is the Son of God’, is thereby saved and that all is well with his soul. But all may not be well. You can subscribe to the truth, and give an intellectual assent to it, and yet not really be saved by it. There are men who have ‘a form of godliness but deny the power thereof’. Faith is not only a matter of intellect; it is deeper, as I have been trying to show in stressing the element of assurance.
Secondly, the person with a false peace is generally found to be resting on his or her faith rather than on Christ and his work. They really look at their own believing rather than at Christ and what he has done. They say, ‘I now believe, therefore I must be all right’. They persuade themselves; a kind of Couéism3 They are not looking to Christ; they are looking to their own faith, and they turn faith into a kind of work on which they rest.
Another characteristic of false peace is somewhat surprising and unexpected. The man who has a false peace is never troubled by doubts. But that is where the devil makes a mistake. The counterfeit is always too wonderful, the counterfeit always goes much further than the true experience. When the devil gives a man a false peace counterfeiting the true peace, he creates a condition in which the man is never troubled at all. He is in a psychological state. He does not truly face the truth, so there is nothing to make him unhappy. Let me put this in the form of a very practical question. Can you sit in an evangelistic service without being made to feel uncomfortable at all? If you can you had better examine yourself seriously. I am assuming, of course, that the gospel is being preached truly, that it is the true evangel which starts with the wrath of God and man’s helplessness. It matters not how long you may have been saved, if you are truly justified you will be made to feel unhappy, you may even be made to feel miserable temporarily, and you will thank God again for justification by faith and have to apply it to yourself. But the intellectual believers are never troubled at all, they are always perfectly at ease, without a doubt or any trouble. They say, ‘Ever since I made my decision I have never had a moment’s trouble’. Such talk is always indicative of a very dangerous condition, is always very suspicious because it is too good to be true.
To put it in another way, I say that this kind of person is always much too ‘healthy’. The people who have this false, counterfeit peace are much too glib, much too light-hearted. Compare them with the New Testament picture of the Christian. The New Testament Christian is ‘grave’, ‘sober’, and he approaches God with ‘reverence and godly fear’. But the people with the false peace know nothing of that; they are perfectly healthy, all is well, and they are supremely happy. Nothing like that is to be found in the Scriptures. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul speaking in that manner, with such glib cliches falling from his lips? His speech is, ‘Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men’, and ‘I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling’, and ‘Work out your salvation in fear and trembling’.
Another characteristic of false peace is that it is only interested in forgiveness and not in righteousness. The man who has the false peace is only interested in forgiveness. He does not want to go to hell, and he wants to be forgiven. He has not stopped to think about being positively righteous; he is not concerned about being holy and walking in holiness before God, so he is negligent about his life, and does not pursue holiness. He does not heed that exhortation in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Heb. 12:14). He is an Antinomian, only interested in forgiveness, and negligent with regard to living the Christian life.
Another invariable characteristic of the man with the false peace is that when this man falls again into sin he takes it much too lightly. He is not like the person I have just been describing whose faith is shaken by Satan when he falls into sin. This man says almost as soon as he has fallen, ‘It is all right, the blood of Christ covers me’. And up he gets and on he goes as if nothing had happened. You cannot do that if you have any true conception of what sin means, and what the holiness of God really is. This man with a false peace heals himself much too quickly, much too easily, much too lightly. It is because he takes sin as a whole too lightly.
What are the characteristics of true peace? They are the exact opposite of what I have just been describing. First, the man with true peace is never glib, never light-hearted. The man who is a true Christian is a man who has had a glimpse of hell, and who knows that there is only one reason for the fact that he is not bound for it. That is always present with him, so he is never glib, never superficial, never light-hearted.
Secondly, he is a man who is always filled with a sense of wonder and amazement. He can re-echo the words of Charles Wesley:
And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood,
Died He for me, who caused His pain;
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how ran it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
This seems to me to be inevitable. The man who has true peace is a man who never ceases to be amazed that he has it, amazed at the fact that he has ever been justified at all, that God has ever looked upon him and called him by his grace.
Which leads to the next characteristic, namely, that he is humble. You remember that one of the characteristics of Abraham’s faith was, ‘he staggered not in unbelief at the promise of God, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God’. Go through the New Testament and you will always find that the most outstanding characteristic of the Christian is that he is humble – ‘poor in spirit’, ‘meek’, ‘lowly’. Realizing the truth about himself and about God, and realizing that he owes all to Christ, he is a humble man, he is a lowly man. That is another way of saying that his sense of gratitude to God and to our Lord is always prominent. There is no better index of where we stand than the amount of praise and of thanksgiving that characterizes our lives and our prayers. Some people are always offering petitions or making statements; but this man, having realized something of what God in Christ has done for him, is thanking God; is always praising God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is inevitable and incontrovertible. The man who realizes his position truly must be filled with a sense of ‘wonder, love, and praise’.
Then, finally, he is a man who is always careful about his life. Not that he may be justified as the result of the carefulness; he is careful because he has been justified. Again this is quite inevitable. He does not fall back on works and try to justify himself; his position is that because of what Christ has done for him he wants to show his gratitude to him. Realizing the terrible character of sin he wants to leave it, and in addition he is anxious to be holy and to go to heaven. ‘He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure’ (1 John 3:3).
The Scriptures are full of this. Let me remind you of some great statements of this truth. 1 Timothy 1:19, ‘Holding faith and a good conscience’. You not only hold faith, you hold the good conscience as well, ‘which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck’. What a terrible statement! ‘Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.’ Hymenaeus and Alexander claimed to have faith, and to hold faith; but they did not ‘hold the good conscience’ and so ‘made shipwreck’.
Then 1 Timothy 3:9, ‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience’. Faith is something which you carry in a most precious, delicate vessel because it is such a wonderful thing. Carry it, says the Apostle, ‘in a pure conscience’ – ‘holding the faith in a pure conscience’.
And then a final quotation from Titus 3, verses 8 and 9. ‘This is a faithful saying.’ What has he been talking about? ‘Justified by his grace’, etc. ‘This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou constantly affirm, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.’ The man who is not careful to maintain good works is a man who is proclaiming that he has got a false sense of peace. The man who has the true peace is a man who is always careful to maintain good works. He carries his faith in a pure conscience, he holds not only the mystery of the faith but he also holds at the same time this conscience, this good conscience.
There, it seems to me, are the characteristics of true peace. Have you got it? How can one maintain it? There is only one way to maintain it; it is to be living a good deal of your life in the First Epistle of John, chapter 1 and the first two verses of chapter 2. That is how you maintain the peace. You have been given it: ‘Having been justified by faith we have peace.’ You have been given it once and for ever. The devil will come and tempt you, sin will make you shaky. Go back, go back to that section of John’s First Epistle and you will find that you will be able to maintain, to preserve, and to keep your peace.
Volume 4: Assurance
A sermon taken from Assurance: An Exposition of Romans 5,1 a volume in Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ series of sermons on the book of Romans, published by the Trust (pp. 14-29). Dr Lloyd-Jones died thirty years ago today, on March 1 1981. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord […]
- ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’ can be found in Volume 1 of the 3-volume set of The Works of John Bunyan, published by the Trust.
- Couéism is a method of self-help stressing autosuggestion, introduced into America by the French psychotherapist Emile Coué, c. 1920, and featuring the slogan ‘Every day in every way I am getting better and better.’
Living in the World 6 November 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * LIVING in the world. How are Christians to live in the world? The question can be answered in many ways. The topic is potentially vast in scope — that becomes more […]
When coming to consider plagues throughout history and some Christian responses, it is appropriate to begin with this extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: O Almighty God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in […]