Healing God’s Way


Dr. W. A. Criswell

James 5:13-15

W. A. Criswell

We welcome you who are sharing with us the service on the radio and television this morning.  You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  As you know, at these services we are preaching through the epistle of the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, James, to the Diaspora, those brethren scattered abroad, and, of course, reaching down to us today.  And the title of the message is Divine Healing.  We have come to the fifth, the last chapter of the epistle, and beginning at verse 13, this is what by inspiration the brother of our Lord wrote:

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.  Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.

[James 5:13-16]

Just looking at the passage for a moment—if “one is sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church” [James 5:14].   We would use the word pastors of the church.  There are three words in the Bible that refer to the same office.  Sometimes he is called a presbuteros, an “elder,” referring to the honor of his office.  Sometimes he is called the episkopos, translated “bishop,” which refers to the assignment—the responsibility of office.  And sometimes he is called a poimen, “a shepherd,” which refers to his pastoral care of the congregation.  But all three words are used interchangeably to the same office.  They refer to the same man, whether he is called an “elder” or a “bishop” or a “pastor”—a “shepherd.”  It’s all the same man in the New Testament.  So if one is sick, let him call for the “pastors” we would say, the “elders” of the church; “and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick” [James 5:14-15].  That’s exactly what is written.  It means “shall heal him”—”and the Lord shall raise him up . . . and if” kan-—not kai “and,” but kai ean.  And it is a contraction—kan—”even if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15].  That is, whether the illness is caused by his own wrongdoing or whether it is not caused by his own wrongdoing; either way, “even if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”  In the praying and in the anointing, the man is not only healed in his physical frame, but he is healed in his heart and soul.  He is forgiven.

Well, we are going to look especially at this praying and this anointing with oil.  What does that mean and what does that refer to?  If you had a fine library, or came to our library, and you had in it many commentaries—the works of scholars as they interpret and explain the Word of the Lord—if you look up that passage and read about it in the different commentaries—the scholarly books of those who give their lives to the study of the Word—you will find a bedlam of differing voices.  For example, Ellicott’s Commentary, one of the finest in the earth; Ellicott’s Commentary says that this anointing with oil is just symbolic.  It has no medicinal efficacy at all.  Now, if you would read The American Commentary on the New Testament, which is a Baptist commentary published by the Judson Press in Philadelphia—you read that commentary; it says that this anointing with oil is medicinal.  It is medicine to help the man be well.

Now, one of the great commentaries of all time is called the Expositor’s Bible.  And on one page of the Expositor’s Bible it says one thing; and then on the other page, it says diametrically the opposite thing.  I copied it out just to read to you.  In the Expositor’s Bible commenting on this, “Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil” [James 5:14]. In the Expositor’s Bible, volume 6, page 634, this is what is written, “It is altogether beside the mark to suggest that the elders were summoned as people who were specially skilled in medicine.  Of that there is not only no hint, but the context excludes the idea.”  If that were in the writer’s mind, why does he not say it once, “Let him call for the physicians?”  The case is one in which medicine has already done all that it can or in which it can do nothing at all.”  So on this page, on page 634, the Expositor’s Bible says that it is not medicinal nor has it a reference to it.

All right, now on page 635, the next page—just turn over the page in the Expositor’s Bible, and here’s what it says, “What purpose was the oil intended to serve?  Was it medicinal?  The reason oil was selected was that it was believed to have healing properties.  That oil was supposed to be efficacious as medicine is plain from numerous passages, both in and outside of the Holy Scriptures.”  So on one page of the Expositor’s Bible, it says it has no medicinal significance at all.  And on the next page it says that’s why it was used, was because of its medicinal properties.  Well, I’ll just use that as an example of how you see in the scholarly interpretation of the passage nothing but bedlam and confusion.

Well, we are going to look at it just as the Bible presents it to us; divine healing—the minister praying and anointing with oil [James 5:14].  One thing that is certain is psychological.   It is good to do something to help people believe that they can be well.  In the story of our Lord when He healed the blind, He made a clay of spittle and anointed the eyes of the blind man, and he was healed [John 9:6-7].  Upon another occasion, He did the same thing with the ears of a deaf man, and he could hear [Mark 7:31-37].  It helped the man’s faith to have some token of its healing.  And if you would study, you would find that there are healing properties in spittle, in saliva.  You reckon how on the earth the inside of your mouth ever heals when it is kept wet all the time?  God put a healing property in the saliva, and it will heal.  If you see a dog that is sore, he will lick his sores.  The reason for that is God put healing properties in the saliva, and it helps the dog get well—just like it helps us get well on the inside of our mouths.  So, to use a means like that has medicinal properties, and it helps the faith of the man to believe that he will be well.

Another thing that we find is that in the using of means to be well, oil and then sometimes wine—and oil and wine are in these ancient days used for medicinal purposes.  In the first chapter of Isaiah, verse 6, Isaiah speaks of the wounds of the people that have not been healed with oil, with ointment [Isaiah 1:6].  And, of course, in the beautiful story of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37], the man who fell among the thieves and was left wounded and for dead, the kind Samaritan picked him up and poured into his wounds oil and wine, medicinally ministering to the man who was so grievously hurt [Luke 10:34].  In classical literature, Dio Cassius and Strabo will describe the army of Gallus and say that the army was afflicted with a malady, and they ministered to the soldiers with a mixture of oil and wine—externally and internally.  Josephus, in describing the death of Herod the Great, said that the physicians bathed his body in oil.  But however that is, there are two things here in the text that are very plain.  One is “The prayer of faith shall heal the sick” and “the Lord shall raise him up” [James 5:15].  That’s one thing that is definitely said.  Prayer before God heals.  And the other is, there are means that are used in that healing, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Well, what of this healing of our bodies?  I was walking down one of the corridors in Baylor Hospital, and a man stopped me and asked me a question that I had been asked many, many times.  Because of a heavy illness in his family, he asked me, “Do you believe in divine healing?”  And I asked him back again, “Is there any other kind?  Does anyone heal but God?”  The doctor can prescribe, and the surgeon can cut, and the physician can tie up, sew up the wound, but it is God who heals.  Nobody heals.  No one heals but God.  The pharmacist cannot heal.  The physician cannot heal.  The surgeon cannot heal.  Only God can heal [Deuteronomy 32:39].  And the surgeon is as helpless, along with the doctor and the pharmacist, before God as you are and as I am.  They have to depend upon God whether they admit it or not—whether the man is an infidel or an atheist or not.  The physician has to depend upon God for healing. There is no other kind of healing but divine healing.  It comes from the gracious hands of the Lord.  Now, by the Scriptures do we have a right to look to God for healing and to expect it from His bountiful hands?  The answer to that is a deep and affirmative yes.

By the Holy Scriptures, we have a right to ask God for healing.  In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Lord says to His people, “My name is; I am the Lord that healeth thee” [Exodus 15:26].   That’s one of God’s names, “the Lord that healeth thee.”  Look again in Matthew 8, “When the even was come, they brought unto Jesus many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits . . . and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” [Matthew 8:16-17], quoting Isaiah 53:4.  A part of the atonement of Christ is for the healing of our bodies.  His atonement was not only for the forgiveness of our sins [Romans 5:11], but also for the healing of our bodies.  Look again in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans.  Paul writes in verse 11: “But if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” [Romans 8:11].   Not your dead bodies—does not say “dead bodies.”  It says your mortal bodies; that is, your bodies that are liable for pain and suffering and illness.  The Spirit of Christ that dwells in you heals you, quickens you, brings you to strength and to health.

Now, we find in the Word of God instance after instance of the divine graciousness in healing His people, in answer to prayer.  Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and God healed him [Genesis 20:17].  Moses prayed for his sister Miriam, who was stricken with leprosy, and God healed her [Numbers 12:10-15].  Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and God heard his prayer and healed him [2 Kings 20:1-7].  And in the New Testament, in the life of Christ and the apostles, world without end there were those who were healed by the gracious hands of our Lord and by the gifts of the Spirit in the apostles.  So, by the Word of the Lord, I have a right, a privilege to go before God and to ask for healing.

Another thing in the text; does God use means in healing [James 5:14].  Are there instruments?  Are there medicines? Are there procedures?  Are there ways that God uses to heal us?  Yes.  An affirmative and decidedly emphatic yes!  In the Holy Scriptures there are means that are used in our healing.  For example, one of the noblest stories in the Bible concerns good King Hezekiah.  The Lord sent him word and said, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.  And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed” [Isaiah 38:1-2], and wept [Isaiah 38:3].   And Isaiah was sent to Hezekiah with the word, “Thus saith the Lord, I have heard thy prayer, and I have seen thy tears. . . . And I will add to thy life fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:4-5].   That’s a beautiful story of God’s healing.  Now, I want to read to you the little verse down here—a little addendum.  Verse 21: “For”—for Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover” [Isaiah 38:21].  There were means that were used in the healing of Hezekiah.

Now I am going to turn again in the sixth chapter of Mark, “And the disciples went out, and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and therapeuō”—which is the word used for the practice of medicine [Mark 6:12-13]. The oil, the ointment was medicinal, and the apostles not only went out and preached, but they healed using means for the healing [Mark 6:12-13].

I have, out of a multitude of others, another instance in this letter that Paul writes to his young son in the ministry, Timothy.   Timothy was weak and sickly and Paul says, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23].   Alcohol is so vital to the pharmacist that medicine would almost be impossible without it.  It’s one of the finest solutions in which the medicinal efficacies can be dissolved.  And that’s what Paul writes to his young son in the ministry.  Why didn’t Paul just pray for him and he get well?  No.  There are means to be used to be well—”use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.”  Apparently he was a teetotaler and wouldn’t touch it at all.  And Paul said, Now, you forget about being so overly righteous that you lean backward, and so fanatical that you won’t even use alcohol as a medicine.  Don’t be that way.  “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine oft infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23], not to be a wine head or a wine bibber, but to get well; to get well means to be well.

So I learned from the Word of the Lord that when I am sick, I’m not only to pray, but I am also to use means that I might be healed [James 5:14].  Let me give you an example of that that is absolutely beautiful.  This is one of the most magnificent little side things to be seen in the Bible.  In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul is wrecked upon Malta, the beloved physician Luke is with him.  Now look at the story, “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius”—Publius was the governor of the island—”that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever . . . to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him” [Acts 28:8]. All right, now the next:—”So when this was done, others also, who had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: who also honored us” [Acts 28:4-10].  Paul the apostle, who prayed; and Luke the beloved physician, who practiced medicine, they honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary for our continuing journey [Acts 28:10].  Now I want you to look at that as it is written here by Paul.  Look at that, Paul “laid his hands on him and—iaomai—healed him [Acts 28:8].  Then others came who had diseases, and they were theratherapeuō, the practice of medicine, who also honored us” [Acts 28:9-10], Paul and the beloved physician.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Does that please God?  Was the Lord honored in that?  Yes.  Paul prayed and laid his hands upon them, and Luke the doctor, the beloved physician, the Bible calls him, therapeua, he practiced medicine.

“Do you think that’s right, preacher?”  I’m just an echo.  I don’t invent this message.  I just read the Word of God and ask the Spirit of the Lord to help me expound it, expose it—exposition.  That’s all I do.  There’s not anything that I invent in the message.  And if I do, it’s human and speculative and has no authority.  But when I read in the Word of God that in the sickness of the people, Paul prayed, and Luke the beloved physician practiced medicine, I see it in conformity with the whole will and purpose of God.  If one is sick, let us pray.  Let us pray.  There is divine healing in prayer.  Let us pray.  People are sick most of the times in their hearts and in their souls—as much as they are in their physical frames.  Let us pray.  Let us ask God’s healing and then let us use all of the means that we can, for they also are of God.  Luke was a beloved physician.  God presents him as such [Colossians 4:14].  Where did penicillin come from?  God made it.  It was from the beginning.  It’s just now we’ve discovered it.  Where are all of these other herbs and chemicals?  Where do they come from?  They come from the creative hand of God.  And for us to have a minister pray for us, and to have friends and neighbors and family pray for us, and for us to have the hospital and the pharmacist and the physician and the surgeon to help us, this is in keeping with the Word of the Lord [James 5:14-15].

Now, does God always heal?  No.  No.  God has healed.  God does heal.  God can heal.  God will heal, but God does not always heal.  He does not.  God said to Moses, “You cannot enter in [Numbers 20:8-12].  You shall die here in the land of Moab.”  And Moses pled with the Lord [Deuteronomy 3:23-25].  And so insistent was his intercession that God said to Moses, “Speak no more to Me of the matter” [Deuteronomy 3:26-27].  “Thou shalt die here in the land of Moab.  You cannot enter in” [Deuteronomy 34:1-5].  Not always does God heal, saves us in life.  Add to our days, God does not.  He just does not.  There comes a time when the sentence of death that is passed upon all mankind passes also upon us in the will of the Lord.  God does not always heal.  Paul came before the Lord with a thorn in his flesh [2 Corinthians 12:7].  I don’t know what it was, but it was some malady in the flesh——in his physical body.  And he came before the Lord and asked God to heal him, to remove it.  And God said, “Not so.  My grace is sufficient for thee” [2 Corinthians 12:8-9].  And Paul, being a great Christian, said, “Therefore will I take pleasure in my reproaches and in my sicknesses and in my infirmities; for when I am weak, then am I strong” [2 Corinthians 12:10].  It’s in my weakness that God perfects His strength.  Not always does God heal.

One of the strangest things that I hear constantly from divine healers, paid healers—men who make money off of the illnesses of the people—”you put a one-hundred-dollar bill in the collection plate; you put a one-hundred-dollar bill in the envelope; you put a hundred-dollar bill on the radio, and on and on and on.  And I will pray and you will get well.”  That goes on day and night forever.  And they do that on the assumption that they have the gift of the healing.  They say that the apostles had that.  Listen, the only thing the apostles had was the gift and the power of the Spirit to confirm the Word, and that was all!  They did not have the power to heal indiscriminately and as they might wish.  No.  Paul writes to Timothy in his second letter to Timothy, saying, “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick” [2 Timothy 4:20].  Why didn’t Paul heal him?  Because he didn’t have the power to heal him.  Why didn’t Paul heal Epaphroditus, who came to see him from Philippi, in the city of Rome?  Because he does not have the power to heal him [Philippians 2:25-30].  The sign, the miracle was an affirmation of the truth of the Word that was preached; but no apostle even had the power to heal indiscriminately.  “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick!” [2 Timothy 4:20].  It may be God’s will that I not be well.  Now we are going to look at that in the last few moments that remain in the message.

What is to be my attitude, our attitude?  What is to be the attitude of a child of God toward illness?  Number one: let us admit it.  Let us say it is a fact—illness, disease, germs, bacteria, these things that hurt us and cause us to be sick, they are here, along with the accidents that we fall into.  And death is here, and we are not to deny it.  One of the strangest of all of the denominations to me in the world is that one that denies the reality of hurt, and injury, and disease, and illness, and death.  They say it’s just in the mind.  There’s no such thing as hurt.  There’s no such thing as illness, no such thing as disease.  And at the same time they’re saying it, the guy that’s saying it may have his teeth full of crockery and his eyes covered over with heavy lenses of glasses.  But, you know, there’s just no such thing.  It’s just in your mind.  It’s just in your head.  There’s no such thing as disease or illness.

I was pastor of a church where there was a university, and a professor in the university, her mother was a devout Baptist and belonged to our congregation.  And the mother was a big, heavy woman.  And she stumbled and fell down the steps into the basement.  And she was broken up from head to foot and black and blue all over.  And the daughter came running down and helped her mother up and said, “Now, Mother, you’re not hurt. You’re not hurt.  That’s just in your mind now.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.”  And there was no doctor called and no pharmacist was asked for medicines—and no anything.  And I went out to see that poor mother.  She was lying there in bed in the house, and I sat down by her side—and she was just hurting all over.  She was black and blue all over!  She was hurt and hurting—but not to that daughter of hers.  “That is just in her mind.  It is just—now, don’t you think anything about that, Mother.  Now, you’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.”

Man, I do hurt!  And there are times when I am just sick.  It is just a fact.  And the best thing for me to do is just to recognize it.  And I see it in you.  There are times when you’re sick, and there are times when you’re hurt.  So what do I do with my illnesses and with my hurts?  Well, having recognized it, let me take it to God.  I take it to the Lord.  It may be due to my own fault.  I may eat the wrong things, and I get sick.  I may have the wrong diet, and I get sick.  I may not observe the laws of health, and I get sick.  Let’s look at ourselves and search ourselves and see why is it that we are ill.

Another thing, it can be a chastening from the Lord.  In the [twelfth] chapter of Hebrews we are told, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourges every son of His” [Hebrews 12:6].  And if we are not chastened, we are not children of God.  It could be due to something that we have done that is not right.  Illness can be an affliction and a judgment from God.

There’s a rampaging illness that is scourging America today, and especially among our teenagers.  And every doctor in the land would tell you it is due to the promiscuity, the immorality of our young people.  And the doctors don’t know what to do.  In many places, it is becoming epidemic.  There are illnesses that are due to our sins, and the disease is a judgment from Almighty God.  Again, it may be that we are afflicted and it may be that we are ill that we might manifest the glory of the Lord.  The disciples passed by and saw a man blind from his mother’s womb, and they asked the Lord, “Lord, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?  And the Lord said, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents”—that he be born blind—but that the glory of God might be manifest in him” [John 9:2-3].

There are illnesses that are sent upon us that we might demonstrate to the world the glory, the manifested presence of Almighty God.  Job was that way.  The friends of Job tried to convince him that because he was a great sinner, therefore he was a great sufferer [Job 22:5].  Not so.  God said to those three friends, “You have spoken that which is not right concerning Me.  Now, you go to Job and ask Job to pray for you” [Job 42:7-8], lest you die.  There are some things that God sends upon us that we are to bear for the glory of the Lord.

As many of you know, for many years I was a trustee at Baylor Hospital.  I faithfully went to the meetings.  In those days, the chairman of the board of trustees for Baylor Hospital was Harvey Penland.  He was the founder of the Southwestern Drug Company.  Harvey Penland was the nephew of Dr. Truett.  Harvey Penland’s mother, Mrs. Penland, was the sister of Dr. Truett.  Harvey Penland was a noble man.  He was a fellow member of this church.  I buried Harvey Penland.  He was a wonderful man, a gifted man, a worthy man.

I could not tell you the numbers of times that going to a trustee meeting maybe a little early and Harvey Penland would talk to me.  Most of the times tarrying after the meeting was over, and he’d talk to me.  I don’t think there was ever a time but that Mr. Penland talking to me would ask me why Dr. Truett suffered so greatly.  For a year, a full year before he died, Dr. Truett suffered agonizingly.  He was allergic to all the pain killing drugs.  Any narcotic would make him deathly sick, nauseated.  So he suffered a full year, excruciatingly, agonizingly.  And, of course, Harvey Penland looked upon it for all the year.  And he would ask me again and again and again, almost every time that we’d talk, why it was that Dr. Truett, the great man of God and the incomparable preacher of the Word, why did Dr. Truett suffer so agonizingly, so painfully for a full year?

When he would talk to me, my mind would go back to a Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  Pat Neff, a layman, the president of Baylor University, was the president of the convention and presided over it.  And before the thousands assembled there in hushed quiet, Pat Neff began his presiding with a word of a personal visit he had made to the suffering and dying Dr. Truett.  He had gone from Waco, from Baylor to Dallas, and had visited with the great pastor in the home and so had come to the convention in Atlanta.  And Pat Neff described in words of deepest humility and reverence, described the hurt and the illness and the pain of the great pastor; then described Dr. Truett’s faith in the Lord and in the goodness of God, and repeated what Dr. Truett repeated so many times concerning which he preached so often, “Not my will, but Thine be done” [Luke 22:42].  And in that faith and in that committal, in that yielded submissiveness, the great pastor died.  That is what it is to be a Christian.

Anybody can sing songs, can be happy when they’re well and up.  What do you do when the dark day comes, when the valley stretches endlessly before you, when illness racks and the bed is itself an affliction?  That’s when we glorify God, singing songs in the night, believing and trusting in the goodness of the Lord in the day of our illness, of our suffering.  Take it to God.  Ask God in prayer.  Ask the pastor to pray.  Ask the people who believe in the Lord to pray.  Use every means God has given us:  the doctor, the pharmacist, the hospital.  Then having prayed, having done all that we know how to do, yield it, submissive.  We leave the final verdict in God’s hands.  If it is God’s will that I live, may I praise the Lord in the gift of days.  If it is God’s will that my life is closed like a book, and the last chapter is written, and the sun has set in this life, then, Lord, may I have the  faith to believe that God will heal me over there, give me length of days over there, that the sun shall rise over there.  This is what it is to be a Christian.

Our time is far spent.  In the moment that we sing, to give your heart in faith to our blessed Lord, to come into the fellowship of His church, whatever God shall say, answer with your life.  “Today I take Him as my Savior,” or, “Today we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church.”  As the Lord shall speak, answer now.  Come now, while we stand and while we sing.

Sin: What’s the Big Deal?


A message by Dr. Charles Stanley

Every action we take has consequences, especially whether or not we obey Good. There are repercussions for sin, but ultimately God is on our side when we repent and accept His forgiveness. Take heed of God’s commands because obeying them is always in your best interest.

Adam’s sin cost him everything he and Eve had. Nothing was ever the same from that day until he and Eve died.  Below is a link to a sermon presented by Dr. Charles Stanley of Atlanta.  After watching this you will never be confused about the sin he and Eve committed.  The consequences of their sin brought about an immediate curse on the ground and nature.  That sin cost them the freedom their home in the garden had afforded.  That sin cost them their daily fellowship with Christ.  Adam lived some 930 years–just shy of one thousand years. Remember, a day with the Lord is as a 1000 years.  Let me encourage you to watch and take in this blessed message by Dr. Stanley.  (Click on the Link below:)


Charles Stanley

You Can be Justified from all Sin

Dr. W. A. Criswell
Galatians 3:24 

The Declaration of Justification

W. A. Criswell

I have a message today that is the gospel in essence, if ever I was able to understand it and to preach it. So may God bless it to you who listen on radio and are watching on television, and to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this holy hour. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the sermon, one of the doctrinal messages on salvation, on soteriology. It is entitled The Declaration Of Justification, the doctrine of justification, how God makes us righteous. How is it that a lost sinner, such as we are, could stand in the presence of God “before whom the heavens themselves are not pure and who charges the angels with folly”? How can we stand in the presence of God and live? That is the doctrine of justification.

The reading of the Scripture is in the second chapter of Galatians beginning at verse 16. Galatians, chapter 2, verse 16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus, even we who have believed in Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners — still sinners though justified — is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.


Then one of the most beautiful of all the verses in the Bible,

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.


The doctrine of justification.

It is an unusual thing that both in Hebrew and in Greek the root from which come the words “righteousness” and “justification” are the same. The words are the same. In Hebrew it’s tsedeqTsedeq, which means “to be righteous,” which means “to be declared righteous,” which means “justification.” In Genesis 15:6, quoted in Galatians 3:6, “Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted for tsedaqah” — the substantive of tsedeq, “righteousness” – his faith was accounted for righteousness, for justification.

In Greek the word is dikaios, “just or righteous.” In Matthew 1:19, “Joseph, being a dikaios man — a just man.”

In 5:45, “He sendeth rain on the dikaios and the adikos — the just and the unjust.”

Acts 10:22, “Cornelius, a dikaios man — a righteous man, a just man.”

In Romans 1:17, “The dikaios shall live by faith.”

“The righteous, the just shall live by faith.”

In the substantive — in the verbal form of dikaios— “just” — dikaioo means “to pronounce us righteous, to declare us righteous.” This publican who prayed in the synagogue went down to his house dikaioo — “justified, declared righteous.”

Romans 8:30, “When he whom God called, He dikaioo – He justified. And whom He dikaioed – He justified – He glorified.”

Another substantive part of the verb in Greek is dikaiosis, which means “acquittal, justification.” Romans 4:25, Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and He was raised again for our dikaiosis – our justification” – to declare us righteous.

And in 5:18 now, you look. The same word will be translated both ways, “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men; so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justificationof life.” It’s the same word, “So by the righteousness – the dikaiosis – of one the free gift came upon all men unto dikaiosis” – translated “justification.”  So the word “justification” means “to be declared righteous, to be just, to be righteous.”

Now, the doctrine of justification is this: in justification God declares us, on the basis of the atoning death of Christ, to whom we are joined by faith, God declares us to have paid the penalty of the law for our sin: death. Jesus, to whom we are joined by faith, died for us. And that penalty has been paid in Christ and we are forgiven, justified, declared righteous.

A second part of that: we who are declared righteous in the atoning death of Christ no longer are subject to the penalty of the law of death. The courts today would call that double jeopardy. We have been tried, we have been condemned, we have died in the atoning grace of our Lord.

And a third and last part of that faceted doctrine of justification: we who once were repelled by God are now received by Him in loving and gracious favor. We were once condemned. Now we are acquitted. We once were offensive to God in our sin. We are now acceptable in His sight and in His presence.

Now the apostle writes, “Not that we are no longer sinners, not that we are innocent, holy, pure, but God, for Christ’s sake, looks upon us as ideally pure, as ideally innocent, as ideally righteous.” Let me illustrate that. Here is an agronomist, an agriculturalist, a botanist, and we walk along by his side and we see a little thing sprouting out of the ground about an inch long, a little green shoot about that long. And the agriculturalist says, “Look, there is an oak.” Well, to me an oak is a great tree with spreading branches and majestic presence, a great oak. And that little shoot is not one inch long; he says, “Look, there is an oak.” He imputes, He reckons to that little shoot an ideal. It’s not a truth in fact; that’s no oak. But it’s an ideal truth. It is what can be. It is what is in it, the great majestic oak. He sees that. Of course it’s just about one inch long.

Now, the Bible presents that so beautifully all the way through. In Numbers 23, Balaam was hired by Balak to curse Israel.  But when he stood up to curse Israel, God wouldn’t let him. And instead he placed in Balaam’s mouth the words, “God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel, the Lord his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them.”

Can you imagine that being said about Jacob, “God hasn’t beheld iniquity in Jacob”? Could you imagine this being said about Israel, “Neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel”? Why, the whole Bible is full of the iniquity and final destruction and dispersion of those people. But here it says God hasn’t seen it. That is the ideal God looks upon when He looks upon us.

Take again in the third chapter of the prophet Zechariah. The prophet sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord and he’s clothed with filthy garments, dirty garments. And at his right hand is Satan standing, looking at him, pointing at him, accusing him, “Look at his dirty, filthy garments, this high priest who stands before the most high God. Look at him.” And the Lord God cleanses, and washes, and places upon Joshua garments of beauty and glory, and puts a mitre on his head. God stands between His people and every accusing tongue. In God’s sight, he is holy and pure, ideally. That’s the doctrine of justification. Paul said it like this in Romans 8:33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

Anselm was a great, tremendous Christian. If you ever study theology, you’ll come across Anselm. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury in about 1100 A. D., and he wrote a tract for the consolation of the dying who were alarmed on account of their sin. Now, I have copied out of that tract a part. He starts off with a question and answer. The minister stands by the side of the one who is dying. And he says to the one who is dying, “Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for thee?”

And the answer, “Yes. I believe it.”

Question, “Dost thou thank Him for His suffering and death?”

“I do thank Him.”

Question, “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?”

Answer, “I believe it.”

Then Anselm addresses the dying man – the minister addresses the dying man, “Come then, while life remaineth in thee, in Christ alone place thy whole trust. In naught else place thy trust. To His death commit thyself wholly. With this alone covereth thyself wholly. And if the Lord God will judge thee and say – and the if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, then you say, `Lord, between Thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. No otherwise can I contend with Thee.’ And if God shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou, `Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and Thee.’ If God say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say, `Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and Thee, and His merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.’ If He say that He is wroth with thee, say, `Lord, I oppose the death of my Lord Jesus Christ between by wrath and me.’ And when thou hast completed all this, say again, `Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and Thee.’”

That is justification. Not that I am ever righteous or holy or pure or innocent, but God looks upon me ideally through Jesus Christ with whom I am identified by faith.

Now, the doctrine of justification is an unusual doctrine. It pertains to the acceptance on the part of God of the person, of the man himself, and not his works. This is the opposite of the world. The world says, in its supposedly marvelous wisdom, the world says that we are accepted because of our works, and that God has respect to our works, and then He has respect to us.

But the Bible is just the opposite. The Bible teaches us that God has respect to the man himself first, and then He has respect unto his works. I read in the beginning — In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Abel came before the Lord in the fourth verse, “And God had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.” God had respect first unto Abel, to the man himself, and then He accepted Abel’s offering. Not the other way around. God had respect to his good works, to his sacrifice, to his good offering. Then He accepted Abel. Just the opposite. God accepted Abel. God accepted the man himself, had respect unto Abel himself, and then He had respect and acceptance to the offering that Abel brought.

The whole Bible is like that. In the beautiful Psalms, Psalms 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” First the man is accepted. He is restored, “He restoreth my soul.” That’s first, then the works that God we pray will bless. It is so in the tabernacle and in the temple. First is the altar, the sacrifice, the atonement for sins and then the door into the house of God, into the sanctuary of the Lord. First the man is atoned for. First he is accepted. Then he approaches God.

Now, I can illustrate that in our lives. When I was a youth, the most famous of all the underworld characters in America was named Al Capone. He was the head of dark, underground, organized crime in America. He was that for a generation and the government was never able to touch him. Finally they sent him to prison for income tax. That man, Al Capone, famous because of his vile iniquity. How? Why?

I was in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, when Al Capone was in his heyday, in his glory. And I asked those people there in Cicero where he reigned as king, I asked those Chicagoans, “How is it that Al Capone reigns in part of the world and from this kingdom here has his tentacles out to the ends of organized crime in America?” And the answer was this, “If there is a poor widow in Cicero that needs coal in the wintertime, Al Capone brings a load of coal for that poor widow. If there is a poor family whose electricity is about to be cut off, he pays the bill. If there is an orphan that needs help, Al Capone helps that orphan. All of the charities in Cicero are sponsored by Al Capone. And the whole populace are debtors to him and his good works. And when they go to the polls to vote, they vote the ticket of Al Capone and nobody can touch him.”

What does God think about that? What does God see in that? Remember the doctrine, God has respect unto the man first – unto the man himself – and then He has respect unto his works. Not by the works of a man is he ever acceptable to God. The man himself must be acceptable to God. Then God accepts his good deeds.

I think of the story of Samuel who was sent by God to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint a new king over Israel in the stead of Saul. And Samuel, calling the family of Jesse to a sacrifice and to a sanctification, he asked Jesse to have his sons pass before them because one of them God said was to be anointed king over Israel. So Jesse had his first boy to pass before Samuel, God’s prophet. His name was Eliab – tall, strong, handsome, and when Samuel looked upon him, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.” And God said, “I have refused him. I reject him.” So Samuel said to Jesse, “Have your second boy to pass before me.” And Abinadab stood before Samuel, equally as fine and strong and handsome. And Samuel said, “Surely God’s anointed stands before me.” And God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.” And the third son of Jesse passed by, Shammah. And when Samuel looked upon Shammah, fine and strong and good-looking, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.” But God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.”

And all seven of Jesse’s sons pass before Samuel and all seven of them God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.” And in despair, Samuel turned to Jesse, and said, “Are these all of your boys? I don’t understand. Are these all of your sons?” And Jesse replied, “No. I have another little boy. He’s with the sheep. But he’s just a boy. His face is unshaven. He’s too young to grow a beard. He’s just a lad.” Samuel said, “We’ll not sit down until he comes.” And they fetched David, and when the boy stood before Samuel, God said, “This is he, anoint him.” And he was anointed in the presence of his brethren, and God said to Samuel, “Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.” God looks on the heart. First the man himself is received by God, and then his works, always in the Bible.

Now there is no arguing but that the doctrine of self-justification, of self-merit and self-righteousness has an exceedingly acceptable place in our thinking and in our hearts. It is very attractive and persistent. It’s hydra headed. No matter how often you refute it, it rises again. It appeals to the man. It’s a self glory. “I do it. I did it. I am saving myself. My righteousness commends itself to God.”

I cut out of a daily newspaper this little item and I glued it here to this white piece of paper. “`A mother of seven children burned herself at the stake in the hope of becoming a saint,’ police said Wednesday. Officers said that Angelita Borsen, forty-eight, piled up straw and soaked it and herself with gasoline. Then she tied and gagged herself and set fire to the straw. `I shall die,’ she said in a note, `like Joan of Arc and my soul will be received in the kingdom of heaven.’”

“I’m going to do it. It has a glory of its own. My self-righteousness, and my sacrifice, and my labor, and toil, and effort will commend me to God. I’ll be a saint.” Not only that, but the doctrine of self-justification, self-righteousness, self-merit, self-glorification is plausible. It’s like one of those self-evident facts. Preach righteousness, good works, and you will encourage your people in virtue. Isn’t It a strange thing? In experience, it’s just the opposite. A worldly unregenerate man will boast of his righteousness, “I’m just as good as anybody else.” I don’t care who he is. He’ll tell you that. “And my good works and my righteous life I’ll set up against anybody and I’ll stand before God on my worth and merit and goodness.”

This is the cry and the boast of an unregenerate, worldly man. If you ever find a saintly man, he will say, “I am the least of the saints. I am the chief of sinners. My only hope lies in the grace and goodness of Jesus my Lord.” He’ll be that way. He will never boast of his goodness or of his righteousness, never.

Not only that, but this doctrine of self-justification, of good works, our salvation in ourselves, that is the one common doctrine held by all false religions, all of them. They may differ in a thousand other ways, but there is one common doctrine that characterizes all false religions and it is this doctrine of self-justification. “We are going to save ourselves by our good works.” It seems to be a reflection and a facet of fallen humanity. All false religions are like that. They have endless works of fasting, torturing the body, making long pilgrimages such as to Mecca, doing and enduring a thousand things to commend themselves to God, hoping to be saved in their merit and worth and self-righteousness.

Now, in this passage from the Apostle Paul, why is it that the doctrine of self-justification, of self-righteousness, of our own merit and good works, why is it that it is not acceptable to God? Paul uses, in the passage I just read, a strong verb describing it. He uses the word translated here, “Frustrate the grace of God and the death of Christ.” Atheto is a Greek contraction of atheteo. An a in Greek is a negative. It’s called an alpha privitive. Tithemi is the Greek word for “to set it, place.” So atithemi, atheteo is “a denial, a rejection.” It is “an abrogation.” It is “to nullify” a very strong word. And Paul teaches us that when we follow the doctrine, that “I am going to save myself, self-justification, my good works will commend me to God and open the door of heaven,” when we do that, there are three things that happen.

One: this atheto — this rejection, this abrogation, this nullifying. One: we abrogate and nullify the atoning death of Christ. We don’t need His death. We can save ourselves. Sin becomes venial. It’s a petty mistake. It’s a peccadillo. It does not demand the sacrifice, the atoning death of God’s Son. It is something I can handle, I can overcome, I can atone for. And the death of Christ becomes superfluous.

Number two: it makes superfluous the grace and mercy of God. If a man can save himself, he need not cast himself upon the mercy of the Lord. He can save himself. Look at this: if a man stands before a court, and he’s there before the bar of justice and the judge is standing there, if the man is innocent, if he’s righteous, he does not say, “I plead for mercy on the part of the court.” What the man does, he says, “I stand on my innocence and my righteousness and I demand justice from this court.” Not in the history of creation was there ever a man who was innocent who plead mercy from the court. What he demands, what he ought to have is justice. He’s innocent.

So it is when we stand before God. If we are innocent and we are righteous, we don’t demand mercy from God. “Lord, I stand here pure and holy and sinless and I demand my rights. I demand justice.” Now, when we stand before God in His holiness, every one of us is condemned. Our hearts condemn us. Our deeds condemn us. Our thoughts condemn us. Our visions and dreams and hopes, our lives condemn us. We are sinners by nature, by practice. And what the man does when he stands at the judgment bar of Almighty God, he throws himself upon the mercy of the Lord. That’s what we do. “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” That’s God’s grace reaching down to us.

Another thing: in all of the Revelation, the last apocalyptic book in the Bible, in all of it, there is not one self-laudatory note, not one. Every song in the Revelation is to Him. Starts off that way in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, unto Him be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Then turn the page and beginning at chapter 5, you have one glorious paean of praise after another to Jesus our Lord, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive dominion, and power, and riches, and glory; for He hath redeemed us by His blood out of every nation and tribe under the sun.” And all the elders and the four cherubim reverent to the whole world fell down and worshiped Him. There’s not one song, there’s not one note, there’s not one syllable of one lyric, “Glory unto me. I washed my robes and made them white. Glory unto me. I wrought this great salvation.” It’s not in the Bible. “All glory unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

I am either saved by my own merit or my own righteousness, or else it is a free gift bestowed upon me in the grace of God. I am not saved because I am a worthy sinner, or a sensible sinner, or a good sinner, I am saved because Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me. Jesus shut the doors of hell that faced me. He opened the doors of heaven for me and He welcomes His redeemed child in. That’s why I pointed out this incomparable, glorious verse that all of us have memorized. In Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the grace of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Our praise and our glory and our thanksgiving is not, “Look what I have done,” but, “Look what He has done.” His grace, His mercy has reached down to a poor sinner and I am saved by Him.

Paul, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, just turning the page, Paul likens the difference between justification by faith and justification by works as the difference between slaves and sons. A slave, a servant, works in another man’s house for hire, for pay. And if he works forever, he is still a hired servant working for pay. That’s works. But a son inherits all that his father has. He’s a son in the household. Jesus illustrates it in one of the most poignant stories in the human literature. There was a prodigal son, went away into a far country, wasted his substance in sinful living, came to want and to hunger feeding the hogs, and so ravaged he would eat the food that the swine were devouring. And sitting there in the hog pen he said to himself, “How many servants, hired servants, in my father’s house have more and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go back to my father and home, and I’ll say to him, `Make me one of your hired servants.’”

So the prodigal boy turns his face fatherward and homeward and starts to make his speech, “Make me, father, as one of your hired servants.” And the father never lets him finish the sentence. He says, “This my boy, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. Bring forth the finest robes, and put on him; put a ring on his finger, kill the fatted calf; let us rejoice and be merry. This is my son. This is my boy. No hired servant; this is my son.”

That’s God’s grace toward us. Not a slave, not a servant hired in another man’s house, but a fellow heir with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God. And all the wonder, the glory, the marvel of what God’s grace is able to do for us, how it changes us, how it glorifies us, how it blesses us, God’s mercy and grace.

Yesterday morning, Saturday morning, I went to a breakfast at the Lakewood Country Club, a convocation of men and women who are appealing for scholarship funds for our Academy children, our First Baptist Academy. There are so many boys and girls who want to go to the school and they’re poor and they can’t pay the tuition, so the appeal that we give to make possible the attendance at the school for a boy or a girl who can’t pay. Well, it was a beautiful thing that the men were doing and it blessed my heart just being there. And it closed with a testimony from Charles Rhodes who is the principal of the secondary school. He heads the high school. He said, “There was a prodigal boy, an unworthy boy, an obstreperous, incorrigible boy in the school, fourteen years old. And,” he said, “he’d run away. And,” Charles Rhodes said, “I’d spend days and hours up and down the streets of Dallas trying to find him. Finally, upon a day,” Mr. Rhodes said, “a high school teacher came in and took that boy and sat him down in the principal’s office and then made the announcement to the principal, `I am through with this boy. I refuse to have anything to do with him. I don’t want him in my class. I don’t ever want to see him again. It is impossible. I can do nothing with him and I am bringing him to you to let you know that I no longer welcome him in any class that I teach.’”

And she stormed out of the principal’s office and left the boy seated there in front of Mr. Rhodes. He said, “I had had a most difficult day.” So looking at the boy, Mr. Rhodes said, “Stand up and leave. I don’t want to talk to you today. I just don’t feel like it. Now, you get up and go.” Mr. Rhodes said he put his head in his arms and bowed his head on his desk. And then he lifted his face and that boy was still seated there. He hadn’t stood up, much less leaving. He was just still there seated there. And Mr. Rhodes said, “I said to the boy, `Didn’t you hear what I said? I said for you to stand up and get out of my office. I don’t want to talk to you today.’” And the lad said to the principal, “Sir, I’ve stayed here because I want to change. I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian and I thought you’d show me how, you’d teach me how.” The principal said, “I showed the boy how to be saved, how to become a Christian, and he accepted the Lord as his Savior. He went home and he won his father and his mother to the Lord. And all three of them are now in the church worshiping God together.”

That’s the grace of God. It changes our hearts. It changes our lives. And all the blessings that subsequently follow are due to that wonderful grace, God’s grace that makes us new men, new women, new young people, new born-again children of the father. Oh, what a gospel to preach, that we had the tongue of an angel to proclaim it!

Now, may we pray together? Dear Lord, how indebted forever we are to Thee. You have broken our chains. You have opened the iron doors of our prisons. You have invited us to liberty, to freedom, to life abounding, abundant, overflowing, blessings uncounted, innumerable, without number, without end. And, our Lord, we pray that this day, this holy moment, there will be many who coming down that stairwell from the balcony, walking down this aisle on the lower floor, “Pastor, today we have decided for God. Here’s my whole family. We’re all coming today,” or, “Just the two of us are coming,” or, “Just I. I am coming. God has spoken to me and I’m on the way.”

In a moment, when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, that family you, that couple you, that one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart. And in this moment when we stand and sing, that first step toward that stairway or toward this aisle will be the greatest step you ever made in your life. Do it, and God bless you in the way and a thousand times welcome as you come. In Jesus’ saving name, amen. While we stand and while we sing.


Grindstone with Dr. Albert Mohler & Dr. Paige Patterson

Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Paige Patterson

Published on Nov 25, 2014

These two great leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention talk about how the SBC arrived at its present state and where it is likely to go in the future.   Excellent discussion and views.  At the end, they accepted questions from the audience of students and faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.