March 25, 2007
Listening to the Word of God is important—but merely listening without being changed is dangerous. In this message from James 1, Alistair Begg clarifies many misconceptions people have about the relationship between our salvation by grace and our obedience to God’s law. Although Christians are not made right with God by obeying the law, our freedom in Christ leads us to respond to the Bible with careful obedience.
Sermon Transcript: Print
I invite you to turn to James and chapter 1. It might be helpful to know that we’re going to turn to a verse in Jeremiah chapter 31, and some of you may be scrambling around in the middle of the Bible for a considerable time if I don’t tell you that Jeremiah 31, or the verses that we’re going to read, are on page 560. But that’s just to be forewarned.
Now, James chapter 1, and reading from verse 22 to 25:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
Father, we pray that with our Bibles open before us, the Spirit of God will take the truth and write it in our hearts, convince us in our thinking, and change us in our living. We look alone to you to accomplish this. And we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Well, we’re continuing to pay as close attention as we can to the very practical instruction which James is providing for us in this letter. Last Sunday evening we began to look at the section to which we now return. We began to look at verse 22 under the heading “Don’t Kid Yourselves,” and we noted that James is warning his readers, warning us, of the dangers of self-deception. The dangers of self-deception. He has urged upon them the importance of listening; in verse 19 we saw that, and in verse 20. But now he warns them against merely listening. “It’s important that you listen,” he says, verse 19; and in verse 22, “It is important also that you do not merely listen.”
Now, there’s great wisdom in this, isn’t there? Because it is possible to derive a measure of satisfaction just from listening. If the person who teaches is enthusiastic or clear or concise or helpful, or whatever it may be, then the listener may be caught up in the enthusiasm of the preacher, may actually deem the time of listening as being worthwhile, and may actually go out of the opportunity determining that it really was a good experience for him or for her to be here. But, of course, if five minutes or fifteen seconds after the benediction, when the Bible is closed and the music begins to play, if that same individual who has determined that this has been a worthwhile exercise and has been profitable and good for them, if they themselves remain unchanged by it, then James says it’s really a useless exercise in the extreme.
In other words, it’s possible to be charmed by the Bible being taught without being changed by the Bible being taught. And there are wonderful illustrations in the Bible of those who were hearing, who were listening carefully, and yet who remained absolutely unchanged. The picture that is used here in this verb for hearing or listening is the picture of the individual who in the first century would have attended lectures. For example, we have in Acts the scene in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and this is representative of a number of these lectures facilities that were in existence at that time. And people would go regularly to listen to the lectures without ever becoming disciples of the one who taught. And that is the word which is used here: the person who is happy to go along and listen but is only and merely listening without ever being changed by the truth.
You, for example, have this classically in the life of Herod, who, in listening to what we might say was the second-best preacher, John the Baptist, Mark records of Herod, he used to listen to him and be profoundly disturbed, and yet he enjoyed hearing him. It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it? He used to listen to him, and when he listened to John the Baptist’s preaching, it disturbed him—it got him all jingle-jangle inside of himself—and yet when that all passed away, then he walked out and he said, “You know, but I really enjoy listening to John the Baptist.” He was charmed, but he was unchanged. And when listening becomes for any one of us an end in itself, then any benefit that may be gained is inevitably imperfect and is inevitably short-lived.
That’s, as I say to you frequently now, the great danger of being somewhere like Parkside Church, where you’re not being subjected to a seven-minute homily out of Newsweek magazine or somebody’s rambling thoughts, but there is at least an endeavor, irrespective of who is behind this pulpit, there is an honest endeavor on the part of the individual to turn the congregation to the Bible and to look into the Bible, so that we’re all very clear that all of us is under the instruction of this book—that none of us is prescribing over it or from it in some way unrelated to it. No, we are all under the instruction and tutelage of the Bible. And therefore, if we merely listen to it, then we are in great danger. Great danger. Because the more we listen to it without being changed by it, the less likely we will be changed by it. That’s my experience in thirty years of pastoral ministry. I can pick out individuals who consistently attended to listen to the Bible and were unchanged by it, and the longer they went, the less likely they were to be transformed, because they became hardened to the truth that they heard. They became familiar with it, and they may even have said it was beneficial, but no use to them at all.
Now, the superficial, casual glance of man number one here in verse 22—the superficial, casual glance, looks into the mirror and immediately forgets, fails to do anything about it—is a picture of the individual who treats the Bible, who treats the Word of Truth, in the same way. Tasker, a New Testament commentator for whom we have cause to be thankful, suggests that the forgetting that is referenced here—“and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like”—is not the forgetfulness of lack of memory or lack of cognitive ability, but Tasker suggests that it may well be a purposeful forgetting. So he writes as follows: “If [the man] does see glimpses on his countenance of the ravages being wrought by sin, sickness, anxiety, or the inevitable passage of time, his instinct is to banish such a vision quickly from his memory [and to turn] at once to other things.”
That actually seems to make a lot of sense to me. Because most of us routinely do not forget what we saw in the mirror, unless we’ve got some problem. We usually remember. It’s when we don’t want to remember that we can deliberately put it aside and get on with other things. So I say to you again that fifty seconds after the benediction, you will get a pretty clear indication of what is going on in all of our hearts and minds when we want to immediately forget what has been said, we want to turn away from what we’ve seen of ourselves, we want to dispense with that which has confronted us, challenged us, and called us to change, and we want immediately to find somebody out in the corridor with whom we can talk about the Final Four, or whether the Doral is going to finish at six o’clock in time for the South Africa service, or whatever it might be. And I don’t say that to make any one of us feel guilty, because I’m as good at it as the next person is. But it is a striking picture.
When you see the end of a golf tournament—now that I’m there in my mind—and it comes down to that eighteenth green, you don’t find that people are chasing off to catch the bus. You don’t find that when that putt has dropped, they say, “Well, that’s the end of that. Let’s get on with life.” You find that there is an almost holy awe that settles on the event: “Wow! Can you believe we were here? Can you believe we saw this? I want to sit here for a minute or two, ’cause I don’t want to ever forget what happened to me here.” You ever had that experience when the Bible’s taught?
Whatever passing benefit may be gleaned from a casual observance, the right response, says James, is the response of careful obedience. He moves very quickly from his illustration in man one to “the man who,” by contrast, verse 25, “looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, … continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it,” and he’s the man who will be truly happy. He’s the “blessed” man, and the blessing will come along the pathway of obedience.
What we really have, then, in verse 25 is what we might refer to as simply the right response to the truth. The right response to the truth, or to the Word. And there are three words that I want to give you. But before I give you those three words, I want you to look carefully at what it is James references in terms of our response to it.
What is the man looking into? Well, the man is looking “intently into the perfect law that gives freedom.” Now, James has already talked about the truth. He’s spoken about “the word of truth,” which is a reference to the gospel as taught by Jesus and then as understood and taught by the apostles. But given the fact that he is writing to a congregation, or to people, many of whom came out of a Jewish background, many of whom had a clear understanding of the law in its ceremonial aspects, in its civil aspects, in its moral implications to them as summarized in the Ten Commandments, I don’t think that there is any doubt that James here is making a very clear and crucial point necessary for all who read—hence my reference to Jeremiah 31, from which I want to read right now, in verse 33. And here the word of God through the prophet Jeremiah is as follows: “‘This is the covenant [that] I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord.” “This is what I’m going to do for my people.” “[I’m going to] put my law in their minds and [I will] write it on their hearts.”
Now, the Ten Commandments had been written not on their hearts but on tablets of stone. They had been given these tablets. Those Ten Commandments, incidentally, were not given to them as a means to get out of the bondage of Egypt. The Ten Commandments were given to them after they had been redeemed and come out of the bondage of Egypt. The Ten Commandments were given to them to frame their lives.
Now, when you go into the New Testament and you come back to James and you turn back a couple of pages into Hebrews, which is the most “Old Testament” New Testament book, then you discover that the writer to the Hebrews, after he has made unmistakably clear that Jesus’ death on the cross has once and for all made an atoning sacrifice for sins—that the reason he has sat down is because his work is completed—and in Hebrews 10:14, because “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy,” and then he says, “[And] the Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.” The third person of the Trinity has something to say on this. The Holy Spirit has spoken.
How has he spoken and what has he said? Well, fascinatingly, he has spoken the Bible. And the Holy Spirit quotes Jeremiah 31: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.” He takes this promise, made first and directly to the people of Israel, and he expands it and explodes it, if you like, to fit with all who are the people of God by grace through faith, who are the chosen generation, the “royal priesthood,” the “holy nation,” the “people belonging to God,” as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:9. And he says, “This is the covenant I … make with them …. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
In other words, this perfect law that gives freedom is perfect because it is God’s provision. It’s perfectly suited to our needs and to our natures. It is, if you like, just what the doctor ordered. Remember, Jesus says, “It’s not the healthy that need a doctor; it’s the sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” And then the physician who heals gives, if you like, the prescription. And he says, “Now, I have redeemed you in order that you might become the firstfruits”—that you might be dedicated to God. How are we to be dedicated to God? Well, we’re to be dedicated to God by the doing of God’s will. Where do we find the doing of God’s will? We find it in his law. What is this law? Is it external? No, it’s internal. Where is this law? It’s written in our hearts. And paradoxically, the constraining impact of the law is what provides freedom. Freedom.
Now, unless we get this, we will be in all kinds of difficulty—and some of us, frankly, are, and I know that from talking with you. Because you’ve bought an approach to Christianity which uses terminology correctly in its phraseology but misapplies it. So, for example, you routinely say, “We’re not under law, we’re under grace”—which, of course, is true. That’s a quote from the Bible. But what does it mean?
In a significant number of people who say that phrase to me, this is what it means: Used to be, in the Old Testament, there was a thing going on about law. But once we got to Malachi and went through the four hundred years of the intertestamental period and got into Matthew, then we were finished with law, and all we do is grace. Under law you were supposed to do what you were told; you had to obey the Ten Commandments. Under grace you do what you feel like, and the Holy Spirit helps you to feel the way you want to feel. So, really, you don’t want anybody telling you anything that you’re supposed to do or not do, because that’s Old Testament stuff. If they’re truly in the New Testament, they will never say that to you, and if they do, you will know they are legalists, so don’t listen to them; don’t pay any attention to them at all. Because the key is you’ve been set free from all of that. You are no longer under law; you are under grace.
Now, that may be something of a caricature, but not too much. The fact is we are no longer under law as a means of acceptance with God—all of our acceptance with God. And it always was as a result of grace, the grace of law. We are not under law as a means of acceptance with God. But we are under law as a means of living for God. What law? The law of liberty. The law that gives freedom. The law that says, “Tell the truth, even when you don’t want to.” The law that says, “Don’t covet your next-door neighbor’s house.” The law that says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and … all your soul and … all your mind and … all your strength.” The law which says, “Don’t look on a woman lustfully.” All of that. All of that.
Our freedom in Christ—and this is the paradox—is tied directly to our obedience. It is by our obedience that we’re free. Disobedient people think they’re free, but they’re in bondage. Obedient people may feel themselves constrained, but they’re in freedom.
Now, James is taking a leaf out of his brother’s book, isn’t he? Jesus said the same thing time and again. John chapter 8: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” This is John 8:31: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” Remember, we talked earlier about the people who listened to the lectures but didn’t become disciples. Jesus may well have the same thought in his mind. “You come along to all these talks,” he says, “and you listen, but you go away. You’re charmed by them, but you’re not changed by them.” “If you hold to my teaching, then you’re really my disciples. [And] you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You see, the freedom is set within the context of the holding on to the truth of God’s Word in obedience to what Jesus has said. The liberating power of God’s Word is never experienced by the disobedient. Never experienced by the disobedient! Paradoxically, it is when we become captives to God’s truth that we find real freedom.
Now, I have to get back to the… This is a parenthetical journey here. If you want to think this through a little more, then let me commend a book to you called Pathway to Freedom, which you’ll find in the bookshop. You don’t need to read the whole book, but just the prologue. And in the prologue, the author there deals with Calvin’s third use of the law. The third use of the law. And, as I say, you will be helped by that.
Cowper, in one of his hymns, succinctly grasps this in one stanza when he puts it as follows: “To see the law by Christ fulfilled…” Okay? Jesus kept the law, every detail of the law, in its perfection. He did what we in our sin cannot do, could not do. “To see the law by Christ fulfilled and hear his pardoning voice…” “And hear his pardoning voice.” The rest of the quote in Hebrews 10 there is “And the Holy Spirit goes on to say, ‘And their sins and their lawless acts I will remember no more.’” Why? Because of the finished work that he’s just referenced in the earlier part of the chapter.
To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear his pardoning voice
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice.
“I love your law!” says the psalmist. “I love it! It’s not external to me. It’s not a nuisance to me. It’s not making me chafe at the bit.” Why? Because it’s written in his heart. If you want to know freedom from guilt, lust, fear, loneliness, aimlessness, emptiness, as a Christian it is dependent upon your obedience, on obeying what you’ve been taught.
That’s why, you see, some people in a congregation like this go on to maturity, and others don’t. It’s the same seed that’s sown. Everyone hears the same sermons. What’s the difference? Well, it’s all in the parable of the sower.
Remember, Jesus said, “And the sower went forth to sow, and when he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside.” It just landed on stony ground. It was on the hard bits of the path. It never had any root at all. The birds picked it up, and it was gone in a moment or two. It hardly had a chance to hit the ground and it was away. In the same way, the people who come and listen to the Bible taught, and they’re out the door within fifteen seconds; they can’t imagine why they would stay around for an iota longer.
And others, instant bloom. All of a sudden, they’re enthusiasts. Springtime enthusiasm wanes in the summer, dies by the autumn, and in the winter, no one knows where they are.
Others seem to be going along nicely, and the truth is choked out. It’s choked out by stuff: by worries and cares and money and possessions and anxieties, because we’ve forgotten that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” And in actual fact, when you read the parable of the sower, it becomes perfectly clear that there’s a tremendous amount of wastage in the whole process, isn’t there?
But the good soil, said Jesus, represents the hearts of those who receive the truth when it is planted in them, who obey it, and who go on.
Now, I’m going to assume for the moment that every one of us in this room wants to be that good soil. Wants to be that good soil. What is represented in that good soil, according to James here in this verse? What is the right way to respond to the Bible? Well, he tells us.
First of all, we are responding to it intently. Intently: “the man who looks intently into the perfect law.” The word that is used here is the same word that is used in 1 Peter chapter 1, where Peter says that the angels desire, “long to look into [the] things” about salvation, because they have been able to observe what is going on, but they do not know it experientially. They have a genuine desire, looking, as it were, from the ramparts of heaven “to look into these things.” It’s the same word that is used when Peter and Mary arrived at the tomb on resurrection morning, and they ducked down, and they looked into the tomb. They looked intently—perhaps even, we might say, wonderingly and worshipfully.
So, says James, if a person is going to get benefit from the Bible, then they need to be that kind of person. The man who looks into the Word not with a casual glance but with a genuine desire to know what it says, with a genuine desire to miss nothing of its truth, that person is the happy man. That man is the man who will be blessed. And remember, he’s very happy to talk about being happy. “Blessed,” he said, “is the man who perseveres under trial,” verse 12. That’s paradoxical. Trials and blessing? Yes! Trials and joy? Yes! Law and freedom? Yes! Another paradox. Here is the blessing.
Now, I hope that you make use of every means that we suggest is available to you—[Through the Bible in One Year], through the Bible in half a year, through the Bible, in the Bible, on the Bible, write the Bible, whatever it might be—there’s a constant refrain saying there’s a direct correlation between our individual response to the Bible and our effectiveness and enjoyment of the Christian life.
And we don’t have to make a great show-and-tell out of it. All you need are just blank sheets of paper, and your Bible, and then a passage of the Bible. And decide what it is. If you’ve never done this, you know, decide, “Well, tomorrow, since… What’s the shortest Gospel? Mark. Okay. I can try that one. I will try Mark. I’m gonna try and read Mark, now, before we get to Easter.” So you get Mark tomorrow morning, and you go to Mark chapter 1, and you read for eight verses, let’s say. If you want to go for honors, you go to verse 13. If you want to really bust through it, then you could go, of course, the whole chapter. Some of you are perfectionists and will want to go read the whole of Mark, and that would be a tactical error. But all you need to do is you open it up, and you ask a number of questions in your little book.
And you ask yourself the question, first of all, “Is there anything in this passage that teaches me about God the Father, anything that teaches me about God the Son, anything that teaches me about God the Holy Spirit?” And you look in. I’m not going to do it for you, but you look in there, and if you find out an answer to that, then you write it down. And then you can ask a question like “Is there anything in this passage that tells me something about myself? Is there a sin that I need to avoid? Is there a promise that I should accept? Is there a command that I need to obey?” And before you know where you are, you’ve done your own investigation, and you have discovered things as a result of your desire to look intently into the Bible—intentionally and intently—as opposed to reading the Bible in a way that expects the Bible to do things absent the engagement of our minds.
Like, “Well, I… It didn’t hit me.” What do you mean it didn’t hit you? What did you expect it to do? “Well, I expected… I hear these people tell me, ‘And it just jumped out at me!’ Well, it didn’t jump out at me.” Well, you know what? It hasn’t been jumping out at me a lot either lately. In studying James chapter 1, I’ve had to do a lot of jumping into it, ’cause it hasn’t been doing a lot of jumping out of it. And if I waited for it to jump out, I wouldn’t have sermons Sunday by Sunday. I have to look intently into it. And if you’ll do the same, before you know where you are, you will build your own compendium of the discovery of God’s truth, which you will find yourself sharing with others.
Somebody says something to you in four weeks’ time, you say, “You know what? Funny you should mention that, because just towards the end of Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus has done all those healings and the disciples come and find him in the early hours of the morning, say, ‘You know, we’re doing well on the healings, Jesus; I think we ought to just keep this going,’ Jesus said to them, ‘Let’s get out of here and go to other villages, where I can preach the gospel, because that is why I have come.’” And the reason that you brought that up was because somebody told you that the key to Christian living was in miracles and in healings. And you said, “No, I discovered something in Mark about that. I wonder if I can remember it. Yeah, apparently, Jesus was more concerned about preaching the gospel than he was about healing.”
“Where’d you get that from?”
“Oh, I just discovered it myself.”
“You did? Wow! How’d you do that?”
“Well, you just get a book. It has the blank…” Right? But that’s what you tell your children.
Habitually. Habitually. Notice what he says: “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this.” “Continues to do this.” Not a burst of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia. Not “Oh, I think I’ll read the whole of Mark’s Gospel before the evening service, and that’ll take care of it, and then I won’t have to do anything for a month.” No. No. He habitually does it. He continues to do this. He keeps coming back to it.
Solomon, when he urges wisdom upon his son, gives us a classic few lines on what this will look like. He says, “My son, if you accept my words…” Not “if you hear them.” “If you accept” them,
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom,
… applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
The corollary being “If you don’t, you won’t.” It’s straightforward. I mean, there’s a reason why Tiger Woods was able to hit that four iron to ten feet to start out with an eagle yesterday afternoon, if I read the report correctly: because he is an habitual practicer and player. He is essential raw talent combined with unremitting diligence. Raw talent will win intermittently, but not consistently. Unremitting diligence will manage to pull off one or two events. The combination, it’s powerful!
Do you store God’s Word up? Do you have a store of God’s Word? Do you have a different store than you had this time last year? Are you a Psalm 1 girl, meditating on the law day and night? I chose the word habitually rather than consistently because I wanted to make the point that there is such a thing as a good habit. We tend to use the word of habit as if habits are bad, but no, there are good habits, there are holy habits. I thank God for the establishing of holy habits when I was a boy—for the memorization of the Bible. For the vast majority of the Bible that I know I haven’t learned as a pastor; I learned as a boy. And I was a very, very, very ordinary, and routinely bad, boy.
Finally, not only intently and habitually but obediently. Obediently. “Not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it.” “Doing it.” Remember, Jesus says the same things, doesn’t he? And again, I think it’s impossible to read James without, as it were, hearing an echo of Jesus in the background. After Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he then turns to his disciples, and he says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” “Do them.” “Now that you know …, you will be blessed if you do.” Knowing, doing. And the blessing is directly related to the doing, not to the knowing.
He made the same point dramatically—that is, Jesus—on one occasion when a lady calls out from the crowd, much like in a golf tournament, “You’re the man!” She didn’t actually say that. This is what she said: “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Jesus shouted back, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” In other words, “Thanks for that thought, but let me tell you what really matters.”
Can you imagine the lady’s husband going, “I told you not to shout that out! What are you shouting out like? If you wanna shout, wait. I’ll tell you what to shout out. I got some things to shout out.”
You find that the whole way through the Bible. I could go on all morning, but I won’t. The psalmist, Psalm 19, when he talks about the law of God, and he says, you know, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment[s] of the Lord [are] pure,” and “enlightening the eyes,” and “The fear of the Lord is clean,” and so on. And then he says, “In keeping … them there is great reward.” “In keeping … them there is great reward.” Not in knowing them! In keeping them. In keeping them! You see how the law gives us freedom as we keep it?
And we keep it not because we are endeavoring to be accepted by God but because we have been accepted by God. We live in purity and in honesty with our spouse not as a means of gaining her hand in marriage but on account of the fact that this treasure even accepted our hand in marriage.
I could not work my soul to save,
For this my Lord has done;
But I can work like any slave
For love of God’s dear Son.
Final verse from the psalmist:
I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
I love the paradox. I hope you do too. “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought … your precepts.” You see it? Not “I will walk about in freedom on the basis of my own judgments, on the basis of the judgment of my own heart.” To put the judgments of our hearts before the law of God, to quote Anthony Burgess in the seventeenth century, is to “have the Sun follow the Clock.” Be aware and beware of those who tell you that you have been set free now simply to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and that is all you need to obey. No, it isn’t. Because the Holy Spirit turns us back to the abiding truth of the perfect law, which brings us into freedom. And it is in our obedience that we discover blessing. That’s how he finishes: “And this man will be blessed in what he does.” “In what he does.”
Someone has said that when the Word of God makes an impression (i.e., when we hear it), if it is not followed by an expression (i.e., in the doing of it), then it leads inevitably to depression. So when the Word of God comes home and makes an impression on our minds and calls us to action, we give no expression to it, then it’s no surprise that we find ourselves living with an increasing sense of disappointment and disheartenment. The pattern that James gives us here is straightforward: hearing plus doing equals blessing. Hearing plus doing equals blessing.
How can I hear? Because of God’s amazing grace. How can I do? Because that same enabling grace fashions in my heart and enables me to do that which the Word calls me to. And it is there that genuine happiness, true blessing, is to be discovered.
Well, may God bring all of us into that kind of blessing today.
Father, thank you again for the Bible. May the truth of your Word find a resting place in our hearts and minds. And may your grace and mercy and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe, now and forevermore. Amen.
 See Acts 19:9.
 See Mark 6:20.
 R. V. G. Tasker, The General Epistle of James: An Introduction and Commentary (1956; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 52.
 James 1:18 (NIV 1984).
 Hebrews 10:16 (NIV 1984).
 Hebrews 10:16 (NIV 1984). See also Jeremiah 31:33.
 Mark 2:17; Matthew 9:12–13; Luke 5:31 (paraphrased).
 See Romans 6:14.
 Exodus 20:17 (paraphrased).
 Mark 12:30 (NIV 1984). See also Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27.
 Hebrews 10:17 (paraphrased).
 William Cowper, “No Strength of Nature Can Suffice” (1779).
 Psalm 119:97 (paraphrased).
 Luke 8:5 (paraphrased).
 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV 1984).
 See Luke 8:15.
 1 Peter 1:12 (NIV 1984).
 See John 20:1–11; Luke 24:12.
 See Mark 1:35–38.
 Proverbs 2:1–5 (NIV 1984).
 See Psalm 1:2.
 John 13:17 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 11:27–28 (NIV 1984).
 Psalm 19:8–9, 11 (KJV).
 Psalm 119:44–45 (NIV 1984).
 Anthony Burgess, Spiritual Refining: Or a Treatise of Grace and Assurance, quoted in Ernest F. Kevan, The Grace of Law: A Study in Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1965), 196.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.