by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Loyal Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)
Romans 4:1-5, "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to
the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof
to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed
God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is
the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but
believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness." Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace
with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 3:28, "Therefore we conclude
that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." James 2:17-21,
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say,
Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I
will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou
doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, 0 vain
man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by
works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?"
The above passages seem contradictory. Romans 5:1 plainly says that a man is justified by faith; whereas James 2 is just as plain in recording that man is justified by works. There seems to be an impasse here; at least, there seems to be a contradiction. Who is right? Is Paul right when he says that a man is justified by faith, or is James right when he says a man is justified by works? Of course, we know that both are right!
Two persons judge us--God and man. We are justified in the sight of God by faith, as taught in Romans. We are justified in the sight of man by works, as taught in James. God can see the heart. Because He can, He can see our faith, and when we accept Christ in faith, God, Who can see it, justifies man, just as if he had never sinned at all. He declares man holy. He not only forgives him, but He forgets man's sin. He then goes beyond that and declares man as if he had never sinned. This is God's justification of man. God can do it because He sees the heart.
However, man can see only the outside. The only way he has of knowing that a believer is in fact a believer is by seeing his works. In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we have a ministry with sailors. Suppose I meet two sailors on the street; one has on a sailor uniform, and one does not. Now God knows that both are sailors, but I don't know. I can tell only by the fact that one is wearing a uniform. I judge that he is a sailor. The one that has no uniform gives me no evidence to believe that he is a sailor. I have no way to judge but by the outside. So it is that God Who sees the heart justifies us in His sight because of our faith. Man who does not see the heart can justify us only as he sees our works.
Suppose that next Sunday morning the owner of the local adult movie house came forward professing faith in Christ as Saviour. If he were sincere, he would be justified immediately by God because God could see the sincerity of his heart and the faith that he had. However, man cannot see that faith. Suppose then that the next Sunday morning a parent takes his child to the Beginner Department of the Sunday school, and there this man who was saved last Sunday is standing at the door welcoming the children! The father is grieved by the presence of this ex-adult movie house owner, and the father asks him what he is doing in front of the Beginner Department. He replies that he is the new Superintendent of the department. No father in his right mind would be pleased to leave his boy in the care of this man! Now the man may be genuinely saved and God Who saw his faith may have justified him. The parent goes to the pastor and says, "Pastor, do you know who the Superintendent of the Beginner Department is?"
The Pastor says, "Yes, I know. It's the man who last week was saved and who owned the local adult movie house."
The parent of the Beginner child is alarmed and Justifiably so! He says, "Pastor, I just don't think we ought to make him Superintendent of the department now. He needs to prove himself. We ought to wait awhile and be sure that he proves by his life that he is sincere. I certainly don't want my child to be under the influence of a man who seven days ago owned an adult movie house."
I think any parent would understand this father's position. The new convert was justified in the eyes of God because God saw his faith, but the father of the little boy could not see his faith. He must wait and see his works. Consequently, the man must prove himself before he is given the responsibility of holding such an important position!
Paul in Romans is talking about the justification that God gives when He declares the sinner righteous as if he had never sinned, upon God's observing his faith. The kind of justification that James is talking about is the kind that the father of the little boy had. He wants that faith proved by good works since he cannot see the faith of the alleged new convert.
Romans 10:9-10, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." The believing in the heart justifies the new convert in the sight of God. The confession with the mouth, and for that matter, with the life, justifies the new convert in the sight of man. This is why the Lord Jesus said that we should let our light so shine before men that they would see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven. Man has no other way to judge the sincerity of fellowman apart from observing his works.
In James 3, 4 and 5 we find three different ways that we may justify our faith in the sight of man. In chapter three that faith is proved by the proper use of the tongue. Remember, God knows that we are saved because He sees the heart and the faith it contains. Man who cannot see the heart justifies his fellowman by his works. One of these works is the change of the use of his tongue. He once was profane in his talk, now he talks of spiritual things. He once sang songs that were of the flesh; now he sings of spiritual matters. He once spoke evil of his fellowman; he now refrains from such slander. When men see transformation of the use of the tongue, they believe his faith and the sincerity of his profession.
In James 4 our faith is justified in the sight of man by our manner of life.
Years ago a man was contemplating coming to work for me. While he was weighing the decision in his mind, he was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for a visit. While in the downtown area of the city with a friend, he was told by the friend that the young lady walking in front of them was Becky Smith, the daughter of Dr. Jack Hyles. The man who was contemplating employment with me said to his friend, "Don't introduce me to her. Let's just watch her for awhile and see how she behaves." It so happened that she was going into a J. C. Penney store. The two gentlemen watched her carefully. They told me later that she was a perfect lady, that she was courteous, gracious and kind and that she was certainly a tribute to her dad. I believe that Becky's behavior had a part to do with this gentleman accepting my offer of employment. My ministry was justified by the behavior of my daughter. Her manner of life justified her dad's ministry.
Years ago there was a family in Garland, Texas, where I was pastoring. We just couldn't win them to Christ. I had tried to win them; I had sent my best soul winners by; nearly every member of the staff had tried. All of us had failed. One day at noon the postman in the area sat down on the curb to eat his lunch. The place he chose to sit was right in front of the house of the family we had tried so hard to win. The lady looked out and saw the postman eating his lunch, but first she saw him bow his head to pray. He took off his hat and bowed his head and thanked God for the food. It was an icy, freezing day. Icicles were on the cap of the postman, and yet he took off his cap, bowed his head and prayed. This so impressed the lady that she told her husband about it when he got home. The next Sunday both of them walked the aisle and professed faith in Christ. They testified to the fact that the thing that influenced them most was the postman from our church who took off his hat in the freezing rain and said grace. He justified our church by his actions and by his manner of life.
The world waits to see the manifestations of our faith. The world cannot see our hearts. The only way it can judge is by our works. One of these works is proper use of the tongue. Another is the proper manner of life.
Several years ago a group of teenagers decided to live a communal type life diagonally across the street from our church. A young man and his female companion were in charge of them. It was really the worst kind of a situation. These young people lived in all kinds of immorality, and they used narcotics freely and drank alcoholic beverages heavily. They would pass out literature in front of their little establishment. This literature contained the filthiest four-letter words and all kinds of evil suggestions. We witnessed to them, but to no avail. We worked through the city to seek the closing of the institution. Again we failed. We exhausted every resource to have the place closed down, but to no avail.
One Monday morning my staff was having a meeting. I looked out through the window in the doorway that leads to the hall from the church chapel, and I saw the manager of the immoral institution across the street standing in the hallway. He was looking through the window and motioning for me to come out in the hall. I did. When I got out there he was weeping. I asked him what was wrong. He said, "Reverend, I've got to get saved!" Was I shocked! He proceeded to tell me that for months he had been the manager of the wicked institution across the street. He told me that he had watched me and other members of the church and our behavior. He said, "Reverend, I've seen you taking food to poor people while I was ruining their lives with indecency. I've seen your kindness to children and young people while I was trying to take them to Hell. I watched you and your people from across the street, and I'm about to die! I want what you have!" In just a few moments he had it! The next Sunday morning with a clean haircut, a clean shave, a clean white shirt, a well-pressed pair of pants and a matching tie, he came forward professing his faith in Christ as Saviour! The next week his organization shut down. What did it? It was the manner of life of the people of First Baptist Church. Our Christianity was justified by the behavior of our people.
The world watches to see what we have that they do not have. They listen to rock music; some Christians listen to rock music and dress as they dress, sing as they sing, go where they go, talk as they talk. Why should the world want what these Christians have! They have not justified their faith in the sight of the world by the manner of life which they live.
James 3 tells us that we are justified in the eyes of man by the use of our tongues. James 4 tells us that we are justified by our manner of life. James 5 teaches us that we are justified by our care for each other. The world waits to see what we have. Since they cannot see our faith, they have to see the results of our faith; that is, our works.
Several years ago a lady came forward to receive Christ as Saviour. However, no one could speak with her because she could not understand English. I summoned one of our Spanish-speaking soul winners to deal with her. He did so, and she was sweetly converted, After the service I went to her and talked with her through this man who had led her to Christ. She was obviously a very well-to-do lady She was immaculately dressed and was wearing a mink coat. I asked her through the interpreter if she could understand anything that I had said in my sermon. She replied that she could not. I then asked her why she came forward to get saved. She then told me that her four-year-old nephew had died with leukemia and that she had come to his funeral service which I had preached. She told me that she sat in the service, and though she did not understand a thing I said, she felt that I was compassionate. She said through this interpreter that she saw my tears and felt that I loved the boy and his family and that I was hurting with them and suffering as they suffered. She said that at the funeral service she promised God that she was going to come back to a service some Sunday. She did, and though she could not understand a thing I said, she said, "Pastor, I could understand your laughter. I could see your tears. I could see the earnestness on your face. " She said, "The reason I wanted to get saved is because it looked so good!" My faith was justified by my care for a little four-year-old boy who had passed away and for his parents who grieved his departure. May God help us to make our faith "look so good"!
A number of years ago I had to go to the dentist's office. The dentist that I went to at that time used his wife as his receptionist and nurse. Each time I would go, I would witness to her, and each time I failed to win her to Christ. One wintry day I was in the office waiting my turn. I tried again to witness to the dentist's wife and failed. Nothing I could say could reach her (I had tried many times, but each time my attempt ended in failure). That day as I was sitting in the office reading an old magazine, an old lady walked in the door. She had on tennis shoes. She was poorly clad, and in her hands she was holding a set of false teeth in a handkerchief. There was blood on the handkerchief and blood on the teeth. As she came in, the dentist's wife said, "Mary, what can I do for you?"
Mary said through a toothless mouth, "It's my teeth! They don't fit! I need to have them fixed so they can fit!"
The dentist's wife said, "Mary, the guarantee on your teeth is up. You should have brought them in sooner. It's too late now."
Mary told her that she could not bring them in earlier. The weather had been bad. She lived two miles from the dentist's office and there was no way for her to get there until there was a slight break in the weather. The dentist's wife told her again, "Mary, you are too late. The guarantee is up."
Mary through tears pleaded, but there was no way.
I looked up at the dentist's wife and said, "How much would it take to make Mary a new set of teeth like those?"
She said, "Reverend, a little over $400."
1 said, "Then make her a set and put it on my bill." The dentist's wife was stunned!
Within two days my office phone rang. Our receptionist said, "Your dentist's wife wants to talk to you." I picked up the phone and the wife of my dentist said, "Reverend, could I come to your office and talk to
you?" She did come and told me that she had not slept since I had asked for the cost of Mary's new teeth to be placed on my bill. She looked at me through tears and she said, "Reverend, I believe I can get saved now." She did receive Christ as her Saviour in my office that day. Now what my preaching failed to do, and what my witnessing failed to do, my care for others could do. I am afraid there are far more times when I have failed than when I have succeeded, but this one rare instance illustrates how that our faith justifies us in the sight of God, but man who cannot see our faith justifies us with our care of each other.
No wonder people aren't saved when they hear of preachers fighting with each other! No wonder they have no confidence in our Christianity when our churches split and are filled with bitterness and hatred! The world watches and waits for us to justify ourselves by our works.
For years when I was a child my mom and dad each tried to lead me to the path each thought was best. Mama took me to church; my daddy would take me to a tavern and set me on the bar. Mama read the Bible to me and taught me its truths; Daddy told me the Bible could not be trusted. Mama took me to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night; Daddy said that was foolish. Mama taught me to tithe; Daddy said the preacher was just in it for money. Mama told me to trust the preacher and to be clean and pure. I loved my mother, and I loved my daddy. I watched their lives waiting for one to justify his position. I became convinced that Mama's faith was real and that her Bible was God's Word and that her way of life was best, so I believed her Bible and followed her path because I saw her life and saw her justify her faith by that life!
Years passed. I went into the military service, became a paratrooper, served my country in World War 2, and was discharged at the end of the war. Then for a year I went to the Texas University in Arlington, Texas. My faith was shaken by the professors! Midway through the year I was doubting the Bible, doubting Mama's faith, and wondering if Daddy was right, for many of the professors spoke the same way that Daddy had spoken. I was very confused. Finally I decided to do something to find out who was right, Daddy or Mama. I decided to read the Bible through on my knees. Every day I would get on my knees and read a portion of Scripture. I started at Genesis and read through the entire Bible! When I finished making my sincere search and had completed the last chapter of the Bible, I jumped to my feet and shouted, "MOTHER IS RIGHT!" I had watched her as she lived her life. I had seen her walk to church, sometimes as far as two miles, and often through miserable weather. I had seen her go every Sunday morning, every Sunday night and every Wednesday night. I had seen her as she put me on her knees, when I was a little boy, to rock me and sing, "Brighten the Comer Where You Are." I had seen her every night take her Bible down and read it to me for 30 minutes and then tell me that the Bible was the Word of God and require me to say that three times. I had heard her every night tell me that the Bible was about Jesus and that He was the Son of God, and she required me to say that three times. I had knelt every night and put my head between her knees and said, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne, Jack and everybody, and make me a good little boy. Amen." (All of this was a nightly ritual at our house.) I had seen her walk two miles to a public school lunchroom and work for $5 a day behind a hot steam table and walk two miles back home. I had seen her take time for her boy and try to be both a mother and a father to him. I had watched her faith. I had heard her pray. I felt her love. Mother, by her tongue, by her manner of life and by her care for others, convinced me that the Bible was true, that Christ was alive and that salvation was real! Many years ago she had been justified in the sight of God because of her faith in Christ, but her son could not see that faith. All he could see was her works. God justified her the moment her faith made contact with Him, but her son justified her as he observed her life through many years.
Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." This passage teaches me that I am to forgive as God forgives. Now if I am to forgive like He forgives, I must search to find exactly what His forgiveness is so that I may obey His commandment to emulate His forgiveness. I find in the Scripture that He does forgive. I also find that He forgets our sins. Then I find that when we come to trust Him as Saviour He not only forgives and forgets, but He justifies. He declares us righteous; just as if we had never sinned, and He will not impute sin to our record. My, my! That is the way I am to forgive. I call this justified forgiveness. Whatever way He forgave is the way I am to forgive. That means I am to forgive, I am to forget, and I am to justify those who sin against me, just as if they had never done so. When someone sins against me, I am not to put it on his account. I am to forgive him, forget that he sinned against me, and to use a modem illustration, I am not to put it into the computer!
I counsel many hours a week. It is a blessed thing how I can forget about the problems of people with whom I counsel. They tell me things they have done and sins they have committed. When I see them in the hallway at church, I never think of it. Why? I have forgiven them with a justified forgiveness. Their sins are not registered in the computer.
When I get a hard or nasty letter I try to exercise justified forgiveness, which, of course, is the mind of Christ. Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 3: 1, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe."
This chapter is being written at 2:45 in the morning. I am driving on a mountainous, California highway to the San Francisco airport. A few hours ago I preached. When I finished preaching a young man came to me and said, "I went to Hyles-Anderson College."
I said, "Yes, I remember you. How are you doing?"
He had a strange look on his face. He even looked guilty He said, "Don't you remember?"
I said, "Remember what?"
He said, "Don't you remember that I was expelled from school?" I said, "Of course not."
He said, "Well, I came to your office and met with the committee." I said, "Son, I don't record that in my mental computer. I have forgiven, I have forgotten, and you are justified just as if you had never sinned." I call this justified forgiveness.
Years ago a preacher vowed that he would destroy and ruin my ministry. Years passed. He himself had long since been out of the ministry. One day I was thinking about him and I wrote him a letter and asked him if there were any way I could help him get back in the ministry. I told him that I would be happy to help him find a church or help him get revival meetings in case he wanted to be an evangelist, or if there were any other ways I could help him, I would be glad to do so. He wrote back and told me that he was stunned. He asked me how I could make such an offer when he had tried to destroy my ministry years ago. To be quite frank, I had forgotten that he had tried to destroy it because I did not allow it to enter my computer. I call this justified forgiveness.
Many times folks asked my mother what kind of a boy I was when I was young. She always replied, "Jack never gave me a minute's trouble." When I hear of this statement I always wonder why I had to have so many spankings if I never gave her a minute's trouble. Why did the peach tree in the back yard never keep its limbs long enough to bear peaches? Why do I bear its marks on my legs until this day? The simple truth is that when I did wrong, Mother forgave me and forgot my wrong. It was not recorded; it was not placed in her computer, and in her mind I had never sinned at all. Mother is 96 years old now. She is senile and most of the time is confined to one little room. However, in a sense she has been "senile" for years. Her memory has never worked well when she is asked to remember my sins. She exercised justified forgiveness to me. She forgave; she forgot and she justified me just as if I had never sinned.
Thank God, that is exactly what Jesus did for me. When I trusted Him as my Saviour, He forgave me of my sins. He forgot my sins, and because He charged them to His record and imputed His righteousness to me, He could declare me righteous, just as if I had never sinned. I am justified in the sight of God. Hallelujah! It happened when I put my faith in Christ because God could see my faith. Now may my use of my tongue, my manner of life and my care for others justify me in the sight of mankind so that they will believe my faith and see my works so that many will trust my Saviour!
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"I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years." óBilly SUNDAY