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Sermon #3284

The Vital Principle

A Sermon on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 11:18-22


Romans 11:18-22 ESV KJV
do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their …

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Sermon Description

The history of Christianity has witnessed the decline of many churches. In this sermon on Romans 11:18-22, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones attributes such declines to the drift away from true Christianity's vital principle, justification by faith alone. Dr. Lloyd-Jones urges listeners to learn the lessons from history and guard themselves and their churches against falling back into a system of justification by works. Regarding the churches that hold firm to the principle of justification by faith alone, be prepared to be persecuted by those who don’t. This tendency has been borne out in church history as evidenced by the persecution inflicted on the true church by the Jews and the also the apostate church. Please note that in a rare departure from customary practice, the original editor of the MLJ Trust recordings decided to include the tail end of the last hymn prior to the commencement of the sermon. This was presumably in order to make sense of Dr Lloyd-Jones's opening admonition to his congregation as to the quality of their singing on that particular Friday evening at Westminster chapel!

Sermon Breakdown

  1. There is always a tendency for God's people and the church to decline and fall away from the truth. This is because we are not yet perfect and sanctification is a process.
  2. The cause of decline is always forgetting first principles. The first principle is justification by faith alone. When this is forgotten, problems arise.
  3. Those who fall away from the truth always persecute those who hold to it. The Jews persecuted the early Christians. The apostate church has always persecuted the true church.
  4. We must always apply the Bible and its teachings. We should never approach the Bible in a detached or theoretical manner. The Bible is meant to speak to us and influence us.
  5. The history in the Bible illustrates eternal principles. We should see ourselves in the examples of the Jews, Pharisees and others. The Bible is always contemporary.
  6. There is always a struggle between the spirit and the form. The form must express the spirit but there is a danger of the form killing the spirit. This has happened many times in church history.
  7. The supreme example of decline is the nation of Israel. They rejected and crucified their Messiah. This has been repeated in church history many times.
  8. The cause of decline in Israel and the church is always forgetting justification by faith alone. They began to rely on their own works, deeds and organizations.
  9. God often delays in acting against those who have declined from the truth. He is patient and gives further opportunities to repent. But judgment eventually comes.
  10. The modern ecumenical movement shows the same errors as Israel. It relies on the external organization and tradition, not belief in the truth. This is a repetition of Israel's sin.
  11. We cannot know when God may act in judgment against the apostate church. But his principles of judgment still operate. The apostate church will eventually be "spewed out".
  12. The way of safety is constant self-examination, fear of falling away, and holding to first principles. We are only responsible for our own time, not the future.
  13. We must have nothing to do with an apostate church that has departed from first principles and relies on tradition and organization. To do so is to partake in its sin.

The Book of Romans

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.