Ever since I first came across this sermon snippet from Alistair Begg, I’ve been enamored by its profundity. Taken from a sermon originally delivered at Parkside Church on November 20, 2019, entitled, “The Power and the Message of the Cross,” Begg articulates beautifully, wonderfully, powerfully the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Riffing on an imagined exchanged between the angels and the thief on the cross, one is captured by depth of Jesus’s blood-bought redemption. I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing this snippet mainly for posterity’s sake. This will be a resource to which I will frequently resort for years to come.
Without the preaching of the cross, without preaching the cross to ourselves, all day and every day, we will very, very quickly revert to “faith plus works” as the ground of our salvation. So, to go to the old Fort Lauderdale question, “If you were to die tonight and you were getting entry into heaven, what would you say?” If you answer that in the first person, we’ve immediately gone wrong. “Because I . . . Because I believed . . . Because I have faith . . . Because I am this . . . Because I am continuing.”
Loved ones, the only proper answer’s in the third person. “Because he! Because he!”
Think about the thief on the cross . . . I can’t wait to find that fellow one day to ask him, “How did that shake out for you? Because you were cussing the guy out with your friend. You’ve never been in a Bible study. You never got baptized . . . You didn’t know a thing about church membership, and yet . . . you made it. How did you make it?” That’s what the angel must have said, you know:
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know.”
“Excuse me, let me get my supervisor.” They go get their supervisor angel. “So, just a few questions for you. First of all, are you clear on the doctrine of justification by faith?”
The guy said, “I’ve never heard of it in my life.”
“And what about the doctrine of Scripture?”
This guy’s just staring — and eventually, in frustration, [the supervisor] says, “On what basis are you here?”
And he said, “The Man on the middle cross said I can come.”
That is the only answer. That is the only answer. And if I don’t preach the gospel to myself all day and every day, then I will find myself beginning to trust myself, trust my experience, which is part of my fallenness as a man. If I take my eyes off the cross, I can, then, give only lip service to its efficacy, while at the same time living as if my salvation depends upon me. And as soon as you go there, it will lead you either to abject despair or a horrible kind of arrogance.
It is only the cross of Christ that deals both with the dreadful depths of despair and the pretentious arrogance of the pride of man that says, “You know, I can figure this out” and “I’m doing wonderfully well.” No, because the sinless savior died my sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me. That’s why Luther says most of your Christian life is outside of you, in this sense that we know that we’re not saved by good works. We’re not saved as a result of our professions, but we’re saved as a result of what Christ has achieved.
You can find more resources and sermons from Alistair Begg by visiting Truth For Life.
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.