Salvation By Works is a Criminal Doctrine

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

The link below will take you to a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Lord’s-Day Morning, April 18, 1880.

The scripture expounded is: “I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Galatians 2:21.

* Link to Spurgeon Sermon #1534*

Brief Outline (and snippets)


THE idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly insinuating. It matters not how often it is refuted, it asserts itself again and again and when it gains the least foothold it soon makes great advances.

A person who believes himself to be justified by his own works is a person who is self satisfied and self deceived. Self-righteousness is the heart of all false religion! All men are born idol worshipers and gravitate towards that which satisfies their natural desires. This foolishness is the result of ignorance of the Law of God and ignorance of the nature of man. Such men are self-deceived by pride, despise mercy, and make light of sin.

Two Great Crimes Contained in Self Righteousness

1. A frustration of the grace of God.

If a man is self-justified, then grace and mercy are superfluous. Why would an innocent man beg for mercy? For a man to mix law and grace, he makes grace secondary to merit. Merit becomes the ground of salvation and grace helps to make up any deficit. A man who trusts in both his own works AND the grace of God, ultimately trusts in his own works, because merit and grace are exclusive.

“If by Grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise Grace is no more Grace. But if it is of works, then is it no more Grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Rom 11:16

2. Human Merit Makes Christ to Have Suffered in Vain

If we can achieve salvation by our works, Christ is not our full hope, but a helper. Where Christ said, “it is finished”, let us not say, “it is ALMOST finished”!

If it is taught that our Lord’s bearing of sin for us did not make a perfect Atonement and that it is ineffectual till we either do or suffer something to complete it—then in the supplemental work lies the real virtue and Christ’s work, is in itself, insufficient!

These Two Great Crimes are Committed by Many

People commit these crimes because they are: indifferent, or have no sense of guilt (proud), or are overcome by guilt (deny power God), or because they have committed apostasy.

This is a sin so gross that even the heathen cannot commit it! They have never heard of the Grace of God and therefore they cannot put a slight upon it—when they perish it will be with a far lighter doom than those who have been told that God is gracious and ready to pardon and yet turn on their heels and wickedly boast of innocence and pretend to be clean in the sight of God! This is a sin which devils cannot commit. With all the obstinacy of their rebellion, they can never reach to this! They have never had the sweet notes of Free Grace and dying love ringing in their ears and, therefore, they have never refused the heavenly invitation. What has never been presented to their acceptance cannot be the object of their rejection. Thus, my Hearer, if you should fall into this deep ditch, you will sink lower than the heathen, lower than Sodom and Gomorrah and lower than the devil, himself! Wake up, I pray, and do not dare to frustrate the Grace of God!

No TRUE Believer Can Be Guilty of These Crimes

The more holy you grow in Christ, the less confidence you will have in yourself. Maturity in Christ is to understand that you have nothing to offer him and everything is of grace. The mature believer is the one that rejoices in the Doctrines of Grace. The true believer does not see Christ to have died in vain – nothing but Christ is his only plea before the throne of grace.

“And He [God] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor 12:9

I mean this—when we preach the Gospel we have only to say, “Sinners, you are guilty! You never can be anything else but guilty in and of yourselves—if that sin of yours is pardoned, it must be through an act of Sovereign Grace and not because of anything in you, or that can be done by you. Grace must be given to you because Jesus died and for no other reason and the way by which you can have that Grace is simply by trusting Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ you shall obtain full forgiveness.” This is pure Gospel.


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