“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” These are the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15. Paul was one of the champions of the grass root first-century church movement. He accomplished more for the church than almost anyone after him and wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. Yet, even the Apostle confessed he did not do what he wanted to.
Many people think Christianity is about rule following and that Christians are society’s moral police. While there are churches who present the gospel this way, this is not the gospel of Paul, Peter, or even Jesus himself. Christianity is not about rule-following. It is about receiving a gift.
The Bible’s grander story presents humanity as rebels rebelling against God and God relentlessly pursuing those who mock him. Like Paul, we all are not as we would like to be. We all fail to meet the standard. Yet, God made a way to wrap his arms around his rebellious children. The gospel can best be summed up with the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
Justification means to be declared right before God. To use the illustration of a courtroom, it is as if the Judge of the Universe – who knows your every thought, deed, and attitude – declares you righteous.
This action is by grace, because it is a gift. There is nothing you did to earn it. God gave this gift through his Son, Jesus Christ. He was God who came to earth as man. He lived the life you were never able to live and died the death that was yours to die. He took your rebelliousness and gave you his righteousness.
This justification comes through faith. Faith is a firm assurance placed in the believer’s heart by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit affirms in our hearts that we have been justified based on what Christ did.
Justification is through faith alone, because you cannot contribute a drop of sweat to your justification. You can’t be good enough to earn it nor can you be bad enough to be utterly cut off from it. It is a gift – a true gift that cannot be earned.
The same Paul, quoted above, went on to say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
Praise God and receive this gift, which is what Christianity is really about.