The Gospel of Grace
Our first order of business is to read God’s word for what it says, not for what we would like it to say or what we have been told it says. Let God speak, let us listen. Let us look and see what Jesus states is the means for obtaining eternal life. First, Jesus makes clear that all the law and the prophets are summarized in just two commandments.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40 AV)
Second, God states that in order to gain entrance into heaven one must obey and keep all of God’s law. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. See also Matthew 17:17-19.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10:25-28 AV)
If we sin by transgressing God’s law, we must be punished, for God is just. One cannot enter heaven with any sins, God’s wrath is upon all who have sinned. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:5-6 AV) All who do not keep every one of God’s commands are under a curse. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10 AV) The cursed punishment for violating God’s law is eternal. See John 5:29; Matthew 25:1-46.
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans 2:5-8 AV)
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:41-43 AV)
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 AV)
God’s standard is perfect righteousness. Examine yourself; have you ever lied, coveted, envied, stolen, idolized, hated, lusted, gotten drunk, fornicated, been angry with someone without just cause (Matthew 5:21-22), or called someone a fool? If you have done any of those things, then the punishment for your sins is to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 AV)
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8 AV)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 AV)
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19 AV)
God’s standard for righteousness is so high it even accounts for idle words. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36 AV) God’s standard is not a physical standard that only addresses conduct, his standard is a spiritual standard that judges men’s hearts. Even if you have not acted upon your evil thoughts, your sin still must be punished. For instance, if you have ever lusted after another, then you have committed adultery in your heart. Matthew 5:28. If you have committed any of the above sins, you are not alone. The fact is that no one is capable of keeping God’s law through their own effort; none is righteous, not one single person.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:10-19 AV)
It being the case, that not one person is righteous, nobody could ever inherit eternal life by their works. So now we have a dilemma. All who do not keep the law of God are under a curse. God requires us to be perfectly righteous and keep the whole law, but we are incapable of doing so. It would seem that there is no way for us to be freed from the curse of the law and get into heaven.
God resolved the dilemma by coming to earth and living a perfect life and then he, being innocent of any sin, allowed himself to be punished in our place for our sins. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 AV) Jesus was an atoning sacrifice for our sins; his crucifixion and death was a propitiation for our sins that satisfied Gods requirement that sin be punished. 1 John 4:10.
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, his perfect life will be imputed to you, and in the eyes of God you are sinless and righteous. Galatians 3:6-9. You are justified not because you are good, but because Christ is good and paid the price for your sins. If you believe in Jesus, his righteousness will be imputed to you. He took the total punishment for your sin, which was required by God’s perfect justice, so that he could forgive you completely, according to his perfect mercy. The key is that it is through faith in the work of Jesus Christ and not by one’s own works that one is saved.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:21-28 AV)
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. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:1-8 AV)
Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being cursed in our stead. He, who knew no sin was punished for our sins.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:11-14 AV)
Why didn’t God just forgive all our sins without coming to earth and sacrificing himself for our sins? Because God’s character is that he is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful.
And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:5-7 AV)
God’s perfect justice requires complete punishment for sin. God’s perfect mercy requires that he forgive our sins. God must punish our sin perfectly and at the same time forgive our sin totally. A seemingly impossible task. Nothing, however, is impossible for God. God punished himself in our place for our sins on the cross, according to his perfect justice. Those that believe in Jesus Christ are then forgiven of all their sins and are cloaked with the perfect righteousness of Christ.
If God planned all along to come to earth and sacrifice himself for us and knew we could not keep the law, what then is the purpose of the law? It is a schoolmaster that was instituted in order to teach us that we are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law for us, so that through faith in him we can be justified. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. Jesus did not do away with the law, he fulfilled the requirements of the law for us. Matthew 5:17-18. Those who try to work there way into heaven, have not submitted to the righteousness of God, but have put themselves under the curse of God. True righteousness comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 10:3-4; John 14:6.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:16-26 AV)
It is not by one’s own efforts in keeping God’s law that one is saved. Rather, it is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we are born again. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 AV) Being born a new spiritual creature, the old creature of the flesh was crucified with Christ on the cross. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6 AV) We are now in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 AV)
We who believe in Jesus are adopted children of God. We were chosen by God for adoption before the world was created. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5 AV)
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:3-7 AV)
We have become a part of the body of Christ. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 AV) We, who believe in Jesus Christ, were predestined to be glorified with Christ. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:16-17 AV) “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30 AV)
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 AV)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 AV)
To be glorified with Christ as an adopted son of God is to wonderful a thought to even comprehend. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 AV)
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