Early in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have the beautiful basics of Christian teaching — law and gospel.
God’s law teaches us what to do and not to do. Initially, this can be deceptive because it makes us feel good to know precisely what God expects of us.
But ultimately the law fills us with a sense of foreboding, as we try to obey God and do what he tells us to do. As we live our lives, constantly striving to fulfill all the law and keep all the rules, we eventually run out of steam. All the “Do’s” and “Do Not’s” wear us out. We hit a wall. We discover that we can’t meet God’s expectations. No matter how hard we try, we fall short.
In the end, God’s law makes us conscious of our sinfulness and our shortcomings. But it doesn’t show us the way to fulfill the whole law or restore our broken relationship with God.
Enter the gospel. The gospel points us in a completely different direction. It points us away from ourselves to Jesus Christ. It instructs us in all that God has already done for us by sending his son, Jesus. The gospel takes away the “To-do list” and replaces it with a “Done!” list.
The gospel makes us aware of God’s plan to save us. It shows us the immensity of God’s love and mercy. It points us to the perfect sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. It points us to the hope that the empty tomb holds for us. It tells us that while we can’t meet God’s expectations, Jesus can and did.
When Jesus walks into our lives, he simplifies everything. He will be our substitute. He will earn — and then give to us — the perfect righteousness that God demands from us. We can cease all the striving. We can simply rest in Jesus’ grace and mercy.
In this way, God never gives up even a single ounce of this righteousness. Nor does he ever give up a single ounce of this grace. It’s a perfect “win-win!”
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:20-26, NIV).
Our Bible reading for Thursday, July 16, is Amos 3:1 – 4:13, Romans 3:9-31, Psalm 85:8-13.
Lord, thank you that you have given me your Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Savior. Thanks for the free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Send me your Spirit so that I may cling to Jesus in faith and live in him forever!
Header image based on "Jesus in a Jar" by SurFeRGiRL30, CC By 2.0