“Friends, are you resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ for you? In the midst of your spiritual conflict or personal holy war, are you presently finding comfort in the Gospel? If you are like me, you need fresh reminders of the finished work of Jesus Christ.”
They were spiritually minded. They were ethical. They were dedicated and zealous. They were men of the cloth, men of the Book, and men willing to suffer for God and his visible church. They turned their backs on worldly normalcy and focused their attention on holy orders, holy ceremonies, holy actions, and holy abstentions. However, these two “holy men” were lost. Listen to their autobiographical testimonies:
I was a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I was educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age. So extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. As to the Law, I was a Pharisee. As to righteousness under the Law, I was blameless. (Words from Saul of Tarsus — taken from Acts 22:3- 4; Gal. 1:14-15; Phil. 3:5-67)
I crucified Christ daily in my cloistered life, and blasphemed God by my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste, poor, and obedient. I was much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and the like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually mistrusted, doubt3ed, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness was a filthy puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are his darlings, for they quickly destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the blessings of God’s generous gifts. (Words of Martin Luther — taken from his Commentary on Galatians)
Once again, both of these fellows were religious “holy men.” They were not merely interested in sacred devotion; they were passionate zealots. But then it happened — both of these ministers were enlightened and regenerated by Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit, and the consequences of their conversion was legendary. These two saints spent the rest of their days making sure their listeners and readers understood the distinction between:
God’s Law … and … God’s Gospel
God’s Good Standard … and … God’s Good News
God’s Command … and … God’s Promise
God’s Contract of Works … and … God’s Covenant of Grace
God’s Paying that Earned by Man … and … God’s Gifting that Earned by God
Do This … and … Done
Friends, are you resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ for you? In the midst of your spiritual conflict or personal holy war, are you presently finding comfort in the Gospel? If you are like me, you need fresh reminders of the finished work of Jesus Christ for his children. So allow me refresh your mind and soul with the inspired truth written by Paul and expounded upon by Luther:
Galatians 1:3–5 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Galatians 2:15–16 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:20–21 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 3:10–14 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:23–26 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Galatians 4:21–31 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother … What does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Christian brothers and sisters, you who have faith in Jesus Christ, you are not in debt to Christ. He sits not with a ledger requiring you to pay back that which he has imputed to your righteousness account. This is beyond your pay grade. This is not within your realm of possibility. What a fools errand! It is a gift!
In addition, you are not in a state of probation. His gracious rescue comes not with strings of performance attached. He foreknew, fore-loved, predestined, and atoned for your transgressions before you were born. He atoned for, not only your original sin, but all your ongoing iniquity. He declared “It is finished,” and he oversold not his benefits. He is not an indian-giver who takes back that which he freely granted. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a “Do this and live” but a “Live because he has done this.”
Yes, you who have faith are “in Christ,” and he is “in you.” You have been and are identified with him in his living, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Therefore, when the Heavenly Father and Holy Judge sees you, he sees the merit of Christ without any demerit whatsoever. Because of the work of the Savior, the Father looks at you, everyday and says, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, boast in Christ’s finished work. Speak of it; write of it; sing of it; enjoy it! Walk in confidence as the free son of Royalty, for you are a co-heir with Jesus Christ. Relish in his promise. Be thrilled today by the unconditional love of God. And then, in joyful worship …
… Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh … If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law … The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.