If there is just one single thing that the Church needs to get correct – it would be the Gospel message. The core mission of the Church is to accurately define how a man comes into a right relationship with God. How is a man made right according to God’s grace?
The book of Galatians deals with this exact subject as Paul is protecting the gospel message from those who are distorting it into something it is not. Certain Jews followed behind Paul’s travels; they visited Churches he started, and they added works to the free gift of God’s grace to the gospel. Here’s a section of this book that I’ve been looking at lately:
We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if while seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves have also been found to be sinners, is Christ then one who encourages sin? Absolutely not! But if I build up again those things I once destroyed, I demonstrate that I am one who breaks Godʼs law. For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside Godʼs grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!
Galatians is the great defense of the gospel being by Christ alone, though faith alone. However, I have heard claims that this book is really just separating the old Jewish customs and laws from the requirements of the Gospel – and that you really have Christ’s grace, but you just maintain some basic moral standards as part of requirements to be saved. But, this is not the correct way to interpret this passage. Paul in the above passage is making this point clear when he paints a picture of one who gets saved, but is later “found to be a sinner”.
Follow the Argument Paul is Making
If we seek to be saved, walk down a aisle at Church, sincerely commit ourselves to God, repent, accept the gospel message … if we do all this – … and then time passes by, and we one day find ourselves in a state where we have compromised our convictions and find that we are sinners … well, we need to ask ourselves a logical question in reflection about all this. Here’s the question: Is God in the business of being a sin enabler? Absolutely not! But if that’s the way you view things, that’s what you have made God out to be – a sin enabler. Why is this so? Because, “If I build up again those things that I once destroyed, then I am demonstrating that I, the one that has been saved by God, am one who breaks God’s law. If that’s the case, then I have used God’s grace to find a way to continue in sin. But this is not how God works … that model of salvation is not in agreement of the “Good News” message of the Gospel.
So, What is the Correct Way of Understanding the Gospel?
The law says that anyone who sins must die. (Did you catch that?) No exceptions. We must all die for the penalty of not being obedient to God with the moral responsibility that He has placed onto our shoulders as men who have been created in His likeness. We failed and we are under the penalty of the law – therefore we must die! The question is, are you going to pay that penalty yourself ? Or, are you going to accept the death of Jesus on the cross as the substitutionary payment on your behalf? If the latter, then you are dead. That happened on the cross, you were in Christ when He died – and your sin nature is dead. Salvation has nothing to do with you keeping any moral standard, it has to do with Jesus keeping that moral standard – which He did. Now, it doesn’t stop there … as true as it is that you died with Jesus, so also it is true that you have been given new life with Jesus when He was raised from the dead!
Paul says all this over and over in many different ways in many different epistles.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this worldʼs present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.