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He Never Earned It

29 October 2012 by Brad Williams

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

We have been justified. I like that. It sounds final. It sounds like a done deal. We have been justified, not will be justified, not might be justified, we have been justified. It sounds like a done deal because it is.

How has this been accomplished? By faith. We have peace with God through faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith that God has raised Christ from the dead. Faith that, even now, Christ Jesus makes intercession for us. Jesus did not simply die for us; He also lives for us. If we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God? (Rom. 5:9). This justification, this salvation from God's wrath is a has been done, not a will be done. It is finished.

But here is where we get into a scrape with the Arminian, and I think, on the whole, we have handled it very poorly, as if we are embarrassed by the scandal of this grace. When we assert, unwavering, that our justification is settled, that the kingdom and the glory are ours through Christ, the Arminian will say, "What? You say that a man is eternally secure? So now he may live like the devil and still reach heaven's blissful shores?" It is asked incredulously, as if such a thing could never be countenanced by a just God. Often enough, such moral outrage will cause us to say things like, "Well, if someone did go out and do such things, it is evidence that they were not in Christ in the first place." Such answers rarely satisfy anyone who believes the Christian's grasp on justification is tenuous, as if we are holding on to a hopeful justification by our white-knuckled faith. We should stop saying such things and quit apologizing for God's scandalous grace.

The next time someone says, "You mean that you believe a person can be saved and then go out and kill someone and go to heaven?" You ought to answer, "I certainly do. I believe a man could pillage and plunder and still be fit by God to go on to glory." Perhaps you don't believe this, but I think that you should.

Do you, and be honest now, believe that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works? I hope that you do. If so, you know that a person cannot forfeit a salvation by his works if he never earned it by works in the first place. Second, while it may be especially terrible for a Christian to murder, it is not beyond his depravity's reach to do so. Or to get drunk. Or to cheat on his spouse. In fact, there is no low to which a genuine believer will not sink down. And even if they should not act upon them, many a true believer has tasty that dainty delight of fantasy sin they would never dare to act upon. I call heaven and earth to witness this fact: if the maintenance of our salvation were dependent upon us not sinning after salvation, we would surely all head straight down to the depths of hell the moment we breathed our last.

I am not ashamed of the fact that Christ has justified me by his death. I am not ashamed of the fact that he must, even now, intercede for me. At least, I am not ashamed to confess that I am secure because of him and not because of me. Why don't I go out and kill and rob? Because I would be ashamed of myself before the Christ who loves me, not because I am hoping to keep his favor. I behave precisely because I have his favor, not because I want to earn it.

So the next time someone challenges you and accuses you of holding to a kind of faith that would lead to certain immorality and careless living, you tell them that you believe in Christ, not in your own merit. Tell them that you believe that it isn't really "true Christians" who persevere, but that you believe in a persevering Christ who never lets His beloved go. Never, ever, ever. And tell that to the devil when you need to, send him slithering away with these words as often as necessary: I have been justified.

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