SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE #11

                                               Resurrection Life is God’s Gift to Sinners

The bodily RESURRECTION of Jesus from the dead was a miraculous act of God, giving Jesus life when he was dead.  This was a redemptive act which God performed in the dead body of Jesus.  At the same time this miracle which God performed in Jesus is an illustration of what God must do to save us from our sin.  Because we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), God must raise us to new life in order to save us.   I am saying that our conversion is like a resurrection from the dead.  It takes an act of God to accomplish it.

This is another way of saying that we cannot save ourselves by our good works.  Jesus body was dead while he was lying in the tomb and we are “dead in sin” when God finds us in this world.  To be “dead in sin” means we can do absolutely nothing to “earn” our salvation.  When the Lord finds us in our dead condition, he must take the initiative to give us salvation, regeneration, Resurrection Life.

The idea that sinners can earn their salvation by good works is what we call LEGALISM.  I mentioned in blog  #6 that I was raised on LEGALISM. Both of my parents were trained to be legalists in their own homes, their church tradition and the Christian college they attended.  Then they trained us in this very wrong idea, believing they were being Biblical when they filled our minds and hearts with this terrible deviation from true Christianity.  They were teaching us “religion”, but it was religion completely lacking in the grace of God, completely lacking in the knowledge that God must give us new life, RESURRECTION life or we would never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

BEWARE!  I am about to give you my own opinion.  At the same time, however, I will strongly  insist, as gently as I know how, that LEGALISM is the single most powerful heresy in the world, and it always has been.  I was convinced of this sad fact through my experience with people while I was a pastor in the United States for 43 years.  I found numbers of people in my own congregation still living under the dreadful idea that they had to “earn” their way into God’s favor.   They had to do enough good deeds that they would balance out their bad deeds and thus earn their way into Heaven.  They lived in this mentality no matter what the Bible said or what their official church doctrine taught.

I had exactly the same kind of experience on the mission field.  Only now I was discovering that the LEGALISM that abounded in Christian churches also extended into other religions.  Islam is an unabashed system of LEGALISM, encouraging their people to commit jihadist suicide as the supreme act of earning their salvation with Allah.  What was dawning on me in this missionary context was that LEGALISM was worldwide.  I became convinced that for most people RELIGION and LEGALISM  are synonyms.  To be religious in any Faith is to be LEGALISTIC.  This is a road to moral and spiritual disaster.

A right understanding of the bodily RESURRECTION of Jesus destroys legalism. Let us thank God for the Apostles Peter and Paul who built their whole preaching/teaching of the gospel around the RESURRECTION of Jesus.  The entire New Testament is built on that great fact of our Redemption.  Biblical scholar G. R. Beasley Murray is remarking on this grand truth when he insists about Jesus that, “The glory of the resurrection event suffuses every hour of his ministry and even reaches back to the morning of creation.”

But how does the Resurrection refute LEGALISM?

            Simply by showing us the magnitude of what God had to do to save us.  He had to raise us from the dead just like he raised Jesus from the dead.  We were absolutely unable to do anything for ourselves because we were spiritually dead.  We could not lift a twig to earn our salvation.  God had to do it all.  The wonderful truth of the Gospel is that He did do it all.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit joined in a Holy conspiracy to give fallen sinners eternal life.  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

 

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