Monday, July 31, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Paul Wasn't Lukewarm!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

"The love (agape) of Christ constrain[ed]" the apostle Paul. When he said that "One died for all," he reasoned that it had to mean that "all died," so that "those who live" cannot in peace of conscience go on living "for themselves." They are constrained henceforth to "live ... for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

Paul saw something that set him on fire for the Lord until that last hour in the Roman Mamertine prison when he laid his head on the block before the executioner, and died for the One who had died for him. "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross" (Gal. 6:14) he had said. No glorying in his own response, or his own faith, or his own obedience. That's why he wrote these words:

"The grace of God and the gift [with it] came to so [the] many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ [in the Greek "the many" means all people]. ... The judicial action, following on ... so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... The result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:15-18, The Revised English Bible).

All major Bible versions agree with The Revised English Bible. They render "judicial verdict of acquittal" as "justification." It's not that Christ's sacrifice makes everybody to be righteous, but He treats every person as though he were righteous, because God accepted the human race "in Christ." He is already reconciled to you; now, says Paul, "We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19, 20).

There are objections from some that Paul didn't mean "all people," only those "all" who first do something right to make it effective, but Paul was plain: the "all" upon whom comes this glorious "verdict of acquittal" are the same "all" who sinned "in Adam." They "all are justified by God's free grace alone, through His act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23, 24, REB). Seven truths seem very clear:

(1) "All ... sinned" (that includes us). (2) The same "all are justified." (3) And they are "justified freely" (they pay nothing, they merit nothing). (4) It's by grace (that means free to all undeserving people, without exception). (5) And it's not only by grace, it's by grace "alone." (6) The "act of liberation" is for all, because (7) it's "in the person of Christ Jesus," "the Savior of the world."

There were those who worried that believing this would encourage people to go on sinning. What they didn't understand was that genuine faith "works by agape." One can't believe that on the cross Christ legally justified him by grace, without something happening in his heart. It constrains him to be obedient to all the commandments of God, for "agape is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

When you appreciate that "in Christ" God treats you as though you were just, then He can transform you and make you just "in Christ." It's called justification by faith.

--Robert J. Wieland

From In Search of the Cross, 1999.
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