Someone asks how we may ever be assured that we are right with God, since our lives are always imperfect and none of us is without sin.
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The gospel weaves a three-fold cord to wrap the gift of peace with God. These three strands are faith, grace and certainty, and Paul connects them in Romans 4:16. God’s promised salvation “is by FAITH,” the apostle tells us. That means we must trust God for it, because it rests on the performance of our Savior and representative, the Lord Jesus Christ. This salvation by faith is “in accordance with GRACE,” Paul continues. It is God’s undeserved gift from first to last. And because God’s favor to sinners does not depend on anything he sees in us, but in his own character of love and mercy which he demonstrated in Jesus Christ, Paul assures us that the divine promises of forgiveness and acceptance are “CERTAIN to all those who are of faith.” The fulfillment of God’s promises depends only on God who promised.
The alternative to this is to say that salvation depends on us doing “our part” (rather than simply trusting God for it). To that extent, salvation becomes God’s response to our correct activity (rather than being God’s undeserved gift). And the result of such a system is that we can never have any certainty about our salvation (because we always come short of God’s glory and will).
Too much of so-called Christian preaching on salvation has been nothing but warmed-over Phariseeism with a new slate of issues and a fresh set of characters. Praise God that is changing in many places, as the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit are bringing gospel revival and a new focus on Jesus Christ. We have long SUNG the gospel, in hymns such as “Jesus Paid it All” and “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness” — even when the sermons have said something quite different. I thank God that he has spared me to see the same gospel message proclaimed boldly and without compromise from many pulpits across the land as well. And I praise him for every opportunity to be among those sounding out that proclamation of eternal good news!