Someone objects: “All this talk concerning justification by grace through faith is largely theoretical. When we talk to real people, they want to know what they must do to be saved.” I respond that nothing us more practical than the reality that God saves us, apart from anything we deserve, attain or accomplish, for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ and on the basis of Jesus’ finished work of redemption. (Let’s listen in on the following conversation in progress.)
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Q. Can I perfect myself morally, or perform enough good deeds, or obey God’s commands so well, that God will look at my record and say, “Now, there’s a righteous person”?
A. No. You can never do anything to remove your own guilt or to cause God to view you as one who truly deserves divine acceptance and reward instead of divine rejection and punishment.
Q. Am I then without hope? May I never have peace with God, enjoy his forgiveness, and be truly accepted by him?
A. Do not despair, I have good news! Although we all have broken fellowship with God by our self-will and our rebellious attitude toward the Creator, a brokenness that manifests itself in a multitude of shortcomings, wrong deeds, improper choices and distorted priorities, God has taken the matter into his own hands. In Jesus of Nazareth, God himself has done all that was necessary to reconcile us to himself and to set us in right relationship with himself.
Q. How did God possibly do that?
A. We can never fully understand or express this divine grace, but somehow he did it through Jesus’ perfectly-obedient life which he lived in our stead, and in his atoning death, which he offered as our substitute. God climaxed this saving work by raising Jesus back to life from among the dead, showing his victory over death and evil in a powerful and dramatic way.
Q. Are you telling me that I can contribute nothing to the work which forgives my sin and makes me acceptable to God?
A. That is exactly what I am saying. God did the saving work outside of us, but for us. God accomplished that wonderful work almost 2,000 years ago, long before we were born and certainly before we ever heard of it.