Is Sin Really All That Bad?

One would expect any Christian to answer the question posed in the title with an affirmative and immediate, “Yes!” However, the daily decisions we make often tell another story.

We’re quick to recoil when we hear of horrific acts committed against children, marital infidelity, cold-blooded murder, or, you know, other really bad sins–especially, the sins of others. Yet, it’s our own day-to-day living, in both the major and the mundane, that we are often slow to consider. At times, we fail to measure the words we speak, the attitudes we choose, or the media we consume against the standard of God’s Word. It’s often in the name of cultural engagement that we capitulate to content that has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. After all, it’s much easier to row with the current of our culture than paddle upstream.

While preparing to teach at our church’s young adult community, I was reading through Ralph Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin. Venning, a Puritan and English non-conformist, had a steadfast desire that Christ be exalted and that any measure of sin be–as it should–abhorred. Here are a few of his remarks that struck me as I read:

“One may suffer and not sin, but it is impossible to sin and not to suffer.”

“Sin can do, without the Devil, that which the Devil cannot do without sin, and that is, undo men [and women].”

“Sin is an evil beyond the skill and power of all creation to cure and to cleanse.”

It is clearly evident that Venning has considered carefully what divine Scripture reveals in no casual terms–that sin, in any measure, is utterly and totally evil.

Contemplate the words of Christ in Matthew 5:29-30

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Jesus makes it clear that sin is not be tolerated (see esp., Eph. 5:3, 11). Sin must be dealt with swiftly and severely. Think of it…if I were to deal with sin as seriously as Christ commands above, others would surely take notice and likely consider me both foolish and fanatical. The question is, are we willing to be obedient, or is our greater concern what others will think?

Friend, every decision you make either serves to edify or erode your heart, and must be made with the utmost care (see Prov. 4:23-27). There is no such thing as the “neutral” Christian life. You’re either, by grace, pursuing “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Or, because any measure of sin is being tolerated, grievously, you’re moving backward.

Believer, in all of this, remember that you stand securely before the throne of grace solely on the merits of Christ by faith. Indeed, it’s in recognizing the putrid nature of our sin that allows us to view Christ in all his glorious sweetness. Therefore, in view of God’s rich grace toward us in Christ Jesus, let us make it our daily practice to make choices that will stir our affection for Christ, making no room for sin. Or, as John Owen has said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin is available for free, in PDF format, here.

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Forgiveness and the Fear of God

I’m grateful to be a part of Cornerstone Church of LincolnWay.  Our pastor, Arvid Svendsen, leads a Bible study on Friday mornings, at the McDonald’s on Maple St/Lincoln Hwy, in New Lenox, IL.  (If you’re in the area, join us at 6AM…it’s open to anyone!).  This morning we considered the relationship between “the fear of the Lord” and “progressive sanctification”.  In the course of our study, I began to think of a somewhat peculiar passage in Psalm 130

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.”

(Psalm 130:3-4, ESV, emphasis mine)

It seems rather counterintuitive that forgiveness would lead to fear.  My first thought would be that forgiveness would lead to comfort, joy, and relief…but fear?  Yes, fear.

Octavius Winslow, in a sermon on Psalm 130:4, entitled “Forgiveness and Fear”, brilliantly illustrates and explains this seemingly peculiar and paradoxical relationship.

Winslow states:

“But there remains a clause in this verse of the psalm pregnant with the deepest and holiest instruction: “There is forgiveness with You, that You may be FEARED.” “How can this be?”, exclaims the unreflecting mind. Fear, the fruit and effect of pardon! It is an incongruity—a paradox! And yet such is the word of God, and as such we believe and accept it. How, then, are we to interpret the clause? A holy, filial, loving fear of God is ever the effect of His full and free forgiveness of sin; it is the natural, spontaneous and blessed result. All fear, if apart from a sense of pardoned sin, is legal, servile, and slavish; it is not the fear of a forgiven sinner, of a pardoned child. The pardoned soul sees in the grace of the act, such a display of God’s holiness and hatred of sin, such an unfolding of His grace and love, as at once inspires a holy, reverential, and child-like fear of offending Him. Never did the believing soul see sin’s exceeding sinfulness, love’s amazing greatness, and grace’s fullness and freeness, as when first it saw and felt it in a sense of God’s pardon. Oh, there is no human act which has such a tendency to melt, subdue, and win the whole being as that of forgiveness, be it judicial or parental, human or Divine. A heart that has become hardened in crime and steeped in sin, whom no reasoning could convince and no discipline could subdue, has at length been melted by mercy, conquered by forgiveness, and enchained by love. I quote an illustration of this truth.

A soldier was brought before his commanding officer for a misdemeanor frequently committed and as frequently punished. He had been tried, flogged, and imprisoned; but, imperative and stern as military discipline is, all to no purpose. He was an old and incorrigible offender, whom no threats could dismay, and no infliction reform. As the officer was about to repeat his punishment, the sergeant stepped forward, and, apologizing for the liberty he took, said, “Sir, there is one thing which has never been done with him yet.” “What is that?” enquired the officer. “He has never been forgiven.” Surprised at the suggestion, and yet struck with its force, the officer meditated for a moment, then ordered the culprit before him. “What have you to say to the charge?” “Nothing, sir, only I am sorry for what I have done.” “Well, we have decided to inflict no punishment on this occasion, but to try what forgiveness will do.” The criminal, struck dumb with astonishment, burst into tears, and sobbed like a child. And what was the effect? From that moment he was another and a changed man. No longer the inveterate and hardened offender- a plague to his regiment and a dishonor to the service he became one of the most well-behaved and orderly men that ever wore the uniform or bore the standard of his sovereign. Forgiven, he became loyal and obedient: respect for military rule, and the fear of dishonoring the service and degrading himself, henceforth became to him a law and a shield.

A similar incident in the life of Dr. Doddridge illustrates the same truth. Believing that there were extenuating circumstances in the case of a condemned criminal awaiting execution in Northampton Jail, Dr. Doddridge waited upon George III, and petitioned for his life. It was granted. Hastening back to his cell, he read the king’s order of reprieve. The pardoned criminal rose, fell at his feet, and, clasping his person, exclaimed, “Oh, Sir! I am your servant, your slave for life! For you have purchased every drop of my blood.” And shall a human forgiveness thus conquer, thus win, and thus inspire the fear of offending? O Lord, “there is forgiveness with You; for You have cast all my sins behind Your back, that I may serve You with reverence and godly fear all the days of my life, and henceforth to be Your servant, Your child forever!” Oh what a corrective of sin, what a motive to fear, what an incentive to obedience is God’s forgiveness! “There is FORGIVENESS with You, that You may be FEARED.”

That which gives us the clearest, deepest, and most solemn view and conviction of God’s holiness and love, inspires the most effectually a holy, filial, loving fear to offend Him. And where shall we find such an awful display of His holiness, and such overpowering demonstration of His love, as in the cross of Christ? Men do not fear God because they have no view of His holiness, no sense of His mercy, and no experience of His love. But God’s forgiveness of sin furnishes the believer with the most convincing argument and with the most persuasive motive to live a pure, a holy, and a godly life. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ”(Titus 2:11-13).” (emphases mine)

If you’re interested in reading more of Winslow’s work, consider Soul Depths and Soul Heights: Sermons on Psalm 130 and No Condemnation in Christ Jesus.

The Fittest Tools for Fighting Sin

While we’re on the topic of killing sin in the life of the believer (see last post), I thought I’d pass along a deeply encouraging passage from one of the greatest sermons ever written on the expulsion of sin from the Christian’s heart.

“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” by Scottish Presbyterian minister, Thomas Chalmers, is one of the most significant pieces ever written on the sanctifying power of the gospel.  Noting the futility of our efforts to kill sin simply by a moralistic, “try-harder” attempt to rid the heart of impurity, Chalmers offers a better way.

To summarize his message, he writes that in order to successfully put away a sinful affection, we must replace that affection with a new affection so great and glorious, it forces the sinful affection to be subordinated and obliterated.  Because the heart cannot move from a sinful affection to no affection at all, it will, by its very nature, move on to another.  We must choose then, by the power of the Spirit, to replace our old affections with the beauty and glory of the love of God demonstrated in the person and work of Christ.

Near the end of his sermon, Chalmers writes:

The object of the Gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience, and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects, mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again. On the tenure of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator, is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness, instead of God’s glory; and with all the conformities which he labours to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be. It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance—or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another—or, that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them—the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good—the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude, by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace—salvation by free grace—salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God—salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness.Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity, which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness. To do any work in the best manner, we should make use of the fittest tools for it. (emphasis mine)

If you’re interested in reading more of Chalmers’ work, check out the Letters of Thomas Chalmers.

MYTH: Calvinism Promotes Antinomianism

The Reformation-era charge: teaching salvation by faith breeds lawlessness

Acting with great inconsistency, opponents of the Reformation in the sixteenth century liked to imply that early Protestantism encouraged the hope that salvation through Jesus Christ could be confidently enjoyed by a faith never followed by good works.  One finds this in the Decrees of the Council of Trent, which met intermittently between 1545 and 1563. Trent condemned, as a terrible error, the opinion (attributed to Protestants) that “nothing besides faith is required in the Christian…and that the Ten Commandments in nowise appertain to the Christian”.  Now, taking as disputable the question of whether any responsible Protestant ever taught this viewpoint (I think it very doubtful), the question still remains as to why such a condemnation was ever uttered by Trent at all.  I have suggested (above) that there was great inconsistency involved in Trent’s doing so.

The bishops of the Roman church, assembled at Trent, knew full well that their church had accumulated a huge backlog of abuses involving misuse of funds, sale of offices (simony), and widespread violations of vows of celibacy (by priests, bishops, and members of monastic orders). No one attributed the widespread occurrence of these grave matters within the Roman church to its teaching that “nothing besides faith is required for the Christian”. And who would ever have accepted that suggestion as valid, if it had been made? And yet, within Catholicism there was a widespread tendency to live as though the Ten Commandments did not apply to the Christian. How could and did that communion level this very charge at early Protestants?

This charge (made by whichever party) is about what Christians have traditionally called “antinomianism”(the rejection of the moral law as relevant to the Christian’s experience); it has a long and checkered history. We are probably right in detecting it in the confused persons whom the apostle Paul rebukes in the 6th chapter of his Roman letter (these individuals fancied that God’s grace would be magnified if they continued to sin); its existence is also highlighted in the group (termed ‘Nicolaitans’) rebuked in Revelation 2:6 and 15. Antinomianism’s opposite is the biblical insistence that the life of the one who is justified by faith in Christ (Rom. 5.1) will be one characterized by careful conformity to God’s commandments in reliance on the indwelling assistance of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.13-26).

Antinomianism: the persistent charge against Calvinism

The council of Trent was thinking of Protestants considered generically when it gave out its warning against ‘salvation by faith’ teaching.  Since that time, this charge has continued to be hurled especially at followers of Reformed theology, and for two reasons:

  1. not only does the Reformed expression of Protestantism join with others in affirming that the sinner is accepted as righteous in God’s sight by faith placed in Jesus Christ, but also
  2. Calvinism (better: Reformed theology) has consistently taught that those who do place their whole trust in Christ in order to be justified before God do so as persons chosen for salvation and specially assisted by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 1.4).

In the judgment of many, this set of ideas contains within it the ingredients of what might be called a ‘perfect storm’.  After all, these urge, if one accepts the suggestion that he or she has been chosen for salvation (and – chosen without respect to any native goodness or prospect of goodness) why would not such a person live on ‘auto-pilot’ and be morally indifferent all in the inflated confidence that such a decreed salvation was his or hers irrevocably? One contemporary theologian, Norman Geisler, has warned of the “personal irresponsibility” that this kind of confidence breeds.

How has Reformed theology responded?

In point of fact, from the beginning of the Protestant era, Reformed theology has consistently emphasized that the man or woman who has come into right relationship with God by justifying faith in Christ may not:

rashly cast out the whole of Moses and bid farewell to the two tables of the Law…Moses has taught that the law, which among sinners can engender nothing but death, ought among the saints to have a better and more excellent use. (Calvin: Institutes 2.7.13)

And in the next century, when this confusion of grace with license had apparently not been eradicated, Reformed theology again insisted:

The moral law of God doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof….Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve but much strengthens this obligation. (Westminster Confession 19.5)

In the judgment of these authorities, the ongoing role of the Ten Commandments (and, as amplified by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 & 6) was permanent and ongoing for the believer. Mainstream Reformed theology has never allowed that the principle of election in any way diminishes the need for careful obedience; on the contrary the stated goal of election in Christ is that we be “holy and blameless” (Eph. 1.4); circumspect living, rather than license, is the mark of God’s chosen people.

Even so, it remains the case that not only in the century of the Reformation, but in every century since, some evangelical Protestants have theorized that the law of God is unnecessary for the believer. To be fair, a portion of these have lived exemplary lives and with these, we have little to quarrel about. There is, after all, a well-intentioned Christian attitude which takes the view that the Christian now lives under the dictates of the Gospel, rather than the dictates of Sinai. Now this, no less than the view recommended here, can make for holy living.

But quite distinct from this, there has as well always been a contingent of those who have theorized that careful walking in the ways of the Lord is non-necessary since

  1. the believer has been justified from eternity, and this justification is a reality for us prior to our becoming aware of it, and
  2. self-examination and confession of sin is not called for in the Christian, as all sin has already been pardoned and
  3. marks of grace are not important in the life of the Christian (see 2 Peter 1.5-10) as assurance of salvation can be enjoyed independent of any such evidence of being ‘new’ in Christ.

Though it may sound strange to report it, these “fringe” attitudes not only cropped up among some late seventeenth and early eighteenth century Calvinists, but among the followers of John Wesley.  Wesley’s own brother-in-law, Westley Hall, (also a Methodist preacher) was denounced for being a polygamist and consequently forfeited his status among the Wesleyans. His was not an isolated case. Now this recognition that in recent centuries, the antinomian tendency is not associated exclusively with any particular branch of Protestantism, but found on the fringes of almost all, brings us to the realization that antinomianism is a perennial pitfall for all branches of Christianity.

Isn’t this the sorry truth? Whether it is the mishandling and embezzlement of charitable gifts, the preying on children as well as those in counseling situations, marital infidelity, covetousness and the incessant pursuit of ‘more’, these are the sins that cling to far too much of what passes for Christian leadership and Christian living today.  We have seen the fear of God evaporate; we have seen the love of the world proliferate – among those professing to be the people of God. The sad fact is that many of us frequent churches in which the commandments of God (and the amplification of them given by Jesus) are no longer recited or read. Sermons are seldom preached on these themes. Antinomianism stalks us all….

Paradoxically, Reformation Protestantism – far from being the breeding ground of antinomianism – may indeed offer us the resources for combating it.  The venerable practice of catechizing children required the committing of the Ten Commandments to memory; Reformed church walls were often emblazoned with the two tables of the law. Corporate confession of sin after reading the Decalogue was long the regular Sunday practice; cycles of sermons on the commandments were regularly preached in churches of the Reformed tradition (and with suitable evangelistic applications, too). Thus, rather than extending the life of the old canard that Calvinism promotes antinomianism, it would be better to understand that this expression of Protestantism is one of the best means of resisting it.

*READ LAST WEEK’S GUEST POST: “MYTH: TULIP has the Imprint of Antiquity”

Kenneth J. Stewart is professor of theological studies and former chair of the department of biblical and theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He holds an M.Phil. in early modern European history from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century Christianity from the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition.

THE GOSPEL & THE LIFE OF CHRIST

John Calvin wrote, “Now someone asks, how has Christ abolished sin, banished the separation between us and God, and acquired righteousness to render God favorable and kindly toward us.  To this we can in general reply that he has achieved this for us by the whole course of his obedience” (emphasis mine).[1] The goal of this series of posts is to examine how the gospel is the good news of what that Christ has accomplished, for those who believe in him, through the totality of his obedient work in the place of sinners.  Our aim is to avoid a truncated gospel that focuses merely on a part of Christ’s work, and (re)discover the massive implications of all Jesus has done through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and return.  This week, the focus is on the good news of the gospel as it relates to the life of Christ.

THE GOSPEL & THE LIFE OF CHRIST

This past Saturday morning I was talking to my good friend, Mario, about his upbringing in a denomination that believed and taught that it was possible for a person to lose his or her salvation.  He recounted the fact that one could never really know whether or not he or she was truly right before God.   This was due to the fact that one had to continually evaluate one’s own performance in the Christian life, deciding whether or not it was good enough to maintain a right status before the Father.  At times he said he felt as if he “was in” and at other times he “was out,” based on his performance in the Christian life.  As we discussed the issue, it occurred to me that during Mario’s upbringing there was a focus on Christ’s substitutionary death, but little if any teaching regarding Christ’s perfect, law-fulfilling life.  Simply, there was the belief that Christ died to pay the penalty for the believer’s sin, but the righteousness the believer had and kept before the Father was based on the quality of his or her performance in response to Jesus’ death.  As a result, the believer was caught in a revolving cycle of doubt and assurance based on their present performance.

Truthfully, Christ did die to pay the penalty for our sins before the Father and fully absorb his righteous wrath against our rebellion.  But the good news of the gospel includes the reality that Jesus also lived a perfect life of obedience to God’s Law, that his perfect righteousness may be graciously credited to the account of all those who helplessly receive him by faith. Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV).  It was necessary to fulfill the Law at every point because the penalty for breaking any part of God’s law, at even the smallest point, is condemnation and death (see Deut. 27:26; Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:10).

THE LAW-FULFILLING LIFE OF CHRIST

Theologians refer to the obedient work of Christ in terms of his “active” and “passive” obedience.  Christ’s death, in our place, on the cross is referred to as his “passive obedience,” while His law-fulfilling life is known as his “active obedience.”  Robert Reymond notes, “by [Christ’s} preceptive [or, active] obedience—he made available a perfect righteousness before the law that is imputed (credited) or reckoned to those who put their trust in him.”[2] John Murray spells this out a bit more thoroughly, saying:

“The real use and purpose of this formula is to emphasize the two distinct aspects of our Lord’s vicarious obedience.  The truth expressed rests upon the recognition that the law of God has both penal sanctions and positive demands.  It demands not only the full discharge of its precepts but also the infliction of penalty for all infractions and shortcomings.  It is this twofold demand of the law of God which is taken into account when we speak of the active and passive obedience of Christ.  Christ as the [representative] of his people came under the curse and condemnation due to sin and he also fulfilled the law of God in all its positive requirements.  In other words, he took care of the guilt of sin and perfectly fulfilled the demands of righteousness. He perfectly met both the penal and the perceptive requirements of God’s law.  The passive obedience refers to the former and he active obedience to the latter.  Christ’s obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness.  His obedience becomes the ground of the remission of sin and of actual justification” (emphasis mine).[3]

The good news of the gospel is that the righteous standing we have and keep before God the Father is not based on our performance, but Christ’s performance for us! Thus, because this act of obedience is something that Jesus has historically completed, an obedience having been performed, it can never change!  And, because the believer has been united with Christ, by the work of Spirit, the Father views and accepts us as if we had obeyed like the Son! (see John 6:56; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:5; 1 John 4:13)

GOSPEL REALITIES IN LIGHT OF THE LAW-FULFILLING LIFE OF CHRIST

For those who have helplessly received Christ’s work by faith and turned from their sin, the following objective realities have been won by Christ for the believer no matter how he or she may feel at a given moment:

  • Though we may fail, in our place Christ has faithfully succeeded!
  • Though we may fall, in our place Christ has fully triumphed!
  • Though we may stumble, in our place Christ has stood firm!
  • Though our obedience may falter, we are fully accepted based on Christ’s flawless obedience for us!

These realities do not change!  And so, the reality of the gospel frees us to fulfill God’s commands in an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and grace, rather than under the heavy yoke of uncertainty.

Thus, the gospel when understood and embraced brings freedom to Mario’s situation.  By God’s grace Mario has come to understand this, but for those in the shoes of his past, let the burdensome cycle of assurance and doubt be lifted by Christ’s perfect obedience in your place!  Remember, believe, embrace, and live in light of both the life and death of Christ for you!  Let’s rest in his righteousness, not ours (since ours is nonexistent anyway)!  May we be people who preach the gospel to ourselves every day, delightfully and rigorously pursuing holiness in light of the unconditional acceptance and righteousness won for us through the faithful and perfectly obedient life of God the Son!

OTHER POSTS IN “THE GOSPEL & THE PERSON OF CHRIST” SERIES:

Introduction

The Gospel & The Incarnation


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), II.xvi.5; cited in Reymond’s Systematic Theology.

[2] Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 631.

[3] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 21-22.

THE GOSPEL AND SUBSTITUTIONARY…RIGHTEOUSNESS.

As we speak the gospel to others we often tend to focus, sometimes solely, on the death of Christ, in the place of those who believe, to pay the penalty for the breaking of God’s holy Law (Rom. 5:18-21).  It is a wonderfully glorious truth that Christ died, as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice, absolving our guilt of sin and absorbing the just wrath of God (Isa. 53:4-6, 10; Col. 2:13-15)!  However, we often fail to rest in the fact that Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law of God (Matt. 5:17; Gal. 4:4-7) that he may be our substitutionary righteousness as well.

Zach Ursinus, a 16th century theologian, professor, and key author of the Heidelberg Catechism, noted the following about the relationship between the Law, the gospel, and our righteousness in Christ in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism:

“The law promises life to those who are righteous in themselves, or on the condition of righteousness, and perfect obedience. “He that doeth them, shall live in them.” “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Lev. 18:5; Matt. 19:17) The gospel, on the other hand, promises life to those who are justified by faith in Christ, or on the condition of the righteousness of Christ, applied unto us by faith. The law and gospel are, however, not opposed to each other in these respects: for although the law requires us to keep the commandments if we would enter into life, yet it does not exclude us from life if another perform these things for us” (pp. 104-105, emphasis mine).

The righteousness that we have in Christ with God is not based on our performance for him, but rather on Christ’s radical performance and perfect fulfillment of the Law for us.  The gospel frees us from the weight of trying to gain favor or keep favor with God through our obedience by pointing us to Christ who has done for us all that God the Father requires.  Therefore, God no longer condemns us because of our sin, but by his Spirit he graciously convicts us, freely and fully forgives in Christ, and continues the good work of sanctification that he began in us when he saved us (Phil. 1:6). Thus, we are freed to joyfully and vigorously pursue holiness in the environment of the gospel (Gal. 5:1).

As you live before God today, thank him for sending his Son, and rest in all of Christ’s work for you.  Not simply limited to Christ’s life and death, the amazing grace of the gospel is that Christ came, lived, died, rose, ascended, intercedes, and will return to save to the uttermost those who, by faith, receive his work on their behalf.

**Tullian Tchividjian has written an important post on recovering an emphasis that focuses upon the totality of Christ’s work in our place.  Read it here.

$5 Fridays Are Back!

Don’t miss out on the return of Ligonier’s $5 Friday Sale (8am Friday – 8am Saturday EST)!  The sale features great resources by R.C. Sproul, Reformation Trust Publishers, and more!

CLICK HERE to be redirected to the sale!

Some of this week’s featured resources include…

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Dr. Steven Lawson

SALE $5; RETAIL $16. Jonathan Edwards is well known as perhaps the greatest theologian the United States has ever produced. He is equally noted for his preaching and writing. But in this Long Line Profile, Dr. Steven J. Lawson considers the unique focus and commitment with which Edwards sought to live out the Christian faith.  Lawson examines Edwards’ life through the lens of the seventy resolutions he penned in his late teens, shortly after his conversion, which cover everything from glorifying God to repenting of sin to managing time. Drawing on Edwards’ writings, as well as scholarly accounts of Edwards’ life and thought, Lawson shows how Edwards sought to live out these lofty goals he set for the management of his walk with Christ. In Edwards’ example, he finds helpful instruction for all believers.

The Holiness of God: Extended Version (Audio Download) by R.C. Sproul

SALE $5; RETAIL $30. In the year King Uzziah died, the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Holy One of Israel that made him understand the horror of sin and gave him a passion to proclaim the hope of restoration to all who would turn from their wickedness. In like manner, if we truly understand God’s holiness, we too will be motivated to flee from evil and to cling to Him for salvation.

Our understanding of the Lord’s transcendent holiness impacts how we view worship and how we will acknowledge the depth of our sin. In this expanded edition of his classic series The Holiness of God, Dr. R.C. Sproul provides a comprehensive, biblical survey of God’s holy character and demonstrates how the demands of His holiness are met in Christ.

The Intimate Marriage by R.C. Sproul

SALE $5; RETAIL $12. In The Intimate Marriage, Dr. R.C. Sproul shows that if we follow God’s principles, marriage can be a celebration of joyous intimacy and one of life’s greatest delights. Dr. Sproul examines not only the theology of marriage but also its sociology and psychology, covering such topics as communication, gender roles and sex.

*All product summaries taken from Ligonier.org