It was those darn Pharisees again, some of them now believers in Christ (yea!) but pushing some alloyed brand of righteousness: “grace-plus,” we might dub it—believe in Jesus as the Messiah, yes, but still earn God’s favor by keeping the law. It was a straddling of the fence, trusting God but not all the way, compromise when compromise was the worst possible option. Protecting liberty against oppression—and with all the boldness required to do so—Peter spoke up, “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yolk that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved.”1 Thank you, Peter, it needed to be said.
How many times does God have to remind us of the emptiness of our own goodness? “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one,”2 lamented David in a psalm intoned by God’s people for centuries. Echoed Isaiah, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”3 So, do we now with “filthy rags” augment Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sin as though it were insufficient? Do we load again onto the backs of His people the law, a burden Christ so painfully, lovingly and completely removed at great cost? Peter, redux: “No!” What righteousness could we or anyone else possibly contribute to that which God himself has given to us in Christ Jesus? “Grace-plus” is grace-less!
We can do nothing more than what Christ has already done for us, for there is nothing more to be done. Paul explains: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”4 This is the truth in which we rest, the promise in which we stand, and the strength in which we go. We are forever forgiven and free. Praise His name!
Father, thank you for sending your Son to do what we could not do—live a perfect life, die a perfect sacrifice, and rise to present us perfectly to you. Grace us to live as free people, blessing you and serving others in great confidence, peace and joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Christ in me is freedom.
1 Acts 15:10, 11
2 Psalm 14:3
3 Isaiah 64:6
4 Romans 8:3, 4