I’ve tried to write this article in so many different forms, under so many different titles, and they are all sitting in the draft box of this blog. The problem is I could never really find the right title. Not that the title should matter, but it does. Like writing a novel and being unable to name the main character… how do you continue writing?
But finally, the simplicity of it came to me. And not of my own doing, but from another writing, a couple actually, that I just couldn’t chew on without feeling like I was stuck on some gristle that wouldn’t succumb to my chomps. It stuck in my teeth and refused to let me get satisfaction. It dawned on me there, I could not agree with what was said and in fact, that was the core of what I had been trying to write.
From the birth of this blog I have wrestled with this simple concept. How are we saved? It’s a question that is asked point blank in Scripture (Acts 16:30) and answered with ease many times, and with the same answer every time. (Acts 16:31) In fact, Jesus provided the answer no few times in the Gospels before the church was even born.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”Acts 16:31a – English Standard Version
In fact, Jesus’ words in John 3:16 are probably the most memorized Sunday School verse known to man. And with it so abundantly clear, why does many still wrestle with it? Why do so many continue to get this so wrong?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And the answer, is the fall of man. From the very beginning, man just can’t leave well enough alone, can we? If we take the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, we see it is but a few short steps before man takes the simplicity he is offered and complicates it through his own reasoning. All Adam and Eve had to do was accept the grace they were given. But someone told them there was more to it.
Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 11:3, saying, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” It is no different now than it was then. People are being deceived.
The book of Galatians was written to this very problem. By it’s penning around 50 ad, the church had already turned from this simplicity in Christ and was again corrupting the simple truth of the Gospel into more of what we had in the past. Man’s tradition. (Mark 7:7) Man doing. Man striving. And always, man failing. If it was still up to man’s behaviors in order to be reconciled, why would we need Christ?
In Galatians 1:3 Paul exclaims, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ…turning to a different Gospel.” By chapter two, Paul is referring to ‘false brothers‘ who were trying to drag the Christian back into the yoke (burden) of slavery (law) by teaching that you “got to do some things” in order to be saved.
This parallels the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 where Paul defends the Gentile faith, that we are saved by Grace, through Faith (Eph 2:8-9) not by works of mans hand. And yet, again, and again, in 2020, there are still those who trouble the gospel with the false doctrines of works.
It is the serpent all over again, whispering that what the Word (John 1:1) says, is not quite what it means. I’ve even heard certain teachings that say the word ‘believe’ means that you do, “X, Y and Z” and that the ‘grace’ of Ephesians 2 only comes AFTER you do some things.. That the crucified savior, isn’t quite enough. The gospel still needs a single missing ingredient to be effective: Your effort.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.2 Corinthians 5:18,19, English Standard Version
All throughout the history of the Israeli people, from the Old Testament in creation, to the fall, to the founding of nations, up unto the coming of Christ, the formation of the Ekklesia, and in what we know now as the modern Christian faith, God has continuously been the one doing the doing.
Man fails in the simple task of accepting Grace and breaks close relationship with God. In reality, what’s what the Garden of Eden was all about. Man was in close relationship with God, that trust was broken, and God had to reconcile his people to himself. As time went on, men continued breaking trust, which breaks a relationship of love.
In the wilderness, men failed over and over to trust God. He supplied water, they failed to trust. He supplied manna, and they failed to trust. He supernaturally led them, split the waters, led them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and still, they failed to trust Him. Each time, it took God’s act of Love to reconcile them again.
Ultimately, sin is a lack of trust in God – we begin trusting in our own efforts instead of His grace – this same error led to the fall of the original man and is the continual fall of man.
What is stunning is a belief that it is the acts of the aggressor that could possible reconcile them to the victim – as if that has ever worked before?
According to all the full counsel of Scripture it is God that is doing the reconciling. God reconciles us to Himself, by not counting our failures against us. As the victim of our distrust, it must be God bridging that gap and overcoming our weakness. This is the purest example of forgiveness.
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His Life.”Romans 5:10, English Standard Version
The miracle of reconciliation, and the Key to Reconciliation, is that it is not your effort, or mine, that produces such reconciliation! Just consider what it means to be enemies of God?
Scripture again teaches that in our state of sins death, we are warring against God. Our hearts, perpetually wicked were turned away from a Holy God. We did evil in His sight, outright rejecting His commandments and Holiness. It was in that state of distrust, right then, that He chose to reconcile us. Not after we worked for it, strove to attain, modified our character and behavior…no, it was before that!
How, in complete spiritual death, could we ‘choose’ the efforts to be reconciled? Paul even states “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:8) Therein lies the Key to Reconciliation. Realizing that while you were yet a sinner, Christ Died for you! (Rom 5:8)
Reconciliation is God’s work. Our response thereto, to fully trust in Him again, is up to us. Trust is what breaks relationship. Unbelief is the root of sin, and belief, is trust.
The Reconciliation of God is meant to lead us to repentance but so many think you will not gain reconciliation until you repent. And then, like the Pharisees, they string on to the end of their tassels long lists of do’s and don’ts required to attain God’s favor. But it just doesn’t work that way in the economy of God.
The Key to Reconciliation is to fully grasp and understand that it is God doing all the reconciling! We must accept His free gift, and in response, repent of our ways and do our very best to walk in a way worthy of his Forgiveness.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9