"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". (Romans 6:23)
In some of my past articles, I have dealt with the "wages of sin is death" part of that verse quoted above. In this article, I would like to get people to seriously ponder the part of that verse which says, "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord".
What is a gift? I ask that question because, although we find the answer to be rather obvious when it comes to a gift that a family member has given us, many of us insist on believing that we must earn the gift of God, or that we must do something to keep the gift that He has already given to us so freely. Do we really see it as a gift? Please think seriously about that.
Have you ever had to earn any birthday gift that you have received from anyone? Or have you even had to do anything for anyone in order to keep the gift which they have already given you so freely? From what I have written thus far, I hope it is becoming clear that a gift, by it's very nature, is not worked for - it is just simply received.
Clearly, this is why the Bible says, "But to Him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5).
This next verse explains that salvation by grace through faith is a gift, and it is therefore "not of works": "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, [and therefore] not of works, lest anyone should boast". (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If this is something that any of us have earned, then we would indeed have something to boast about, but not before God (See Romans 4:2-5). This is why the words "not of works" in Ephesians 2:9 are followed by the words "lest anyone should boast".
With that in mind, I hope it is becoming clear that it is our pride which often motivates us to do something to earn or keep the gift which God offers us so freely. And according to James 4:6, it is the proud which God resists!
So, to believe that we are saved by doing good works is one of the most subtle forms of rebellion against God. It is the same way with the belief that we must do something so that we don't lose the gift that God has already given us so freely. Any kind of "obedience" which is not "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) is not obedience at all.
It is true that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20) - but that verse is not a license to live by our own "righteousness", which is really just like filthy rages to God (See Isaiah 64:6). It simply means that if we truly do have faith in God, then good works will be the result. This is what is meant by "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). So, good works will be the result of salvation, but the Bible makes it very clear that salvation itself is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to [God's] mercy" (Titus 3:5).
Although God's law is holy, and it should be made known to us, the Bible tells us that "by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Once our sin has been made known to us through the law, we must then trust in the finished work of Christ. If we have truly done that, then we will truly understand that God alone is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).
In other words, we are not justified by our own "righteousness" or self effort, but it is God alone who justifies us. By the grace of God, that is what I have been explaining throughout this article. With all that I have explained in mind, I now urge you to carefully ponder these next two verses which also explain this....
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:27-28).
"For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain". (Galatians 2:19-21).
This is what is meant by "not having [our] own righteousness which comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:9).
I have not only pointed out the absurdity in imagining that we must do something to earn a gift which someone wants to give us so freely, but I have also pointed out the absurdity in imagining that we must do something to keep a gift which has already been given to us so freely.
Since the gift of God is eternal life, it would be particularly absurd to imagine that we can lose this gift. As I explained in my articles titled Is Eternal Life a License to Sin? and The Believer's Position In Christ, this could not be called "eternal life" if we had it today and lost it later. That would be temporal life, not eternal life! And many of the passages that I have listed in my article titled The Believer's Position In Christ clearly show that believers already have present position of eternal life.
In other words, true believers have "been born again, not by corruptible seed but incorruptible" (1 Peter 1:23). Once we have truly been born again by this incorruptible seed, it then remains in us (See 1 John 3:9), and that is what keeps us from sin in the first place. This is what it means to be "sealed [by the Holy Spirit] for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).
Dear beloved reader, if you have never really thought seriously about some of the things that I have discussed in this article until now, it could be because you have been making faith into a work. Or else it could be because you have simply never heard that eternal life is a free gift. But either way, it is my hope that God will use this article to help people understand what it truly means to be saved by grace through faith. It is my hope that He will use this article to open peoples eyes to what "the gift of God [which] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) truly is. If we have been working to attain or even keep a gift, we have then insulted the giver.
Rather than working to attain or keep this free gift, we must trust in the finished work of Christ, knowing that "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14), which means that He will complete the work that He has started in them, exactly as Philippians 1:6 declares.
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