If anyone offered me a gift and I tried to pay for it, I would be insulting their generosity. If I denied that God’s salvation is by grace alone, I would be insulting the truth of God and turning it into a lie. From the first sin in Genesis 3 to His cry, “It is finished” the promise has been that God would save sinners, never that sinners could pay the price of sin for themselves.
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:5–6)
If there is anything in the Bible that is black and white, it is the doctrine of salvation by grace. We cannot boast because salvation is God’s free gift. If the righteousness of Jesus Christ is not the sole reason for my acceptance with God, or if anything I do could be cause for acquitting my soul from guilt, then I would have something for which I could boast. But boasting is excluded in redemption.
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)
Eternal life and the righteousness of Christ is a gift. Endless verses affirm this, so to deny it would also deny revelation and the inspiration of the Bible. It would also deny my utter sinfulness and reveal the pride in my heart and my idolatry toward my own abilities.
I cannot merely entertain this doctrine of salvation by grace in my head. If I have not received the Lord Jesus Christ by a living faith into my heart, I’d only increase my damnation. He is my life, or I have no life at all. He is my righteousness because any “righteousness” I might claim is as filthy rags in comparison (Isaiah 64:6).
Not only does Jesus impute righteousness but He is responsible for any holiness that can be found in me. By His sanctifying power, God works these two together. That is, those who are justified and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ are also set apart for God by the Holy Spirit. This means that my attitude toward sin, even toward self-righteousness, is loathing. I don’t want to sin, even though it continually picks at me to drag me down and away from God. I detest it even as I struggle with it.
In this inward conflict, God grants a vision of the purity and beauty of Jesus Christ and gives me a thirst for Him and faith to reach out to Him. He also empowers me to fight sin with the Word of God for it declares He is my Savior and my righteousness. This battle can be powerful and requires the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) with my total engagement. I must think of Christ’s love as He died for me, and talk of His grace as He lived for me, sharing Him with others by my words and actions as the way, the truth and the life, for no one can come to the Father except through Him.