By Scott Keith –
Do you ever notice that Christians tend to treat their salvation like a participatory event? We act as if we had some hand in and that without our help, God will never be able to see it through to completion. We strut about as though we not only have something to be proud of but as if we deserve some heavenly credit. We wait, I think, for God to say thank you to us someday for all our hard work pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. In fact, we all seem rather disappointed that God has not reached down from heaven and patted us on the back already.
The Apostle Paul treats this whole thing quite differently. Saying things like, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) While we were at war with God, Christ died for us, for you and me. We did not participate in God’s plan for or execution of our salvation because we could not, we would not. We would fight and rail against God. We would stamp out feet in defiance of his plan for salvation. We would tell him we have a better way. We would rather save ourselves, or at least try.
The cold, hard, and beautiful reality that God saved us on account of Christ without any of our work or input is quite frankly offensive to us. We don’t like that part, I think. In fact, I believe it is the thing that makes the Gospel so wonderful and so repulsive to us at the same time. And this is where the Law comes in. The Law comes and convinces us of our sin. The Law comes to show us the depth of our helplessness. The Law comes to convince us that what is needed is not a cooperative plan for escape from sin, death, and the devil, but a full-blown, no holds barred rescue. The Law says sit down and shut up because you can do no other. The more you resist, says the Law, the more I’ll have to knock you down until you get the message.
“Congratulations, you are being rescued!” Praise be to God because of His great mercy toward us for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. Just when we think we had it all under control, Christ breaks into the midst of our futile efforts to save ourselves. We are brought to our knees by the preaching of His Law. Killed in fact. And you are brought to life by the proclamation of His Gospel. We are rescued from sin, from death, and from the pervasive power of the Evil Foe. We are, in fact, rescued. We have done nothing but helplessly laid on the ground looking up at our Redeemer.
We have no hope apart from Christ. Self-salvation is impossible for us. Cooperative salvation is just as impossible for us. Strutting about believing we need to be told thank you for our participation in the process is ridiculous. You didn’t help God. I didn’t help God. We both fought our Rescuer, Christ, until he slammed us to the ground and said, “Congratulations, you are being rescued!”
Thus, we do not boast in ourselves; we boast in Christ who has set us free. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:4) “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:31)
We do not boast in what we have done to help God. Rather, we boast in what He has done through His Son, Jesus Christ, for us. He has saved us and set us free. “Congratulations, you have been rescued!”