“Gospel” Up Close and Personal #3

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

Some of the most important few words of this well known passage are usually left out when people mention the “gospel” using this 1 Corinthians text. People will say “What is important is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus”. And, it is very, very important. But, why did he die?

The answer is “for our sins”. He died “for” us, in our stead. He was our representative in dying and in resurrection. He did it “for” us.

Since Adam demonstrated his unbelief by doing what God had forbidden, mankind has been estranged from God. God is offended by our sins, and his holiness demands that sin be punished. Jesus in his conversation with the Jewish leader Nicodemus said that men are already condemned. Those among us who have not put their trust in Christ are dead men walking. An unbeliever does not need to wait to be condemned, he is already sentenced to death. God’s economy of justice is simple. The soul that sins will die. Physical death awaits and then after the judgement sinners are cast into the lake of fire, the second death.

Now the good news! Jesus died in you place! He took the punishment for your sins so you don’t have to. The offer of the “gospel’ is come and exchange death for eternal life. Christ has born your sin and wants to give you his righteousness. This is atonement. By willingly offering himself as a sacrificial lamb Jesus gave God what he always wanted but never had. He desired that people do what he said, not sin, and live in beautiful fellowship with him. Jesus did all that we could not do, and, he did it “for” us.

When he died, he died “for” me. When he was raised from the dead, he was raised “for” me. These things he did representing me. When he died, I died and that death satisfied God’s justice and wrath against my sin. I am now freed from the written code (law) that was against me because a dead man is not under any law.

My life is his life, my future is his future, my righteousness is his righteousness, and my inheritance is his inheritance. I can’t die unless he dies and his life is eternal. This is “gospel”, good news!


Gospel Gold Mine – Romans 5

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What a remarkable chapter of God’s word and revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have taken the liberty of highlighting phrases and words that jumped out me as I read and reread Romans 5. The resulting emphasis is amazing and wonderful. There is a series of causes and results as follows.

v1 “We have been justified…we have peace”

vs 2,3 “We have gained….we now stand”   “we rejoice in hope….we rejoice in sufferings…..because we know”

v5 “God has poured out His love…He has given

vs6-8 “Christ died for the ungodly….died for us…..God demonstrates”

v9 “we have now been justified….how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath?”

v10 “We were reconciled….we have been reconciled….we shall be saved through His life

v11 “how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…have now received reconciliation.

v15 “God’s grace….the gift….overflow

v16 “The gift….brought justification

v17 “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness….reign in life”

v18 “One act of righteousness….life for all men

v19 “through the obedience of the one man…. the many will be made righteous”

v20 “grace might reign through righteousness… to bring… eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is the justified sinner’s declaration of dependence. At least a dozen times in this rich chapter Christ is referenced. He came, His death, His life, His obedience, His gift…

The story of redemption and the grace of God toward wicked sinners is not about a partnership. It is about a benevolent God who in grace and mercy obeyed in the sinners stead, He died in the sinners place, He was raised again because of the sinners justification, and we reconciled sinners are alive forever by His life.

God is a lover of sinful, wicked people…and he loves you. He spoke and things lept into existence from nothing except His power. He needs no help to make sinful men and women fit for heaven. The work was done before we got here. Our decree of pardon has been signed, sealed and delivered. The gospel extends God’s offer to receive the gift and live.

This is the love of God, this is the grace of God, this is to the glory of God alone.


Facts and fiction about the grace of God

If you are one of those people who like me read Christian blogs, read, watch, and listen to sermons and Bible lessons, you will agree that there is lots of hubbub on the subject of God’s grace. You don’t need to read, or listen long to realize that many of the voices either extolling the virtues of Grace, or fear its excesses, don’t really understand what it is.

From my teen years as a new believer the pat definition I learned from my teachers was this one. “Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward man“. While that definition is true, it is woefully inadequate. The Bible reminds us mere mortals that every good thing we have comes from the unchanging had of God. (James 1:17) Every despot has experienced the “unmerited favor of God” in that he has the breath of life, food, and shelter. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. (I have thought I must be both, judging from the amount of rain recently in N E Louisiana). Both the best people in your town, and the most vile, alike share at least in part the unmerited favor of God.

A better definition of God’s Grace is this acrostic. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. This view of Grace, although more narrow, is by far more rich and full. The word “grace” appears in the New Testament alone far more than 100 times, and with very few exceptions, is in the context of this more narrow understanding of what God has done through Christ for men as opposed to what I call “common grace”.

Those of us who teach grace and refute its ugly opposite, legalism, are the targets of the ire of religionists who are themselves threatened by something they don’t understand. That is quite a charge! So you can justly ask, “How do you know that Royce?” I know that because of the charges made and the fears exposed by those charges. The alarmist warnings go along this line of thought.

“You are teaching cheap grace!”

“You believe Christians can live any way they want and still go to heaven.”

“God requires obedience…”.

“There is God’s part and your part in salvation.”

And one of the newest,

“You are teaching universalism.”

All of these spurious charges are born of ignorance or unbelief. The idea that teaching what God has accomplished in Christ for wicked sinners is cheap, a license to sin without penalty, or that Christians should not be obedient to God is hopefully based in ignorance. Otherwise it is simply dishonest.

God’s grace is free, but not “cheap“. It is given to sinful men and women as a free gift but it cost Christ his precious redeeming blood. (Romans 5:15) (1 Peter 1:18,19) As Jesus shared a final meal with his inner circle he gave them bread to eat, representing his body, and wine to drink, representing his blood, and reminded them that his very body and his own life giving blood would be payment for the new covenant. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) What one works for, or earns, is given by obligation. The justification of the ungodly is not received as something due, but as a free gift. (Romans 6:23)

The idea that somehow those of us who teach free grace believe God has lowered his standards is incredible. The truth is that God raised his standards. Remember the words of Jesus? “You have heard is said…., but I say unto you……” Adultery is no longer only the physical act of sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage but the one who lusts is guilty as charged. And, he went on saying, one who hates his brother is guilty of murder. (Matthew 5:28) (Matthew 5:20,21) This level of moral responsibility is hardly an example of God lowering his standards for holiness. What the legalist fails to comprehend is that even though new covenant standards are considerably higher than the old, God now enables and empowers his own to desire to live out his requirements by “nature“.  Not one child ever reaches the ceiling of perfect obedience but every child is looked upon as if he had. (Romans 2:14) (Romans 4) It is because of what God has done and is doing in us that we live out his will before a watching world. (Philippians 2:12,13)

Do I teach grace that sin may abound? What a strange idea! When Paul asked this rhetorical question his answer was “God forbid!” (Romans 6:1,15) Those who have been set free from the slavery of sin by the representative death of Jesus (A dead man is not bound by any law) are those who joyfully surrender to be love slaves of Jesus to do his bidding. The spurious charge that teaching people are saved by grace alone encourages sin is an idea conjured up largely by people who believe they can in some way contribute to their own salvation. The word of God paints a different picture. It says the exact opposite. It is precisely grace that teaches us to say no to unrighteousness and to live upright lives as we wait for Jesus. (Titus 2:11-13)

The lavish love of God demonstrated in the perfect living, sacrificial and substitutionary dying, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus for sinners is the full measure of God’s grace. In the same way that by one man (Adam) sin and death entered into the world, by the obedience of one man (Jesus) many are made righteous. (Romans 5:18,19) Jesus did man’s part by giving to the Father a life of perfect obedience and taking the punishment for sin so that God could justify the ungodly and still himself be just in so doing. (Romans 3:26)

It is certain that God loves you more than you think and likely the expanse of his grace is much larger than you have thought. The complete package of salvation including justification, sanctification, and glorification, are wholly the work of God. Nothing can be done by the will and in the energy of humans to substitute or supplement this great work of redemption designed before the creation of the world.

One of the most clear statements in the Bible about the grace of God in salvation is found in Ephesians 2 verses 4 and  5.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

Once you see the full impact of this simple statement it is simply astounding! Remember when Jesus visited the tomb of his friend Lazarus? He had been dead and buried long enough that his body was decaying and had a foul odor. He was dead……until……..Jesus cried out “Lazarus come out!” Then “the man who had died came out!” (John 11:42-44) The very one who said “I am the resurrection and the life..” called him out of death to life. Although we were dead spiritually, the Bible is crystal clear that we were “dead”. Just as Jesus made Lazarus live, in the same way he made us to live with Him. A dead man can do nothing to reverse his condition. Only God gives life to the dead and that is my story and it is your story if you have been made a child of God. Nothing can we claim but the love and grace of God. We can only boast in the Lord our God.

May we together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were saved by grace, we stand in grace, and one golden day we will see Jesus face to face by grace and grace alone.

for Jesus,


Religious but Lost


“And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)

In the whole of the New Testament narrative, so far as the record shows, only one Pharisee was finally saved, Nicodemus.

The consistent record of the Bible is that legalists despise the message of grace. The most religious people of Jesus’ time were the Pharisees. It was this ultra-conservative troupe of zealots who could not, and would not, allow the king of human self righteousness to be dethroned.

It was not the drunkards, thieves, whores, and murderers who crucified Jesus, it was legalistic religious people who cried out “Barabbas” when given the choice of who would be crucified or released, and they cried out “Crucify him!” in reference to Jesus.

Not much has changed in my view. The true, unvarnished message of the grace of God to sinners, as revealed in the Bible, is offensive to the legalist church member. It was true in the first century and it is true in 2009. This is why the gospel, (if taught correctly), is offensive. (Romans 9:33, 1 Peter 2:8) Paul highlighted this truth saying:

 “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Galatians 5:11)

All Paul would have had to have done to stop the persecution was add works to his message of salvation. Sadly, many people have and are doing that very thing.

The “flesh” is God’s enemy today just as it was in Paul’s day. If you attempt to pry self righteousness out of the angry hands of religious zealots they will fight with every resource available to stop you. The grace of God is a direct threat to the seat of power, the human ego.

You will not win a debate with a legalist. The only way to deal with hypocrites is to keep preaching Christ alone as the way to God, and that sinful men are reconciled to God only by His life, death, and resurrection, and there is no salvation apart from faith in Him.

The salvation of sinners is what Jesus fully accomplished over 2,000 years ago. Jesus plus 0 is sufficient. Jesus plus anything is too much.

“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. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Central to the gospel is that God has set right (past tense) what was wrong with man because of sin. God in Christ reconciled man to God. What the person who depends a little or a lot on his own performance is attempting to do has already been done. When Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30) “It” was finished. The “It” of John 19:30 is the work of setting sinners right with God, it is the “work” of salvation, it is the ground of justification, it is the promise of sanctification, and the resurrection is the promise of glorification.

It is often said of salvation “There is God’s part and man’s part” and that is a true statement. But, Jesus did “man’s part”. What sinful man could never do was live in perfect obedience to God and without sin. This has always has been and still is God’s standard, He will not accept less. This is the life Christ freely gave the Father on behalf of wicked sinners. It was the perfect sacrifice, without even one blemish.

That was the positive side of Christ’s work. Man’s sin is offensive to God and must be punished; He can’t overlook sin and still be holy. Christ took every sin of every sinner upon him and the Father poured out his fury against sin as Jesus’ human body was beaten, his blood poured out, in his humiliation and suffering, until he breathed his last breath, my sins and yours were being punished. “It is finished!” A perfect salvation is complete.

Now God can declare a wicked sinner “not guilty” and still be just and holy, the sin has already been adjudicated. And, even more wonderful, God can declare that undeserving sinner “righteous” because a perfect life was given on his behalf.

This is indeed “Good News”, but not for the legalist. He demands credit for his own goodness. He is unwilling to embrace this love story of the grace of God, and is offended by it. May God open the eyes of their understanding that the light of the good news my shine in their hearts before it is too late.

For Jesus,