How does Christianity remove stones?—God gives provisions (pt 2)
The provisions of God are more numerous and extensive than those already mentioned. In fact, so extensive are God’s provisions that they fully address and nullify every stone that hinders and impedes people from correctly thinking about him. Using a metaphorical play on words, God has left no stone unturned. Let’s continue our discussion about God’s provisions that remove those stones.
a. God provides understanding to those who obey the gospel. The importance of God giving inner light for understanding cannot be overstated. People, left to their own pereptions and influenced by inaccurate opinions, will flounder in their understanding about God. To resolve this shortcoming, God provides the Bible to be the primary source of information about himself. God works in conjunction with the Bible to give understanding of himself to those who believe. This, in turn, causes the formation of two overarching groups of people: those who obey the gospel and those who reject the gospel. In the great scheme of humanity, these two groups represent all humankind. Please consider the following two passages that juxtapose the two groups: those who understand the truth of God and those who do not.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us [those who obey the gospel] understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV).
“They [those who do not obey the gospel] are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18 ESV).
In fact, allow me to add one additional comment on this matter. The two men crucified along side of Jesus Christ are representative of all humanity. In these two men, we have typified every individual. On the one hand was a criminal who asks Christ for mercy by asking him to remember him. The other openly rejects Christ and speaks maliciously toward him. The biblical account reads as follows.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:38-43 ESV).
And it is the same with every one of us. Each of us will either reject Jesus Christ or we will ask him for mercy. For those who turn to God through Christ, he will give understanding just as the criminal hanging on the cross displayed understanding for who Jesus is. Such understanding is a provision God provides that removes the impediments placed in people’s path hindering their understanding of the truth.
b. God provides the gift of grace to those who obey the gospel. Grace as used in the Bible means unmerited favor, kindness, and an undeserved gift. The meaning of grace as expressed in the Scriptures is more in depth than these few words but the general meaning is that of undeserved kindness. The New Testament is clear that grace is bestowed on people as a gift from God. While everything God provides to humanity is a gift, grace is best understood as undeserved favor in light of people’s need for forgiveness of sins and God’s provision for those things necessary to establish a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. Consider Paul’s emphasis on the free gift of life that is made possible by God’s freely given grace (italics added).
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:15 ESV).
Not only does God provide the gift of grace to all who come to him through Christ, but the grace is sufficient for every sin, every failure, and every need. In fact, Paul states that where sin abounds, grace more abounds. Where more grace is needed, more is provided. Therefore, God is able to save the greatest sinner, and God is able to keep each one who comes to him: “...where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21 ESV).
In fact, no one can be saved without this gift of grace—this undeserved work and help of God. It is this grace that actually makes it possible to be saved from sin.
People intuitively believe that eternal life is the result of a person living a good and moral life. That, when an individual stands before God (and everyone believes that there is a day when each person will give an account to God unless it is suppressed in their thinking), God will somehow weigh the good against the bad. If a person has been basically good, then he or she merits eternal life. Frankly put, this is not the explanation of the New Testament—it is, in fact, the opposite. Numerous explicit statements in the New Testament clarify that the grace of God alone saves, not human merit, goodness, and works. Take for example Paul's often quoted sentence: “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 ESV).
c. God provides the gift of righteousness to those who obey the gospel. Unlike all other views of God (religions), Christianity holds that personal righteousness is not the result of human moral goodness nor acts done to appease God nor to merit his favor. Righteousness is actually a gift to those who obey the gospel and put their trust in the work of Jesus Christ (italics added).
“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17 ESV).
That is not to say that God does not expect and even require good moral behavior, he certainly does. What it means is that just as God provided forgiveness of sins and eternal life (something no person can supply on his own), God also gives the gift of righteousness (something a person cannot supply on his own).
d. God provides justification to those who obey the gospel. Justification is a legal term: “The biblcal meaning of ‘justify’ is to pronounce, accept and treat as just, on the one hand, not penally liable, and, on the other, entitled to all the privilages due to those who have kept the law” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 643). To understand the importance of justification we should imagine a courtroom visit.
Imagine, if you will, that you broke a serious civil law and eventually indicted and formally charged with a crime. Imagine that the evidence against you was so substantial that you could not defend yourself from your guilt. Also, imagine the end of the trial—all the accusations were stated, all the evidence was publically reviewed, all the information about your case presented. Combined, these all point to your guilt and eventual sentencing to life imprisoned. And at the moment the judge is about to announce your guilt and punishment, he announces you innocent and freed from the penalty of your crime. You are free to leave as an innocent person and the consequences of the crime can no longer be brought against you—ever. This is what God has done for the sinner. Paul iterates this by saying (italics added),
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,      and are justified [and subsequently set free] by his grace as a gift,      through the redemption [purchased payment] that is in Christ Jesus,      whom God put forward as a propitiation [satisfactory substitute] by his blood,      to be received by faith (Romans 3:23-24 ESV).
But...as good as this sounds, the matter does not stop there.
You find that the judge’s announcement of your pardon does not sit well with those in the courtroom. They want justice carried out on you for the crime you committed. After all, we too become angry if a courtroom judge exonerates a criminal who is obviously guilty of committing a crime. In the same manner, this was God’s dilemma—how to announce as innocent those who are obviously guilty without being regarded as an unfair judge. To accomplish this God himself paid the debt we owe for our sins through Jesus Christ. The issue is clarified for us in Romans which says, “...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:8-9 ESV).
God’s justification of the guilty, who are obviously not innocent, placed on display for all to see, his righteousness and kindness towards people. Consider how this is explained (emphasis added):
“It [God paying the sin debt through his son making it possible to announce the guilty as innocent] was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 ESV). Did you catch that? God’s willingness to pay the penalty for humanity made him the justifier of those who are guilty. But there’s more. God’s willingness to pay the debt himself put him in a position to be viewed as just when he exonerates people who He justifies or announces as innocent. Being just when justifying guilty persons satisfies those who are concerned with God clearing the guilty.
Finally, because God justifies and clears guilty people through the debt he paid, it completely nullifies boasting. No one who is justified by God can boast of their own moral goodness. No can say, “I am found innocent because I am a good person..or because I did this...or because I did that.” Paul states, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27 ESV). In other words, there is no room for boasting on the part of guilty people who are given pardon for their actions. It is God alone who receives credit.
This pardon we receive leads us to reconciliation with God. Let’s discuss this and several other provisions God provides to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ in our next section.To next section Homepage