Ha ha, I made you look! I’m only giving away infinite joy and eternal acceptance and everlasting paradise, nothing “real”. It’s Christmas and let’s face it, we’re all thinking about presents. It’s OK, presents are a perfect metaphor for the gospel, and the more you dig into really enjoying that aspect of the season, the more you can get into a deeper understanding of the free gift of justification.
Let’s suppose you are a 5 year old kid, and you get a big building set. I always loved getting building toys for Christmas, and I still do. How weird would it be if you looked up at your parents, after joyously opening the present, and said, “Does this mean I have to play with it? Will you still love me if I go around and smash some windows?” It would be crazy!
Yet that is the fear with the free gift of grace. We are given this enormously appealing, beautiful and overwhelming gift, and we think, can I ignore this and go around sinning now? What kind of question is that? Rejoice! Everything you have ever done wrong or ever will do wrong is all forgiven completely! You have become an inheritor of the KINGDOM OF GOD. You are going to live forever in paradise. You are on God’s favorite list. You’re getting married, and there is going to be a huge wedding banquet. You just made a billion best friends. What the hell is wrong with you asking that question?
Why don’t people get this? Here’s why. At most churches, the gift is hinted at in passing, but before you can look at it or play with it, it is quickly put away. You don’t even know you got a free gift at all! In fact, you are not sure what your gift is, but you are told to “believe in it” as if it were an obligation like one of many obligations, such as feeding weird homeless people or waking up early to pray or teach the little angels in the children’s church. You are told, Christians should be hyper vigilant moral people AND adhere to perfect doctrine AND do majestic selfless works of service AND be happy about it. It’s like your mom immediately took your awesome present before you could open the box, put it away, and demanded that you do your chores. Makes you want to smash some windows doesn’t it? Don’t you hate it when people lie to you?
That is why legalism, even “mild” legalism, doesn’t work. I don’t care how nice someone is, legalism is cruel and false, and it makes Christianity into a giant bait-and-switch lie. Between a child who is allowed to open their present and spend some time with it, and the child whose present is taken away, which one do you think will be more willing when asked to help with some kitchen chores later? Which child will be happier? As for me and my house, we got an awesome present in the free gift of justification, and we are going to spend our time playing with it. I seriously want to open that box, don’t think about taking it from me. Who knows, we might want to share, and play together! Because we feel so loved, we might even want to help with some chores later, as gratitude!
15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
(Romans 5:15-18, NASB).
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,
(Hebrews 2:1-3, NASB).