When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.
The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it. We tend to give an unbeliever just enough of the gospel to get him or her to pray a prayer to receive Christ. Then we put the gospel back on the shelf, so to speak, and go on to the duties of discipleship. As a result, Christians are not instructed in the gospel or able to fully understand its riches that are to be lived by on a daily basis.
In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges points out that the single passage in all of the Bible that most clearly and completely explains the gospel is Romans 3:19-26. As we look over this passage, Jerry outlines the seven truths that we need to clearly understand about the gospel.
- No One is Declared Righteous Before God by Observing the law (verses 19-21)- Only perfect obedience is acceptable to god. We can never through our own obedience attain a righteousness sufficient for salvation. However, as believers we often act as if we can live lives acceptable to God.
- There Is a Righteousness from God That Is Apart from Law (verse 21)- The righteousness of God is none other than the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of God, both in its requirements and in its penalty. He did what Adam failed to do- render perfect obedience to the law of God. Then by His death He completely paid the penalty of a broken law.
- This Righteousness from God Is Received Through Faith in Jesus Christ (verse 22)- Faith is the hand by which the righteousness of Christ is received. We sometimes say we are “saved by faith alone,” meaning, apart from any works. That expressions, however can be somewhat misleading, as though faith itself has some virtue that god respects. It is more accurate to say we are saved by God’s grace through faith. Faith, again, is merely the hand that receives the gift of God, and God His Spirit even opens our hand to receive the gift.
- This Righteousness Is Available to Everyone on the Same Basis, Because All Have Sinned and Fall Short of the Glory of God (verses 22-23)- God’s plan of salvation treats all people equally, because all are sinners. This eliminates any room for comparison of ourselves with others who may appear more sinful- or at least less holy- than we are. So if we are to live by the gospel every day, all tendency to compare ourselves with other believes, not to mention unbelievers, must be put away.
- All Who Put Their Faith in Jesus Christ Are Justified Freely by God’s Grace (verse 24)- Justification is a completed work as far as God is concerned. The penalty has been paid and His justice has been satisfied. But it must be received through faith and continually renewed in our soul and applied to our consciences every day through faith. When we trust in Christ for salvation, God’s court is forever satisfied. Never again will a charge of guilt be brought against us in Heaven.
- This Justification Is “Through the Redemption That Came by Christ Jesus” (verse 24)- Justification is a free act of God, but it was “purchased” by Christ with His blood. Justice is not violated by a gratuitous pardon of the convicted sinner. Rather, justice has been satisfied; the penalty has been fully paid by the Lord Jesus Christ.
- “God Presented Jesus as a Sacrifice of Atonement, Though Faith in His Blood (verse 25)- When we are smarting under the conviction of sin, when we realize we’ve failed God one more time, we must resort to the cleansing blood of Jesus. Nothing else cleanses us- not sorrow for our sin, not our repentance, not even probation. It is the blood of Christ, shed once for all on Calvary two thousand years ago but appropriated daily, or even many times a day, that cleanses our consciences and gives us a renewed sense of peace with God.