The Gospel of Mercy AND Grace – Part 1

The memory verse for February 2012 is 2 Corinthians 5:21.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is the first of a two-part post mining the depths of the Gospel of justifying faith in 2Cor 5:21 and showing that the Gospel is not just for entry into the Kingdom of God, but is also the key to Christian living.

In the Gospel we have deep and precious truth that saved us once and saves us still.  But in our tendency to lose and neglect even important things, we often treat the Gospel as basic and as something for one-time use only. We fall into the trap of believing that the Gospel is only for non-Christians and is disposable after our conversion.  We will always be grateful for it, but it somehow becomes less relevant after we first received it.

Most often, the Gospel is understood and expressed as the good news that even though each and every one of us has sinned against God, deserves to be separated eternally from God, and is unable to escape from God’s just wrath, God has graciously made a way to save us from damnation.  God sent his Son, Jesus, to live on earth as a human.  Jesus lived the perfect life without sin and obediently subjected himself to a violent death on the cross, where God punished Jesus in place of sinners for the forgiveness of sins.  Those who receive this by faith will be saved from Hell.

This common understanding of the Gospel fails to express half of what makes the Gospel SUCH good news.  We do not rejoice over the gospel merely because we are relieved that our sins have been forgiven in Christ and that we are saved from God’s wrath.  We also rejoice because in Christ, we have “become the righteousness of God.”

Grace is often explained as getting what you do not deserve (i.e., unmerited favor).  Mercy is often explained as NOT getting what you do deserve (i.e., withheld punishment).  The Gospel is full of mercy AND grace.  Your lifelong record of failed obedience to God was credited to Christ, who was slain in your place.  You have received mercy.  AND, Christ’s lifelong record of perfect obedience to God was credited to you when you trusted in him for your righteousness.  You have received grace.  Christ has no sin but ours.  We have no righteousness but his.  This is the glorious exchange of the Gospel.  As a result, in Christ, God sees us not only as if we had never sinned, but also as if we had always obeyed perfectly.

Tim Keller says “the Gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight they are accepted and counted righteous.  So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time.”

Rejoice and come back soon for Part 2, where we’ll explore how this Gospel is the way to address every obstacle and to grow in every aspect.