Are We Just Sinners Saved By the Grace of God? The Gospel Says We Are the Righteousness of Jesus!
This series of articles has two parts, and they are modeled after a statement Jesus often used:
(1) “You have heard it said…”
(2) “But I say unto you…”
This article is about the gospel of grace. We are told that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Saving grace is what the gospel of the New Testament is all about, and this all comes about because of God’s grace to us.
Two questions are often asked: (1) Are we saved by grace? – or (2) Are we saved by faith? The answer is YES. We are saved by grace, and we are saved by faith. This is what Ephesians 2:8 says: “By grace you are saved through faith…”
Saints and Sinners
What we are going to look at a little deeper in this article is this: Are we just sinners, who are just saved by grace? – or are we both saints and sinners? As always in my writings, it is the gospel that provides the answer to this: what Paul calls ‘The Gospel of Grace’ (Acts 20:24).
“You Have Heard It Said…”
“We are just sinners saved by grace.” — “There but for the grace of God go I.” Most of us correctly believe that Jesus died for our sin — at least our past sins. But somehow we’re not sure about our present or future sins. We sometimes get the notion that we are again responsible and liable for our sin once we come into God’s Kingdom, and that we will be judged for our sin. Hopefully we covered this subject in the first of these in this series. If you missed it, read ‘Diplomatic Immunity’: http://wp.me/P1cSU4-gb .
“As A Man Thinketh” – We Think of Ourselves As Sinners
It is true we all sin. The modern view of salvation is, “I used to do thus-and-so-sin, but I don’t do that anymore – there but for the grace of God go I.” We have the belief we were going to hell because we were bad, but we go to heaven if we start doing good. This is wrong thinking born at the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad. It is also compounded many times if we live by the law.
This type thinking is born in the attitude of “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” What we fail to see is that we can’t consistently act — on the outside — differently from the way we believe on the inside. This is what Proverbs 23:7 is trying to get across to us: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
We act, on the outside, the way we believe inside. Good behavior will never produce correct belief, but correct belief will eventually produce good behavior.
If we believe we are a sinner (even if saved by grace), we’ll act like a sinner. What do sinners do? They sin. It’s their job. If you try to behave righteously, thinking of yourself as a sinner, you will get worn out, and run and hide from God like Adam did in the Garden. This is the result of the thinking that, “I am a sinner saved by grace.” The emphasis is on sin, when it should be on the grace of God – on saving grace.
It’s what I call separation theology. It says, “I am here, you are there, and God is ‘up there somewhere’.” We try to perform to get God to like us, favor us, and bless us. This is trying to earn the grace of God. This is trying to be worthy of the gospel of grace. And we also perform for others to get them to like us, favor us, and bless us. Jesus says we can’t BELIEVE if we think this way (John 5:44).
It’s true! We are sinners – and we are saved by grace – and we are saved by faith (Eph 2:8). This is a reality we should all come to see. This is part of the gospel of grace. This is one aspect of the grace of God, and we should not slight it. It is God’s saving grace that gets us into heaven.
But see it: this is only a partial truth! It is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The gospel reveals a greater reality. To see the greater reality, click on “But I Say Unto You”
“But I Say Unto You…”
We are the righteousness of Jesus himself (II Cor 5:21). We reign in life with Jesus IF we receive (1) God’s abundant grace — and (2) his gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17). Don’t miss this: you can’t receive righteousness if you think of yourself as a sinner!!
Righteousness vs. Sinners
We have difficulty understanding how we can be righteous, without doing things RIGHT. To understand it, we must first see that Jesus was made sin, without doing anything WRONG. You see, justification resulting in righteousness was written ‘in the halls of heaven.’ It is dependent on Jesus, not on us.
In most cases, both SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS are nouns in the gospel of the New Testament. They are not verbs. This means that they don’t describe action but a state of being. This state of being is described in Romans 5 as us either being ‘in Christ,’ or ‘in Adam.’ Being a sinner vs. being in righteousness are all about Adam’s disobedience, and Christ’s obedience. It not about OUR righteousness. We must take every thought captive to Christ’s obedience (II Cor 10:5). If we’re NOT in Christ, we’re judged for Adam’s disobedience. If we ARE in Christ, we are blessed by his obedience. We are told to ‘awake to righteousness, and not to sin’ (I Cor 15:34). Our focus should be our righteousness provided by Christ, and not the fact that we are a sinner. Remember: “As a man thinketh…”
We’re made alive in Christ (Eph 2:4-5). We’re new creations: a ‘GodMan’ (II Cor 5:17). We are a new species! Christ now lives IN us, and we live by HIS faith (Gal 2:16, 20, KJV — see the KJV. Modern translations minimize this truth). I like how the NLT calls us a new divine masterpiece (Eph 2:10). This is due to the grace of God. This is the result of the gospel of grace.
We are told so many things in the gospel of the New Testament about who we are in Christ. We have perfection. We are sanctified by the blood of the Sanctifier. Paul, speaking in God’s revelation, says when I look in a mirror I should see myself as JESUS — and not just see my natural face (II Cor 3:18). If I do this, I am gradually changed into his glory. Romans 8:29 says this is being conformed to the image of Christ.
The Old Testament law was so HARD it was impossible to live (Rom 3:10, Acts 15:10). The New Covenant is so GOOD it is almost impossible to believe. To begin truly seeing gospel truth, start seeing yourself as being in righteousness – as being the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not just as a sinner – even if saved by grace. We are saved by grace, and we are saved by faith – but the result of the grace of God goes so much further than this. It shows us who we are in Christ, not just what we were saved from in self.