Yesterday I helped move the school where Sharon and I teach into their new facility. Sharon teaches the first and second grades full time. I teach Bible to 9/10 and 11/12 graders., two classes a day.
I remember sitting in Bible class 41 years ago at Norfolk Christian High. Oh, the things I did not know about what life was going to require of me and what I was going to have to depend upon God for. But one thing did happen that has sustained me – I became “believing.” The core reality of placing faith in Christ who died for me and set me right with God apart from works of the law is what has always kept the slate clear and given power to keep on believing. “For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” (Rom 1:17) If I ever had to come to the place where my record of deeds would be my confidence, my proof that I was okay with God, that my actual and own righteousness would be my hope and security, then my Christ-following would have been extinguished long ago. The Gospel, the hearing of which produces faith, continues to give faith, future faith.
This doctrine is continually under attack. Free justification apart from any moral transformation in the believing sinner has always stumped the experts. The Roman church has always related justification to sanctification, that is, we are justified in the sense that we are actually becoming righteous. The liberal church questions a supernatural salvation at all, one that relies on a substitutionary death for the whole human race and a resurrection from the dead. The evangelical church is dissatisfied with such a simple Gospel and demands that the church incarnate this truth by being communities of hope, where the life of the church itself is the witness and communicates powerfully in a way that words cannot. The Full Gospel portion of the church demands that the core Gospel also be the receiving of the Holy Spirit empowering us for acts of holiness and service. It seems wherever I turn, someone wants to refine, redefine, rethink, reword and add to the doctrine of justification by faith alone through the grace of God alone.
But the doctrine stands – in its simplicity and directness. Because in and of itself it has power. It is the E=MC2 of the spiritual world. It penetrates the reality that releases an explosive power of spiritual vitality. It gets the man of God up in the morning, standing out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory. It sustains him against the fiery darts of the evil one, all disappointments, all failures. It gives him rest when day is done, knowing the peace of conscience that can only come from a righteousness that is not his own but the perfect righteousness of another.
This I learned in Bible class. This was the formula of the heart set free. It has kept me believing and hoping and doing. To this simple Gospel I owe all. I hope the kids get it, in first grade where Sharon teaches it and at the 12th grade level where the kids will hear it for the last time at the school.