Grace Is A Scandal (Romans 5:1-11)
Intimacy and relationship with God are not to be taken lightly.
Why do I keep trying to save myself? Why do I continue to attempt to blaze my own trail? Why do I insist on trying to re-accomplish the work that Jesus has already accomplished? What is it about me that thinks I can achieve my own salvation?
Perhaps it’s pride. Perhaps it’s my inability as a human to accept a gift freely given. Perhaps I can’t (or don’t want to) comprehend the reality of someone dying on my behalf when I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it. It’s not fair. There’s no justice in it. I have a need within me to level the playing field. I want things to be right. I don’t want to be indebted to Jesus for something I never asked him to do in the first place.
This is the scandal of grace.
Have you ever been through these thoughts in your head? For me, they are a daily internal battle. This past week was no different as we studied Romans 5.1-11 in our sermon.
Confession time: Grace is hard for me to accept. I know I need it. I know I want it. I know the score is settled. But the feelings of inadequacy and injustice (in my favor no less!) are nearly impossible to overcome. So instead of trying to overcome, I must give in. Because when I don’t give in and accept grace, that means I don’t truly believe in it. That means I don’t really have a full understanding of what faith is.
In his commentary on Romans, William Barclay says, “Trusting that faith, the accepting of God at his word, has done what the labor to produce the works of the law could never do; it has given man peace with God.”
There is no ulterior motive. God is not out to trick us or get us. Let’s not lose sight of what a big deal this is: intimacy with God may seem like a foregone conclusion to those who have been in relationship with God for a lifetime, but intimacy and relationship with God are not to be taken lightly.
Because we are sinners, we have not only removed ourselves from God’s presence, but we have become enemies of God. Because of our sin, there is a chasm, a gap, a divide, a barrier. Revisiting William Barclay, he says that “Jesus ushers us into the very presence of God. Jesus opens the door for us to the presence of the King of kings; and when that door is opened what we find is grace; not condemnation, not judgment, not vengeance, but the sheer, undeserved, unearned, unmerited, incredible kindness of God.”
This section of Romans 5 is bookended by reminders of our new right standing with God. Paul says in verse 1 that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” while he later reminds us in verse 11 that “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”.
If ever you’ve doubted or questioned God’s love, here is the ultimate and final proof of its legitimacy: Jesus died for us while we were sinners. It’s hard enough to get someone to die for a just person. It’s hard enough to get someone to die for a worthy cause. And yet – Jesus died for us; for sinners; for bad people; for people like us who, because of sin, are odds with God. THAT, friends, is love.
My prayer for each of us is that we will actively accept the grace and reconciliation offered us through faith in Jesus.