A long time ago, as a young boy, a stranger visited my house and gave me a gift. Foolishly, I rejected the gift. Later, I learned that this stranger was a relative. We reject an excellent gift every so often because we did not know the giver or the gift.
While God has revealed himself, there is a mysteriousness about him that we cannot know. On the other hand, God has given us his gift to express his love for humanity. God’s gift is to declare people righteous by grace (Rom 3:23-24). God prepared this gift even before laying the world’s foundation.
(Eph 1:4; 1Pe 1:20).
God made known this gift to Abraham when God promised to bless all the families of the earth through him (Gen 12:3). Although Abraham was childless, God promised to give him a son through Sarah.
(Gen 15:4-6; 17:15-19). This son of Abraham is Christ Jesus (Gal 3:16).
Christ Jesus came into this world to die as a propitiating sacrifice on the cross, the righteous person for humanity tainted with a permanent unrighteous stain (cf. Rom 5:6-8). Through Christ’s death, God secured the gift of declaring all who believe in Christ as righteous. Thus, Christ Jesus is God’s grace to humanity.
Why do we need God’s grace? God knows that humanity cannot restore God’s glory that was lost. When God created Adam and Eve in his image, they had God’s glory (Gen 1:26-27). Due to Adam’s disobedience, God’s glory in the first couple became infected with Satan’s rebelliousness. Since the first couple was patient zero, their rebelliousness infected all their descendants. This rebelliousness is the permanent unrighteous stain on humanity.
While the symptoms of rebelliousness are different in different people, all are guilty of rebellion (Rom 3:9-11). The consequence of rebellion is death (Rom 5:12-14; cf. Gen 2:16-17). No matter what people do, they cannot escape death. Thus, Christ Jesus came to pay for humanity’s guilt and provide the escape route.
Although God’s gift declares that all believers are not guilty and are righteous in his sight, this gift provides a threefold approach to remove Satan’s rebelliousness from the believers’ bodies.
First, God immediately sealed believers with the Holy Spirit to empower them to resist this unrighteous stain in their bodies (Rom 8:13-14). The presence of the Holy Spirit is a sign that believers have become new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Col 5:17). Believers can seek the Spirit’s help to resist the rebellious stain in them.
Second, while believers are a new creation in Christ, God utilises the universal experience of physical death to remove this permanent stain. The reality of physical death among believers shows that this rebellious stain is still inside us. On the other hand, physical death is part of God’s healing for humanity. This healing is for believers whom God promised to resurrect. However, before our resurrection, we must die.
Third, except for believers who live at Christ’s return, God will glorify all believers by resurrecting them bodily without the stain (cf. Rom 8:23-24). Believers’ resurrected bodies will be glorious, like Christ’s resurrected body (Phil 3:20-21). All believers will glorify God with their resurrected body (cf. Rom 8:29-30).
Meanwhile, believers are a new creation in Christ living in mortal bodies. How should mortal believers live in God’s grace?
First, we rejoice in our redemption. If we thank God for saving us, we should not condemn ourselves. God has welcomed us into his family through Christ. No matter what we have done in the past, present and future, God will continue to accept us in Christ (Rom 8:1-4). He has guaranteed our inheritance in the new heaven and earth by sealing his Spirit in us (Eph 1:13-14).
Second, we learn from Christ how to resist the rebellious stain in our mortal bodies. Christ came not only to bring redemption for humanity but to develop believers’ ability to say “No” to our rebelliousness against God and desires that turn us away from him. This negative aspect of Christ’s training complements his positive development of believers’ ability to exercise self-control in cultivating the proper manner of relating with people and God (Titus 2:11-12). Learning these things from Christ is the essence of discipleship.
Third, we confess and repent daily. Although God no longer condemns us and Christ is training us, we know that we are far from perfect. We have bad days as Christ’s disciples. Bad days hurt us and those around us. While we should not condemn ourselves for bad days, we need to realign ourselves with God through confession and repentance. When we are quick in realigning with God, the Holy Spirit will not be grieved (Eph 4:30). If we grieve the Spirit, we will hurt ourselves, but God will not condemn us. Christ will continue to train us until we realign with God (1 Jon 1:8-10).
Therefore, God’s gift is for our good. No matter what we do, we can never regain God’s glory except by God’s grace. God shows his grace through Christ Jesus, who secured the gift for humanity by his death. If we have believed in Christ Jesus, God’s gift is ours. We will be glorified.
Returning to my incident, when my parents realised that I rejected the relative’s gift, they apologised on my behalf for my foolishness. My relative showed me grace by giving me the gift again. I gratefully accepted and thanked this stranger. Similarly, if you have rejected God’s gift before, God is waiting to bless you with his gift. Will you say “Yes” to him?
Cheng Eng Hwa