by Dane Massey
(Dane Massey is the former Pastor of Mulvane Christian Church. He is now in ministry in Houston, Texas.)
As I spent time reflecting on the words of our salvation my mind was captured by a verse and a thought.
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24 NKJV)
There are three great words in this verse: justified, grace, redemption. I set out to think on justification which means “to be set in right legal standing.” However, when thinking on this verse, I became captivated by the word “freely.” Why?
It would, at first appearance, not even need to be there. The verse could have read: “being justified by His grace…” Grace means “free, without cost, unmerited favor.”
So isn’t “freely” redundant? So why is “freely” added? The Greek word translated “freely” is found again in the Gospel of John:
“But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause’” (John 15:25).
The word “freely” is translated here as “without a cause” which is an accurate translation of the Greek word. The thought of Romans 3:24? There was nothing in me that gave cause, that moved God, to justify me.
My salvation is not a reflection of my great need nor is it a reflection of some worth in me, it is a reflection of the character of God!
We, born of a generation of man-centered gospel, cringe at the sovereignty of God in salvation. We loosely use terms such as “I found Christ,” “I was looking for Jesus,” etc. Yet scripture is very clear that “there are none that seek God,” (Romans 3:11).
I didn’t find Jesus, He found me! I didn’t choose Him, He chose me! I didn’t seek Him, He came to seek and save that which is lost: Me!
Note the phrases in Ephesians 1:4-14, “according to the good pleasure of His will” (vs.5), “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (vs.6), “according to the riches of His grace” (vs. 7), “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (vs.9), “according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will” (vs. 11), “unto the praise of His glory” (vs.14).
It would appear that scripture is making a point here!
Our great salvation, all that is wrapped up in these great words (propitiation, regeneration, redemption, reconciliation, justification, etc…) is a reflection of His character. We see the same thought in Ezekiel 36, the prophetic view of the new covenant.
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes,” (Ezekiel 36:22-23).
“I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!” (Ezekiel 36:32).
Note the emphasis of the motive or cause behind God’s actions. What was the expected, assumed response to the truth that God would do all of this (verses 24-30) for those who gave Him no cause?
“Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices” (Vs.31).
What a vivid picture of humility and repentance. I have and will benefit greatly from a consistent reflection on this great thought. Two things that are obvious:
First, humility – there is no question, my consistent and be-sitting sin, behind and empowering all others, is pride.
To understand my proper place in my salvation is to take a seat among the poor/destitute in spirit, to understand that my righteousness is filthy rags, that there is nothing in me to cause Him to look upon me with favor. That mercy is only mercy to those who have no right to expect it nor reason to deserve it.
Second, security – If I had given Him cause, my salvation would rest upon my maintaining of this cause. My security rests not in me but in His unchanging character, for this is what moved Him to start with!
Think of this glorious thought. Within the very essence of God, He was moved within Himself, to love, to be gracious, to demonstrate His great love and grace, by mercy poured forth upon the undeserving! This was true of Him before He ever created.
Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. The triune God, purposed in Himself, before He ever created that He would demonstrate His love, grace, and mercy by redeeming that which was lost. The Cross is a reflection of this sovereign, eternal, character not a knee-jerk reaction to something God didn’t foresee.
No wonder He has chosen “the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised” (I Cor. 1:27-31).