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Volume 18, Issue 3: Stauron

The Unspeakable Gift

Gary Hagen

The merciful God offers propitiation on behalf of the merciless, peace to the impotent enemies of the Almighty. The Truth of the Gospel is preached to liars, the Gift of redemption freely given to thieves. In Christ we find the everlasting faithfulness of the Most High proffered to the most wretched of whores and the lowest of whoremongers, love to the loveless shown. Life eternal, in all its fullness, has been proclaimed throughout the ages to those who have wantonly murdered and maimed. He who inhabits eternity subjected Himself to time; He descended to redeem a bankrupt race that had only earned a pension of perdition. For this purpose, the Prince of Life gladly spent his lifeblood. The Light of God's grace shines upon sin-darkened earth, and every shadow of guilt vanishes from before the eyes of those who are given to see their direful need of repentance, and the faith to receive the unspeakable gift of justification from the nail-pierced hand of God.

In Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, an ancient city known for its hedonistic corruptions, he reminded them that they were to flee immorality, for the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9). Paul continues with a catalogue of corruptions: sexual sins, idolatry, theft, drunkenness, greed, swindling, and reviling. He reminded the church that this catalogue was their very own resumé, but that it was a lifestyle inconsistent with those who had now been washed, purified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saints are only saints if they are acquitted sinners.
The doctrine of sin was not one of the pillars of the Reformation in the same way as the well known solas (sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola scriptura). Rather, sin was a given—an assumed foundation. The main issue was not so much whether mankind was sinful, but rather how sinful man could be reconciled with a holy God.
But in our highly relativistic twenty-first century, we find that a doctrine of sin must once again be articulated as a foundational element before the gospel can be given voice as it was in the days of the primitive church.
Paul wrote that it was a faithful saying that Christ came "to save sinners." But many today turn a deaf ear toward the message of salvation for this very reason—they feel no burden of sin. Instead, the common man speaks of preferences and pragmatics, helpful habits or addictive `diseases,' alternate lifestyles and childhood environments. Modern man has all but lost sight of personal iniquity, much less grasping the biblical doctrine of the imputation of original sin.
Whether subconsciously or not, many of the rest of us—saints included—tend to think of sin in terms of a bell curve. We may not be perfect, but neither do we consider ourselves as wicked, and certainly not as depraved or evil as a Stalin, Hitler, Bundy, or Duncan. On a scale of one to ten, we peg ourselves at seven, or more often topping eight or nine. In fact, many think they are closer to a Mother Teresa or a Billy Graham!
But God's standard has always been holiness and perfection. Christ tells us that we must be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Bell curves and shades of gray have no place at the bar of divine judgment. On that day, there will be two categories, and only two—not ten. Goats and sheep, profane and saints, the condemned and the justified.
We must have our eyes opened to our spiritual thralldom before we can be turned from darkness to the light (Acts 26:18). The mind of sinful man is blinded from the truth (2 Cor.4:4). We must learn the truth that we are slaves; we are born into bondage, born into the prison of our natures. And yet everyone, Gentile and Jew alike, have all felt the law on our hearts that we have been graciously given. It tells us something is very wrong with the world, and causes us to search for the truth. As Paul explains in Romans 2 and 3, all are made guilty before God in order that every mouth may be stopped. None follow the light they are given. All are hypocrites. We violate not only God's laws, but even our own law, our own ethical standards. Thus we condemn ourselves. But only the law of God, applied to the sinner's heart by the Spirit, can show a slave of sin the truth of his bondage.
God made man in the divine image (Gen. 1:26-27). Many have thought this to mean the ability to create and to speak; or the trinity of man's social nature that includes emotional, intellectual and physical makeup. Others say it has to do with his immortality. But all of these can be attributed in varying degrees to either animals or angels. Satan himself has emotions and immortality, and of course he can speak.
But Scripture is very clear about the image of God, how this was lost in Adam's fall, and how it is restored by the new Adam, Christ. As we saw in the beginning, sinful man is at opposite poles with God. But Paul tells us to put off this corrupt old man, and to put on the new man in God's image, created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24 cf. Col. 3:10). Sin is in the Devil's image (1 Jn. 3:18 cf. Jn. 8:44). God created man not only sinless, but with positive righteousness in His image. This lost righteousness is restored in Christ—not our own, but that of God (Rom. 10:3). Not only were our sins imputed to Christ on the cross, but in Him the righteousness of God is imputed unto us (Rom. 4:22-25). This great double exchange, this twofold blessing—this justification, is a twice unspeakable gift.

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