If I was a betting man, I would bet that the most common misunderstanding of Christianity is that Christians claim to be good enough for God.
How many times have you heard people accuse Christians of hypocrisy because they have failed to live up to the ‘good’ standards someone else thinks should apply to us?
The truth is that if you had to be perfect to be a Christian – then there would be no Christians. In Romans chapter 1 to 3, Paul systematically dismantles the idea that Christians can earn their way to God by a series of good works.
Salvation is by faith in Jesus alone. Not by deeds or works of any kind.
Over the years, the place of ‘Works’ in salvation and the Christian life have been questioned and queried and many have sought to explain the Bible’s teaching on this. If we had the time we could survey the Bible and produce our own “Theology of the Place of Works”. Sometimes, though, it is good to be able to stand on the shoulders of our forefathers.
The founding 39 Anglican Articles of Religion is a wide set of shoulders for us to stand on. Though the language is 500 years old they are worth grappling with – especially those to do with ideas we have met recently in Romans.
Article 11 talks about how humans are declared right with God. It is great news of comfort for us:
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
Article 12 talks about the place of good works:
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s Judgement; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
Finally, article 13 answers the question many of us have also considered as we have pondered Paul’s teaching about sin – what about annual credit report money of this type must be paid back by dipping into the money supply in future. things that seem to be ‘good works’ before we become Christians?
Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or deserve grace of congruity: yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.
Christianity is not about being ‘self-righteous’. There is no work of our self that will make us righteous before God. Incredibly, God gives his righteousness to us as we shall see in Romans 3:21-31 today.
None of this is a new teaching. The Bible has taught it for 2000 years. Anglicans recognised it 500 years ago and built Anglicanism around faith in Jesus.
Please join me in praying that many in our city might understand the “very full of comfort” that comes from the true righteousness found by faith in Jesus alone.