We believe in justification by grace through faith.
The heart of the Christian gospel is that God forgives everyone who asks Him for forgiveness. Indeed, God not only forgives us, He justifies us by His grace, which means God treats us as though we were not guilty. The New Testament teaches that if God has justified us, we are now entitled to all the privileges due those who keep His law. Furthermore, this justification is not a reward for those who have been “good,” but the Apostle Paul insists it also is offered to the “ungodly” (Romans 4:5).
By His grace which justifies us, God treats us as though we are already transformed in Christ. By His grace which sanctifies us, He then gives us the power to walk into the reality of our transformation.
Grace is first a gift that we do not deserve, or unmerited favor, and it is also God’s enabling power.
The Apostle Paul is the most assertive proclaimer of grace as God’s unmerited favor. In his epistles to the Romans and Galatians especially, the Apostle Paul teaches that we have been saved in spite of our sins. Only the lavish, abundant love of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul says, offers us any hope of eternal salvation. Without God’s grace, our attempts to become righteous are flawed and ultimately futile.
The concept of grace is difficult for many people to grasp. It seems unfair that some people work so hard to please God, only to discover that their efforts have been insufficient. It seems worse when the Apostle Paul insists that grace is for those who are “without works” (Romans 4:5). However, the Apostle Paul was not teaching anything other than what Jesus had already said—the kingdom of God was for “the poor in spirit,” that is to say the spiritually powerless (Matthew 5:3). To many religious people, both in the Apostle Paul’s day and in ours, this seems to be a terribly soft stance on sin.
What we must remember though is that the New Testament writers were not claiming that God was no longer concerned about sin. Sin is still as ugly and repulsive as it ever was. Sin is still an illness of soul that has eternal consequences. The reason we can be justified is not because God changed His mind about sin but because God’s wrath against sin has been satisfied in Christ, the innocent Lamb of God. To use the language of Hebrews, Jesus, our Great High Priest, has made an offering of His own blood upon the high altar of Heaven (Hebrews 10).
The great debt is paid in full! We are made free from the consequences of sin by accepting God’s gift of grace.
Many Christians struggle their entire lives without ever being sure that they are truly God’s children. They want to please the Lord; however, they are painfully aware they keep falling short. They are believers but are kept in the dark about God’s great peace treaty with humanity.
After World War II, a number of Japanese soldiers were discovered who had been hiding out in the jungles for decades after the war ended. They didn’t believe the war was over. In the same way, it seems that many Christians do not believe they “have been made accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). So it is not only the unbelievers who need to hear “the old, old story.” “Those who know it best” also “hunger and thirst to hear it like the rest.”5 Grace and justification is thus the good news for believer and unbeliever alike.
The moment we accept God’s demand for total, unconditional surrender, we are immediately clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9). Although we know by experience that we are not holy, we also know by the Word of God that Christ is holy. The holiness of Christ covers all believers so that God sees us too as holy.
Bishop G.T. Haywood wrote the song, I See A Crimson Stream, that early Pentecostals often sang to powerfully express this truth.
On Calvary’s hill of sorrow
Where sin’s demands were paid
Rays of hope for tomorrow
Across our paths were laid
When gloom and sadness whisper
You’ve sinned, no use to pray
I look away to Jesus
And He tells me to say
I see a crimson stream of blood
It flows from Calvary
Its waves that reach the throne of God
Are sweeping over me
Today no condemnation
Abides to turn away
My soul from His salvation
He’s in my heart to stay