Moral Improvement IS Why God Saved You!

In my last post, I argued that moral improvement is not why God saved you, as if somehow God’s goal in creating humans was to get us to behave correctly.

Be good or else

In other words, Christian salvation according to the Bible is not initiated by God in order to simply clean the mud off our trousers. He saves His people primarily to glorify Himself, and to give us gifts of infinite joy and eternal life with Him. That’s the goal, a la Ephesians 1:3-14 (noting my bold emphases):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (NKJV)

His purpose is to glorify Himself. And shouldn’t He? He is the greatest being and Person in all existence, and nothing compares to Him. It’s great news that our salvation is aimed at lifting our eyes to Him; the best gift that grants ultimate joy!

And Yet He Saves Us to Improve Our Moral Standing

God’s love for us (in Christ) is unconditional. Let’s get that straight – He loves us because He loves us because He is love because He is God (cf. Deut. 7:7-8). There’s no way out of that circle of divine, mysterious graciousness. Yet in this unconditional love, He loves in such a way that He will change our inner man. We were, after all, “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

Saved to be changed, conformed into an image that was previously marred in us – malformed in sin as we are conceived in Adam the sinner. The image of God in which we were originally created has been overshadowed and defaced by sin – and yet in love God predestines His people to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God. To say it simply, He loves us too much to see us remain in sin and defacement, because He loves His glory too much for us to take His name in vain through unrepentant, sin-filled living (Ezk. 36:16-32ff.; Heb. 12:5-11).

Once we grasp the balance here – that we are loved perfectly in Christ no matter our sins, and that we are loved in order to be changed morally – then we can live the Christian life with joy and confidence! We can now live knowing

I am a terrible, wicked sinner who is completely forgiven and loved on the basis of the perfections of Christ. My sin was placed on Him and He owned it in His death on the cross – and His perfect standing before the Father was reckoned to my account when He saved me and justified me. God sees me and counts me as perfect as Jesus Himself!

Well, then we can live however we want! What’s the point of moral improvement? Paul knew you’d think that, and answers

“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:2-4).

Full circle. God created us and in sovereign grace saves us from eternal wrath and justice in order to (re)shape us into His glorious, holy image… BECAUSE He loves His Name, and therefore extends His love to His people unconditionally, because He loves us!

Expect to be brutally loved by God when He has given you new birth by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He’s a good Father – He will discipline us if we wander from Him and indulge in sin. Rejoice, Christian! The pleasures of sin are passing and shallow compared to the glory intended for you in eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord. Resist the deeds of the flesh, renew your mind in Christ Jesus and His Word, and live in light of a dawning eternity of joy and sinless fellowship with an infinitely wonderful God. You are blessed.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Slaves of Christ are Free

Slaves are free when they are slaves of a perfectly loving Master. If you are a Christian; if you are one who has been born of God’s Spirit and are on your way to the New Jerusalem, then you are a slave of Christ Jesus. This kind of slavery is the freest of all, and is the very thing we were created for. Sound like an ugly idea to you? Then you must learn Christ better! He is the worthy Master, the Master who loved us so that He gave His life for His slaves… even redefining slave as being “friends” (John 15:15).

R.C. Sproul gives us the details on being slaves of Christ, commenting on Paul’s introduction of himself in Romans 1:1 –

The Greek word Paul used here is doulos. A doulos was not a hired servant who could come and go as he pleased. A doulos was a person who had been purchased, and once purchased he became his master’s possession.

The idea of the doulos in Scripture is always connected to another descriptive word, kurios . . . The supreme use of kurios [in the New Testament] refers to the sovereign God, who rules all things. Kurios, “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), is the name given to Jesus, whom the Father calls the King of kings and the Lord of lords. There is yet a middle usage of the term kurios in the New Testament. It is used to describe a slave owner, which is an apt description of Jesus, and it is from this that Paul describes himself. He is not just a servant but a slave.

Paul, in addressing believers, said, “You are not your own. For you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19). We have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). There is a paradox here: when the New Testament describes our condition by nature, as fallen people, it describes us as slaves to sin . We are by nature in bondage to sin, bondservants of the flesh, and the only remedy for that, according to the New Testament, is to be liberated by the work of the Holy Spirit. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). Everyone born of the Spirit is set free from slavery to sin.

There is also irony here: when Christ sets us free from slavery to the flesh, he calls us to the royal liberty of slavery to him. That is why we call him Master. We acknowledge that it is from him that we get our marching orders. He is the Lord of our lives. We are not our own. We are not autonomous or independent. Unless people understand their relationship to Christ in these terms, they remain unconverted.[1]

Is Jesus your Master? In other words, are you free?

RC Sproul

RC Sproul

[1] R.C. Sproul, Romans (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 16-17.