STANDING IN GRACE

How do you see yourself in the presence of God? Do you see yourself standing before him, hoping desperately that your ‘good’ outweighs your ‘bad’? Or, do you see yourself as standing before him in grace, knowing that nothing you have done, are doing, or will do, determines his acceptance or rejection? Are you standing on your own two feet, depending on your own little handful of perceived righteousness? Or are you standing in Christ, clothed with his perfect righteousness that has been credited to you by faith?

Having spent many verses explaining gospel righteousness, Paul states in Romans 5:2 that through Jesus Christ ‘we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.’

The peace with God affirmed by Paul in verse 1, is never, even for a fleeting moment, gained through our own goodness or merit. Jesus Christ is always the mediator. Our relationship with God is always and only through Jesus Christ.

Through him 'we have gained access' into the presence of God. The verb is in the perfect tense, indicating both the initial entry at some point of time in the past, and the present, continued reality and effectiveness of that access. Right now, at this very moment, we have this access. As the New Testament teaches:

‘Through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access to the Father by on Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:18).

‘Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).

‘Therefore ... since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus , by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith’ (Hebrews 10:19-22).

This access to God was previously barred to us because of our sin. As God told Moses ‘no one may see me and live’ (Exodus 33:20). But now, through Jesus Christ, ‘we have gained access’. Now, through him, we live in God’s presence – without fear of prohibition, without fear of rejection, without fear of judgement.

'by faith': faith is always the present operating principle in our relationship with God. It is not merely the initiating principle which brings us into relationship with God at the point of our conversion. It is, rather, the only valid and effective operating principle by which we can relate to God at any and every moment right through our lives. This ‘faith’ by which we are saved is the belief, the confession, the acknowledgement, that Jesus Christ is indeed God in human flesh:

John 3:18: ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.’

John 8:23: ‘if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.’

Romans 10:9: ‘if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” ... you will be saved.’

'into this grace': for a sinner to enter the presence of God, and live, is sheer grace, sheer gift. The complete salvation gained for us by the death of Jesus Christ is here compacted into this one word 'grace'. It is totally incongruous with this definitive one-word summary of the Gospel to assume that we have to maintain our salvation by our own efforts; it is also incongruous to assume that some wrong behaviour of ours can undo the Gospel and cause us to lose our salvation.

This word 'grace' indicates an impossibility in three dimensions:

the impossibility of our ever saving ourselves,

the impossibility of our ever being able to keep ourselves saved, and

the impossibility of our ever losing our salvation.

'in which we now stand': Grace is also now, not only a description of the way God relates to the believer, but indicative of the sphere in which the believer now exists; the believer is in the arena, or the kingdom, of grace, not the arena or kingdom where law and performance determines outcomes.

We stand in the presence of God, not in our own name, not trusting in our own works, but in and through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose merits we trust, and on whom we depend. In the Greek text the word 'stand', like 'have gained' is in the perfect tense, indicating a past completed action with present effectiveness. At the point of our conversion we stood in this grace, and that's where we still stand at every moment of our lives. Colossians 1:13 teaches us that it is God who has brought this about: he rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us (literally, caused a change in our standing/position) into the kingdom of the Son he loves. God, not our own actions, put us on his side; our own actions cannot undo this work of God, as Paul is about to point out.

For help with assurance of salvation, check this study.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020