Have you been a good Christian this week? I like to ask my students that sometimes. Where their minds go reveal a lot. Almost always, their minds go to their works, to their behavior, to the law. And that’s not bad. We should examine ourselves. That’s a most Christian and confessional thing. We do so before Absolution. We do so before taking the Supper. That being said, a good Christian, when all is said and done, isn’t measured by the law. Why? Because all who rely on the law to measure their standing with God—to assess whether or not they are Christian, are saved, are justified—are under a curse.
So, should we measure our faith, then? It’s tempting, isn’t it? And even the most well-meaning Christian on his or her deathbed can wonder if his or her faith is strong enough. We might discuss weak and strong faith when it comes to specific doctrines, but when it comes to saving faith, rulers can be deadly. Faith isn’t a work. When we make it a work, we are back under the law. Faith is a gift, God’s gift, to us and for us in Christ crucified for sinners (and we all qualify). Christ so loved us He became cursed for us, hanging on a tree, to free us from the cross, to set us free in the gospel, to give us new life, new life by and through faith (an instrument, the beggar’s hand which receives the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection).
We are a people of promise. How do you receive a promise? Do you trust the promise? I suppose, but not nearly so much as you trust the one promising. And who is the one promising when it comes to our new life, to forgiveness, to freedom? It’s the Crucified, the one who became cursed to free us from the curse of those under the law, the One who has sent His spirit to bring us to faith, keep us in it, and dwell in us to seal and guarantee our rebirth and renewal in Him.
Is the law bad? Certainly not. It’s God’s unchangeable will. It describes how we can best serve our neighbor. It mortifies the flesh that hangs around our neck still this side of a coffin. It accuses us when we stray and fall short, reminding us what we deserve. It reveals our utter and constant need for Jesus. And this is all good. But none of this saves us. None of this forms the basis for our standing with God. None of this gives life. For that we’ve been given the gospel, in our ears, upon our heads, in our mouths and hands. For that we’ve been given Christ Himself. Your hope is in His promises and its certainty is in the One who promises, whose cross marks our Faith and frees us from our curse.