This post is taken from the booklet An Invitation, Not a Challenge, by Everett Wilson, brother of Jim Wilson.

A Gift from God

One reason why people have such a hard time accepting salvation as a gift is that they have been trained to think of work as the way to reward. Then, when we become rich or are otherwise rewarded, we comfort ourselves that “we worked hard for it.” Who wants the teacher to give the class goof-off an A, when the class grind had to work so hard to earn it? Who wants to see thieves and cheats rewarded with the spoils of their crimes? The goof-off doesn’t deserve an A, so he should not get one. The thief has no right to another person’s property, so should not be allowed to keep it.

The trouble with these comparisons is that they have nothing to do with the gift of eternal life. Law is useful when it measures distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad. The justice system may straighten out a car theft by returning the car to its owner and punishing the thief. A fair grading system may distinguish between good work and poor, so that an A may indicate to future teachers and employers what a student can do. These are just two of the works of the law, and they are very good.

But when it comes to giving eternal life to sinners, we’re in a situation where nobody is getting a passing grade. Nobody deserves anything. The reward is too expensive for anyone to earn. Nothing could be more hopeless than to think you could ever obey enough laws, behave enough better, to get to heaven. We’re Wal-Mart shoppers thinking our twenty bucks ought to be enough for a diamond tiara from Tiffany’s! If there are some things in this world that we cannot have except by gift, you may be sure that heaven is in an even more expensive category. We can’t afford it, and we’ll never be able to earn enough to afford it.

Not only haven’t we earned it; we deserve the opposite. The law has revealed our failures. We are part of a world held accountable to God. We have no excuse for who we are and what we have done. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. The law puts us in the wrong, and never sets us right. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

To be continued on Friday.