A Truly Free Gift

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, March 18, 2015 1 comments

by Logan Ames

One of my favorite commercials that currently plays is the one for the Dollar Shave Club (here) where the man walks up to the counter with a pack of razors and is told it will cost him $19.65. Shocked at the price, he tells the cashier that it seems like a lot. The cashier then thinks for a second and says, “It’s because of the free gift”. At that point, the customer shows excitement as he reaches for the neatly wrapped present on the counter. His momentary joy turns to pain, however, when he picks up the apparent gift and it’s connected to a wire that opens a secret compartment below the counter and propels a mechanical boxing glove to punch the man right in the groin area. As he drops to his knee, he is punched again in the forehead. The man had been duped by the promise of a free gift.

We love the word “free”. Companies know this, so they creatively use it to sell more things. Think about it. When was the last time you received something truly free? I bought a used vehicle last year and convinced the salesman to throw in two free new tires. However, I couldn’t receive those tires without making a purchase. And trust me, it wasn’t a cheap purchase. The same goes for my brother when he decided to purchase a timeshare after we sat and heard a pitch in Orlando, Florida some years ago. Once the salesman understood that my brother was interested and could possibly afford it, he started throwing in all sorts of incentives, including “free” passes to several Disney amusement parks and other gifts. Were these things truly free? You can say that we didn’t have to pay the usual price for those things directly, but again, a purchase of some sort was required.

I always chuckle when I got to the grocery or clothing store and the cashier tells me how much money I “saved” using discounts or bonus cards after I’ve made the purchase. The reason I laugh is because I want to tell them that I could have saved a lot more than I did by not buying anything at all! They didn’t really “save” me anything. They just decreased the amount that I needed to spend to get what I wanted.

In each of the above scenarios, a purchase is required to get the benefit. But there is one truly free gift offered to every one of us that requires no purchase at all. While Christians would rightfully say this is the gift of salvation, our passage for this week specifically refers to one of the results of God’s work of salvation for us - justification. Romans 3:21-31 explains in more detail what the previous passage started to say, that there is no way we could have accomplished what God did by our own works. The sad truth of verse 23 that we all fall short of God’s glory makes way for the blessing of verse 24, that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. Paul is very emphatic here. “Freely” and “by his grace” are essentially the same thing, so the goal is for the reader to understand that this gift of justification is truly free. There is no catch, no hidden punching glove, and no required purchase.

What do you suppose is the value of this free gift? I can assure you it’s higher than anything you’ve ever imagined. Even if you play the lottery and have dreamed of winning hundreds of millions in cash, that still wouldn’t even come close to comparing to the value of this free gift. Just think about one of your sins that you’ve committed in the past 24 hours. According to God’s standard of holiness, that ONE sin would be enough to render you guilty before his throne. Now try to think about all the sins you’ve committed in that time, then think about all the days you’ve lived. In our current justice system, when there are numerous counts of the same crime and you are convicted, you receive a sentence for EACH one. All those sentences get added up and that’s the total amount of time you are said to “owe” society in prison. If that were true with God, we’d be toast!

If you’ve never heard about this gift before, you may be wondering how such an expensive thing could be given away for free. Well, it’s free for you and me, but someone had to pay for it. The idea of justification comes from the court system, and because God is a righteous judge, he couldn’t let the sin go unpunished. This is where it may get difficult for us to understand. We hear and maybe even think things like, “If God is loving and forgiving, why couldn’t he just forget about our sins?” The answer is that if he did that, he wouldn’t really be a holy God because he’d be tolerating sin. That’s why verse 26 says that God did what he did “so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”. But what did he do?

According to verse 25, God presented Christ, his only Son, as a “sacrifice of atonement” for us. Fancy theologians would call this “propitiation”, but it simply means that he was a “substitute” for you and me. God could make sure sin was punished, but rather than punish those who deserved it, he took the penalty himself through the life of his Son. An innocent man bore our penalty so that we could stand justified before a holy and just judge. What’s even more fascinating in this passage is that we see that God was planning this for a long time. Later in verse 25, we see that God had “left the sins committed beforehand unpunished”. So, the free gift isn’t just for you and me and everyone who came after Christ. It was also for those who lived before Jesus who kept their faith in the promised Messiah. Other translations say that God “passed over” their sins. In other words, God did allow their sins to be tolerated, but only temporarily. God’s work through Jesus allowed him to deal justly with those sins as well.

So, what should be our response? Clearly, this free gift is offered to “those who have faith in Jesus” as the passage declares. But it seems to me that a clear understanding of the fact that we are justified freely should cause us to want to worship our God. David did just that in Psalm 103:10, when he worshiped God and wrote that “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities”. Paul later writes to the Corinthian church that they should flee from sexual immorality and that the only appropriate response is to honor God with their bodies because they were “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

How will you respond to this truly free gift? Will you share it with others and encourage them to receive it as well? Will you live your life as a servant of God, understanding that he paid the most expensive price there ever was to buy your justification? I hope you don’t ever forget what he did for you, because he didn’t forget about you while you were trapped in your sin.

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Mom Ames said...

Excellent, Logan! Great job using the actual scripture passages to explain God's love and mercy as the Author of the FREE GIFT of his grace. If anyone argues with this, they are arguing with God. And that's okay. He'll meet each of us where we are and if we seek Him, we will find Him, when we seek Him with all our heart. (see Jer. 29:13 for full context)