Perhaps the deadliest tool in the devil’s assault on the Christian faith begins with the deception that the work of salvation is only partially done. The lie is that Jesus got you part of the way, but if you really want in, if you really want to be a Christian, you have to do something else, something more, something on top of what’s already been done. Once he has convinced you of this, all notions of the true gospel of God are lost. As soon as the good news is co-mingled with anything else, it’s forfeited.
This is what the Galatians were fooled by, an anti-gospel, a “different gospel,” one that postulated that additional merit is needed in order to acquire the favor of God. (Gal 1:6–7) And such is what we continue to deal with on a daily basis. Our natural man is opposed to the idea of a gospel of free grace and preaches a message of winning and earning and achieving — and so long as we buy into this message of performance, the promise of the gospel will never appear as beautiful or glorious as it truly is. God’s gospel of redemption must be complete and free or it is no gospel at all. Such is the certainty of our salvation. It is the entire salvation of man through the unabridged Word of the Father and unadulterated grace of the Son. It is salvation that reaches beyond the utmost extent of sin and depravity to save those who are lost. It is salvation to “the uttermost” (Heb 7:25) — absolute salvation, superabundant salvation.
What does the Gospel promise other than that Christ is given for us; that he bears our sins; that he is our Bishop, Mediator, and Advocate before God, and that thus only through him and his work is God reconciled, are our sins forgiven and our consciences set free and made glad? When this sort of faith in the Gospel really exists in the heart, God is recognized as favorable and pleasing. The heart confidently feels his favor and grace, and only these. It fears not God’s chastisement. It is secure and in good spirit because God has conferred upon it, through Christ, superabundant goodness and grace.1
If there were any sense of earning or deserving in the gospel, it’d no longer be the gospel. But what God offers in the person and work of his Son is salvation such that fills the entire man, leaving nothing undone. Christ didn’t go ninety-nine yards for your deliverance and leave the remaining one up to you. He went the whole way, taking on all your filth, all your guilt, and all your shame. He became the criminal so that we might be crowned as sons and daughters of the King. He endured the terrible weight of the Father’s withdrawal so that we’d never have to.
What Jesus offers is a full and free and final salvation that leaves nothing for us to do except receive it by faith. In our receiving of it, we’re laying down our goodness and stretching ourselves out upon Christ’s “superabundant goodness.” This faith relinquishes any merit thought to be secured by our works and rests secure in the work of Christ. It is the abandonment of all our earthly success to embrace the defeat of the Son — for in his defeat, he conquered all. By dying, he laid waste to the grave. By being finished, he finished all. By becoming a curse, he redeemed us from the curse. (Gal 3:13)
The superabundant salvation of God has room the vilest of sinners to come and find rest. And this room is on the house. Gratis. Free of charge. In fact, to put forward your own payment for this room is an offense to the Clerk. Would you rob him of his hospitality? Would you begrudge his generosity? (Mt 20:15) He asks for nothing. “It is no doing of yours . . . he lays no merit on you; receive and be glad.”2 Therefore, believe and receive this superabundant salvation, and then your soul’s wandering will be made still.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Christmas Sermons: Epistles, Vol. 1, translated by John Nicholas Lenker (Minneapolis, MN: Luther Press, 1908), 94.
C. S. Lewis, Perelandra (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 197.