Reflection: The Grammar of the Gospel
Learning the gospel is like picking up a new, foreign language. You need to have a good grasp of the grammar. The gospel too has a grammar: Declaration-obligation. Not obligation-declaration (see Titus 2:11-12, 1 Cor 5:7; Gal 5:16, 24; Eph 4:32).
God does not grade us on a bell curve, plotting people based on their intensity in obeying his laws (or lack of it).
God’s grace is not dispensed to us commensurate with our ability to meet God’s key performance indicators for leaders (e.g., do not cheat on taxes, do not be greedy with profits, treat your staff well, care for the environment).
That would constitute the opposite grammatical sequence (obligation-declaration), a moralistic pattern that will see us living our lives in quiet desperation, grappling with fear and guilt on the treadmill of performance, perpetually wondering whether we have done enough to earn his approval and blessings.
Those who want to be justified based on their law-keeping should meet God’s standard of absolute perfection. Yet since no humans can exemplify an utterly sinless life in obedience to God, the only way to be justified before God is through the perfect righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us.
We are instantly declared righteous in Christ without any law-keeping or moral achievements. Then and only then we are truly moved to live in joyful and grateful obedience to Christ. It’s joyful, not fearful, obedience. It’s grateful, not prideful, obedience. That’s the declaration-obligation pattern.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, precisely because we are never able to live in perfect righteousness, you sent your Son to be our righteousness and to die on our behalf so that his righteousness became ours, and our sins became his. Nothing in my hands enables me to merit that reward, only by sheer grace and mercy that you lavishly gave me.