Really?? I’m “ONLY a sinner saved by grace?”

I grew up with that gospel chorus (by James M. Gray, president of Moody Bible Institute) and I think I know where he was coming from. But let’s carefully unpack its repeated motif:

I am [present tense] only [no more than] a sinner saved by grace.

I suggest we are doing God a grave disservice by limiting his work to the forgiveness of sinners and taking them to heaven when they die. Not even the words of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” spell out the full gospel. Rather, he came to create a holy people, to rule with him in a new kingdom, erasing forever the failure at Eden. He came to transform his new people through and through.

Read Romans 8 – there is no way you can skim it and highlight the post-conversion blessings and imagine that a Christian is “nothing more than a forgiven sinner.” [1]

If all we are is forgiven people, if we are not transformed-and-being-transformed, we are spiritually dead in the water. We would be like the Galatians: “begun with grace and trying to perfect ourselves by the power of the flesh.” Otherwise known as “justified by faith, sanctified by works.”

I spent a mere 10 minutes flipping through the pages of Scripture, and found a whole raft of blessings that we have NOW and must certainly did NOT have BC (Before Christ). Every one of them is a game changer, because it is a people changer. And each of which is a divine miracle. And none of which a person can pull off simply be having their sins forgiven.

After listing 50 I decided to cut it off. [2]

  1. Union with Christ
  2. Transformed inner person, emotions, will, cognitive processes, motivations
  3. The Spirit illuminates us when we study the Bible
  4. We can now choose righteousness; we sure couldn’t before the new birth!
  5. Born again – it’s not just an experience of forgiveness; “born” implies “live a new life”
  6. Marriages that are patterned after Christ
  7. Adopted by God
  8. Co-heir with Christ
  9. Daily forgiveness of sins
  10. Know God’s will
  11. Eternal Inheritance
  12. Sealed by the Spirit
  13. Divine Wisdom
  14. Knowledge of God
  15. Alive with Jesus
  16. Dead to sin
  17. We know God’s love
  18. We are enabled to love him
  19. Divine power
  20. Sit together in heavenly places in Jesus
  21. Know God’s good plan
  22. Our works prepared beforehand by God
  23. Union with other believers
  24. Citizens of heaven
  25. Members of God’s household
  26. Full access to God through Jesus
  27. Spiritual gifts
  28. Baptized by the Spirit into one Body
  29. New brothers and sisters in a family more real than the flesh-and-blood one
  30. Fulness of the Spirit
  31. God loans us his own armor
  32. We can have victory in spiritual battle
  33. Predestined to glory
  34. Sanctified by divine grace, not human effort
  35. God’s guidance
  36. Never left nor forsaken
  37. Ability not to sin
  38. Peace with God
  39. Can do all things through Christ
  40. Have a pact established by God, the New Covenant
  41. Blessings even in trials
  42. God hears our prayers
  43. Financial blessings
  44. Future resurrection
  45. Riches of God’s grace
  46. Blessed hope of Christ’s coming9
  47. Peace of God that transcends all understanding
  48. Ability to resist the devil, he will run away from us
  49. The Holy Spirit prays for us
  50. God works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Charles Spurgeon had a deep appreciation for God’s forgiveness, and even he said, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.”

“I’m only a sinner saved by grace” is a catchy slogan, but hardly the message we get from the New Testament. A better chorus might go: “I WAS only a sinner, then I WAS saved by grace, and man, did thing take off from there!!”

NOTES:

[1] The interpretation that Romans 7 is a description of the normal Christian life is from the context, I have argued, mistaken. See my entire article HERE. I also highly recommend Reformed scholar John Murray’s book Redemption: accomplished and applied or his shorter article on “Definitive Sanctification“.

[2] Here is another list I found online.

‘Really?? I’m “ONLY a sinner saved by grace?”‘ by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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