SACRAMENTS AND SALVATION
He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Romans 4:11
Have you ever noticed that pride is insidious? Take someone who is insecure. What looks like weakness of character is really pride in disguise. Someone declares themselves to be unacceptable and outside of God’s declaration of love. Take someone who can’t forgive themselves for something they’ve done. Even that can be rooted in pride. God says that His blood washes away all sin yet, with veiled arrogance, they believe they are the exception and refuse His grace.
Pride kills the beautiful essence of the Gospel. God’s extravagant grace toward sinners is diluted by pride as I try to believe that my salvation couldn’t be all about what Jesus did and nothing about what I did. Does my family’s spiritual history and stature mean nothing? Does my baptism give me no edge? Doesn’t my church history contribute, even a little, to my qualifications for faith?
A Jew who trusts in Jesus is not saved because he is a Jew. He is saved the same way a Gentile is saved; through faith in Christ. A longstanding Baptist or Methodist is saved the way a hardened sinner living on the streets is saved. Each of us brings nothing to the table except our declared sinfulness and understanding of being under God’s wrath. We put all our faith in Christ, the Wrath-bearer, the One who paid the penalty for us.
The Roman church was confused about Paul’s teaching that a person is only saved by faith alone; that their Jewish-ness had absolutely nothing to do with it. They tried to prove their point by drawing attention to Abraham’s circumcision. But there was a hole in their argument. Abraham was declared righteous (saved) by faith in Genesis 15. God did not tell him to be circumcised until Genesis 17, fourteen years later. It was critical for Jews to understand that circumcision was only a sign that Abraham had been set apart, a seal others could point to that would show that he was different.
My baptism is a sign, a seal, for my world as well. It identifies me as being one with Jesus. The sacraments are signs that point to faith, they don’t replace it or add to it. They point backward to that moment when, by faith, I came empty-handed to the foot of the cross.
The next time I ‘do anything holy’ and momentarily feel puffed up, I take the Word and smash my pride against the rocks.
I just keep trying to make myself feel better about me. But anything good that I do, any good that is in me, You birthed and enabled. Exposed pride and self-centeredness. Amen