It’s a common theme throughout Scripture, both Old Testament and New. Paul’s writings are filled with the fragrance of it. It’s a key theme in the book of Romans, and I think that’s where I am headed next. While the brief glance at the Old Testament sacrifices was beautiful in one way, the New Testament holds a precious—and I argue the most important—piece of of the puzzle when it comes to knowing what the Bible has to say about grace.
Economy is the word choice I believe fits for several reasons. The World English Dictionary defines it as “the orderly interplay between the parts of a system or structure: the economy of nature.” I think it works well because there are several parts of the whole interacting in very specific order. Whether that is predictable or not, will mainly be put off to other posts, or else this couldn’t be contained in this limited space. At this point, it’s fair to say there is a recognizable structure. I think you’ll see what I mean.
It all begins in the New Testament book of Romans for me tonight.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:21-22a NIV
This is such an important part of the “orderly interplay” in these two verses. If I defined each word, if I looked at each phrase one at a time, and if I just let these two verses wash over my synapses for a while—I’d be filled (Psalm 63:5). God has provided righteousness, right standing with him. It is from him and has nothing to do with any normal human intervention or accomplishment. He revealed it clearly through his Law and the Prophets. The Old Testament recounts thousands of examples of the need for righteousness, the duty of fulfilling the Law through sacrifice, and prophecies of the coming Christ who was the fulfillment of the Law as the final pleasing sacrifice. And, he offered his righteousness in one specific, conditional way: right standing before the holy, perfect God “comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
In Christ alone.
To all who believe.
God rooted the great exchange of his righteousness to us in faith and belief. Simply put, this is the stuff that makes a thinker’s brain begin to let off a little heat (and smoke, if it isn’t settled reasonably quick). It isn’t in who I am (my goodness) or what I do (my accomplishments). It’s in faith (my trust) in Christ and my belief. (This last little sentence is a whole entry alone!)
If I keep reading I can see my need more clearly:
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22b-24
The playing field is level. We’ve all missed perfection, and not by a little bit. In comparison to a holy, perfect God, no one is able to stand (Romans 3:10). One theme throughout Scripture that cannot be ignored is the simple fact that one single offense is enough, though ours are innumerable; when imperfection stands before perfection, there is no contest. God’s holiness means we can’t stand before him; the payment for our offenses is clear (Romans 6:23). Old Testament Law prescribed sacrifice to settle the “sin debt” between the people and God.
We have Jesus.
But why, God?
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26
Perfectly just and perfectly loving. There was a time of loving, gracious forbearance, and then there was perfect justice. The most loving part was that he would be the One who judges and justifies! I’ve heard it said dozens of times in nearly 20 years: it’s as if the judge has given the verdict and stated the penalty for the defendant’s crime, then leaves the bench to pay the fine from his own bank account. This approaches the idea, but can you really compare that to Golgotha on Good Friday?
Faith in what? In Jesus’ blood. I’m trusting—as badly as I have behaved, as many times as I have blatantly chosen to break the law or be selfish or spiteful—I’m trusting that Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday was enough. But, as wrong as I’ve been (and probably will be in the future), he would do that for li’l old me?
That’s where the Grace Economy is counterintuitive beyond what we can wrap our minds around.
There’s so much more to this; I’m sure I haven’t done it justice. I’d love to hear your thoughts, of course. If you’ve read this far, I’m thankful for your kindness.