8th July 2018

Rust and Righteousness 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;”
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (ESV)
 

Have you ever heard the saying, “Rust never sleeps”? It’s a maxim used by bosses to help motivate employees, or quoted by entrepreneurs to characterise the work ethic required to start a business. It speaks to the amount of effort required effectively to work against the steady forces of chaos and entropy in the world around us. But strangely, this saying also reminds me of Martin Luther.

At the beginning of his career as a professor of biblical studies at Wittenberg University, Luther very much saw the Christian life as a fight against spiritual ‘rust’. He had been taught that a definite human effort was required to place God under an obligation to reward the sinner with grace. So if his spiritual life was a shining silver dish, it was up to him to keep it from tarnishing or rusting, in order to earn God’s grace.

As you might imagine, however, this left him exhausted and deeply aware of his own unworthiness. In the same way that you can never actually stop rust for good, Luther began to realise that he could never out-work the depth of his own sin. This realisation led him to the all-important question at the end of any works-based religious approach: what happens if nothing I do can possibly get me any closer to my eternal salvation? 

The answer to this question radically changed Luther’s views, and led to his nailing his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, an act that started the Reformation. And that answer is beautifully worded by Paul in this verse:For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The simple, beautiful truth of grace is that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our ‘rust’. He sees only Christ, the very righteousness of God. And that righteousness, the same that becomes ours in relationship with the Triune God, never rusts. It is unaffected by time or decay, and unaffected by our own moral and personal failures. And while rust might never sleep, it also doesn’t last forever. In Christ, we are promised an eternal future in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust destroys” (Matthew 6:20). That is the future Christ invites us freely into, and just like Luther, it’s one that I can’t wait to see!

Prayer
Almighty Father, your ‘blueprint’ for salvation is so simple, straightforward and unchanging. Help us to appreciate what has been done for us more and more day by day. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen
 

Study by Greg Williams

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About the Author:
Greg Williams is Vice President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in North Carolina, USA.

Local Congregation:
You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.church under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

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