The Gospel in Job

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

– Job 19:25–27 (NIV)

This has always been one of my favourite passages in the Bible. George Friedrich Handel made verse 25 into a beautiful air, as part of the Messiah oratorio, and I feel that, by itself, this these verses stands as a complete summary of salvation itself.

On the surface, the story of Job is a tragedy. We read in Job chapter 1 about a prosperous man who was faithful to God, and who was made – without his knowledge – the subject of a terrible test. Satan was permitted by God to take Job’s wealth, his children and his health, to see whether the loss of all these blessings would make Job abandon his faith in God.

We read in Job 1:8 that God said of Job that “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. Imagine being the sort of person about whom God Himself would say such a thing! It reminds me of David being called by God “A man after my own heart” (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).

What was it that made Job ‘blameless’ before God? It can’t have been simply because he never sinned. Romans 3:23 assures us that all have sinned. I believe that Job was considered blameless because of his faith on his Redeemer. He knew that he needed a Redeemer, and that his Redeemer lived (Job 19:25). Nothing can make us blameless and save us but our Redeemer and His blood.

But as well as understanding redemption and forgiveness, Job had a clear vision of the ultimate objective of salvation. In verses 26 and 27 of Job 19, he goes on to assert that even after his “skin is destroyed”, he would see God, in his own flesh and with his own eyes.

This clear reference to the resurrection is a testament to Job’s understanding of the entire plan of salvation, from start to finish. God’s redemption doesn’t just stop at forgiveness, but continues every day of lives to restore us to the perfection that He intended for all human beings at creation.

Centuries later, Paul expressed this same awesome, cosmic truth in 1 Corinthians 15:50-55 (also quoted in Handel’s Messiah):

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The gospel of forgiveness and restoration through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a coherent and consistent theme throughout the Bible. It was understood by the early patriarchs as well as by first century apostles. It must be understood and preached in its entirety by God’s followers today.

Precious, Costly Grace

Cross at Sunset

Grace is a central theme in Christianity. God’s gift of salvation to human beings who do not deserve it, through the death of Jesus, is the essence of the gospel – the message that Christians are commanded to take to the world.

The definition for the word “grace” that we usually find in the dictionary is something along the lines of ‘a favour or gift that we do not deserve’, but in Romans, Paul goes further then this. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This means that God’s grace is not only a gift of salvation that we did not earn, but that it was offered to us before we even asked for it, or knew we needed it!

In texts like Romans 5:15 we read:

But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

I added the emphasis there – Paul makes it clear here (and elsewhere) that grace is a gift, and requires no repayment or action on our part, apart from simple acceptance. We don’t earn it – we never did.

Grace is free.

This is one of the great truths of Christianity.

But here’s the kicker – for every truth of the gospel, Satan has a subtle, plausible lie. The lie that the Adversary tries to substitute is this: “grace is cheap“.

Not “free”… cheap.

What does “cheap grace” mean. In his wonderful book The Cost of Discipleship, the great wartime theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this:

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. “All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners “even in the best life” as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin.

— Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1966

Cheap grace means portraying active faith as if it were righteousness by works. It means a form of grace that doesn’t require any commitment on our part. It means grace that leaves us unchanged.

Bonhoeffer goes goes so far as to say that “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.”

True grace — God’s grace — is costly. It’s the precious pearl of great price or the treasure in the field for which we would sell all that we have. It is offered to us freely, but it cost the life of our Saviour. How could this grace not change us?

When we accept the God’s grace into our lives, it transforms every part of us, including our outward behaviour. Anything else is a cheap copy.