By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist
I write and preach a lot about grace. More than a few reasons lie behind that fact. The most obvious is that I need a lot of grace myself. But the next is also true: God’s grace is so amazing that nothing else is worthy of our focus.
The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans seems to agree. Upon pain of beatings, shipwrecks, trials of all sorts, and eventually death, he thought preaching the gospel of God’s grace the only thing worth preaching.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” the apostle writes. Why? Because it is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile” (1:16)—which pretty well covers us all.
I recently preached on this very passage. That Sunday morning as I was feverishly entering sermon points for the video screen, I caught myself keying in (sorry about this, but I’m just reporting here), “first for the Jew and then for the Genitle.” I’m glad I caught that typo. If I’d been in the congregation when a preacher shot that up on a big screen, space shuttle astronauts in flight would have easily heard my cackles bursting forth from Texas.
Back to the point.
The apostle goes on to write, “In the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (1:17).
I’m not sure we realize what a new and unique thing, what a radical departure from “business as usual,” this righteousness “from God” was and is. If the Apostle Paul, and Jesus himself, had taught the usual “do it yourself” salvation (“salvation” meaning the “way to be right with God”), they would not have been put to death. “Do it yourself” salvation was and is what everyone else already believed and taught anyway. Two voices saying the same old thing would have rocked no boats.
At heart, all other world religions (and most perversions of Christianity) are all about, “Here’s what YOU must do” to be saved. That’s bad news because we can never do enough or be “right” enough. The gospel is good news precisely because it says, “Here is what GOD has done through His Son. Trust Him.”
Long before Jesus told the story of The Prodigal Son (and still today), all the world, religious and irreligious, employed one of the two methods of those two sons (check out Luke 15:11-32). They either said, “The Father’s laws don’t matter, and I’ll do whatever I please,” or they became very “religious” and lied to themselves and others about how they kept all the laws and were really fine folks who could look down on everyone else.
Both sons, and both approaches, simply serve self. Nothing new there.
But the gospel is a completely new and different thing. It is righteousness “from God.” The real thing. The most expensive gift of all, bought by God’s Son and freely given “to all who believe.” Radical grace. Amazing grace. From God. Accepting it should lead us to joyfully praise
God with our lives both now and for all eternity.
The gift of grace. It’s that amazing.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at