Standing Firm in the Gospel AloneBy Elyse Fitzpatrick
April 4, 2020
It’s my perspective that you really can’t stand firm as a Christian unless you are standing firm in the gospel—the incarnation, the sinless life, the substitutionary death, the bodily resurrection, ascension, and reign of Jesus Christ. There are all sorts of things that people might encourage you to stand in, but I believe that Scripture is clear that the only place we can stand with any sort of assurance is in the gospel. That’s the only firm ground we have.
So, what does it mean to stand firm in the gospel? It means that you agree with Jesus about your need to be born again. We were dead—completely unable to do anything that would earn acceptance or merit from God (Ephesians 2:1-5). We couldn’t see or enter God’s kingdom without the Spirit’s work (John 3).
Something had to happen to us. We needed God to do something for us—we needed to be justified. Now, justification is not merely forgiveness of sins, though this forgiveness is very good news. But that forgiveness is just half of our message. Not only do we have forgiveness, but we have every single righteous act of obedience that Jesus Christ ever committed credited to our account. When God looks at us, he not only doesn’t see your sin, he also sees the perfect obedience of Jesus. That is what it means to be justified.
Our Need for Christ
So, in order to stand in the gospel, we have to agree with Jesus that we need his Spirit to call, transform, equip, and guide us. We need Jesus’s perfect obedience, ability, faith and love because apart from Him we can do nothing.
When Jesus was incarnate, He was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. But He didn’t use His deity simply to make life easier for Himself, because then He couldn’t have lived in our place. He experienced life as a human.
In the fullness of time, Jesus left heaven to become a man. And His whole life was one of suffering. He existed in joy and light and perfect fellowship with His father throughout all eternity and He left all of that to take up humanity. Then, He spent His whole life loving people, serving, training his disciples, etc.
When He reached the end of his life and He already knew what was going to happen. He, in the Garden of Gethsemane asked his best friends to pray with Him, because “My soul is crushed to the point of death.” He didn’t feel that way because He was afraid that He was going to get beaten, but because He knew that the wrath of His Father was coming toward Him. And He submitted to the Father’s will anyway.
Christ was delivered up for your selfishness, for your unbelief, and for your idolatry. He was delivered up to be crucified and He was raised, so that there would be no wrath left for us. So, Christ was raised, and He ascended—still in bodily form. He’s going to look like you and forever, and when we get to heaven, we will know it’s Jesus, because He’ll be the only one there bearing the scars He took for us. And a day is coming when our bodies will also be raised as glorious, unbroken bodies.
Our Identity in Christ
These things are true for us, but our faith is smaller than a mustard seed. Now, I want you to think about this parable a little bit, because I’ve heard lots of people say you just need a little “mustard seed” faith. But when was the last time you spoke and a mountain moved? Ever?
Here’s the problem: you don’t even have faith as big as a mustard seed. But that’s the point—Jesus had perfect faith for you, in your place. So, it’s not about the power of your faith or how big it is. Instead, you’re transferring your trust from yourself and your own faith to him—to the one who had perfect faith in your place.
That’s why we need Christ’s incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, reign, and return. It’s the only thing we have on which to stand. The only kind of good that’s worth anything is faith working through love in Christ Jesus. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything. Neither religion nor irreligion, neither being a Baptist nor Presbyterian, neither being a pastor or ministry leader, nor anything else. It all counts for nothing. We are only justified by faith, working through love.
Our success or failure on this earth has nothing to do with the Lord’s pleasure in us. What your life be like if you actually lived out of that truth? You have been declared completely forgiven and completely righteous. The most important thing about you is you’re justified.
Your identity is in Christ. You don’t need to worry about what people think about you. You don’t need to try to build your reputation. You don’t need to try to get stuff and bring it to yourself. You don’t need to prove your own skills, power, ability, or rightness. You don’t need to justify yourself. Jesus did that for you already. Everything you need has already been given to you in Christ Jesus. What would your life be like if you actually believed you had nothing left to prove?
Your future is secured here and your resurrection body in the new heavens and new earth will be yours to enjoy forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words. We’re going to be with Jesus forever. It is finished.
Elyse Fitzpatrick holds a certificate in biblical counseling from CCEF (San Diego) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 23 books on daily living and the Christian life. A frequent speaker at women’s conferences, she has been married for over 40 years and has three adult children and six really adorable grandchildren.