Below is an adapted version of Rod Rosenbladt’s article, “Christ Died for the Sins of Christians, Too,” where he discusses the need to emphasize the “alien” character of the gospel—the fact that the message about Jesus is primarily something outside of us, rahter than inside of us. There is an “inside” work of God, but it is fully dependent on the “outside” work of the cross. In other words, the gospel is primarily declaration, and only secondarily transformation/renovation. Read the full article here.
This “alien” nature of the gospel is a primary theme in the New Testament: Christ’s death was outside of me and for me. It is not primarily something that changes me. After one has been declared righteous by grace through faith, this grace will begin to change us (sanctification). Nevertheless, its changing us is certainly not what justifies us. In Roman Catholicism, and in some forms of American Evangelicalism (like John Wesley’s work), however, the accent falls on actual moral transformation. In other words, what makes us acceptable to God is not his external declarationof justification, but hisinternal work of renovation within our hearts and lives…
The bellwether test as to where a person stands on this issue is what he or she does with Romans 7, particularly passages such as, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (vv. 19, 24). Often, those who are not grounded in the Reformation say that this was Paul’s experience before he met the Lord. Those of us from a Reformation perspective, however, would probably say there is no better description of the Christian life in the entire Bible than Romans 7. The reformers really believed that the Christian life was a matter of being simul iustus et peccator-simultaneously justified and sinful-and that we would remain in this tension until death.
Any righteousness that we have, even in the Christian life, is a gift to us. It is not the result of our obedience, of our claiming God’s promises, of our “victorious Christian living,” or of our “letting go and letting God”… Instead, there must be a clear and unqualified pronouncement of the assurance of salvation on the basis of the fullness of the atonement of Christ.