Man’s Miserable Condition
The Scriptures teach the universality of man’s sinfulness: all have sinned (Romans 3:23). We are more than guilty, we are enemies of God according to Romans 5:10.
In the light of God’s law, we all stand in orange jumpsuits. Guilty criminals.
It is an act of God’s grace that we are able to hear and believe what the Bible says about our sinful nature. We need His grace in order to rightly hear and receive His Word.
Would you lay down your life for an enemy? Perhaps for a decent man, or even a good man — but a lawless man, who would suffer in his stead?
Romans 5:6-10 speaks of some daring to die for a righteous man, maybe a good man — but Jesus Christ comes to demonstrate His grace towards sinners, even enemies!
George Washington and Peter Miller
There is a story of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution named Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania — a friend of Washington, and beloved by the town. There also lived Michael Wittman, a man known for hating and harassing the pastor.
One day Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. In response, Peter Miller traveled 60 miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.
“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”
“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”
“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked 60 miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.”
Pastor Miller took the pardon and then hustled another 15 miles to the execution location. Wittman was being escorted on the scaffolding for the noose and saw the pastor.
Wittman sees the pastor approaching in shame, but Miller passes through the crowd and hands him the pardon, freeing him from the death penalty. Wittman and the pastor walked back as friends, and remained lifelong friends.
The Gospel for the Guilty
That is the testimony of God’s grace to us death-deserving sinners, but God desired to pardon sinners by His grace in salvation. Our pardon was purchased by Christ’s payment.
Romans 3:23-24, ESV, says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ purchased pardon is for all who would receive Him. Only the sovereign love of Christ can melt the hardest rebel heart.
Do you realize your guilt, your sinfulness? One look at the Law of God will reveal that you, too, deserve God’s sentence.
God commands all men everywhere to repent: to see themselves as wretches on the scaffolding, deserving God’s judgment, and to confess Christ — to turn and receive the pardon purchased by faith, and to walk with the Lord all your days in humility and obedience. There is no better news preached than the gospel of free grace.
What fool would Wittman be to reject a free pardon? What fools would we be?
In the gospel, God is glorified in His rescue of rebels. May the Lamb receive the reward for His suffering.