Judgment, Grace, & Religion on Good Friday & Easter

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr of World War II, reflected on God’s grace and judgment in a sermon in 1928 as Easter and Good Friday approached,

Good Friday and Easter–the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgment and grace were revealed to all the world–are just around the corner. Judgment in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross; grace in the hour in which death was swallowed up in victory. It was not human beings who accomplished anything here; no, God alone did it. He came to human beings in infinite love. He judged what is human. And he granted grace beyond any merit. [Meditations on the Cross, 20]

John Stott explains how what God accomplished at the cross by judgment and grace is different than what any other religion offers because it is no religion at all:

No other system, ideology or religion proclaims a free forgiveness and a new life to those who have done nothing to deserve it but a lot to deserve judgment instead. On the contrary, all other systems teach some form of self-salvation through good works of religion, righteousness or philanthropy. Christianity, by contrast, is not in its essence a religion at all; it is a gospel, the gospel, good news that God’s grace has turned away his wrath, that God’s Son has died our death and borne our judgment, that God has mercy on the undeserving, and that there is nothing left for us to do, or even contribute. Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.” [The Message of Romans, 118]

Religion itself has been crucified at the cross. The only thing human beings accomplished on Good Friday was demonstrating their own wickedness, while God accomplished the salvation of every wicked person who would simply receive his resurrected Son.

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