In preaching an exposition on Romans 1, Ravi Zacharias says this:
“Paul wastes no time in getting to the heart of the matter and reminding the Christians in Rome that until they understand the heart of man they will never understand the justification by faith.”
The “heart of man” (a.k.a. the heart of humanity) is, of course, as paradoxically opposite as we could imagine to the holy heart of God.
I want to personalise this. I am by human nature a depraved and harmful man, and, if not by the grace of God that justifies by faith, I am marooned in my sin. My case, without Christ, is hopeless. (These commas, creating conditionality in my sentence construction, are highly intentional.) I am poleaxed by my sin any time I regard it or life without God. It is the most amazing wonder, however, to grasp this knowledge; with full knowledge of the resident putridness of my heart I can, all the more, love and more fully appreciate this justification by faith, though I will never fully appreciate it.
The poorer of spirit I am, the closer I am to the kingdom of God.
But this is not just about me. All humanity sits poised to be blessed in doing nothing but by believing in the Lord Jesus, and accepting salvation through their ongoing commitment to faith and upon repentance from their sins.
Holding Two Great Knowledges At One Time
The most important knowledge of all consists of two paradoxical truths, held aloft together:
1. The goodness and greatness of God: the facts and depths of love in God’s grace, together with the incomprehensible holiness and glory of God, and
2. The rottenness and contempt of humankind against God.
We have gone the wrong way since almost the dawn of time, and, even though we are saved (assuming the reader is saved!), we still do wrong, again and again. If anyone could be pious, surely it would have been the apostle Paul. As the first true evangelist, and arguably the most famous Christian figure in history other than Christ, surely he would have gone close to attaining perfection. Yet, as we see in Romans chapter 7, Paul has no control over some of the things he does and doesn’t do. What an encouragement that is!
The more we centre our minds on the fact of our sinfulness, together with the unparalleled fact of God’s holiness, the more we realise the unfathomable mystery of God’s grace by faith. We can add nothing. Indeed, by adding we could only detract. Jesus has done everything.
Reflecting on our brokenness, that we are sinful through and through, is not depressing; the more we understand how rotten our hearts are, the more we are flummoxed by this infinitely profound amazing grace of God. This is the most important knowledge of all: those who deserved death have been given life in Jesus’ name.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.