I want to introduce you to my friend Matthew, or Mateo if you are walking through his village, Chimborazo, located in the beautiful mountains of Jinotega, Nicaragua. My dad and I recently got to spend four days in Matthew’s living room, walking him through scripture and drinking mountain fresh coffee brewed by his wife Julia over an open flame.
It was only by providence that I met Matthew a few months ago, and with a few thousand people enlisted to pray for him, I knew God was about to do something great. Our team came to Matthew’s village not knowing what religious background was present. We soon found out that Matthew was a deacon at the Church of God Church up the road. After some digging, we realized that Matthew’s faith was not at all in the finished work of Jesus, but in his constant performance and obedience. Matthew was trusting in the law and needed to see the beauty of grace.
Matthew believed he was supposed to try to find his salvation through keeping the laws and commands of God. If he obeyed the rules, God would love him, if he broke the commandments, God’s wrath would sweep him away. For Matthew, salvation was about doing, and he was trying hard to do enough.
The third day with Matthew I got the chance to walk him through Galatians. Using this New Testament letter, I got to show Matthew that Paul was broken over the Galatians because they had turned to “another gospel.” They had believed in Jesus for salvation, but after receiving salvation by faith, they started relying on works of the law to keep their salvation. They began to see their relationship with God as Jesus + circumcision + law. And of course, that is not the gospel.
Paul, through this letter, protested and made it clear that salvation is Jesus + nothing. To quote Paul, “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16) and “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (2:21).”
It was through Galatians that God opened Matthew’s eyes to see that salvation is through grace alone, not law. If you try to earn salvation through the law, you will fail because no one can keep the law. Therefore the good news of Jesus is that He kept the law for us, forgiving our sins and giving us his righteousness as a gift.
We then flipped to Philippians 3 and read how Paul once thought salvation was about keeping the law. However, after meeting Jesus, Paul concluded that all his law keeping was rubbish compared to being found in Jesus and having His righteousness rather than his own. So Paul repented of trying and trusted in Christ completely. So we left Matthew that afternoon, thinking through grace and promising to come back tomorrow.
Then tomorrow came. I opened the conversation up by asking Matthew if he was any closer to “finding salvation.” That was how he described his faith the first time we meet. Then with a giant smile on his faith, Matthew told us that he had found it, not through trying harder, but through trusting Christ completely.
Matthew said after we left he told his wife that he now understood grace, and that salvation was not about his works but about the finished work of Jesus. And that night he turned from trusting in himself to trusting in Jesus alone. And in doing so, he found salvation, total forgiveness of his sins and new righteousness gifted to him from Jesus.
I then asked Matthew, “How do you feel now?” His reply, “I feel like I have been born again!”