Every season, the three teams that finish last in the Barclays Premier League get relegated to the Championship, meaning they lose their place in the top twenty teams of the BPL. This makes for a really intense football season, because even the best teams can quickly drop into the relegation zone. The danger is real, making the football season a fight for survival for some of the lower teams. Those slots can be filled with teams from lower divisions, but a team has to fight to earn a place in the elite twenty BPL teams. This system makes for some great football. But it’s a horrible system for theology.
The beauty of the Gospel is that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We don’t have to earn our place in God’s kingdom; we are brought in by the gracious gift of God in Christ Jesus. Good works are the fruit of God’s work in the believer’s life, not the believer’s admission ticket into God’s good graces.
Furthermore, the believer can’t lose his or her salvation. As Paul wrote in Romans 8,
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This entire chapter proclaims the glory of God’s salvation, speaking of the believer’s place as an adopted child of God whose glorification is as good as done (note the past tense verbs in Romans 8:30).
I love learning more about football. I’ve never had a huge interest in sports, so the BPL is my first real reason to venture into the ESPN realm. And now that Leicester City won the league (go foxes!), I’m even more excited to learn the game. But I’m so very glad that God doesn’t play by these rules.
The glorious truth in this is that we don’t have to worry about our place before God. We walk in love because we have been loved, not in order to earn love. And we rest in God’s love, confident “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).