What does this mean for you? It means that what the Church has always taught since its earliest days, as recorded in Scripture, is to be believed. In this case, believe and know that you cannot save yourself by your own power. That first heresy, that we are saved by circumcision and by keeping the 613 commandments, suggests that we have the power to save ourselves without God’s help--that we can pull ourselves up to Heaven by our own bootstraps. It teaches that the flesh is strong enough to obey perfectly the Law by its own power (Romans 8:3, Acts 15:10). A few centuries later, this same idea would reappear in another form from
Today we can speak of the heresies of the Judaizers and of the Pelagians with ease. But, think of what it meant for people back then to hear such teaching. What if Christ had come only to be the example of perfection? Would not we be without hope? We should all know about the problem of sin and death. Death is the flip side, and part of the problem, of sin; sin and death are two sides of one coin. One thing I do not need is a perfect example to make the sting of my condemnation worse. I need a Savior, both to rescue me from the reality of guilt (whether I have the good sense to feel guilt, or not), and to heal my fallen soul of its waywardness. Jesus the Good Example cannot save me; Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the Lord and Savior Who is One with the Father, forever God even as He takes into His own Person our human nature and redeems it, and by grace perfects it, can and does save me. And, no one else can; certainly I cannot save myself. In Christ, however, no longer am I bound for destruction, for an eternity of death without God. Rather, forgiveness is extended, along with grace and power by the Holy Spirit to be transformed, right up until that day when we are made partakers of the Divine Nature (II Pet. 1:4) because the One Who as God was made man, gives us even this very grace.