Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Law of Faith

Title: The Law of Faith

Text: Romans 3.27-31

Introduction: We’ll be in Romans 3.27-31 this morning. We’ll also go to Zechariah 14 at some point. You’re your bulletin or something you can use as a bookmark and identify Zechariah 14.

This morning we come to a concluding statement by Paul. We’re in Romans 3.27-31; Paul presents this part of his letter with rapid-fire questions and answers. It is a popular style and makes it easy for him to answer questions he has probably heard before and can even hear being asked by the reader as they read his letter.

My guess is that this diatribe is with an imaginary Jew. Probably, an imaginary Jewish Leader. I sense from Paul, that he believes this person has a problem with Pride.

I read this week that Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. Attributed to Buddy Robinson.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. He says he’s talking about Pride, in his chapter on Pride.

As we turn our attention to our text this morning, I want you to note how the diatribe is broken up by 4 sets of questions. My sermon has three points, but the text has 4 separate sections. I’ve combined the 1st two into one point. Here’s how I see it broken down:

  • 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
  • By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
  • 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

So Paul is saying The Law of Faith means:

  1. Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do.
  2. There is One God who has done all that he has done for all people: Jews and Gentiles.
  3. The Law of God is not nullified, but rather validated and upheld.

The Law of Faith means

I.     Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do (27-28)

exp.: rd 27a; οὖν; This word is often translated: therefore. Therefore ties the previous passage to this one. The previous passage is 3.21-26; It deals with the righteous work of God through Christ making us righteous – taking away our sin. According to this passage in 3.21-26, we’re all sinners. There was nothing we could do to make ourselves righteous. We were all in a state of sinfulness and fallen from God’s glory. But, in Christ, we are now made righteous, we’re now justified by his grace as a gift freely given to us. This is through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus whom God purposed and planned to be a sacrifice for our sins. His death paid our penalty for us.

Therefore, there is no place for boasting. There is no place for pride. Paul writes in 27a; It is excluded. This is a compound word combining the preposition out or outside with the word meaning to shut. Where is the boasting? It has been shut out! Paul continues in v 27b: How so? By a law of works? There is a question of whether this means the ‘Law of Moses’ or works as a principle (i.e., doing good works). I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t think it matters because it is the same result either way. Put both possibilities up there and the answer is still NO! But by a law of faith! And then he explains in v 28; 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

You see, there isn’t anything to boast about because you didn’t do anything. God did all the work in your salvation.

ill.: there is a story about a theologian who was being pushed to defend his doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The question: What part did you play in your salvation? He replied: I played no part. The theologian was pressed again: But what did you do? Reply: I did nothing. So the man pushed: You mean to tell me that you did absolutely nothing in the process of being saved. The theologian thought about it and answered: I did all the running.

app.: there are no works for you to do – God has done all the work necessary. He could boast – but that isn’t is style. When he speaks he’s just stating the facts; He’s not boasting. You (and I, on the other hand) really can’t say anything in a prideful way about our salvation because (you and I) really can’t do anything to earn our salvation. The most we can say about work, is that we were running from God. And God pursued us.

Think about this: you can’t boast in faith, because faith is basically receptive. Faith looks to another for help.

Ill.: Consider people in Scripture who through faith received help, rescue, intercession, etc. from God.

  1. The Woman at the Well: She didn’t run into town and say, hey! Look at me! Look what I did! She said: Come and meet a man who…told me everything I ever did. The people said: we believe, not because the woman said, but because we’ve seen this for ourselves. He’s the savior of the world!
  2. The man born blind from birth: Jesus healed him and the religious leaders didn’t like it. They kept pestering the man for an answer. He was like, “listen, all I really know is that I was blind and now, because of what he did, I see.” They didn’t like that, so they pestered him more. The man really upset them when he asked: do you want to become a follow of him, too!
  3. The Woman healed of her disease that had kept her bleeding for 12 years. She had basically given up on everything, after spending all of her money on doctors. She didn’t brag about how she was able to brave the crowd and reach out to touch the hem of his coat. I was brave. Oh, the people, they were fighting me off, but one by one I knocked them out of the way and that is what made me whole again! She knew it was Jesus who had the power.
  4. The Gadarene Demoniac; I love the way this guy just wanted to be with Jesus. He was so thankful for all that Jesus has done for him.

That’s four quick examples. We could probably spend the rest of the morning looking at examples of those who had faith in Christ and then Christ delivered them – he met them at the point of their need.

App.: Faith doesn’t pour itself out on itself. Faith is focused on another – the one who has helped or saved or redeemed.

t.s.: These 1st two questions are closely related to each other and pertain to us. They pertain to us in a negative way: our boasting has been nullified and our work has been nullified, too, because you can’t be justified or made righteous by your good works. The answers are simply put in the negative form: No!

Now we turn to God and the answers get positive.

The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. Next, the Law of Faith declares

II.    God is One and He is the Father of all. (29-30)

exp.: Where the first three questions go together, I think Paul is making a new argument here. I don’t think he’s building upon his previous argument. I say this because he uses the word “Or”. This is another argument in support of justification by faith; rd v29; See, here the positive answer: Yes, of the Gentiles also. And then, Paul says; rd 30a;

Now, what does he mean? Where is he coming from? It’s possible that Paul is coming from Zechariah 14. Specifically, v 9; Rd Zech 14.4-9;

Consider this: the context of Zechariah is a future day. If that is the case, then Paul is doing more than just saying Jews and Gentiles can now be saved. He’s making a specific remark about Salvation History. Consider this also: salvation is today. But, it is also a day in the future. You are saved on the day you commit your life to Christ. You are being saved today. And, there will come a day on that great day of the Lord when you will be saved. Are you following me? We are saved today, if we’ve committed our lives to Christ. But, there is coming a day, a final day, when salvation will be realized. On that Great Day of the Lord, Jews and Gentiles will be gathered into the New Jerusalem. There will be no need for a sun to light the City because the Glory of God will light that place. God will rule and reign in that place over all people.

But there is another verse that Paul might be referencing here. It might be that Paul is being super simple here. If you think about it, you’ll realize that the Jews would get this reference right away. Did you? Where have you seen this statement before? That’s right. The Shema; Deuteronomy 6.4: Hear O’ Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles;

To be fair, many Jews understood that God is the One true God. He is the Creator of All, and the Ruler of All, and is judge of all. But, on the other hand, they saw themselves as distinct and would reject the idea of Gentiles being on their same level. They had the court of Gentiles on the outside of the Temple. Sure, there were some Gentiles who followed God, but they were never on the same level as Jews.

The Lord is not divided. Rd all of 30; This is to affirm 3.22; all are sinners (3.21) and all are justified…

I want you to note the difference in words about faith used by Paul in v 30: who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Really, I couldn’t find anything with any solid explanation. Augustine argued some 1600 plus years ago that Paul was simply being rhetorical and stylistic. And most scholars agree with him. Paul’s writing style demonstrates for us what an intelligent and brilliant communicator Paul was. He was putting the Gentiles on the same playing field as the Jews.

ill.: To say that God is the One true God and Father of all is really being super intolerant today, just like it would have been to all of those Romans who believed in a polytheistic religion. Our postmodern world says that there are many ways to this one God and we’re all just trying to get to the same place through different paths. When you and I say that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and his name is the only name by which we must be saved, you and I are considered bigots, narrow-minded and archaic.

Appeal: if you’re sitting here this morning, or listening by way of the Internet, and you’ve never known what it means to be truly forgiven – you can today. That’s been Paul’s message: Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. You see, we’re all sinners. I’m not picking on you by calling you a sinner. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, you can have those sins forgiven through placing your faith in Christ today.

Here’s another point: this takes great humility. You can’t be proud and come to Christ. Some folks struggle with the idea of sin and a holy God because they’re prideful. That’s probably how Satan keeps people from coming to faith – it’s their pride. J. Oswald Sanders said: Nothing is more distasteful to God than self-conceit. This first and fundamental sin in essence aims at enthroning self at the expense of God.

You’ve got to remove yourself from the throne of your heart and make room for Christ to come and rule and reign in your life.

Thomas Browne writes:

“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
That might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “Thou art not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art replete with very ‘thou’
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says,

“This is enow unto itself- ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”

t.s.: The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. God did it all. 2ndly, the Law of Faith declares that God is One and He is the God of all. He makes himself known and has done the work to restore this relationship with him – that the whole world might be restored to him. A proud heart will find it impossible to come to this conclusion. Thirdly, The Law of Faith does not nullify the law or good works, but rather validates it.

III.   The Law is not nullified, but rather establishes it (31)

exp.: rd v 31; this word means to wipe it out, void it. It is to say that because of faith, the law is now abolished and useless. But that isn’t what Paul is saying at all. Paul says: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Rd 31c: on the contrary, we uphold the law. When you consider 3.21 – that the law and the prophets bear witness to the fact that righteousness would one day be made available and that day is now, you understand the law isn’t made void. It isn’t nullified. It is Validated!

Furthermore, we don’t just live a life of license. We believe laws are good. Good behavior is needed. For those of us who love the Lord, we want to do what he wants us to do. We want to be good. We want to be righteous. We want to live a life worthy of this calling we’ve received.

app.: And again, that doesn’t reflect a life of pride. That reflects a life of humility.

t.s.: Humility comes hard. Pride is something that doesn’t want to die in you. But let me end with the words of the Momma whale to her baby whale as they swam along: When you get to the top and start to ‘blow’, that’s when you get harpooned!

Conclusion:

Application: Don’t let pride keep you out of heaven. Humble yourself, acknowledge your sin and find salvation in Christ. We’re going to gather in a moment at the back of the worship center for some coffee and cookies. I’d love to visit with you about today’s message. The Staff and Elders will back there, too.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 2)

Title: The Righteousness of God Part II

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: We’re picking up today with part 2 of The righteousness of God. I always thought that meant that God was good and perfectly good. And it does. But, there is so much more to it than that. And, as we make our way through Romans, I hope we’ll gain a fuller, even clearer understanding of what that means. You remember my three points from last week?

  1. The Righteousness of God Declared
  2. The Righteousness of God Explained
  3. The Righteousness of God Demonstrated

Let’s do a quick review of the 1st two and then we’ll continue on w/ #3.

I.     The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration: rd 21-22a; I told you that most scholars hold this particular part of Romans to be the heart of the epistle. One of those scholars I quoted was CEB Cranfield who also said so scholarly what Leighton Ford says so plainly: God loves us just as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. Cranfield said that God is Worthy of what we bring to him in worship and devotion because of all that God has done for us. To be sure, He is worthy of praise and worship no matter what he does or has done. But, that fact that God demonstrates his love toward sinful humanity through the work of Christ on the Cross, in the Tomb, by his Resurrection and His Ascension should lead us to devotion. God does not mock or insult his created beings by pretending that sin doesn’t matter. It does. Tremendously! And so his action demonstrates just how much he loves us and just how far he would go to redeem us.

Ill.: It attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

So now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested to the world. It is brought to us and made available to us.

t.s.: Paul makes this declaration, and now explains it in v22bf;

II.    The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation: rd 22b-23;

exp.: rd 22b-23; You probably remember me saying something about God’s perfect ability to demonstrate judgment apart from favoritism or partiality. God sees no distinction between people: not race, not color, not ethnicity, not social status, not age, not income brackets… God see the soul of a person. He sees is if a soul is blemished or pure. He sees even the smallest stain!

ill.: yesterday Go Light Your World finished up here. That’s why there are so many chairs in the Worship Center. Hundreds of folks from many different states converged upon Calvary for the Speech and Debate Tournament. I was privileged to serve as a judge and I was asked to judge without partiality. Cute 12 year olds went up against strong, smart 18 year olds who have been doing this for some years. I wasn’t allowed to give a cute 12 year old bonus points because he was so adorable. I was to make no distinction and judge impartially. And so I did my best, but it is hard – and we as humans are imperfect judges.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.

All are sinners. No distinction – no favoritism. But, as we see in the next verse, justification comes to all through the demonstration of God’s Righteousness…

t.s.: And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.   The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

I asked these three questions last week, but didn’t have time to answer them. As we consider the demonstration of God’s righteousness this morning, I’d like to outline this section with three question:

  • What?
  • How?
  • Why?

So let’s do that now…

What?

What is being accomplished here through this demonstration? rd 24-25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Answer: Justified; we are being justified (pres pass ptc); I like and being made righteous; Do you remember last week I told you: justify and righteous are the same word in the Gk. One is a noun and the other is a verb. You probably remember that faith and believe are the same word in Gk. It is just one is a verb and the other a noun. So, in English we have two different words. It is the same with righteous, righteousness and justify or justification. This will be important as we make our way through the text. We’ll come back to it. I mention it now because of how I like to translate this phrase.

Transition: for now, let’s move to the next question: How.

How? How will God justify or make us righteous? Paul’s answers are in the rest of 24 and 25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. That’s how. Paul gives us three categories or parts to work through in understanding just how God’s justified us or has made us righteous:

  1. The Purchase:
  2. The Price:
  3. The Process

t.s.: look at the purchase first.

  1. The purchase –it almost seems contradictory in this statement. We’re justified by his grace as a gift. So, God’s great mercy poured out on us by his grace has made this justification available to us totally free of charge to us. It is a gift. Humm… let’s keep reading in v 24; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He redeemed us; if it is free, then why did something have to be bought back? See what I mean by ‘contradiction’? Well, it is free to us, because it is a gift freely given. But it wasn’t really free, because a price had to be paid. That’s #2 here…
  2. The price – I get this from the word propitiation in v25; propitiation means a sacrifice or a payment that is offered with the purpose or intent of appeasing the wrath of God. So according to our verse Jesus was put forward as a sacrificial offering or payment to appease the wrath of God.

Now, read v 25 with me again: 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…

I touched on this last week, but let me revisit it for the benefit of others who might not have been here, or for those who were asleep. Put forward has the connotation of a public display. The NASB translates this: whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation bin His blood through faith. That’s an accurate translation and so are all of the other English translations; however, I think there is a better way to think about this. This is a good translation because it is so very literal and it is so very true.

  1. Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed.
  2. Much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning of Public Display, which is why I think all of translations lean this way (like the NASB which I quoted).
  3. This word can mean a public display. And it often does in extra-biblical material.

But there are some very good reasons to consider this word as being presented from a different perspective.

  1. Some of the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) understood this word differently than a ‘public display’. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or
  2. When this word appears in the NT, it has the context of plan and purpose. This is very compelling for me. We find this word three times in the NT. The two other times in the NT both deal with idea of ‘purpose or plan’.
  • Romans (1.13): 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
  • The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

So, put these words together now: One understanding of v25 would be God publicly displayed Christ’s sacrifice to appease His wrath. That would be a true statement, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying. I think Paul is declaring here that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. God purposed in His heart, according to the counsel of His Will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. So, taking those same words with our better understanding: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Or, 25 whom God planned as an appeasement of his wrath by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was about our sin. But rather, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

I think in coming to this solution it clarifies for us the love of God: the amazing, wonderful love of God. Who can truly grasp it? Before time began, even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan – he intentioned it in his heart, to present his son as a sacrifice for our sins: a sacrifice that would pay the due penalty (redemption) and appease the wrath of a righteous God (propitiation).

That should blow your mind. Not only did God know Adam and Eve would sin before he created them, but he had a plan in place to redeem them. It wasn’t a contingency plan. It was THE plan all along.

Transition: So, we’ve seen the purchase (redemption) and the price (propitiation). Now let’s look at the process…

  1. The process – the answer is at the end of 25a: to be received by faith. I can stand here and offer you this free gift of God’s grace, but I can’t make you take it. Some folks are uncomfortable with gifts. Some people want to achieve this redemption – some, to somehow earn it. It has to be received.

Ill.: I could tell you each that someone has blessed us here today with a gift of $10,000. All you have to do is come forward and receive this free gift. But, what if you began to celebrate and then you left this building without picking up your check? How much of it could you spend? What could you buy with all that money still in my hand? You would have to receive it… deposit it into your account.

God did all of the work necessary for your salvation, but the process still involves you. You must receive this precious gift.

Transition: now, let’s turn our attention to the last question.

Why?

Why would God do all of this in this particular manner? Why not something different? Let’s first look at Paul’s answer and then whatever other options God had. Rd 25b;

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Well, there is your ‘why’: To show God’s Righteousness; it is to illustrate for us that God just and the justifier; we see it again in v 26; But here is where we need to go back to the words righteous and justify. Do you remember I told you that they are the same word in the Greek, its just one is a verb and the other is a noun? I think it might do us some good to keep those words the same in both places.

  • And are being made righteous by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s righteousness because…
  • And are justified by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s justification..

I like that phrase: the justification of God. The first time I ever heard it used was by John Piper. It felt weird to me – unnatural even. But, now I get it. And that is strengthened by these verses: rd 25b-26. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God is justified in his actions because what he does is right. He has perfect intentions, perfect motives and perfect actions. Look at that last line: that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  • God is just. Perfectly so!
  • God is the one who justifies. And perfectly so!

As CEB Cranfield stated previously, God does what he does because he loves us so. He could have just annihilated us. He could have just spoken forgiveness. But there are two truths we are reminded of here:

  1. Sin really does matter. It really does separate us from God and it really has consequences that are eternal. I think that was one of Satan’s ploys when he told Eve unequivocally: You will not surely die! Listen, God was truthful with them and Paul is with us, too. Sin really does matter to God.
  2. God’s Holiness and Glory matter. To not act justly would lessen the value of God’s holiness and glory. And you can’t really do that. Anything less than holy isn’t holy at all! Any thing less and God would not be God – and you can’t have that. It just doesn’t work mathematically. God wants you to know he is holy and he won’t cheapen it.

Conclusion:

Cliff Barrows, long time song leader for Billy Graham tells the story of when his kids were little. They hadn’t obeyed him in something he had told them to do and so he gave them a fair warning. He said if he came home the next day and they had disobeyed him, he would have to spank them.

Well, as the story goes, he came home the next day and they hadn’t done what they had been told to do. They simply rebelled against their father. Barrows says they were real little back at that time in their lives, but he had told them of the consequences. The truth was he didn’t want to punish them. But he’d already told them what would happen. Billy Graham tells the story in his book, How to be Born Again.

He quotes Cliff here: Bobby and Bettie Ruth were very small. I called them into my room, took off my belt and then my shirt, with a bare back I knelt down at the bed. I made them both strap me with the belt ten times each. You should have heard the crying. From them, I mean. The crying was from them. They didn’t want to do it. But I told them the penalty had to be paid and so through their sobs and tears they did what I told them.

I smile when I remember the incident, he told me. I must admit I wasn’t much of a hero. It hurt. I haven’t offered to do that again. It was a once-for-all sacrifice, I guess you could say, but I never had to spank those two children again, because they got the point. We kissed each other. And when it was over we prayed together.

God is the perfect parent. The consequence of our sin remains. We will surely die. But, God has made a way. In his just and righteous nature, he can’t allow sin into his presence. So he punished sin by sending his son to die on the Cross of Calvary for your sins and my sins. And because he is righteous and because he demands a penalty for sin, he alone has provided a means of escape by pouring out his wrath on Christ and allowing him to die in our place.

I’d love to visit with you some more about this if you’re interested. We’ll close our service now with a moment of silence and then afterward we’ll have a benedictory prayer by … If you have a decision or commitment you wish to talk with us about, we’ll be at the back of the worship center in the Cornerstone area, where coffee and cookies will be available while we talk and fellowship.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 1)

Title: The Righteousness of God

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: I want to talk to you this morning about the Gospel. My concern in simply preaching and recording this message is that the lost person cannot possibly grasp the simplicity of this good news. 2 Cor. 2.14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Without an intervention by the Spirit of God, the Gospel is foolishness (folly, child’s play). I cannot intellectually persuade someone to come to Christ. Sure, there is an intellectual part to it, but without the Spirit of God interceding on the part of the individual – it remains a foolish concept. It is a message that is spiritually discerned.

Within the context of this passage, Paul has been declaring to both the Jews and the Gentiles that their works of the law, whether out of knowledge or intuition, will never bring about righteousness. Oh, it might bring about a sense of righteousness. You know, kind of what you feel when you do good things: go to church, read your bible, you give money or gifts, etc. But, those things, those works of the law, as it were, will never make you righteous in God’s eyes.

That’s probably why this message is hard for the regular person. The regular person says to himself: I’m not that bad. I’m pretty good. I’m better than him/her/most people. And their measure of righteousness is based upon someone else or something else. And here’s the thing: you and I will always be able to find people we’re better than.

You and I will always find other people whom we consider bad. And that’s the problem. We’re trained from early on to measure ourselves by others. The problem with using others is that they, whoever they may be, no matter how good or bad they may seem, those people we measure ourselves by are inherently sinners, too.

That’s the whole message of Romans 1.18-3.20. Paul wants to preach the gospel because it reveals the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man and how the two can only be reconciled by the work of God.

And this work is only effective with the intercession of God’s Holy Spirit. So, let’s pray for that now.

Prayer:

Transition: We pick up our text in Romans 3.21 where Paul makes a declaration about the Righteousness of God. If we go back to Romans 1.15-18 he says he wants to preach the Gospel because it has the power to save everyone. For in this Gospel is the Righteousness of God revealed. Now, in 3.21, he reaches the heart of the matter.

I.    The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration (21-22a)

exp.: let’s read that: rd 3.21-22a; Boom! That’s the Gospel! According to Thomas Schreiner: Most scholars rightly acknowledge this paragraph as the heart of the epistle. C.E.B. Cranfield says this section is the centre and heart of the main division to which it belongs. Cranfield, in his commentary on Romans, gives one of the most beautiful statements on the Righteousness of God manifested to us that I think I’ve ever read. Now, that’s a bold statement I know: Really, the most beautiful? Yes, and to quote him here is difficult. There are two problems with reading it to you. 1st, Cranfield is smarter than most human beings. When he writes a sentence, most people have to read it a few times, parse it and dissect it to get his meaning. 2ndly, he was British. So Cranfield didn’t talk Amurican. He spoke the Queen’s English. He died a couple of years ago a few months shy of his 100th Birthday.

Listen to Cranfield: the crucifixion, together with the resurrection and exaltation of the one who was crucified attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

I know that is a mouth full, but Cranfield has concisely – really in one sentence defined for us just how far God’s righteous act has gone.

Consider:

  1. God’s Love: he could have at any moment along the way destroyed all of humanity and he would have been justified. But, God’s love for us is so great that he would not abandon us in our helpless state. …the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness… who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter. When we measure ourselves by others, we declare that sin does not matter. But sin matters to God. But God’s love for us declares to us that sin does matter…that his righteousness is important to him.
  2. The Act of God’s Love: God declares his love through his action of sending his son, to live in the flesh – a perfect and sinless, unblemished life. And yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him (Isaiah 53.10). When we comprehend the Lord’s Act of crushing his son, we then clearly perceive the weight of our sin and the great punishment our sin deserves. Why doesn’t God just forgive? Why does the penalty of death have to be carried out? Cranfield tells us it is because God’s Righteousness matters to Him, our sin is a big deal and he wants us to know it. If he simply declared us righteous without any punishment imposed, then sin wouldn’t really mean anything. But it does…

exp.: rd v 21: the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it. To be righteous before God required perfect attention to the law, which no man could ever do…that is, until Jesus did it. And because it did, things have changed: But now…

app.: Now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested (which is more than just revealed). It is brought to us and made available to us. But how? How did God love us through this act? And, another question: why? Why would God do all of this?

t.s.: This comes out in Paul’s explanation as presented in v22bf;

II.   The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation (22b-23)

exp.: rd 22b-23; I read these verses and another question comes to mind: what? What does he mean when he says no distinction? We know from many other passages, including our chapters 1, 2 and 3 to this point that God makes no distinction of persons. He shows no partiality or favoritism to anyone.

ill.: You and I are not that way. We try to be. We try to show each child of ours equal and fair partiality. But it doesn’t work. Sure, we love each child as much as we possibly can, but some children require more attention, more instruction, more discipline. You do this at work, with your neighbors, your students, at church. I’m thinking of how much I love you all. Do you believe me if I say there is none I favor more than you? Would you consider yourself my favorite church member? Would you consider someone else? I hope not. Henry, consider your class? Jason, Joshua, your classes? Do you have a favorite? Duffey, a favorite youth? Wait, before you answer: is there a person in your class or group you don’t get so excited about? Maybe the problem isn’t favoritism, but rather the negative way you feel about someone. That’s partiality.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short. Note:

  • One Action, Two Results: All have sinned and fall short. At first glance you might consider these two separate actions. Everyone has sinned and, everyone has fallen short of God’s glory. But, I think they’re one and the same action. You might consider it one action with two results. The results are that we are sinners and that we’ve have fallen short of the Glory of God. You might consider fallen short that separation between God and man.

Well, by the one action of the man Adam, we all became sinners. (That is a simple statement with huge ramification.) We also find that by the one action of the man Jesus, we can all become righteous.

  • All are made righteous: rd v 24; Do you see the word righteous and the word justified? They are the same root word; one is a noun (righteous) and the other is a verb (justify). Righteous is what God is and he makes us like him when he justifies us. And Paul answers our question of how when he says (v24) we are justified, we are made righteous by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

ill.: My kids are at an age where if they want something, they can buy it themselves. That makes it hard to buy Christmas gifts. If they can’t afford it, then I probably can’t either!

app.: Here is a gift you could never afford, but it is freely given to you. By God’s Amazing Grace, you and I, through our faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, can be justified, cleansed and forgiven. We are justified by the redemption that comes through Christ Jesus.

t.s.: but still, how? How are we justified, how are we made righteous? And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.    The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

exp.: How? Rd v 25a; God demonstrates his righteousness in one action with a dual purpose: God put forth His Son. Cranfield says this one action is three events wrapped up into one. His death – the shedding of his blood, the stopping of his heart, the ceasing of his breathing; His resurrection – that fact that his dead body was ‘quickened’ by the Spirit of God and brought back to life and third; his ascension – which I think relates to his glorification. These three movements of the same event are the one action I’m talking about.

But here is where, at least for me, things get tricky. The translation in western thought has the idea of ‘display’. And I believe the NASB says public display. To be sure, every translation from the King James on presents this action of God with the idea of public display. And yes, Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed. To add to our confusion, much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning, which is why I think all of translations lean this way. But the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) they understood this word differently than a public display. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or plan.

This word appears two other times in the NT and both times it deals with idea of purpose or plan. One of those times is here in Romans and we saw it in 1.13: 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

Paul is saying that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. He purposed in his heart, according to the counsel of his will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. You could translate v 25 this way: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was. And I think we look at it that way. It sounds that way in English. But, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

Yes, the wrath of God was on display as Jesus hung on the cross. And, Jesus hanging on the cross suffering an excruciating death displays the idea that sin matters to God. That is all true. But what I believe Paul is communicating to us is that God isn’t whimsical. God didn’t just explode his wrath upon Christ. God planned it all out and structured every step in the process so that we would comprehend just how much sin matters and what God’s Righteousness means to him.

There is so much more here and so I’d like to move to some closure for today and come back to this place next week and unpack this idea of Demonstration.

Conclusion:

Chuck Swindloll, in his book, Improving your Serve, tells the story of a young man he calls Aaron. Aaron isn’t his real name, but just one that Swindoll uses.

Late one spring Aaron was praying about having a significant Ministry the following summer. He asked God for position open up on some church staff or Christian organization. But nothing happened. Summer arrived, and still nothing. Days turn into weeks and Aaron finally faced the reality–he needed any job he could find. He checked the want ads and the only thing that seem to be a possibility was driving a bus on the south side of Chicago.– Nothing to brag about, but it would help with tuition in the fall. After learning the route, he was on his own –a rookie driver in a dangerous section of the city. It wasn’t long before Aaron realized just how dangerous his job really was.

A small gang of tough kids spotted the young driver, and begin to take advantage of him. For several mornings in a row they got on, walked right past him without paying, ignored his warnings, and rode until they decided to get off… All the while making smart remarks to him and others on the bus. Finally, he decided it had gone on long enough.

The next morning, after the gang got on as usual, Aaron saw a police man on the corner, so he pulled over and reported the offense. The officer told them to pay or get off. The bus turned another corner to the gang assaulted the young driver.

When he came to, blood was all over his shirt, two teeth were missing, both eyes were swollen, his money was gone, and the bus was empty. After returning to the terminal and being given the weekend off, our friend went to his little apartment, sank onto his bed and stared at the ceiling in disbelief. Resentful thoughts swarmed his mind. Confusion, anger, and disillusionment added fuel to the fire of his physical pain. He spent a fitful night wrestling with the Lord.

How can this be? Where is God in all of this? I genuinely want to serve him. I prayed for ministry. I was willing to serve him anywhere, doing anything, and this is the thanks I get! On Monday morning Aaron decided to press charges. With the help of the officer who had encountered the gang and several others were willing to testify as witnesses against the thugs, most of them were rounded up and taken to the local County Jail. Within a few days there was a hearing before the judge.

In walked Aaron and his attorney plus the angry gang members who glared across the room in his direction. Suddenly he was ceased with a whole new series of thoughts. Not bitter ones, but compassionate ones! His heart went out to the guys who had attacked him. Under the Spirit’s control he no longer hated them– He pitied them. They needed help, not more hate. What could he do or say?

Suddenly, after there was a plea of guilty, Aaron (to the surprise of his attorney and everybody else in the courtroom) stood to his feet and requested permission to speak. “Your honor, I would like you to total up all the days of punishment against these men– all the time sentenced against them – and I request that you allow me to go to jail in their place.”

The judge didn’t know whether to spit or wind his watch. Both attorneys were stunned. As Aaron looked over at the gang members (whose mouth and eyes look like saucers) he smiled and said quietly, “It’s because I forgive you.”

The dumb-founded judge, when he reached a level of composure, said rather firmly: “Young man, you are out of order. This sort of thing is never been done before!” To which the young man replied with genius insight: oh yes it has, your honor… Yes, it has. It happened over 19 centuries ago when a man from Galilee paid the penalty that all mankind deserved. And then, for the next three or four minutes, without interruption, he explained how Jesus Christ died on our behalf, demonstrating God’s love and forgiveness.

Aaron was not granted his request, but the young man visited the gang members in jail, led most of them to faith in Christ, and began a significant Ministry to many others in Southside Chicago.

Application: Just like the young gang members in the court room, you and I will all stand before our judge and be read a guilty verdict. We’ll stand before God and give an account for our lives. The difference in this story is where God has allowed a substitution to be made – and that substitution is only found in Christ. And what’s truly interesting in this action is that it was his plan since before time began to make a way for us to be with him.

In a moment we’ll have a time of silent reflection. Here’s what I want you to think about:

  1. The seriousness of sin in God’s eyes.
  2. The magnitude of God’s love – how great it is.
  3. The incredible cost of God’s Grace – Amazing Grace given so freely to us.

After we’re done, I’m going to ask someone to dismiss us with a word of prayer and then we’ll all meet in the back for a time of fellowship over coffee and cookies. Maybe you’ve got some questions about church membership, becoming a Christian or what it means to be called to ministry. Maybe you just want to meet us. Come on back and visit with us.

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The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Title: The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Text: Romans 3.19-20

Introduction: This morning we’re in Romans 3. The only other text I’m planning to go to is Romans 7.

I watched the movie: The Case for Christ. It was a good movie, I recommend it. Highly. There is a lot of information given in the movie about Jesus. Historical, scientific, archeological, and the list goes on. Lee Strobel is an Award winning American Journalist whose wife comes to Christ. Both he and his wife were atheists before her life shattering decision to follow Christ. And so to bring her back to her senses, he decides to appeal to her intellect. After all of his research, he is drawn to this conclusion that everything he has studied about Christ points to the fact that he was a real man who died on the cross, was buried and resurrected on the third day.

At the absolute climax of the movie, the musical orchestration is at it height and Strobel has been working through all of the answers he’s found, he asks the big question: why? Why did he die? Why did he endure all that he did – all of the suffering, the cat of 9 tails, the beating with the rod, the dying on the cross – why did he endure it all if he was God? Why didn’t he use his power and stop it all – save himself?

I know you know the answer and so I don’t feel like this is a movie spoiler alert at all – but, at the moment this movie, this really good movie presents the answer, I felt like it just flopped. For me, anyway, it just flopped because the movie missed something vital to the gospel message.

The answer the movie gave – one word: love. And Lee was overcome. That is probably why it played out that way, because it was his experience. But what the movie failed to present was the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was and is our payment for our sin. Why did Jesus die? Yes, God did it all because he loves us. But, his demonstration of that love was to pay the penalty that our sin has demanded of us: death.

For the wages of sin is death. That’s a sad story. That’s an offensive story. No one wants to hear that they’re sinners. Everyone wants to talk about love.

We come to the conclusion of this section 1.18-3.20 where Paul will make a final summary statement before presenting the hope of this desperate situation we all find ourselves in.

Here is his summary statement and I’m reading Romans 3.19-20:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

An outline can be broken down as follows:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,

so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight,

since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Transition: What we’ll do this morning is walk through each of these steps as they build on each other. This is what we know: the law speaks; in order that; because; because. Let’s look at Paul’s first statement – what we know.

I.     The Conclusion of the Matter: The Law speaks to those under the law (19a)

exp.: 19a Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law… How are we to understand this? Well, if we break it down, we understand it to be saying that after three chapters so far in Romans, we’re coming to a conclusion. And, that conclusion is that we now know something for sure. We know that the law speaks to those under the law. So, this is important, the first and primary people to hear from God were the Jews. They were given this great advantage of hearing and being given responsibility for the Oracles of God (3.1). The Gentiles follow in that there is an innate understanding of God’s law. But for the Jews, they were special people with a very special experience. And that experience with the law communicates to the rest of the world that no one, not even those who are special because they were chosen by God to be his people, no one is righteous of their own accord. Even if you have the very law of God communicated to you personally and being presented with the advantage over all the rest of the world to follow God according to his requirements, you still will fall short of that perfection. You can’t.

app.: And if the Jews, who have every advantage over the Gentiles can’t, then the summary is this: No is righteous. No one does right when left to his own ability. Not one! And the law speaks that to us very clearly.

t.s.: And just why does the law speak to us all?

II.    It does so to shut people up as they stand before god: there is no excuse before God (19b)

exp.: 19b so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. “So that” shows purpose; Gk is ἵνα; This is called a ἵνα clause; Which is totally different than a Santa Claus! A ἵνα clause show the reason for the statement. This sounds very mean to say it this way, but the reason is to shut the mouths of everyone who would stand and give a defense. There is nothing to say. You stand there with the knowledge that you’re guilty.

Not only will everyone close their mouths, but then there will be accountability. The purpose of giving the law to one people (the Jews) was to silence everyone and hold everyone accountable to God. 1.20: So they are without excuse. 2.1: Therefore you have no excuse. And then there is this key word: and. Not only will every mouth be silenced before God, but then there is this issue of accountability. You will be held accountable because you have the knowledge of your sin.

Ill.: You might be thinking to yourself that everyone being held accountable to God is unfair. Some people have never heard the Gospel. Some have never heard of the Law. Paul has told them already in the previous couple of chapters that they are without excuse because God has made himself known to them in three ways: these three texts declare man’s guilt before God and that we are inexcusable before him. God has shown us three areas where he has communicated this to us:

  • Romans 1: in nature;
  • Romans 2: in conscience;
  • Romans 3: in the Law.

Therefore, everyone is without excuse. You’ve known about me through nature, through your conscience and through the law. And because of that, all excuses are taken away and everyone is left standing before God with nothing to say. And then we will all be held accountable.

t.s.: But Paul doesn’t end here, he offers more… if 19b offers the purpose – so that every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable, then v 20 offers the reason…

III.   Because no human being will be justified by works of the law (20a)

exp.: I love that Paul includes this last phrase… in his sight. Maybe in their own eyes they might consider themselves justified. Maybe in our own eyes we feel justified by our works! 20a For (because) by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… “every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable because no human being will be justified by works of the law.” What is Paul saying exactly? He is saying the Jews are the example for the rest of the world that no human being can be justified through the works of the law. They failed miserably. Therefore, everyone who tries will also fail miserably. They may have been justified in their own eyes, but not in God’s eyes.

ill.: I’m always amazed at how people offer excuses and try to justify their actions. Tyler H. posted a Yelp review of the restaurant Sweet Dixie Chicken on October 9th. Located in Long Beach, California, Tyler said he saw an employee entering the back of the restaurant with a big bag of chicken from Popeye’s Chicken and he wondered if they actually served it. So he ordered the chicken for $13.95 and asked the waiter how they cooked their chicken. After checking in the back, he told them they order their chicken from Popeye’s. The owner of the restaurant said she was proud to serve Popeye’s chicken that she bought her gumbo from the local farmer’s market and doesn’t mill her own flour.

app.: You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: yes, we never imagined you’d mill your own flour or make your own sugar, but we sure thought you mixed all of those things up to create your own meals! She actually feels justified in her answers.

app.: But it won’t be that way on that final day when we all stand before the Lord. Not one word will be spoken. No excuses given. No one can say that they are justified in their actions. You might be thinking to yourself: And, why not? I mean, why would God give the Law if no one could actually be justified by keeping? Isn’t it possible to say that if anyone actually kept the law perfectly, wouldn’t he or she be justified before God? Was God lying when he gave the law?

t.s.: No! Paul explains this in his last phrase…

IV.    The only thing the law does is teach us what sin is because no one can actually keep it (20b)

exp.: But this is an important juncture. You see, it isn’t simply about information of sin, but it is an awareness that one cannot avoid sinning. That’s a deep cut! We know this because of the word in 19a: οἶδα; it is a more intimate knowledge from experience than the other common word for know: γνῶσις. 20b since through the law comes knowledge of sin. This is the heart of the matter: the law brings a knowledge of sin, but it is more than just information. This information is meant to lead us to repentance. God shows the law and we become knowledgeable about sin.

ill.: This past week my students in Venture had to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. In the story a lawyer named Utterson is responsible for a letter given to him by a doctor who is a common friend between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson. It is sealed and the instructions are to not open the letter until this Dr. friend has passed away. At first Utterson didn’t know the letter existed. So, no temptation. Knowing its existence was one thing, but once he found out that he couldn’t open it until… Oh, man. I was screaming at the book: just open the letter! Information about something piques one’s curiosity.

Listen to Romans 7: 7-12: What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

app.: When we become aware of something, that’s when we’re tempted to fall into it.

t.s.: And that’s just what Paul has been saying: No human being will be justified by works of the law because the Jews have demonstrated for us that it is impossible to perfectly keep the law. And because of this, every human being will be silenced before God and held accountable.

Conclusion: That is scary in itself. Standing before God to be held accountable for every careless word, every thoughtless deed. And, if that were the end of the story, you and I would have no hope. But it isn’t. You see v 21 is coming and with it, hope: But now…a righteousness of God has been revealed. What? You can be righteous without the law?

That’s why I was so disappointed with Stobel’s film. It’s a good movie and you should definitely pop some popcorn and watch it. But, if you invite a lost friend over to watch it with you, which you should definitely do, you should add this part, because its not in the movie: Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying on the cross, but the reason he did it was to pay the penalty for our sins. He did what we could never do. He was the only one who fit the requirement as established by the law.

Application:

  1. Everyone is guilty before God.
  2. No one will be able to say a word before him.
  3. Everyone will be held accountable for what has been revealed to the world.
    1. Whether in nature
    2. Or through conscience
    3. Or through the law
  4. Remember, there is hope – and his name is Jesus. He’s the reason for this season of celebration. We give gifts because he is the greatest gift giver. We sing songs because he has put a song in our hearts. We celebrate because he has given us hope.

In a moment we’ll break for fellowship and have some cookies and coffee. I want to invite you back to the cornerstone area to visit with either me or a staff member or an elder. If you’ve never invited Christ into your life and found the forgiveness of sins, let us share with you how you can do that. Maybe you’re looking for a church home or you just have some questions: come visit with us.

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Filed under Romans, Scripture, Sermon, Sin, The Gospel