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Gospel Lite

Notes & Transcripts

Gospel Lite

Romans 3:27-4:25        September 2, 2001

 

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15

Introduction:

Do you remember the gist of your marriage vows?

It probably went something like this: "I, Tim, take thee, Joan, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith."

The basis of the marriage covenant is a simple relationship of trust founded upon faith in God who will work all things together for good.

And certainly marriage has its ups and downs.

But can you imagine how difficult married life would be if the arrangement were more complex?

What if you insisted on a marriage contract that stipulated that if your partner got sick, or bald, or overweight, or unemployed, or couldn't have children, or put the toilet paper in backwards, or squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle, the arrangement was off?

What kind of a marriage would you have then?

Would it even be a marriage?

It would be encumbered with so many details that you would never know where you really stand.

It would be like having a 'retainer' on your spouse or that you had taken out an 'option' on your spouse.

It would be an arrangement of convenience on your own selfish terms.

Illus.: Muslim leaders back marriage contracts, Chicago Tribune, 8/31/01.

What if God had an arrangement like that with us.

Would we even want it? You would never know where you really stand or when you would incur displeasure and separation.

It wouldn't be much of a basis for a relationship with God without faith in his intentions.

In Rom. 3:21-26, we learned the elements of the gospel and that we must agree with God's plan, assessment, solution, and authority.

But notice the thread on the subject of faith that runs significantly through it in verses 22, 25, and 26.

In our passage for this morning in Romans 3:27-4:25, Paul further elaborates for us about the means of our agreement with God – that the only acceptable response to the gospel is by faith.

And when you think about it, that is something that we can really praise God for.

But it is we in our relationship to God that often want to add in the extra 'if, and, and but' clauses that throw it into framework that makes the gospel of faith ineffective.

In the previous sections, Paul has pared down the condition of mankind to its simple common denominator – sin.

Now in this section, Paul pares down the gospel (which all sinners need) to its simple common denominator – faith.

Since the common denominator of mankind is sin (and the need of God's righteousness; Rom. 1:17, 3:21) the common denominator of the gospel must necessarily be faith – there is no other way it could be accomplished or acceptable since everything we could attempt to do for ourselves in our sinfulness would fall short.

Through the gospel, God intends to lighten our load and put our relationship to him on a basis that will work – and that basis is faith and not works.

Illus.: lite foods that no one wants to eat because they are good for you.

In our society we have a tendency to carry too much baggage in terms of weight or material goods.

This can hinder our walk with God and we must trim down to the basics.

We can easily be distracted from the core of gospel truth which is faith.

Life should be a journey of learning how to travel lighter rather than heavier.

Paul is teaching us here how to lighten our load in order to refine our purity – of faith.

Now again in this section, Paul enters into a series of staged arguments with the typical Jew (or Jewish Christian) to show that salvation (being right with God) has always been by faith alone.

So Paul expounds thoroughly upon the theme he introduced at 1:17 and presented in 3:21-26 as the core of the gospel.

Faith is the topic of every paragraph in our text for today.

This section of the letter to the Romans clearly explains what has become the hallmark truth of Reformation teaching that Martin Luther made famous: "faith alone by grace alone."

And as we shall see, this has always been the truth.

It is just that this is the truth from which we can so easily slip.

The case in point here is the Jew, but we shall include ourselves in this same deception which so easily consumed them – the identity markers of covenant relationship through the law, Jewish lineage, and circumcision.

Gentile inclusion in the gospel is not the main theme here, but the necessity of justification by faith for all people is the main theme.

In order to convince the Jew, Paul goes back to the foundation of every Jew's pride in relationship to God – Abraham.

As we shall see, Abraham is the father of all who have faith in God since it was his own faith that made him right with God apart from all other things.

So there is no justification to boast about except the justification by faith.

(The Romans pride would have to be overcome in order for them to meet the demands of faith in Nero's persecution to come in a few short years.)

They would need a 'stripped down' religion.

Sgt. Friday: "Just give me the facts, ma'am." Factual religion is by faith alone (in Christ).

Where are your "works" when you are being persecuted? What good are they?

It is faith alone that will carry you through.

So in 3:27-4:25, Paul expounds the great theological thesis of the gospel (in 3:21-26) concerning the key element of faith.

The first part of that section in 3:27-31 is the initial statement of that theme with chapter 4 giving further detailed explanation.

In 4:3-8 Paul shows that the reckoning of Abraham's faith for righteousness is an entirely gracious act that by its nature excludes any appeal to works.

          He discredits the encumbrance that works has upon faith.

In 4:9-12 Paul shows that the reckoning of Abraham's faith for righteousness took place before he was circumcised.

          He discredits the encumbrance that circumcision has upon faith.

In 4:13-16 Paul contrasts the mutually exclusive nature of faith and law.

          He discredits the encumbrance that law has upon faith.

In 4:17-22 Paul draws out a definition for us of just what faith is – that it is spiritual sight.

          He credits the dependence that spiritual sight has upon faith.

In 4:23-35 Paul draws out the conclusion for us of everything that he has just said that reconnects us where we began in 4:3 – that the gospel is a righteousness from God entirely by faith, and the One we must have faith in.

Big Question:

What does the gospel reveal to us about the effective reality of faith?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 4:4-8)

          B.      Implication

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by works.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 4:9-12)

          B.      Implication

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by flesh.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 4:13-16)

          B.      Implication

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by law.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 4:17-22)

          B.      Implication

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith is always by belief.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 4:23-25)

          B.      Implication

The gospel reveals the effective reality that true faith is belief in Christ alone.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

What does the gospel reveal to us about the effective reality of faith?

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by works.

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by flesh.

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith can never be by law.

The gospel reveals the effective reality that faith is always by belief.

The gospel reveals the effective reality that true faith is belief in Christ alone.

Timeless Truth: The 'lite' of the gospel is faith in Christ alone.

Aren't you glad that your relationship to God is on such a simple but yet effective basis?

Come to God through faith in Jesus. He's all you'll ever need. He's all you'll ever really want. He's all that will ever work for you to become a child of God.

Jesus responded to the questioning crowd who followed him from the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:28-29. They asked, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

That's our Labor Day message for today.

Illus.: Movie, Grey Owl, "A man is who he dreams [believes] himself to be." (Sioux Chief)

Indeed, you are what you believe, but unlike Grey Owl, your faith in Christ is founded upon unalterable, absolute truth that cannot be successfully challenged.

If our faith is in ourselves and in our own accomplishments, it will not stand long.

But if our faith is in Christ alone, it will stand for all eternity.

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