The Gospel Truth
Romans 3:21-26 August 26, 2001
Scripture Reading: # 660, Hymnal
It is a sad fact that many people get stuck on hopelessness.
Illus.: the youth of Geneseo, IL, committing suicide.
Illus.: the youth of Harlan, IA, committing suicide.
Illus.: the man who committed suicide at the Forest Glen train stop Thurs. morning. Woman who saw it lost control. She said she couldn't get his face out of her mind. Why?
Do you agree that suicide is a tragedy?
If you stopped reading at 3:20 you might be tempted to commit suicide yourself at the rash of bad news Paul has given us.
But he doesn't end there even though many people end there.
There is profound hope.
Illus.: do you know the difference between optimism and hope? Young pastor/older pastor comparison from The Pastor's Soul #8, Your Ministry's Next Chapter by Gary Fenton. Optimism burns out quickly in the realities of life whereas hope is long-term enough to see us through. Hope perseveres.
Praise God for Romans 3:21-26, our passage for this morning.
It is here that Paul fully explains the "good news" called the gospel.
Luther called this passage "the chief point, and the very central place of the epistle, and of the whole Bible."
Rarely does the bible bring together in so few verses so many important theological ideas: the righteousness of God, justification, the shift in salvation history, faith, sin redemption, grace, propitiation, forgiveness, and the justice of God. Here, more than anywhere else in Romans, Paul explains why Christ's coming means "good news" for needy, sinful people.
How does the gospel truth apply to us?
I. Cycle One
A. Narrative (v. 21)
"But now" marks the shift in Paul's focus from the old era of sin's domination to the new era of salvation.
"But now" God has intervened to provide a way for all who respond in faith, not only for those after the cross but also for those before it who will be transferred from the old era into the new.
As the wrath of God dominated the old era, so the righteousness of God dominates the new as he intercedes to fulfill his promises.
The righteousness of God has now been manifested apart from doing the law (which cannot be achieved).
This salvation-historical shift is denoted by the "but now."
The law must be seen as a temporary administration set up between God and his people to regulate their lives and reveal their sin until the establishment of the promise in Christ.
The Jewish identity markers of circumcision, Sabbath, and food laws are no longer required because the covenant of which they were a part has been made obsolete (Heb. 8:11-13).
11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
(Hebrews 8:11-13 NIVUS)
However, Paul hastens to balance this discontinuity in salvation history with a reminder of its continuity since the OT as a whole (witnessed to by the law and the prophets) anticipates and predicts this new work of God.
As Paul will soon say in the rest of this chapter of Romans and on into chapter 4, salvation has always been by faith.
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
(Genesis 15:6 NIVUS)
I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.
(Isaiah 46:13 NIVUS)
5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.
(Isaiah 51:5-6 NIVUS)
For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations."
(Isaiah 51:8 NIVUS)
1 ¶ Of David. A <maskil.> Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1-2 NIVUS)
"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—
(Habakkuk 2:4 NIVUS)
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Matthew 5:17 NIVUS)
For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.
(Matthew 11:13 NIVUS)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(Matthew 24:14 NIVUS)
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
(Luke 16:16 NIVUS)
Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote— Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
(John 1:45 NIVUS)
However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,
(Acts 24:14 NIVUS)
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
(Acts 28:23 NIVUS)
The gospel has been the consistent direction of salvation history -- we must agree with God's plan.
II. Cycle Two
A. Narrative (vv. 22-23)
God's righteousness is available only through faith in Christ, but it is available to anyone who has faith in Christ.
It is available to all because all need it.
All have sinned, keep sinning, and keep falling short (present tense) of God's glory.
God's glory involves conforming to the image of Christ.
29 ¶ For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30 NIVUS)
who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
(Philippians 3:21 NIVUS)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
(Romans 8:18 NIVUS)
He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 2:14 NIVUS)
This is the restoration of lost and original glory.
All fail to exhibit the "being-like-God" for which they were created.
It is into this original glory that we will be transformed in the last day by God through our faith in Christ.
The gospel has been the consistent need of mankind -- we must agree with God's assessment.
III. Cycle Three
A. Narrative (vv. 24-25a)
Since we all fall short in sin, we all need the justification that God provides for it.
But this justification is not universal, it is particular upon faith in Jesus Christ (v. 22).
To be "justified" according to Paul is not to be made righteous or even to be treated as righteous, but to be declared righteous.
It means to be acquitted by God of all charges that could be brought because of sin.
For Paul, this happens the moment a person believes – it is a present reality.
It is also freely given, by the grace of God, unconstrained by anything beyond his own will, unmerited on our behalf, only by faith.
The fact that justification is a matter of grace on God's side means that it must be a matter of faith on the human side.
Grace does not describe a quality of God but rather the way God has acted in Christ, requiring nothing but faith and allowing nothing but faith.
The very fact of the gracious nature of justification also answers to the dilemma of people who are under the power of sin – there is nothing else they can do but accept and apply faith in God's provision of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
It is grace that turns us into saints, and we cannot know what a saint is except by grace.
Note the ways or perspectives from which God's justification of sinners is considered: "freely by grace" gives us the mode whereas "through the redemption" gives us the means.
Christ is the means of our liberation by the payment of a price.
It is God himself who receives the ransom, but it is also God himself who provides it by his own initiative.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
(Ephesians 1:7 NIVUS)
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
(1 Corinthians 1:30 NIVUS)
The payment was the blood of Christ and it is applied when we believe it.
Our redemption was paid for on the cross, but we are redeemed when we come to the cross in faith.
It is here at the cross where "heaven's peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love."
The fulfilling of God's justice in Christ was at the same time fulfilling his love for us.
God presented Christ publicly as the OT picture of the mercy seat of atonement upon which the sacrificial blood was poured.
The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.
(Leviticus 16:2 NIVUS)
What was then hidden has now been made public for all.
What once was provisional has now been made complete.
The blood of Christ was the means by which God's wrath was forever satisfied.
1 ¶ The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming— not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 ¶ Then I said, ‘Here I am— it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’"
8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made).
9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second.
10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:1-10 NIVUS)
The gospel is the ultimate provision of God's grace -- we must agree with God's solution.
IV. Cycle Four
A. Narrative (vv. 25b-26)
Through the death of Christ, God demonstrates his righteousness and justice.
It is God acting in accordance with his own character.
God did not overlook or fail to punish or fail to forgive sins committed before Christ, but he did postpone the full penalty for them.
He was waiting until the fullness of time when Christ would appear to take away the sins of many.
23 ¶ It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.
26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:23-28 NIVUS)
The "present time" refers back to the "but now" at the beginning of the paragraph.
This is the climax of salvation history.
These verses consider well the weight of sin; past, present, and future.
They are all met in Christ by faith.
God can maintain his righteous character even as he acts to justify sinful people because Christ in his sacrifice provides full satisfaction of God's demands for impartial and invariable justice.
The gospel is the ultimate satisfaction of God's justice -- we must agree with God's authority.
How does the gospel truth apply to us?
The gospel has been the consistent direction of salvation history -- we must agree with God's plan. (v. 21)
The gospel has been the consistent need of mankind -- we must agree with God's assessment. (vv. 22-23)
The gospel is the ultimate provision of God's grace -- we must agree with God's solution. (vv. 24-25a)
The gospel is the ultimate satisfaction of God's justice -- we must agree with God's authority. (vv. 25b-26)
The gospel truth is our only point of agreement with God upon which everything else depends.
This is not short-term optimism, this is long-term hope.
There is every reason to live fully, freely, and abundantly with a very real sense of spiritual life.
Through the gospel your life has meaning since you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1Pet. 2:25).
Illus.: Hanns Jones - the man who jumped from the center span of the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay on May 30th because he was alone and hopeless but decided on the way down he had something to live for after all – his 18 mo. old son and the other 3 children of his broken marriage (reported in the 8/23/01 Chgo. Trib.). He lived by the miracle of God (broken neck, broken ribs, ruptured spleen, collapsed lung, clothes stripped off his body in the 200' drop feet first, swam ½ the length of a football field and hung onto a bridge piling). He got a second chance that few get. The man on the marine rescue team who found him said that in his 17 years on the job he gets 12 to 15 calls per year on suicide attempts from the bridge and only 5 or 6 have lived. Evidently it was the gospel truth that got to Hanns Jones on the way down when he decided life was precious and that it was a bad idea to jump because the picture of him in the paper shows him in a neck brace triumphantly holding a sign that said, "A Bridge Was Forged; Time Was Crossed: Strange Redemption At Such A Cost: Jesus – One."
Our only hope is Christ; and that's the gospel truth.