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Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship – 30th March 2008

How Can We Be Right With God? Romans 3:21-31

A. We can we be right with God!

It’s amazing the lengths that people go to, to try to make themselves right with God. A Canadian Press photo shows how a man from Havana, Cuba was trying to appease God’s wrath. The man is lying on his back on a dirt road. Attached to his ankle is a chain several feet long. The other end of the chain is wrapped around a rock. The caption explains that the bearded man is inch by inch pulling the rock on a pilgrimage to a sanctuary dedicated to St. Lazarus.

We have to admire this man’s devotion, and the commitment of millions of people who are in their own way trying to make themselves right with God through religion, good works, sacrifice.

1) There is no-one right with God

And yet, the sad thing is, the Bible says that this is useless because no matter how much we try we cannot make ourselves right with God. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we’ve seen that in of ourselves, none of us stand right before God. Whether we are self-centred pleasure-seekers, self-righteous finger-pointers, or sincere religious devotees – “There is no-one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:9

2) We cannot make ourselves right with God

And we could never change our standing before God! No matter how hard we try or how well we live, we cannot make ourselves right with God. “No-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” Romans 3:20

3) There is a Righteousness from God

If that was the end of Paul’s message, we would all be lost and without hope. But the gospel is good news for sinners. Romans 1:16: “The gospel... is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” God can save the Jew and the Gentile, the worst criminal and the most respectable pillar of society, the best here and the worst here. God loves us so much that he wants to forgive each one of us and bring us all into his family.

And the amazing message of our passage this morning is that God has done everything needed to make us right in his sight! Being right with God is not about the law but about God’s grace. It is not about what we can do for God, but about what Jesus has done for us. It is not about our works but about our faith! Read Romans 3:21-31

B. How Can we be right with God?

Paul starts with the words, “But now” v21 because it is the start of a new section in his letter. But he’s also making a deeper statement. What he is going to talk about is available today. Paul knows that he lives in a new day – the day of God’s grace when “a righteousness from God... has been made known.” Now there is hope for us, because God has revealed his plan to make sinners right with himself.

This was not a completely new thing, as if God had changed direction or changed his mind – “the Law and the Prophets testify” to this. But the gospel reveals how God can make sinners right with himself. Paul says that we can be right with God by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone!

1) Declared Right by God - by Grace Alone

First of all, God does this by declaring us right by grace!

i) Justification

Those who have trusted in Jesus “are justified freely by his grace.” v24 Justification is a legal term. It’s a legal declaration, from the law courts. After hearing the evidence, the judge would either declares the guilty to be condemned, or he declares the innocent to be righteous. The judge doesn’t make the accused guilty or innocent, but he does declare them to be one or the other.

These are the two verdicts that will be heard when “When God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ” Romans 2:16. However we don’t need to wait until that day, because God has already revealed what his judgement on our lives will be – He says “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:22-23 Whether we see ourselves as the worst of sinners, or close to perfect, the fact is that we’re not perfect. No matter how good we are, we have all sinned, we always keep on falling short of God’s character, his splendour, his standard. We know what judgement we deserve.

But Paul says that God “justifies the wicked.” Romans 4:5 . He does this by his grace. This means that God anticipates his final judgement and declares us to be righteous in his sight now! He doesn’t just forgive us our past sins – this would leave us afraid of falling in the future. He doesn’t even give us a full pardon, wiping the slate clean. He goes further. God gives his final judgement on our standing before God now and declares us to be righteous – as righteous as Jesus!

ii) By Grace Alone

And this is all “by his grace.” It is “apart from law.” It is not gained through keeping the 10 commandments or the other laws of God. The saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God. God in his love gives to us what we could not deserve, what we could not earn or pay for. It is a free gift. Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Max Lucado writes in “In the Grip of Grace” “In my first church, we had more then our fair share of southern ladies who loved to cook. I fit in well because I was a single guy who loved to eat... I counted on these potluck dinners for my survival. While others were planning what to cook, I was studying my kitchen shelves to see what I could offer. The result was pitiful: one of my better offerings was a unopened bag of crisps, another time I took a half-empty jar of peanuts.

Wasn’t much, but no-one ever complained. Those ladies would take my jar of peanuts and set is on the long table with the rest of the food and hand me a plate. “Go ahead. Fill your plate.” And I would! Mashed potatoes and gravy. Roast beef. Fried chicken. I came like a pauper and ate like a king!”

This is like what Paul says happens to us. We come as a sinner (with nothing to bring to God to make us right with him) and are declared to be a saint (with the righteousness of Jesus!) All by God’s grace!

2) Paid for by the cross of Jesus Christ - In Christ Alone

But that sounds unfair! I’m sure every parent has heard, “That’s not Fair!!” Every child wants their parents to be fair – to get what they deserve, to get the same as their brothers or sisters. When we were young and cutting up the last bit of cake, we always said - “You cut, I’ll choose.” One person cut the cake – but the other person then could choose which bit to get – this would ensure that the cutter cut fairly, cause if he didn’t he would lose out!!

We would also expect God to be fair. And yet, the gospel sounds unfair. How can God justify the wicked. How can God declare that we who are so obviously unrighteous to be righteous in his sight? How can God forgive me without compromising his righteousness or condoning our unrighteousness?

The answer of course, is the cross of Jesus. Because “Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6. Paul describes 3 things that the cross did here:

i) Bought our Freedom

Paul says that we are justified “through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” v24 . Justification comes from the law courts. Redemption comes from the market place. It is a commercial term. It’s used in the Old Testament to do with slaves who were bought in order to be freed and God also uses this term in describing how he bought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon: Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Paul says that we have also been bought from slavery. And the price of our freedom, was nothing less than the blood of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:18-19: “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ.”

We were slaves in an empty way of life. Unable to free ourselves from the bondage to sin and guilt and death and hell. But Jesus redeemed us. He bought us with his own blood. He paid the ransom price. And he has set us free!

ii) Turned Away God’s Wrath

Secondly Paul says the cross turned away God’s wrath. A while ago we read in Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men.”

We described God’s wrath as his just and settled reaction against sin, his holy response to evil, his refusal to accept it and his just judgement on it. And we saw that each of us were under God’s wrath - “because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” Romans 2:5

But because of God’s love for us, he deflected this wrath from us to himself. v25: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement.” There’s been a lot of controversy over this verse. But it is from the temple, the language of sacrifice. It is also translated: “as a propitiationor a sacrifice that turns away wrath.

On the Jewish Day of Atonement, two goats were taken. Leviticus 16 describes how the priest put his hands on the head of one goat and confessed the sins of the people. Then that “scapegoat” was taken out into the wilderness and set free to symbolize the carrying away of sins. But the other goat was killed and its blood taken into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and sprinkled on the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant. The blood temporarily turned away God’s wrath against their sin.

Of course this ceremony could never really deal with sin. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4. But in these ceremonies, God was looking forward to the cross.

On the cross, our sins were placed on Jesus and he took God’s wrath against sin for us! He died in our place. He took the punishment in our place.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Jesus took the full weight of God’s righteous anger which we deserved. And as a result God can justly declare us right in his sight because his wrath against our sin has been fully expressed.

iii) Demonstrated God’s Justice

Lastly Paul says that the cross demonstrated God’s justice. “He did this to demonstrate his justice” v26 The cross is a public revelation of the righteousness of God.

In the past God postponed judgement on sinners. People were not immediately punished for their sin. This made God appear to be unjust. But God had a purpose in this. “God’s kindness leads you towards repentance.” Romans 2:4 God delayed his judgement because he wanted people to come to repentance. And he was waiting until the cross.

But now, in the present, he has punished those sins in the death of his Son the cross. He has declared his justice – every sin has been punished.

As a result God is shown to be just when he “justifies those who have faith in Jesus” v26 because our sins have been paid for in full! Jesus has taken our punishment so that we would could receive his righteousness. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18

iv) One Way to God

That is why there is no other way into God’s family. Only Jesus bought our freedom. Only Jesus turned away God’s wrath. Only Jesus was punished for our sins. There was no one else who could or would take our punishment for sin and so “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Only in Christ can we be declared right before God, because “The Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.” 1 John 4:14 Only Jesus died for us!

3) Accepted by trusting in Jesus Christ - Through Faith Alone

We can be right with God because by his grace God declares us to be right. We can be right with God because in Christ, our justification was paid for in full. Thirdly, we can be right with God because all we need to do is trust in Jesus.

“This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” v22

It’s so important that Paul repeats this truth. In fact he mentions faith 8 times in our passage. Paul repeatedly states that we are declared right with God when we have faith in Jesus.

i) Dependence on Christ

What is that faith? It is much more than just believing in the facts of the cross. In 1958 America’s first commercial jet air service began with the flight of the Boeing 707. A month after its first flight, a traveller on an older type of aircraft, a piston-engine, propeller-driven DC-6 struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger. The passenger turned out to be an engineer with Boeing.

The traveller asked the engineer about the new jet aircraft. At this the engineer launched into lengthy talk about the extensive testing that Boeing had done on the jet engine before it had started in commercial service. He talked about how safe these new jet engines were.

After this long and detailed description had come to an end, the traveller asked him if he himself had flown on the new jet aeroplane. The engineer replied, “No, not yet. I think I’ll wait until it’s been in service awhile!”

We could be like that with Jesus. It is great to have a good understanding of what Jesus did on the cross. It is great to sing about it and tell other people about it. But none of this is faith.

Faith is climbing on board and putting our life in Jesus’ hands!! It is deciding to depend on Jesus alone to save us. It is not a blind leap in the dark, “Faith is nothing but believing what God promises or says.” It is trusting that if God says that Jesus is enough for our salvation – then he is enough!!

ii) Not depending on Ourselves

And so faith in Jesus is the opposite of earning our own salvation. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” v28 It doesn’t matter how good we are, we’ll never be right with God if we trust in ourselves.

We don’t earn salvation through faith. Faith is not about God doing his part and we do our part. Faith is simply about accepting what Jesus has done, receiving what God in his grace offers to us.

That is why, if we are trusting in anything else as well as Jesus to make us right before God – our church attendance, our good lives, our Christian service – then we are showing that we are not depending on Jesus at all! Faith in Jesus is to remove any trust in ourselves and depend only on Jesus!

And so if we have accepted God’s grace, if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross then we can know that we are declared right with God. Nothing and no-one will ever change this! We can be confident in our salvation

C. How should we Respond?

1) No Boasting –Humility

But this does not mean we should boast. Paul goes on to show what our response should be if we have faith in Jesus. He says the gospel means that we must have a deeper humility and deeper gratitude. Praise not pride is the native language of the Christian.

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.” v27 There is no place for boasting, because we’ve done nothing to save us. There is no place for boasting because Jesus has done everything to save us by dying on the cross. Ephesians 2:8-9: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no-one can boast.”

Philippians 3 Paul describes his own privileges and achievements as a sincere follower of Judaism. And yet he came to realise that this was not enough. He concluded: Philippians 3:8-9: “I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

2) No Discrimination – Unity

The gospel also means there is also no place for discrimination. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”

If we are declared right with God by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone – then whether we are a Jew or a Gentile, Irish or Scottish, African or European, rich or poor, male or female – makes no difference to our relationship with God, and it makes no difference to how we come into that relationship with God. We all need to come in the same way!

We stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. “There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

And so these distinctions in the world should have no place in the body of Christ. Division is fundamentally wrong. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 4:28 We are brothers and sisters in Christ. There are no second class Christians, no “less justified Christians”. If we have faith in Christ – we are righteous in God’s sight today!

3) No Excuse – Changed Life

And if we are declared right with God, we should go on and live a different life. The gospel is not an excuse to break God’s law. “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” v31 We will see this in chapters 6 to 8 in greater detail that the work of God in our lives does not only declare us right before God but empowers us to go and live a transformed life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus has redeemed us then we have been set free from slavery to sin and guilt, and now we belong to Jesus. So we should live for him! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”

D. Conclusion

So are you right before God? Have you accepted that you are a sinner and deserve God’s wrath? Have you accepted God’s gift of righteousness?

If not yet, then you can accept this today? “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 There is no reason to delay. No need to wait any longer without being sure that we’re in God’s family, that our sins are forgiven and that we are right with God and will be right forever!

The gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” because it doesn’t depend on who we are or what we’ve achieved. Our salvation is about grace not law, about what Jesus has done and not about what we can do, about faith not works! Today, we can be right with God!

power can declare anyone to be right with him if they have faith in Jesus.

“Faith is the eye that looks to him, the hand that receives his free gift, the mouth that drinks the living water.”

ing companion It is faith is often misunof course many times we

This is a repeated truth in the Bible:

Emphasis in how he starts this section – in the greek this is emphasised by coming first – Apart from law, a righteousness from God has been made known!!v21 (because as we’ve seen in v20 this was impossible)

Illustration 195

FAITH - Feeling Afraid I trust him

Need to explain

Justification – righteousness through faith, apart from law

Redemption

Sacrifice of Atonement

God’s justice – because sins left unpunished, because now he justifies those have faith.

“just and the one who justifies??

It sounds unfair. Surely God can’t mean everyone who believes! Surely God could not just forgive the murderer, the child abuser, the corrupt politician, the evil dictator. Surely these people could not be righteous in God’s sight?

God has stated his justice:

Deut 25:1

Proverbs 17:15

Illustrations

Back in the 1800s, a young Englishman traveled to California in search of gold. After several months of prospecting, he struck it rich. On his way home, he stopped in New Orleans.

Not long into his visit, he came upon a crowd of people all looking in the same direction. Approaching the crowd, he recognized that they had gathered for a slave auction. Slavery had been outlawed in England for years, so this young man’s curiosity drew him to watch as a person became someone else’s property. He heard “Sold!” just as he joined the crowd. A middle-aged black man was taken away.

Next a beautiful young black girl was pushed up onto the platform and made to walk around so everyone could see her. The miner heard vile jokes and comments that spoke of evil intentions from those around him. Men were laughing as their eyes remained fixed on this new item for sale.

The bidding began.

Within a minute, the bids surpassed what most slave owners would pay for a black girl. As the bidding continued higher and higher, it was apparent that two men wanted her. In between their bids, they laughed about what they were going to do with her, and how the other one would miss out. The miner stood silent as anger welled up inside of him. Finally, one man bid a price that was beyond the reach of the other. The girl looked down. The auctioneer called out, “Going once! Going twice!”

Just before the final call, the miner yelled out a price that was exactly twice the previous bid. An amount that exceeded the worth of any man. The crowd laughed, thinking that the miner was only joking, wishing that he could have the girl himself. The auctioneer motioned to the miner to come and show his money. The miner opened up the bag of gold he had brought for the trip. The auctioneer shook his head in disbelief as he waved the girl over to him.

The girl walked down the steps of the platform until she was eye-to-eye with the miner.

She spat straight in his face and said through clenched teeth, “I hate you!” The miner, without a word, wiped his face, paid the auctioneer, took the girl by the hand, and walked away from the still-laughing crowd.

He seemed to be looking for something in particular as they walked up one street and down another. Finally he stopped in front of some sort of store, though the slave girl did not know what type of store it was. She waited outside as the dirty-faced miner went inside and started talking to an elderly man. She couldn’t make out what they were talking about. At one point the voices got louder, and she overheard the store clerk say, “But it’s the law! It’s the law!” Peering in, she saw the miner pull out his bag of gold and pour what was left of it on the table.

With what seemed like a look of disgust, the clerk picked up the gold and went in a back room. He came out with a piece of paper, and both he and the miner signed it.

The young girl looked away as the miner came out the door. Stretching out his hand, he said to the girl, “Here are your manumission papers. You are free.” The girl did not look up.

He tried again. “Here. These are papers that say you are free. Take them.”

“I hate you!” the girl said, refusing to look up. “Why do you make fun of me!”

“No, listen,” he pleaded. “These are your freedom papers. You are a free person.”

The girl looked at the papers, then looked at him, and looked at the papers once again.

“You just bought me...and now, you’re setting me free?”

“That’s why I bought you. I bought you to set you free.”

The beautiful young girl fell to her knees in front of the miner, tears streaming down her face. “You bought me to set me free! You bought me to set me free!” she said over and over.

The miner said nothing.

Clutching his muddy boots, the girl looked up at the miner and said, “All I want to do is to serve you—because you bought me to set me free!”

Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship – 30th March 2008 Romans 3:21-31 How can We Be Right with God?

Exegetical Outline

1. Paul says now a righteousness has been made known (v21-24)

a) This righteousness is from God.

b) This righteousness is not through the law.

c) This righteousness is testified to by the Law and the Prophets.

d) This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ v22

e) This righteousness comes to all who believe

i) There is no difference for all have sinned

(I) They fall short of the glory of God

ii) There is no difference for all are justified

(I) Freely by his grace

(II) Through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

f) This righteousness comes because God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement

i) God accomplishes this through faith in his blood

ii) God did this to demonstrate his justice

(I) Because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished

(II) So as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus

2. Paul says that all boasting is therefore excluded (v27-31)

a) Paul says that boasting is then excluded

i) This is not based on observing the law

ii) But is based on faith.

b) The reason for this is because Paul sates that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

c) So God is the God of Jews and Gentiles

i) He justifies the circumcised by faith

ii) He justifies the uncircumcised by the same faith.

d) This does not mean that the law is nullified, rather it is upheld!

Exegetical Proposition

God has made known a righteousness from God, through faith in Jesus Christ and not be observing the law.

Exegetical purpose

To show how God can be just and at the same time justify those who have faith in Jesus.

Bringing all Scripture to bear

Philippians 3:8-9: “I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

1 Corinthians 11:7: “A man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God;”

Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Justice

Deuteronomy 25:1: “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.”

Proverbs 17:15: “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—

the LORD detests them both.”

Exodus 23:7: “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.”

Redemption

Leviticus 25:48: “he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him”

Exodus 15:13: “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”

Isaiah 43:1: “But now, this is what the LORD says—

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Ephesians 1: 7: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Colossians 1:14: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”

1 Peter 1:18-19: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”

Atonement

Exodus 25:22: “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”

Hebrews 9:5: “Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.”

Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,a that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Demonstration

Acts 14:16: “In the past, he let all nations go their own way.”

Acts 17:30: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Romans 2:4: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?

Faith

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.”

Boasting

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.”

Philippians 3:4-7: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:28-31: “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. 30 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. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

Galatians 6:14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Rev 7:10: And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

All nations

Genesis 12:3: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Deuternonomy 6:4: “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

v21 Now – a new argument, right now (it is available today) and now (Paul lives in this new day of grace).

A fresh revelation, although not a completely new as the prophets and law testified to it. It is fresh because it comes through the cross and with Christ. This is not plan B, God trying something because his first plan didn’t work!!!

Under the Old Testament Law, righteousness came by man behaving; but under the Gospel, righteousness comes by believing.

God has taken the initiative to give sinners a righteous status in his sight.

Has been made know – perfect tense – refers to the historical death of Christ and its abiding consequences

V22 Through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe –

It is offered to all because it is needed by all –

V23 All have sinned – everybody’s cumulative past being summed up in the aorist tense

Fall short – continuing present - no matter how high we attain, we always come short of God’s glory! This single Greek verb is in the present tense, stressing continuing action. It can be translated “keep on falling short.” The simple fact is that as a sinner not a single human being by his own efforts is able to measure up to the glory of God.

Of the glory of God – doxa – probably the image or glory of God in which we were all made but which all fail to live up to. God’s glory is His splendor, the outward manifestation of His attributes.

V24 The righteousness of God is God’s righteous initiative in putting sinners right with himself, by bestowing on them a righteousness which is not their own but his. It is God’s just justification of the unjust, his righteous way of pronouncing the unrighteous righteous, in which he both demonstrates his righteousness and gives righteousness to others. (the pres. tense may be trans. “keep on being declared righteous,” i.e., each person as he believes is justified)

Justification – a legal or forensic term, belonging to the law courts. It’s opposite is condemnation. Both are pronouncements of the judge. It is declare (not make) righteous.

They are alternative verdicts which God the judge may pass on judgement day. So when God justifies sinners today, he anticipates his own final judgement by bringing into the present what belongs properly to the last day.

It is not just pardon or forgiveness. It is more – it is the bestowal of a righteous status, the sinner’s reinstatement in the favour and fellowship of God. It is to declare or pronounce righteous – not to make righteous (sanctification). The sanctification is a process that occurs over time. Of course justification and regeneration are simultaneous – the new status and the new heart comes together and so are put on the road to a new life.

It is not only that God withholds the punishment that we deserve, but that he accepts us into his family, into his fellowship, into his loving intimacy. He declares us to be righteous by imputing Christ’s righteousness to us – which means that God from then on reckons Christ’s righteousness to be ours.

“Pardon is the remission of punishment, justification is a declaration that no ground for the infliction of punishment exists.”

A. The source of our justification – where it originates – “freely by his grace” - BY GRACE ALONE

The saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God the Father!

It could no have been from us – we were dead in our sins – and dead men and women do not save themselves...

God in His mercy does not give us what we do deserve, and God in grace gives us what we do not deserve.

Freely – as a gift ?????????“as a free gift,” i.e., without charge)

By his grace – absolutely free, and utterly undeserved favour. “Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.” Grace too is a favorite word of Paul’s, used by him in Romans 24 times (in the Gr.).

B. The Grounds of our Justification – on what it rests – “Through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” - IN CHRIST ALONE

How is it possible for the righteous God to declare the unrighteous to be righteous without either compromising his righteousness or condoning their unrighteousness? Of course the answer is THE CROSS

“God who justifies the wicked” Romans 4:5

How could a righteous God still act righteously and so overthrow the moral order by declaring righteous the righteous? Without the cross of Jesus Christ it would be unjustified, immoral and impossible!! But “Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6, he shed his own blood! And because of the cross God can justify the unjust.

What did God do on the cross?

Paul uses three words that describe what God did on the cross, what God did through Jesus Christ once for all when he died on the cross, his blood being a clear reference to the sacrificial death.

“Through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” v24 redemption – apolytrosis – Redemption of Sinners

Commercial term – from marketplace a ransom payment

In OT – word used of slaves – those slaves who were purchased in order to be set free were said to have been redeemed. Metaphorically of the people of Israel redeemed from their slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon.

So we were slaves, unable to free ourselves from the bondage to sin and guilt. But Jesus Christ bought us out of captivity, shedding his own blood as the ransom price

So now we belong to him – he has bought us!

“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement” v25 atonement/propitiation hilasterion Propitiation of God’s Wrath

Propitiate – to placate God’s anger – a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and thereby turns God’s wrath into favour (propotious) When Jesus experienced this, we can understand the call on the cross – My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? – the experience of taking God’s wrath against the sins of the whole world on himself!

Possible translations of this word:

1. Could be translated mercy-seat or atonement cover (Heb 9:5) – this was where the blood was sprinkled on the Day of atonement and so it has been suggested that Jesus is himself now the mercy-seat where God and sinners are reconciled. So God has publicly set forth the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of the intelligent universe as the way of salvation.

But perhaps not true as – no definite article, not the context of levitical symbolism, confusing metaphor with Jesus both the victim whose blood was shed and the place where it took place, and would Paul refer to Jesus as a piece of inanimate temple furniture.

1. Also possibly expiation. The object of this verb is sin, not God. So it means to expiate sin, to annul guilt or remove defilement.

But the context is that Paul has talked about God’s wrath upon sin. And so we should not be any more ashamed to talk of propitiation as we should be ashamed to talk about God’s wrath on sin!

Why is propitiation needed? Because God’s holy anger rests on evil. God’s anger is different from human outbursts of rage – it is his settled and proper response to the evil and wickedness in this world.

Who does the propitiating? Not that we propitiate God’s anger- we cannot do this. But God in his undeserved and unlimited love has done this for us. God presented him – Christ as a sacrifice of atonement.

How has the propitiating been accomplished? God gave himself to pay for our sins, to die in our place, to suffer the holy anger of God in our place.

“God gave himself to save us from himself”

God therefore is righteous in justifying us, declaring us righteous, because he designed “to direct against himself, in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which sinners deserved”

For God to have justified their sin lightly would have been “to have compromised with the lie that moral evil does not matter and so to have violated his own truth and mocked men with an empty lying reassurance.”

The best illustration of this truth is the Jewish Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. Two goats were presented at the altar, and one of them was chosen for a sacrifice. The goat was slain and its blood taken into the holy of holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat, that golden cover on the ark of the covenant. This sprinkled blood covered the two tablets of the Law inside the ark. The shed blood met (temporarily) the righteous demands of the holy God.

The priest then put his hands on the head of the other goat and confessed the sins of the people. Then the goat was taken out into the wilderness and set free to symbolize the carrying away of sins. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). In the Old Testament period, the blood of animals could never take away sin; it could only cover it until the time when Jesus would come and purchase a finished salvation. God had “passed over” the sins that were past (Rom. 3:25, literal translation), knowing that His Son would come and finish the work. Because of His death and resurrection, there would be “redemption”—a purchasing of the sinner and setting him free.

There a goat’s blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement to cover (atone) Israel’s sins (Lev. 16:15), and satisfy God for another year. Jesus’ death is the final sacrifice which completely satisfied God’s demands against sinful people, thus averting His wrath from those who believe. (The verb hilaskomai, “to satisfy by a sacrifice, to propitiate,” is used in Luke 18:13 [“have mercy”] and Heb. 2:17 [“make atonement”]. And the related noun, hilasmos, “propitiation,” appears in 1 John 2:2; 4:10.)

“demonstrate his justice” v26 demonstration endeixis Demonstration of God’s justice

forbearance (?????????“holding back, delay”)

The cross is a public demonstration or revelation as well as an accomplishment. It vindicated the justice of God.

Here Paul brings a contrast between the past and the present – the past – where God in forbearance which postponed judgement on sinners (which made God appear unjust) and the present punishment of those sins on the cross (by which God demonstrated his justice).

God left the sins of former generations unpunished because in his forbearance he waited until the time when he would punish those sins in the death of his Son.

This was the way he could be just – demonstrate his justice – and simultaneously be the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

C. The Means of our Justification -how it is received - “through faith in his blood” - THROUGH FAITH ALONE

3 times:

“through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” v22

“through faith in his blood.” v25 or more probably “by his blood, to be received by faith.” The phrase “in (or by) His blood” probably should go with “a sacrifice of atonement,” not with “through faith.” A believer places His faith in Christ, not in His blood as such.

“those who have faith in Jesus.” v26

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” v28

Paul repeatedly affirmed that faith, not works of the Law, is the way of salvation. He wrote the word “faith” eight times in Romans 3:22-31! (See 22, 25-28, 30 [twice], and 31.)

Faith is not how we merit salvation – nor is it about God doing his part and we do our part like our salvation is some co-operative enterprise between God and us. Grace is non-contributary and faith is the opposite of self-regarding.

The value of faith is not to be found in itself, but entirely and exclusively in its object – Jesus and him crucified.

To say that we are justified by faith alone is another way of saying that we are justified by Christ alone!

Emphasise that it is to trust in Jesus – a personal trust – a personal commitment to and dependence on Jesus.

To have faith in Christ is to move from only approval of the facts of the gospel, it is to decide to depend on Jesus alone to save me.

“Faith is the eye that looks to him, the hand that receives his free gift, the mouth that drinks the living water.”

“Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.”

Salvation is about grace not law, about mercy not merit, about faith not works, about what Jesus has done and not about what we can do!

Emphasis in how he starts this section – in the greek this is emphasised by coming first – Apart from law, a righteousness from God has been made known!!v21 (because as we’ve seen in v20 this was impossible)

D. No room for Boasting v27-28 HUMBLES SINNERS

Before Paul had believed in Jesus he was proud of all his inheritance and achievements as a sincere follower of Judaism. However this all came crashing down when he met Jesus – he writes about it in Philippians 3

Paul has already stated that the Gentiles were also prone to boasting – Romans 1:30

“Boasting is the language of our fallen self-centredness” But on those who have been justified by faith, boasting is excluded – because through faith all our salvation, righteousness and standing before God is due to Jesus Christ and not to us!!!!!

v28 – we cannot be right with God though keeping the law – the ceremonial laws of food and days, or the moral law of ethics and good living. Salvation is through faith and not by works!!! And so our boast should be in Christ and not in ourselves!

Praise is the native language of the Christian, not boasting, humility not pride, gratitude not accomplishments.

The swimmer, when he is saved from drowning, does not brag because he trusted the lifeguard. What else could he do? When a believing sinner is justified by faith, he cannot boast of his faith, but he can boast in a wonderful Saviour.

E. No Place for Discrimination - The same faith in Jesus saves all v29-30 also v22 UNITES BELIEVERS

The blessings that were the Jewish people were not to be exclusively theirs, but through them all nations were to be blessed.

Through Christ, Abraham’s seed, this covenant has been fulfilled so that through Christ all are justified who believe in him

There is only one God and one way of salvation – the key statement of this gospel in 1v16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

This is true of the Jew and Gentile distinction- but equally of every distinction that people make – race, sex, class, age, - these distinctions make no difference – they make no difference to our relationship with God or how we can come into that relationship with God - and so they should make no difference in our fellowship with one another.

At the foot of the cross,. There is a level ground. If any one of us have faith in Christ then we are equally accepted by God! We are brothers and sisters – nothing more but also nothing less. There is no such thing as a second class Christian, a less saved Christian, a less justified Christian! If we have faith in Christ this morning we are accepted in Christ, we are saved, we are righteous in God’s sight!!

This is why any division and separation in the body of Christ is so fundamentally wrong!

F. No Rejection of the law UPHOLDS THE LAW

Does this mean that we nullify the law? No – rather we uphold the law!

What does law mean?

1. Does it mean the whole OT? If so then he means the gospel of justification by faith upholds rather than undermines the OT because the OT itself taught the truth of justifying faith (3:21) – if this is so then chapter 4 is the fleshing out of this argument from two primary OT characters Abraham and David!

3. Does it mean the Mosaic law – faith upholds the law by assigning it its proper place in God’s purpose – to expose and condemn sin and to lead them to Christ God obeyed His own Law in working out the plan of salvation. Jesus in His life and death completely fulfilled the demands of the Law.

OR Paul means that faith in Christ does not lead us to reject and break the law of God but rather live out fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law though the power of the Holy Spirit (8:4)

Possibly the last one – through faith in Christ we are declared righteous and at the same time undergo a regeneration and empowering to live out the righteous requirements of the law (not perfectly, but by no means does it excuse or encourage sinful living) - Paul will speak more about this in Romans 6-8!

Homiletical Purpose – to show how God can justify the wicked and still be just!

Homiletical Proposition: We are saved by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone

E. How Can we be right with God?

1) Through Grace Alone

Illustration 271

2) Through Christ Alone

Illustration 28

i) Redemption

ii) Propitiation

iii) Demonstration

3) Through Faith Alone

Illustration 195

F. How should we Respond?

1) No Boasting – Humbles Sinners

Illustration 264

2) No Discrimination – Unites Believers

3) No Excuse – Upholds the Law

Conclusion

Thoughts

Illustrations

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