Romans 3:1–8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First
of ...
Then What Advantage Has the Jew?

So Paul asks - or, he lets an imaginary objector ask - in verse 1: "Then what advantage ...
justified when You speak and blameless when You judge" (51:4). In other words, David says that the
reason God would be jus...
In fact, in arguing this way (Paul might say), you entangle yourselves in three contradictions of your own
beliefs. Here t...
We are coming to the end of this great indictment of the human race that began back in Romans 1:18.
The whole section of t...
I really want this message about sin and about your sinful condition and mine to be hope-giving and lifeproducing. Isn't t...
That seems plain enough. But here's a problem that troubles me. In that same Psalm which Paul quotes
to say, "There is non...
And all the other four Old Testament quotes probably refer to the enemies of David among his own
Jewish people. But it's n...
Now the other question: How does he describe the state of being "under sin" in these verses? Or: What
can we learn about s...
Being "under sin" means that our relations with people are ruined, even though God's common grace
may restrain us from tre...
have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin." "Jews and Greeks" means "everybody" because "Greeks" stood ...
unto death, but it is a deadly kindness - the kindness of a doctor who will not tell you the truth about
your cancer in it...
says, "Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin"? The part of the Psalm that he quotes doesn't seem to
mean everybody is unr...
I saw this most clearly in Psalm 5, which Paul quotes in Romans 3:13a, "Their throat is an open grave."
This is referring ...
1. Ruined Relationship with God

Being "under sin" is first and foremost a ruined relation with God. Not, first, a ruined ...
Then, in verses 15-17, being "under sin" is not a way of speaking, but a way of acting: "Their feet are
swift to shed bloo...
and wrong and that all ethics are relative and arbitrary, but wind up saying it is right for you to agree
with them and wr...
they hear something they don't want to hear. Some people devote themselves day and night to games
and hobbies and sports. ...
Remember now, it is not my word, but God's Word, the Bible, that shows us the way. So let's look
together at Romans 3:19–2...
Verse 20 is given as the basis or ground of verse 19: "For no human being will be justified in his (God's)
sight by works ...
God which puts us in a right relationship to him where there is no more guilt and condemnation is called
"justification" i...
apart from law, then he defines that righteousness in verse 22 as "the righteousness through faith in
Jesus Christ for all...
©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distrib...
Here are some of the implications that we will come back to.

1) Everybody in the whole world is guilty before God. 2) No ...
Step 3 - verse 20a: [All mouths are stopped] ". . . because by the works of the Law no flesh will be
justified in His sigh...
It's like a teenager who goes to the mailbox to get the mail. He brings it in and puts it on the table. He
flips through i...
Through the Law Came the Knowledge of Sin

Now, still moving backward in Paul's argument, how do those two steps (3 and 4)...
not in any public school curriculum, though it is more important than any other fact they teach. Hold on
to this truth. Le...
own mouth will be stopped. And so, while there is still time, turn to Christ and, as verse 22 says, receive
"the righteous...
Therefore when God just passes over sin and lets sinners go without just punishment, he seems to be
unrighteous. He seems ...
Look at Romans 4:5–8 where Paul is unpacking the truth of justification by quoting the Old Testament.

5) To one who does ...
Christ Only Suffered Once

And mark this: he only suffered once. He is not sacrificed again and again in the Lord's Supper...
law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in
Jesus Christ for ...
Justification Precedes Sanctification

Be sure that you see the objective reality of this outside ourselves. This is not y...
In Romans 3:24 Paul says that we are justified "by his grace as a gift." The love of God for sinners
overflows in gifts of...
It is sure because the effect of the death of God's Son is objective and real and definite and invincible for
God's people...
Unshakable in a Hundred Crises

Today I want to focus on verses 23-24. Verse 23 gives the universal need of every human be...
instead of loving God's glory and treasuring God's glory, sin exchanges God's glory for something else.
That is what sin i...
achievement of this verse. It's all about what God has done to save us and how he did it. We need to see
this and think ab...
Study Notes on Romans 3 1 8
Study Notes on Romans 3 1 8
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Study Notes on Romans 3 1 8

  1. 1. Romans 3:1–8 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just. Their Condemnation Is Just The text ends, "Their condemnation is just." Whose condemnation is just? Well, we will see. And we will not only see, but we will see why it is just. Therefore, this is very relevant to you and me. There is a judgment coming on the world. It's mentioned in verse 6: "Otherwise, how will God judge the world?" He is going to judge the world. And some will be condemned. And their condemnation will be just. Who are they? And what did they say in these eight verses that unleashed this terrible sentence against them from the inspired apostle? I hope you will listen and learn how not to deal with God and his Word. As Romans 3 opens, Paul has just argued in Romans 2:25 that if a Jewish person does not follow the Law of God, then his "circumcision has become uncircumcision." That is, he is no different from a Gentile. Not only that -he said in 2:27 that Gentiles who do follow the Law of God will in the last day stand in judgment over Jewish people who have treated the Law as a mere letter, instead of letting it have its inward transforming effect by the Holy Spirit. He said all this to make plain that Jews, as well as Gentiles, are all under the power of sin and in need of the great life-giving gospel that Paul preaches about the gift of God's righteousness (1:16-17) - namely, that no matter how much sin you brought into this room today (Jew or Gentile), you can have a right standing with God because of Christ's death and resurrection, if you will put your trust in him. That's been the point so far in Romans: Jews and Gentiles alike need the gospel and God gives his own righteousness freely to those who trust his Son. But now Paul takes a kind of detour in Romans 3:1-8. He has said something that is very provocative and that will not go unchallenged, namely, that some Jews are not really Jews and some Gentiles can really be Jews, even if they are not circumcised. The problem is that this seems to call into question the special position of Israel as God's chosen people. And that means it would call into question the whole Old Testament. And if Paul's gospel does that, it will not stand.
  2. 2. Then What Advantage Has the Jew? So Paul asks - or, he lets an imaginary objector ask - in verse 1: "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" You see what's up. He has said that Jews can be judged by Gentiles and perish, and that Gentiles can become true Jews by a heart change of faith in the Messiah. So what advantage is it to be a Jew? Isn't he calling into question the whole structure of the Old Testament based on the Jews being God's special chosen people who have tremendous advantages? Paul answers in verse 2 that there are great benefits to being a Jew. "Great in every respect." Then he begins a list of advantages (verse 2b), but he only mentions one thing: "First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God." Paul stops here because he intends to finish this list later (in 9:4-5). In fact, this whole problem of whether God is being faithful to his covenant with Israel in the work of Christ is taken up in Romans 9-11, so that Romans 3:1-8 is just a brief detour to deflect the criticism until he gets to Romans 9. There he finishes the list like this: ". . . who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen" (9:4-5). But here he only mentions one advantage: they have the oracles of God - they have been entrusted with the Word of God in the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. Then he stops and let's his imaginary objector pose the problem which he will answer: "OK, Paul, you say Israel does have a special chosen place in God's plan, but you also say that Jews are perishing in unbelief and even being judged by Gentiles. It sounds like double-speak: which is it, covenant security as Jews, or unbelief and judgment?" They assumed it had to be one or the other. God Is Not False or Unfaithful Paul answers in verse 3, "What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?" In other words, he rejects the assumption that if some Jews are unbelieving and perishing, God is unfaithful. Verse 4: "May it never be!" God's unfaithfulness is unthinkable. In fact, it is not only unthinkable if only "some" are unbelieving (as verse 3 says), but even if all men prove false to God, God would not be untrue to his glory and his covenant if he judged them all. Verse 4: "Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." (More on that next week! What an amazing statement about the centrality and supremacy of God in the universe!) Then to support this statement that God is not false or unfaithful, even if he judges the Jews as well as all other sinners, Paul quotes Psalm 51:4. Now recall that Psalm 51 is the psalm of King David's confession after his adultery with Bathsheba. Here is what David said in the context of the psalm. He says to God, "Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are
  3. 3. justified when You speak and blameless when You judge" (51:4). In other words, David says that the reason God would be just to judge him is that his sin was against God. David's sin makes God's judgment of David righteous - it is true to God's nature, it is true to his glory, and so this righteousness is faithfulness to his covenant. Now Paul quotes this Psalm to support his claim that God is not unfaithful or untrue even if some Jews or all men are unbelieving and false to God. So it goes like this. Verse 3: the unbelief of some Jews does not nullify God's faithfulness; and verse 4: even if every man were false to God and under God's judgment, God would still be faithful and true. Why? Because David himself said that God had the right to judge him because of his sin. He did not claim that his Jewishness would spare him. "I have sinned," David said (and now Paul quotes him in verse 4b. "I have sinned . . .") ". . . that you [God] may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged" So Paul's answer so far is: Yes, Jews have advantages, like having the very Word of God entrusted to them. But if they are unbelieving they will be judged. This does not call into question God's faithfulness or truth or righteousness. Rather, the sin of those God judges (like David's sin) vindicates God in his judgment. The sin of Israel is the very thing that magnifies God's righteousness in judgment. Now you might think: Paul, this is a good place to stop your detour. You have made your point. Now go back to the main road and pick it up with verse 9: all are sinners and need the gospel. You are starting to lose me. This is really heavy sledding. Have you forgotten that there are children in the audience at Rome, and some plain, simple Christians who are having a hard time following this detour? But Paul, evidently, is not persuaded by these considerations. (I want to talk about that next week!) He presses on to answer these objectors. He has had so many debates about these things with Jews and Gentiles that he knows what they say at this point and he wants to give at least a brief answer. One thing they say - and this is amazing - is that God has now involved himself in a colossal contradiction, if Paul is right. It's going to sound outrageous, but that is how far people will go when they realize that some of their long-cherished beliefs are crumbling. Doing God a Favor by Sinning They say, in effect, (now get this!), if our sin (like David's sin), our unrighteousness, shows or magnifies God's righteousness when he judges us, then really, we are not the instruments of sin, we're the instruments of God's glory to magnify his righteousness. So he would be unrighteous to condemn us. He would be condemning us for the very thing that magnifies the glory of his righteousness in judgment. Now if that sounds like a word game, it is. It's the way you start using language when you've lost a hold on reality. But here it is in verse 5, as Paul expresses their objection to what he has said: "But if our unrighteousness [like David's] demonstrates the righteousness of God [when he judges us], what shall we say? [Paul asks] The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? [Which is what they were saying would be the case if Paul were right. Then Paul adds with a kind of embarrassment for speaking this way] (I am speaking in human terms.)." And he answers in verse 7: "May it never be!" No indeed. God is not unrighteous to inflict wrath on you even though your sin magnifies his righteousness when he judges you. You are very wrong.
  4. 4. In fact, in arguing this way (Paul might say), you entangle yourselves in three contradictions of your own beliefs. Here they are: First, God isn't unrighteous to judge those whose judgment magnifies his righteousness, Paul says (verse 6b), "for otherwise, how will God judge the world?" In other words, one of your cherished beliefs is that God will judge the world. You believe that. But he couldn't judge the world, if this sophistry of yours were true: that he can't condemn people if their condemnation magnifies his righteousness. You know well that God will judge the world, and that his righteousness will be magnified in that judgment. That's your first contradiction. Second, take me, for example, Paul says. You think I'm telling lies right now, as I talk. I'm sinning, you think. What if God judged me now? Would he be just? Or would my lying about the truth glorify God so much when he condemned me, that he would be unjust to condemn me? This is the point of verse 7a: "But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?" This is the second trap you have fallen into with your word game. You really do think I am a sinner and that God would be righteous to judge me, even though my sin would magnify his glory in my judgment. So you don't really hold to your position. Finally, on the basis of your position - that God can't judge those whose sin magnifies his righteousness when he judges them - on this nonsensical position, we may as well all just go on sinning. Because your whole point is that our sin glorifies God's righteousness in judgment, and so we are not really sinners but God-glorifiers, and so safe from his wrath. Verse 8: "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come'?" And to that kind of convoluted, weaseling use of language and theology, Paul says, "Their condemnation is just." When God's Word Seems to Contradict Itself There is condemnation of Jews and Gentiles, and there is justice. And these two things do not contradict. This is where we began. Who are they whose condemnation is just? Those who play games with the Word of God. More specifically in this case: those who see two true things in the Word of God that they can't reconcile and deny that this can be. For them it was, on the one hand, God is faithful and God is righteous and God is true to his glory, and, on the other hand, God judges his very own chosen people and condemns them along with the Gentile world. Two truths, for them irreconcilable. What advantage then would the Jew have? So they try to reject one of these truths. And the result is sophistry - tricky reasoning, word games. Today we might call it spinning. And to this Paul says, "Their condemnation is just." So my closing exhortation is: Don't play games with the Bible. Be as careful as you can in handling the Word of God. And when you can't reconcile one true thing with another. Wait and pray and study and seek the Lord. In due time, they will be reconcile. All Are "Under Sin"
  5. 5. We are coming to the end of this great indictment of the human race that began back in Romans 1:18. The whole section of the letter up through this text is to show that all people everywhere are under the power of sin, and cannot get right with God apart from the gift of righteousness that God gives through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17). We see it here in the summary statement of Romans 3:9b, "We have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin." "Jews and Greeks" means "everybody" because "Greeks" stood for what many people considered the best of the non-Jews. All of them - all people - are "under sin." Under the power of sin. Not just sinning occasionally, but enslaved to sin. This is one of the weightiest truths that Christianity must hold up in the modern world. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul calls the church of the living God "the pillar and bulwark of the truth." This is one of those truths that the church must hold up like a pillar holds up a building. There are constant pressures throughout history on persons and institutions and cultures to build life around wrong ideas. God has appointed the church of his Son Jesus to be a mighty advocate for truth in the world. One of the most important truths to hold up in the world is that all human beings, even though created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), are corrupted by the power of sin. We are not morally good by nature. We are morally bad by nature. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says we are all "by nature children of wrath." The attitudes and thoughts and actions that deserve the wrath of God come from us by nature. In Colossians 3:6, we are called "sons of disobedience." We are so disposed to disobedience against God that it is as though "disobedience" is our father. We are chips of the old block of disobedience. We don't just do sins, we are sinful. We are "under sin," as verse 9 says. Sin is like a master or a king, and reigns over us and in us. Not that it coerces us to do what we don't want to do, but makes us want to do what we ought not to do. We are not innocent victims of sin. We are co-conspirators with sin against God. A Deadly Diagnosis with a Remedy This is not a popular message. Understandably. It is no more popular than the doctor's words: "Your tumor is malignant." But it is vastly more hopeful. "Your tumor is malignant," may or may not be hopeful news, because the doctor may or may not have a cure for your cancer. But "you are under the power of sin and a child of wrath" always has a cure. That is what the book of Romans and what Christianity and the Bible are all about.
  6. 6. I really want this message about sin and about your sinful condition and mine to be hope-giving and lifeproducing. Isn't there something deeply satisfying about someone who knows your flaws to the deepest level of your being - knows your worst condition - and says, "I love you, and I know a way that you can be set right with God and right with others." Isn't that much more hope-giving than someone who makes small talk and gives you little placebos to make you feel good, when deep down you know things are not good. It may sound more kind and gentle and loving than hearing that you are a sinner and sick unto death, but it is a deadly kindness - the kindness of a doctor who will not tell you the truth about your cancer in its curable stage, because he doesn't want you to be discouraged or scared. So as we look at Paul's final, summary diagnosis in this section, keep thinking: this is good, this is good. Because for all this bad news about my true condition, there is a remedy. And the only reason for telling me the bad news is so that I will understand the remedy and take it - namely, the righteousness of God, freely given to those who really trust in Christ. There are two main questions I want to try to answer in verses 9-18. One is: How does Paul support verse 9 and the sinfulness of all men on the basis of the Old Testament in all these quotations in verses 10-18? And the other is: How does he describe the state of being "under sin" in these verses? Or: What can we learn about sin, and about ourselves, and about the Gospel from the way Paul talks about sin in these verses? Not One Is Righteous First, then, How does Paul support verse 9 and the sinfulness of all men from the Old Testament in all these quotations in verses 10-18? He says in verse 9 that Jews are not really any better off before God than others, "for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin." So you can see this is a summary statement from things he has said before: "we have already charged." This is what he has been "charging" from 1:18 to 3:8. So the case has been made, as far as he is concerned. Nevertheless, he gives one last summary argument from the Old Testament. He begins verse 10 with "As it is written . . ." Then he quotes six different Old Testament sections to support his summary in verse 9 that all Jews and Greeks are under sin. For example, from Psalm 14:1-3 he says (in Romans 3:10-12), "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."
  7. 7. That seems plain enough. But here's a problem that troubles me. In that same Psalm which Paul quotes to say, "There is none righteous, not even one" it says (in Psalm 14:5), "God is with the generation of the righteous." In other words, the first verses of the Psalm are a description of the Gentiles who oppose the true people of God, but those who are the true people of God, David calls "the generation of the righteous" (see also verse 7). So the question is: How does this Psalm support Paul's point in verse 9 that says, "Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin"? The part of the Psalm that he quotes doesn't seem to mean everybody is unrighteous, because verse 5 calls God's people "the generation of the righteous." I think the answer goes something like this: Paul doesn't mean that every one of the six Old Testament quotes has the whole indictment in it, but that taken all together they have the whole indictment. It seems that the first quote (in verses 10-12), for example, from Psalm 14, is mainly an indictment of the Gentile world, because later it refers to Israel as the righteous generation. In other words, without the special grace of God -without the special revelation of his saving work revealed to Israel - people are not righteous, no not one. Only when God breaks into our lives and gives the special grace of faith and forgiveness through a substitutionary sacrifice can we get right with God, and be called "righteous." Paul knew that happened for the Old Testament saints. We know he knew this, because in Romans 4:3 he quotes Genesis 15:6, "[Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." So when Paul quotes the Old Testament that "There is none righteous, no not one," he means that, by nature, apart from saving grace, we are unrighteous. He does not mean that there was no way to get right with God, and have a right standing with God in the Old Testament. The Jews Also? But the question still remains: If Psalm 14 (quoted in verses Romans 3:10-12) only, or mainly, refers to the world of the Gentiles over against God's true people, how do all these verses together in Romans 3:10-18 make clear that the Jews too are unrighteous and under sin? One answer is that verses 15-17 are a quote from Isaiah 59:7-8, which refers entirely to the Jewish people. In Isaiah 59:2, God says to Israel, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God." And then Isaiah 59:7-8 is quoted here in Romans 3:15-17, "their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known." This is a general statement about the Jewish people in Isaiah's day.
  8. 8. And all the other four Old Testament quotes probably refer to the enemies of David among his own Jewish people. But it's not clear. The point is: The message of the Old Testament is that Jewish people are sinners and Gentile people are sinners (2 Chronicles 6:36). And wherever you have someone called "righteous" in the Old Testament it is not because they were not sinners, but because God had mercifully intervened in their lives and given them the grace of faith and forgiveness to overcome their natural sinfulness and set them right with God. I saw this most clearly in Psalm 5, which Paul quotes in Romans 3:13a, "Their throat is an open grave." This is referring to David's enemies. Yes. But what about himself? Is his throat an open grave? How does it help prove that all Jews and Gentiles are "under sin" if "their throat is an open grave" but not yours? Aren't you part of "everybody"? The answer is that David does not mean that he is not a sinner, or that there are no redeemed and righteous people in the world. He only means that apart from God's mighty grace, we are hopelessly corrupt, including himself (see Psalm 51:5). He shows this in Psalm 5, for example, by saying in verses 7 and 8 that his own position with God is a gift of mercy, not something he has by nature. He says, "But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness (= hesed, mercy) I will enter Your house [O God].. . O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me." So you can see David's thinking here. He has access to God's house only by mercy. Why? Because he is a sinner like others. And, if he is going to walk in any measure of righteousness, he says, God will have to "lead me and make his way straight before me." In other words, by nature, he would not go in the way of righteousness. God alone can deliver from sin and set us right with God and cause us to walk in the way of righteousness. So that's my answer to the first question: How does Paul support the universal claim of sinfulness in verse 9 by quoting these six Old Testament passages which speak of righteous people as well as wicked people? He shows that both Jews and Gentiles are characterized as deeply corrupt and that the only way out of that corruption is by God's gracious gift of faith and forgiveness that sets a person right with God (which, we know now, is) on the basis of the substitutionary sacrifice that would one day come in Jesus Christ. "Under Sin"
  9. 9. Now the other question: How does he describe the state of being "under sin" in these verses? Or: What can we learn about sin, and about ourselves, and about the Gospel from the way Paul talks about sin in these verses? Here are three observations. 1. Ruined Relationship with God Being "under sin" is first and foremost a ruined relation with God. Not, first, a ruined relation with other people. Verses 10-18 begin and end with this point. Verse 10-11: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." And verse 18: "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Everything in between these verses has to do with the meaning of sin in human relations. But at the beginning and the end being "under sin" means that we have no fear of God and we don't understand him and we don't seek him. Verse 11: "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." Fix this firmly in your mind, sin is mainly a condition of rebellion against God, not mainly a condition of doing bad things to other people. This is why it is so sad and so pointless when people argue that they are pretty good people, and so don't need the Gospel. What they mean is that they treat other people decently: they don't steal, kill, lie much, or swear much, and they give to some charities. But that is not the main question. The main question is: Do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Do you love his Son, Jesus Christ? God is the most important person in the universe. It is not a mark of virtue to do nice things for people while having no love or reverence or passion for God. Sin is, first and foremost, a resistance to finding joy in God. And that resistance results in a darkened mind that then suppresses the truth and does not understand God. So the mind that is "under sin" does not seek God and does not know God and does not fear God. And it doesn't matter what we do for people; if we treat the King of the universe with such disdain, we may know that we are profoundly "under sin." 2. Ruined Relationships with People
  10. 10. Being "under sin" means that our relations with people are ruined, even though God's common grace may restrain us from treating people as badly as we might. In verses 13-14, Paul describes the way sin ruins our words, and in verses 13-14, he describes the way sin ruins our actions - "throat . . . tongue .. .lips . . . mouth." Verses 13-14: "Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." Graves have to do with death and venom is poison that has to do with death, and that is what deception and cursing produce: death. The mouth was meant to give life. But sin turns it into a place of poison and death. O, may this diagnosis of our lives "under sin" make us want to be saved! O, may we long for redeemed tongues and mouths that give life and not death! Then, in verses 15-17, being "under sin" is not a way of speaking, but a way of acting: "Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known." This is what happens when God is not sought or known or reverenced. If God were to slacken his restraining bands in this world, it would descend into anarchy. That's why there are governments and police and armies. By nature we would take vengeance on every offense, and our feet would run to shed blood, if we were not restrained. We see it, for example, in the looting of societies where the infrastructure collapses. And we would see it here. Because this is what it means to be "under sin." Human reationships are ruined. 3. Good News for Those "Under Sin" Finally, if this is who we really are by nature - people who are "under sin" and therefore, as Romans 1:18 says, under the wrath of God - then is it not the best news in the world that the entire point of the book of Romans and the whole Bible and of Christianity is that God, in his great mercy, has made a way of salvation from sin - the power of sin and the penalty of sin? We are just centimeters away from it. Romans 3:21-22 - "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." If today you will believe in Jesus Christ, and turn from your sin, and renounce all forms of self-salvation, the very righteousness of God will be yours as a gift, and replace your unrighteousness for which Christ suffered and died on the cross. I beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Trust him for his great salvation. All Are "Under Sin" We are coming to the end of this great indictment of the human race that began back in Romans 1:18. The whole section of the letter up through this text is to show that all people everywhere are under the power of sin, and cannot get right with God apart from the gift of righteousness that God gives through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17). We see it here in the summary statement of Romans 3:9b, "We
  11. 11. have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin." "Jews and Greeks" means "everybody" because "Greeks" stood for what many people considered the best of the non-Jews. All of them - all people - are "under sin." Under the power of sin. Not just sinning occasionally, but enslaved to sin. This is one of the weightiest truths that Christianity must hold up in the modern world. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul calls the church of the living God "the pillar and bulwark of the truth." This is one of those truths that the church must hold up like a pillar holds up a building. There are constant pressures throughout history on persons and institutions and cultures to build life around wrong ideas. God has appointed the church of his Son Jesus to be a mighty advocate for truth in the world. One of the most important truths to hold up in the world is that all human beings, even though created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), are corrupted by the power of sin. We are not morally good by nature. We are morally bad by nature. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says we are all "by nature children of wrath." The attitudes and thoughts and actions that deserve the wrath of God come from us by nature. In Colossians 3:6, we are called "sons of disobedience." We are so disposed to disobedience against God that it is as though "disobedience" is our father. We are chips of the old block of disobedience. We don't just do sins, we are sinful. We are "under sin," as verse 9 says. Sin is like a master or a king, and reigns over us and in us. Not that it coerces us to do what we don't want to do, but makes us want to do what we ought not to do. We are not innocent victims of sin. We are co-conspirators with sin against God. A Deadly Diagnosis with a Remedy This is not a popular message. Understandably. It is no more popular than the doctor's words: "Your tumor is malignant." But it is vastly more hopeful. "Your tumor is malignant," may or may not be hopeful news, because the doctor may or may not have a cure for your cancer. But "you are under the power of sin and a child of wrath" always has a cure. That is what the book of Romans and what Christianity and the Bible are all about. I really want this message about sin and about your sinful condition and mine to be hope-giving and lifeproducing. Isn't there something deeply satisfying about someone who knows your flaws to the deepest level of your being - knows your worst condition - and says, "I love you, and I know a way that you can be set right with God and right with others." Isn't that much more hope-giving than someone who makes small talk and gives you little placebos to make you feel good, when deep down you know things are not good. It may sound more kind and gentle and loving than hearing that you are a sinner and sick
  12. 12. unto death, but it is a deadly kindness - the kindness of a doctor who will not tell you the truth about your cancer in its curable stage, because he doesn't want you to be discouraged or scared. So as we look at Paul's final, summary diagnosis in this section, keep thinking: this is good, this is good. Because for all this bad news about my true condition, there is a remedy. And the only reason for telling me the bad news is so that I will understand the remedy and take it - namely, the righteousness of God, freely given to those who really trust in Christ. There are two main questions I want to try to answer in verses 9-18. One is: How does Paul support verse 9 and the sinfulness of all men on the basis of the Old Testament in all these quotations in verses 10-18? And the other is: How does he describe the state of being "under sin" in these verses? Or: What can we learn about sin, and about ourselves, and about the Gospel from the way Paul talks about sin in these verses? Not One Is Righteous First, then, How does Paul support verse 9 and the sinfulness of all men from the Old Testament in all these quotations in verses 10-18? He says in verse 9 that Jews are not really any better off before God than others, "for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin." So you can see this is a summary statement from things he has said before: "we have already charged." This is what he has been "charging" from 1:18 to 3:8. So the case has been made, as far as he is concerned. Nevertheless, he gives one last summary argument from the Old Testament. He begins verse 10 with "As it is written . . ." Then he quotes six different Old Testament sections to support his summary in verse 9 that all Jews and Greeks are under sin. For example, from Psalm 14:1-3 he says (in Romans 3:10-12), "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." That seems plain enough. But here's a problem that troubles me. In that same Psalm which Paul quotes to say, "There is none righteous, not even one" it says (in Psalm 14:5), "God is with the generation of the righteous." In other words, the first verses of the Psalm are a description of the Gentiles who oppose the true people of God, but those who are the true people of God, David calls "the generation of the righteous" (see also verse 7). So the question is: How does this Psalm support Paul's point in verse 9 that
  13. 13. says, "Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin"? The part of the Psalm that he quotes doesn't seem to mean everybody is unrighteous, because verse 5 calls God's people "the generation of the righteous." I think the answer goes something like this: Paul doesn't mean that every one of the six Old Testament quotes has the whole indictment in it, but that taken all together they have the whole indictment. It seems that the first quote (in verses 10-12), for example, from Psalm 14, is mainly an indictment of the Gentile world, because later it refers to Israel as the righteous generation. In other words, without the special grace of God -without the special revelation of his saving work revealed to Israel - people are not righteous, no not one. Only when God breaks into our lives and gives the special grace of faith and forgiveness through a substitutionary sacrifice can we get right with God, and be called "righteous." Paul knew that happened for the Old Testament saints. We know he knew this, because in Romans 4:3 he quotes Genesis 15:6, "[Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." So when Paul quotes the Old Testament that "There is none righteous, no not one," he means that, by nature, apart from saving grace, we are unrighteous. He does not mean that there was no way to get right with God, and have a right standing with God in the Old Testament. The Jews Also? But the question still remains: If Psalm 14 (quoted in verses Romans 3:10-12) only, or mainly, refers to the world of the Gentiles over against God's true people, how do all these verses together in Romans 3:10-18 make clear that the Jews too are unrighteous and under sin? One answer is that verses 15-17 are a quote from Isaiah 59:7-8, which refers entirely to the Jewish people. In Isaiah 59:2, God says to Israel, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God." And then Isaiah 59:7-8 is quoted here in Romans 3:15-17, "their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known." This is a general statement about the Jewish people in Isaiah's day. And all the other four Old Testament quotes probably refer to the enemies of David among his own Jewish people. But it's not clear. The point is: The message of the Old Testament is that Jewish people are sinners and Gentile people are sinners (2 Chronicles 6:36). And wherever you have someone called "righteous" in the Old Testament it is not because they were not sinners, but because God had mercifully intervened in their lives and given them the grace of faith and forgiveness to overcome their natural sinfulness and set them right with God.
  14. 14. I saw this most clearly in Psalm 5, which Paul quotes in Romans 3:13a, "Their throat is an open grave." This is referring to David's enemies. Yes. But what about himself? Is his throat an open grave? How does it help prove that all Jews and Gentiles are "under sin" if "their throat is an open grave" but not yours? Aren't you part of "everybody"? The answer is that David does not mean that he is not a sinner, or that there are no redeemed and righteous people in the world. He only means that apart from God's mighty grace, we are hopelessly corrupt, including himself (see Psalm 51:5). He shows this in Psalm 5, for example, by saying in verses 7 and 8 that his own position with God is a gift of mercy, not something he has by nature. He says, "But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness (= hesed, mercy) I will enter Your house [O God].. . O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me." So you can see David's thinking here. He has access to God's house only by mercy. Why? Because he is a sinner like others. And, if he is going to walk in any measure of righteousness, he says, God will have to "lead me and make his way straight before me." In other words, by nature, he would not go in the way of righteousness. God alone can deliver from sin and set us right with God and cause us to walk in the way of righteousness. So that's my answer to the first question: How does Paul support the universal claim of sinfulness in verse 9 by quoting these six Old Testament passages which speak of righteous people as well as wicked people? He shows that both Jews and Gentiles are characterized as deeply corrupt and that the only way out of that corruption is by God's gracious gift of faith and forgiveness that sets a person right with God (which, we know now, is) on the basis of the substitutionary sacrifice that would one day come in Jesus Christ. "Under Sin" Now the other question: How does he describe the state of being "under sin" in these verses? Or: What can we learn about sin, and about ourselves, and about the Gospel from the way Paul talks about sin in these verses? Here are three observations.
  15. 15. 1. Ruined Relationship with God Being "under sin" is first and foremost a ruined relation with God. Not, first, a ruined relation with other people. Verses 10-18 begin and end with this point. Verse 10-11: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." And verse 18: "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Everything in between these verses has to do with the meaning of sin in human relations. But at the beginning and the end being "under sin" means that we have no fear of God and we don't understand him and we don't seek him. Verse 11: "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." Fix this firmly in your mind, sin is mainly a condition of rebellion against God, not mainly a condition of doing bad things to other people. This is why it is so sad and so pointless when people argue that they are pretty good people, and so don't need the Gospel. What they mean is that they treat other people decently: they don't steal, kill, lie much, or swear much, and they give to some charities. But that is not the main question. The main question is: Do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Do you love his Son, Jesus Christ? God is the most important person in the universe. It is not a mark of virtue to do nice things for people while having no love or reverence or passion for God. Sin is, first and foremost, a resistance to finding joy in God. And that resistance results in a darkened mind that then suppresses the truth and does not understand God. So the mind that is "under sin" does not seek God and does not know God and does not fear God. And it doesn't matter what we do for people; if we treat the King of the universe with such disdain, we may know that we are profoundly "under sin." 2. Ruined Relationships with People Being "under sin" means that our relations with people are ruined, even though God's common grace may restrain us from treating people as badly as we might. In verses 13-14, Paul describes the way sin ruins our words, and in verses 13-14, he describes the way sin ruins our actions - "throat . . . tongue .. .lips . . . mouth." Verses 13-14: "Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." Graves have to do with death and venom is poison that has to do with death, and that is what deception and cursing produce: death. The mouth was meant to give life. But sin turns it into a place of poison and death. O, may this diagnosis of our lives "under sin" make us want to be saved! O, may we long for redeemed tongues and mouths that give life and not death!
  16. 16. Then, in verses 15-17, being "under sin" is not a way of speaking, but a way of acting: "Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known." This is what happens when God is not sought or known or reverenced. If God were to slacken his restraining bands in this world, it would descend into anarchy. That's why there are governments and police and armies. By nature we would take vengeance on every offense, and our feet would run to shed blood, if we were not restrained. We see it, for example, in the looting of societies where the infrastructure collapses. And we would see it here. Because this is what it means to be "under sin." Human relationships are ruined. 3. Good News for Those "Under Sin" Finally, if this is who we really are by nature - people who are "under sin" and therefore, as Romans 1:18 says, under the wrath of God - then is it not the best news in the world that the entire point of the book of Romans and the whole Bible and of Christianity is that God, in his great mercy, has made a way of salvation from sin - the power of sin and the penalty of sin? We are just centimeters away from it. Romans 3:21-22 - "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." If today you will believe in Jesus Christ, and turn from your sin, and renounce all forms of self-salvation, the very righteousness of God will be yours as a gift, and replace your unrighteousness for which Christ suffered and died on the cross. I beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Trust him for his great salvation. Romans 3:19–26 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 so the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he has passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Guilt is a universal experience. Everybody at some time or other has had the bad feeling of not doing what he ought to have done. Even people who deny that there is any such thing as right and wrong are trapped by the law of God written on their hearts. They set out to prove there is no such thing as right
  17. 17. and wrong and that all ethics are relative and arbitrary, but wind up saying it is right for you to agree with them and wrong for you not to. No one has ever successfully erased the sense of ought which God writes in every human soul. Our moral sensibilities may be perverted so that they are the very opposite of God's, but everyone senses that he ought to do certain things and not others. And we all know we have not done all we ought to have done, or felt all we ought to have felt. And at some time or other this has made us feel bad. The failure to do what we ought to have done we call guilt. And the bad feelings that often accompany it we call guilt feelings or a bad conscience. How the World Copes with Guilt If our conscience is sensitive, these feelings can produce so much misery we may be tempted to commit suicide. More often we seek other ways to ease the misery of a bad conscience. There are at least three ways contemporary people try to solve the problem of guilt: intellectual ways, physical ways, and religious ways. For example, among the intellectual ways there is the teaching that guilt is owing to unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves. Of course, we fail and do wrong, but we are only human and it is unreasonable to expect so much. So lower your expectations of your own virtue and you will have less guilt. Another approach is to say that our moral principles are dated and restrictive. They are products of the worn-out Protestant work ethic, or remnants of puritanical prudery or Victorian mores. You will solve your guilt problem if you come of age and stop living in the ethical dark ages. One of the most amazing strategies for handling guilt in the last ten years or so has been the teaching that some of the things we all used to think were vices are, in fact, virtues, and not to have them is wrong! Like: greed and intimidation and selfexaltation. (Ellen Goodman had an editorial in Friday's paper about seminars being offered on how to marry for money. A book on how to intimidate becomes a best-seller. And everything from R.C. to cottage cheese is sold with the word ME in capital letters.) For many it has seemed very promising to solve their guilt problem by joining the campaign to turn vices into virtues. But even though the 70s were marked by an astonishing multiplication of intellectual strategies to solve the guilt problem, the old-fashioned physical ways still predominate. For those who don't have enough brains to think their way out of guilt feelings, there is always alcohol to fall back on and, more recently, other drugs. I think a bad conscience is the root cause of alcoholism. He may say it was stress that drove him to drink. She may say it was grief and loneliness that drove her to drink. But is it not the case that they felt deep down that they should be able to cope with stress and grief and loneliness and that the growing guilt of their failure was what they wanted to drown? Of course, alcohol and drugs are not the only escapes from guilt. Some people talk, talk incessantly, compulsively, and never listen quietly, lest
  18. 18. they hear something they don't want to hear. Some people devote themselves day and night to games and hobbies and sports. Some people keep the television on all day for a constant barrage of sound and sight on their minds to guard them from what Simon and Garfunkel called the unsettling "sounds of silence." But the oldest and most revered tactic for avoiding the misery of guilt is religion. This tactic may be the most deceptive because it comes closest to the truth. It recognizes what the intellectual and physical strategies generally ignore: that the ultimate cause of guilt is that there is a righteous God whose will for his creatures is ignored or defied. It recognizes that under every pang of conscience in the human soul there is the silent, often unexpressed conviction, "I have gone against God." The means that religion has developed to deal with this guilt is to try to placate or appease God with good works or religious ritual. Religious people know they owe God a great debt for their disobedience. But they often make the terrible mistake of thinking they can pay it back through good works and the performance of religious duties. God's Way of Dealing with Your Guilt I think if we took the time and were very careful, we could show that none of these ways of dealing with guilt (intellectual, physical, or religious) is satisfactory. Our heads may be easily perted from the depth of our guilt, but our hearts are not so lightly healed. And we all know deep down there is something inauthentic about the self-asserting, dollar-hungry, intimidating executive who meets you at the top. We know alcohol and drugs and compulsive entertainment and noise are not the way to life and peace. And we ought to know, who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the debt we owe to God cannot be paid off by our paltry virtue. But instead of trying to show the inadequacy of all this, I want to build on what we began in the last two messages. The point of the last two messages was that the biblical portrait of Jesus is true. It is historically rooted and defensible. And it is rationally compelling to the open mind. No man ever spoke like this man, Jesus (John 7:46). He can be trusted. He is true. He endorsed the Old Testament, and it is he who speaks by his Spirit in the New Testament. Therefore, it is enough for us to hear from him through his apostle, Paul, how God has dealt with our guilt. It is the best news in all the world. It is the only strategy that owns up to the truth of God's righteousness and the depth of our debt before him. Once you have been grasped by God's way of dealing with your guilt, every other way will seem thin and superficial and utterly inadequate by comparison. And you will rejoice with me that "Jesus Is Precious Because He Removes Our Guilt."
  19. 19. Remember now, it is not my word, but God's Word, the Bible, that shows us the way. So let's look together at Romans 3:19–29. All I want to do is let this text speak because it has tremendous power to persuade and win our hearts. Let me sum up five observations from the text, and then we will look at it more closely to follow Paul's line of argument. First, all persons, whether Jew or Gentile, are held personally accountable by God for their sin (v. 19). Second, the resulting relationship of human guilt and divine indignation cannot be made right by works of the law (v. 20). Third, God, on his own initiative, has undertaken to seek our acquittal freely (vv. 21–24). Fourth, the way he has done this is by putting forth Jesus Christ to redeem us by his death and demonstrate the righteousness of God (vv. 24–26). Fifth, this gift of justification only comes to those who trust in Jesus (vv. 22, 25, 26). Now let's follow Paul's line of argument from verse 19 to 26. All People Under Sin In Romans 3:9 Paul sums up the point of what has gone before: "All men, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin." All men have sinned and are under the awful sway of sin, slaves to sin (Romans 6:16). To illustrate and substantiate this point he takes words from Psalms and Isaiah and describes the condition of sinful mankind in verses 10–18. Then in verse 19 he says, "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." Our first point, therefore, is that all people, regardless of race, are personally accountable to God. The universal problem of guilt is not owing to the fact that we have failed our fellow man, but because we have failed God. Every person in this room is accountable directly to God. God deals with you as an individual, and you will have to give an account to him of your life someday. That should be a frightening thought if you are trying to deal with your guilt in one of those intellectual, physical, or religious ways I mentioned earlier. O how silly and foolish and tragic they will all seem "on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment is revealed" (Romans 2:5). No matter how virtuous we appear, we are accountable to God and there will be a reckoning for what we have done and said and thought and felt. The universal problem of guilt is not just a problem of how to feel better, but how to be right with God. The secular devices to lessen the misery of our guilt will always fail sooner or later because they ignore the main problem of human existence. We are guilty before God. It is his law we have broken. It is his glory from which we fall so short (Romans 3:23). Every person in this room is personally accountable to God and will meet him some day either guilty and condemned, or acquitted and destined for joy. No One Justified by Works of the Law
  20. 20. Verse 20 is given as the basis or ground of verse 19: "For no human being will be justified in his (God's) sight by works of the law, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin." To be justified means to be acquitted by God, to be declared free and innocent, to be made right in relation to God so that his indignation is removed and our rebellion is taken away. The point of this verse is that acquittal is never achieved by works of the law. This means that, if a person does not trust the freely justifying mercy of God, and yet undertakes to make himself right with God through works of the law, he will always fail. The effect that will have on such a person is to reveal his sin all the more clearly (Romans 5:20; 7:7, 8; Galatians 3:19). The connection between verses 19 and 20 seems to be something like this: When people do not trust the mercy of God but try to use the law to get right with him, the law brings to light their sin and condemns them for their unbelief. And since this is true of all humans ("all flesh"), Jew and Gentile (v. 20), we know that when the law speaks thus to Jews, it also has the whole world in view, that every mouth may be stopped and all people held accountable. So the first two points are that all people are sinners and personally accountable to God, and that this relationship of guilt cannot be set right by works of the law. God Has Acted to Accomplish Our Acquittal Third, God, on his own initiative, has undertaken to seek our acquittal. Verses 21–24: "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Regardless of how many promises of God's mercy there were in the Old Testament law, and regardless of how many calls to repentance and faith, the actual effect of the law was, by and large, to expose and condemn sin (Galatians 3:21, 22). Therefore, when God undertook to manifest his righteousness for our justification, he did it "apart from the law." That is, he did not direct our attention back to the law with its animal sacrifices, but he directed our attention to his Son whom he sent to die for our sin. Romans 8:3 puts it like this: "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, he condemned sin in the flesh." What I want to stress under this third point is that God has not left us to deal with our guilt alone, but he has taken the initiative, while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), to seek our acquittal and to offer it to us freely. The glory of the gospel is that the one before whom we are guilty and condemned has himself undertaken to replace our guilt and his indignation with righteousness and reconciliation. This act of
  21. 21. God which puts us in a right relationship to him where there is no more guilt and condemnation is called "justification" in verse 24. And please don't miss the basis of justification in that verse: it is based on grace and therefore is a free gift. You can't earn it or merit it by works. Grace and works are opposed to each other. Listen to Romans 11:5, 6: "At the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." When Paul says that our guilt is taken away by grace, he means it is a free gift and you can't earn it by works. God Put Christ Forward for Our Justification The fourth point is how God brought about this free gift of justification. Verses 24 and 25 say that it was "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood." O how important this sentence is! All secular efforts to deal with the human misery of guilt are impotent because they ignore this fact: God's holiness and righteous glory have been desecrated, defamed, and blasphemed by our sin. It is with a holy God that we have to do in our guilt! And there can be no justification, no reconciliation, no cleansing of our conscience, unless the holiness of God is honored and the defamation of his righteousness is repaired. The urgency of our problem with guilt is not that we feel miserable, but that God's name has been blasphemed. We live in a day with such a horrendously inflated view of human potential and such a miserably tiny view of God's holiness that we can scarcely understand what the real problem of guilt is. The real problem is not, "How can God be loving and yet condemn people with such little sins?" The real problem is, "How can God be righteous if he acquits such miserable sinners as we?" There can be no lasting remedy for guilt which does not deal with God's righteous indignation against sin. That's why there had to be a sacrifice. And not just any sacrifice, but the sacrifice of the Son of God! No one else, and no other act, could repair the defamation done to the glory of God by our sins. But when Jesus died for the glory of the Father, satisfaction was made. The glory was restored. Righteousness was demonstrated. Henceforth it is clear that when God, by grace, freely justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), he is not indifferent to the demands of justice. It is all based on the grand transaction between the Father and the Son on the morning of Good Friday at Calvary. No other gospel can take away our guilt because no other gospel corresponds to the cosmic proportions of our sin in relation to God. Justification Comes Only by Faith The fifth and final point now is that this free gift of justification purchased by Jesus on the cross only comes to those who trust in him. After Paul says in verse 21 that God has manifested his righteousness
  22. 22. apart from law, then he defines that righteousness in verse 22 as "the righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (cf. Philippians 3:9), then in verse 25 he says that Christ is an expiation (or propitiation) "through faith," or "to be received by faith." Finally in verse 26 he says that God "justifies him who has faith in Jesus." So the teaching of God's Word is plain, and this is the gospel: anyone who trusts in Jesus for justification will have it freely. This is at once the hardest and easiest thing for a human to do. It is hard because it means acknowledging in your heart that you are so guilty before God that there is nothing you can do to solve the problem. Human beings don't like to think of themselves that way. And so the human-potential movement has a heyday and the real problem of guilt remains unresolved for most people. Saving faith in Jesus Christ is hard because it is born in desperation, and apart from God's grace, humans hate to admit that they are desperate. But on the other hand, what could be easier than faith? It doesn't require extraordinary strength, or beauty, or intelligence. No one will have an excuse on the judgment day that the way of salvation was too hard. God will simply say, "All you had to do was become like a little child (Matthew 18:3), and trust me to take care of you. Was that hard? Was it too hard to lean on me, to rest in my promises, to rely on the finished work of Christ? Was it too hard to accept a free gift? To cherish the pearl of forgiveness?To love the Savior who died for you?" It is free! It is free! It is free! Own up to your need and rest in him! And now in conclusion let me sum up these five observations. And remember, they come from an apostle of Jesus Christ who saw the Lord and was commissioned by him to reveal the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3:3–5). These are not cleverly devised fables. They are truths rooted in history and coming from the risen, self-authenticating Jesus. First, all human beings are personally accountable to God for their sin (v. 19). Second, the resulting guilt of man and righteous indignation of God cannot be made right by works of the law (v. 20). Third, God, on his own initiative, set about to accomplish our justification by grace and offer it as a free gift (vv. 21– 24). Fourth, the way he did this was by sending his Son, Jesus, to redeem us by his death and to demonstrate the righteousness of God (vv. 24–26). Finally, this gift of justification, the removal of our guilt and God's wrath, comes only to those who trust in Jesus (vv. 22, 25–26). I urge you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Turn away from all the intellectual, physical, and religious tactics the world uses to evade its guilt, and rest in Jesus. Jesus is precious because he alone removes our guilt.
  23. 23. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring . The Whole World Accountable to God It's fitting that we come to the end of this great section on universal sin and guilt the Sunday before Good Friday. Good Friday was when Jesus died for our sins. And everything we have been looking at for the last year in the book of Romans is meant to show how needed and how wonderful is the good news that Christ died in our place. So, as we spend one more message on this great section, let it be for you a deep work of gospel preparation in your life. Let it make you love the gospel. Let it make you dance for joy that you are not just a sinner, but a saved sinner. Let it make you an evangelist - a messenger of forgiveness and hope and joy to everyone you know. You remember that last week we arrived at Romans 3:9 and the great summary statement: "Are we [Jews] better than they [Gentiles]? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin." Everybody in the world is under sin. Everybody is under the sway and power of sin. Then, in verses 10-18, come six Old Testament quotations to support this -that there is none righteous, not even one. And now come the final summary statements in verses 19-20. And they are filled with important implications for our lives and for the whole world. This is one of the great things about Christianity. It is not a narrow or provincial or tribal religion. It declares things that have to do with the whole world. "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God" (verse 19). The Law may be written for one people directly, the Jews, but the point of the Law is to stop every mouth and make the whole world accountable (or, guilty) to God. Implications
  24. 24. Here are some of the implications that we will come back to. 1) Everybody in the whole world is guilty before God. 2) No mouth anywhere in the world - from the primitive tribe to the university lecture hall - will be able to raise a legitimate objection against God's judgment. Every mouth will be stopped. 3) The mouths that do raise objections against God now will one day be silenced. Every mouth will be stopped. 4) Therefore do not fear the voice of man. All his railing will cease. Fear God. 5) Remember that your own heart is sinful and your own mouth will be stopped, and so, while there is still time, turn to Christ and, as verse 22 says, receive "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." Do you see that great turning point in verses 21-22? "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction." The Steps in Paul's Argument But before we ponder some of these implications more closely, think with me about the way Paul puts his thoughts together in these two verses (19-20). These matters of sin and Law and justification are more important than anything you will hear on the news today. And you will be a strong and sturdy and durable and deep and happy Christian if you get these great matters branded on your brain and carved into your heart. You can see four steps in this argument very clearly because of the way Paul puts his thoughts together. Step 1 - verse 19a: "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law." So the first and primary hearers of the Law of God are the Jews who have been called out to receive the oracles of God (3:1). Step 2 - verse 19b: " . . . so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God." The goal and effect of speaking to one chosen and privileged people (the Jews) is to stop the mouths of all peoples.
  25. 25. Step 3 - verse 20a: [All mouths are stopped] ". . . because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight." This is why every mouth is stopped. We will come back and try to explain why that is. Step 4 - verse 20b: [no flesh will be justified by works of the Law] " . . . for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." Through the Law Comes the Knowledge of Sin Now let's work our way backward through this text to see how each part of this argument works. So first take the fourth step in his argument: ". . . for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." What does this mean? You might think: Well, that's easy, it means that the Law tells us about sin; it teaches us what sin is and shows us how to live and how not to live. It says, "Thou shalt not lie . . . Thou shalt not steal . . . Thou shalt not kill . .." and so on. But I don't think that's what it means. Because that meaning won't let the argument work. Verse 19b is the reason given for verse 19a. So let's try it out: "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; because the Law teaches what sin is. Because the Law teaches us not to steal and lie and kill." I don't think that works. The fact that the Law teaches us what sin is, doesn't show why we can't be justified by the works of the Law. There has to be more in verse 20b than mere information about the Law. We can see what this more is from Romans 7:7-8, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law [Note: here is what Romans 3:20b means - the Law brings about the knowledge of sin]; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COVET.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead." That is, it lies, to a large degree, dormant and unrecognized. There it is: Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (3:20b says); how so? Well, when the Law meets an unregenerate heart (that is, a person without the Holy Spirit and without faith), the effect is that it reveals the rebellion in our hearts; it makes our rebellion against God and his Law known; it brings it out. Sin rises up in the presence of the Law and shows itself with vivid colors.
  26. 26. It's like a teenager who goes to the mailbox to get the mail. He brings it in and puts it on the table. He flips through it and sees nothing for him, and so he starts to walk away. No bad desires at all here, right? But then he notices at the top of one of the postcards the words, "For parents only!" And suddenly there is a desire to read the card. Are those words on the card sin? No. But through those words come the knowledge of sin. Suddenly what was lying dormant in the heart is shown to really be there - the desire to read what one ought not to read. So it is with the Law. It stirs up resistance wherever the Holy Spirit is not ruling the heart. Remember from several weeks ago, Law minus the Spirit = the letter. And the letter kills (see Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6). No Justification by Works of the Law Now we can see the connection with step three in Paul's argument (3:20a). "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight." Why? Because everywhere the Law meets an unregenerate heart (without the Spirit), it awakens resistance not faith. It brings out sin. It doesn't overcome sin, it reveals sin. It makes it known. "For through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." So the Law does not bring about justification, it brings about condemnation. It doesn't set anyone right with God - because it doesn't have the power to do that. Why? Why does the Law only bring out our sinfulness and make it more obvious? Why does it have no power to bring out, or give, righteousness? We find the answer in Romans 8:3: "What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh." Notice: the Law is not defective in itself. But Romans 8:3 says, it is weak because of the flesh, that is, because of our unregenerate condition. That's why, by works of the Law, nobody is going to get right with God. The Law without the Spirit is called "letter" and it kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). By itself the Law just brings out sin, not faith, and when it does, it is death-giving, not life-giving (Romans 7:9-10). So it can't justify us. It can only condemn us, unless Christ bears our condemnation and releases the Spirit into our lives (Romans 8:3-9). There you have steps 4 and 3: the Law awakens sin, not faith, when it meets mere flesh (the unregenerate heart); and therefore, by the works of the Law nobody will be justified. The Law can't do it. It is weak through the flesh (Romans 8:3).
  27. 27. Through the Law Came the Knowledge of Sin Now, still moving backward in Paul's argument, how do those two steps (3 and 4) help us understand verse 19, the first two steps in Paul's argument? In verse 19 he said that "whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to (literally: guilty before) God." Why does what the Law says to the Jews show the whole world guilty before God? The Jews have had such advantages spiritually over the other peoples of the world, that if anyone could benefit from the Law of God - if anyone could be justified through the Law of God - then surely the Jews could. But they were not justified by the works of the Law. Why? Because through the Law came the knowledge of sin - the Law was weak through the flesh; it only awakened sin and rebellion, not faith (Romans 8:7-8; 9:32). If this is what happened among the people who had the greatest advantages -if the Jewish people are so sinful that the "holy," "just," "good" and "spiritual" Law of God (Romans 7:12,14) can, by itself, only awaken sin and rebellion, rather than faith, then there is no reason to believe that the rest of the world would respond any better. So the lesson of Israel's response to the Law of God is that every mouth is stopped and all the world is guilty before God. If Israel can't be justified by the works of the Law, nobody can. Implications That's Paul's argument as he comes to the end of this great section of the Letter to the Romans. So let's listen to the implications one more time. 1) Everybody in the whole world is guilty before God. This is the great lesson of these first three chapters. I am guilty. You are guilty. Everybody in your family is guilty. Everybody at your school and work place is guilty. The clerk at the store is guilty. The bus driver is guilty. Your next-door neighbor is guilty. And all the people in Yugoslavia and Kosovo and China and Guinea and Honduras are guilty before God. This should sober you about yourself and everyone else that you meet. This is a fact that is
  28. 28. not in any public school curriculum, though it is more important than any other fact they teach. Hold on to this truth. Let it make you a wise and penetrating counselor and a guide toward God. 2) No mouth anywhere in the world - from the primitive tribe to the university lecture hall - will be able to raise a legitimate objection against God's judgment. Every mouth will be stopped. God has put numerous lesson books in the world to show the world that we are all guilty. We have seen at least three. · One in chapter one, the lesson book of nature: Romans 1:20, "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." · One in chapter two, the lesson book of conscience: Romans 2:15, "They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." · And now one in chapter three, the lesson book of Israel, Roman 3:19, "Whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God." The point of all these lesson books for the nations is that every mouth shall be stopped and no legitimate objections will be raised against the justice of God at the judgment day. Get right with him now, because no one will make a case against him at the last day. 3) The mouths that raise objections against God now will one day be silenced. Every mouth will be stopped. O how great are the boasts of tiny men these days. "Where is God?" they say. But only for a short season. Then they perish, and meet him. And their mouth is stopped. All boasting will be silenced. As Isaiah 2:17 says, "The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day." 4) Therefore do not fear the voice of man. All his railing will cease. Fear God. O that God would give us all a radically God-saturated way of looking at the world! O that we would look on every intimidating derision of God and say: this will be silenced. "Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14). 5. Finally, remember that your own heart is sinful, and that, were it not for the power and grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit, you and I would be as rebellious as any man in the world. Remember that your
  29. 29. own mouth will be stopped. And so, while there is still time, turn to Christ and, as verse 22 says, receive "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." The Great Turning Point Consider the great turning point of this letter in verses 21-22: "But now apart from the Law [which is weak through our rebellious flesh] the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." Believe in Christ for your righteousness. Trust him. Lean on him and not yourself. It is a gift. You cannot earn it. Trust him The Vindication of God's Righteousness Last week I tried to show that the deepest problem being solved by the death of Christ was the problem that God himself seemed to be unrighteous in passing over so many sins that deserved condemnation. The whole Old Testament is a testimony to the truth that God is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6–7). And I said that we will never really feel this problem until we are God-centered in the way we think about sin and righteousness. Sin (Romans 3:23) is not primarily a crime against man. It is a crime against God. "All have sinned and fall short of God's glory." Sinning is always a valuing of something in the world more than God. It's a belittling of his glory. It's a dishonoring of his name. But God's righteousness is his commitment to do what is ultimately right—namely, to uphold the honor of his name and the worth of his glory. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. Sin belittles the worth of God by choosing against him; righteousness magnifies the worth of God by choosing for him.
  30. 30. Therefore when God just passes over sin and lets sinners go without just punishment, he seems to be unrighteous. He seems to be saying: the scorning of my worth is not significant; the belittling of my glory is unimportant; the dishonoring of my name doesn't matter. If that were true, God would be unrighteous. And we would be without hope. But God did not let it be true. He put forward his Son, Jesus Christ, that through death he might demonstrate that God is righteous. The death of the Son of God is a declaration of the value that God places upon his glory, and the hatred that he has for sin, and the love that he has for sinners. The Justification of the Ungodly Another word for this passing over sin which made God look unrighteous is "justification"—the justification of the ungodly (Romans 4:5). That's what I want to talk about today. And not just the fact that God passed over sins done a long time ago, but that he passed over the sins of his people which we did yesterday and this morning and will do tomorrow. Verse 26 says that when Jesus died, two things happened, not just one. "It [the death of Christ] was to prove that God himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus." God is shown to be just, and believers are justified. Now I don't want to focus today on the subjective act of faith by which we receive justification. I want to focus on the objective work of God in justifying. Because I think that if we focus on this great work—on what God does rather than what we do—we will find the faith to receive it welling up in our hearts. Let's look at four things that justification means for those who receive the gift through trust in Jesus. 1. Forgiven for All Our Sins First, being justified means being forgiven for all our sins. All Sin—Past, Present, and Future
  31. 31. Look at Romans 4:5–8 where Paul is unpacking the truth of justification by quoting the Old Testament. 5) To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6) So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7) "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8) blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin." This is right at the heart of justification. Cherish these three great phrases from verses 7–8: "iniquities are forgiven," "sins are covered," "the Lord does not reckon sin against us." Notice that Paul does not limit forgiveness to the sins we did before we believed—as though your past sins are forgiven but your future is up for grabs. There is no limitation like that mentioned. The blessing of justification is that iniquities are forgiven and sins are covered and "the Lord will not reckon sin against us." It is stated in a very absolute and unqualified way. Because Christ Bore Our Sin and Guilt How can he do that? Romans 3:24 says that we are justified "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." That word "redemption" means freeing or releasing or loosing from some bondage or imprisonment. So the point is that when Jesus died for us, he freed us from the imprisonment of our sins. He broke the bonds of guilt that put us under condemnation. Paul says in Galatians 3:13 that "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us." Peter says (in 1 Peter 2:24), "Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree." Isaiah said, "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (53:6). So justification—the forgiveness of sins—comes to us because Christ bore our sin, bore our curse, bore our guilt, and so released us from condemnation. This is what it means that we are justified "through the redemption in Christ Jesus." We are released from their punishment because he bore their punishment.
  32. 32. Christ Only Suffered Once And mark this: he only suffered once. He is not sacrificed again and again in the Lord's Supper or the Mass as though his first sacrifice were insufficient. Hebrews 9:26 says that "Christ appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (cf. Hebrews 7:27). And again it says in 9:12, "He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." This is utterly crucial in order to grasp the glory of what God did for us at the cross. Do you see the connection between the once for all death of Christ and the totality of your sins and the sins of all God's people? It isn't some sins, or certain kinds of sins, or past sins only, but sins and sin absolutely that Christ put away for all his people. So the forgiveness of justification is the forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future. That's what happened when Christ died. 2. Reckoned Righteous with an Alien Righteousness Being justified means being reckoned righteous with God's righteousness imputed to us, or counted as ours. We are not merely forgiven and left with no standing before God. God not only sets aside our sin, but he also counts us as righteous and puts us in a right standing with himself. He gives us his own righteousness. The Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus Look at verses 21–22. Paul just said in verse 20 that no human could ever be justified by works of the law. You can never have a right standing with God on the basis of legalistic strivings. Then he says (to show how justification is attained), "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from
  33. 33. law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." So even though no one can be justified by works of the law, there is a righteousness of God that you can have through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what I mean when I say being justified means being reckoned righteous. God's righteousness is counted as ours through faith. When Jesus dies to demonstrate the righteousness of God, as we saw last week from verses 25–26, he makes that righteousness available as a gift for sinners. Had Christ not died to demonstrate that God is righteous in passing over sins, the only way the righteousness of God would have shown itself is by condemning us. But Christ did die. And so the righteousness of God is now not a condemnation but a gift of life to all who believe. 2 Corinthians 5:21 2 Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most breathtaking passages about this great gift of imputed righteousness. "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Christ knew no sin. He was a perfect man. He never sinned. He lived perfectly for the glory of God all his life and in his death. He was righteous. We, on the other hand have all sinned. We have belittled the glory of God. We are unrighteous. But God, who chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, ordained that there would be a magnificent exchange: He would make Christ to be sin—not a sinner, but sin—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our alienation from God, our unrighteousness. And he would take the righteousness of God, that Christ had so awesomely vindicated, and make us bear it and wear it and own it the way Christ did our sin. The point here is not that Christ becomes morally a sinner and we become morally righteous. The point is that Christ bears an alien sin and suffers for it, and we bear an alien righteousness and live by it.
  34. 34. Justification Precedes Sanctification Be sure that you see the objective reality of this outside ourselves. This is not yet the reality of sanctification—the actual process of becoming morally righteous in the way we think and feel and live. That too is a gift (we will see it in three weeks). But it is based on this one. Before any of us can make true gospel progress in being righteous partially, we must believe that we are reckoned righteous totally. Or to put it another way, the only sin that you can overcome practically in the power of God is a forgiven sin. The great gift of justification precedes and enables the process of sanctification. 3. Loved by God and Treated with Grace Being justified means being loved by God and treated with grace. Christ Proves the Measure of God's Love for Us If God did not love you, there would have been no problem to solve by the death of his Son. It was his love for you that made him pass over your sin and that made him look unrighteous. If he did not love you, he would have solved the sin problem simply by condemning us all to destruction. That would have vindicated his righteousness. But he didn't do that. And the reason is because he loves you. This is most beautifully pictured in Romans 5:6–8. While we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. What God is proving in the death of his Son is not only the truth of his righteousness, but also the measure of his love. The Free Gift of God
  35. 35. In Romans 3:24 Paul says that we are justified "by his grace as a gift." The love of God for sinners overflows in gifts of grace—that is, gifts that come from God's bountiful kindness and not from our works or our worth. The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts. That means they cost us nothing because they cost Christ everything. They cannot be earned with works or inherited through parents or absorbed through sacraments. They are free, to be received by faith. Romans 5:17 says it like this: If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts of grace that flow from the love of God. Being justified means being forgiven, being reckoned righteous, and being loved by God. 4. Secured by God Forever Finally, being justified means being secured by God forever. This is the crowning blessing. Paul proclaims it in Romans 8:30. "Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." If you are justified, you will be glorified. You will reach the glory of the age to come and live forever with God in joy and holiness. Why is this so sure?
  36. 36. It is sure because the effect of the death of God's Son is objective and real and definite and invincible for God's people. What it achieves it achieves forever. The effect of the blood of Christ is not fickle—Now saving and now losing and now saving and now losing. This is the point of verse 32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?"—that is, will he not also glorify us! Yes! The same sacrifice that secures our justification secures our glorification. If you stand justified this morning, you are beyond indictment and condemnation. Verse 33: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." Do you see the point: if God has justified you through the death of his Son, no one—not in heaven or on earth or under the earth—no one can make a charge stick against you. You will be glorified. Why? Because you are sinless? No. Because you are justified by the blood of Christ. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God. Romans 3:21–26 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
  37. 37. Unshakable in a Hundred Crises Today I want to focus on verses 23-24. Verse 23 gives the universal need of every human being. And verse 24 gives the all-sufficient remedy for that need. What these two verses say is more important for your future than 10,000 books written by man to help you solve your problems. These are the words of God spoken through the apostle Paul. They tell us our true condition as human beings. And they tell us what God has done to save those who put their trust in his Son, Jesus. If you build your life on these verses - if the truth of these two verses becomes the foundation of your life - you will be unshakable in a hundred crises. If these verses become the sun in the solar system of your life, all your planets will orbit in harmony around the will of God. But if you put these verses out on the rim of your life (say near Neptune or Pluto) you need not be surprised if there is confusion and uncertainty and fear and weakness in your life. There are some truths that are so foundational and so central that you should memorize them, meditate on them, bind them to your mind and heart with chains and ropes and every kind of adhesive you can find. Many professing Christians are very weak, and amble through their days pretty much like unbelievers, because they don't hold on to these verses the way a drowning man takes hold of his rescuer's arm. Lacking God's Glory Verse 23 gives the universal need. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." All of us have sinned. No exceptions. That was the point of Romans 1:18-3:20. And the outworking of that sin is that we are falling short of God's glory. "Falling short" is, literally, "lacking." All have sinned and we are lacking the glory of God. But what does that mean? What does it mean to "lack the glory of God"? It doesn't mean that we are supposed to be as glorious as God is, but we aren't and so we lack glory. No. The best way to put meat on these bones is to look back at what Paul has said about the glory of God in a similar discussion of sin in chapter one. In describing those who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans1:18), Paul says in 1:23, "[they] exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image." And 1:28 says, "They disapproved of having God in their knowledge." So the picture we have is that all have sinned and that sin is essentially rejection of God and his glory as the supreme value of our lives. Sin considers God and his glory, and
  38. 38. instead of loving God's glory and treasuring God's glory, sin exchanges God's glory for something else. That is what sin is. Sin has to do with God, mainly. It is not mainly hurting people, though it does hurt people. Mainly, it is dishonoring God. It is belittling his glory - by not trusting him and not treasuring him and not wanting him as the foundation and center of our lives. All have sinned and are exchanging and, therefore, lacking the glory of God and, therefore, dishonoring the glory of God. Now that is a great guilt. God created the universe to display his glory (Isaiah 43:7). The reason we exist and everything else exists is to display the greatness of the perfections of God. The universe is all about God. The reason there is so much dysfunction and misery in the world is because the world is in rebellion against the purpose of the world. It shouldn't surprise us that, if the world was designed by God to display his glory, and the human race is intent on glorifying everything but God, there would be great upheaval and malfunction and misery in the world. All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God. We have traded it away. We have loved other things more. And so we have treated God and his glory with indifference and periodic, weekend, lukewarm attention. There is, therefore, a massive problem for every one of us: how shall we get right with God, and be saved from this God-dishonoring condition of sin? How shall we ever be accepted in eternity by God when all of us have scorned his infinite worth so deeply by treating him as if he had less worth than a weekend hobby? Four Descriptions of God's Action for Sinners The answer is given in verse 24. What is so great about this verse is that it is all about what God has done to save us, not what we do to save ourselves. You remember that this section of Romans began with the great turn in verse 21, "But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been manifested." Some great event has happened that manifests the righteousness of God - not the legal righteousness of the Law that condemns sinners, but the free gift of righteousness that justifies sinners. What is that great event? What happened in history that makes Paul say, NOW, now the righteousness of God has been manifested? Verse 24 tells us what that great event is, and what the effects of it are. Let's read it, " . . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Before we ask who this is talking about - who is "being justified" - let's immerse ourselves in the
  39. 39. achievement of this verse. It's all about what God has done to save us and how he did it. We need to see this and think about and pray over it and marvel at it even before we ask, Who is this for? So consider the four descriptions in this verse of how God has acted to make sinners right with himself. The first phrase is ". . . being justified . . ." Second, ". . . as a gift . . ." Third, ". . . by his grace . . ." Fourth, ". . . through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." 1. "Being Justified" Consider the phrase, "being justified." Notice three things about it. First, the verb is passive: it says "being justified," not "justifying." We are not doing this; it is being done to us. Justifying is something that God does, not something that we do. We are "being justified." God is justifying. He is the actor here. We are the ones acted upon. This is the way salvation is. It is finally and decisively the act of God the Father. Second, notice that in the word "justified" is the word "just." Now "just" is essentially the same as "righteous." I point this out because in the original language, the word "justified" here (dikaioumenoi) and "righteousness" in verse 22 (dikaiosune) have the same root (dikai-) which shows that the meaning of "being justified" in verse 24 and the meaning of God's "righteousness through faith" in verse 22 are very similar. So read it like this: "Now God's righteousness has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe . . . being justified . . ." In other words, what happens in being justified is that the righteousness of God comes to us not as condemnation, but as justification. It comes not as a burden, but as a gift. But that raises a question, and this is the third observation about the phase "being justified." In what sense do we receive righteousness? Are we made righteous in the act of justification? Or are we declared righteous in the act of justification? Consider Proverbs 17:15, "He who justifies the wicked and

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