Study Notes on Romans 3 1 8
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Study Notes on Romans 3 1 8

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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 Document Transcript

  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. ©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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
  • 40. he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." Justifying is something that a judge does. The opposite of justify is condemn. When you condemn someone you declare their guilt and assign them their punishment. You don't make them guilty. And when you justify someone you declare their innocence and assign them their freedom. So justifying is not making someone just but declaring someone just. You can see this especially clearly in Luke 7:29 where Jesus has just praised John the Baptist and then Luke says, "When they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God [same word as Romans 3:24], having been baptized with the baptism of John." God is justified by men. What does that mean? It means he is declared to be just. So justification is not an act of God that makes us righteous. It is an act of God that declares us righteous. When verse 22 says that "God's righteousness is through faith for all who believe," it means that this righteousness is counted as ours. God's act of justification is not inside us, but outside of us. It is not in us, but for us. It is not a change of our nature or state, but a change of our standing before him. It is not the same as sanctification which is done in us, and does change our character. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit of God gradually changing us into the image of his Son. Justification is the act of God, once for all declaring us just and righteous in his sight. 2. "As a Gift" And secondly, this great act is done for us "as a gift." That's the next phrase in verse 24: "Being justified as a gift . . ." The word used here is used several other places outside Romans in a way that makes the meaning clear. For example, in Revelation 22:17b, "Let him who desires take the water of life without price." "Without price" translates the same word that in verse 24 is translated, "as a gift." So the point is that we are justified in such a way that we cannot pay for it. You cannot purchase your justification. It is a gift. It is free. There is no payment you can make. You can't buy or barter or rent. God's act of justification is a gift. 3. "By His Grace"
  • 41. Now this is underlined in the third phrase, "by his grace." "Being justified is a gift by his grace . . ." This is one of the most important words in the letters of Paul. He uses it 95 times. What does he mean here that God's act of justifying is "by his grace"? The easiest way to see it is to look a few verses later in Romans 4:4, which we will come back to again and again on this matter of grace, because here is a fundamental insight. I am going to translate it literally so that you can see that the very same word "grace" is here in this verse. Romans 4:4, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited [or counted] according to grace, but according to debt." In other words, if you work for somebody, you don't get grace, you get wages. If you relate to somebody as one who works for them, what you bring about is not grace, but debt. They owe you wages. This is why it's an abomination to try to work for God. God cannot be put in anyone's debt. As Romans 11:35 says, "Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" The answer is "no one," and the reason given is that "from him and through him and too him are all things" (Romans 11:36). So if you are going to get something by grace, you can't work for it. Grace is the good that you get from someone when he owes you nothing. So what Paul means when he says that we are "justified as a gift by his grace" is that we can't work for justification. So the phrase "as a gift" means you can't pay for it. And the phrase "by his grace" means you can't work for it. Well, then how can this be? How can God declare a sinner to be righteous? If we don't pay for it, and we don't work for it, then what's the basis of it? How can it be just to justify the ungodly? 4. "Through the Redemption which is in Christ Jesus" The last phrase gives part of the answer, and the rest of the answer comes next week. The last phrase in verse 24 is, "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." "Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Now what does that mean? What does redemption mean? It means "deliverance at a cost" or "release by payment" of a price (Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1955], pp. 40-45). Imbedded in the word "redemption" in the original language (apolutroseos) is the little word lutron, "ransom." In other words, the idea of redemption is deliverance or release by payment of a ransom. In redemption, someone's release or deliverance is accomplished at the cost of a ransom payment.
  • 42. What's the ransom? What's the payment? The word "ransom" (lutron) is used only in Mark 10:45 (and its parallel), "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." The answer is that the life of the Son of Man is the ransom paid in redemption. That's what Paul means when he says, "the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." The redemption is in Christ Jesus because Jesus is the ransom. He gave his life so that there could be release and deliverance. From what?From the guilt and condemnation and power of God-belittling sin - the universal problem of verse 23. So here is the foundation of our justification: Christ gave his life as a ransom for many. He paid the price for our release from sin and guilt and condemnation. This is why God now, as a gift by his grace, justifies the ungodly. Everything is owing to the death of Christ (we will see the blood in verse 25 next week). This is why you can't pay for it and you can't work for it. It's all of Christ. The basis of your justification is not in yourself or anything you do; it is "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." How Do I Get this Justification? We are justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. So if being justified is God's declaration that you are righteous in his sight, and if you can't pay for it because it's "a free gift," and you can't work for it because it's "by his grace," and if you were ransomed through the redemption in Christ Jesus, then how do you get this justification? Verse 22: "It is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." O, fellow sinner! O, guilty offender of the glory of God! Do you want this? From your cell on death row do you want an eleventh-hour pardon? Do you want the doors of the prison to open and the Judge of the universe to count you as righteous and release you into everlasting green pastures and still waters in his friendship? If you want this, then turn to Christ absolutely helpless, with no payment in your hand, and no works to your credit, and trust and t Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Why Raise the Issue of Boasting? Why does Paul raise the issue of boasting? "Where then is boasting?" he asks in verse 27. And he answers, "It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works?No, but by a law of faith." Then in Romans 4:2 he
  • 43. raises the issue again: "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God." So the matter of boasting is important to Paul. Why? 1. Pride Is the Greatest Problem of the Human Race First, because boasting is the outward form of the inner condition of pride. And pride has been the root cause of all the evils and miseries of the world, described in Romans 1:18-3:20. Let's go back and see this first-hand for ourselves. In Romans 1:18 Paul says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." The truth is available to all people in one way or the other, and instead of humbling ourselves under it, we stand over it and push it down. This is pride. It may take hundreds of different forms - from the most petite and delicate to the most powerful and crude - but the reality is the same: we will stand over the truth and accept what we like and suppress what we don't. What truth do we suppress? Verse 21 says, "Even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks." The truth that pride suppresses most is that God is greater than we are and should be glorified as the greatest reality in the universe, and that God is the Giver of all things and should be continually thanked. A Godward spirit of worship and gratitude is missing from most hearts because of pride. We want admiration for ourselves, not for God, and we don't want to be dependent like helpless children on God's mercy. So verse 22 says, "Professing to be wise, they became fools." This is pride. "Professing to be wise, [we] became fools and exchanged the glory of God . .." We think we are wise when we are acting foolishly. Verse 25: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." Pride may still worship; it may still serve. But not God.Only a creature -something more manageable, something that can't really govern us and put us in our place. Verse 28: "They did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer." Pride prefers not to have God in its knowledge. Pride does not like to submit to authority or depend on mercy. Therefore it is always rejecting or redefining the true God.
  • 44. So in the middle of verse 30 we read that such people are, "insolent, arrogant, boastful." Here Paul is explicit about the depth of pride in the fallen human heart. Then in Romans 2:3, Paul shows the form this pride takes in the morally vigilant: "Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?" There is such a thing as the pride of the lecherous and there is also the pride of the legally careful, moral person. There is even the pride of the religious person who uses his knowledge of God to exalt himself. Romans 2:17, "If you bear the name 'Jew' and rely upon the Law and boast in God . . ." and then he goes on to warn them against hypocrisy. The same could be true of any religious group. We are all tempted to make God himself a means of our own self-exaltation. And when Paul comes to the end of his long indictment of the human race as all being under sin (3:9), he says in climax in 3:18, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." They don't tremble before God. They have exchanged the glory of God for other things. And they have such an overweening sense of their own significance in the world that they can't even imagine trembling before their Maker and Judge. So boasting matters to Paul because boasting is the outward form of the deep, root-problem of the human race, pride. This moral corruption lies behind all the evils and miseries of the world. And, worst of all, this pride has put us at odds with God, so that, as Romans 3:19b says, "Every mouth is stopped and all the world has become accountable to God." We are under his judgment because of our pride and all the sin that flows from it. 2. God Accomplished Our Salvation without Our Help How then can we be put right with God? His wrath, Paul says in Romans 1:18, is being revealed against us. And we are "storing up wrath for ourselves in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (2:5). If we are so proud and sinful, and God is so angry, how then can we be saved from the wrath of God? How can people who have so belittled and dishonored the glory of the infinite God ever be set right with God?
  • 45. The answer is given in Romans 3:21-26, which we have been pondering for the last three weeks. The answer is that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to suffer and die in the place of proud, ungodly sinners, so that four things would happen. 1) The injury that we have done to God's glory through our pride and sin would be repaired, because Jesus gave his life to glorify the Father (see verses 23 and 25). 2) The wrath of God would be absorbed by Jesus and turned away from us as he gives himself as a propitiation by his blood-shedding (verse 25). 3) An infinitely valuable ransom would be paid to release us from the guilt of sin - the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (verse 24). 4) The righteousness of God would be demonstrated and vindicated. In sum: 1) God's glory is upheld; 2) his wrath is propitiated; 3) the ransom is paid; 4) his righteousness is demonstrated. That is what God did in Christ, outside of us, before we had anything to do with it. A great salvation is accomplished outside of you before anything is applied inside of you. Now the result of this great salvation for us, that gives us hope that we will escape the wrath of God, is justification. What this means is that, on the basis of what he has done in Christ (those four great acts), God declares us to be righteous. Because of all that great work, Paul says in verse 24: "[We are] justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." The redemption price - the ransom - was paid by Christ outside of us in history. This unleashed an avalanche of grace toward us, and the form that grace has taken is the free gift of justification. Verse 24: "we are set right with God as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." And we saw as we closed last week that in verses 22 and 25 and 26 the means though which we are justified is faith in Christ Jesus. Verse 26b: ". . . that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Now let's ask again the question we raised at the beginning: Why does Paul raise the issue of boasting in verse 27? I think we can answer it more fully now. The first part of the answer is that pride is the greatest problem of the human race. Self-exaltation and self-admiration and self-determination are the universal forms of worship that compete with glorifying and thanking and trusting the living God. So boasting is utterly crucial to deal with.
  • 46. The second part of the answer is that God has acted in history through the death of Christ to save us from the condemning effects of pride. And he has done it in such a way as not even to involve us in the accomplishment of it. He sent Christ; he upheld his glory through Christ; he propitiated his wrath by Christ; he paid the ransom, which was Christ; and he vindicated his righteousness in Christ. And we cannot boast that we had any part in accomplishing it, because we did not have any part in accomplishing it. 3. We Benefit from God's Great Salvation Only by Faith in God Which brings us to the third part of the answer to why Paul brings up the issue of boasting; namely, that the means by which we benefit from this great salvation (redemption, propitiation, justification) is a means designed specifically by God to exclude boasting - that is, the means of faith. So picture these three steps: first, pride is the great root of all the evil that cut us off from God and created the need for salvation. Second, God accomplishes a great salvation in Christ on the cross by upholding his glory, propitiating his wrath, paying a ransom, and demonstrating his righteousness - so we had nothing to do with it and cannot boast that it depends on us at all. Third, now how will God connect you with it? How will you become the beneficiary of this great salvation? Only in a way that excludes boasting. For if what links us to this salvation is an act we can boast in, then the purpose of the whole plan collapses. That is why Paul raises the issue of boasting. The Law of Faith And what is his answer to the question in verse 27 - "Where then is boasting?" His answer is just what we expect: "It is excluded." That is utterly crucial. All boasting must be excluded by the way God saves. How is it excluded? What did God design so as to exclude boasting? Here's his answer: "By what kind of law [was it excluded]? [A law] of works?No, but by a law of faith." Boasting is excluded by a law of faith.
  • 47. The term "law" is translated in some versions "principle" - boasting is excluded not by the "principle" of works but by the "principle" of faith. "Law" is the literal meaning and it is the same word as in the next verse (verse 28), "works of the Law," and in verse 31, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." So I think it should be translated "Law" in verse 27, and that Paul means the Law would not exclude boasting if it commended works as the way of justification, but the Law would exclude boasting if it taught that we are justified by faith. Which is, in fact, what it does teach, as Paul will labor to show in chapter four. So the point of verse 27 is that what excludes boasting from salvation is that justification comes to us not by works of Law, but by faith which the Law teaches. Notice the connection between verse 27 and verse 28: "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (which he will defend from the Law in chapter four). In other words, if boasting is going to be excluded from justification, then justification has to be not only by faith, but also "apart from works of Law." If you mix in works as a means of justification, you undermine God's purpose to exclude all boasting. Apart from Works of Law Now what does that mean - "apart from works of Law"? Well, the next two verses help us see what Paul has in mind. Verse 29 says, "Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also." In other words, he is saying, "Justification is apart from works of the Law" because if it were based on the deeds of the Law, then the Gentiles who don't have the Law would be at a disadvantage and God would not seem to be the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. But, in fact, that is not the case, as verse 30 then makes plain: "Since indeed God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith, is one." In other words, there is one God over all nations and over the Jews, not many gods, and there is one way of getting right with this God; namely, by faith. But to see what "works of Law" means here (in verse 28), notice what Paul focuses on: he takes circumcision as his example of a "work of Law" and he says in verse 30, that those who do this work (Jews) are justified by faith not by this work; and those who do not do this work (the Gentiles) are
  • 48. justified through faith apart from this work. "God will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith" (verse 30). Therefore, verse 29: he is not the God of the Jews only but of the Gentiles also. Therefore, verse 28: "A man is justified by faith, apart from works of the Law." So "works of the Law," which do not exclude boasting, are deeds required in the Law - such as circumcision (verse 30) - which a person does to obtain justification. I'll say it again to make it crystal clear: a "work of Law" -which in its essence does not exclude boasting - is anything you do (besides faith) to obtain a right standing with God - that is, to obtain justification. If you try to do anything besides trust God's grace in order to get right with God, you are doing a "work of Law" - and you are still in the grip of pride. Boasting is not excluded by "works of Law," but only by faith. Why is that? Paul explains, in Romans 4:4-5, why "works of Law" do not exclude boasting. He says, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited according to grace, but according to debt [literal translation]. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Faith Calls Attention to the One Who Is Trusted In other words, if you receive circumcision (or let's say, attend church, and keep the second table of the Ten Commandments) as a way of obtaining right standing with God, then what you would get would not be grace, but what you are due. "To the one who works, his wage is not credited according to grace, but according to debt." In other words, "working" calls attention to the worker and the work and expects what is due. Therefore, working does not exclude boasting, it supports boasting. On the other hand, faith does not call attention to itself, but to the grace of the one trusted. Faith corresponds to grace. Work corresponds to debt. Therefore faith excludes boasting, and work supports boasting. If you are the beneficiary of grace in all that you are and have, you cannot boast in yourself. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" When all is gift, boasting is excluded. But what happens if you try to perform a "work of Law" as a way to get right with God? Three things: 1) you nullify grace ("to the one who works, his wage is not credited according to grace"); 2) you turn justification into a wage that you are due, rather than a free gift; 3) you re-establish boasting which the entire plan of salvation was meant to destroy. So I plead with you on this Lord's Day, humble yourself under the great saving work of God in Christ; turn away from all pride and boasting and self-reliance; renounce all efforts to show
  • 49. yourself worthy of the gift of justification; and trust in free grace alone, "apart from works of the Law," as the way to get right with God. Don't respond to God's offer of salvation with Romans 4:4; respond with Romans 4:5. 4:4 - "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited according to grace, but according to debt." Don't nullify grace and turn justification into a debt. 4:5 - "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Trust the one who justifies the ungodly - and you will be saved. You're listening to Justification by Faith Establishes the Law Romans 3:27–31 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Nullifying an Important Truth? Our focus today is on verse 31, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." Where did this question come from: "Do we then nullify the Law?" Why did he ask this? Someone must have been thinking that Paul was doing this - nullifying the Law. O, how many times this happens in serious theological discussion! You take a stand on some truth and someone says, "Oh, but if you believe that, then you can't believe this. You are nullifying this truth to hold that other truth." Someone has been taught, perhaps, that if you believe in the sovereignty of God in conversion, then you must nullify human accountability to believe. So they say, "You are nullifying human accountability." Or, if you say you believe in the providence of God over all things - from the
  • 50. turning of hairs white or black to the fall of every bird from the sky - someone will say, "Then you are nullifying prayer - why pray if God rules all things so completely?" But just because someone cannot see how two truths can fit together doesn't mean they may not fit together. So it is here in this text. Someone is saying, "Paul you are nullifying the Law. What you teach is abolishing the Law of God." Paul does not agree with this. But before we see why, we need to ask, What causes the question to come up? Why would anyone accuse Paul of nullifying the Law? Why Might it Seem that Paul is Nullifying God's Law? That is not hard to see. Let's just go back, say, to Romans 3:20 and collect a few of his statements that would possibly lead someone to this conclusion. In verse 20 he says, "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." So he says that no one will be justified by doing the commandments of the Law like, "Be circumcised" and "Do no work on the Sabbath" and "Don't steal or kill or lie or commit adultery." No sinner can get right with God by doing the "works of the Law." Then in verse 21 Paul says, "Now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested." God's righteousness is given to us "freely by grace" (verse 24) through Christ apart from the law of commandments. Commandment-keeping is not how we gain a right standing with God. Then look at verse 27, "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works?No, but by a Law of faith." So again the "law of works" seems to Paul to be negative. It can't get rid of boasting. Only a "Law of faith" can get rid of boasting. So what positive role is left for the Law? Then notice verse 28, "We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." There it is again. Paul is not satisfied to say the positive - "a man is justified by faith" - he insists on saying the negative also - "apart from works of the Law." This is what is getting his critics upset. He says the Law can't set us right with God. We get right with God by faith "apart from works of the Law." Now, with that kind of context, when we get to verse 31 and he asks, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith?", we really are not surprised that someone pressed this question on Paul. "Paul, you keep saying that a person gets right with God - gets justified - by faith apart from 'works of the Law,' and that
  • 51. the 'law of works' can't overcome boasting. So it seems to us that you are virtually nullifying the Law. You are saying that all those commandments in the moral law of God have no authority and may be safely ignored by God's people. You are, it seems, calling for a lawless people." May it Never Be! That is what Paul is responding to here. Is it true? Paul answers, "May it never be!"Absolutely not. That is not what I am doing. You may think that, but you must think more. Don't jump to conclusions. Follow me to the end of the argument. Don't press your assumptions on my argument without hearing me out. I am not nullifying the Law when I preach justification by faith alone apart from works of the Law. In fact, he goes on and says, "On the contrary, we establish the Law." This is remarkable. He turns the table on his critics. He says, "Not only do we not nullify the Law when we teach justification by faith alone apart from works of the Law, but we establish the Law when we teach this. Justification by faith alone, apart from works of the Law, does not knock the Law down, it stands the Law up. Getting right with God by faith, not works, establishes the Law. Now what does that mean? I think it means that what the moral law of God requires of us, we will do, if we pursue it by faith, as those who are already justified, and not by works, in order to be justified. If we get right with God first by faith alone, and then live in that freedom of love and acceptance and justification, we will be changed from the inside out and will begin to love the very things the moral law requires so that they become established in our lives - not as works of merit, but as the fruit of faith (I Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11) and the fruit of the Spirit. Ascend the Tracks of the Roller Coaster Now before I show you why I think this is what it means, let me put it in a picture for you. Children, you listen closely here, because you know about roller coasters better than I do. Suppose that you are standing on the tracks of a roller coaster at the very bottom of one of the deepest dips with a threehundred-foot tall incline in front of you, almost straight up. At the top you see the roller coaster cars perched and ready to go down the other side of the incline. And suppose someone - call him Mr. Moses - says, "Ascend those tracks. Go up to the top of this roller coaster hill on these tracks." And suppose he says, "If you get in the roller coaster at the top, you will ride all afternoon with all the momentum you need to keep you going."
  • 52. So you start to climb the tracks, hand over hand, plank by plank, between the rails, when suddenly you hear another man - call him Mr. Paul - saying, "Wait, don't do that. These tracks and planks aren't made for climbing like that. Come over here on the ground and listen to my advice." Now at this point, certain bystanders might interrupt and say, "Hey, Mr. Moses said they must 'ascend these tracks' - that's his law. He said, 'Go up to the top of this roller coaster hill on these tracks.' Now here you are telling them to get off the tracks and come to you on the ground. You are going to ruin their afternoon. You are nullifying Mr. Moses' law." Be Lifted to the Top But Mr. Paul says, "No, no. That's not what is happening. Come I will show you. We are not canceling Mr. Moses' law, we are fulfilling it - the only way it can be fulfilled." Then he points you to a crane with a long cable and a harness at the end of the cable. And he points to a man sitting way up in the cab of this crane probably 400 feet in the air. He waves and smiles. And Mr. Paul says, "Let me put this harness on you. And if you will trust the man in the cab and the cable and the harness, he will lift you all the way up and put you in the roller coaster car. I promise you it is much safer this way." So you consider, and then you trust him and he lifts you in the harness all the way up and puts you in the roller coaster. Then the roller coaster starts to roll. As it builds speed on the descent, you feel not only the force of gravity, but a tremendous surge of power kick in on the ascent. You go all the way around the roller coaster circuit and then you come down into the dip where you had been standing and where you had started to climb. You hit the bottom of that dip doing about eighty miles an hour and surge up the very rails you thought you had to climb. And you keep on going. You look down and you see Mr. Moses and Mr. Paul with their arms on each other's shoulders like the best of friends, smiling as if there never had been any tension at all. The Law is a Track, not a Ladder Now what's the point? The point is that when Mr. Moses said, "Ascend these tracks . . . Go up to the top of this roller coaster hill on these tracks," he meant what he said. That's what the Law requires. But it wasn't his idea that you would try to climb them hand over hand, plank by plank. That's not what the
  • 53. planks are for. This is not a ladder with railings to climb. This is track for power to ride. So it is with the moral law in the Old Testament. It isn't meant to give a ladder for climbing, but a track for riding in the power of the Holy Spirit. So when Mr. Paul came along and said, "Don't climb those tracks to the top. Come over here to this harness," some thought he was saying, "Leave the law of Mr. Moses; nullify the path of the commandments." But that is not what he was doing. He was not nullifying the commandments; he was establishing them. The commandment was, "Ascend these tracks. Go up to the top of this roller coaster hill on these tracks." And that is exactly what happened when you trusted the man in the cab to lift you to the car and set you to rolling with a power not your own. You came around and you did "ascend those tracks." And you did "go up to the top of this roller coaster hill." Mr. Paul's message about getting to the top by faith alone without climbing (apart from works of the Law) did not nullify the commandments of Mr. Moses. In fact, that message of faith established the commandments. Same Idea Elsewhere in Romans Okay, you say, nice picture. But is that what the book of Romans means? Let me try to show you why I think it is. Keep in mind that this whole issue -whether the doctrine of justification by faith alone, apart from works of the law, nullifies the Law and produces disobedient, lawless Christians or whether it produces obedient, loving Christians - is dealt with in chapters 6-8 in great detail. Here Paul just deflects the criticism to hold off the opponent till he gets there. So I only have time to point you to the places where I get the answer. First look at Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" You can see that the issue here is very similar to Romans 3:31. You teach justification by grace through faith alone, apart from works of the Law. So what you're really saying is that sinning doesn't matter and that the more we sin the more grace will be shone and the more glory God will get in forgiving it. Paul emphatically rejects this. You get a taste of his argument from Romans 6:14-15, "Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" No, he says, the gospel of justification by grace through faith alone does not produce sinning. It produces love. When you trust the car controller, and the cable and the harness, and you sit in the roller coaster with the energy of grace driving the linkage, you don't come to the bottom of that
  • 54. 300-foot hill called Law and stop. You are under the power and control of grace, and it does not nullify the Law. It establishes the Law. Now look at the most important parallel passage, Romans 8:2-4. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh . .." Stop. The law of this 300-foot incline was not bad. It was perfect. Two rails, solid planks well fastened. Strong girders. Well, how then was it weak? It was "weak through the flesh." It wasn't made to be climbed hand over hand, plank by plank. Nor was your flesh (what you are apart from the Holy Spirit) ever designed by God to attempt such a thing. These rails were made for guiding a rollercoaster car, not for your flesh to climb. Now continue .. . "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 as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." God sent Christ to execute sin so that we might be justified by faith alone, apart from works of the Law, and so that "the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us." In us! This is real life transformation. That is confirmed by the next phrase: ". . . who walk not according the flesh but according to the Spirit." Walking by the Spirit means being empowered in the roller coaster with a power not your own. That is how the moral law is fulfilled and established. We are justified by faith alone, apart from works of the Law, and the Holy Spirit is given to us and by his power we fulfil the Law - that is, we love. For time's sake, I am passing over Romans 9:30-32*, which makes the same point. And I come finally to Romans 13:8-10, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law." Love Fulfills the Law In other words, love fulfills or establishes the Law. And where does love come from? It is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives. And is this Spirit supplied to us by works of the law or by hearing with faith (Galatians 3:5)? Does He come with his power to take us up the roller coaster hill of love because we work to show ourselves worthy, or because we are justified by faith alone?
  • 55. I think Paul answers in Romans 7:6, "But now we have been released from the Law . . ." You walk away from that 300-foot hill. You die to it. You receive the harness of grace by faith. And you ride up (through faith) to the peak of justification and are put in the car of the Spirit's power. Now read the rest of Romans 7:6, "And having died to that by which we were bound [the Law], so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." We serve. We love. But not the old way. Not hand over hand, plank by plank in the power of the flesh, which is so weak. But, because we are justified by faith alone, apart from works of the Law, we serve by the power of the Spirit, whose fruit is love. And love fulfills the Law. And therefore Paul can say, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." Do you want to get right with God, and live for his glory? Don't climb the roller coaster hill called "works of the Law." Trust the harness called "justification by faith alone." ©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 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. My main point today is that the more you understand and the more you cherish the biblical vision of God as absolutely free and gracious and sovereign over all things, the more you will love and live and labor for racial diversity and racial harmony. A year ago at this time I was wrestling to put into words my understanding of how "the soul dynamic" of the African-American experience relates to a biblical vision of the Sovereignty of God. The upshot of that wrestling was the message I gave to the Pastor’s Conference. The term "soul dynamic" was coined by Carl Ellis in his book, Free at Last? (InterVarsity, 1996), p. 266. You can see what that means and how I wove the two together by getting that message from Desiring God.
  • 56. What I want to do this morning is continue that effort to think biblically about the relationship between racial harmony and the biblical vision of God in the Reformed Faith. I believe what I will say relates to all ethnic groups and the tensions that sometimes rise between them. But I admit that my focus is mainly on the historic and ever-present and unique and critical issue of black-white relations (which are even now in the news again, because of the President’s weighing in on the University of Michigan’s admission policies and Codoleezza Rice’s subsequent comments). It is ever present – if not explicitly, then just beneath the surface. If you don’t feel that, its because you are part of the majority culture so that it never enters your mind that someone might treat you differently because of your race. Our Prayer My prayer this morning is that you would see racial harmony, and what it costs to pursue it, as a necessary fruit of embracing the biblical vision of God expressed in the Reformed Faith. In other words, I pray that you will love the God of the Bible and labor for racial diversity and racial harmony and racial justice – that is, labor for love. Pastor Sherard’s article in this weeks STAR got it exactly right. Among the many powerful things he said there was this crucial prayer: My prayer for us at Bethlehem is that we will love racial harmony because we love the gospel and that we strive to be known as a gospel centered church that exalts the glory of God and the person of Christ and who, as a result of gospel passions, reflect the multicolored wisdom of God. He is faithful and He, by sovereign design, will do it!" In other words, racial harmony has roots in the gospel and in the sovereignty of God. That is why it matters. Where it doesn’t flourish, the cross of Christ is dishonored and the sovereignty of God is obscured. The Reformed Faith
  • 57. What I mean by the Reformed Faith is the biblical vision of God and his ways recovered in the Reformation under leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli. I don’t mean that all these men taught was true. Only the Bible is perfectly true. I mean that all these men saw the same thing at the center of the Bible and spoke it with power. We see the same things in the Bible and so we believe them and love them. Being biblical is more important than being Reformed. But at the center, being Reformed is being biblical. One way to describe the Reformed Faith is with the five "alones." Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, on the authority of Scripture alone. At the center of these "alones" is the precious teaching of justification by faith alone. That is not my focus this morning, but I don’t want you to miss its relevance for racial harmony. Listen to the way Paul draws this out in Romans 3:28-30: We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God he God of Jews [one ethnic group] only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also [all ethnic groups]? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith [Jewish ethnic group] and the uncircumcised through faith [the rest of the ethnic groups]. In other words, the fact that there is one God who justifies human beings in his court in one way – by faith alone – is made a race issue by Paul. Justification is by faith alone precisely, Paul says, to nullify ethnic advantages and feelings of superiority or exclusion. "Is he not the God of the nations!" Yes, and he will justify in only one way – a way that makes clear that ethnic distinctions do not create advantages or disadvantages. They do not save and they do not damn. Christ saves. Sin damns. And everyone is justified by faith alone. But my focus today is on another way of summing up the biblical vision of God and his ways in the Reformed Faith. At the heart of the Reformed Faith are what we sometimes call the doctrines of grace. Sometimes we sum these up in the acronym TULIP: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints. I said that my main point is that the more you understand and the more you cherish the biblical vision of God as absolutely free and gracious and sovereign over all things, the more you will love and live and labor for racial diversity and racial harmony. When I said that I had in mind this vision of God – the one expressed in these five biblical "doctrines of grace."
  • 58. So let me take them one at a time and give some biblical basis and then mention how they relate to racial diversity and racial harmony. Total Depravity The Bible teaches that, since the original sin of Adam, all humans are spiritually dead and morally incapable of submitting to God in faith and obedience. We have a mindset that "cannot submit to God." Romans 8:7-8, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." The reason for this moral inability is given in Ephesians 2:1, "You were dead through your trespasses and sins." The natural person – the way we are by nature – apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, does not see the truth as true and desirable, but considers it foolishness. So he cannot embrace it as true and precious. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." The implications of this doctrine for racial harmony are huge. Most often Christians celebrate the great positive common denominator among races, namely, that we are all created equally in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9). That is true and powerful and relevant. But there is a problem if we treat that doctrine in isolation. The problem is: we are not good enough to hear it and make good use of it. If you convince a sinful, depraved, unrepentant, unregenerate person that he is created in the image of God, you will probably fuel his innate pride. And that pride will so distort a person’s view of reality he will easily convince himself that he is above others. What is desperately needed is another conviction – no less strong, but shattering to pride – namely, the conviction that all human beings, including me, are corrupt, depraved, guilty, condemned, and under the just sentence of hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth: red and yellow, black and white. The ethnic diversity of hell is a crucial doctrine. Romans 2:9 puts it like this: "There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek." God is no respecter of persons in salvation or in damnation. The human race – and every ethnic group in it – are united in this great reality: we are all depraved and condemned. We are all lost in the woods together, sinking on the same boat, dying of the same disease.
  • 59. If we saw this more clearly, two things would happen. We would be humbled and frightened and made desperate like a little child to find a Savior. I have never seen a white-hooded Klansman or a Farrakhan follower who was brokenhearted for his sin, humble, and desperate for a Savior. The other thing that would happen if we saw how united we are in sin is that the sins of others would look like the outworkings of our own hearts, and we would be slow to judge and quick to show mercy. The doctrine of total depravity has a huge role to play in humbling all ethnic groups and giving us a desperate camaraderie of condemnation. Unconditional Election This is the doctrine that we have seen most clearly in our study of Romans 9. God chooses his people before the foundation of the world apart from any conditions in them. It is unconditional. This does not mean we don’t have to believe on Christ to be saved. Nor does it mean we will be condemned apart from sin and guilt. We are saved by faith. And we are condemned because of sin and unbelief. What it does mean is this: who believes and is saved, and who rebels and is not saved, is ultimately decided by God. Acts 13:48 puts it like this after Paul’s sermon in Antioch of Pisidia: "When the Gentiles heard this they were glad and glorified the word of God. And as many as were for ordained to eternal life believed." First comes God’s sovereign "purpose according to election" as Paul says in Romans 9:11, then comes faith. So the "purpose that accords with election" is not conditional on faith or any other human decision or feeling or behavior or distinctive. It is unconditional. God is free and unconstrained by anything outside his own will when he elects his people. This means that God does not choose his people on the basis of skin color or any other ethnic distinctive. No ethnic group can say they are chosen because of God’s preference for their physical or psychological or spiritual qualities. And no ethnic group can say that they are not chosen because of their qualities. God’s choice is unconditional. It is not based on anything in us. He is absolutely free and unconstrained. This is his glory, his name. And acting this way is his righteousness. Therefore unconditional election severs the deepest root of all racism and all ethnocentrism. If I am among God’s elect, it is owing entirely to God’s free grace, not my distinctives. Therefore there is no ground in God’s election for pride. And there is no ground in God’s election for despair. Nothing in me
  • 60. caused him to choose me. And nothing in you could have stopped him from choosing you. When it comes to election, we are on the absolutely level field of unconditional mercy: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Romans 9:15). Limited Atonement (Definite Atonement, Particular Redemption) The main point of the doctrine of limited atonement is not to assert that Christ did not die for everyone in the sense that John 3:16 says he did: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That is absolutely true: Christ died so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. Christ’s death is sufficient for all, and should be offered to all as gloriously sufficient to save them if they will believe. "Limited atonement" does not deny any of that. What it denies is that God’s design in the atonement is the same for everyone. It affirms that Christ dies for his bride in a way that is different from the way he dies for all people. Ephesians 5:25 says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." In other words, Christ died for the church, his bride, with the sovereign purpose that he would accomplish her salvation in the cross. He would purify her and purchase her. He was dying not just to create an opportunity for her to believe, but to purchase the belief itself. His death was not just sufficient for the salvation of the church. It was efficient, effective, and decisive for the salvation of the church. Jesus says, "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you [Father] have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9). "And for their sake I consecrate myself [to die], that they also may be sanctified in truth" (John 17:19). And Paul carried this understanding of Christ’s work through when he said in Romans 8:32-33, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?" In other words, all those for whom he died will most certainly obtain all things – they will finally inherit the kingdom of God. His death is effectual for the elect. Which means that no person, no matter what ethnic group, ever made any contribution to the ransom that frees him from the slavery of sin. We are all equally slaves to sin and corruption and futility and death and condemnation because of our depravity. That is our common slavery. We saw that. Now we see that the payment for our liberation – the blood and righteousness of Christ – is so complete that we could not and did not make any contribution to it – whether by our willing, or running, or ethnic
  • 61. distinctives. When Christ died in our place and for our sins, the whole ransom was paid. So fully paid, in fact, that our freedom was not just offered but secured, guaranteed. The cross of Christ is a great leveler of human beings not just because it shows that we are all desperate sinners, and not just because it can only be received by faith, but also because it is such a full and effective ransom for the elect that no child of God dare ever think that we made any contribution to purchase. No color, no ethnicity, no intelligence, no skill, no human wealth or power can add anything to the all-sufficient, all-effective sacrifice of Christ. We are one in our utter dependence on his blood and righteousness. Irresistible Grace Just as the cross is effective in purchasing the elect, so that grace of God is effective in drawing the elect to believe and be saved. Irresistible grace does not mean you can’t resist the grace of God when he is drawing you to himself. It means that when he chooses to, he can and will overcome your resistance. He may allow resistance for a long time (Acts 7:51). Recall how Paul said that God set him apart before he was born (Galatians 1:15). But think of all the persecution that God tolerated in Paul before he decided to move in power and take him captive on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-20). Irresistible grace simply means that, since no human being can submit to God because of our hardness of heart and rebellion and spiritual deadness, the only way any of us is saved is by sovereign grace. Jesus said, "No one comes to me unless the Father draws him" (John 6:44). "No one can come to me unless it is granted to him by my Father" (John 6:65). We are saved by grace through faith, Paul said, and that is not of ourselves it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our faith is a gift from God. And so is repentance: 2 Timothy 2:25, "God may perhaps grant them repentance." This means that not only did your ethnic distinctives contribute nothing to your election, and nothing to your ransom by the cross, but your ethnic distinctives also contributed nothing to the rise of your faith and the emergence of your repentance. We are all equally dependent on irresistible grace to be called and to believe and to be saved. Not only that but irresistible grace also means that there is no scoundrel – no racist, no black or white or brown or red or yellow arrogance that God cannot overcome and subdue and bring to humble
  • 62. repentance and faith and everlasting holiness and joy. We are comrades in dependence on irresistible grace, and comrades in hope that none of us are too far gone in our racial sins to be saved. Perseverance of the Saints This simply means that those whom God calls, he keeps. If you are a true believer, you will persevere in faith and obedience (not perfection) to the end and be saved. God will see to it. "Those whom he predestined he also called and those whom he called he also justified and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me; and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:2729). "I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6; see 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23f). What does this mean for racial harmony? I pick out one implication. If the pursuit of racial harmony is woven into the very fabric of God’s sovereign grace, and if therefore pursuing racial harmony is part of what it means to be a Christian, then the promise of perseverance is a promise to keep us pursuing till we die or Jesus comes. This is utterly crucial, and crucial to believe. Because of all the issues, even abortion which we will address next week, this one we are tempted to abandon more often because of we get wounded along the way. If you have a thin skin, or if you have a bigger sense of rights than mercies, or if you have small faith in God’s persevering grace, you will set out on the road of racial harmony and then quit. Because you are going to be criticized. You will try to say something or do something and the first thing you hear is: you said it wrong, or you should have said it a long time ago, or you should have also said such and such, or it was not the time to say anything. What will you do when that happens? I pray that you will persevere. I pray that you will ponder your own sin, your own unconditional election, your ransom by the blood of Christ, your own miraculous and merciful awakening to faith, and the promise of God to complete the word that he has begun – and then press on in what you know is right, and show that Christ is your comfort in life and death. Take heart and inspiration from people like John Perkins who left Mississippi when he was 17 after his brother was murdered, vowing never to return. But after he was converted to Christ in 1960 he went back and has been fighting for racial harmony for over 40 years. He wrote in the foreword to Dwight
  • 63. Perry’s book, Building Unity in the Church of the New Millenium (Moody, 2002), that he had seen in this book what he wanted to see and said, "I can almost say as Simeon said when he saw the child Jesus, "Now may this old man depart in peace" (p. 20). Get old in the pursuit of Biblical truth, persevering obedience, and racial harmony. .Biblical Foundations for a Public Proclamation of Christ I am staying with Romans 3:27-31 one more Sunday because what we are about today in the outdoor service and the praise march is so powerfully addressed in this text, as you will see. Our aim today is to declare truth about God in a more public way than we usually do in the building on Sundays. Our aim is to exult in the value of Christ before the neighborhoods and nations around the church building. Now, there are some tremendous foundations in Romans 3:29-30 for this public declaration. So what I want to do in these few minutes is put Biblical rock underneath your feet this morning so that you know why you are doing this and can enter in with a sense of clear, deep biblical purpose. One God, One Way of Salvation for all Peoples Let's look at verses 29-30. Paul has just said that we are justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Now he asks, "Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one." There is an order of thought here, and I will state it for you in reverse order and then take these three steps one at a time and show you how they relate to what we are doing today. First, there is the great affirmation in verse 30 that "God is one." Second, there is the inference that since he is one, therefore he justifies Jews and Gentiles in the same way, not two different ways. He "will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." Third, since he is one and justifies all peoples in the same way, not different ways, he is not the God of the Jews only, but the God of the nations as well. That is the gist of the passage. And you can see immediately why it is so relevant to what we are doing today. But let's take it a step at a time.
  • 64. God is One First, from verse 30, let's focus on the oneness of God: ". ..since indeed God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith, is one." God is one. What does this mean? 1. There Is One True God Paul's statement that "God is one" has several implications. It means, first of all, that there is only one true God, not many gods. That is the way the NIV translates it: "there is only one God." This is an absolutely necessary belief, in view of what it means to be God. Paul says in Romans 11:36, "All things are from Him and through Him and to Him. To Him be glory for ever." If that is what it means to be God, there cannot be two of them. If the very meaning of being God is that He is the ultimate source of all that is, there can be only one. Two beings cannot both be the ultimate source of all things. One would be the ultimate source of the other, and so only one would be God; or both would be equally ultimate and neither would be the source of all things, and so neither would be God, by Paul's definition. There is only one God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is outside of God. This is more relevant in our situation than it used to seem. On Monday, I had thirty minutes in a taxi with a Sikh from northern India. Sikhs are monotheists located mainly in the Punjab of northern India. As I tried to share my faith with this man, it became clear that he was happy for me to have my God and him to have his. It did not matter much whether they were drastically different. For him, what mattered was if I was a nice man and cared about people. God could be one or many. In a little while we will march by Muslim people, Hindu people, Jewish people, atheist people, animistic people, Christian people. Some of these will believe, in a kind of hazy way, that there are several gods and you can choose which one you want, as long as you are sincere and good. Others will believe that the one God is so indefinite that he can be known through almost any ideas about him. 2. God's Unity and Coherence Which leads us to a second implication of Paul's statement in Romans 3:30 that "God is one." For Paul, the oneness of God is not simply a statement that there is only one true God, but also a statement that this God has a unity and coherence to his identity. That is, he is what he is and not what we make of
  • 65. him. He is what he is and not something else. He has identity in himself. He has fixed attributes. He does not change. He is not inconsistent or schizophrenic. He does not have contradictory personalities. All his characteristics cohere in one unified Being. He makes himself known as who he is. He is one. This has tremendous implications for religious pluralism in Minneapolis and Chicago and New York and London and Jerusalem and Sao Paulo and Delhi and Tokyo and Sydney and Jakarta and Cairo and Pretoria. It implies, for example, that not all religions are true and lead to heaven. It also implies that those who know the true God because of his gracious revelation should try to persuade others to know and trust the one true God. And it implies that, since the true God of the Bible is a God who is known only by faith and not external coercion, no violence or force will be used to demand or restrict religious belief. Which means, interestingly, that the uniqueness and singleness of the one true God of the Bible is both a threat and protection for religious pluralism. We need to get this very clear, because we live in an increasingly pluralistic society. The absolute claim of the God of the Bible on all persons and all religions is a spiritual threat to religious pluralism in that it does call for repentance from all false religion and faith in the one true God through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. But this single, true God of the Bible is a protection for religious pluralism because he forbids that his cause be advanced by the sword or by external coercion. Jesus said to Pilate, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." (John 18:36). Christians are called to love our enemies and to suffer injustice rather than return evil for evil. Therefore, true Christianity is both a threat and a support for religious pluralism. It is a spiritual threat, and a political support. True Christianity will not endorse ethnic cleansing against Muslims or pogroms against Jews or legalized hostilities against Hindus. True Christianity does not advance by the sword or the gun. It advances by proclamation and persuasion and prayer and love and by being persecuted, not persecuting. We must make both of these clear. 1. Our belief in one true God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ in history means that we do not count all religions equally true or equally saving. Christianity is a missionary faith, or it is false to its own foundations. That is one thing we must make clear. And this will be very costly. People will call this arrogant and presumptuous and offensive.
  • 66. 2. So the other thing we must also make clear is that it is a loving thing to plead for people to know and trust the one and only living God through Jesus Christ. And the spread of our faith is not by violence or coercion. That would be self-defeating. No one is saved by a forced act. We spread our faith by proclamation, persuasion, prayer and love. 3. Not Three Gods, but One There is a third implication of Paul's words, "God is one," but we will leave it for another time in our study of the book of Romans, namely, that the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit do not make Christians polytheists. We do not worship three Gods, but one God. The mystery of the Trinity is a stumbling block for Muslims and Hindus and Jews and secularists. It always has been and it always will be. But it is not surprising that the one true God would exist from all eternity in a way that pushes our little minds to the breaking point. More on that later. Suffice it to say now that the revelation of God through Jesus Christ is that Jesus is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is God and there is one God. That is the first step in verse 30: God is one. God has One Way of Saving People Now the second step is that this one God has one way of saving people; namely, justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 30: " . . .since indeed God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith, is one." The oneness of God is connected to the oneness of the way he makes people right with himself. One way to say this would be that God threatens religious pluralism with the glorious freeness of grace. He comes to every world religion and every personal religiousness or irreligiousness and says, I offer you the good news that you may have forgiveness of your sins and be reconciled to your Creator and have everlasting life by grace alone through faith alone in my Son Jesus Christ. I have already acted in history to remove my wrath and to take away human guilt. If you will have it as your loved and trusted treasure, it is yours.
  • 67. Now you can call that arrogance and presumption if you will. But a better name for it is love. Yes, it undermines religious pluralism - the way antibiotics undermine the pluralism of bacterial diseases. The way vitamin C undermined the pluralistic symptoms of scurvy. Christianity does not come to other religious systems and try to replace one way to work for God with another way to work for God. It comes with a declaration of amnesty. The one true God has made a truce at the cost of his Son's life. He offers pardon to every person freely and everlasting joy to those who will trust his Son. The oneness of God means that there is one way to salvation, not the way of works, but the way of faith. And because it is a way of faith it cuts across all ethnic and political and language and cultural barriers. Verse 30: "God will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." "Circumcision" stands for any religious or ethnic trait that you might think would commend you to God. And "uncircumcision" stands for any trait, or missing trait, that you think might keep you from God. The gospel of Jesus Christ comes and says, "Justification (getting right with God) is by faith, not works. Therefore, having certain ethnic or religious advantages prove to be of no advantage. And not having certain ethnic or religious advantages proves to be of no disadvantage. The reason is that faith in Christ, by its very nature, looks away from distinctives (positive or negative) that you have in yourself, and looks to God's free grace in order to be justified and have eternal life. God's oneness means that there is one way of salvation for all. And, because this one God is the great sovereign, self-sufficient God who can't be worked for, but overflows in grace, the one way of salvation is by grace through faith, and that is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone - any culture or race or ethnic group - should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). That's the second step: since God is one, he justifies Jews and Gentiles in the same way, not two different ways. He justifies the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised by faith (Gentiles). He Is the God of the Nations Finally, the third step: since God is one, and justifies all peoples in the same way - by faith alone in Christ alone - not different ways, therefore, He is not the God of the Jews only, but the God of the nations as
  • 68. well. Verse 29: "Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also." And "Gentiles" refers to all kinds of ethnic groups. So what does it mean for us today to say, God is the God of the nations, the God of every ethnic group that you will ever see in Elliot Park and Phillips neighborhoods? It means four things, at least. 1. That God is the God of the nations means that God created all the nations. Acts 17:26: "He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth." Ethnic differences are God's doing. Beware of your prejudices. Go to God for the love that he has for the nations. 2. That God is the God of the nations means that he will redeem a people for himself out of every nation. Revelation 5:9: "They sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" God means to have a redeemed people from every ethnic group. Therefore, none is to be despised, but loved and pursued with grace. 3. That God is the God of the nations means he is ready to justify anyone, anywhere, from any nation through faith alone in Jesus Christ. There is one way of salvation for all the nations. God is God of the nations because he has made a way for them all - the same way and it is a way of grace. 4. That God is the God of the nations means that God aims to be known by all the nations. Psalm 96:1-4: "O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods." This is where the text is leading us for this afternoon. "Declare his glory among the nations" - and the neighborhoods. That is what the banners are for and the leaflets and the songs and the prayers and your presence. Stay with us and let your march be part of the fulfillment of this text What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just
  • 69. as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." "Blessing" – What Is It? As we move section by section through the chapters in Romans, don't forget that they are the unfolding of the flower of the gospel. And gospel means good news. And good news is designed to lift burdens and give joy and make strong. And that connects to the word "blessing" in verse 6 and "blessed" in verse 7 and verse 8. "Blessed" (makarios) means "a condition where you are deeply secure and content and happy in God." I put it like that because you can be "makarios" – blessed – and in miserable circumstances. "Blessed (makarios) are you," Jesus said, "when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12). So "blessed are you" does not mean "untroubled are you" or "healthy are you" or "admired are you" or "prosperous are you." It means "between you and God all is well." You are deeply secure, profoundly content, happy in God – even if you are weeping over the pain of a struck body, a perplexed mind, or a heartbreaking relationship. So don't lose sight of this as we move through Romans. This is the unfolding of the gospel – the good news. It's designed to lift burdens and give joy and make strong. This is so basic. And yet how easily we forget it.Romans is about good news designed to make you "blessed" – deeply secure and content and happy in God. Good News of God's Righteousness To make sure you see this, look with me at Romans 1:16-17 again – the banner that flies over this whole book: "I am not ashamed of the gospel – the good news – for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." The gospel is good news about salvation. So Paul explains in Chapters 1-3 what we need salvation from – the guilt of our sin and the justice of God's wrath.
  • 70. And how is it that we who have sinned and insulted God's glory so badly can be saved from the sentence of condemnation that we deserve from God? Romans 1:17 tells us what it is about the gospel that makes it the power of God unto salvation: "For in it – in the gospel – the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." The gospel saves because it is the good news that God's righteousness is revealed to be received by faith. Now what does that mean? How does that work? That's where we are in Romans right now. The last part of chapter 3 and all of chapters 4 and 5 are Paul's explanation of Romans 1:17 – the revelation of the righteousness of God as the basis of the good news that lifts your burdens, gives you joy, and makes you strong. The revelation of the righteousness of God is the basis of this "blessedness" in Romans 4:7-8 – the state of being deeply secure and content and happy in God. Now how does this work? We need righteousness to be acceptable to God. But we don't have it. What we have is sin. So God has what we need and don't deserve – righteousness; and we have what God hates and rejects – sin. What is the answer? The answer is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died in our place. God lays our sins on Christ and punishes them in him. And in Christ's obedient death, God fulfills and vindicates his righteousness and imputes (credits) it to us. Our sin on Christ, his righteousness on us. Good News of Christ's Righteousness We can hardly stress too much that Christ is God's answer. It is all owing to Christ. You can't love Christ too much. You can't think about him too much or thank him too much or depend upon him too much. All our justification, all our righteousness, is in Christ. Listen to a few other passages. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – "[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (God's righteousness becomes ours in Christ.) Philippians 3:8-9 – "I count everything as rubbish that I may . . . be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." 1 Corinthians 1:30 – "It is from God that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness. . . ."
  • 71. Romans 8:1 – "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (See also Romans 5:19.) Don't separate God's righteousness and Christ's righteousness. Think of the relation this way. God's righteousness was revealed in the faithful obedience of Christ even unto death. Therefore, Christ's righteousness is God's righteousness revealed. Therefore, to be in Christ is to be in God's righteousness. So what is the answer to why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? And why does the gospel lift burdens and give joy and make strong? It's because the gospel is the good news that our sins are laid on Christ and his righteousness is laid on us. The great exchange.The great imputation of our sin to Christ and God's righteousness to us – called justification. Good News of Justification by Faith Alone Now what Paul is exulting over, here in Romans 4, is that this justification is not based on works, but on faith alone. He is so thrilled with this part of the gospel that he takes all of chapter 4 to drive it into our hearts by using Abraham and David from the Old Testament to make his point: all our sins are imputed to Christ, and all God's righteousness is imputed to us by faith alone apart from works! The point of last week's message comparing James 2 with Romans 4 was to show that faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is alive and does not remain alone, but works through love. The works do not justify. The works are the fruit of the faith which alone unites us to Christ, whose righteousness is our unchanging hope. But we are in Romans 4 and I want to exult with Paul while he exults in justification by faith alone. Our text is verses 6-8. It begins with the words, "Just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." So you can see what he is focusing on here: "apart from works." God's crediting (or reckoning or imputing) his righteousness to us is not a tallying up of our good works minus our sins and then concluding that we have enough good works to be acquitted. No. Righteousness is credited to our account "apart from works." Works will follow from justification, but works do not obtain justification.
  • 72. Notice the words "Just as David also speaks" at the beginning of verse 6. The words "just as" mean that Paul sees in David's Psalm 32, which he is about to quote, the same thing that he just expressed in verse 5. Review it with me to see how this all fits together. "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Recall from two weeks ago the three evidences in this verse that justification is by faith alone apart from works. 1) "To the one who does not work." That rules out working as part of obtaining justification. 2) God "justifies the ungodly." Justification happens while we are still ungodly before there can be any good works. There can't be any good works involved in obtaining justification because there is no such thing as a good work that does not come from faith (Romans 14:23), and once faith has been given to us by God, justification happens immediately. So there is no place for good works to become a cause. 3) "Faith is credited as righteousness." Not faith plus his works, or works instead of his faith, but simply his faith is credited as righteousness. That is, God views the complete dependence on Christ for righteousness as the receiving of that righteousness. If you depend on it alone, it's yours completely. That is why Paul is exulting here. This is an essential and glorious part of the gospel. Here is the good news that lifts burdens and gives joy and makes strong. We get right with God by faith alone. Good News of Sin Not Credited to Us Now in verses 6-8 Paul does something a little surprising. Up till now he has been defining justification as the positive reckoning of God's righteousness to us. But now he adds to the definition the nonreckoning of sins. God's righteousness is credited to us; our sins are not credited to us. Both are essential. We have to get God's righteousness, and we have to get rid of our unrighteousness. But what is surprising is how Paul says that God's not crediting our sin to us is connected with his crediting of righteousness to us. Look at this carefully. Verse 6 says that "David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." But the quotation from Psalm 32:1-2 doesn't say that – that God "credits righteousness" to us. It says that God does not credit sin to us. Here's the quote from Psalm 32:1-2 in verse Romans 4:7-8. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." You see that last phrase: "the Lord will not take into account." The word there is the
  • 73. same as the word for "credit" or "reckon" in verses 3, 4, 5, and 6. So verse 8 is saying, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not credit – will not reckon, will not lay to his account, will not impute to him. So to see the surprising connection boil the text down to verses 6 and 8: "David speaks a blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" and here's the blessing that David speaks (verse 8): "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not credit." One thing is sure from this surprising connection: Paul does not see justification as the imputation of righteousness alone or as the forgiveness of sin alone. For him forgiveness of sin must include the positive imputation of God's righteousness. And the imputation of God's righteousness must include the forgiveness of sin. And the blessedness of both conditions is that each is "apart from works." Forgiveness is not obtained by works, and righteousness is not obtained by works. Both are obtained by faith alone "apart from works," as verse 6 says: the blessing that David speaks is "apart from works." Where in Psalm 32 does Paul see that sin is forgiven and righteousness is credited "apart from works"? He does not say. But it may be verse 10, "Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him." The opposite of being wicked is trusting the Lord – depending on the Lord. So the righteousness of the Psalmist is by faith. However Paul sees it, this is his teaching, and we may rejoice in it. Which is a good place to close – where we began, with the focus on the gospel as good news which is designed to lift burdens and give joy and make strong.Which relates to this word "blessing" in verse 6 and "blessed" in verses 7 and 8. "Blessed": a condition where you are deeply secure and content and happy in God. Blessed are you when God credits his righteousness to you. Blessed are you when God does not credit your sin to you. Blessed are you when Christ takes your sins and you take his righteousness. Blessed are you when you wake up to the breathtaking truth that all this blessing is "apart from works," and that all you can do to get it is depend on Christ alone for it. Blessing – "The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength" Please don't miss the note that I am striking today. It is triggered by the word "blessed." God wants you to see that his work and his Word are aiming at your happiness. The gospel is good news. He's not aiming at your ease or your comfort or your prosperity in this world. He is aiming at your present and everlasting joy. The reason Paul labors to unfold the truth of justification by faith is so that your joy will
  • 74. be so well grounded in God that it is unshakable. Doctrine stands in the service of delight. That is what I see in this word "blessed." Doctrine for the mind is designed to produce joy in the heart. And the reason I have said over and over that the design of the gospel is to lift burdens and give joy and make strong, is because I read this week in Nehemiah 8:10, "the joy of the Lord is your strength." And, O, how we need strength. There are so many things in life that threaten to simply overwhelm us. One tragedy after another in this reeling world: a Jewish Center shooting in LA; violence in Belfast; a massacre in a mosque in Kenya; sponsored paganism on college campuses; the birth a child who lives six days instead of sixty years; lupus; leukemia; cancer; financial woes; and untold heartaches that no one ever hears about. Do you see how justification by faith alone gives joy and strength in these times? Does it not fill you with joy and peace that your righteousness is not your own, but God's? And your sins are not on you, but on the cross of Christ! And your duty is not to merit or deserve Christ, but to depend on Christ. Does this not make you glad and give you stability in unstable days? O, you who do not know this peace and this joy and this strength, leave behind your foolish distractions and come to Christ. Come to Christ! What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." "Blessing" – What Is It? As we move section by section through the chapters in Romans, don't forget that they are the unfolding of the flower of the gospel. And gospel means good news. And good news is designed to lift burdens and give joy and make strong. And that connects to the word "blessing" in verse 6 and "blessed" in verse 7 and verse 8. "Blessed" (makarios) means "a condition where you are deeply secure and content and happy in God." I put it like that because you can be "makarios" – blessed – and in miserable circumstances. "Blessed (makarios) are you," Jesus said, "when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12). So "blessed are you" does not mean "untroubled are you" or "healthy are you" or "admired are you" or "prosperous are you." It means "between you and God all is well." You are deeply secure, profoundly
  • 75. content, happy in God – even if you are weeping over the pain of a struck body, a perplexed mind, or a heartbreaking relationship. So don't lose sight of this as we move through Romans. This is the unfolding of the gospel – the good news. It's designed to lift burdens and give joy and make strong. This is so basic. And yet how easily we forget it.Romans is about good news designed to make you "blessed" – deeply secure and content and happy in God. Good News of God's Righteousness To make sure you see this, look with me at Romans 1:16-17 again – the banner that flies over this whole book: "I am not ashamed of the gospel – the good news – for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." The gospel is good news about salvation. So Paul explains in Chapters 1-3 what we need salvation from – the guilt of our sin and the justice of God's wrath. And how is it that we who have sinned and insulted God's glory so badly can be saved from the sentence of condemnation that we deserve from God? Romans 1:17 tells us what it is about the gospel that makes it the power of God unto salvation: "For in it – in the gospel – the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." The gospel saves because it is the good news that God's righteousness is revealed to be received by faith. Now what does that mean? How does that work? That's where we are in Romans right now. The last part of chapter 3 and all of chapters 4 and 5 are Paul's explanation of Romans 1:17 – the revelation of the righteousness of God as the basis of the good news that lifts your burdens, gives you joy, and makes you strong. The revelation of the righteousness of God is the basis of this "blessedness" in Romans 4:7-8 – the state of being deeply secure and content and happy in God. Now how does this work? We need righteousness to be acceptable to God. But we don't have it. What we have is sin. So God has what we need and don't deserve – righteousness; and we have what God hates and rejects – sin. What is the answer? The answer is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died in our place. God lays our sins on Christ and punishes them in him. And in Christ's obedient death, God fulfills and vindicates his righteousness and imputes (credits) it to us. Our sin on Christ, his righteousness on us.
  • 76. Good News of Christ's Righteousness We can hardly stress too much that Christ is God's answer. It is all owing to Christ. You can't love Christ too much. You can't think about him too much or thank him too much or depend upon him too much. All our justification, all our righteousness, is in Christ. Listen to a few other passages. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – "[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (God's righteousness becomes ours in Christ.) Philippians 3:8-9 – "I count everything as rubbish that I may . . . be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." 1 Corinthians 1:30 – "It is from God that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness. . . ." Romans 8:1 – "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (See also Romans 5:19.) Don't separate God's righteousness and Christ's righteousness. Think of the relation this way. God's righteousness was revealed in the faithful obedience of Christ even unto death. Therefore, Christ's righteousness is God's righteousness revealed. Therefore, to be in Christ is to be in God's righteousness. So what is the answer to why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? And why does the gospel lift burdens and give joy and make strong? It's because the gospel is the good news that our sins are laid on Christ and his righteousness is laid on us. The great exchange.The great imputation of our sin to Christ and God's righteousness to us – called justification. Good News of Justification by Faith Alone
  • 77. Now what Paul is exulting over, here in Romans 4, is that this justification is not based on works, but on faith alone. He is so thrilled with this part of the gospel that he takes all of chapter 4 to drive it into our hearts by using Abraham and David from the Old Testament to make his point: all our sins are imputed to Christ, and all God's righteousness is imputed to us by faith alone apart from works! The point of last week's message comparing James 2 with Romans 4 was to show that faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is alive and does not remain alone, but works through love. The works do not justify. The works are the fruit of the faith which alone unites us to Christ, whose righteousness is our unchanging hope. But we are in Romans 4 and I want to exult with Paul while he exults in justification by faith alone. Our text is verses 6-8. It begins with the words, "Just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." So you can see what he is focusing on here: "apart from works." God's crediting (or reckoning or imputing) his righteousness to us is not a tallying up of our good works minus our sins and then concluding that we have enough good works to be acquitted. No. Righteousness is credited to our account "apart from works." Works will follow from justification, but works do not obtain justification. Notice the words "Just as David also speaks" at the beginning of verse 6. The words "just as" mean that Paul sees in David's Psalm 32, which he is about to quote, the same thing that he just expressed in verse 5. Review it with me to see how this all fits together. "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Recall from two weeks ago the three evidences in this verse that justification is by faith alone apart from works. 1) "To the one who does not work." That rules out working as part of obtaining justification. 2) God "justifies the ungodly." Justification happens while we are still ungodly before there can be any good works. There can't be any good works involved in obtaining justification because there is no such thing as a good work that does not come from faith (Romans 14:23), and once faith has been given to us by God, justification happens immediately. So there is no place for good works to become a cause. 3) "Faith is credited as righteousness." Not faith plus his works, or works instead of his faith, but simply his faith is credited as righteousness. That is, God views the complete dependence on Christ for righteousness as the receiving of that righteousness. If you depend on it alone, it's yours completely.
  • 78. That is why Paul is exulting here. This is an essential and glorious part of the gospel. Here is the good news that lifts burdens and gives joy and makes strong. We get right with God by faith alone. Good News of Sin Not Credited to Us Now in verses 6-8 Paul does something a little surprising. Up till now he has been defining justification as the positive reckoning of God's righteousness to us. But now he adds to the definition the nonreckoning of sins. God's righteousness is credited to us; our sins are not credited to us. Both are essential. We have to get God's righteousness, and we have to get rid of our unrighteousness. But what is surprising is how Paul says that God's not crediting our sin to us is connected with his crediting of righteousness to us. Look at this carefully. Verse 6 says that "David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." But the quotation from Psalm 32:1-2 doesn't say that – that God "credits righteousness" to us. It says that God does not credit sin to us. Here's the quote from Psalm 32:1-2 in verse Romans 4:7-8. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." You see that last phrase: "the Lord will not take into account." The word there is the same as the word for "credit" or "reckon" in verses 3, 4, 5, and 6. So verse 8 is saying, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not credit – will not reckon, will not lay to his account, will not impute to him. So to see the surprising connection boil the text down to verses 6 and 8: "David speaks a blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" and here's the blessing that David speaks (verse 8): "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not credit." One thing is sure from this surprising connection: Paul does not see justification as the imputation of righteousness alone or as the forgiveness of sin alone. For him forgiveness of sin must include the positive imputation of God's righteousness. And the imputation of God's righteousness must include the forgiveness of sin. And the blessedness of both conditions is that each is "s this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those
  • 79. who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. I am going to talk today about the relationship between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament baptism. One of the reasons we are called Baptists is that we believe that the New Testament teaches us to baptize believers, but not the infant children of believers. Some Reasons Baptists Do Not Baptize Infants There are many reasons for this conviction. Let me mention five that I will pass over quickly so that I can come to the main issue in Romans 4:11, where some of those who believe in infant baptism build their case. I pass over these quickly because I have dealt with them before in the sermon series on baptism in the spring of 1997. You can get those sermons and read them or listen to them. In every New Testament command and instance of baptism the requirement of faith precedes baptism. So infants incapable of faith are not to be baptized. There are no explicit instances of infant baptism in all the Bible. In the three "household baptisms" mentioned (household of Lydia, Acts 16:15; household of the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:30–33; household of Stephanus, 1 Corinthians 1:16) no mention is made of infants, and in the case of the Philippian jailer, Luke says explicitly, "they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house" (Acts 16:32), implying that the household who were baptized could understand the Word. Paul (in Colossians 2:12) explicitly defined baptism as an act done through faith: ". . . having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God." In baptism you were raised up with Christ through faith—your own faith, not your parents' faith. If it is not "through faith"—if it is not an outward expression of inward faith—it is not baptism. The apostle Peter, in his first letter, defined baptism this way, ". . . not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is "an appeal to God for a good conscience." It is an outward act and expression of inner confession and prayer to God for cleansing, that the one being baptized does, not his parents. When the New Testament church debated in Acts 15 whether circumcision should still be required of believers as part of becoming a Christian, it is astonishing that not once in that entire debate did anyone say anything about baptism standing in the place of circumcision. If baptism is the simple replacement of circumcision as a sign of the new covenant, and thus valid for children as well as for adults, as circumcision was, surely this would have been the time to develop the argument and so show that circumcision was no longer necessary. But it is not even mentioned.
  • 80. Those are some of the reasons why Baptists are hesitant to embrace the more elaborate theological arguments for infant baptism. But now here we are at Romans 4:11 and many of those who baptize infants see in this verse a linchpin for their position. Let me try to show you what they see and then why I am not persuaded. Why Do Many in the Reformed Tradition Endorse Infant Baptism? We are dealing here with a great Reformed tradition going back to John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli and other reformers. I do not despise this tradition. And for many years I have tried to be fair with the arguments, especially since most of my heroes are in this camp. The main reason that this great Reformed tradition endorses the baptism of infants of believers is that there appears to be in the New Testament a correspondence between circumcision and baptism. Just as circumcision was given as a sign to the "children of the covenant" in the Old Testament, so baptism—the new sign of the covenant—should be given to the "children of the covenant" today. For example, in Colossians 2:11–12 there seems to be a connection between circumcision and baptism: "In Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism . . ." So for the sake of the argument, let's grant that there is some correlation between circumcision and baptism. What are we to make of this correlation? Well, for 400 years a fairly elaborate argument has been made that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of the covenant and that it should be applied in the church the way it was applied in Israel, namely, to the children of the covenant members—Israelites then, Christians now. So for example the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God (from 350 years ago) says, "The seed and posterity of the faithful born within the church have by their birth an interest [a share] in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church under the gospel, not less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament." In other words, the children of Christian believers today belong to the visible church by virtue of their birth and should then receive the sign and seal of the covenant just as the eight-day-old infants of Israelites did in the Old Testament. That is the main argument. Why Is Romans 4:11 the "Linchpin" for Many Who Baptize Infants?
  • 81. Now what relevance does Romans 4:11 have here? Let me quote from a letter—a very good letter (in spirit and content)—that I received from a defender of infant baptism after I preached my messages on baptism in the spring of 1997. He lamented that I had not dealt with Romans 4:11. Here's why: "For me Romans 4:11 is the 'linchpin' in the doctrine of paedobaptism [infant baptism]. Pull it out, and the whole doctrine falls." Now what is it that he and others see here that makes this verse so compelling in defense of infant baptism? I'll try to explain. Let's look at the text. In verse 9 Paul reminds us that "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness." That is, he was justified and got right with God through faith alone. Then verse 10 points out that this happened before Abraham was circumcised. "How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised." The point is that Abraham's justification was not brought about through circumcision, which came later, but through faith alone. Then comes the crucial verse 11 which functions as a kind of definition of circumcision: "He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised." So Abraham's circumcision is described here as "a sign . . . a seal of the righteousness of faith." Now why is this important? It's important because it gives a spiritual meaning to circumcision that is like the meaning of baptism in the New Testament—"a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith." We say that baptism is an expression of genuine faith and the right standing with God that we have by faith before we get baptized. This seems to be what circumcision means too, according to Paul in Romans 4:11. Circumcision is a sign and seal of a faith that Abraham had before he was circumcised. So you see what that means? If circumcision and baptism signify the same thing—namely, genuine faith—then you can't use this meaning of baptism by itself as an argument against baptizing infants, because circumcision was given to infants. In other words, you can't simply say, "Baptism is an expression and sign of faith; infants can't have faith; therefore don't baptize infants." You can't simply say this, because Romans 4:11 says that circumcision means the same thing—a sign of faith—and it was given to infants.
  • 82. This is why Romans 4:11 is considered by some as the linchpin of the defense of infant baptism. It defines circumcision in a way that gives it the same basic meaning as baptism, and yet we know from Genesis 17 that circumcision was appointed by God for the infants of all Jewish people. (10) This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . (11) and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. (12) And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:10–12) So, even though circumcision is described by Paul as a sign and seal of Abraham's righteousness of faith, it was to be given to his infant sons, and their sons, and even to their servants who were not Jews by birth. So, if circumcision can be a sign of faith and righteousness, and still be given to all the male children of the Israelites (who don't yet have faith for themselves), then why should not baptism can be given to the children of Christians even though it is a sign of faith and righteousness (which they don't yet have)? What Shall We Say to This? The main problem with this argument is a wrong assumption about the similarity between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God today. It assumes that the way God gathered his covenant people, Israel, in the Old Testament and the way he is gathering his covenant people, the Church, today is so similar that the different signs of the covenant (baptism and circumcision) can be administered in the same way to both peoples. This is a mistaken assumption. There are differences between the new covenant people called the Church and the old covenant people called Israel. And these differences explain why it was fitting to give the old covenant sign of circumcision to the infants of Israel, and why it is not fitting to give the new covenant sign of baptism to the infants of the Church. In other words, even though there is an overlap in meaning between baptism and circumcision (seen in Romans 4:11), circumcision and baptism don't have the same role to play in the covenant people of God because the way God constituted his people in the Old Testament and the way he is constituting the Church today are fundamentally different.
  • 83. Paul makes this plain in several places. Let's look at two of them. Turn with me to Romans 9:6–8: (6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (7) nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac [not Ishmael] your descendants will be named." (8) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. What's relevant in this text for our purpose is that there were two "Israels": a physical Israel and a spiritual Israel. Verse 6b:"They are not all Israel [i.e., true spiritual Israel] who are descended from Israel [i.e., physical, religious Israel]." Yet God ordained that the whole, larger, physical, religious, national people of Israel be known as his covenant people and receive the sign of the covenant and the outward blessings of the covenant—such as the promised land (Genesis 17:8). The covenant people in the Old Testament were mixed. They were all physical Israelites who were circumcised, but within that national-ethnic group there was a remnant of the true Israel, the true children of God (verse 8). This is the way God designed it to be: he bound himself by covenant to an ethnic people and their descendants; he gave them all the sign of the covenant, circumcision, but he worked within that ethnic group to call out a true people for himself. How Is the Church a Continuation of Israel? Now the question for us is: is the New Testament Church—the Church today—a continuation of the larger mixed group of ethnic, religious, national Israel, or is the Church a continuation of the remnant of the true sons of Abraham who are children of God by faith in Christ? Are we a Spirit-born, new covenant community with the law of God written on our hearts and defined by faith? We don't need to guess at this. Paul makes the answer clear in Galatians 4:22–28: (22) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman [Ishmael, born to Hagar] and one by the free woman [Isaac, born to Sarah]. (23) But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. . . . (28) And you brethren [the Church], like Isaac, are children of promise.
  • 84. Now who is "you brethren"? They are the Church. The Church is not to be a mixed heritage like Abraham's seed. The Church is not to be like Israel—a physical multitude and in it a small remnant of true saints. The Church is the saints, by definition. The Church continues the remnant. As verse 28 says, the Church is "like Isaac, children of promise." The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of Israel according to the flesh—an ethnic, national, religious people containing "children of the flesh" and "children of God. "Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh. But the people of the new covenant, called the Church of Jesus Christ, is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on any ethnic, national distinctives but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant—not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. Therefore, it is not fitting that the children born merely according to the flesh receive the sign of the covenant, baptism. The church is the new covenant community—"This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)—we say when we take communion. The new covenant is the spiritual work of God to put his Spirit within us, write the law on our hearts, and cause us to walk in his statutes. It is a spiritually authentic community. Unlike the old covenant community it is defined by true spiritual life and faith. Having these things is what it means to belong to the Church. Therefore to give the sign of the covenant, baptism, to those who are merely children of the flesh and who give no evidence of new birth or the presence of the Spirit or the law written on their heart or of vital faith in Christ is to contradict the meaning of the new covenant community and to go backwards in redemptive history. The Church is not a replay of Israel. It is an advance on Israel. To administer the sign of the covenant as though this advance has not happened is a great mistake. We do not baptize our children according to the flesh, not because we don't love them, but because we want to preserve for them the purity and the power of the spiritual community that God ordained for the believing church of the living Christ. I pray that you will be persuaded of these things, and that many who have been holding back will be baptized, not to comply with any church constitution, but by faith and obedience to glorify the great new covenant work of God in your life. Have you been washed by the blood of the Lamb? Are your sins forgiven? Have you died with Christ and risen by faith to walk in newness of life? Does the Spirit of Christ
  • 85. dwell in you? Is the law being written on your heart? Come, then, and signify this in baptism, and glorify God's great new covenant work in your life. For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; (15) for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. Pray for Jews to Be Saved? O, how sad is the lead editorial in Saturday's StarTribune! Saturday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The editorial was in response to the Southern Baptist initiative to call Christians during these holy days to pray for the Jewish people to receive Jesus as their Messiah and be saved. The essence of the editorial was to suggest that this is arrogant. It quoted Abraham Heschel, "Christians must abandon the idea that the Jews must be converted." This idea, Heschel said, is "one of the greatest scandals in history" (StarTribune, Sept. 11, 1999, p. A20). It is sad because it so badly distorts the historic Christian and Biblical teaching about the relationship between Israel and the Church. There is no doubt that many people in Christendom have treated Jews badly over the centuries and fostered a horrible attitude of anti-Semitism. That we repudiate, for the same reason we repudiate Saturday's editorial. Both are false to the New Testament. Why is this relevant for today's message? Because I am assuming from Paul's teaching that Gentiles like you and me who trust in the Messiah, Jesus, are fellow heirs of the promise of Abraham because we are actually children of Abraham. We are true Jews. And I am also assuming that ethnic Jews who reject their Messiah, Jesus, will not be counted as true Jews and will perish in unbelief. This is not the point of the message. It is the basis of the message. We have developed it before and will develop again. But let me point to the basis. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God's promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; Acts 9:22; 1 John 2:22; 5:1). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him as true and Lord of your life is to be reconciled to God. 1 John 2:23, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also."
  • 86. In other words, Jews who reject Jesus as their Messiah and Savior forfeit their promises as Jews. And Gentiles who accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior become heirs of those promises. This was not the creation of the apostle Paul or John. They learned it from Jesus himself. For example, in Matthew 8:10-12, when the Gentile Centurion came to Jesus for the healing of his servant, Jesus was so moved by this Gentile's faith that he said, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In other words, a Gentile who believes in Jesus will be at the table of inheritance with Abraham in the age to come, but a Jew who does not believe will be cast into outer darkness. True Jews - Fellow Heirs with Abraham This is what Jesus and all the apostles taught: Gentiles become true Jews by faith in the Messiah, Jesus, and Jews forfeit their final inheritance as Jews if they reject faith in Jesus as the Messiah. It is a profound misunderstanding of Christianity to describe this teaching as an arrogant presumption that Christianity simply wants all Jews to abandon their heritage. The Biblical way to say it is that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and the promises made to Abraham are the root that supports all salvation (Romans 11:18), and the only way for any Gentile to be saved is to become a fellow heir of Abraham by trusting in the Jewish Messiah. The Jewish heritage is our only hope. Judaism is so central to Christianity that there is no salvation without it. And Jesus Christ is so central to Judaism that there is no salvation without him. It is not arrogant for Christians to say to Jews: We have no hope without your heritage and your Messiah; and neither do you. In fact, even though it is perceived as offensive by many Jewish people and by the StarTribune that Southern Baptists call for prayer that Israel will believe on her Messiah, it is a profoundly loving act. For "he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). So today I base the message on this great truth: we Gentiles who believe on Jesus the Messiah are fellow heirs with Abraham and with him will inherit the world. Jews and Gentiles together, who believe in Christ, are heirs of the world. The text is Romans 4:13-14, "The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified." We dealt with this text last week but left the third point until this morning. What does it mean to be "heir of
  • 87. the world"? Abraham is promised to be heir of the world, and, according to verse 14, those who are of faith are also "heirs" with him. Heir of the World What does this mean that you are an heir of the world? And what difference does it make now? Let's start by asking where in the Old Testament Paul got the idea that Abraham and his true descendants would be "heirs of the world." Nowhere in the Old Testament are these very words used "heir of the world." How is it that in Romans 4:13 Paul summed up "the promise to Abraham" this way: "that he would be heir of the world"? I would point to three promises to Abraham that imply what Paul is saying here. First, in Genesis 17:8 God says to Abraham, "I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." He does not simply say that the generations to come would get the land as an everlasting possession, but that Abraham himself would get the land. "I will give to you and to your descendants after you . . ." This is at least a pointer, if not proof, that Abraham would rise from the dead and enjoy his inheritance. So he can be an heir of the world because he will be alive to inherit it. Second, in Genesis 17:7 God makes the most precious and powerful promise of all: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you." I will be God to you. Now what does that mean? Well, Jesus said it meant that Abraham could not be defeated by death. To have God as your God means that you will not be surrendered to death. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus took the Old Testament words, "I am the God of Abraham" and commented, "He is not the God of the dead but of the living." In other words, to say that God is truly your God and yet that you are defeated by death is inconceivable to Jesus and to Paul. The promise that God would be Abraham's God means: Abraham will rise from the dead. This is why he can be an heir of the world: he is not dead, and cannot ever be defeated by death. Nor can you if you are his fellow heir by faith.
  • 88. Third, in Genesis 22:17 God promises Abraham, "I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." This means that in the future there are no enemies that will triumph over the descendants of Abraham. All their enemies will be subdued. Implications of Being an Heir Abraham and his descendants will inherit the land; Abraham will rise from the dead and cannot be defeated by death; Abraham and his descendants will be triumphant over all their foes. What is the implication of these three promises? Paul saw all of these promises fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah is the heir in the fullest sense. That supercharges the promises with greater fulfilment than Abraham knew. Jesus is the Lord of all nations and all lands. Every knee will bow to him (Philippians 2:10). The Father says to the Son, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession" (Psalm 2:8). Not only that, Jesus the Messiah defeated death in his own resurrection and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, "[God] gives us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ." And in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 Paul says, "[Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death." So all the promises of God to Abraham are yes in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is heir of all the nations; all the world belongs to him. He is Lord of life and death. He is ruling now at the Father's right hand to put every enemy, including death, under his feet for the sake of his people. What's clear from this is that the reason we are heirs of the world is because Jesus the Messiah is the heir of the world, and we are in him. In other words, in the very same way that we become children of Abraham, namely, by believing in the Messiah, we also become heirs with Abraham of the world, because the Messiah is heir of the world. He fulfils all the promises of God, and we become fellow heirs with Abraham in him. In him we are Jews, and in him we are heirs of God.
  • 89. Galatians 3:29 is a wonderfully clear statement of both of these things: "And if you belong to Christ (that is, the Messiah), then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." Both: in Christ you are Abraham's descendants, and in Christ you are an heir with him. So if you belong to Christ this morning, you are heirs of the world. Now what does that mean? All Things Are Yours I think the best commentary on what it means is found in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, "So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or THE WORLD or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God." Notice, first, that the reason all things are yours is that you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Christ is the heir of God and in him you are fellow-heirs. That's the way Paul puts it in Romans 8:17, "Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." Then notice that in Christ all things are yours. That is what it means to be an heir of the world. Hebrews 1:2 says, "In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things." Christ owns all things. They are his for whatever use he pleases. And what pleases him is to share all things with the people for whom he died. So practically what it means to be an heir of the world is that right now, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, all things are yours in trust, as it were, and will become yours in actuality in the age to come. Jesus had several ways of saying this. For example, "The meek shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). One of the most interesting examples is in Luke 16:12. Jesus is talking about the use of money in this age. He compares the use of our possessions now with our possessions in the age to come. "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" In other words, he treats your present possessions - all you have - as "that which is another's."
  • 90. You are only a trustee right now, a manager of someone else's possessions. You don't really own anything in this age. It is all God's. You are a steward, an agent, a broker. Your charge is to manage God's things for God's purposes. That should govern absolutely all your choices about what you do with God's things: What would magnify the truth and worth and glory of God? But in the age to come, in the resurrection, Jesus says you will be given "your own." "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" "Your own" corresponds to "the world" in Romans 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:22. You are an heir of the world. All things are yours. You will inherit "your own." This is so amazing that it defies our language to describe it properly. Surely all things will still be God's. All will still be Christ's. Yes, but our union with Christ will be so much greater that it will be the difference between managing another person's things and having our own. And our own will be "all things." How can this be? How can it all be Christ's and mine? Consider Revelation 3:21 as an analogy. Jesus says to the believers at Laodicea, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." We will sit with Christ on his throne. So in some sense we will share the kingly rule and ownership of the world. Christ loses nothing, but we gain everything. But still we ask, How can this be? How can "all things" be mine and "all things" be yours too? Well that is the way it is, more or less, in a marriage now in this age. A husband and a wife own a home together. They don't own parts of it, but all of it. They co-own it. So in the age to come there will be such union and such harmony among us that all God's children will own all God's inheritance as they are united to Christ, the heir of all things. This will not be a problem because in the age to come the great joy of all of us will be to increase the joy of others by giving and sharing and using all things for the greatest joy of all people. There will be perfect wisdom for how to do this and a perfect world where there is no futility or frustration. All of us will say to each other, "All things are yours, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's." And the very saying of it will be overflowing joy. What Difference Does This Make in Your Life? One last question: what difference does this make in your life - that you are now the heir of the world?
  • 91. 1. Let it fill you with joy. Romans 5:2, "We exult in hope of the glory of God." Romans 12:12, "Rejoice in hope." Our hope that we are heirs of the world should give an indomitable joy to our lives. If this does not seem real to you, strive in prayer and meditation until God makes it real in your life. This is not a dream. Life lived as if you owned things now and as if this world were the main world - that is a dream. 2. In this hope be secure and be strong, especially in the midst of suffering and affliction. Romans 5:3-4, "We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint." In all your shaking and fears and feelings of disintegration, let the ground under your feet be the granite of this promise: I am an heir of the world. When the planets of your life seem out of orbit and threaten to fly apart into oblivion, let this hope be the mighty sun at the center of the solar system of your life pulling all things back into orbit: I am an heir of the world. 3. In this hope, venture something new on God. Let your utter security as the heir of the world make you a little bit crazy in this brief life. Take a risk for Jesus. Act like you are an heir of the world and that you inherit everything when you die. Take some new step of ministry. Join a small group. Sign up for some ministry. Start some new ministry at work or at school or in your neighborhood. Sell your business and go overseas. Change the way you do things. In Romans 12:11, just before it says, "rejoice in hope," it says, "serve the Lord." Venture something on God as an heir of the world. "Expect great things from God," as William Carey said (which now you have every right to do), "Attempt great things for God." 4. Give glory to God by trusting him to give the inheritance he promised. It is all his. He has promised to give it to those who have the faith of Abraham. So be like Abraham in Romans 4:20, "He grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform." Rejoice in hope. Be secure in affliction. Be venturesome in ministry. Give glory to God. Because you are an heir of the world. Let's start where we left off last week: with the promise that Abraham and his descendants - that is, all who have the faith of Abraham (Jews and Gentiles) - will be heirs of the world. Verse 13: "The promise
  • 92. to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world. . ." This was the summary and implication of all God's promises to Abraham: he and his descendants would inherit the world - or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:21, "All things belong to you . . . and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God." I closed with four exhortations: Rejoice in this great hope; be secure in all your affliction; venture something a little bit crazy for Christ; give God the glory. Some of you did that this past week, and some radical choices were made that will change the rest of your life. Now today it only gets better. Paul is so serious and so eager for you to bank your hope on the promise of being an heir of all things - and for you to live your life with the kind of radical abandon for Christ that will make people see and wonder and give glory to God - that he now labors to show what God has done to make the promise guaranteed and certain. So the question you should have in your mind during the message today is: What has God done to make sure and certain and firm and guaranteed the promise that his people will inherit the world? Faith Let's start with verse 16 and answer the first question that turns up: "For this reason it is by faith . . ." What does "it" refer to? "For this reason it is by faith." If you have the NIV, they interpret it for you by saying: "the promise comes by faith." The original simply says, "For this reason, by faith, in order that according to grace . . ." What then is "by faith"? Is it simply the promise that is by faith? Look back at verse 13: "For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." Here he says that the "promise" comes not just through faith, but through "the righteousness of faith." It's certainly not wrong to say that the promise is through faith. But Paul is saying something more. Don't forget what this whole chapter is about: it's about justification by faith. That is, it's about having a righteousness that is not our own, but is credited to us by faith apart from works. Verse 13 says that the promise that we are heirs of the world is ours through "the righteousness of faith" - that is, through the righteousness of God credited to our account through faith. (See Romans 4:5,9,11.) So then what is "by faith" in verse 16 when Paul says, "For this reason it is by faith"? Answer: the righteousness of God that obtains the promise for us is by faith. It's true to say that the promise is by faith, but it is by faith through the righteousness of God in Christ that is credited to us by faith. We believe - we trust God's promise to us obtained for us by Christ - and God imputes his righteousness to
  • 93. us through this faith, and on the basis of that imputed righteousness, the promise is secured for us that we will be heirs of the world. Grace The next question verse 16 raises for us is what "For this reason" refers back to? "For this reason the righteousness that obtains the promise is by faith." For what reason? Verse 14 gives the answer: "If those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified." The reason the righteousness that obtains the promise is "by faith" is that if it were by law, then the promise would be nullified. Why? Verse 15: because the law brings wrath. If you try to use the law of commandments to do things for God so that you will have righteousness before him, you will fail. You will only get wrath, because justification is by faith alone, and all works before faith are self-wrought rebellion, not acceptable righteousness (Romans 10:3). So here's the way we can paraphrase the first part of verse 16, "Since trying to keep the law of commandments as a way of justification only brings wrath, therefore the righteousness that obtains the promise for us is by faith, not law." Now comes the new thought in verse 16. Paul wants to show us another reason why God makes faith the only way to have the righteousness of God and obtain the promise. The first reason was that the alternative to faith is the trying to be justified by the law of commandments; and that fails; it brings wrath; it nullifies the promise. The second reason why faith is the only way to be justified - the new reason in verse 16 - is that faith is in accordance with grace. Verse 16: "For this reason it is by faith (that is, since the law brings wrath, the righteousness we need to inherit the promise is by faith) in order that it may be in accordance with grace." Why is it important that the way to inherit the promise be "in accordance with grace"? The next clause in verse 16 gives the answer: "So that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants" - both kinds of descendants: believing Jews ("those who are of the Law") and believing Gentiles ("those who are of the faith of Abraham"). Why must the way of inheriting the promise of being heir of all things be "in accordance with grace"? Answer: So that the promise will be guaranteed - or certain and sure and unshakable. Certainty
  • 94. So now we see what Paul is up to. In all this weighty writing he has a precious practical aim in view: your certainty that the promise of being an heir of the world will come true for you, an imperfect, stumbling, believing, justified, sinning saint. Paul is not interested in stretching your brain with this kind of writing and thinking for no urgent reason. He wants you to be sure, to know a guarantee, to be certain about the promise that we talked about last week. The people whose certainty about the promises of God is most unshakable in the suffering and the sensuality of life are the people who have meditated their way into the mind of God with the help of his Word - which is what I am trying to help you do right now. So what is Paul's foundation in verse 16 for a guaranteed and certain promise? Read it with me again and follow the three steps of his reasoning: "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants." Faith . .. grace . . . guaranteed promise. Now meditate on this with me for a moment. Ponder this. Think about this for the good of your soul. Sink some roots down into this great statement. What is it that really, at bottom, guarantees the promise that you will be an heir? The answer is: God's grace. Your faith is essential, but the reason it's essential is that it is the only condition of the heart that accords with grace. And God's grace is the deepest foundation of our guarantee. Notice the way Paul says it in verse 16. Why is faith so essential? He answers: it's because it accords with grace. And why is that important? Because God's grace is what gives the guarantee. The only way that our eternal future can be guaranteed is if it rests on God's grace. Grace is the free and undeserved work of God to bring his people to glory. Grace is the mighty, omnipotent purpose of God to make sure we get our inheritance. Grace is the ground of our guarantee. And faith is the only condition of the heart that "accords" with that free and undeserved work. What Is This Grace?
  • 95. Now I want you to taste the glory of this powerful promise-guaranteeing grace. To do that, let's look back to something we have seen and then forward to something we have not seen. What is this grace? How does it guarantee that we will obtain our inheritance? Look back at Romans 4:4-5. "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor [literally: "in accordance with grace" - the exact phrase found in verse 16, "in accordance with grace"] but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Paul is talking here about how to be justified, how to have a righteousness before God that will inherit the promise. Notice the opposite of grace and faith in these verses. The opposite of faith is working, and the opposite of grace is due (or debt or desert). If you try to work for righteousness instead of trusting God, he says you will get a wage that you are due, and that is not "in accordance with grace," but is the opposite of grace. But if you don't try to work for your righteous standing with God, but trust him who justifies the ungodly, God's righteousness will be credited to you as a gift. That is grace and the only condition of the heart that corresponds to it is faith. So grace is the purpose of God to give you the righteousness and the promise that you do not deserve. That is why grace is the guarantee of the promise. It overrides our demerit. O, hear this! Wake up to this! What condition of the heart "accords with" this grace? Faith alone. Faith is the restful experience of the work of grace in our lives. If we think of that first act of justifying faith in Christ, we can say faith is to grace what seeing is to light and what hearing is to sound and what waking up is to the alarm clock. Faith corresponds to grace the way tasting sweetness corresponds to honey on the tongue. Why do I say it like this? I know this is not a common way of talking about faith today. But it was three hundred years ago. There is a widespread loss of understanding today about the Biblical nature of grace and faith. Most church-going Christians today are so uninterested in Biblical doctrine and rich Biblical truth that they have forfeited much truth and with it much blessing. O, how I hope God will be merciful to us in this series on Romans and waken us from those unthinking slumbers! So I ask again, why do I say that faith is to grace what seeing is to light and hearing is to sound and tasting is to honey on the tongue? Doesn't this imply that God's grace actually awakens the faith - the way light awakens sight and sound awakens hearing and honey awakens the taste of sweetness? The answer to that is yes. I think that is exactly what God's grace does. And that's the second reason why it guarantees that we will obtain the promise. You can see a picture of it in verses 17 and 19.
  • 96. Follow carefully. At the end of verse 16, Paul says that grace guarantees the promise to all the descendants of Abraham, both believing Jews and believing Gentiles, since he is the father of us all. Then in verse 17, Paul quotes Genesis 17:5 to show that Abraham was going to be the father of many nations. Then, in the rest of verse 17, he says that Abraham's faith was "in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." Now why does he say this? Why does he call attention to this kind of sovereign, divine activity? The point is this: in order for Abraham to have a guarantee that he would inherit the promise, God must bring life from death and call into being what does not exist. This is sovereign, omnipotent, free grace. He is describing here what he means by the grace that guarantees the promise. Deadness must come to life and non-existence must exist. That is what grace does. Man cannot do this. Man cannot raise the dead. And man cannot create something out of nothing. But God can and God does in order to guarantee the promises for his people. That is the meaning of grace. Grace Does the Humanly Impossible Without the birth of Isaac, the promise to Abraham will have failed. But Isaac does not exist, and humanly cannot exist. His Father is ninety-nine years old. His mother is ninety and barren all her life. Human works and resources have been tried: a concubine named Hagar and a son named Ishmael. But God says, No. The promise will be fulfilled and guaranteed not by my cooperation with your human resources, but by my sovereign grace to do the humanly impossible. Paul explains in verse 19: "Without becoming weak in faith [Abraham] contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb." If the promise is to be guaranteed, God must do the impossible. He must do what humans cannot do: "give life to the dead and call into being that which does not exist." That is the meaning of grace. The supernatural birth of Isaac is a picture of how God creates children of promise - you and me. Paul says in Galatians 4:28, "You brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise." Not like Ishmael, born from what humans can do. Isaac was born by a miracle of the Spirit; you are born by a miracle of the Spirit. He was brought forth from deadness; you are brought forth from deadness. His faith was called into being out of nothing; your faith is called into being out of nothing. That is the meaning of grace. And that is why grace guarantees the promise. It does what human resources cannot do.
  • 97. Grace not only gives us better than we deserve (Romans 4:4-5); grace gives us what we cannot produce: life from the dead -the sight of glory, the hearing of divine truth, the tasting of spiritual sweetness. It all comes into being by the sweet and sovereign grace of God. That is why the promise is certain. Life to the Dead Let me close by drawing one parallel from outside Romans that I had never noticed before, but is tremendously compelling in this understanding of grace. Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us that grace is precisely this: it is the work of God to raise spiritually the dead - to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." The fact that Paul inserts the words "by grace you have been saved" right after "we were dead and God made us alive" shows that grace is just what Romans 4:17 makes it out to be: it is the work of God "who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." And what does he call into being for us? Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Faith is the gift of God's grace the way seeing is the gift of light and the way hearing is the gift of sound and the way tasting is the gift of honey on the tongue. The light of the gospel is shining this morning. The word of the gospel is sounding this morning. The sweetness of the gospel is falling this morning. And the loving command of God is this: Look and see; listen and hear; taste and enjoy the glory of the grace of God. This is faith. This accords with grace that gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. And that sovereign grace guarantees, above all human fickleness and frailty, that you will inherit the world. Pray for Jews to Be Saved? O, how sad is the lead editorial in Saturday's StarTribune! Saturday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The editorial was in response to the Southern Baptist initiative to call Christians during these holy days to pray for the Jewish people to receive Jesus as their Messiah and be saved. The essence of the editorial was to suggest that this is arrogant. It quoted Abraham Heschel, "Christians must abandon the
  • 98. idea that the Jews must be converted." This idea, Heschel said, is "one of the greatest scandals in history" (StarTribune, Sept. 11, 1999, p. A20). It is sad because it so badly distorts the historic Christian and Biblical teaching about the relationship between Israel and the Church. There is no doubt that many people in Christendom have treated Jews badly over the centuries and fostered a horrible attitude of anti-Semitism. That we repudiate, for the same reason we repudiate Saturday's editorial. Both are false to the New Testament. Why is this relevant for today's message? Because I am assuming from Paul's teaching that Gentiles like you and me who trust in the Messiah, Jesus, are fellow heirs of the promise of Abraham because we are actually children of Abraham. We are true Jews. And I am also assuming that ethnic Jews who reject their Messiah, Jesus, will not be counted as true Jews and will perish in unbelief. This is not the point of the message. It is the basis of the message. We have developed it before and will develop again. But let me point to the basis. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God's promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; Acts 9:22; 1 John 2:22; 5:1). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him as true and Lord of your life is to be reconciled to God. 1 John 2:23, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." In other words, Jews who reject Jesus as their Messiah and Savior forfeit their promises as Jews. And Gentiles who accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior become heirs of those promises. This was not the creation of the apostle Paul or John. They learned it from Jesus himself. For example, in Matthew 8:10-12, when the Gentile Centurion came to Jesus for the healing of his servant, Jesus was so moved by this Gentile's faith that he said, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In other words, a Gentile who believes in Jesus will be at the table of inheritance with Abraham in the age to come, but a Jew who does not believe will be cast into outer darkness. True Jews - Fellow Heirs with Abraham
  • 99. This is what Jesus and all the apostles taught: Gentiles become true Jews by faith in the Messiah, Jesus, and Jews forfeit their final inheritance as Jews if they reject faith in Jesus as the Messiah. It is a profound misunderstanding of Christianity to describe this teaching as an arrogant presumption that Christianity simply wants all Jews to abandon their heritage. The Biblical way to say it is that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and the promises made to Abraham are the root that supports all salvation (Romans 11:18), and the only way for any Gentile to be saved is to become a fellow heir of Abraham by trusting in the Jewish Messiah. The Jewish heritage is our only hope. Judaism is so central to Christianity that there is no salvation without it. And Jesus Christ is so central to Judaism that there is no salvation without him. It is not arrogant for Christians to say to Jews: We have no hope without your heritage and your Messiah; and neither do you. In fact, even though it is perceived as offensive by many Jewish people and by the StarTribune that Southern Baptists call for prayer that Israel will believe on her Messiah, it is a profoundly loving act. For "he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). So today I base the message on this great truth: we Gentiles who believe on Jesus the Messiah are fellow heirs with Abraham and with him will inherit the world. Jews and Gentiles together, who believe in Christ, are heirs of the world. The text is Romans 4:13-14, "The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified." We dealt with this text last week but left the third point until this morning. What does it mean to be "heir of the world"? Abraham is promised to be heir of the world, and, according to verse 14, those who are of faith are also "heirs" with him. Heir of the World What does this mean that you are an heir of the world? And what difference does it make now? Let's start by asking where in the Old Testament Paul got the idea that Abraham and his true descendants would be "heirs of the world." Nowhere in the Old Testament are these very words used "heir of the world." How is it that in Romans 4:13 Paul summed up "the promise to Abraham" this way: "that he would be heir of the world"?
  • 100. I would point to three promises to Abraham that imply what Paul is saying here. First, in Genesis 17:8 God says to Abraham, "I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." He does not simply say that the generations to come would get the land as an everlasting possession, but that Abraham himself would get the land. "I will give to you and to your descendants after you . . ." This is at least a pointer, if not proof, that Abraham would rise from the dead and enjoy his inheritance. So he can be an heir of the world because he will be alive to inherit it. Second, in Genesis 17:7 God makes the most precious and powerful promise of all: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you." I will be God to you. Now what does that mean? Well, Jesus said it meant that Abraham could not be defeated by death. To have God as your God means that you will not be surrendered to death. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus took the Old Testament words, "I am the God of Abraham" and commented, "He is not the God of the dead but of the living." In other words, to say that God is truly your God and yet that you are defeated by death is inconceivable to Jesus and to Paul. The promise that God would be Abraham's God means: Abraham will rise from the dead. This is why he can be an heir of the world: he is not dead, and cannot ever be defeated by death. Nor can you if you are his fellow heir by faith. Third, in Genesis 22:17 God promises Abraham, "I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." This means that in the future there are no enemies that will triumph over the descendants of Abraham. All their enemies will be subdued. Implications of Being an Heir Abraham and his descendants will inherit the land; Abraham will rise from the dead and cannot be defeated by death; Abraham and his descendants will be triumphant over all their foes. What is the implication of these three promises? Paul saw all of these promises fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah is the heir in the fullest sense. That supercharges the promises with greater fulfilment than Abraham knew.
  • 101. Jesus is the Lord of all nations and all lands. Every knee will bow to him (Philippians 2:10). The Father says to the Son, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession" (Psalm 2:8). Not only that, Jesus the Messiah defeated death in his own resurrection and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, "[God] gives us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ." And in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 Paul says, "[Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death." So all the promises of God to Abraham are yes in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is heir of all the nations; all the world belongs to him. He is Lord of life and death. He is ruling now at the Father's right hand to put every enemy, including death, under his feet for the sake of his people. What's clear from this is that the reason we are heirs of the world is because Jesus the Messiah is the heir of the world, and we are in him. In other words, in the very same way that we become children of Abraham, namely, by believing in the Messiah, we also become heirs with Abraham of the world, because the Messiah is heir of the world. He fulfils all the promises of God, and we become fellow heirs with Abraham in him. In him we are Jews, and in him we are heirs of God. Galatians 3:29 is a wonderfully clear statement of both of these things: "And if you belong to Christ (that is, the Messiah), then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." Both: in Christ you are Abraham's descendants, and in Christ you are an heir with him. So if you belong to Christ this morning, you are heirs of the world. Now what does that mean? All Things Are Yours I think the best commentary on what it means is found in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, "So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or THE WORLD or life or
  • 102. death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God." Notice, first, that the reason all things are yours is that you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Christ is the heir of God and in him you are fellow-heirs. That's the way Paul puts it in Romans 8:17, "Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." Then notice that in Christ all things are yours. That is what it means to be an heir of the world. Hebrews 1:2 says, "In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things." Christ owns all things. They are his for whatever use he pleases. And what pleases him is to share all things with the people for whom he died. So practically what it means to be an heir of the world is that right now, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, all things are yours in trust, as it were, and will become yours in actuality in the age to come. Jesus had several ways of saying this. For example, "The meek shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). One of the most interesting examples is in Luke 16:12. Jesus is talking about the use of money in this age. He compares the use of our possessions now with our possessions in the age to come. "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" In other words, he treats your present possessions - all you have - as "that which is another's." You are only a trustee right now, a manager of someone else's possessions. You don't really own anything in this age. It is all God's. You are a steward, an agent, a broker. Your charge is to manage God's things for God's purposes. That should govern absolutely all your choices about what you do with God's things: What would magnify the truth and worth and glory of God? But in the age to come, in the resurrection, Jesus says you will be given "your own." "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" "Your own" corresponds to "the world" in Romans 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:22. You are an heir of the world. All things are yours. You will inherit "your own." This is so amazing that it defies our language to describe it properly. Surely all things will still be God's. All will still be Christ's. Yes, but our union with Christ will be so much greater that it will be the difference between managing another person's things and having our own. And our own will be "all things."
  • 103. How can this be? How can it all be Christ's and mine? Consider Revelation 3:21 as an analogy. Jesus says to the believers at Laodicea, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." We will sit with Christ on his throne. So in some sense we will share the kingly rule and ownership of the world. Christ loses nothing, but we gain everything. But still we ask, How can this be? How can "all things" be mine and "all things" be yours too? Well that is the way it is, more or less, in a marriage now in this age. A husband and a wife own a home together. They don't own parts of it, but all of it. They co-own it. So in the age to come there will be such union and such harmony among us that all God's children will own all God's inheritance as they are united to Christ, the heir of all things. This will not be a problem because in the age to come the great joy of all of us will be to increase the joy of others by giving and sharing and using all things for the greatest joy of all people. There will be perfect wisdom for how to do this and a perfect world where there is no futility or frustration. All of us will say to each other, "All things are yours, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's." And the very saying of it will be overflowing joy. What Difference Does This Make in Your Life? One last question: what difference does this make in your life - that you are now the heir of the world? 1. Let it fill you with joy. Romans 5:2, "We exult in hope of the glory of God." Romans 12:12, "Rejoice in hope." Our hope that we are heirs of the world should give an indomitable joy to our lives. If this does not seem real to you, strive in prayer and meditation until God makes it real in your life. This is not a dream. Life lived as if you owned things now and as if this world were the main world - that is a dream. 2. In this hope be secure and be strong, especially in the midst of suffering and affliction. Romans 5:3-4, "We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint." In all your shaking and fears and feelings of disintegration, let the ground under your feet be the granite of this promise: I am an heir of the world. When the planets of your life seem out of orbit and threaten to fly apart into oblivion, let this hope be the mighty sun at the center of the solar system of your life pulling all things back into orbit: I am an heir of the world.
  • 104. 3. In this hope, venture something new on God. Let your utter security as the heir of the world make you a little bit crazy in this brief life. Take a risk for Jesus. Act like you are an heir of the world and that you inherit everything when you die. Take some new step of ministry. Join a small group. Sign up for some ministry. Start some new ministry at work or at school or in your neighborhood. Sell your business and go overseas. Change the way you do things. In Romans 12:11, just before it says, "rejoice in hope," it says, "serve the Lord." Venture something on God as an heir of the world. "Expect great things from God," as William Carey said (which now you have every right to do), "Attempt great things for God." 4. Give glory to God by trusting him to give the inheritance he promised. It is all his. He has promised to give it to those who have the faith of Abraham. So be like Abraham in Romans 4:20, "He grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform." Rejoice in hope. Be secure in affliction. Be venturesome in ministry. Give glory to God. Pray for Jews to Be Saved? O, how sad is the lead editorial in Saturday's StarTribune! Saturday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The editorial was in response to the Southern Baptist initiative to call Christians during these holy days to pray for the Jewish people to receive Jesus as their Messiah and be saved. The essence of the editorial was to suggest that this is arrogant. It quoted Abraham Heschel, "Christians must abandon the idea that the Jews must be converted." This idea, Heschel said, is "one of the greatest scandals in history" (StarTribune, Sept. 11, 1999, p. A20). It is sad because it so badly distorts the historic Christian and Biblical teaching about the relationship between Israel and the Church. There is no doubt that many people in Christendom have treated Jews badly over the centuries and fostered a horrible attitude of anti-Semitism. That we repudiate, for the same reason we repudiate Saturday's editorial. Both are false to the New Testament.
  • 105. Why is this relevant for today's message? Because I am assuming from Paul's teaching that Gentiles like you and me who trust in the Messiah, Jesus, are fellow heirs of the promise of Abraham because we are actually children of Abraham. We are true Jews. And I am also assuming that ethnic Jews who reject their Messiah, Jesus, will not be counted as true Jews and will perish in unbelief. This is not the point of the message. It is the basis of the message. We have developed it before and will develop again. But let me point to the basis. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God's promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; Acts 9:22; 1 John 2:22; 5:1). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him as true and Lord of your life is to be reconciled to God. 1 John 2:23, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." In other words, Jews who reject Jesus as their Messiah and Savior forfeit their promises as Jews. And Gentiles who accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior become heirs of those promises. This was not the creation of the apostle Paul or John. They learned it from Jesus himself. For example, in Matthew 8:10-12, when the Gentile Centurion came to Jesus for the healing of his servant, Jesus was so moved by this Gentile's faith that he said, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In other words, a Gentile who believes in Jesus will be at the table of inheritance with Abraham in the age to come, but a Jew who does not believe will be cast into outer darkness. True Jews - Fellow Heirs with Abraham This is what Jesus and all the apostles taught: Gentiles become true Jews by faith in the Messiah, Jesus, and Jews forfeit their final inheritance as Jews if they reject faith in Jesus as the Messiah. It is a profound misunderstanding of Christianity to describe this teaching as an arrogant presumption that Christianity simply wants all Jews to abandon their heritage. The Biblical way to say it is that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and the promises made to Abraham are the root that supports all salvation (Romans 11:18), and the only way for any Gentile to be saved is to become a fellow heir of Abraham by trusting in the Jewish Messiah. The Jewish heritage is our only hope.
  • 106. Judaism is so central to Christianity that there is no salvation without it. And Jesus Christ is so central to Judaism that there is no salvation without him. It is not arrogant for Christians to say to Jews: We have no hope without your heritage and your Messiah; and neither do you. In fact, even though it is perceived as offensive by many Jewish people and by the StarTribune that Southern Baptists call for prayer that Israel will believe on her Messiah, it is a profoundly loving act. For "he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). So today I base the message on this great truth: we Gentiles who believe on Jesus the Messiah are fellow heirs with Abraham and with him will inherit the world. Jews and Gentiles together, who believe in Christ, are heirs of the world. The text is Romans 4:13-14, "The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified." We dealt with this text last week but left the third point until this morning. What does it mean to be "heir of the world"? Abraham is promised to be heir of the world, and, according to verse 14, those who are of faith are also "heirs" with him. Heir of the World What does this mean that you are an heir of the world? And what difference does it make now? Let's start by asking where in the Old Testament Paul got the idea that Abraham and his true descendants would be "heirs of the world." Nowhere in the Old Testament are these very words used "heir of the world." How is it that in Romans 4:13 Paul summed up "the promise to Abraham" this way: "that he would be heir of the world"? I would point to three promises to Abraham that imply what Paul is saying here. First, in Genesis 17:8 God says to Abraham, "I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." He does not simply say that the generations to come would get the land as an everlasting possession, but that Abraham himself would get the land. "I will give to you and to your descendants after you . . ." This is at least a pointer, if not proof, that Abraham would rise from the dead and enjoy his inheritance. So he can be an heir of the world because he will be alive to inherit it.
  • 107. Second, in Genesis 17:7 God makes the most precious and powerful promise of all: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you." I will be God to you. Now what does that mean? Well, Jesus said it meant that Abraham could not be defeated by death. To have God as your God means that you will not be surrendered to death. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus took the Old Testament words, "I am the God of Abraham" and commented, "He is not the God of the dead but of the living." In other words, to say that God is truly your God and yet that you are defeated by death is inconceivable to Jesus and to Paul. The promise that God would be Abraham's God means: Abraham will rise from the dead. This is why he can be an heir of the world: he is not dead, and cannot ever be defeated by death. Nor can you if you are his fellow heir by faith. Third, in Genesis 22:17 God promises Abraham, "I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." This means that in the future there are no enemies that will triumph over the descendants of Abraham. All their enemies will be subdued. Implications of Being an Heir Abraham and his descendants will inherit the land; Abraham will rise from the dead and cannot be defeated by death; Abraham and his descendants will be triumphant over all their foes. What is the implication of these three promises? Paul saw all of these promises fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah is the heir in the fullest sense. That supercharges the promises with greater fulfilment than Abraham knew. Jesus is the Lord of all nations and all lands. Every knee will bow to him (Philippians 2:10). The Father says to the Son, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession" (Psalm 2:8). Not only that, Jesus the Messiah defeated death in his own resurrection and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, "[God] gives us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ."
  • 108. And in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 Paul says, "[Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death." So all the promises of God to Abraham are yes in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is heir of all the nations; all the world belongs to him. He is Lord of life and death. He is ruling now at the Father's right hand to put every enemy, including death, under his feet for the sake of his people. What's clear from this is that the reason we are heirs of the world is because Jesus the Messiah is the heir of the world, and we are in him. In other words, in the very same way that we become children of Abraham, namely, by believing in the Messiah, we also become heirs with Abraham of the world, because the Messiah is heir of the world. He fulfils all the promises of God, and we become fellow heirs with Abraham in him. In him we are Jews, and in him we are heirs of God. Galatians 3:29 is a wonderfully clear statement of both of these things: "And if you belong to Christ (that is, the Messiah), then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." Both: in Christ you are Abraham's descendants, and in Christ you are an heir with him. So if you belong to Christ this morning, you are heirs of the world. Now what does that mean? All Things Are Yours I think the best commentary on what it means is found in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, "So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or THE WORLD or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God." Notice, first, that the reason all things are yours is that you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Christ is the heir of God and in him you are fellow-heirs. That's the way Paul puts it in Romans 8:17, "Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ."
  • 109. Then notice that in Christ all things are yours. That is what it means to be an heir of the world. Hebrews 1:2 says, "In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things." Christ owns all things. They are his for whatever use he pleases. And what pleases him is to share all things with the people for whom he died. So practically what it means to be an heir of the world is that right now, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, all things are yours in trust, as it were, and will become yours in actuality in the age to come. Jesus had several ways of saying this. For example, "The meek shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). One of the most interesting examples is in Luke 16:12. Jesus is talking about the use of money in this age. He compares the use of our possessions now with our possessions in the age to come. "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" In other words, he treats your present possessions - all you have - as "that which is another's." You are only a trustee right now, a manager of someone else's possessions. You don't really own anything in this age. It is all God's. You are a steward, an agent, a broker. Your charge is to manage God's things for God's purposes. That should govern absolutely all your choices about what you do with God's things: What would magnify the truth and worth and glory of God? But in the age to come, in the resurrection, Jesus says you will be given "your own." "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" "Your own" corresponds to "the world" in Romans 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:22. You are an heir of the world. All things are yours. You will inherit "your own." This is so amazing that it defies our language to describe it properly. Surely all things will still be God's. All will still be Christ's. Yes, but our union with Christ will be so much greater that it will be the difference between managing another person's things and having our own. And our own will be "all things." How can this be? How can it all be Christ's and mine? Consider Revelation 3:21 as an analogy. Jesus says to the believers at Laodicea, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." We will sit with Christ on his throne. So in some sense we will share the kingly rule and ownership of the world. Christ loses nothing, but we gain everything.
  • 110. But still we ask, How can this be? How can "all things" be mine and "all things" be yours too? Well that is the way it is, more or less, in a marriage now in this age. A husband and a wife own a home together. They don't own parts of it, but all of it. They co-own it. So in the age to come there will be such union and such harmony among us that all God's children will own all God's inheritance as they are united to Christ, the heir of all things. This will not be a problem because in the age to come the great joy of all of us will be to increase the joy of others by giving and sharing and using all things for the greatest joy of all people. There will be perfect wisdom for how to do this and a perfect world where there is no futility or frustration. All of us will say to each other, "All things are yours, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's." And the very saying of it will be overflowing joy. What Difference Does This Make in Your Life? One last question: what difference does this make in your life - that you are now the heir of the world? 1. Let it fill you with joy. Romans 5:2, "We exult in hope of the glory of God." Romans 12:12, "Rejoice in hope." Our hope that we are heirs of the world should give an indomitable joy to our lives. If this does not seem real to you, strive in prayer and meditation until God makes it real in your life. This is not a dream. Life lived as if you owned things now and as if this world were the main world - that is a dream. 2. In this hope be secure and be strong, especially in the midst of suffering and affliction. Romans 5:3-4, "We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint." In all your shaking and fears and feelings of disintegration, let the ground under your feet be the granite of this promise: I am an heir of the world. When the planets of your life seem out of orbit and threaten to fly apart into oblivion, let this hope be the mighty sun at the center of the solar system of your life pulling all things back into orbit: I am an heir of the world. 3. In this hope, venture something new on God. Let your utter security as the heir of the world make you a little bit crazy in this brief life. Take a risk for Jesus. Act like you are an heir of the world and that you inherit everything when you die. Take some new step of ministry. Join a small group. Sign up for some ministry. Start some new ministry at work or at school or in your neighborhood. Sell your business and go overseas. Change the way you do things. In Romans 12:11, just before it says, "rejoice in hope," it says, "serve the Lord." Venture something on God as an heir of the world. "Expect great things from God," as William Carey said (which now you have every right to do), "Attempt great things for God."
  • 111. 4. Give glory to God by trusting him to give the inheritance he promised. It is all his. He has promised to give it to those who have the faith of Abraham. So be like Abraham in Romans 4:20, "He grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform." Rejoice in hope. Be secure in affliction. Be venturesome in ministry. Give glory to God. Because you are an heir of the world. ©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. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org Related Resources Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 1 (Sermons) Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 2 (Sermons) Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 3 (Sermons)
  • 112. Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 4 (Sermons) Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 5 (Sermons) English Email Print PDF Related Topics: Faith The Gospel The Law Sanctification & Growth Heaven & Hell See list of Related Resources Highlights Essential Resources Recently Added Most Popular Resource Categories Books Sermons By Date
  • 113. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. The Faith-Grace-Certainty Connection Last week we focused on verse 16 and the faith-grace-certainty connection. Look at that again. "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed [certain] to all the descendants [Jew and Gentile - all who have the faith of Abraham]." We zeroed in on the connection between grace and guarantee. God's grace guarantees God's promise namely, the promise that we will be heirs of the world. Grace guarantees the promise in two ways: It overrides our demerit. We come to God as sinners. And God overrides our demerit and counts us as righteous for the sake of Christ. He credits his own righteousness in Christ to our account in spite of our demerit (Romans 4:5). This is grace (Romans 3:24). Grace guarantees the promise for us because (as verse 17 says) it "gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." What Paul has in mind is the birth of Isaac when Abraham was almost 100 years old and Sarah his wife was 90 and barren. Isaac was the son of promise, the one through whom the promise would be fulfilled. His birth is a picture of how all of us who are children of promise come into being as Christians. It is a supernatural work of God. That is what grace does. It brings spiritual life out of death and it brings what is not into being: a life of faith. For this reason God's almighty grace guarantees the promise: it brings spiritual life out of death and so enables us to believe and keep on believing, and it overrides our demerit in the act of justification. The promise is not finally dependent on our fickle will, but on God's sovereign grace.
  • 114. Then we noticed in verse 16 that this is one of the main reasons why the righteousness of God and the promise of God are by faith: "It is by faith." Why? "In order that it may be in accordance with grace." There is one primary condition of the heart that accords with grace, namely, faith. So the gift of righteousness and the promise of God are "by faith so that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants." Faith-grace-certainty. Now today I want to see one more reason why faith is God's only way of crediting his righteousness to us and guaranteeing us the promise that we will be heirs of the world. We've seen three reasons why faith is God's appointed way for us to be justified before God. First, it is because faith excludes boasting (Romans 3:27). Second, it is because if justification were by the law of commandments, the promise would be nullified, since the law brings wrath (Romans 4:13-14). Third, it is because faith accords with grace, and grace guarantees the promise. Why God Planned for Faith to Be the Way for Us to Be Justified Now fourthly, faith is God's appointed way to be justified because this gives all the glory to God. It honors God as trustworthy and faithful and powerful and wise and loving. Look at verse 20, "Yet, with respect to the promise of God, [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God." Thomas Watson, the English pastor and writer from 350 years ago, asked in his book, A Body of Divinity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, p. 151), "Why should faith justify more than any other grace?" His answer was, "Because of God's purpose. He has appointed this grace to be justifying; and he does it, because faith is a grace that takes a man off himself, and gives all the honor to Christ and free grace." Then he quotes Romans 4:20, "Strong in faith, giving glory to God." Giving glory to God doesn't mean adding glory to God. It means showing that God is glorious. It means calling attention to his glory and showing it to be what it really is. His glory is the greatness of his beauty and the shining of all his excellencies, and the radiance of his perfections. When Noel and I went for our day-off lunch date last Thursday to a little fast-food Mexican place, we sat outside on the patio to eat. The air was cool, but the sun was warm. I looked up into the blue sky, which is always deeper blue straight up and lighter blue on the horizons, and I thought, "If I were going to design and build and paint a roof about fifty miles high over this city on a fall afternoon, this is the way I would do it." And there it was, only far better. Glorious. "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). The glory of God is the outstreaming of the beauty and reality of God.
  • 115. The aim of all things is to display the glory of God. Romans 11:36: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." And what is the basic condition of the heart giving rise to all other graces - that best gives glory to God? The answer of verse 20 is: faith. "[Abraham] grew strong in faith, giving glory to God." Faith Shows God to Be Strong and Wise and Loving and Reliable Now why is this? What is it about faith that gives glory to God? This is crucial for you to know because you exist to give glory to God. That is why God created you: to display more of his glory in the universe. The main problem with all the world is that humanity has exchanged the glory of God for other things (Romans 1:23). We have totally lost and abandoned our reason for being and should not wonder then that so much is utterly wrong with the world. But God is bringing creation back to its reason for being, and the prophets tell us that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Habukkuk 2:14; see also Numbers 14:21). It matters whether you know why you were created and brought into this world. If you don't know, your life will be a mere shadow of the substance God intends - a mere echo of the music you were designed to make - a mere residue of the impact you might have had. Ephesians 1:5-6 describes the purpose of your existence like this: "God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus . . . to the praise of the glory of His grace." You exist for the praise of the glory of God's grace. And Romans 4:20 says that faith is fundamental to fulfilling your purpose for being: "Abraham grew strong in faith, giving glory to God." Faith is God's ordained way of being justified because faith glorifies God. So I ask again, What is it about faith that gives glory to God? The answer is given in verse 21, "Being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform." This is what faith is: it is the strong assurance that God's promises are good and that he can and will perform them. And the harder the promises seem to fulfill, the more our faith honors God. Look at verses 19-20 to see how Paul stresses this. "Without becoming weak in faith [Abraham] contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the
  • 116. deadness of Sarah's womb." So the fulfillment of the promise that he would have a son seems utterly impossible -and it is, humanly speaking. So when you trust God in a situation like that, you glorify him, you make him look strong and wise and loving and reliable. So verse 20 says, "Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God." Faith gives God glory because it shows that God can and will do the great, necessary good that humans can't do. An Illustration for the Children Let's illustrate this for the children. Your daddy is standing in a swimming pool out a little bit from the edge. You are, let's say, three years old and standing on the edge of the pool. Daddy holds out his arms to you and says, "Jump, I'll catch you. I promise." Now, how do you make your daddy look good at that moment? Answer: trust him and jump. Have faith in him and jump. That makes him look strong and wise and loving. But if you won't jump, if you shake your head and run away from the edge, you make your daddy look bad. It looks like you are saying, "he can't catch me" or "he won't catch me" or "it's not a good idea to do what he tells me to do". And all three of those make your dad look bad. But you don't want to make God look bad. So you trust him. Then you make him look good - which he really is. And that is what we mean when we say, "Faith glorifies God" or "Faith gives God glory." It makes him look as good as he really is. So trusting God is really important. And the harder it seems for him to fulfill his promise, the better he looks when you trust him. Suppose that you are at the deep end of a pool by the diving board. You are four years old and can't swim, and your daddy is at the other end of the pool. Suddenly a big, mean dog crawls under the fence and shows his teeth and growls at you and starts coming toward you to bite you. You crawl up on the diving board and walk toward the end to get away from him. The dog puts his front paws up on the diving board. Just then, your daddy sees what's happening and calls out, "Johnny, jump in the water. I'll get you." Now, you have never jumped from one meter high and you can't swim and your daddy is not underneath you and this water is way over your head. How do you make your daddy look good in that moment? You jump. And almost as soon as you hit the water, you feel his hands under your arms and he treads water holding you safely while someone chases the dog away. Then he takes you to the side of the pool.
  • 117. We give glory to God when we trust him to do what he has promised to do -especially when all human possibilities are exhausted. Faith glorifies God. That is why God planned for faith to be the way we are justified. Faith is Future-Oriented Now notice something obvious here. Sometimes we don't see the obvious. Faith is future oriented. Faith is trust in a Person, God, but it is trust in God to be and to do what he had promised to be and do. That's why verse 18 says, "In hope against hope [Abraham] believed." Hope and faith are overlapping convictions. Faith is trusting a person, and when you trust that person for something they promise to do in the future, it is indistinguishable from hope. Someone might say, "That is only true for Abraham, since he believed God before Christ came, and so his faith was future-oriented, but ours is past-oriented, toward what Christ did for us on the cross." No, that's not quite right. It's partly right. But the way to think about it is this: since Christ has come and died for us and risen from the dead, our faith now has a more clear, firm, historical place to stand than Abraham's faith did. So we take our stand on the death and resurrection of Christ, but what we believe is that this death and resurrection secures and guarantees the promises that he makes that we will be heirs of the world, just like Abraham. You can see this in the way Paul reasons in Romans 5:9 and 8:32. Romans 5:9 says, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood [that's past], we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him [that's future]." Faith looks back and takes its stand on the solid basis of the shed blood of Jesus and the justifying effect that it has; then we look to the future and believe that this past work guarantees our future salvation from God's wrath. Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all [that's past], how will He not also with Him freely give us all things [that's future]?" Faith looks back and takes its stand on the demonstration of God's love for us in Christ's death, and then looks to the future and believes that God will therefore fulfill all his promises for us. So even today after the coming of Christ, our faith is still future-oriented. Justifying faith trusts God for all he promises to be for us and do for us. This is why faith glorifies God. Believing that God has done things in the past glorifies God somewhat. But believing that God will do what he has promised to do in the future before you see him do it -that glorifies God even more. It honors his present and future trustworthiness. So faith is future-oriented because that gives God the most glory.
  • 118. The Freedom that Faith Brings to Our Lives Let me close with one application. When you trust God to fulfill his promises to you—to work everything together for your good (Romans 8:28), to be with you to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), to help you and strengthen you and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10), to meet all your needs (Philippians 4:19), and to bring you safely to heaven (Philippians 1:6)—when you really trust him for all this and more, it will profoundly affect the kinds of sacrifices you make for him and the gospel in this life. You won't be taken up with security and comforts and treasures. You will seek the kingdom and take risks in the cause of love - and that will make the glory of God shine all the more brightly (Matthew 5:16). Do you recall from Genesis 13 the time when Abraham and his nephew Lot could not occupy the same land because their herds were too many? Abraham, in a beautiful illustration of what faith does, said to Lot, "Take whatever part of the land you want and I will take what's left." He trusted God and did the loving thing. Lot took the well-watered Jordan valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were. Abraham took the less plush land. Lot paid dearly for that choice. But God came to Abraham immediately after that loving act of faith and said, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever" (Genesis 13:15). He trusted God and gave it away. And God said, "You'll get it back." Which is exactly what Jesus said in Mark 10:29-30, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." Take your stand on Christ crucified and risen for your justification, trust the promises of God, and do what he is calling you to do. To him be the glory, forever. No distrust made Abraham waver concerning the promises of God, but he grew strong in his faith giving glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. What I want to do today is lay the foundation for a series of messages called Battling Unbelief. I hope to clarify in these messages why we exist as a church and what it means at the most practical level to live by faith in the promises of God. All Sins Come from Unbelief in God's Promises
  • 119. The conviction behind this series is that all sins come from unbelief in the promises of God. All the sinful states of our hearts are owing to unbelief in God's super-abounding willingness and ability to work for us in every situation of life so that everything turns out for our good. Anxiety, misplaced shame, indifference, regret, covetousness, envy, lust, bitterness, impatience, despondency, pride—these are all sprouts from the root of unbelief in the promises of God. Let me illustrate from a familiar text that tends to puzzle us. The Love of Money When Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10, "The love of money is the root of all evils," what did he mean? He didn't mean that there's a connection between every sinful attitude and money—that money is always in your mind when you sin. I think he meant that all the evils in the world come from a certain kind of heart, namely, the kind of heart that loves money. Now what does it mean to love money? It doesn't mean to admire the green paper or the brown coins. To know what it means to love money you have to ask, What is money? I would answer that question like this: Money is simply a symbol that stands for human resources. Money stands for what you can get from man (not from God! "Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. He who has NO MONEY come buy and eat!" Isaiah 55:1). Money is the currency of human resources. So the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer. So the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money—belief (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy. Unbelief in the Promises of God Therefore the love of money, or belief in money, is the flip side of UNBELIEF in the promises of God. Just like Jesus said in Matthew 6:24—you cannot serve God and money. You can't trust or believe in God and money. Belief in one is unbelief in the other. A heart that loves money—banks on money for happiness, believes in money—is at the same time not banking on the promises of God for happiness. So when Paul says that the love of money is the root of all evils, he implies that unbelief in the promises of God is the taproot of every sinful attitude in our heart.
  • 120. The Aim of This Series Every message this fall will aim to illustrate this truth and confirm it and provide practical help for battling the root of unbelief that threatens to grow in our hearts again and again every day. In a sense the main point of every message will be the same: Fight against sin by fighting against unbelief in the promises of God. Or to put it positively: Fight for righteousness and love in your life by fighting to maintain faith in the promises of God. That's the gist of the series. But what I said I wanted to do today is lay a foundation for these messages and show you how it relates to why we exist as a church. So let me try to do that in the minutes we have left. Why We Exist Bethlehem Baptist Church exists for the glory of God. He created us for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). He predestined us to be his children for his glory (Ephesians 1:6). He appointed us to live for his glory (Ephesians 1:12). Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether we speak of Bethlehem worshiping, Bethlehem building up the body, Bethlehem evangelizing unbelievers, the final goal is the same at every point—that God be glorified. Bethlehem is a vision of a great, holy, free, and graciously sovereign God—a vision of GOD to be savored in worship, a vision of GOD to be strengthened in nurture, and a vision of GOD to be spread in evangelism and missions. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Romans 11:36). How We Accomplish Our Reason for Existence Now to the text of the morning! Romans 4. If the goal of all we do is to glorify God—to magnify his worth, clarify his beauty, exalt his excellence, portray his perfections—if that is our goal, then Romans 4:19–21 gives us a very crucial insight into how we go about it.
  • 121. Abraham's Faith in God's Promise Abraham got the promise of God that he would have a son when he was 100 years old and Sarah was old and barren. His response, Paul says, glorified God. He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust [or: unbelief] made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Martin Luther's Insight I hope you agree that one thing this text teaches is that we glorify God by believing his promises. Listen to Martin Luther, who got a hold on this truth so firmly. Faith . . . honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy. There is no other honor equal to the estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him whom we trust . . . On the other hand, there is no way in which we can show greater contempt for a man than to regard him as false and wicked and to be suspicious of him, as we do when we do not trust him. (Selections, p. 59) Trusting God's promises is the most fundamental way that you can consciously glorify God. When you believe a promise of God, you honor God's ability to do what he promised and his willingness to do what he promised and his wisdom to know how to do it. An Illustration of Battling Unbelief Last night I had to battle the unbelief anxiety that this sermon would not take shape in time for this morning's service, because I got such a late start. The way I battled against this anxiety was to believe the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:8 ("My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in
  • 122. weakness."). And when I believed that promise, God's ability to help me, his wisdom to help me and his willingness to help me were glorified. When you trust somebody, you honor them at the deepest level. Therefore if the goal of our church is to glorify God in all that we do, we must make it our aim in all that we do to battle unbelief. Because nothing dishonors God more than not to believe what he says. Or to put it positively, if our goal is to glorify God in all that we do, then we must make it our aim in all that we do to believe the promises of God. Because it was when Abraham believed the promise of God that God was glorified. So I hope you can see why I think this series of messages is so important for us. Unless we can learn to live by faith in the promises of God, we will fail in our goal as a church. Unless we can learn how to battle the ever-attacking unbelief of our hearts, we will constantly fall short of glorifying God. And our reason for being would be gone. Three Things About the Faith Which Glorifies God Now to set the stage for the rest of the messages, let me say three things about this belief that glorifies God. If this seems too brief, please know that each of these three things will be addressed in every sermon this fall. All I want to do now is introduce them and begin to shape the mindset of our church in a certain biblical direction. And hopefully, in doing so, stir you up to trust God in new ways. 1. It Is Future Oriented The first thing I want to say about this belief is this: Belief that honors God means banking our hope for happiness on the promises of God. In other words belief is future oriented. It trusts God for something in the future, whether in eight hours or in 8,000 years. The function of past events (for example, the death and resurrection of Christ for our sins) is to support faith in the promises, which have to do with our future. Believing that Christ died for our sins once for all in the past and that he rose again is utterly crucial for salvation. But the reason it's crucial is because the death and resurrection of Christ are the guarantee of God's promises. People who say, "I believe that Christ died for my sins, and that he rose again from the dead," but then don't bank
  • 123. their hope on his promises day by day—those people don't have faith that honors the God who justifies sinners. You can see this in our text. Right after extolling Abraham for believing the promises of God in verses 19–21, Paul says, "That is why his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness." So how did Abraham get justified in God's sight? Why did God look at this imperfect man and count him as righteous in his sight? Answer: because he believed the promises of God. It was future oriented faith that justified. Now read on in the application to us. Verses 23–24, But the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Notice! It does not say, "It will be reckoned to us who believe the past historical fact that God raised Jesus from the dead." As utterly crucial as that is! It says, we will be reckoned righteous if we believe in God! Like Abraham believed in God! And this God is the kind of God who raised Jesus from the dead so that you can trust him! So that you will know that his Son ever lives to make intercession for you! So that you will know that he reigns in victory over all your enemies. So that you will know, as verse 17 says, that he gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He can do anything! Nothing is impossible for God. Therefore he is absolutely trustworthy. You don't get justified by believing that Jesus died for sinners and rose again. You get justified by banking your hope on the promises that God secured and guaranteed for you through the death and resurrection of his Son. The faith by which God justifies us, forgives all our sins, reckons us righteous, is the experience of being satisfied that God will come through for you according to all his promises. That's the first thing I wanted to say about belief: it is future oriented; it means banking our hope for happiness on the promises of God secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus. 2. It Produces Fruit The second thing I want to say about belief in the promises of God is that it produces what Paul calls the "work of faith." Two times, once in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and once in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul refers to
  • 124. the "work of faith." What he means is that there is a dynamic to this kind of faith that always changes the heart (Acts 15:9) and produces the works of love. The clearest statement of this is Galatians 5:6, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. Faith is a power. It never leaves the life unchanged. It can't, because what you bank your hope on always governs your life. If you bank your hope on money, if your bank your hope on prestige, if you bank your hope on leisure and comfort, if you bank your hope on power or success, it governs the choices you make and the attitudes you develop. And so does banking your hope on the promises of God day by day. Belief in the promises of God is the taproot of all righteousness and love. Earlier in Galatians 2:20 Paul said, I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Paul lived his life every day by faith. Jesus had loved him enough to die for him, and now Paul knew he could trust him, believe him, to take care of him and meet all his needs (Philippians 1:19). When you bank your hope on the promises of God and on the presence of Jesus, you live differently. You bear the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:11). Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is in the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
  • 125. and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. That's the second thing to say about belief: it produces fruit in our lives. Belief in the promises of God is not a dead and fruitless thing. What you bank on for happiness controls your life. 3. We Must Battle Unbelief Every Day The last thing to say is just a sentence for now. In order to keep on believing in the promises of God and bearing the fruit of faith, we have to battle unbelief every day. Becoming a Christian is the beginning of the battle not the end. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold on eternal life to which you were called." In order to persevere to eternal life, we must fight the good fight of faith (1 Corinthians 15:2; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14). That's the battle we are going to study for the next 14 weeks. And I believe that God has appointed this study for us because he loves us and because he aims to bring some great victories to our lives and to our church. The reason I believe this is because of the promise of 1 John 5:4, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith." Let's bow for prayer. Every one of us in this room struggles with some sin. It may be a new thought to us that this sin is rooted in unbelief. But it is. And what I want us to do is pray silently that God would help you see the connection and then dedicate yourself to join me in the next 14 weeks in learning how to battle that unbelief and conquering sin. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. I said last week that I would take up three questions that arise in these verses. But I can only take up two, and one reason is that they are so tremendously relevant this week in view of some responses in the StarTribune yesterday to the article about Jewish-Christian relations that appeared the week before. I'll talk about that in a moment. Let's take the two questions one at a time. And perhaps we will take the third one next week.
  • 126. Question 1: Why Faith? Here's the first. Notice at the beginning of verse 22 the word "therefore." "Therefore, it [faith] was also credited to him [Abraham] as righteousness." So Paul wants us to know why faith is credited to Abraham and to us as righteousness. What is the meaning of "therefore" at the beginning of verse 22? Remember the larger context. From beginning to end, Romans 4 has been about Abraham's faith as the example of justifying faith. The fact that Paul would devote a whole chapter in this letter to helping us see that Abraham was justified by faith shows how crucial the Jewish question was for Paul. Christianity is not a separate religion from Judaism in Paul's mind. There must be continuity and harmony in the way of salvation for Jews and Christians. So he labors for a whole chapter to show that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the law. Now in verse 22 he wants us to think once more about why faith is the way God has chosen for sinners like us to get right with him. So he quotes Genesis 15:6 one more time and introduces it with "therefore." "Therefore, it [faith] was also credited to him [Abraham] as righteousness." So, why was it faith that God chose to make the instrument of Abraham's being counted as righteous? First, faith is the way that God chose for Abraham and us to be justified because it glorifies God: "[Abraham] grew strong in faith, giving glory to God" (v. 20) "Therefore," it was credited to him as righteousness. Second, God chose faith as the way to justification because faith accords with grace and grace is the free and sovereign work of God that makes the promise certain. Verse 16: "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants." God means to justify us by faith because it gives us strong assurance. God's free and sovereign grace is what guarantees the promise of salvation and makes it sure. And faith is the one condition of the heart that accords with grace in justification. Faith says yes to grace and is glad that God will save us that way and rests in that wonderful work of grace. Third, God chose faith as the way to justification because it excludes boasting: Romans 3:27, "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?Of works?No, but by a law of faith."
  • 127. So we can sum up the answer to our first question like this: The reason God chose faith as the way that we get right with him - the way to be justified - is that he wanted to base the whole thing on his almighty, all-glorious grace, so that our boasting would be excluded and his glory would be exalted and our salvation would be certain. Our pride is put down. God's glory is lifted up. And salvation is made sure. Therefore, rejoice that your justification is by grace through faith. Relevance to Current Jewish-Christian Relations I said that this feels all the more relevant and urgent in view of some responses in yesterday's newspaper. Remember that several weeks ago I referred to the lead editorial in the StarTribune that said it was arrogant to pray for or to try to persuade Jewish people that Jesus is the Messiah and thus lead them to faith and salvation. I said I would try to write a response and I asked you to pray. Well, you must have. Because I wrote the response and they published it Saturday a week ago (October 2), and the responses were published yesterday. (The articles are posted at www.startribune.com.) The most remarkable thing about the two letters and one article that responded is that they show the astonishing relevance of the New Testament to our present situation in Jewish Christian relations. One letter said, "The truth is that Jews cannot accept Jesus as Messiah because they have never seen Jesus as having fulfilled the basic ancient Jewish requirements for the Messiah, who was never supposed to have died the ignominious death of a criminal. Observant Jews have believed that 'anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse' (Deuteronomy 21:22)." This is astonishing because it is the very objection Paul heard and responded to in his day. He said in Galatians 3:13, "Christ [=Messiah] redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.'" So Jesus remains a stumbling block to many Jewish people for the very same reason he was in Jesus' day. The popular view was and is that Messiah is not supposed to die on the cross. But the Jewish Bible itself says in Isaiah 53:5 and 12, "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. . . . He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many." And not only do you have the prophecy of a suffering and dying Messiah who bears the curse of his people (not his own curse), but you even have the teaching in Isaiah 53 that this is the basis of our justification. "As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11).
  • 128. The article that responded yesterday showed how badly misunderstood the doctrine of justification by faith is and how desperately it is needed in this world, including the Jewish community. The author misrepresents and then rejects the teaching that salvation is by faith in Jesus the Messiah; and then says this: "[This teaching] is absolutely antithetical to Judaism, which holds that people are judged by their creator on the basis of their actions in this world." Here again Romans 4 is utterly relevant and up to date. Is salvation on the ground of the moral performances of our lives (the author refers to a woman who saves a drowning child), or are we justified by faith alone with morality a fruit of this justification? If you care about the Jewish community the way Paul cared about it and you read Romans 4 alongside Saturday's paper, you will marvel and be thankful for how relevant and contemporary Paul's teaching is. O, that we would all learn how God saves Jew and Gentile alike and put our trust in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, and open our mouths and teach these things every chance we get - to Jew and Gentile! Question 2: What Sort of Faith? Now the second question I raised last week was: What sort of faith is credited to Abraham and to us as righteousness? Was it the first act of faith when God first spoke to Abraham and told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees, or the faith of Genesis 15:6 when he promised to make his descendants like the stars, or the faith of Genesis 17 when God promised him a son in the next year in spite of his age and Sarah's barrenness, or the faith of Genesis 22 when he offered his Son Isaac? Are we justified in the very first twinkling of faith or by a lifetime of faith? There are two facts in Romans 4 that point to the answer. Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6 where God promises Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the heavens (Genesis 15:5) and says, "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." That faith at that time was the way he was justified. That's the first fact. The second fact is that in verses 19-21 Paul describes Abraham's faith that he exercised at least 13 years later in Genesis 17 when he was 99 years old. Verse 19: "Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old." And after this description of Abraham's faith when he was 99, Paul says in verse 22, "Therefore it was credited to him as righteousness." Because of his earlier faith and later faith, Abraham was justified.
  • 129. So here's the upshot: the faith Abraham exercised in Genesis 15 was credited to him as righteousness; and the faith he exercised in Genesis 17, at least 13 years later, was credited to him as righteousness. What then shall we conclude? I conclude that we are justified on the very first act of saving faith justification is not a process. It is a verdict. It is a singular act of counting someone righteous and acceptable to God on the basis of the righteousness of another, namely, Christ. But this first act of saving faith is the kind of faith, as God designs it by his grace, that will persevere. In fact, we could say that all the subsequent faith is contained in the first faith like an oak tree is contained in an acorn. Here's the way Jonathan Edwards said it, "God, in the act of justification, which is passed on a sinner's first believing, has respect to perseverance, as being virtually contained in that first act of faith; and [persevering in faith] is looked upon . . . as being as it were a property of that [first act of] faith. God has respect to the believer's continuance in faith, and he is justified by that, as though it already were, because by divine establishment it shall follow" ("Justification by Faith Alone," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974], p. 641). I think that is right and follows from what Paul has written. What does this mean for us? It means three very practical things: Implication 1: Justification Comes All at Once It means that full and unshakable justification is given to us through one simple act of faith; and assurance of eternal life is possible from the very beginning. Justification does not come to you in pieces, one piece on one day and another piece on another day. It comes all at once through the first act of genuine faith in Jesus. You don't accumulate pieces of justification with each new act of faith, and hope that you have enough pieces collected when you die. There are no pieces. The verdict, "not guilty," is indivisible. And the work of Christ in whom we have our righteousness is a complete and perfect work. It does not get better with time. And we are united to Christ at once, through our first faith, not progressively. No one is half in and half out. And if we are in Christ, all that he is he is for us - from the very first instant of faith. This is wonderful news for sinners who face a long haul in becoming in life what we are in Christ. Implication 2: God Will Make Sure of our Perseverance in Faith
  • 130. It means that God himself will make sure of our perseverance in faith - not perfection in faith, but perseverance, persistence. How do I know this? Romans 8:30 says, "These whom [God] predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." That last clause is crucial. It says that those whom God has justified, he most certainly will glorify. It's as good as done. That is, he will certainly bring them into everlasting life and glory with himself in the end. Now if that is true - if God will certainly and eternally save those who have been justified - and if our justification comes through faith which perseveres, then God will see to it that we certainly persevere in faith. This is a very precious truth: that God himself is committed to keeping his own sheep and not letting them forsake him utterly. They may stray for a season. But he will bring them back. Clouds may gather and faith may falter, but those who are justified will not stumble so as to fall utterly. They will persevere in faith. Our hope for glorification is not in our own willpower to believe. It is in God's faithfulness that he who began a good work in us will complete it unto the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6). Implication 3: Perseverance in Faith Is Evidence of Eternal Security Finally, the fact that we are justified by faith which perseveres means that all of us who have made a start in the Christian life, by trusting Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and for the fulfillment of his promises to us, must be vigilant to fight the fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12). We must not think that justification and glorification are unconnected with our ongoing, persevering faith. "Once saved always saved" is true, if you understand it to include: "God will work sovereignly to keep you trusting him." The great truth of our eternal security is based on the even greater truth that God keeps us secure by keeping us believing. Eternal security for all God's justified, sinful saints is true and precious. And the evidence of being eternally secure is perseverance in faith. Oh, there will be struggles and doubts and loss of assurance from time to time. But the justified children of God never forsake Christ utterly. God keeps them. 1 Corinthians 1:8, "[God] will confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:22, "[God] sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge [=down payment]."
  • 131. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you enti rely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." Romans 8:30, 35-39, "Those whom he justified, he also glorified. . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." If you are not enjoying this security and this peace with God, then either you have never trusted Christ, or a dark cloud is temporarily concealing the face of Christ from you. In both cases my urgent plea is the same: consider Christ. Fix your mind on Christ. Look to him. Consider that his righteousness may be yours freely through trusting him. And in your baby faith or in your season of darkness, consider that God Almighty pledges in faithfulness to keep you and to bring you back to himself again and again (James 5:20) until you are safe in heaven forever.