Lesson 11

The Cross and Justification

(Romans 3)
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Introduction: At the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Meic Pearse gave me an autographed copy of his book "Why The Rest Hates the West." This fascinating book, which I'm half-way through, suggests that "the rest" hates "the West" because our immoral culture is sweeping away their culture. What really caught my eye was Pearse's suggestion that our topic for study this week is one source of the problem. Pearse says the acceptance in the West of Martin Luther's argument for "righteousness by faith" resulted in a decline in right conduct in the West. What is this doctrine? Is it contrary to the will of God? Does it produce evil-doing? This week our study is about justification and next week our study is about sanctification. Let's jump into our study with both feet to learn God's will!

  1. Closed Mouths


    1. Read Romans 3:19. Have you ever been in a discussion with someone else, and you said something that convinced them they were wrong and you were right? How could you tell? (I have seen people start to say something, and then close their mouth as they realize what they were about to say was wrong.)


      1. What are the "closed mouth" people about to say in Romans 3:19? (The context, Romans 3:10-18, describes how unrighteous we are. The people who close their mouths are about to say that they are righteous, that they obey the law.)


    2. Read Romans 3:20. How many humans can keep the requirements of the law?


      1. Is it possible that we might believe that we are keeping the law? (I think we can deceive ourselves. This is why this verse gives us God's perspective on things rather than our perspective. This says "no one" will be found by God to be righteous by obeying the law.)


      2. If we cannot keep it, what is the purpose of the law? (It makes us conscious of our sins.)


        1. How does that make any sense? If we cannot keep the law, what reason is there to have something that continually tells us "You are a sinner! You cannot do what is right! Haw, haw. Nanny, nanny, boo boo."


        2. Imagine that you are overweight and every time you sat in your car a little mechanical voice said: "Hey fatso, put on your seat belt." Would you disconnect the module that made the voice?


  2. Open Arms


    1. Read Romans 3:21. Why would we want a righteousness that is "apart from law?" (I think this answers the questions I have been asking before. The reason why we want the law to make us "conscious of sin" is so that we will want to do something about our sins. If we were constantly reminded by our car that we are overweight, that might drive us to seek a solution to our weight problem. Here we are offered a solution to the problem that is "doable" because it is "apart from the law." There is a realistic way out of sin.)


      1. How do we know this alternative solution is valid? ("The Law and the Prophets testify" to it. They say it is valid.)


        1. If the "Law and Prophets" tell us it is valid, why is it so widely believed that right living will save us?


    2. Read Romans 3:22. How do we obtain this righteousness "apart from the law?" (Through faith in Jesus Christ.)


      1. What is the source of this righteousness? (This is very important. Romans 3:22 tells us that this righteousness comes from God. Thus, it has a much higher pedigree than a righteousness that comes from humans. A lady, who years ago worked in our office, now has cancer and has been given just a short time to live. I did not know her very well, but I wanted to visit her. I spoke with one of her friends about how I could visit, asked about her spiritual condition, and said I wanted to discuss this with her before she died. Her friend, a religious lady, responded, "Oh, I think she is saved. She lived a good life.")


        1. Is living a good life the right answer? (Living a good life is the goal of every Christian, but it does not make us righteous. Righteousness comes only from God.)


      2. What is required for us to obtain this faith in Jesus? (We must believe in Him.)


        1. Believe what? (Believe that Jesus is the solution to sin that ( Romans 3:21) the Law and Prophets have been testifying about: that God, in human form, came to earth, lived a perfect life, and was killed to pay the penalty for our sins.)


    3. Let's read the last phrase of Romans 3:22 together with Romans 3:23. When the Bible says, "there is no difference," what difference does it mean? (There is no difference between you and every other person!)


      1. Do you like to hear this? (At many levels I don't. I like grades! I don't like "pass/fail." I want to know that I'm doing better than these other slugs!)


        1. If you really want to feel bad, read Romans 3:15-18. How many people do you know who have no fear of God? (I know these people. They oppose God. I hate to be seen as "no different" than them, but it is true when it comes to righteousness.)


      1. If you think you do better than the "other slugs" - and you probably think you do - what is the problem with this? (Pride! No one, from the church pastor to the member who is in jail, gets a "passing grade." If we admit this, then this "holier than thou" attitude evaporates.)


      2. Let's skip down a few verses to continue with this "holier than thou" issue. Read Romans 3:27. What happens to "boasting?" (It is excluded. Although some people better obey God than others, none of this obedience gets us a "passing grade." We all flunk. We all need this alternative way to salvation: Jesus.)


    1. Re-read Romans 3:23 and add Romans 3:24. How difficult is it for us to be saved through this "alternative way?" (We are "freely" justified by God's grace through Jesus. You and the slugs have the same opportunity to get it. It is not "rocket science" to obtain it.)


  1. Justice


    1. Read Romans 3:25-26. Why does God speak of the "justice" of Jesus' death on the cross? Does this seem like justice to you? (Jesus, the Creator of humans, accepted the punishment for their sins. The life-giving blood of the Creator covered the death-giving sins of humans. Dying for our sins is way beyond justice from our point of view. We do not deserve such loving and gracious treatment! However, from God's point of view sin requires death. We should never forget God's point of view on sin.)


      1. In this context, what do you understand it to mean to be justified? (Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. The debt was paid. We stand before God with a clean slate.)


    2. Read Romans 4:4-5. When you work and your employer pays you, this is a justice, not a gift. Doesn't God "owe" us for the good things which we do?


    3. Read Romans 4:1-3. Did Abraham do good works? (Last week we learned he was an intercessor! He did many good works. In Genesis 18:19 we learned last week that Abraham "ke[pt] the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.")


      1. Did God owe Abraham for his "right and just" works? (Re-read Romans 3:23. Everyone, including Abraham, has fallen short of what God expects. When it comes to salvation, all have sinned, none have "made the grade," and all deserve punishment for their sins, not a reward for good works. Abraham, according to Romans 4:3 became righteous based on his belief in Jesus, not because of his works. Your only path to salvation is through faith in what Jesus has done on your behalf.)


    4. Friend, will you believe? The door to salvation is open before you!


  2. Next week: The Cross and Sanctification.

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