Justified by Faith
Introduction: Last week we were left in a terrible state! We decided that we were no better than all of those "obvious" sinners and that our deeds deserved death. Worse, there was nothing that we could do about it because "no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law." Romans 3:20. This week we get to the good news - someone has already done something about our sin problem. Let's run to Romans and find out more!
- Righteousness From God
- Read Romans 3:21-22. What do we need to do to be righteous? (If we believe in Jesus, righteousness comes to us by faith.)
- Whose righteousness is this? (God's righteousness.)
- Is there a better righteousness than that?
- Notice that this righteousness comes "apart from law." What does that mean? (That the law has nothing to do with it.)
- Consider that a moment. If keeping the Ten Commandments has nothing to do with our righteousness, does that change your attitude about obedience?
- Notice something else. Romans 3:21 says that the Law testifies to this righteousness from God. If the law has nothing to do with it, how can that be?
- When you think of testimony, what comes to mind? (A statement that tends to prove the truth of something.)
- What truth is at issue here? (The question for Paul's listeners (and us) is "Who is Jesus?" Paul argues that the law (and prophets) testify to Jesus being God's righteousness for us. That is the truth at issue.)
- How does the law testify to Jesus being our righteousness? (In some sense nothing changed, and in another sense everything changed. Sinners under the Old Testament system had their sins forgiven by the death of an animal. They were not righteous because they perfectly kept the Ten Commandments - they were righteous because of the sacrifice. The Old Testament system of sacrifice, the Ten Commandments, and the prophets all pointed to the new system in which Jesus died for our sins and lived a perfect life in our place.)
- No Difference
- Look at the last phrase of Romans 3:22. "There is no difference." Difference in what? (Recall last week how we were looking in horror at all the sins that those "other" people did - and we agreed that they certainly deserved death! Then we learned that we deserved death too. Now, the good people (the Jews) and the bad people (the Gentiles) all get saved the same way!)
- Read Romans 3:23-24. One of the things which gives gold its value is that it is scarce. How valuable is Jesus' righteousness? (Of infinite value.)
- How scarce is it? (God gives justification "freely." Everyone who believes can have it.)
- What does this say about my effort to be more respectable than others? (As we will see, obedience to the law is a good thing, but it does nothing to save me. It does not make me more worthy of salvation. Grace is a free gift available to me, saints, and low-lives.)
- Read Romans 3:25-26. Nothing in what we have discussed so far seems like any kind of "justice" that I know about. All sorts of bad people get saved, and it does not depend on the degree of their goodness or badness. An innocent God suffers for the sins of others. These verses tell us (twice) that this system demonstrates God's justice. I've just explained why this is not true. Tell me why you think it is true? (Two things. First, who is getting hurt in this deal? God! If God is giving me an unbelievable deal, then who am I to say it is unjust? God is the only one who can complain here. Second, the very fact that Jesus died for my sins shows that God takes sin seriously. Justice demanded punishment.)
- Read Romans 3:27. Have you any reason to believe that you are better than any other member of your church?
- When I previously referred to other persons as "low-lives," was that appropriate? (We all deserve death. We all are saved by Jesus' righteousness alone. That means that the differences between believers makes no difference in regard to salvation. Thus, no one gets to boast and no one gets to call someone else names (which is a reverse form of boasting).)
- Let's set salvation aside for just a moment. Assume that you believe (as most do) that you are a better person than others that you know about. Is that not something about which you can rightfully boast?
- For example, what if you can say that you never lied? Never cheated anyone in a business deal? Never cheated on your taxes or your spouse? What if you stayed married for 50 years? Are these not things worthy of boasting about - as a goal to encourage others?
- If you say, "yes," then think about that sin event (or continuing problem) in your life that you hope no one (or at least not most everyone) knows about. How would you feel if that were known? (This is why no one can boast. We all fall short. If you still doubt your sin problem, the likely reason is that your conscience is to blunted to realize the extent of your problem.)
- Law In The Dust?
- Read Romans 3:28-30. Why does Paul ask whether God is also the God of the Gentiles? (You have two groups. One group has historically worked to keep God's law, and the other group knew nothing about God's law before they were converted to Christianity. Paul tells us that they both can be justified by grace - and it has nothing to do with keeping the law. God treats them both in the same way.)
- Read Romans 3:31. If you had never read Romans before, would you not think the answer to this question should be "yes!" If obedience to the law has nothing to do with our salvation, isn't it "nullified" as far as salvation is concerned?
- Let's imagine that you ride a bicycle to work. Your only alternative is to walk. Someone gives you a car and you now drive to work - no pedaling required. Would it be fair to say that your bicycle was "nullified?"
- What if someone noticed your new car and said, "I guess you don't need that old bike anymore." Could you honestly say, "My new car upholds my bike!"
- At this point, it seems that obeying the law does not really matter. But, let's step back a moment. We started this week's lesson with Romans 3:20 which says "through the law we become conscious of sin." Is that the reason why the law is upheld?
- Paul assures us that the law still matters. Does the fact that Jesus obeyed and died in our place say something about the importance of the law? We will find out next week!
- Friend, how about you? Have you accepted Jesus' free gift of salvation? I had a friend who used to tell me that he needed to "clean up" a few things before he returned to church. He never returned. You will never be saved until you rely on Jesus' perfect life for your salvation. Why not ask Jesus to justify you right now? To make you perfectly righteous right now?
- Next Week: Justification and the Law.