John Calvin once said that there is not probably in the whole Bible a passage which encapsulates most profoundly the righteousness of God in Christ than Romans 3 verse 20 through 31. Noteworthy is the fact that Galatians and Romans are the doctrinal books of Paul. They are the systematic theologies of the New Testament, and i think Paul’s epistle to the Galatians parallels in many ways the theological progression of Romans. Although Romans is more extensive and more logical in its presentation of the truth. I think it is the very heart of what we believe about Jesus Christ, and i think it helps us see probably as clear as anywhere in the Bible the wonderful truth of who we are in Jesus Christ. The greatest need of Christians in our day, i believe is to recognize what they already are, or what they already have in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we live in such unusual and problematical attitudes because we have not come to realize that in Him the fullness of God, the riches of God, the righteousness of God are ours because of our relationship to Him. Reading back chapter 1:16-17 gives you an amplification of this truth,and is really a summary of the whole book of Romans. Paul has been talking about the lostness of men. He starts with a terrible problem of pagan society; by the way we claim the Philippines is a Christian country, and that’s really a lie. Our society is as immoral and pagan as the society of Rome. We just like to pat ourselves in the back, and pretend to be followers of Christ. Friends, we live in a pagan society, and you will have to agree with me when you read about what’s happening around us, and realize it fits perfectly well about the rampant problems in ancient Roman society that Paul is talking about. It’s like a checklist of our society today. Paul then talked about the moral pagan, and then about the Jew, and he comes to sum it all up that all of us are in need. And Jesus has provided everything we need in who He is, and what He has done for us. It’s a marvelous passage, and let’s look at verse 21, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known,…” – well, that’s the question all of us are asking, how is man right with God? That’s what we’re all trying to find out – how is a human being rightly related to God? Well there are many answers in our world; some think it’s through knowledge, some think it’s through their own works and efforts, some think it’s through knowing certain books or having certain special words that get them to the spirit realm. It is a central question that all mankind is asking – how can i be friends with God, right with God, how can i be saved, how can i know i’m going to heaven? All those same question, and here Paul is going to deal that central need of everyone’s life – ‘God can i know that things are right between You and me’? ‘They often don’t seem right, they often seem confused and disruptive’. ‘I’ve got sin in my life still, how can i know that things are right between God and myself’?
Now, we need to define a few terms, because we must to realize that our modern terminology does not necessarily match up with Biblical words. I want to know what Paul meant when he said the word, ‘right standing’ or ‘righteousness’. It’s real important that we see how the New Testament authors use the words, and not how we define them. ‘Righteousness’ is an Old Testament word as far as its etymology, and it goes way back in the Old Testament where God is called ‘Righteous’ or ‘Just’ or ‘Right’. All those Hebrew terms have the same root as do the Greek terms in the Old Testament. If you want to describe the nature of God, it was described as a ‘standard’. Now, they didn’t have ruler or straightedge in that day, they had river reeds that were somewhat straight, and they used those reeds to measure the straightness of things. Every Hebrew word for sin means a ‘deviation’ from the standard, missing the mark, falling short, being crooked, being perverse. The ‘Standard’ is God Himself, that’s why it’s so hard for us to read those passages that say, “You must be holy, as your Father in heaven is holy”. We say, ‘how can i do that’? Honestly we say, ‘i can’t do that’. I’ve tried to do that, but there is no perfection in me. How then can we be perfect? Well, this whole passage right here is dealing with how we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. How we can be straight as He is straight, or put it another way, how we can be like Him. How is man like God? How is man right with God? That’s the question that Paul is asking, and it’s such an important question. Now he says that the answer to this has been clearly, once and for all manifested, it’s been brought to light. Paul says, ‘I have the answer to that question, and it’s totally apart from the Law’. What does that mean? Paul is using the word ‘Law’ in a sense that Gentiles understand; well the church had realized the Christianity began with Judaism, and if there were some commandments given to the Jewish nation, and if they performed them, they would be right with God. And i want to say to you right up front, that i believe that if a man can keep the Old Testament Law from birth till death he can be right with God. But if you fail in one way, one time, that door is closed forever. It simply is impossible for any one to obey the whole Law, and Paul says that that way of being right with God has been effectively closed for all men because no one has lived up to the glory, or image, or perfection, or approval of God. So if that way is closed, the way of the Law, that way of right standing, what then is its purpose? Friends, i believe the Law was never meant to make man right with God. the purpose of the Law was always to show man his need. The Sermon on the Mount has the same purpose in the New Testament as the Ten Commandments has in the Old Testament. Its purpose was to show us our inadequacy to do the will of God; to be like God. Galatians 3:23-25 tell us the ‘Law’ was a tutor or a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. I do believe that the Sermon on the Mount and Ten Commandments still have a place in man’s life. I believe the Ten Commandments are God’s will for man in society, though they’re not the way for them to be saved. I believe the Sermon on the Mount is still God’s guidelines for man in society, though we will never meet the standards and fully live up to that wonderful Sermon. But we’re still meant to walk that road, emulate that pattern, though it is not the way of us being saved. It is God’s will for our life but it’s not connected with the Law. Notice as it says, “to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” – if you look back at chapter 1 verse 2, notice what it says there that this not something new. This is an Old Testament theme that Paul is developing when it says there “which long ago He promised to the prophets in the Holy Scripture. There’s nothing new about the ministry of Jesus. It’s just that the Old Testament incipient form that had been made full and complete in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Now, by the way, the word ‘Law and the Prophets’, that’s the Hebrew way of referring to the Scriptures. they have a three-fold division: The Law of Moses – that would be Genesis through Deuteronomy; the Prophets – this includes First and Second Kings, 2nd Chronicles, the major Prophets, the minor Prophets; the Writings – that would be the wisdom literature, Daniel and those kind of things. This was a way that was prophesied earlier in the Old Testament, and there’s nothing new here.
Now in verse 22 notice as it says, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…” – now, there’s the Gospel in a nutshell. Man is right with God through faith in Jesus. I think we have misdefined faith so badly. We have not defined faith as far as its Hebrew and Greek background using the Bible. Faith primarily is not something we do. Faith primarily is a trust in the trustworthiness of God. It is the object that we do, not a work that we do. Faith is the hand that receives the gift of God in Jesus Christ. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,” – now here’s the truth that all of us have a need; all of us are lost. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is a universal offer for salvation. That universal offer meets the universal need, but not everybody is saved because everybody has to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. I believe everybody is potentially saved. I believe Jesus died for everybody but we must exercise faith to make Jesus’ wonderful gift to us applicable to our lives. So here we have the truth that faith is the distinction that makes lost men from saved men; not Jesus loving them, not Jesus dying for them but man’s response to God’s offer. Christ is the dividing line between the lost and the saved, that’s what we have here. Notice if you would in verse 23, “for all have sinned…” – this is aorist tense, meaning once and for all. I believe that is talking about the Fall; that all of us have fallen in Adam. Look at this, and everybody “falls short of the glory of God,” – this is a present tense which means not only are we lost because of our connection with Adam, but each one of us existentially chooses to go our own way. Each one of us exercises the propensity toward evil. Each one of us participates int he Sin of Adam by rebelling against God on an individual basis. We’re going to stand before God for our own sins because we’re all responsible. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What does the word ‘glory’ mean? Some think it means the idea of the image of God in man; God’s approval of man; our future heavenly glory. I’m not sure what the word glory really means, but it communicates to me that i haven’t reached the level of what God wanted for my life. I haven’t made the potential that was possible; that i’ve fallen short of God’s expectations. And i think all of us realize that as a truth on our own life; that it says everybody may have a right standing with God. I believe in predestination as taught in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 4 and 11 that God chose me before the foundation of the world, but i do not believe that God chose some and didn’t choose others. Because i hear passages like Ezekiel 33:11 where God said “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live”. You might want to see 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2nd Peter 3:9 to realize that God loves all men. I submit to you this book says anybody can have right standing with God. There’s nobody too sinful, too ugly, too wicked, too far that God didn’t love and sent His Son to die for. Anybody, everybody may have right standing with God as a free gift. Friends, you don’t have to earn or deserve it. You don’t have to do anything except receive it. It’s a free gift of God. Think about that, salvation or being right with God is not something you can do, it’s only something you can receive. Now once you know Him, there’s a whole broad road of righteousness to walk in, but before you know Him, all you can do is say ‘yes’. There’s nothing anybody can do for God’s offer except say ‘yes’. What a wonderful message for mankind. If i had to feel like i was worthy or deserve God’s love, i would feel lost because i had tried to meet God’s standard, and have been physically, mentally, spiritually to walk as i thought. I’m glad it’s a free gift, i can jump, shout, sing, rejoice , and then try to do the best i can yielding my life to Jesus Christ day by day as a free man. The bells of heaven are ringing over the free gift that God has done for sinful man in Jesus Christ. It’s truly amazing, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Sometimes as Christians we dare think God must have chosen us because we’re great just like the rest of the world. I’m sorry you’re in for the biggest mistake of your life; greatness is not in you, greatness is in the free gift of God that transforms normal people and totally changes their lives. Then there’s three terms here from different areas of the ancient world to describe what God has done in Christ; three of them: the word ‘right standing’ is a legal term to describe a man’s relationship to the Law which we usually translate as ‘justified by faith’. It doesn’t mean we’re not guilty of sin, it means that we have participated in the greatest amnesty program the world has ever dreamed about. It is not that we’re not in need of punishment; Somebody has paid the price for us. Amnesty has been given free to anybody who will receive – the price paid by Someone else. The second word is ‘ransom’, this is a word from the slave market; it means to buy someone back from slavery, or buy back a prisoner of war. It’s that near relative (Go-el) that comes and helps a relative out of a place where the relative could not help himself. It’s the idea that God has done something for you that you could never have done for yourself. He has paid the price of all. You’re being set free and He gives that to you as a free gift, and all He asks you to do is accept it – ransom. And then the third one is a little more difficult – “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith.” – Other translations have ‘propitiation’ or ‘expiation’ for the word ‘atonement’. Now this word is a word that’s used in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament as the name for the ‘mercy seat’ on top of the ark of the Covenant. You can see it in Hebrews 9:4, it’s that golden lid on top of that ark where the wings of the cherubim meet in the middle and that’s where the symbol of the presence of God dwells among His people. And once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest brings the blood of bulls and goats, and sprinkles it three times on that mercy seat. The symbol there is, that God that dwells above the wings of those cherubim when He looks at the nation of Israel, instead of seeing their sins, the blood has formed a barrier, and God in a mysterious way when He sees that blood, He doesn’t see their sins. That’s exactly what Jesus Christ has done for us. It looked like a defeat, it looked like a shame, but it really was the sprinkling of that precious life before God. By means of Jesus’s blood — His sacrificial death, God’s holy wrath against sin was appeased. Somehow, in Jesus Christ, the wrath, the disappointment of God for what we should have been is met in the love and undeserved grace of God. And somehow when Jesus was lifted up for all men to see, those two things came together. And now they’re one, and that one is whosoever will may come. Look what it says, “He did this to demonstrate his righteousness (justice),” – what does that mean? Well in Genesis chapter 2:17, the Bible says and records that God said to Adam ‘do not eat the fruit of that tree, but the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, Adam, you will die’. You know the story – Eve ate, Adam ate. They did not physically die maybe, but their relationship with God was disrupted and that resulted ultimately in physical death, and if it wasn’t taken care of, ultimately it resulted in eternal death or spiritual death which the Bible calls the second death. God said, “The soul that sins shall surely die. That is the Word of God. It will not pass away; that there is the Justice of God that says if you sin, you’re going to pay the price for it. You’re going to die in the pits that you made for yourself. Now, somehow God’s Word has to be verified; Someone die die, Someone did pay the price, but God help us, it was not us sinners, it was Jesus who never sinned who paid the price of God’s justice of Genesis 2:17. And the Old Testament was the example of unblemished young animals having to die, but that ultimate sacrifice was seen in Jesus the Christ giving His life once and for all – the act of one sinless for the act of one sinful. Now notice if you will as it says, , “…because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” – you might want see Acts 14:16 and Romans 5:13 which deal with that same theology. Now in verse 26, “He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” – i submit to you when Jesus said “I’m the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6); He was telling us something when Paul says, “there’s one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Tim. 2:5), He was telling something, that there is only One Name under heaven whereby you must be saved, He was telling that He is the only Way to the Father. He is the only Way to God, there is no other. If that is an untrue statement, then the Bible is an untrue book. There’s one Door, one Key, one Way and that’s Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter killed by the Romans for treason. But in reality He was God! Hallelujah! He was the full Incarnate deity. He was the pre-existent Creator of the universe who came in the form of a carpenter. Now, if that’s untrue, the whole Bible is a lie and everything He did is insignificant! But if that’s true, then there’s all the reason to be exuberant in joy and gladness! It’s going to be a glorious and wonderful trip to eternity, but it’s going to be connected with Him and Him alone.
Notice then as it continues in verse 27 through 31, really just talk about the arrogance of the Jewish race. We may not have arrogant Jews in our church today, but we’ve got enough self-righteous Christians that fill up the attitude. “Where, then, is (human) boasting? You know, we always tell God what a great deal He got when He got us; that He’s so lucky for choosing me, that i’m a wonderful person, i’m a spiritual giant. Friends, it’s true, we always tell how good we are, how wonderful we are, and how much we deserve God’s love. But where is human boasting gone when you recognize who you are, and who He is, and you fall on your knees, and begin to cry in your own sins, friends when that happens, then you’re closer to Jesus than you’ve ever been in your life. Paul once said, “Don’t think more of yourself than you ought” (Rom. 12:3). Friends, Jesus loves people, and you happen to be included, but you’re not that hot of a prize. Where then is human boasting? Gone, and is completely shut out! On what principle? On that of doing something? No! But on the principle of faith; for we hold that a man is brought into right standing with God by faith. That observance of the Law has no connection with it; or is He the God of the Jews alone, or is He the God of the heathen people too? Of course, He is the God of the heathen people too! There is only One God who will consider the Jews in right standing with Himself only on condition of their faith; and the heathen people on the same condition. Does our salvation through faith make null and void the Law? Not at all! We confirm it. The Law wasn’t the problem; the law was good, the Law was appropriate, the Law was righteous, the Law was holy. There’s just one problem – we couldn’t keep, we couldn’t do what it told us to do. The Law is not the problem, we are the problem. We’re always trying to tell God how wonderful we are, and God’s trying to tell us how wonderful Jesus His Son is!