SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Living in the Righteousness God Provides
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Sunday, December 2, 2007 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1129
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 3:21-30 - “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the 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. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [27] Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. [28] For we hold that one 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 God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” Paul has already taken the better part of three chapters to establish the universal guilt of all mankind before God (1:1-3:20). We really need to let this sink in. This is not the way the gospel has come to be presented by most of today’s church. But Paul feels it is absolutely essential to labor over the “first half” of the gospel before running to the “second half.” The whole human race stands in desperate need. Now Paul proceeds to set forth God's solution - the plan of Salvation - for this lost planet. Paul will break this down into three segments. First, this week, we’ll study justification announced (3:21-30). Then, next week, we’ll study justification illustrated (3:31-4:25). Finally, in three weeks, we’ll study the privileges of justification (5:1-21).

1) THE DECLARATION OF THE DAWNING OF GOD’S DELIVERANCE FOR MANKIND - Romans 3:21-22 - “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the 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. For there is no distinction....” Paul intends his readers to mark the total contrast between the opening words in verse 21 and the closing words of verse 20. Verse twenty spells out the problem - “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” This is mankind’s problem with the law of God. No one will find salvation through keeping it. The law, says Paul, far from bringing deliverance from sin, actually increases our awareness of sins’s presence. But there is a huge shift in verse 21 - “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it....” What God is doing in His delivering work on our behalf, He is doing “apart from the law.” So verse 20 describes our peril with the law and verse 21 reveals God’s deliverance apart from the law.

But there’s something else in verse 21 - “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it....” Though God is delivering mankind through faith, apart from the law, He is not abandoning His original plan or reversing Himself in any way. Paul makes it clear that this delivering act of God apart from the law was always in God’s plan. In fact, it was announced within the law itself.

2) PAUL KEEPS RETURNING TO THE “FIRST HALF” OF THE GOSPEL - Romans 2:22-23 - “....the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....”It is simply amazing to me that, right after introducing the subject of salvation “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”(3:22), Paul can’t help but back up again into the “first half” of the gospel. He has spent three chapters shattering any hope of self-deliverance by moral reform or religious good works and yet he immediately goes right back to it again. We need to know deeply why Paul does this. It’s not because he has a negative self image or a dower personality. Paul knows something better than most of us. He knows if the devout Jew or the careless professing Christian comes thinking God will accept him or her because of the keeping of certain religious instructions or the preserving of some religious heritage, or the Christian Scientist comes thinking he will be accepted just by thinking the right thoughts in his mind, or the Roman Catholic comes thinking he will obtain pardon through the purifying effects of purgatory - if any of these situations is presented as a passport to God - there is no hope for salvation.

3) WHY REDEMPTION THROUGH CHRIST IS SO ESSENTIAL - Romans 3:24 - “....and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus....” On the basis of mankind’s rejection of the general revelation of God in nature, our failure to live up to the moral pronouncements we impose on others, and our disobedience to the written revelation of God’s will in His specific commandments (1:18-2:24) - on the basis of all these failures - there is no moral guide or teaching that can help us. We need the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus”(3:24). In verse 24 Paul says we are justified “freely by his grace.” This is another way of repeating we are justified “apart from the law” (3:21).

4) PAUL TURNS THE LENS AROUND TO EXAMINE THE EFFECT OF REDEMPTION ON GOD - Romans 3:25-26 - “....whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”The key to these verses is found in the time words. Take note of “former sins”(25), and “the present time”(26). The thought here is God establishes His own moral credibility through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross. God is seen to be just in His punishment of sin in a way that could be missed in the era before Christ came.

But we need to be careful here. Verses 25-26 are very tricky. When Paul says God “passed over former sins” (25) he doesn’t mean God didn’t judge sinners in the Old Testament. We know God judged sinners before Christ. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden. Think of Noah and the flood. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of any number of a host of Old Testament stories bearing out God’s wrath against sinners. So what can Paul possibly mean in these words, “....in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins”(25)?

What he means is God passed over judging sin before Christ. It’s not that God didn’t judge sinners, but He didn’t deal with sin. People may have suffered for their actions, but what about the sin itself? How was He going to restore His creation? How was He going to make things right again? And, most importantly of all, how was He going to save these sinners? Was there nothing more to be done other than punishing them over and over and leaving them in their same sinful condition? This is what Paul addresses in verses 25-26. First, God deals with the sins committed before Christ came in the flesh. In fact, it was only on the assumption that Christ would one day come and die that the sins committed beforehand could be held in abeyance, temporarily “covered” by sacrifices that couldn’t possibly do a thing to atone - Hebrews 10:4 - “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” And second, God’s justifying work in Christ is secure and certain for those who partake of it in faith. This is the point Paul makes in verse 26 - “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Jewish theology places the time of the pronouncement of justification at the last judgment. This is when all deeds are accounted and the final verdict made. Paul takes a different track entirely, and it’s precious beyond telling. Paul says that in Christ God has already made His final pronouncement regarding my justification. God has fully punished and atoned for my sin in Christ Jesus. In other words, my salvation is as fully certain now as if the final judgment has already taken place. God has made His final judgment on my sin now - “at the present time”(26) - in Christ Jesus. The final future judgment has reached backward into the present time and found its conclusion in Christ’s death and resurrection. Those who stand in faith are already dealt with in Christ Jesus!

5) BOASTING IS EXCLUDED BECAUSE ALL ARE SAVED, NOT BY WORKS, BUT BY FAITH - Romans 3:27-30 - “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. [28] For we hold that one 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 God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”
As Paul closes this chapter he leaves man once again silent before God (27). Paul has mentioned this earlier in 3:19 - “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 the whole world may be held accountable to God.” That first silence is the silence of guilt - universal, unarguable guilt. The silence of verse 27 is the silence of humility and awe. The first is the silence of the condemned. The second is the silence of the redeemed. Boasting is replaced by humility.