How many of you have to take pills every day? I’m certainly no exception. I have to take 4 medications and an iron supplement every day because of health conditions. If I don’t take my pills, my health will eventually get worse. In the same way, if we don’t read our Bible and pray every day, our spiritual health will get worse. In fact, the apostle Paul talks about spiritual health in the passage we heard from Romans.
Paul describes the gospel not as a message or a set of doctrines, but as “the power of God” effecting salvation. This salvation has universal reach, in that it extends to both Jews and Gentiles. The good news of salvation reveals “the righteousness of God,” which is expressed through God’s faithfulness toward humanity, a faithfulness that enables humanity to express faith through God’s faithfulness toward humanity, a faithfulness that itself enables humanity to express faith in Christ.
All that Paul has said to this point in the Letter to the Romans is painfully true: man has earned the condemnation of God. Paul’s first words in verses 21-22 signal the beginning of a new section of his letter-and a new day in the world of faith: before Jesus Christ, the Jews were self-righteous and the Gentiles were unrighteous. Now the righteousness of God is revealed through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.
Sin is an overstepping of the divine boundary between good and evil, a failure to meet the divine standard, the intrusion of self-will into the place of divine authority, spiritual anarchy and an insult to the divine veracity. God has installed a warning system called guilt into our souls. We experience it when we do something wrong. Just as pain tells us there is a physical problem that must be dealt with or the body will suffer, guilt tells us something is wrong spiritually and needs to be confronted and cleansed. Guilt is the symptom of the real problem of sin.
In New Testament times, a slave market was a common sight. Slaves were displayed before potential buyers who would examine them and would buy the slave. Those days are long gone, but we are living in a time where similar tactics are used for a variety of reasons. We are familiar with hijackings, kidnappings and hostage-takings, which are often resolved only when innocent people pay huge ransoms to free innocent people. Paul sees humanity as being in a similar situation. Christ is portrayed as the one who, when He came into the place of our bondage and seeing that we were hostages to sin, freely paid our ransom.
The subjects of redemption are sold under sin but are under sentence of death. The purchase price is the blood of Christ who died in their place. The redeemed are never again exposed to sale. Christ paid the price, the Holy Spirit makes deliverance actual in experience. Christ endured the righteous sentence God imposed on humanity. His righteousness is His consistency with His own law and holiness in freely justifying a sinner who believes in Christ.
There’s no question about human sin, guilt, divine judgment and condemnation. There is also evidence of God’s love for sinners and His commitment to their redemption. People who want to be reconciled to God have two choices: live a life that will be so pleasing to God that they will be rewarded by reconciliation, or trust God to give them a chance, even though it is neither earned nor deserved.
Salvation by grace through faith doesn’t mean that the Law is useless. On the contrary, it is still important. Salvation by grace underscores the true importance of the Law:
- By providing a payment for the penalty of death, which the Law required for failing to keep it.
- By fulfilling the Law’s original purpose, which is to teach us that we can’t obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ.
- By giving believers the capacity to obey the Law.
The righteousness of God is neither an attribute of God, nor the change of character of the believer, but Christ Himself, who fully met every demand of the Law, and who is righteous. No one is outside the scope of God’s righteousness; there is also no distinction among those who are saved-or among those who are lost: all fall short. Divine righteousness excludes all boasting. It eliminates all human pride, prejudice and presumption.
Grace is one of God’s expressions of love for us. It is the gift unsought, unmerited, unlimited that overrules whatever a person has done, no matter the depth of transgression or the darkness of heart. He has made His righteousness available to us, and we don’t even have to obey the Law perfectly to receive it. He has shown this to be the case in His dealings with His people through the Law and the prophets.
It’s because of God’s grace that there is a gospel to proclaim and a Saviour to praise. He doesn’t get tired of us. Instead, He chooses to deal graciously with us. When we understand grace, we no longer resist and resent God. We long to draw near to Him.
We won’t find God’s grace until we acknowledge that what we bring to the table is only our sin and guilt. We need God’s grace. What God brings to the table is everything. Our welcome into God’s family is zero because of what we’ve done and 100% because of what God has done for us in Jesus’ death on the cross.
Because many years passed during which God continued to atone “temporarily” by covering over sin, it might have appeared that God did not take sin seriously. The cross of Christ removed all doubt: The cross is the public declaration that God is righteous in the way He has handled human sin. It is no longer merely covered, but removed!
How do we deal with sin? Some of us deny it, but a better way is through faith in Jesus. He shows us that God loves all of us, regardless of our sins. Christ came to pay the price for our sins. He covers our sins. He is the sunglasses that we wear so that we can see other people through God’s eyes.
How do we show our faith in Jesus? Some people think that going to church once a week is enough to keep sin away and show our faith, but it isn’t. In addition to a weekly dose of Bible study and prayer, we need a daily dose too. We need to read our Bible and pray each day to keep sin away, just like many of us have to take pills every day to keep illness away.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1548)2
- The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.3
- Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 85-94)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King JamesVersion (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “The Good in Guilt.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “What You’ve Got.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Justice and Mercy.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “A Shot in the Arm.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
- Pastor Ed Markquart, “Me and My Shadow.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com
- Matt Skinner, “Commentary on Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-28(29-31).” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org