Romans Chapter 3
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
We’ve been looking at chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Romans this week and earlier I reminded you that the chapter and verse breaks are a fairly recent addition to the actual letter. We sometimes get bogged down in the chapter and verse divisions and lose sight of the fact that this is a letter to a church. As such, it’s supposed to be read in a continuous flow. At our church, whenever I work through a letter like this one, I like to read it start to finish before we begin and start to finish as we end up. Context is important! Anyway, we are finishing what we call chapter 3. Yesterday, I left you with an extremely important passage in which Paul sums up the gospel message, explains why Jesus Christ had to die, and glorifies God as both just and justifier. That passage was:
Romans 3:20-26 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (21) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
If you missed any of this week’s messages, please check out the church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org or call us at 575.278.2421 and we’ll send you a free CD. Moving on from yesterday’s passage, Paul now makes this statement:
Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Here Paul is driving forward with his point that salvation is of grace, not by works of man. He asks the question “Where is boasting” or in other words “Who can boast?” The law of faith, as he calls it here, leaves no room for a man’s own boasting. Salvation is of God from start to finish. Faith excludes boasting because faith itself is a gift of God as Paul makes clear in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
A man cannot be justified under the law. Paul make this clear:
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
“We conclude” means exactly that- this is the conclusion of his argument up to this point. A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Righteousness cannot come by the law, but rather, the law exposes our unrighteousness. As Paul said previously:
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes:
Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, (16) knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
It should be completely clear by now that man cannot be justified by works of the law. If you recall, the word “justified” or the act of “justification” is the moment that God declares a sinner as “not guilty.” This is the moment at which the sinner’s sins are placed to the account of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is placed upon the account of the sinner. The sinner does not become righteous anymore than Christ becomes a sinner, but the debt of the sinner is paid in full by Jesus Christ who, being without sin Himself, is able to make the payment.
Let’s chase that statement a little further. I just said, and you’ve probably heard it said before, that Jesus was sinless and thereby able to make this payment. What exactly does it mean to be “sinless?” Well, we’ve just seen that the law is designed to show us our sins. God lays down the law and our failure to follow it only exposes our inability to meet God’s standard. Paul said this just a little bit earlier in Romans when he said:
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
We often look at this passage and see the “all have sinned” part, but what about the second part of the verse? “…and fall short of the glory of God?” The two parts go together. Sin is a falling short. As Jesus drives home time after time, sin starts in the heart. A man can, perhaps, follow the law perfectly in the exterior, but on the inside, he has sinned in his heart. Maybe he’s looked at a woman with lust, maybe he’s coveted in his heart, maybe he’s cursed God, maybe he’s been angry at a brother, or maybe he holds other idols, but all men fall short of the true righteousness demanded by the law and therefore all men have fallen short of the glory of God.
But of Christ it is said:
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 Peter 2:21-22 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: (22) "WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH";
1 John 3:5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
Four places, at minimum, where it said that Christ was sinless. What this means is that Christ followed and fulfilled the law perfectly, both in the flesh and in the spirit. He didn’t do this simply by will and effort, but he was able to do it because of His nature. I’ve previously shown from Revelation 15 that “God alone is holy”. If that’s true (and it is), then that leaves man as less than holy or “un-holy”. That leaves man as falling short of the glory of God. But not Christ. About the nature of Jesus, Paul writes to the Philippians:
Philippians 2:5-6 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
And this thought leads us to the concluding verses in Romans chapter 3:
Romans 3:29-31 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, (30) since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (31) Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Here Paul deals with the assumed conflict between the law and faith. Many people say “Why did God even give us the law? Why didn’t he just give us faith and be done with it?” Remember, God does all things for His glory and by exposing our unrighteousness, several things happen; I’ll discuss two.
First, we see our unrighteousness for ourselves. A person who is a Christian has admitted their sins, admitted their failure to meet the standards of God, and admitted that Christ’s righteousness on their behalf is their only hope. A person who cannot admit this and holds to the concept that “deep down, I’m really a pretty good person” does not, I’m afraid, understand the utter necessity for Christ. We need Christ not because we are pretty good but just a little sick, but because we are spiritually dead and because our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, to quote Ephesians and Jeremiah. Our only hope is Christ; specifically His righteousness on us and our sins on him.
Secondly, exposing our failure to meet God’s standards directly glorifies God by showing him for what He is- holy, perfect, and just while being at the same time loving, kind, and long-suffering. As Paul says in:
Romans 3:26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
God’s salvation plan accomplishes these things. When Paul says “do we make the law void through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law”, what he’s driving at is that, through faith and faith alone, we can establish or fulfill the law from the heart. This is what Jesus is referring to when he says:
Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
It’s what Paul is driving at later in Romans when he says:
Romans 8:3-4 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, (4) that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And this is what’s going on way back in:
Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Note that God says he “will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.” We must have this new heart and we must have the Spirit of God, if we are to walk in his statutes. Natural man cannot even meet the requirements of the law, but the man walking in the Spirit establishes the law.
This concept opens a door to a term called “sanctification” in which we could discuss the progress or growth of Christian as they become more and more like Christ and as they learn to walk more and more in the Spirit. Unfortunately, we’re out of time this week and that discussion will have to wait.
That’s the way Bible study goes! We examine one topic and it leads us deeper and deeper into the mysteries and glories of God. I recently heard an atheist call the concept of an almighty Creator God “boring…utterly boring” and I felt so sorry for that man and for the magnificence that he’s missing. I hope you’ve gotten something out of this week’s study in Romans and I look forward to being back on KLMX in December during which time we’ll look at chapter 4 in Romans. Until then, may God have mercy on you and flood your soul with the light that is Jesus Christ. To His glory alone, Amen.
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