Last time we met we talked about God’s faithfulness
We discovered that God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are
We talked about the fact that God has not failed in any way – Some might look at the Jews and conclude that God has failed them – God has not failed them, rather, they have failed God
We talked about the fact that it is impossible for God to fail anyone, because in His very nature He is faithful – In fact “faithfulness” is His name
He cannot help but being faithful – It’s who He is – He is “YHWH, YHWH” the One “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6
This is His “name” Exodus 34:5
We also discovered that there are no innocent people before God
The Apostle Paul tells us that all are guilty – He tells us that everyone has broken God’s law – Even the Jews – Even himself
He tells his readers that “none are righteous” – Not even the chosen people of God – Not even him
In effect, what Paul does from chapter 1:1 to chapter 3:20 is communicate that all are guilty before God and have no excuse
They have no excuse because they either have the General Revelation and the conscience, or they have the Law – Or they have both
Remember what Paul says about the Gentiles in chapter 1?
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” Romans 1:19-20
Then in chapter 2 He says this regarding the Jews, “You have no excuse” because you judge those that don’t have the Law, but break it yourselves
And then in chapter 3 He says, “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” Romans 3:19
In other words, “You Jews are guilty, the law says you are guilty, in fact, it says that all are guilty”
Well, all this leads to what we will look at today, and that is the good news
We have spent the better part of three chapters talking about the bad news, and now we get to hear the good news – Aren’t you glad?
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 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—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
What I want us to consider tonight is this
Is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?
Well, let’s find out
Paul says in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight” Romans 3:20
Okay, I guess that settles it! We can go home now!
I mean, this is pretty straightforward, right?
Paul says that “No human will be justified by God by keeping the law”
But this is still bad news, and we want to get to the good news, so lets get into the Word, and let the Word get into us
Again, Paul says, in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20
So, that is why no human will be justified by keeping the law, because with the law comes knowledge of sin
What do you mean?
The Scriptures teach that the law is good, its perfect, its right, but we cannot keep it – And because we cannot keep it, we are guilty
You see, God’s standard is perfection, if you want to get to heaven by keeping the law, then you have to keep every single part of it – You have to be perfect
How many of you are perfect?
The psalmist tells us in Psalm 19 that, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” Psalm 19:7-9
Question is, “If God’s law is perfect, if it is right, if it is pure, if it is true, and righteous then why are we talking as if it’s bad?
It’s not bad – We are the ones that are bad!
You see, the law is God’s standard, and He expects us to meet His standard – But we don’t, do we?
We fall short of it
You see, the law is like a mirror, when we look into it, it reveals who we are – We are seen as dirty, messed up, and broken, but it’s not the mirror that is dirty, messed up and broken, it’s us! – The mirror is just a reflection of who we are
Often times we will look into the law, see our messed up reflection, but then conclude that that is not really us – We don’t believe the mirror! – We conclude that the mirror is bad, that the mirror is broken!
No, the mirror is not bad! – The mirror is perfect, its right, its true – We are the ones that are not right, not perfect, not true
So, “through the law comes knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20
So, there is no way we can become right with God by keeping the law, because none of us can keep it fully – We are broken, we are messed up
But here comes the good news
21 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested [made known] 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.” Romans 3:21-22
In other words, God, seeing that we fall short of His perfect law made a way for us to keep it – He made a way for us to be right with Him – And this way is “apart” from the law
So what is it?
It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” Romans 3:22
You notice what Paul says?
He says it’s not through keeping the law, but it’s “through faith”
Faith is the vehicle to righteousness, not the law
The law is only designed to show us our need for faith – Our need for Jesus
So, is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?
I think the Scriptures are telling us that it is better to have faith – But I think they are telling us even more than this – They are telling us that faith is the only way to be righteous before God
Verse 22 says, “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” Romans 3:22-24
How much is “all?”
“All” means all – It means everybody! – That means Jew and Gentile, past, present, and future – Just what Paul has been communicating through these three chapters
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
Paul is saying that there is no way around this – God has a standard and we all fall short of it – We all fail – We all don’t measure up
We all took the test, and we all got an “F”
But God made a way for us to retake the test, and this time we will get an “A” – But we have to be willing to take the test
What is the test?
It is to believe in what God did for us, and accept it
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24
So, we are justified [declared not guilty] by God’s grace as a gift
What do you do to receive a gift?
Physically, all you do is stretch out your hand and take it
But like all gifts, you will not appreciate it unless you want it, unless you desire it, unless it is valuable to you
You have to want the gift – This means that in your heart you are longing for what the giver is offering you – It has to be your most precious treasure – And then it will be given to you, and you will receive it with joy
You ask, “How does this all work?”
How can God give me eternal life when I broke His laws – When I am guilty?
How can He let me into heaven, when I am a sinner?
Well, the Bible teaches that God paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine, and for all humanity
Again, let’s read verse 23
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.” Romans 3:23-25
What in the world is “propitiation?”
Well, it simply means “to win or regain the favor of” or to “atone”
In fact the NIV uses this word “atonement” here
And what it means is that it’s a “covering”, or a “covering of mercy”
So, you could say that God put forward Jesus as a “mercy covering” over our sins
How did He do this?
He did it through the “blood” of Jesus
You see, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the Bible teaches that God put all the sins of the world, past, present, and future onto Christ – And then punished Christ
2Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” 2Corinthians 5:21
Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” Galatians 3:13
Do you realize what this is saying?
It’s saying that the price that was paid by Jesus on our behalf was Him being forsaken by His Father, and punished for things He didn’t commit – Jesus was innocent, yet He chose to carry our sins and die for them
Why did He do it?
He did it because He loves us – God loves us with an everlasting love – Jesus loves us with an everlasting love
This is the gospel – This is the good news!
And this is the “gift” that is to be received by “faith” – The “gift” is the gospel
And it is a gift of “grace”
What is grace?
“Grace” simply means getting something we don’t deserve – It’s God’s unearned favor
So, salvation and eternal life, is not found by doing good things, it is found in the gift of God that we don’t deserve, but God offers it to us anyway
How do we receive it?
We receive it by “faith”
“Faith” simply means trust
It comes down to trust – Do we trust this? Do we trust God? Do we trust the Scriptures?
If you do, then what’s holding you back?
Well, Paul concludes this chapter by saying, 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” Romans 3:27-28
In other words, “If we are saved by what we believe, and not on what we do, then how can we brag, how could we boast? We can’t, there’s nothing to boast about! We don’t deserve this, but it’s given to us anyway!”
“What becomes of our boasting… by what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” Romans 3:27
You see, faith is the means by which we are made right with God, not good works
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:28
In other words, there is nothing you can do to please God apart from faith – Not even keeping the law
We are declared “not guilty” before God on the basis of our faith, and not on the basis of our good works
What does that mean?
It means that if I devote my whole life to doing good things, yet reject Christ, I have nothing before God
Our good works only mean something to God if they are done through faith
Because if they are not done through faith, they are being done through effort
And if they are being done through effort it means that we are trying to work our way to heaven – We are trying to earn our way to heaven – And we just discovered that this is impossible – Because God’s standard is perfection, and we all fall short of perfection
That is why our salvation has to rely on faith – There is no other way
Well, Paul finishes this chapter with asking the question, “What about the law? Does this mean that the law is ‘overthrown,’ that we don’t need it?”
He answers with “By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” Romans 3:31
But this will be for another day