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Righteousness Through Faith

socialmedia@cityrise.org March 1, 2021 sermons, christianity, church, cityrise, Good News, houston, Roger Patterson, romans, sermon,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday February 28, 2021 at our West U Baptist Church campus and in our Online Experience. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage. To listen to the message, check out our podcast page.

Finally, some good news!!!

What’s your strategy to laugh?  If we are going to navigate these challenging days, I want to encourage you to find a way to laugh.  One of the ways that we create laughter in our home is by watching Funny Home Videos.

Do you watch America’s Funniest Home Videos?  They have been on the air for a really long time.  And inevitably, their strategy to create laughter is to set up a situation, put some light-hearted music behind it and then play a video clip of someone’s utter failure for the world to see.  And when Grandma falls off the hover-board, or a teenage girl accidentally cuts her hair, it’s hilarious.

We also watch a channel on YouTube called Fail Army.  Fail Army is a compilation of one video failure after another.  From people having major fails while water skiing, to a guy getting his nose-hair waxed and pulled, there are some gut-level laughs to be had watching people’s failures.

Now, stop with me for just a moment and think about the failures in your life.  Some of them were certainly funny, and if caught on video, might win you $10,000 on America’s Funniest Videos.  But most of our failures where:

  • when your best efforts fell short…
  • when your moral compass misled you…
  • when your flesh won…
  • when your strength was not enough…

I have just finished my coaching my daughter Carson’s basketball team.  And when the girls make a mistake in practice, I tell them, “Hey, one of the best ways to learn is by understanding our mistakes and not repeating them.”

You see, our failure can be a great teacher…for without it, we might not see our great need of a Savior.

In Romans 3:20, the Apostle Paul says to us all…

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.

What is Paul saying here?

The law shows you that you failed…and that you aren’t sufficient in your own strength to be righteous.

This is the summation of his argument that we have been looking at for a number of weeks.  It’s the BAD NEWS wrapped up into a sentence.

Remember, we have seen that the Gentiles were full of idolatry, impurity, immorality and a debased mind.  We have also seen that the Jews had an idol.  Their idol was that of self-righteousness.  And if they could keep the law, they would attain a righteousness of their own.

But, Paul, playing the role of prosecutor indicts all of humanity with these last few chapters.  And he says to us here…

“Hasn’t your failure taught you anything?  Don’t you see your need for a savior?…If so, I have some good news for you!”

You see, it’s in Romans 3:21-31 that Paul is going to say to all of us that there is a righteousness that comes from God that is available to us all.  It’s not a self-righteousness…It’s not a superficial righteousness…and it’s not a righteousness that comes by appeasing angry gods or goddesses.

No, it’s a righteousness from God.

Let’s look at Romans 3:21-31 and let’s dig into some good news.

Romans 3:21-31

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.

To understand this good news, I want us to answer three questions today.

Three Questions about the Good News:

  1. Where does true righteousness NOT come from?
  2. Where MUST true righteousness come from?
  3. What is our response to being declared righteous?

Let’s look at this first one.

I. Where does true righteousness NOT come from?

Look with me at verse 21.

Romans 3:21

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 

 Look at how the New Living Translation says it.

Romans 3:21, NLT

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 

 The ESV says it’s a righteousness apart from the law.

The NLT says it’s a way to be “right with him without keeping the requirements of the law…”

So, we see that the first answer to this question is the lawTrue righteousness doesn’t come to us by keeping the law.

Further, we also seen where true righteousness doesn’t come from.

Look at verse 23.

Romans 3:23

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

 True righteousness doesn’t come to us by our SELF-EFFORT or MERIT.

We all fall short.

The word, SIN, here is an archery term that means that we miss the mark…we miss the target.

To fall short of God’s glory is to miss our destiny of bringing glory to God.

F.F.Bruce explains…

To “fall short” of God’s glory has to do with being made in the image of God.  Many believed that being created in the image of God involved a share in the divine glory, but that was forfeited through sin. If we consider Isaiah 43:7, everyone who is called by God’s name, God refers to them as “whom I created for my glory.” That was our noble purpose, but we have fallen short.[1]

And the thing to stress here is that we don’t have the capacity to attain this righteousness, even the best of us.

Bishop Handley Moule helps us understand that while there are certainly degrees of sinning, the important thing is that nobody even comes close to approaching God’s standard. As he put it:

“The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it [God’s glory]; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they are.”[2]

So, we see, that we are unable to provide a righteousness on our own.

So, let’s look at our second question.

Three Questions about the Good News:

  1. Where does true righteousness NOT come from?
  2. Where MUST true righteousness come from?
  3. What is our response to being declared righteous?

II. Where MUST true righteousness come from?

What does Paul say to us here?

Look at Romans 3:22-26 and then in verse 28.

Romans 3:22-26

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.

Look now at Romans 3:28.

Romans 3:28

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 

Where MUST true righteousness come from?

Three times in this passage we see the name, Jesus.  And three times in this passage, we have seen the word faith.

Where MUST true righteousness come from?

Verse 22 tells us it is by FAITH IN JESUS Christ.

Notice the simple clarity of the New Living Translation.

Romans 3:22, NLT

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Isn’t that beautiful?  We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

Why should we put our faith…our trust…our belief in Jesus Christ?  What has he provided?

We see three words in verses 24 and 25 that help us see why Jesus is the one we are to put our faith in.

Romans 3:24-25

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. 

Notice the words: Justification, Redemption and Propitiation.

  1. Justification – to be declared “Not Guilty.” Though we have just been indicted… “ALL HAVE SINNED.”  But notice what it says…we are declared “NOT GUILTY” – We are Justified—and this comes to us as a gift of GRACE.  This NOT GUILTY VERDICT IS A GIFT OF GRACE.  We received what we don’t deserve. That’s grace!!!

John Stott says that this…

“…is his just justification of the unjust, his righteous way of “righteoussing” the unrighteous.”[3]

  1. Redemption — The “redemption” (which is in Christ Jesus) refers to the buying of a slave out of bondage in order to set him free. Our sin placed us in a bondage of debt.  We didn’t have the ability to pay the debt.  That’s why it has been declared by Paul in Ephesians that we were “DEAD in our TRESPASSES.”  We had no capacity to pay the debt, to redeem ourselves, to be made right before a holy God.

Again, we are asking, Why should we put our faith…our trust…our belief in Jesus Christ?  What has he provided?

 So far, we have seen that Jesus has provided us justification…a not guilty verdict, when clearly we are guilty.  Jesus has also provided for us a Redemption price… he gave his own life for ours.  All of this happened on the Cross, through his death.  And so we now see this third word that is so important, helping us answer the question, “Where MUST true righteousness come from?”

  1. Propitiation – This word signifies what the worshiper does when he or she presents a sacrifice to a deity. It is an “atoning sacrifice”, an act by which the wrath of the offended deity is appeased or turned aside. The concept presupposes God’s wrath, and some theologians have therefore struggled with the term. But has not Paul made it clear thus far in Romans that the wrath of God is our chief problem as sinners? We are under wrath because of sin, and if that wrath cannot be turned aside, we are lost.[4]

But notice something with me. This is why the good news is such good news.

Romans 3:25

…whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…

Instead of you or I putting a sacrifice forward to appease the deity, God the FATHER provided the sacrifice.  And God the Son was the sacrifice.

This phrase, “WHOM GOD PUT FORWARD,” should stir you to worship.  The FATHER gave the SON, to pay the redemption price, to be the sacrifice that would satisfy HIS WRATH, and be that by which we could be declared NOT GUILTY!

Can you see why I say, “It’s the best deal going?”

Why should we put our faith…our trust…our belief in Jesus Christ?  Because it is by his blood shed on the cross that:

  1. The wrath of God is satisfied
  2. The redemption price is paid
  • And the Not Guilty Verdict is declared!

Oh, the blood of Jesus…that washes white as snow!  Only the Gospel of Jesus meets God’s demand of righteousness and our need of forgiveness at the same time.

I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?  Look with me at this third question about the good news.

Three Questions about the Good News:

  1. Where does true righteousness NOT come from?
  2. Where MUST true righteousness come from?
  3. What is our response to being declared righteous?

III. What is our response to being declared righteous?

Look now at verses 27-31.

Romans 3:27-31

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.

Here, Paul is continuing to engage his Jewish audience to make sure that they understand two things.  Because of the grace you have experienced in Jesus Christ there should be two attitudes present in your life:

  1. Humility
  2. Inclusivity

Look at verse 27.  He is asking about their boasting as the people of God, as Israel, as the chosen of God.

It’s as if Paul says…

“Hey, now that you see this righteousness apart from the law that is by faith…you shouldn’t boast in your ethnicity as Jewish.  Instead, boasting should cease at the cross. And, just to be clear, in case you missed it, one of the reasons I indicted the Gentiles as idolaters, one of the reasons I declared them guilty, is so that they too could experience this good news.”

Look at verse 30 again.

Romans 3:30

30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Have you responded to this good news?  Have you put your faith in Jesus? 

Humility and inclusivity.  You and I have no room to boast.  And this good news message is for all! 

[1] F.F. Bruce, Romans, 108.

[2] Handley Moule, Commentary on Romans, 97.

[3] John Stott, Romans, 109.

[4] James Boice, Romans vol 1, 373-374.

 

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