Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
3 September 2017
Romans 3:21-30 / Membership Vow 2
Justified in Christ Alone
Last week we started going over the five membership vows from the Book of Church Order which all new members must take. If you are already a member of this congregation, we are not asking you to stand up and take these vows. But we are simply asking you to take these vows seriously.
We are covering one vow a week for five weeks. The first three vows deal with our commitment to Jesus Christ. The last two vows deal with our commitment to his Church.
The first vow we covered was this:
Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
The second vow we will cover is this: Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for your salvation as he is offered in the gospel?
In order for a person to answer “yes” to this question, he must know that he is a sinner and that Jesus is his savior. In other words, he must know who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for him.
Note: This means knowing and believing that Lord means he is sovereign over all people, space, and time; that Jesus means he is the savior; that Christ means is the Spirit-anointed ruler; that Son of God means he is God’s only-begotten son, and the representative and the king of God’s people; that Savior means he is the only one who rescues sinners from sin, death, and wrath; that sinner means someone who has broken God’s Law and deserves death and judgment.
With all that in mind, our sermon text for today is Romans 3:21-30. If you are willing and able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word.
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.
The Word of the Lord. May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of the gospel. All the church says, Amen!
Last week we saw in the Book of Romans that God reveals his eternal power and divine nature through the light of creation, the light of conscience, and the light of the canon of scripture. God’s light is clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the creation, conscience, and canon so that we are all without excuse. No one can argue that they didn’t have the light or didn’t have enough light. Everyone must confess that they just don’t like it. That is why we darken and dim God’s light in our life by our own disbelief and disobedience. As the Scripture says, “All are under sin.”
The Shorter Catechism explains it like this:
“The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the lack of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.” (WSC 17-19)
So what can we do? Is there any way we can escape the judgment of God? Is there any thing we can say or do to change God’s verdict? Since we are all sinners, is there any way we can fix our wrongs and make things right? Is there any way that you and I can get right with God?
Or, look at it from another angle: Is there anything God is willing and able to do to make things right?
The answer to all those questions is revealed in the text we just read from Romans 3.
It starts like this: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested, shown forth, made clear…”
And the Greek is even more emphatic. It reads: Now – but apart from law – the righteousness of God was/is manifested.
This is the Light of Christ, which shines brighter and clearer than the light of creation, the light of conscience, and the light of canon.
Here we are going to see how God – apart from law, apart from sinful man – both provides and reveals a way to make sinners right with him in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
You have heard the bad news of your sin; now hear the good news of how God is the one who makes sinners right with him. In theological terms, God is the just and the justifier who justifies sinners.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF JUSTIFICATION: SOLA SCRIPTURA (3:21-22)
Romans 3:21-22 says, “The Law and the Prophets bear witness to the righteousness of God.”
The knowledge of justification comes by means of the word of God alone. Or, as the Reformers put it, via sola scriptura.
So we don’t have to guess, or imagine, or experiment, or form a committee, or try to figure it out. We simply need to hear the word of the Lord which reveals the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God for salvation.
The scriptures alone are “the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him, and what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.” (WSC Q:2-3) That is why Paul appeals to them in this text.
The Law says in Genesis 15, “Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6)
The Prophets say in Habbakukk 2, “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab 2:4)
So the scriptures teach that the righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, and not by any works, desires, or efforts of sinful man.
Paul wanted everyone to know that the gospel of justification by faith is not a new doctrine, but an old doctrine. As it is written in the Law and the Prophets, God has always justified sinners by faith in God’s promises apart from works of law. And that is the only way he ever justifies sinners.
II. THE SOURCE OF JUSTIFICATION: SOLA GRATIA (3:23-24)*
Romans 3:23-24 says, “The righteousness of God through the faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 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.”
In context of Romans Paul has just made the case that no one is righteous — no not one. Since everyone has sinned and still falls short of God’s glory and still fails to live up to God’s holy standard, How can any sinner get right with God? How can you and I get right with God?
The answer is not found in any one of us — not in our works, nor our desires, nor our efforts. The answer is found in God alone — in his grace and mercy towards us.
God justifies sinners by the free gift of his grace through the person and work of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. Why? We will see the ultimate reason in just a moment. Suffice it say for now, he does it because he wants to do it.
When God justifies a sinner, he is simply declaring that sinner to be righteous, not because the sinner deserves it — not even because the sinner desired it — but because God delights to seek and save sinners.
Grace alone is the source of justification — the source of getting right with God.
III. THE GROUND OF JUSTIFICATION: SOLUS CHRISTUS (3:24-25)
Romans 3:23-24 says, “The righteousness of God through the faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ for all who believe…through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.”
This is where the rubber meets the road. The basis of our salvation is nothing other than the person and finished work of Christ alone.
The basis of our salvation is not our faith, nor our works; it is not our Reformed theology, nor our Presbyterian convictions; it is not our liturgy, nor our mission. It is not our intent or motive, nor our knowledge and understanding of doctrine and theology.
The ground and the basis of our salvation — getting right with God — is the cross of Christ alone. The cross is ground zero of justification.
And this is God’s work, not ours.
At the cross God put Jesus forward as a propitiation by his blood. That means God offered Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the sacrifice that simultaneously takes our sins far away from us, and turns God’s wrath away from us.
At the cross God in Christ did for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Jesus died the death we deserved to die, so that we might live the life that he deserved to live. Jesus suffered all the wrath and fury of God’s judgment as a sinner, so that you might enjoy all the rest and peace of God as a saint.
Jesus’ blood shed for us at the cross satisfies God’s holy Law; it shelters us from God’s wrath; and it secures our place in his presence.
Jesus is the only Redeemer of God’s chosen people; he is the ground of our justification.
So how do we access God’s grace in Christ? How can we lay hold of the grace offered to us in Jesus?
IV. THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION: SOLA FIDE (3:21-26)
Romans 3:23-24 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. [Sinners] are justified by his grace as a gift…to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness…so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God works through means. And he has determined that sinners may get the grace they so desperately need in Christ, not by their works, desire, and effort, but by faith alone.
Not by faith in anyone or anything. But by faith in Christ alone.
The gift of grace may only be received us; it cannot be achieved, merited, or earned by us.
In other words, we cannot work for it, earn it, or deserve it. It is a gift to be enjoyed by faith, not a wage to be earned by works.
Now, God has done everything necessary to redeem sinners from sin and death and wrath. God has done everything necessary to get sinners right with him by grace alone in Christ alone, and that includes giving them faith in Christ as a free gift. This insures that no one can boast in his own choice, desire, effort, or faith, but only in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To be clear, the point is not that any faith in anything will get sinners right with God. The point is that only faith alone in Christ alone will get sinners right with God. Why? Because faith is only as good as its object. Our faith is only as strong as the one we trust in.
A religious sinner who trusts in saints, or moral deeds, or a church, or anything other than Christ will not be declared righteous and cannot get right with God. Why? The object of his faith is not able to save him.
A non-religious person who trusts in her own heart, or experiences, or social work, or anything other than Christ will not be declared righteous and cannot get right with God. Why? The object of her faith is not able to save her.
Only sinners who trust in Christ alone by grace alone will be declared righteous and can get right with God. Why? The object of their faith is mighty to save.
If you sinners ever wish to get right with God, all you ever need to do, the only thing you must do, is turn to Christ and trust him.
Faith alone, apart from works, is the only means of justification.
V. THE GOAL OF JUSTIFICATION: SOLI DEO GLORIA (3:21, 25-26)
Romans 3:25-26 says, “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested…This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 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.”
We have seen that the knowledge of justification comes from scripture alone; the source of justification is God’s grace alone; the ground of justification is Christ alone; and the means of justification is faith alone.
What is the end-goal of justification?
Many people say the goal is simply the salvation of sinners. That is partially true. But I want you to know the whole truth. So add this to your understanding.
The goal of justification is the glory of God.
The doctrine of justification reveals something true, beautiful, and good about the triune God.
It shows us that God is holy, but he is not hiding from us.
It shows us that God is patient with sinners; he does not wipe them out right away.
It shows us that God is merciful towards sinners; he does not always give them what they deserve.
It shows that God is gracious and faithful; he worked hard to save sinners and he sacrificed more than we can imagine to secure our salvation just as he promised.
The 5 Solas are not just Reformation doctrines; they are Revealed Doctrines of Grace.
We started by asking How can sinners get right with God? And we ended by answering Sinners get right with God by grace through faith in Christ alone.
This is the doctrine of justification.
The gospel of justification teaches us that God alone worked by grace alone in Christ alone to save sinners alone by faith alone for the praise of his glory alone.
It has been said that justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls before God.
It has also been said that justified means that in Christ God looks at looks at me “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.
In our community we say “Justification is a one-time for all time act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” WSC 33
Now, in light of all these things, I ask you:
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for your salvation as he is offered in the gospel?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 7-8)
Now this is the word of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Not even you! For the Lord bestows his riches on all who call on him. Including you. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10)
So, cry out to him now, call on him now, confess your need of him now, by faith in Christ, and he will save you from sin, death, and wrath. And Christ will make you right with God — just as right with God as he is.
*Note: The points on the source, ground, and means of justification are based on the work of John Stott as referenced in Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? by J.M. Boice (pp 134-137)