Romans - Salvation by Faith
Last time we covered the first two and a half chapters of Romans
where Paul spoke of the human condition, concluding not simply
that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but
speaking of this being due to our depraved nature. He does this
to get us to recognize that if we're seeking a righteousness
which is based upon our behavior, it's an uphill battle, not a
downhill battle. It's goes against our nature so much so that no
one has ever attained to living a perfectly sinless life, but
the Lord Himself.
There are people in society who propose that if you simply
introduce certain regulations it will solve all our problems.
We'll have a utopian society. Marxism and Communism were based
upon that idea. They viewed the problem with society is simply
an economic problem, which can be changed by modifying forms of
government or economic policies. But if we've learned anything
over the last century it's that that doesn't work. The problem
with the human condition is much more intrinsic to our human
nature. And can't be changed by simply changing regulations. The
Bible shows the same thing. God introduced the Law of Moses with
all its regulations. Did it make people better? If anyone's read
the Old Testament you'd have to agree NO it didn't. Which it why
is says in Ecc 7:20 "There is not a righteous man
on earth who does what is right and never sins."
Through the prophet Jeremiah God characterized His people in the
Old Testament this way, "Can
the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil."
Furthermore besides the problem of trying to make people behave
better, is the problem of dealing with the mess we already made.
For even if we were to live a perfectly sinless life from here
on out, we are still accountable for the sins we already
committed in our lives up to this point. And if God were
to leave any sin unpunished, He would be unjust. You see, God is
not free to do anything. Rather He is free to act within His
character in accordance with His attributes. It is for this
reason He sent His Son into the world. So it says in Romans 3:25,26 "God presented him as a
sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did
this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he
had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it
to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be
just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
Or as Peter says, "Christ
died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring you to God." 1Peter
Having paid the penalty for sin, Christ satisfied
the requirements of God's judicial nature and consequently
allowed for God to forgive sins.
But what I want to talk about today covers from the last half of
Romans chapter 3 through chapter 4, and it's about faith. For as
you may be well aware, there is yet a condition for salvation on
our part. But in these chapters and much of Paul's letters he
makes it very clear and he speaks emphatically on this matter,
that we're not talking about a performance based salvation.
There are no regulations one must fulfill to be qualified for
salvation under the New Covenant, no laws. Paul writes, "No one will be declared
righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through
the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness
from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the
Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There
is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through
the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Rom 3:20-24
Here this justification, this redemption, is spoken of as a free
gift conditioned solely on faith alone. Thus he says likewise in Eph 2:8,9
of the Ephesian
Christians, "it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no
one can boast."
And likewise in Titus 3:5a "He saved us, not because of
righteous things we had done."
Paul continues in Romans 3:28
"We maintain that a man is
justified by faith apart from observing the law."
even more emphatic on this point in Romans 4 where he says, "Now when a man works, his
wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who
justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of
the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:" Rom 4:4-6
Thus this righteousness, this salvation we're talking about, is
according to Paul, a gift which is condition only upon faith.
And he explicitly disregards salvation being contingent upon any
kind of work, any kind of performance, the fulfilling of any
kind of regulation.
In fact here he characterizes the person whom God justifies, as
wicked. In other words, under the New Covenant a person doesn't
first become good in order to be saved. Rather they are first
saved by faith, and after having been saved, works will follow,
a changed behavior will follow. I'll talk about that another
time. But here to enter into salvation, for a person to be
justified, he need only believe the good news. And I would say
this is pretty good news. For if salvation were contingent upon
good behavior, no one could be certain of the ultimate
outcome. And given the naturally depraved state of the human
condition, people would be deceiving themselves if they had any
confidence as to their salvation status, if salvation were
dependent up good behavior.
Indeed if justification were by works, people would have
something to boast about. Which is how Paul starts off Romans
chapter 4 where he says, "What
then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in
this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he
had something to boast about— but not before God. What does
the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited
to him as righteousness.'" Rom 4:1-3
Now in particular God had given him a
promise, and it was the promise
that Abraham believed.
So also we are all given a promise in the Word of God that "God so loved the world that he
gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall
not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
and likewise if
we believe God's promise, God credits us with righteousness as
Paul goes on to speak of the faith of King David, part of which
I read previously. But I'll read this part, "David says the same thing when he speaks of
the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness
apart from works: 'Blessed are they whose transgressions are
forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin
the Lord will never count against him.'" Rom 4:6-8
And concerning the
New Covenant it's written in the New Testament book of Hebrews, "'This is the covenant I will
make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my
laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.'
Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no
more.'" Heb 10:16,17
This is the thing about the judgement day for the Christian. You
may have sins, but God will never count any sin against you.
That's His promise under the New Covenant. And even if on that
day you were to point out your sins, He would not even remember
them. Imagine you are guilty, and you go to trial, and you were
to confess you were guilty, but the judge were to say to you, "I
have no record of any crime you committed". That would be a
relief. That would be good news, don't you think. That's one
aspect of this New Covenant. There is another part of the New
Covenant. That is, not only do we get justification free of
charge by faith alone, but there's also something else we get
for free, of which I'll talk about another time.
But with regards to this condition of faith, I want to make it
clear that we're not talking about a kind of faith which may be
characterized as wishful thinking or the idea "Oh, that would be nice if it
We're talking about a faith characterized
as a conviction. For Paul goes on to characterized Abraham's
faith in Romans 4:20-21
saying, "He did not waver
through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was
strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully
persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."
you're fully persuaded that the gospel message is true, then you
are saved. Right after this Paul starts Romans 5, "Therefore, since we have been
justified through faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the
hope of the glory of God." Rom 5:1-2
So let us rejoice in the anticipation of the glory of God.