Harbor Lights Sermon  Nov 2011

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." Jer 13:23 

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 3:18 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." He's 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 well.

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 were true". 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." If 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.


Hymns:

We Thank You, Lord (22)

 Grace Greater Than Our Sin (43)

My Hope is Built (44)


Jul 29,2015