Grace Nuggets: Romans 7:7-25

Romans 7 is a perfect picture of the life of a believer who is at war between the serving the Spirit and the law. Many Christians (including myself) struggle with this on a daily basis. I grew up believing that I had to make God happy by what I did or did not do and I still struggle with this today! But in Romans 7, Paul tells us that living by the law is bondage and deadly. There is no life in the law. The point of the law was to point us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Romans 7:6, Paul tells us that in Christ, “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Friends, we are no longer bound to the law because we are under the new covenant, the covenant of grace! In verses 7-25, Paul will tell us the purpose of the law and why we are no longer bound to it.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

  • Simply put, the reason the law was given is because it reveals our sin. We would not know the desires of God’s heart if He did not give us the law. The law shows us what is and is not good in the eyes of the Lord. “The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals plainly what might have always been there, but was hidden before. You can’t blame an x-ray for what it exposes.” (David Guzik)

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

  • The second thing that the law does is it arouses sin in our lives. Paul says that before the law, he did not know about coveting (desiring wrongfully something to have or possess something) and after the law said not to covet, he desired to. Because of our sinful nature, when a boundary is given, we immediately desire to cross that boundary.  “Because of our hearts, the law can actually work like an invitation to sin.” (David Guzik)

10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

  • Thirdly, the law kills. Instead of the law bringing life to us, it kills us. It gives us opportunity after opportunity to sin and disobey the commandments. There’s something about the law that arouses our rebellion and we follow after it. To be perfect in God’s eyes, we have to follow his holy law perfectly but the law kills us because we follow the sin within us.

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

  • The law shows the sinfulness of sin. “Why didn’t he say, ‘exceeding black,’ or ‘exceeding horrible,’ or ‘exceedingly deadly’? Why, because there is nothing in the world so bad as sin. When he wanted to use the very worst word he could find: to call sin by, he called it by its own name, and reiterated it: ‘sin,’ ‘exceeding sinful.'” (Spurgeon)

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

  • The law cannot enable us to do good or to have victory over our flesh. The law is spiritual but it activates the old nature (old man). The law cannot transform the old man but only shows how sinful it is.  “Paul’s problem isn’t desire – he wants to do what is right. His problem isn’t knowledge – he knows what the right thing is. His problem is a lack of power: He lacks power because the law gives no power.” (Guzik) The law gives us the rules, but it doesn’t give us the power to keep them.  “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.” (C.S. Lewis)

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

  • The law cannot set us free. It only activates our flesh and there is no power in our flesh to serve God. When we try to serve God in our flesh and our own efforts, we will find failure and constant struggle. We will always try to keep God happy in our works and when we fail, we will feel condemned. But when we feel as though we’ve done something good for God, we will boast in our accomplishments. This is not freedom but performance-oriented religion. Victory is found not in ourselves but Jesus Christ alone!

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

  • All in all, the law shows us that we need a Savior! Jesus Christ is the only one that can save us from sin and give us power over sin. He also gives us freedom from the bondage of the law and grace for our Christian walk. (For more about living in freedom and grace, read and study Galatians.)
  • The word “wretched” in the Greek language means “exhausted after battle.” To war back and forth between knowing what’s right and wrong and trying to be good in your own strength is wretched! It’s exhausting! This next quote is so true of my own life and the lives of many Christians in this battle, “Legalism always brings a person face to face with their own wretchedness, and if they continue in legalism, they will react in one of two ways. Either they will deny their wretchedness and become self-righteous Pharisees, or they will despair because of their wretchedness and give up following after God.” (Guzik)
  • Paul desperately says, “who will save me from this body of death?” He is crying out for deliverance. As you can see, Paul is constantly talking about himself through this chapter. He becomes self-obsessed and self-focused and that’s what any of us will do when we live under law. But finally he recognizes that he cannot deliver himself but realizes “Who” can deliver him – Jesus Christ! When we recognize these things in our own lives, let us remember that we cannot save or deliver ourselves from our sin and wretchedness –  only Jesus Christ can!

This last quote sums up this post perfectly and really hits home. I pray that this word has given you freedom and that the pressure of the law has been lifted from your heart. Let your wretched heart be embraced by the complete and wonderful love of God!

  • You thought the problem was that you didn’t know what to do to save yourself – but the law came as a teacher, taught you all what to do and you couldn’t do it. You don’t need a teacher, you need a Savior.
  • You thought the problem was that you weren’t motivated enough, but the law came in like a coach to encourage you on to do what you need to do and you still didn’t do it. You don’t need a coach or a motivational speaker, you need a Savior.
  • You thought the problem was that you didn’t know yourself enough – but the law came in like a doctor and perfectly diagnosed your sin problem – but it couldn’t heal you. You don’t need a doctor, you need a Savior. (Guzik)

We need a Savior! Hallelujah, amen!

Grace Nuggets: Romans 6:6-10

Romans 6:6-10 – For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

For this passage of scripture, instead of going into a verse by verse study, I want to show you a physical picture of this passage in the Old Testament. But let’s note a few things before we dive deeper:

  • We were dead in sin but since Christ has died and rose again, we are now dead to sin.
  • We are not only free from the penalty of sin but also the power of sin.
  • Through His death we are justified from our sin. Through His life, we are sanctified unto Him.
  • Our mindset should be this: Grace is not a freedom to sin, it’s freedom from sin.
  • Verse 6 says, For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” The phrase “might be done away with” means “rendered inactive” or “paralyzed.” Sin is not destroyed completely but is inactive and is no longer our authority. The only power it has over us is the power we give to it.

Romans 6 and Judges 4 are uniquely linked. The Old Testament gives us a physical picture of what Romans 6 gives us spiritually. In Judges 4, there is a picture for us of how we can defeat the old man or old nature in our lives. (Note: Read all of Romans 6 and Judges 4 for yourself to see the whole picture.)

Judges 4:1-3 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

  • Jabin represents Satan and Sisera represents the old man (old nature).
  • Just as Jabin keep Israel in bondage through Sisera, Satan will keep us in bondage through the old man.

Judges 4:6b-7 – “Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” (God speaking through Deborah)

Judges 4:14 – Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”

  • We see in this passage that God has given the command and also the victory. We also see that God went ahead of them in the battle. Following God into the battle may be tough but He always goes before us and will give us the victory. When the old man comes knocking at the door, God will give us the strength to persevere and overcome. Jesus has already gone before us for he was tempted and tried in every way and did not sin (Heb. 4:15). Trust Him as He leads you to it. Trust that His strength will lead you through it. And trust that He’s already gone ahead of you and has given you the victory.
  • Background to this passage: In Judges 4:4-10, Deborah (the judge of the Israelites) and Barak (leader of 10,000 Israelite troops) were to lead the Israelite army against Sisera. Barak wouldn’t go unless Deborah went with him. The Lord then told him that the honor of the victory would not go to Barak but to a woman. (We will see later that Jael gets the honor of killing Sisera.)

Judges 4:11 – Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

  • The Kenites had an alliance with Jabin (Judges 4:17).
  • Heber’s name means “crossed over.”
  • Heber had separated from the Kenites and had “crossed over” to live with the Israelites.
  • Spiritual application: we were once Heber. We had an alliance with Jabin or Satan and was commanded by Sisera or the old man. However, once we came to know Jesus Christ, we crossed over into the new life or new nature. Sisera is no longer our commander and we no longer have an alliance with Jabin.

Judges 4:16-17 – Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite,because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

  • Sisera flees the battle site and sees a tent that he had once had peace with. Isn’t that true of the our old nature? It likes to show up on our doorstep, knocking for us to let him in.

Judges 4:18-20 – Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. 20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

  • Just as Sisera was ordering Jael around, the old man likes to order us around. Sisera also tells Jael to lie for him if someone comes looking for him. The same is true for the old man. He will always tell you to lie to others that he’s not active in your life.
  • But Jael doesn’t give Sisera water, she gives him milk. In the Bible, the Word of God is described as milk (1 Pet. 2:2). When the old man comes to our doorstep, we are to give him the milk of the Word to overcome.
  • Jael fills up Sisera’s belly with warm milk and covers him with a warm blanket. Sisera will soon become drowsy and fall fast asleep.

Judges 4:21-22 – But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. 22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

  • The tent peg represents the nails that Jesus took and His work on the Cross. The hammer represents the Word of God. Just as Jael used the tent peg and the hammer to kill Sisera, we can take the nail of the Cross and the hammer of the Word and pound it into the temple of the old man and have victory! Sisera no longer has authority in our lives for we have the new nature of Jesus Christ.

Judges 4:22-23 – On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites.24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. 

  • Romans 16:20 – The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
  • Revelation 20:7-10 – When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
  • Even though Satan has not been destroyed yet, he will be. And what a glorious day that will be when the tempter, accuser, liar, deceiver, and murderer will be destroyed forever and we will live in complete peace with God!

In our new nature, may we always remember that when the old nature comes knocking on our doors that we have the Cross of Christ and the Word of God to overcome.  We are no longer dead in sin but we are dead to sin and alive to Christ! Hallelujah, amen!

 

 

 

Grace Nuggets: Romans 5:12-21

We’ve been going through the of Romans seeking out God’s grace in each chapter. This part of Romans 5 shows so us so much grace, we cannot comprehend it. As you read it, focus on God’s love for the world. Adam’s one act of sin brought the world into sin and death. But because of God’s great love for the world, He sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins and completely redeem and transform Adam’s failure. Read the passage below and take in the bold parts as Paul contrasts Adam & Christ and their one decision each that changed humanity.

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

That’s a lot of bold parts! Adam’s one act of disobedience brought sin, death, and condemnation into the world. Christ’s one act of obedience brought grace, righteousness, triumph over sin, new life and eternal life! As you can see, Jesus came into the world and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”(Phil. 2:8). His one act overthrew sin, death and condemnation forever! We can now enjoy God’s wonderful gift of grace. Even when God gave the law to show man’s sin which increased sin, His grace abounded all the more! Spurgeon explains well why the law was given:

“It was the practical result of the giving of the law that men became greater sinners than they were before, and it was the design of the law that they should see themselves to be greater sinners than before. The law is the looking-glass in which we see our spots, but it is not the basin in which we wash them away. The law has a provoking power, for such is-the perversity of our nature that, no sooner do we hear the command, “You shall not do so-and-so,” than at once we want to do it. Our nature is very much like quicklime. Throw cold water upon it, and straightway it generateth heat; acting, as it were, against the nature of that which is cast upon it. So, the more God says to a man, “Thou shalt,” the more the man says, “I will not;” and the more God says to him, “Thou shalt not,” the more doth the man resolve that he will. “The law entered, that the offence might abound.” It reveals the depravity and disobedience of human nature, and lays us low before God as convicted criminals.”

And he continues about God’s abounding grace:

“Blessed be God for that! Sin may be a river, but grace is an ocean. Sin may be a mountain, but grace is like Noah’s flood, which prevailed over the tops of the mountains fifteen cubits upward.”

We are sinners because of Adam. Our sin was revealed to us by the law. But because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can step into His grace that He lovingly extends to us every moment. Yes, we were dead in our sins but Christ has given us a new life!

Ephesians 2:1-10 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

 

Grace Nuggets: Romans 5:1-11 (Blessings of Justification)

At the end of Romans 3, Paul explains justification and what that means for mankind. In chapter 4, Paul illustrates justification through the life of Abraham. And in chapter 5, Paul gives us the blessings that come through justification.

Justification means “just as if I’ve never sinned.” It means that we are made right with God by His free gift of grace through the blood of Christ. When we believe in this work of God by faith, we are justified or declared righteous right then and there. In Romans 5, Paul tells us about 7 amazing blessings that come to us through justification.

  1. Peace with God“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
    • James 4:4 says that when we were friends with the world, we were enemies of God. After we came to Christ, we are now justified through Him and we have peace with God.  We are no longer His enemy but His friend. Warren Wiersbe explains that, “Condemnation means that God declares us sinners, which is  a declaration of war. Justification means that God declares us righteous, which is a declaration of peace, made possible by Christ’s death on the cross.” It’s not a peace that comes and goes but a peace that is eternal. This means we can relax in our relationship with Him, freely talk with Him and enjoy fellowship with Him. We don’t have to try to earn or maintain peace with Him. We are free from the condemnation of the law! We can enjoy eternal peace with God because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. We stand in grace“through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:2a
    • Being justified in Christ means that we stand in grace.Grace is undeserved, unmerited favor and God’s enabling power. Not only are we saved by grace, but we now stand in grace. Grace is not given to us at the beginning of our relationship with God but it is continual in our relationship with Him. David Guzik gives a beautiful description of what it means to stand in grace. “Standing in grace means that:
      • I don’t have to prove I am worthy of God’s love
      • God is my friend
      • The door of access is permanently open to Him
      • I am free from the “score sheet” – the account is settled in Jesus
      • I spend more time praising God and less time hating myself.”
  3. We have access to Him – “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:2a
    • Because we stand in grace, we now have access to God. Jon Courson explains that having access to Him through grace means, “we can plant ourselves in the presence of God and enjoy Him as long as we want, anytime we wish.” Friends, we have access to the God of the Universe, the Creator, the God of our Salvation! This is good news and is given to us as a FREE gift! Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” In every part of lives, we have access to the God who loves us unconditionally.
  4. A glorious hope“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2b
    • Another translation for boast is to rejoice. We can also translate hope into “happy certainty.” Warren Wiersbe explains that, “‘Peace with God’ takes care of the past: He will no longer hold out sins against us. ‘Access to God’ takes care of the present: we can come to Him at any time for the help we need. ‘Hope of the glory of God’ takes care of the future: one day we shall share in His glory!”  Because of justification we can rejoice with happy certainty (hope) that we have peace with God and can come to Him anytime we want through His grace!
  5. Christian characterNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 
    • Glorying in suffering is a blessing of justification? How is suffering a blessing? Because of what suffering produces in our lives. Suffering produces perseverance which is persistence during a trial or difficulty. Perseverance produces character which is the strength and integrity of a person’s nature. And character leads to hope which is happy certainty. This is a chain that leads us into growth and maturity in our faith. Many times we want the character and the hope without the perseverance and suffering. But in James 1, the apostle tells us to rejoice in trials because in the end we will be mature and complete. Guzik explains why we should not desire to be free from suffering in our lives: “A runner must be stressed to gain endurance. Sailors must go to sea. Soldiers go to battle. For the Christian, tribulation is just part of our Christian life. We should not desire or hope for a tribulation-free Christian life, especially because: God uses tribulation wonderfully in our lives; God knows how much tribulation we can take, and He carefully measures the tribulation we face; and those who are not Christians face tribulation also.” Suffering is for our good and for God’s glory!
  6. God’s love within“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
    • When we allow suffering to take us through God’s beautiful pattern to hope, we will experience God’s love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.When we go through trials and persist through it and allow it to shape our character, we have the comfort of the Holy Spirit to give us hope and love within. But it’s not just a little trickle of love but an outpouring, torrential, outburst of love! “The love of God is like light to a blind eye until the Holy Ghost opens that eye … may the Holy Spirit now be here in each one of us, to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts.” (Spurgeon) May we continually ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the love that the Father has for us!
  7. We are saved from God’s future wrath and reconciled to Him “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11
    • Justification saves us from God’s wrath and reconciles us into a right relationship with Him. A holy and righteous God cannot allow or overlook sin. But God made a way for sinners to be saved from His wrath – through Jesus Christ! “If we are justified by the work of Jesus, we can be assured that we are also saved from wrath through Him. The wrath of God that was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men was placed on Jesus as a substitute in the place of the believer.” (Guzik) 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We no longer have to fear God’s wrath because it was all poured out on Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve were created, they were perfect and reconciled to God. However, when sin entered the world, they were no longer reconciled and became estranged from God. And because of that sin, mankind and creation was cursed. But because of Jesus Christ, our sins are atoned for and we are now reconciled back to relationship with God! Guzik explains that, “This reconciliation isn’t only helpful when we die; it also touches our life right now. God is forever done dealing with believers on the basis of wrath. He may chasten them as a loving Father, but not in punishment or payment for their sins. Chastening is always to provide loving correction and guidance.” We are free to enjoy our relationship to God because we are reconciled and at peace with Him now and forever!

Because of justification, we have peace with God, access to Him, and a glorious hope in Him because of our standing in grace. We rejoice in our sufferings because they lead us into maturity and open our hearts to more of God’s outpouring love. Not only that but we are saved from God’s future wrath and reconciled back into relationship with Him. The great news is that these blessings come by faith in the finished work of Christ. It has nothing to do with what we do or what we’ve done but what Christ has already completed. It is totally apart from the law and purely by His grace! Praise Him for making a way!

Grace Nuggets: Romans 4 (Justification Illustrated)

In my last blog post in Romans 3, Paul explains to the readers how we are justified. Justification means that God sees us through the lens of Christ through faith. We are not justified by our works, behavior or actions but just by believing what He said. When we believe in the finished work of Christ, God declares us righteous or justified in His sight. It’s as if He says, “I’m declaring you ‘just as if you’ve never sinned.'” We are justified apart from the law; we are justified by faith alone; justification is for all mankind; justification is by grace exclusively; justification came at a cost; and justification solves the dilemma of God being just and being the justifier.

In Romans 4, Paul illustrates justification to us through the life of Abraham. In this study, we will learn 3 important facts about how the spiritual experience of Abraham was the same as believers today.

  1. Abraham was justified by faith, not works (v. 1-8)
    • Romans 4:3 says, “What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” The key term here is “believed.” It wasn’t because of Abraham’s works or his obedience. It was because he believed that God would do what He said He would do. He trusted in the Word of God. The Greek word here is a banking term which means “to put to one’s account.” Abraham did not work for justification but because he believed, righteousness was accredited to his account through faith.
    • Romans 4:4-5 says, “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” Justification/salvation/righteousness cannot be earned. If we work for it then we will expect it as an obligation and not a gift. But righteousness is ours when we trust God and the work that’s already been done! It also says that God justified the ungodly. Wait, He doesn’t justify the godly? No! There is none righteous, no not one! (Rom 3:10) We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it or work for it. We are justified solely by faith and on the work of Christ! Amen.
  2. Abraham was justified by grace, not law (v. 9-17)
    • Verses 9-12 talk about Abraham being circumcised after God had counted him righteous. Abraham was not counted righteous because of the law of circumcision but because he accepted the grace of God’s promise to him before the law of circumcision was given. Circumcision was merely a seal of righteousness as a sign of his faith in God.
    • Romans 4:16 says, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” The promise of salvation comes by faith and rests on grace. And as we believe in faith, we are given salvation by the grace of God. The law only shows us our sin and points us to our need for a Savior. That’s why we cannot be right with God through the law but by God’s free gift of grace. If we earn salvation through keeping the law, we will boast in ourselves. But if we just simply believe that the work is done and is given to us by the grace of God, we will boast in Him. Praise God for making a way for us by believing in His grace!
  3. Abraham was justified by resurrection power, not human effort (v. 18-25)
    • These verses talk about how Abraham believed when God said that he would have a son and that he would be a father of many nations. Did Abraham try to make God’s promise happen in the flesh? Yes, and it proved to be detrimental to their family. Trying to fulfill anything in our lives by the flesh will always prove to be detrimental and we will always find failure. But did God see Abraham’s failure? No, we don’t see any mention of his failure in these passages but we see his faith. Abraham was definitely an imperfect man but God saw his faith and that faith counted to him as righteousness.
    • Verse 19 says, “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Warren Wiersbe explains this verse beautifully, “The application to salvation is clear: God must wait until the sinner is ‘dead’ and unable to help himself before He can release His saving power. As long as the lost sinner thinks he is strong enough to do anything to please God, he cannot be saved by grace. It was when Abraham admitted that he was ‘dead’ that God’s power went to work in his body. It is when the lost sinner confesses that he is spiritually dead and unable to help himself that God can save him.” 
    • Romans 4:23-25 says, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Because Jesus died on the cross he took the penalty for our sins. And because Jesus resurrected from the grave, He gives us justification.  When we believe in the work of Christ through faith, we now have His resurrecting power within us. Human effort could not accomplish this, only by Christ’s resurrecting power!

Justification cannot be attained by our own human effort, by keeping the law, or by our good deeds. It comes by believing in faith, resting on God’s grace, and by His resurrecting power. Father, may we put aside striving to earn and maintain our salvation. May we simply believe in the finished work of your Son and rest on your grace. May we come to a place where we see that we cannot save ourselves but we need your resurrecting power, not only for salvation but for our Christian walk. May we rest in You alone. Amen.

 

Grace Nuggets: Romans 3:21-31 (Justification Explained)

In the overview of Romans 1:18-3:20, we left off with the immoral man, the moral man, and the religious man that are all condemned and are without excuse for their sin.The question asked was, “what hope is there if all men are guilty?” If we leave off there, we will be hopeless because we will always be controlled by our sin. But then we get to a beautiful “but” of the Bible in Chapter 3, verse 21. In this study, we will unfold and unravel the Father’s glorious plan of salvation. Let these verses soak deep into your heart as you fall more in love with Him!

In this section of scripture, we will see words like justification, righteousness, redemption, and propitiation. These seem like big “church-y” words so let’s define them.

  • Justification – the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin based on the finished work of the cross of Christ and must be received by faith. Another way to remember this is “just as if I’ve never sinned.”
  • Righteousness – this word is another word for justification and means that we are made right with God. He declares us righteous and perfect when we believe in faith in Jesus.
  • Redemption – in this passage of scripture, redemption means setting free from captivity or slavery for the purpose of setting free.
  • Propitiation – Propitiation was appeasing God through sacrifice and when Jesus died on the cross, He became the propitiation or covering of our sins. Atonement (covering) is another word for propitiation which means we become “at one” with Christ through His sacrifice.

David Guzik sums up these words: “Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge.Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending God our Creator.”

In these verses, Paul will explain justification and we will highlight 6 characteristics of it.

Romans 3:21 – But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

  1. Justification is apart from the law.
  • As I said above, justification is another word for the righteousness of God. We are no longer justified or righteous by the law, rules and regulations. Works cannot save us from sin. We can never work enough, be devoted enough, or do enough good things to earn salvation.  The law was given to show us one thing: we are sinners and we need a Savior.

Romans 3:22 – This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.

2. Justification is by faith alone.

  • How are we justified? By faith. Justification by faith means that we are declared righteous in the sight of God simply by believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are no longer keeping a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” but we are simply believing in our hearts and confessing with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives.

3. Justification is for all mankind.

  • God not only offers salvation to the Jews but He also offers it to the Gentiles (everyone else). It’s not about who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus offers salvation to anyone who believes in Him through faith.

Romans 3:23-24 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

4. Justification is by grace exclusively.

  • Everyone that is born into this world is a sinner. God’s glorious standard is perfection and no one is perfect. Only one man was perfect on this earth and that was Jesus Christ who was God and man. No fleshly man can follow the law because the law condemns him and shows him that he desperately needs a savior.
  • Yet God justifies us and makes us right in His sight through grace. Grace is God’s unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor. It’s a free gift that He gives to us not asking for anything in return. We don’t have to work or do a list of things for God to make us right in His sight. All we have to do is believe that He wants to give us this beautiful gift and accept and receive it into our lives by faith.
  • Also, note that when it says “all are justified freely” that in the Greek language this is in the aorist tense. This means that being justified is a continual act. We are continually being declared righteous and we will for eternity!
  • Here’s the word redemption we defined earlier. Jesus purchased us back from slavery to sin, the world, and the enemy for the very purpose that we could be free! And He did it freely by His grace and requires nothing from us in return. What an amazing God!

Romans 3:25 – God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. 

5. Justification came at a cost.

  • The cost was the death of God’s one and only Son, Jesus. Jesus left His heavenly throne; came to this earth and wrapped Himself in flesh; lived a perfect, sinless life; allowed sinful men to punish Him and put Him to death on a cross. He was beaten, bruised, pierced, crushed, whipped, and cursed. All to save man. All to give man a way to have a relationship with the Father. It cost Him everything so that we could have everything. Think about that.

Romans 5:26 –  He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

6. Justification solves a dilemma.

  • How can God be just and be the one who justifies at the same time? A God of love wants to forgive sinners but a God of holiness must punish sin and uphold His righteous law.  The answer is Jesus Christ. Wiersbe gives us a great answer to this question. “When Jesus suffered the wrath of God on the cross for the sins of the world, He fully met the demands of God’s law and also fully expressed the love of God’s heart.” Jesus’ sacrifice would reach all the way back to Adam’s sin as well. Therefore, God’s dilemma is solved. The wrath for our sins was poured out upon Christ. All we have to do is believe in Christ’s sacrifice in faith and accept the amazing love He has for us!

Romans 3:27-31 – Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

  • We truly cannot boast about justification because we didn’t do anything to earn it or deserve it. We only boast in what Jesus Christ has done for us.
  • We are no longer bound under the law but that does not make the law null or void. Why? Because the law has a purpose and that is to bring us to Christ. Galatians 3:23-24 says, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” The law did exactly what is was supposed to do. It points us to something greater than our faults, failures, fears, and foibles – Jesus Christ.

Friends, understand that justification and salvation are given to us as a free gift of grace. Jesus redeemed us by purchasing us back from slavery through His blood and taking the wrath of God for us by being our propitiation. When God justifies us, it’s just as if we’ve never sinned and the best part is, it’s FREE! We will stop trying to earn God’s love and just worship God for who He is and what He’s done. When we receive God’s grace into our lives, we will be free to just love Him. Amen.

Grace Nuggets: Romans 2:25-29

Romans 2:25-27 – Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

In the Old Testament, the law required all Jewish men to have a circumcision.  It was to show that they were set apart unto the Lord and that they were His chosen people. Circumcision was an outward expression of the transformation that was supposed to take place in their hearts. It can be related to baptism in the New Testament. Baptism is an outward expression of the transformation that takes place in our hearts. Many religious people in that day believed that they were saved because they were circumcised but Paul refuted them by saying that their outward actions could not save them. Circumcision cannot save a person because it cannot cleanse you on the inside. Circumcision is the cutting away of the flesh and it is a picture of how we are to deal with our flesh. God tells us in Deuteronomy 10:16 to “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” God’s desire is that His people would have transformed hearts that love Him and desire to serve Him. It’s dangerous to think that because we are circumcised or baptized that we are saved. These are outward professions that identify us with Jesus and that we have chosen to accept Him and let Him lead our lives. Jon Courson gives us 3 ways of how God defines how circumcision should be played out in our lives:

  1. Exodus 6:12:  Circumcision of the lips
  2. Jeremiah 6:10: Circumcision of the ears
  3. Ezekiel 44: Circumcision of the heart

The Lord desires for His people to speak with tenderness, hear with sensitivity, and feel with compassion. The outward expression of circumcision means nothing if there isn’t an inward change of our hearts.

May God help us to speak tenderly, listen sensitively, and feel compassionately for those around us and may they see the work that God is doing in our hearts. Amen.