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!

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A Word on Grace, Salvation, Law & Works

Yesterday’s message at church is still on my heart. It was such a timely message for me and it’s something I desire for all Christians and non-Christians to know and take to heart. The passage was from Galatians 1:6-7a:“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-not that there is another one.” Paul had to write this letter to the churches of Galatia because after he left them (he preached the good news of grace) some false teachers came in behind him and started twisting the truth. They would tell the Galatians that they were saved by grace but they also had to be circumcised, eat certain foods, or become Jewish before they could accept Christ (read all of Galatians to get the whole picture). This was adding law to the gospel, therefore making their relationship with God into a legalistic religion. 

Paul is astonished that the people were falling back into the law that Christ came to free them from. How true is this in our own lives? Some people will say that after we are saved we have to start reading the Bible, praying, tithing, going to church to be good little Christians to continue to be right with God. These things are so important for our spiritual growth in the Lord but they do nothing to save us or keep us right with God. Salvation and the Christian life beyond are completely maintained by Jesus Christ. If we had anything to do with our salvation, we would boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” You see, you had nothing to do with your salvation! Because if you had a part in it, you would also have to maintain it. The saving of our souls is a gift of grace alone – and that’s good news! Who wants to be in a relationship with a God who requires all these rules and regulations to keep yourself right with Him? That’s burdensome and God sent His Son to take the burden of the law upon Himself. And in return He gives us grace – undeserved, unmerited favor that gives us power for every day living.

I read a parable this morning that connects to this and illustrates the difference between law/works and grace. 

Luke 18:9-14:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee is a perfect example of one who is trying to be right with God by his own works and the law. He trusted in himself and boasted of his righteousness by what he did (fasting and tithing) and by what he didn’t do (commit adultery, lie, cheat, or steal). But the tax collector recognized his sin and humbled himself before God asking for mercy. This man was justified. Why? Because he knew that apart from God’s grace and mercy, he could not save himself. He understood that salvation was from God alone and not by what he did or didn’t do. 

What about you friend? Are you struggling with keeping and maintaining your own salvation? Do you find it burdensome to pray, read your bible, or even go to church because you feel like you have to to make God happy? May you and I come back to the simplicity of God’s grace. It’s something we did not deserve, but God gave it to us freely. We don’t have to work for it or earn it – just simply accept it. It’s given to us at salvation and for every moment of our lives. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

May we rest in the power of God’s grace for salvation and our Christian life and be free from the burdens of the law and our works. And may we be free in our relationship with the Lover of our Souls! Amen.

Look to Jesus

I just had some thoughts I wanted to share from Hebrews 12:1-2. My husband and I have been talking lately about some old sins that tend to creep back up in our lives and how to deal with them. Our question to each other was, “how do we conquer them?” This Hebrews passage came to my mind and we read it together. The answer was right there in front of us and I want to share it with you.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1 NLT

The writer is telling the Hebrew believers (and all believers) to strip off every weight and sin that slows us down and trips us up. That means anything that is a hindrance to us in our Christian walk. There are things in our lives that are actually good that can hinder us from a closer walk with Christ. In a sermon on this verse, John Angell James gives us a word of warning and exhortation toward our “besetting” or entangling sins:

Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian progress. In the case of most people, there is some one sin to which, either from their situation, taste, constitution, or other circumstances—they are more powerfully tempted than to others.

Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert angler, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line, at random! Independently, however, of him, the very tendency of the heart is in that direction.

That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold you back! You cannot make progress in holiness, until it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it may be considerably weakened, will hinder you!

Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution. You cannot be ignorant which temptation and sin, you are most liable to succumb to. You must know in what way you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow.

Is it an unsanctified temper?

Is it an impure imagination?

Is it a proud heart?

Is it a vain mind?

Is it a taste for worldly company?

Is it a proneness to envy and jealousy?

Is it a love of money?

Is it a tendency to exaggeration in speech?

Is it a fondness for pleasure?

Is it a disposition to censoriousness and backbiting?

Study yourselves! Examine your own heart! You must find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart, and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is your danger! As long as that one sin, be it what it may, is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life! Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer. Besetting sins are like a ball and chain around his ankle!

Direct your attention more fixedly, and your aim more constantly, to the destruction of besetting sins. You know what they are, whether … lusts of the flesh, or lusts of the mind, or bad tempers toward man, or sinful dispositions toward God, or violations of piety.

Let us be distinguished by a great mortification of besetting sins, which, more than anything else … distress us, disgrace us, and hindered us in our progress heavenward.

No sins require … such severe mortification, such incessant labor, such earnest prayer, such strong faith for their destruction as besetting sins. But all this is necessary, for if they are not destroyed, they will probably destroy us.

So how do we get rid of the weights and sins that entangle us? Verse 2 gives us the answer.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” – Hebrews 12:2 NLT

The answer to stripping off everything that keeps us from Jesus is by keeping our eyes on Jesus! In the Greek, this means looking away from everything else and looking at nothing else except our Lord and Savior. The NASB version says we “fix our eyes” on Jesus meaning we fasten our eyes, attention, and mind unswervingly upon Him. Our lives are to be so focused on Jesus that we are not distracted by sins and hindrances in this life.

What does keeping our eyes on Jesus look like? It means to trust Him and have an attitude of faith. To trust in Jesus is to sacrifice your pride, worry, fear, and control to Him. He modeled this for us when he took the shame of the cross for us. He looked past His pain and torment because He knew what was beyond it – the joy of making a way for mankind to be one with God. Can we lay down the things that trip us up and look beyond our suffering right now knowing that there will be joy ahead? Can we deny the flesh and sacrifice the things that hinder us right now so that we can live the abundant life that God has called us to live? “So, if our hearts be occupied with the sacrificial love of Christ for us, we shall be ‘constrained’ thereby to drop all that which displeases Him; and the more we dwell upon the joy set before us, the more strength shall we have to run “with patience the race that is set before us.” AW Pink

  • Are you suffering? Look to Jesus for strength.
  • Are you worried? Look to Jesus for peace.
  • Are you tired? Look to Jesus for rest.
  • Are you struggling? Look to Jesus for freedom.
  • Are you apathetic? Look to Jesus for a fresh spirit.
  • Are you hurting? Look to Jesus for healing.
  • Are you lost? Look to Jesus to be found.
  • Are you confused? Look to Jesus for clarity.

In all things, look to Jesus the author, perfecter and finisher of our faith. 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.