Summary: Fourth in the Romans series dealing with justification of sinners.
June 3, 2001
Pastor David Welch
“The Divine Dilemma and the Gift of Righteousness”
I. Receive the gift of God’s righteousness by faith 1-5
The gospel first exposes the unrighteousness of man. The gospel then reveals the righteousness of God and how to receive it as a free gift. “Righteousness of God” is the major theme of the book. Righteousness is a word used to indicate conformity or obedience to a particular standard. The expression, “that was righteous”, popular several years ago, indicated that one’s action satisfactorily conformed to one’s expectations. To describe someone as righteous identifies him or her in compliance to a standard.
The phrase “the righteousness of God” used by Paul may be viewed from several aspects.
• God’s personal character that perfectly conforms to His own moral standard
(the righteous character of God)
• God’s established order of right and wrong required of those made in His image.
(the standard of right and wrong decreed by God)
• God’s gift of right standing granted to those believing in Christ
(declared righteous by judicial order on the basis of the righteousness of Christ)
The Gospel reveals God’s standard.
The Gospel reveals God’s own conformity to His own standard.
The Gospel reveals how far from God’s expectations man has strayed.
The Gospel reveals how man can become the righteousness of God in Christ.
Paul spent the first three chapters demonstrating the unrighteousness of man and the need for the righteousness of God. He makes the bad new bad, which makes the good news better. Because man has suppressed the truth by His behavior, the flesh becomes unrestrained.
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law. Prov 29:18
A. Every man needs God’s righteousness because all have sinned 1-3
1. The self-centered hedonist (pleasure focused) is without excuse 1:18-32
2. The self-justifying moralist is without excuse 2:1-16
God will judge people according to how their behavior conforms to His standard.
3. The self-righteous religious Jew is without excuse 2:17-3:8
Jews have never perfectly followed the Law of Moses but consistently broken the letter and spirit of His Law and cast it aside for their own convenience. Gentiles have never perfectly followed their conscience but consistently violated and seared their conscience to do their own thing. Those who fail to live in perfect conformity with God’s standard (God’s righteousness) will face anger, wrath, tribulation and distress. That not only means abstinence from all that is evil but full, spiritually productive lives in right relationship with the Creator. Those who perfectly conform (yes God demands perfect conformity) to the law of God will enjoy eternal life, glory, honor and peace. The dilemma for man become dreadfully obvious. Paul adeptly demonstrated that NO ONE has been able to live a perfectly righteous life. Even those who think they are better than others have consistently violated the standard of God and failed to live a life consistent with an image bearer of the Holy God. Just in case anyone missed his conclusion, Paul summarizes the dilemma in verse 9-20.
4. Everyone is without excuse 3:9-20
a) No one lives righteously 9-18
b) The Law exposes man’s lack of righteousness 19-20
Man’s dilemma is dismal since NO MAN has or ever will keep the standard. We have as much hope of reaching heaven without help as we do reaching the moon without a spaceship. We can practice all our life to reach the moon. We can even train our body to jump pretty high. We may even jump higher than anyone else. The reality is, that no matter how high we may train to jump, we will still be 221,463 miles short of the lunar mark. Some may start from the bottom of a mineshaft. Others may make their attempt from the top of Mount Everest. All will still fall miserably short of the established mark. If God’s standard requires perfect conformity and violation of one is violation of all, then no matter how well we think we are doing, in the divine appraisal of things, we are still 4,565 commands short of the divine mark.
Those of you banking on your record of good works outweighing your bad works should seriously think again. Even though by chance your good may outnumber your bad. The problem is, comparison of good and bad will not be God’s criteria. After all, since it is his heaven, it might be could to pay attention to HIS criteria rather than yours. Man’s dilemma is the impossibility of entering God’s presence without perfect righteousness. The more we grasp the gravity of the bad news the more we will appreciate the glory of the good news. The good news is not just that Jesus loves me and died for me. The good news is based on the bad news that apart from His sacrifice I am eternally doomed to wrath, anger, tribulation and distresses.