Summary: This sermon brings us to the good part of how to receive acceptance from God, this righteousness from God that’s included in the gospel as Paul presents it.
Charles R. Solomon says, “There are two kinds of people in the world – those who have been rejected and those who have been rejected more.” We all have reaped what Adam and Eve sewed – rejection of God’s will and way. Therefore, we experience rejection. Solomon goes on to teach us in his book, The Ins and Out of Rejection, that there are covert as well as overt ways of experiencing rejection. There are subtle as well as outright ways of receiving rejection, but we have all experienced rejection.
That’s one way of describing our situation in life of being out of relationship with God or unrighteous. And for three chapters Paul has been attempting to point out the fact that all of us are out of relationship with God – not right with Him. Now he begins to come to the good part – how to be made right with God, how to get into a right relationship with God, how to be made acceptable and righteous before God (I use acceptance and righteousness as synonyms in this sermon). In today’s text Paul tells us point blank – God’s way of accepting people.
Acceptance, righteousness, right standing and position with God is what all of us are looking for. God has created every one of us with a need for acceptance, to be in right relationship with Himself as well as with other people. Of course to be in right relationships with other people we must first experience being in a right relationship with God. So let’s look for the key to acceptance in God’s way of accepting people.
I. God’s Way Of Accepting People verses 21-22
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates the first phrase of v.21, “Now we see how God does make us acceptable to him.” At the very beginning of Paul’s letter we encountered the theme that runs through the entire epistle. Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel because in it is revealed a righteousness from God that’s completely dependent upon faith. After building a case against all people, showing their universal sinfulness and therefore their universal need of salvation, Paul then spelled out the only way for them to be brought into a right standing with God. God’s way of accepting people:
A. Is Realized Apart From The Law verse 21a
From a human standpoint and by nature people are legalistic. Therefore God’s way was radical. It excluded anything and everything that people by themselves might do to attain acceptance. The acceptance God provides has its origin in what God did, not in what people may accomplish. It’s not earned. It’s not accomplished by activity or performance. It’s realized totally apart from the Law.
B. Is Revealed in the Law and the Prophets v.21b
The Law and the Prophets denotes the Old Testament. You see, the OT witnesses to God’s way of accepting people. The OT testifies to the good news. And what makes the “good news” news is that God would not have come up with a plan that excluded His own contribution toward that future salvation. So the difference between God’s remedy and our attempt to bridge the gap between us and God is: we want to earn; God will only give. God’s way of accepting us has nothing to do with human performance. It’s apart from the law, yet the Law and the Prophets point to it. The OT itself pointed to a work of God yet future that would provide people with a way of being accepted by God, a way of right standing with God, receiving righteousness from God.
C. Is Received by Faith in Jesus Christ verse 22
The CEV translates it, “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people because they have faith in Jesus Christ.” Acceptance in the face of holy God belongs to all who believe in Jesus Christ. The present tense suggests a continuing reliance on Christ rather than a momentary acceptance of His work on our behalf. To experience the spirit of acceptance you must continue to believe in Jesus as your agent of acceptance. God’s remedy for our lack of acceptance was enacted at a specific time on the cross. It was there that God divinely vindicated you and me on that cross and conferred on us a new status or standing with Himself. And that status is accepted, righteous, right, holy and complete in Jesus Christ. Now let me remind you as Paul does in verse 23 of:
II. Man’s Need To Be Accepted verse 23
Paul gives two reasons in verse 23 why man needs to be made righteous or to be accepted. And the only way to be accepted in the sight of a holy God is to be made righteous. So, man needs to be accepted: