Summary: How does one attain rigteousness? Which road to take? Only one.
RIGHTEOUSNESS, ROAD CONSTRUCTION, AND REDEMPTION (Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28)
It’s summertime now, and that means that the road construction season is in full swing. During the road construction season, I find myself spending a lot of time looking for something that isn’t there. What I mean is that I spend a lot of time looking for short cuts, looking for ways to avoid the construction, and often times, those short cuts just aren’t there. Way up ahead, I see the brake lights turning on, I see the orange barrels, the yellow flashing lights, and so I quickly get out my map. “Maybe there’s a quicker way,” I say to myself. But often, the shortcuts that I take are dead ends. Often, I end up back where I started.
I believe that this is how it is when people are looking for a way to get to heaven, looking for a way to be right with God. The Bible calls that “righteousness.” “Righteousness” means that you are right with God, that you are going to heaven for sure – that’s righteousness. Many people are looking for righteousness in their lives. But they’re running into all kinds of road construction – all kinds of barriers and dead ends. “How do I find righteousness?” people wonder. “How do I get to heaven? How do I make myself right with God?”
There are different roads that people try to follow. This morning, we will call them “law-roads.” A “law-road” is a road that appeals to our natural law, our natural sense of right and wrong: “Maybe if I turn onto the ‘be a good person’ road,” you say. And so you go down the “be a good person” road for awhile. It starts out smooth and wide, but pretty soon the barrels start appearing, the yellow flashing lights. And then you end up at a dead end, and you wonder why. This “be a good person” road seemed like the logical road to heaven. But it doesn’t get you there – there’s no righteousness on this law road.
And so you turn off the road, and you find another road. You see a law-road marked “be a good family person,” and you think to yourself, maybe that’s the road to heaven. Remember, it’s a law road - it appeals to your natural sense of law, your natural sense of right and wrong. You travel on this road for awhile, spending a lot of time on family things, which is good. But there’s no turn-off to get to heaven. You keep driving and driving, and then you see the barrels again, and that’s when you realize that this isn’t the road to heaven either. It isn’t the road to righteousness.
Then you see the “work hard at your job” road. That seems like the way to go. It’s a law road – it appeals to your natural law. You travel down this road - you work hard at your job, which is good. The traffic is running very fast. It feels very comfortable. It seems like you’ve finally found the right road. But once again, there’s no turnoff to get to heaven, and then the flashing lights appear again, and you know that this isn’t it.
Where exactly is the road to righteousness? Where exactly is the road to heaven? How do you get there? So many dead ends! Finally, you stop and ask for directions – you know by now that most people don’t have a clue – most people are aimlessly driving down one of those roads you had been on before. But then you meet God, and you ask God, “Which road is the road to righteousness? Which road is the road to heaven? I’m lost!” And God says to you, “It’s a road you’ve never been on before. It’s a new road, a road that’s not manmade, a road that I built:” “But now, a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”
There’s one key phrase in that passage – do you see it – a righteousness from God, APART FROM LAW. There’s another kind of road that does lead to heaven, and that road is different from all those other law roads – the “be a good person” approach, the “be a family man” approach, the “be a career man” approach – apart from all those other roads, there’s a new road that’s different from all the rest. A new way which has been made known through the law and prophets, in other words, through the Bible.
“What is that road?” you ask. And God says to you, “This righteousness comes from God, through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” It’s the “faith in Jesus Christ” road. That’s the road to righteousness. That’s the road to heaven.