Summary: It is not enough that we know the law of God. We must put our trust in Jesus, and receive with open hand the free gift of His love and forgiveness.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS
I. The Universality of Sin.
Every one of us thinks that we are better than criminals. We imagine that we are moral human beings. We are confident that we are law-abiding citizens.
Yet the Scriptures teach us that we are no better than anyone else. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned. Far from being better than everyone else, we are just as bad.
1. Sin is a cruel slave-master, which holds us captive awaiting God’s judgment. The Apostle Paul quotes seven verses from the Old Testament which demonstrate the guilt of mankind.
2. Sin is seen in failure to do what God has commanded. There is not a man on earth who does good and does not sin. There is no respect of God.
3. Sin has invaded our whole being: body, mind and soul. Paul lists various body parts, and shows how they are no longer used for God’s glory.
“Our throats are like open graves, full of disease.
Our tongues are used to speak lies.
Our lips spread the poison of slander and gossip.
Our mouths are used to curse instead of to bless.
“Our feet are used to rush into violence.
We spread ruin and misery instead of walking in the way of peace.
“There is no fear of God before our eyes.”
4. Sin is common amongst men.
“There is nobody who is righteous, not even one.
Nobody seeks God.
Nobody does good, not even one.
All have turned aside.”
We are not all as bad as we might be, but everybody comes short of God’s standard.
II. It is not enough that we know the law of God.
If we have not kept the law of God perfectly, we stand condemned with the rest of mankind. By the law is the knowledge of sin. Rather than reducing sin’s hold over mankind, the giving of God’s law exposes the universality of man’s guilt.
In school examinations, the pass mark in a certain subject might be 50 or 60 per cent. But in God’s school the pass mark is 100 per cent! All have failed.
The Apostle Paul speaks elsewhere of the law as ‘our schoolmaster, or tutor, to bring us to Christ’ (Galatians 3:24).
When we have done the best we can, we still fall short of God’s holy standard. We cannot establish our own righteousness by trying to balance our present good deeds against our past failures. Rather, the law drives us to lay hold upon the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
III. Justification by grace through faith.
1. Paul contrasts the righteousness of God with the unrighteousness and self-righteousness of man. In the gospel, the righteousness of God has been made known through the death of Christ. Righteousness is not something which we can accomplish, but rather comes as a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The gospel is offered to all, because all have sinned. All that is required of us is that we believe the gospel, putting our trust in Jesus as the only Saviour of sinners.
2. Faith in Christ gives us the assurance of certain blessings. God will no longer hold our sins against us, but rather accepts us as righteous. When God looks upon us, He does not see the sinner, but the righteousness of Christ with which we have been clothed.
This does not take away from the seriousness of sin. Sin still has to be punished. But when we put our trust in Jesus, we are relying upon the finished work of His sacrifice on our behalf.
a. We are justified (proclaimed righteous in the courtroom of God) as a free gift of God’s grace, His undeserved love towards us.
b. We are redeemed (bought back from the condemnation) at the high ransom price of Christ’s own blood.
3. Because of God’s holy anger against sin and evil, propitiation was required. Due to the nature of our offence, we cannot possibly appease God. But the mystery and miracle of the gospel is that, ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Past sins are passed over, and we are set on a right standing before God.
4. In the Cross of Jesus, God demonstrates His justice. He is just in condemning sin, He is justified in accepting the sacrifice of His Son, and He is just in forgiving sinners.
So what is required of us in order to be justified, to be put right with God? We must put our trust in Jesus, and receive with open hand the free gift of His love and forgiveness.