Summary: The primary purpose of the gospel is to display God’s righteousness, not just to make me right with God
I want to begin this morning by looking at a few pictures and asking you to tell me what you see. [Show “optical illusion” faces and ask people what they see].
With every one of those pictures, what you saw depended on your perspective. And by changing your perspective, it was possible to see what other people had seen in those pictures that you might have missed at first.
The same is true with how we approach the Bible. Depending on the perspective with which we approach the Scriptures, we are going to see things differently. And what I’m discovering more and more is that there are basically two ways we can view Scripture and which of those two approaches we choose will tremendously impact what we take away from the Bible.
The first approach, which I believe is probably the most natural and the most common, is to approach the Bible from a man-centered perspective. When I approach the Bible from this perspective I’m looking for what the Bible says to me, how it impacts my life, and, most importantly, how it benefits me. If I approach the Bible like that I will have a tendency to “cherry pick” verses that seem to promise things like financial prosperity or happiness or that I’ll spend eternity with Jesus.
The other approach, which is much more unnatural, is to approach the Bible from a God-centered perspective. When I approach the Bible from that perspective, I am primarily looking for what the Bible reveals about God and His purposes, plans and ways. I use the Scriptures as a tool to better understand what my life looks like from God’s perspective.
Notice that I’ve used the word “primarily” in describing these approaches because I don’t think this is completely an “either/or” proposition. I’m certainly not suggesting that the Bible shouldn’t impact my life personally or that I shouldn’t look for the promises that God has for me in His Word, or certainly not suggesting that there is not tremendous personal benefit for me in reading, studying, and applying the Bible to my life or that I won’t be blessed when I choose to apply God’s Word in my life. But what I am saying is that those things should be secondary to putting God, and not myself, at the center of the Scriptures.
The passage that we’ll look at this morning will demonstrate the difference between these two approaches quite vividly when it comes to how I view the gospel.
As I studied for and prepared the message this week, the words that Paul wrote here in Romans 3 caused me to realize that ever since I first heard the gospel, I have been viewing it primarily from a man-centered perspective. I have always viewed the gospel in terms of what it has done for me personally – how it has provided the way for my sins to be forgiven, for me to have a relationship with God and to guarantee that I’ll spend eternity in the presence of Jesus. And my guess that most of you have primarily looked at the gospel from that perspective, too.
But what today’s passage shows us is that there another way to view the gospel – to see it from God’s perspective. And when we do that, we discover that…
The primary purpose of the gospel is to
display God’s righteousness,
not just to make me right with God
Once I came to realize that, I spent quite a bit of time this week just reflecting on that idea and even more importantly, confessing to God my sin of having made the gospel more about me than about God. It’s my prayer this morning is that God’s Word might do a similar work in your life if you, too, have been viewing the gospel primarily from a man- centered perspective.
For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
(Romans 1:17 ESV)
Here Paul summarizes the primary purpose of the gospel – to reveal the righteousness of God. You’ll want to keep that theme in mind as we look at our passage this morning. Then, beginning in the next verse, Paul embarks on a “big parenthesis” in which he explains why the sinfulness of all men – Jews and Gentiles – makes the gospel necessary. Now that he has made that case thoroughly, Paul will return to his explanation of the gospel, which is the treatment for man’s spiritual disease of sin.
With that in mind, go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 3 and follow along as I read verses 21-26: