Summary: Salvation doesn’t merely consist in our receiving the forgiveness of sins. In the cross, we are justified. More than having my sins removed, I am credited with Jesus’ good actions.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
[Remember that today’s passage has already been read before the message.]
My family and I are glad to be back. Thank you for praying for me as I was away in India. Thank you for your kindness to us and to me. We are already feeling at home with you.
This is the sixth message in our series, Creed: 9 Essentials to the Christian Faith. We are exploring the beliefs that form the theological center of Christianity. It is a series devoted to the discovery of what you believe and why it matters. And this morning I want to explore with you the importance of the cross. I have chosen to unpack the meaning of Christ’s cross through the lenses of Paul. The Gospels give you the narrative of how and what happened to Christ. But Paul contributes something unique; Paul tells you why the cross is important. To use a metaphor, the Gospels are the garage where you see how the engine of the cross is made. But Paul’s writings serve as if you are riding in the car where you see the importance of the various components of what is under the hood. We have just heard one of the most important paragraphs ever composed. I came across one individual this week who called this “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written.” One person called this “the acropolis of the Bible.” This is what Paul thinks is the essential message of the Bible. This is what the cross of Christ accomplished.
In this passage, God promises to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. I see this in verse twenty four: “ [you] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 3:24).
Today I want to answer three questions…
What Is It that God Does for Us?
Why Do I This?
How Do I Receive It?
Today’s passage falls into four parts and let me give them to you briefly: 1. The Performance Syndrome; 2. Old Testament versus New Testament; 3. What God Did; 4. Your Connection
1. The Performance Syndrome
What you have just heard read to us is the solution to a big problem. Many of you know there is something wrong with you and us (humans) but you can’t quite lay your finger on the problem. If you were to stand before Jesus Christ and He were to say to you, “Why Should I Allow You into Heaven,” how would you answer? There is nothing that the human mind can ever consider that is any way as important as this question. And I want to spend the next few minutes telling you how the Bible answers this question, “How can a sinful person ever hope to stand before the perfect judgment of God.”
This is a difficult passage for most of us. Note the words “the righteousness of God” is referred to four times in these six verses (verse 21,22, 25 & 26). Note also the verb “justify” is found twice (verse 24 & 26) and the adjective “just” is also in verse 26. I mention this because “justify and “just” are from the same root word as “righteousness.” “The righteousness of God” is the controlling expression throughout the passage. So this passage is all about how to be accepted by God at the end of history’s time. Yet, there is a problem for the word “righteousness” is nearly a negative word in our world. We don’t want to be described as a “righteousness” person. I want you to think of this word in terms of a resume. Many of you are used to building a resume in terms of your career. The resume is your work record and it contains all of your accomplishments and your experiences. You take the resume to the potential employer where the resume proverbially, “gets your foot in the door.” If your resume is good enough, then the door of opportunity opens for you. And the majority of people around the world (and categorically every other religion) believe this is the way God works. People think that God looks at our moral and religious resumes to be accepted. You develop a “righteousness” and you are accepted.