Summary: What does our church believe about salvation?
Our church’s confession of faith says this concerning what we say we believe about salvation: “The only way of salvation is by grace through faith in the atonement and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Salvation is God’s free gift to us but we must accept it.”
Today, we will consider the doctrine of salvation. Romans 4 is a great chapter on salvation by grace through faith alone. In Romans 4, Paul demonstrates that salvation is by faith in the finished work of Christ alone as opposed to any work that can be performed by man. Paul
contrasts the false and true ways of salvation in this chapter and makes the case that “the only way of salvation is by grace through faith in the atonement and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Salvation is God’s free gift to us but we must accept it.”
1. Try for salvation? No! - vs. 1-15
A. One’s righteousness is inadequate to save - vs. 1-8
1) The case of Abraham - vs. 1-5
2) The case of David - vs. 6-8
A) The righteousness of man is imperfect - v. 2
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” - Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)
For sinful men to think that can attain a righteousness on their own which would make them acceptable to God is akin to a person trying to clean his clothes by washing them in muddy water!
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” - Revelation 7:14b (NIV)
B) The righteousness of God is imputed - vs. 4-5
The word “credit” is used eleven times in this chapter of Romans. In God’s system of book keeping it depicts sin being transferred from our account to God’s account, and righteousness being transferred from God’s account to our account.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)
Note verse 7 - “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
Suppose you and a friend go out for dinner. After you sit down, you discover much to your embarrassment) that you don’t have your wallet with you. Your friend, being a sensitive person, realizes something is wrong and asks, “What's wrong?” When you explain that you don’t have money to pay for your meal, he says, “Don't worry, you’re covered.” You enjoy a fine meal, freely leaving the restaurant afterwards, knowing that your debt is paid. Likewise, Christ has paid a debt we couldn’t begin to pay. As a result of His payment on our behalf, we enjoy fulfillment and freedom, knowing that our debt is “covered.”
God tells us that through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins, He’s “got us covered.” The penalty for sin has been fully paid, and by virtue of Christ’s finished work and our acceptance of it, righteousness can be credited to our account, and we can be considered righteous in the sight of God.
B. One’s religiousness is inadequate to save - vs. 9-15
One cannot be saved by observing . . .
1) The rituals of religion - vs. 9-12
2) The rules of religion - vs. 13-15
The point is simple. Since Abraham was accepted by God and since this occurred prior to the establishment of both the ritual of circumcision and the rules of the Mosaic law, it follows that Abraham was accepted by God on some other basis. What was the basis of his acceptance by God? Faith!
The reason why the rituals or rules associated with religion are ineffective is that they focus only on the outside, while the change that needs to take place in order for us to be right with God is one that must take place on the inside.
Imagine that you have a lemon tree in your yard. All it can produce is sour lemons. Now if you want to grow oranges, you may decide to pull off all the lemons from your tree and then stick
oranges in their place. In a few minutes your tree could be covered with oranges. Everyone looks and sees your “orange” tree, but in reality all you have is a lemon tree with dead oranges on it. You haven’t changed the nature of the tree.
In the same way, the rituals and rules of religion cannot bring about the real change that is needed - a change within. Our human nature is sour and needs to be changed. All observing the rituals and rules associated with religion does is help us pick off lemons and stick on oranges. Our nature is untouched. We are as powerless to change our hearts as we are to turn a lemon tree into an orange tree.