March 31, 2019

Sermon for Lent Four – Sunday March 31, 2019

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Passage: Romans 3:21–28
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Sermon for Lent Four – Sunday March 31, 2019

Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Romans 3:21–28 (ESV)

21 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.

 

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,

  Who is our Redeemer and Advocate,

     Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –

It’s sometimes called ‘legalese’ it’s the language of lawyers and contracts.  If you’ve ever read the fine print of a mortgage or some other contract then you know that it can be very difficult to understand.  Why? Well, because much of the language is out dated, used only in legal documents.  Its purpose is to be legal and complete…but not really readable.  Let me read you a portion of a current mortgage agreement without explaining it:

'The Mortgagor shall pay also interest upon all such moneys as aforesaid or on so much thereof as shall for the time being be owing or payable or remain unpaid without (unless the Bank otherwise in writing agrees) allowing credit or any credit balance in any account or accounts of the Mortgage or and the Debtor or either of them either alone or jointly with any other person with the Bank at the rate or respective rates agreed upon in writing if any and in the absence of any such agreement then without prior or other notice to the Mortgagor or to the Debtor at such rate or rates as the Bank from time to time determines…”

Got it?  I’m sure you understood that completely.  Just kidding.  It would probably take hours to carefully pore over the details of such a contract to completely understand it…but we will probably just initial here and sign there and take home a copy to be filed and forgotten.

In the letter to the Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul uses legal terms to describe how the case against us in God’s sight is dismissed.  While the language isn’t as convoluted and confusing as the wording of the mortgage contract, it can be difficult for us to fully understand.  It is vitally important that we understand and believe what these words are saying to us.  We could go slow and stop and define words like ‘righteousness’ and ‘justified’ and ‘redemption’ and ‘propitiation’ and ‘forbearance’ and it would probably help us to understand…to a degree.

If, on the other hand, we imagine ourselves in a court of law, standing before the Judge, it may make it easier to understand.  Therefore, we will proceed as if each one of us has been accused and found guilty of a heinous crime.  I will leave the specific crime up to you, since you know your personal sins, you know how and where you have fallen short of the glory of God. If not, then it would be good to review the 10 Commandments.

It is my personal prayer that you understand and believe that when it comes to your sin before God, the Case is Dismissed!

 

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, owner of my body and soul, for 33 years you labored in order to purchase my release from sin, death and Satan. You endured homelessness. You lost sleep to pray for more strength. You let men abuse and crucify you. It was all to pay the price to make me your own child and heir.  It was to purchase my release from eternal death and to graciously give to me a place in the Father’s House.  How could I be worth so much to you?  How could you be so devoted to me?  What makes me a treasure in Your eyes?  Grant me grace to be yours forever.  Amen.

 

+++++++

 

If we are to fully understand these words, then it is necessary that we grasp them in their context. The Apostle Paul has spent the first three chapters of the Letter to the Romans showing how all have sinned and fallen short of God’s demand to be sinless and holy.  There is no person, save Christ Himself, who is without sin.  Jew or Gentile, Male or Female, all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory.  We know this to be true because the Law of God reveals it and finds us guilty (Romans 3:19-20, ESV):

 

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

The Officers of the Law have come and arrested us.  After having been transported to jail, we are arraigned before the Judge.  The charges against us are read in their entirety.  We are not only accused, but the evidence against us is presented and verified accurate.  Our own lawyer suggests that we not attempt to evade the charges but simply plead guilty of them and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

ü  While some may attempt to plead ignorance or seek a lesser charge, the Judge cannot be swayed by emotional pleas.  He has the cold, hard facts.  There is no plea bargaining in this court.  Each man, woman and child are to be judged based upon his or her thoughts, words and actions.  There are no loopholes.

ü  While some may attempt to build a defense on the basis of their ‘goodness’ the Judge will not hear it.  For though thousands of ‘character witnesses’ come forward to speak in your defense, the facts stand, we are guilty.  The Law does not request observance, it demands obedience.  We can’t say, “Well, I never actually murdered anyone, because the evidence verifies we have hated and wished evil on others…which is a crime.  Our perceived ‘good deeds’ cannot counterbalance our evil.

For breaking a single law makes us guilty of all. There is no hope for us.

 

21 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.

 

We sit in shackles, behind bars, awaiting final sentencing.  When we breathe our last breath, we will be transported from the courtroom to the prison, where we will spend eternity.

But quietly, a fellow convict tells us that there is a way out.  There is a way that the charges filed against us can be expunged, erased from the record.   There is a way that we can be found ‘not guilty’ and set free, and the legal precedent is recorded in a sixty-six-chapter book, entitled: “The Law and the Prophets.”

It seems too good to be true, but the person in chains beside us reveals that someone else has already suffered for every crime ever committed.  We can be accounted as righteous simply by trusting in the person who already suffered the consequence and paid the price for every crime.

How is it possible, you ask?  He replies:

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.

 

While it is absolutely true that all have broken the law cannot be accounted as innocent, all can be ‘declared not guilty’, ‘pardoned’.  This pardon is a gift, not something earned.  It’s a gift produced by the undeserved love of another.

But…this sounds too good to be true.  How could those found guilty of crimes and declared so by the Law of God be declared righteous?  The Judge would have to be unjust, wouldn’t He? No, He explains, the verdict is possible because of the price paid in full, the redemption that is found in Christ Jesus.

God allowed Him to be condemned, to be publicly displayed on a cross as an atoning sacrifice.  This isn’t injustice, it’s God’s justice. The Judge made Him, His own Son, who was sinless and perfect, to be condemned for us, that we by trusting in Him, might be ‘declared not guilty.’

 

This pardon comes to us and is received by us, by faith.  In other words, everyone who believes that their record of crimes have been expunged because He took them and suffered the consequences of them, is accounted as righteous.

 

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.

 

This doesn’t nullify the charges…it atones for them.  The Judge couldn’t just ignore them.  This was done to prove the Judge is just.  It was done because the Judge didn’t want to condemn us, but to pardon all those who trust in this one man’s life, death and resurrection.

When the bailiff returns to take us to stand before the Judge for final sentencing, we know that we deserve to be condemned to eternal death.   We know there is no hope of our being set free on the basis of our own innocence for we are guilty, there is no disputing it.  There is one hope, to take our stand on the One who has already been saddled with our sins and punished with our crimes.  The One who has never committed a crime, never broken the Law of God.  So we take our stand on Him…and the Judge declares us ‘not guilty’ and instructs the bailiff to set us free.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Would we have anything of which to boast? No, not a thing.  We would have been pardoned by faith, having never kept the law.  We would be set free, despite being guilty sinners.

This is the message of this word of God…without the legal terms. 

 

God’s Law declares that we are guilty sinners, who have not kept God’s Commandments.  We are not and cannot be considered righteous according to God’s Law.  We have been disobedient.  For this reason, God’s Law serves to shut our mouths and to reveal our sin.

The Gospel of Christ declares that God accounts us as righteous.  This isn’t done on the basis of our living because our lives are nothing but examples of sin.  We are ‘declared not guilty’ and pardoned on account of Jesus’ sinless life and sacrificial death.

We receive the sinless record of Christ credited to our account when by the grace of God, we trust in Him.  After all, He paid the price for our sin debt.  He is the sacrifice that turns God’s anger away.  Therefore, God declares innocent all those who believe, who trust in Him.

This is the central message of the Scriptures and of the letter to the Romans – namely that human beings are justified, declared righteous by faith in what another has done – the other being the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.  This is the message that Satan wants to silence.  This is the reason why Christianity is so attacked in this world.  This message isn’t a matter of imagination. It isn’t a story.  This is God the Judge’s solemn declaration.

While so many think that being a Christian means ‘trying to be a good enough person to be accepted by God’ it isn’t; that idea is a lie of Satan, the substance of every other religion on the face of the earth.  The Truth is that we are accepted by God – not because of anything in us – but on account of a quality in God…His grace, His undeserved love.  Jesus is the only savior and the only way to heaven, because only He kept and fulfilled God’s Law and paid the price of our sin and guilt.  Moreover, He rose again from death on the 3rd Day to confirm our rescue.

This message, which you’ve heard over and over…is a rare treasure in this world.  It is the power of God that leads to salvation. It’s God’s declaration, a man is pardoned by faith apart from obedience to His Law.  God grant that we receive and are kept in this faith death to life.  Amen!