Lesson # 3

            Sense the middle of the first chapter Paul has been talking about God’s righteousness.  It has two parts but up till now he has only addressed one of those parts, the law.  The purpose of the law is many fold, it tells us of:  the perfection of God, the standards of God, where we stand with God and it foreshadows what was to come.  That is where this section picks up, the other half of God’s righteousness is grace.  It is by grace that we can be saved from what we truly deserve.  We truly deserve hell because we have broken His law but grace “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth”.  Now, His righteousness is made up of both so, both are required.  We need grace because without it everyone would go to hell and we need law because without it there would be no repentance.  Remember back to the last verse, Paul says “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified”.  The reason being we simply cannot keep the law, not perfectly.  For that reason grace is required, grace is God letting us come into His presence in peace as he tells us in 5:1 which is the opposite of wrath 1:18, which is coming to God in the law alone 3:20.

Justification                        3:21-5:21

A.  Justified by faith                      3:21-28

1a.)      The revelation  v. 21-23

            In Job a question is kicked around about something that the Jews never completely understood; it is asked, how can man be justified with God?  Paul answers this question a number of times here in Romans, my favorite is when he says “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  But the Jews tendency was to replace the “our Lord” part with the law.  That is why Paul goes out of his way to say “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested”.  There is some debate as to what “law” Paul is referring to.  After all the Jewish hypocrisy had two sets of law.  They had the Word of God law and then they had the “New Modern-day Translation” law which basically said whatever they wanted it to say and it had been chewed up and spit out so many times that salvation now was one big hypocritical joke called legalism.  Now, Paul is making two statements here.  First, righteousness has nothing to do with what modern-day subscribers thought the law was intended to do.  They had got it so turned around they were believing that the law was their ticket to Heaven.  The law is an all or nothing proposition; either you are completely innocent or you are totally guilty, there is no three strikes and you’re out policy with God.  So, the first thing he is saying is, legalism is just a waste of time.  The second thing he is saying here hinges on the word “without”.  The idea presented here is that salvation or “the righteousness of God” is “without” or outside of the law.  Paul is saying that the righteousness God gives believers is entirely “without”, separate, outside of obedience to the law.  God’s righteousness is in no way tied to our own ability to keep the law.  If it were then salvation would be a matter of works.  Nothing we can do will cause our worth in the eyes of God to appreciate, we’ve broken the law and as far as that is concerned we are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Now, once you get saved and have His righteousness put to your account there is nothing you can do to depreciate from it.  His righteousness is “without” the law; that is why we can fall into sin and still be used of God.  If it was bound by the law we’d all loose our salvation eventually.

            But God had a better plan and it was “witnessed by the law and the prophets”.  Remember these first eleven chapters are Paul looking at Scripture in the light of Calvary.  His first witness is the law.  They didn’t have far to look, a simple read of the Ten Commandments points to the law’s testimony of the Gospel message and the authority of Jesus as the Son of God, it even depicts His work as Savior.  The first three relate directly to God, the last six relate to Man and the in the middle is the Sabbath, the very picture of the work of God bringing God and Man together.

            Paul’s next witness is the prophets.  Notice what Jesus said when speaking to the same Jewish hypocrisy John 5:39.  Jesus is saying the very things you place your faith in speak of Me, all those little rituals you take part in, they point to Me.  I’m the One that atones for sin, removes it, forgives it, just like in Isaiah, Isaiah 53:4-11.  Jesus says I am the only salvation, your law, your prophets are witnesses of Me.  If the Jews would have put aside their legalism and read the Word for what it said instead of reading it for what they wanted it to say, they would have seen that.  People have the same problem today, there are plenty of people that read the Bible, the problem is they don’t read it for what it says, they read it for what they want it to say.  God has revealed His plan of salvation all through out the Scriptures and Paul is about to make plain how we can be justified.  In fact, you can’t read these next few verses and claim you never knew.

            Paul has just said that both the law and the prophets witnessed of Jesus now, let’s look at Jesus’ own testimony.  Matthew 5:17  The Jews had been promised an uncontested, sovereign nation, they had been promised a special relationship with the one true God.  But one thing stood in the way of all that and that was their sin.  Generations ago their sin had robbed them of their homeland and even farther back than that sin had driven a wedge between them and God.  So, here they are, without the law of God and consequently without the promises of God.  Then this “Jesus” shows up threatening what little they thought they knew.  And because they were so far away from God they couldn’t see what He is saying here.  He says “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets”.  When you destroy something you take it away permanently.  But that is not what He was going to do, God had sent Him here to do the complete opposite, He says “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”  The law stood in-between them and a right relationship with God because they were guilty of it.  But He came to take that guilt away, fulfillment is the opposite of destruction, buy fulfilling the law and the prophets He was giving them something.  What was He giving them?  He was giving them “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ”.

            Again he is debunking the modern day belief that legalism is the way to righteousness.  We have modern day legalism today, the belief that you on your own can do something to gain righteousness in God’s eyes.  We like that kind of religious system because it is a system we can manipulate but when that righteousness comes by way of faith, there is nothing to manipulate.  Faith is a take it or leave it proposition, it doesn’t have any loopholes.  And just to make sure the later Church doesn’t make the same mistake as the Jewish church did by claiming that salvation was only exclusive to them Paul tacks on this last part, that salvation is offered through Jesus “unto all and upon all them that believe:  for there is no difference; For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.  This says to us that we are all equally sinful.  We all may have broken different parts of the law but the fact is we’ve all broken it somewhere.  And regardless of how we categorize sin in our books, in God’s we’re still guilty.

            The final verse of this section you won’t hear in a lot of churches, which is tragic considering it is the backbone of what we believe as Christians.  The first truth here is that “all have sinned” but in the spiritually backward day in which we live if you tell many people that it’s only a matter of time until someone gets mad despite it’s truth.  The second thing we learn here is because of that sin we “come short of the glory of God”.  Among other things the word “glory” refers to the standards of God, we don’t live up to those standards, we don’t meet with His approval.  Now, no one likes the idea of being told “you’re not good enough” but that is what the Word of God is saying; after all it is true, we are all sinners.  But today the modern day message preached in many churches is so soft that verse like this are never read or preachers will go so far out of their way to accommodate a congregation that is complacent in their sin that they’ll practically say “it’s not your fault”.

2a.)      The reality  v. 24-26

            Paul moves from revelation of old to the reality of the cross in these verses.  He tells us we are “justified freely”.  In the Greek the word “freely” means without cause, undeserving.  God justified us of His own will, He did it freely, without cause because we certainly didn’t prove we were worth saving; that is “grace”, giving us what we do not deserve.  Now, notice the next part of the verse.  It says that we are justified “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.  A common Christian phrase is “saved by faith”.  On it’s own that is not a true statement but Christians generally understand that statement is a reference to what these verses are explaining, which is we are not saved by faith rather we saved by Who we have faith in.  Let me give you an analogy that will illustrate to you exactly what part your faith plays in your salvation.  Let’s say we take a trip out into the country and while we are there you get bit by a rattlesnake.  Without treatment you will die.  The hospital that has the antivenom is twenty miles away, an impossible distance by foot but doable by car.  We can parallel this to salvation by asking the question what is it that would have saved your life?  Would it have been the vehicle you traveled in or the medicine you would have been treated with?  The answer is the medicine.  A vehicle would have done you little good if you went to the wrong hospital.  Well, that is what faith is, it is the vehicle that places you in position to receive the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.  What He did for us is where the salvation is at as the next verse goes on to explain.  Here Paul calls it “redemption” because in the Greek the word for “redemption” used here refers to a ransom that has been paid.  What Jesus did was set us free; free from the sin debt we owe, free from the hold sin had on our lives and free from the judgment that follows sin.  Jesus said He came to make His “life a ransom for many.

            Salvation hinges on this next verse and if changed at all it corrupts God’s intended meaning.  To start off with in reference to Jesus it says “Whom God hath set forth”.  Earlier we talked about the revelation and moved on to the reality, here is where the two meet.  What was “set forth” is exactly the same thing that was “manifested”.  God was manifested in Jesus and then set forth “to seek and to save that which was lost”.  This “set forth” is a statement of declaration.  His life, His work, the cross; they were all very public declarations intended for as many as could to see.  We’ll get to the see what part here in a minute but first let’s look at the importance of the next key word.

            Jesus was manifested and set forth “to be a propitiation”.  Why is that important?  Well, let’s start off broad and then narrow our focus.  In English it is a word you see used three times in the NT; here and twice in I John.  In the Greek, however, that word only appears twice and not even in I John, there it has the same root but different accompanying word parts.  Back in Bible days Greek became the preferred language of the day and at some point the OT was translated into Greek, known as the Septuagint.  The reason that is important is because “propitiation” in the original NT Greek texts appears once in Romans and again but this time in Hebrews 9:5.  The word translated as “propitiation” back in Romans in this instance actually refers to the “mercyseat”.  There are those that argue that “propitiation” back in Romans should actually be translated as “mercyseat”.  Their argument isn’t completely without merit because Jesus is the embodiment of the OT “mercyseat”.  But seeing as how Paul has just gotten finished describing to us how enslaved Jews became to their ceremony it makes sense in the context he is speaking that “propitiation” is the correct rendering.  The danger in translating “propitiation” as “mercyseat” is its link to ceremony.  If in any way he had referred to salvation in ceremonial terms the Church would have no doubt gone back in that direction.  Salvation is by way of faith not ceremony and besides that Jesus is never referred to as the “mercyseat” in the NT.

            Propitiation means to appease, placate, avert wrath; a lot of versions either use a different word or leave it out completely.  But let me show you why changing it in the least changes everything.  Propitiation is marked by four characteristics:

1.)    An offense made
2.)    The offended person
3.)    The offending person
4.)    An offering of atonement made for the offense

The word “propitiation” specifically has to do with the offended, who is God; words like appease, placate, expiate or just about any other word that could be used here all have to do with the offender.  Grammatically there is a problem because the context of these verses all have to do with God, who was offended, not Man.  Something else is that “propitiation” almost exclusively relates to the wrath of God, other words merely suggest Man is guilty of sin but lack the meaning of God’s wrath over sin.  That is where the “God is love” gospel gets its acceptance.  People don’t like the idea that their own actions send them to hell so they fabricate this god of love by taking words like “propitiation”, “blood” and “wrath” out.  This false theology teaches that sin will be blotted out but says nothing about forgiveness, after all God is love what would He have to be mad about?  My Bible says over my sin.

            Paul goes on to say that ransom for sin was paid “through faith in his blood”.  Remember faith is only the vehicle to Jesus, what He did as the “propitiation” is where salvation is at, particularly it is in the “blood”.  “Without shedding of blood is no remission” of what?  Sin, and it is that “blood” that proves we are guilty.  That is why they are taking it out of the song books, out of their doctrines, out of the comic books they call bibles.  When viewed from the blood stained ground of Calvary we can’t be anything but guilty.  The “blood” has been the standard ever since the days of Adam and Eve and it always will be.

            Now, the reason Jesus as the “propitiation” was “set forth” was “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past”.  Only His blood could accomplish that, mine and yours is no good, it is tainted, He was that perfect sacrifice.  The word “declare” means proof, His death on the cross is proof of our guilt and proof of His righteousness.  You don’t have to believe that now but it will be proven to you one day.  On that day the guilty will stand before God and for them all the “sins that are past” will be listed out and sense they never had “faith in his blood” “they are without excuse”.  To put the word “past’ in the proper reference and show the power of the blood let me say it means the sins before the cross were covered by Calvary and all future sins were too.  When you come to the cross as far as God is eternally concerned all of your sins are in the “past”, you’ve become a “new creature” because the sin that was your’s was “imputed” to Another; “behold, all things are become new.”  And this is all made possible “through the forbearance of God”.  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward; not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  The reason this world drags on is not because God is in Heaven enjoying the soap-opera but because He is waiting for as many that will to seek Him and after that day comes His wrath will be unleashed on this earth, that is what “the forbearance of God” is.

            In the next verse it is referring back to the “propitiation”.  God has been offended, Man did it and Jesus made it right.  Again we see the word “declare”.  Jesus is the proof of the righteousness of God as Paul reiterates, it is a reality “at this time”, God has made good on His promise to save people from their sin.  But in order to do that it meant that He would have to be both the “just, and the justifier”.  How is that possible?  He is righteous yet He has paved the way for sinners to enter His kingdom.  If we can understand why He is “just” we’ll see how He is also the “justifier”.  Let’s assess what makes Him “just”.  He is just because He punished sin, past and future.  He is just because He did it by pouring out His wrath on His Son, in our place without prejudice; upholding every “jot” and “tittle” of the law along the way.  Proving despite the circumstance He is righteous.  Then you have the very life of Jesus, who even in His incarnate form was every bit as just.  And through faith in the “propitiation” He provided, that justness is put to our account and we are placed “in Christ”.  That is why He is also the “justifier”, He did it all.  Essentially it is saying He lived and died for us so that we could be justified.  And that justification goes to whoever “believeth in Jesus”.

3a.)      The resolution  v. 27-28

            Having shown us the revelation and then seeing and experiencing the Reality himself Paul gives us the resolution.  He says “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”  To the Jew of that day and Mankind at large the idea of salvation without work is a contradiction.  Every other faith in existence says you must do something to gain acceptance.  That is because God has placed in the heart of Man the understanding of our fallen nature.  We are in need of His acceptance and every human being ever born knows it; now, whether they choose to believe it is a different story.  But in our hearts we know we are separated from God by our own actions, which is where this works salvation comes in.  It is an invention of Satan, one we especially like.  Man is incapable of total obedience so, in our flawed reasoning sense we are the ones who messed it up we ought to be able to make it right.  And Satan has accommodated that false belief to no end.  Today we have people who actually bow to statues of sexual organs, or who worship a god who might let them into heaven if they kill enough people while killing themselves in the process, or you can just create your own god, that is what we do most of the time anyway.  Of course Satan is behind all of this but his best selling lie is the one that says if you can just be a good person God will let you into to heaven.  Just about everybody who claims to be Christian but does not go to church or put in any effort to be obedient believes that one.  And the reason so many like to believe it is because it gives them a reason to boast.

            But Paul has already made it clear that we can do nothing to save ourselves so, “Where is boasting then?”  He says “It is excluded”, meaning God’s way of salvation leaves out any opportunity for us to say, “I did that”.  When you are “justified by faith” you have no reason to boast because you didn’t do anything.  Jesus is the one who did it all:  He lived for us, suffered, bled and died for us, and rose again all for us.  There is no “me” in that.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:  Not of works, least any man should boast.”  That was the problem with the rich young ruler, notice what He says when he comes to Jesus, Matthew 19:16-22.  He says, “what good thing shall I do”.  There are two things he didn’t understand:  first, who he was talking to and second, that salvation has never been based on works.  This poor guy has everything going for him wealth, respect, authority and on top of all that he gets to meet the Lord.  I don’t know what I’d do if I had all that happen to me but the Bible tell us he walked away from Jesus that day “sorrowful”.  The ultimate reason is Jesus said, if you really want to prove where your heart is sell everything, help as many people with the money as you can, then come follow Me.  And his reaction told where his really was.  All that obedience that he boasted about wasn’t done out of love for God, it was motivated by self-interest.  It made him look good, remember as Jesus grew His obedience caused Him to increase in “stature” and “favour”, not only the eyes of God but also in the eyes of “man”.  He was also depending on his works to justify him in God’s eyes but that is not a saving faith; he wanted to know “By what law” or “of works” he could be saved.  To that Paul says “Nay”, you can only be saved “by the law of faith.”  That is what the “law” really states and always has.

            Jesus illustrates how empty living in the law alone really is in Matthew 25:1-12.  We are given ten virgins, five wise and five foolish.  Outwardly their appearance is the same, where the difference lies is in their lamps.  Half brought “oil” and half didn’t.  That oil is symbolic of saving faith, it is what makes the difference.  Matthew 7:21-23  They that lacked the oil, they did the “many wonderful works”, they adhered to the law but they “never knew” Him.  They might have kept the law and, like the rich young ruler, looked good doing it but they didn’t have what they really needed.  “Therefore” Paul says “we conclude”, in the Greek the word for “conclude” means fact, mathematical certainty.  It is a fact, a certainty “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”  Next, Paul goes back to a time before there even was a law, as they knew it, to show that the only way Man ever has been or will be “justified” is by having faith in what only God can do.

B.  The righteousness of faith                        3:29-5:11

1b.)      Faith is the foundation  v. 29-31

            The Jew’s problem was, they felt they had a monopoly on God.  Their modern-day theology now taught them that God actually belonged to them rather than them belonging to God.  In light of Scripture that just doesn’t add up.  Their modern-day beliefs led to gross error.  Deuteronomy 9:3-6  They began believing that God chose Jewish people as His own because they were superior to everybody else, they almost believed that all Gentiles were basically an experiment gone bad, that we are all mutants and God no longer cared about us.  It got so extreme that some came close to believing that God never created Gentiles in the first place and attributed our being here to some other force, a belief that bordered on blasphemy.  All this came from their new modern-day beliefs.  Which really weren’t so new seeing as prejudice against Gentiles had been preached for centuries, look at Jonah.  God told him to go to a Gentile land and preach and he wouldn’t do it, later he was straightforward as to why, he just didn’t want any non-Jewish people to benefit from the mercies of God.

            The Jews just did not want the rest of the world included in on salvation, despite Scripture saying other wise.  In Scripture is found many verses telling of how God was going to reach out to the Gentiles along with many personal examples.  Rahab was Gentile, pagan, and a prostitute; yet God had mercy on her.  Naaman was another Gentile and leper who benefited from the hand of God.  Then you have David’s own lineage, which proves of God acceptance of Gentiles because his great-grandmother was Ruth, a Moabite.  So, to their belief that Gentile man got here by some other way than by God I Corinthians 8:6 responds.  That “of whom are all things” means He created and planted here both Jew and Gentile.  And not only that, His desire is the same for both, I Timothy 2:3-4.  God’s desire is that all “be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  That is why Paul starts by asking “Is he the God of the Jews only?  is he not also of the Gentiles?  Yes, of the Gentiles also”.

            Notice his next question, “Do we then make void the law through faith?”  Putting these last few verses together Paul has told us that we are “justified by faith without the deeds of the law”, meaning we could never do anything worthy of justification on our own rather we have faith that we were “justified freely by his grace” which was a “propitiation through faith in his blood” that declared “his righteousness for the remission of sins” making Jesus the “just, and the justifier of him which believeth”.  Now, the question on the Jews’ mind would of course have been where does the law fit into all of this?  Because to them it must have almost sounded like he was saying that the law was useless but without the law all this talk of justification, and faith, and righteous wasn’t possible.  Their view was that the point of the Gospel was to replace the law, which is not at all what Paul is saying.  The Gospel was never intended to replace the law but to “fulfill” it, what they weren’t seeing was that the law was paving the way to the Gospel.  All their modern-day theology had done was fail to tell them of the true purpose of the law.  The law’s purpose was for them to use it to see how short they came according the standards of God and seek Him for mercy and that in turn would put a fire in their hearts to share it with the Gentiles.  God never meant them to use it to brow beat other people with.  There is “one God” and His Word was meant to drive people to Him “by” and “through faith”, “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” alike.

            So, by our faith we do not “make void the law”, rather Paul says “we establish the law.”  In the next chapter Paul uses the two biggest figures of Jewish history to prove this but before that let’s list a few ways in which our faith actually establishes the law.  First, Jesus, who we have faith in, as that perfect sacrifice honored the law perfectly in His life by living a sinless life.  Second, He paid the penalty the law demands for sin “for many”, while He Himself was sinless.  Third, blood was shed for the remission of that sin, according to the law.  A fourth way He established the law was His purpose, His was the same as the law’s, to drive people to God by faith.  Galatians 3:24  It actually taught of Christ, Him being on this earth established it.  Not the least nor the last of the many ways Jesus fulfilled the law is in Romans 8:3-4.  Church, we’ve been justified, our sins are no more, His righteousness is put to our account, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, our names are written in “the Lamb’s book of life”; you could go on and on but the point is the law couldn’t do any of that.  Just by being a blood bought, Spirit filled child of God “we establish the law.”  And we do it through our faith in Him, through our faith in what He did we no longer bear any guilt; that is the righteousness of faith.

2b.)      Faith is the only way to grace  4:1-5

            Paul started out talking about justification by first telling us that we are “justified by faith”.  Then he tells us that faith is the foundation of this justification.  As he explained earlier, we are not capable of righteousness on our own and nothing we could ever do will make up for that.  And that the only thing that makes justification possible at all is grace.  That is God loving the world so much “that he gave his only begotten Son” to be a “propitiation through faith in his blood” so, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish” because that blood bought “his righteousness for the remission of sins” giving all those “which believeth in Jesus”, “everlasting life”.  Faith is the cornerstone of all of that.  Now, it of course matters what you have faith in, because most people have faith in things that won’t get them “everlasting life”.  And that is exactly what Paul wants everyone to understand.

            The Jews’ problem is that their modern-day “feel good about me” worship didn’t do anything for them.  Paul pulls some figures from their past to get the point across.  He directs most of his illustration toward Abraham for a variety of different reasons but they all center on one very important issue, the law.  In the Jewish mind they felt they were justified by law rather than by faith but Paul in this chapter sets out to show them how liberalistic ideals and manmade doctrine had choked out the true Word of God.  Using Abraham as an example notice he starts by asking “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?”  In this question he makes an interesting statement, “as pertaining to the flesh”, what did Abraham find?  Well, if Abraham could have come back to get a look at what Jews of this day believed he would have noticed a few things.  For instance, he sure wasn’t as perfect as the Jews were making him out to be.  In Genesis 6:12 it hadn’t been all that long ago that God had said “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.”  He knew he was just as prone to sin as anyone else, as he looked back through history that was undeniable.  And then you start taking into consideration what Scripture tells us about Abraham and while he did try to lead a righteous life, he failed miserably sometimes.  To start off with He was from Ur of Chaldea, he was almost assuredly a pagan idolater, Joshua even tells us Abraham’s dad was a pagan.  That whole area is known in the Bible for its paganism and idolatrous practices.  Then the OT Scriptures clearly list out the sins he committed.  God called Him to go to Canaan, He said, leave everything, your father’s house especially and go.  But apparently He somewhere along the line made the decision to take his father with him and allowed his nephew to tag along too.  As a result God had them stay in Haran, a place only half way to where God told him to go, until his father died.  Then God tells him to continue on the journey but again Lot tags along, which would have repercussions latter on.  The Bible tells us famine strikes and rather than go to God, Abraham takes Sarah and goes to Egypt.  While they are there he lies to everyone and manages to bring judgment down on all of Pharaoh’s house.  Next He commits adultery with Hagar which results in undue suffering of her and her son Ishmael and this same son of Abraham produced the people that have been in conflict with Israel ever since.  So, “according to the flesh” Abraham was:  Gentile, pagan, at times non-respondent to God, and a known sinner.  Do you think his works saved him?  Not a chance; Paul says “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.”  And the law would have made him look especially guilty.

            Which is why Paul jumps from the end of chapter three to the topic of Abraham.  Abraham lived 2,000 years prior to Paul which puts him around 600 years before Moses was ever given the law.  So, if his works didn’t save him, you know the law didn’t.  That leaves faith, Paul says “For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”  Abraham serves as a flesh and blood example of justification by faith, that is recorded all the way back in Genesis 15.  What got them started thinking that salvation was a matter of works were verses like Genesis 26:4-5 that were taken out of context.  That isn’t even talking about individual salvation, it particularly deals with a promise made to Abraham but was taken out of context to fit their beliefs.  They do the same thing today by ignoring verses about the virgin birth, hell, or Scripture being the Word of God.  Or like them we’ll just invent doctrine.  In our day as in theirs, there is a lot of useless and often times misguided theological banter out there.  And that is what Paul is clearing up, by using Abraham to prove that we are “justified by faith” Paul was taking the life out of the lie that was the basis of modern-day Judaism.  That lie was that righteousness could be achieved through our efforts of living by the law and Paul boils it down to “If Abraham didn’t have the law, then how was he saved?”  Scripture makes it clear, his faith.  His works weren’t “counted unto him for righteousness”, he was a sinner; his faith in God’s Word is what was “counted unto him for righteousness”.  That word “counted” means a transfer was made by “his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” our personal sin was placed upon Christ and His righteousness was “counted” as our own.  And faith in that is all that is required to have it.

            “Faith is a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.”  Does faith qualify as a work?  No, Scripture even tells us that it is God who gave us that faith to begin with.  So, in Abraham’s case, as all of ours, he did the only thing a person can do without doing anything at all, he believed.  And the difference for him and everyone is Who he believed.  He believed God; not some person’s idea of who God was or what He should be like, he just believed the one true God and took Him at His Word, he didn’t try and change it or rewrite it, he just accepted it.  When it comes to God’s grace you can only do one of two things, accept it or reject it.  And the point of these next two verses is to make clear that God’s grace is only gotten through faith.  You can’t work for it, you won’t ever be able to achieve what it brings, your only access to it comes by faith.  Remember, faith is believing or just accepting fact.  On an individual level we play no part in it, Paul says, “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”  In the Greek the words “reward” and “reckoned” are particularly speaking about wages that have been earned.  If grace is taken out of the picture, salvation must then be based on works or how you upheld the law over the course of your whole life.  Without grace or mercy the best you can hope for in the end is a fair trail.  But we already know the verdict that will be handed down if such a trail takes place, guilty, the whole world over.  Paul has already told us “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified”, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.  Therefore if anyone tries to work their way to Heaven Paul says that they will end up in “debt”.

            Under a system of works all the responsibility falls upon the sinner and it should, we are guilty but that is where grace “abounds”.  Under grace everything falls upon the Savior.  Under works we are given a trial that is already predetermined to not be in our favor but under grace we are given a total pardon.  By faith in His grace we are justified.  But in order to get that pardon or be justified you must first admit your guilt.  All those that refuse to admit their own personal guilt by trying to live a life based on works, trying to be a good person are robbing themselves of hope and they don’t even know it, Jesus calls them “blind”.  Titus 2:13  By not admitting their guilt they never get to have this hope.  At least by admitting your guilt you have hope for mercy, they don’t even have that.  Psalm 33:18 says “the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy”.  Proverbs 11:7 says “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish:  and the hope of unjust men perisheth.”  And when the rapture does happen because of their unbelief or refusal to accept the truth that they are guilty they won’t even get to see that.  Thinking you are a good person or comparing yourself to people you think are worse off then you won’t get you into Heaven.  Being religious won’t get you into Heaven, hell is filled with souls that were religious but not saved.  Hebrews 7:19  The Jews’ religion of choice was the law, they worshipped it.  But they missed the point of the law.  It didn’t make them “perfect”, what it did was show them their imperfections.  It actually pointed to “a better hope” and that is where the perfection is, He is the one that draws us “nigh unto God”.  We can’t do that, Paul says “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Paul was making a significant statement by using that word “ungodly” in reference to Abraham.  In the Greek it relates to someone not giving reverence to God, if you look at the facts Abraham’s sins make him “ungodly” but sense he believed “on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

3b.)      Faith is the only way to be saved  v. 6-13

            He points to David as a further example of justification by faith by quoting his own Spirit filled words in Psalm 32:1-2.  Now, of course there are some noticeable differences, however, they are intentional, because Paul’s aim is to let Scripture prove his point for him, because “David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works”.  He transposes the word “transgression” with the word “iniquities” to keep the continuity of his thought process flowing.  The subject of the law for the last two chapters has loomed in the distance and Paul has pointed to it when necessary to show the Jews that the law is like a spotlight, it’ll shed light on the smallest of imperfections.  It was hardly the Godsend they thought it to be.  Keeping in context with his current statements on the law he changes from a word that means rebellion to a word that means lawlessness.  Then it becomes of particular importance to focus attention on who Paul is quoting.  When you shine the spotlight of law on David’s life you don’t get a pretty picture.  Spiritually the darkest time in David’s life was after his sin with Bathsheba; when all came to light David’s lawlessness got him two death sentences, one for adultery and the other for murder.  If salvation were based on the works of the law then their greatest king, initiator of the Messianic line was a hardened criminal, worthy to be put to death two times over.  In not so many words Paul is saying if salvation is by works than Abraham and David weren’t saved men.  But remember what the man of God said to David, God sent Nathan to tell David that “He knows about what you’ve done”, God’s spotlight don’t miss anything.  He knows but “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  Paul said, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven”.  Nathan said they had been “put away”.  One definition of what that means is once you get saved your sin expires.  What do you do with milk after if passes its expiration date?  You throw it out, you get rid of it.  Well, that is exactly what God does with your personal sin once you accept the gift of salvation “through faith” in the soul saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But like David, that can only happen after a confession of guilt is made.  If you’ll confess, your “sins are covered”, “the Lord will not impute sin” unto you, He’ll throw it out.

            We need to put this in the right context, what Paul is quoting here are things David was singing in his heart and aloud.  Look at Psalm 32:5, what is that last word?  “Selah” denotes musical direction.  You ever get so happy you just start singing, even if you can’t really sing?  David was so glad that by grace God could forgive him that he would sing these things.  They would sing these things just like we sing Amazing Grace, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”.  These verses could very well allude to something David said he would sing about if God would do, Psalm 51:14.  David may not have understood it all but he understood enough to know that guilt demands blood, the law says so and the only way to be “covered” from that guilt is to be “forgiven”.  He was saying that you can only be justified by faith, it was true in Abraham’s day, it was true in David’s day, and it is still true today.

            Paul’s next move, in anticipation of the next Jewish argument, is to refocus on Abraham.  Having referred to the forgiven sins of David the Jews’ obvious explanation for it would be that he was of the “circumcision”, which of course they claimed elevated them above everybody else and it is that that enabled him to be forgiven at all.  As we’ve talked about before, circumcision was no more than a ritual that by itself was void of any redeeming power, the idea that circumcision made a Jew a Jew or somehow made them acceptable to God was a doctrine they invented.  In anticipation of this faulty reasoning Paul asks a series of questions that crush this manmade theology.  He asks, “Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?”  In its totality this “blessedness” refers to salvation and God’s ability to forgive sin.  Next he says “for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.”  In other words Paul is saying, you better think before you answer that.  The next verse tells us why and again he asks a question; “How was it then reckoned?  When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?  Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”  The fundamental truth is, before Abraham was of “the circumcision” he was of “the uncircumcision”, before he was a Jew he was a Gentile.

            If you read Scripture it clearly states that Abraham received that “blessedness” before circumcision was ever instituted.  So, Abraham, to begin with, was an uncircumcised Gentile.  A fact they would not dare utter because they were so wrapped up in their own apostasy.  So, Paul again points to Scripture to prove his point.  The events of which Paul speaks are found in Genesis chapters 12 through 17.  He begins by saying that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision”, you find that back in Genesis 17:23-26.  Here we read that Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised and that Ishmael his son by Hagar was 13.  And just so we don’t loose perspective God in His wisdom tells us this all happened “In the selfsame day”.  But the crucial question is when was Abraham’s faith “counted unto him for righteousness”?  For that we have to go back to Genesis 15:6.  He was “justified by faith” long before he was ever circumcised.  In fact a little more detective work and you find out that Ishmael wasn’t even born until you get to Genesis 16:16 and Scripture says he was 86 then, which confirms Ishmael being 13 when Abraham was 99.  All the numbers add up, Abraham was saved at least 14 years before he was circumcised.  So, the claim that circumcision is what saves is false.

            Paul says circumcision was only a “sign” of salvation, not salvation itself.  A sign lets you know something, like when you see someone reading a Bible you’d assume they were religious but religious appearances and going through the motions don’t get you salvation, only faith does that.  Paul saw nothing wrong with circumcision, that is why he personally circumcised Timothy, it gave his witness more credibility with the Jews.  It was a sign of heritage, nothing more, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

            Circumcision was not only a sign it was meant to be a “seal” as well.  It could be compared to a guarantee, that if they’ll live according to what it represented, they would have nothing to worry about, God’s promises would be sure.  What circumcision pointed to was God’s desire to cut sin out of the heart of Man, Deuteronomy 30:6.  Jeremiah 4 says “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart”; and ultimately God wants us to avoid what we find in Jeremiah 9:25-26.  Abraham had “the righteousness of the faith” while “yet being uncircumcised”.  Circumcision, baptism, the Lord’s supper are all the same thing, outward expressions of an inward reality, any ritual that claims to be more is a lie.

            The remaining two and a half verses are about the promise that was made to Abraham, they just reinforce that God’s plan of salvation always included the Gentile.  Paul again using OT Scripture calls Abraham “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised”.  How can he be father to the Jews and at the same time be father to them that aren’t, how can he be “a father of many nations”?  By faith, he believed in the same God we do, the promise of a nation for his namesake, even his own righteousness was dependent upon God.  That same God demonstrated to him how He was going to provide His Own Holy Sacrifice, then that same God “gave his only begotten Son” so that His “righteousness might be imputed unto them also”.  The reason Abraham is father to us too is because we “walk in the steps of that” same “faith”.  And that promise which was made to Abraham, that filters down to us today doesn’t come “through the law but through the righteousness of faith” in Jesus.

4b.)      Faith is reckoned as righteousness  v. 14-22

            In these verses Paul finally brings us to the conclusion of a topic he has been talking about since the first chapter.  He began in the first chapter by telling us why Man has been indicted by the holy court of God; the eighteenth verse says “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”.  From there he proceeded to name the counts God has against us:  how we “hold the truth in unrighteousness”, how we choose to be ignorant of the truth so, we can be indulgent in our sin, and ultimately how we are not sorry for any of it.  Because of those things the holy court of God holds us “without excuse”.  Paul then tells us who is guilty, in the second chapter it’s the Jew but in the third chapter, however, he moves on to the rest of the world.  He tells us that we lack true righteousness and since we have none of our own all we can do is look to God.  But God’s righteousness is two fold, each because of the other; the first part of his righteousness is law, the standards of a holy God.  The only problem is we can’t live up to those standards; at our own invitation sin has corrupted us so much that we couldn’t even if we wanted to.  That gives reason for the second component of His righteousness, grace.  Without grace everyone would simply go to hell, because we can't meet God’s standards of righteousness on our own.  We are not capable of living consistently by the law, for that reason grace is required; grace is God letting us come into His presence in peace rather than wrath.  It says we’ve been “justified freely by His grace”, that means God made the choice Himself to give us the option of salvation, we definitely did not demonstrate we are worth saving, He gave it like a gift to anyone who will believe or accept it on faith.  That is grace, God giving us what we do not deserve. So, God’s righteousness has two parts:  law and grace and you need both, without grace everyone would come short of Heaven and wind up in hell but without law no one would ever feel the need to repent and turn way from their sin.

            Paul starts by trying to persuade his fellow Jews that they are going about serving God all wrong, something he spent half his life doing.  When we first meet Paul his name isn’t Paul, it’s Saul.  He was a traditional Jew of his day who thought he was serving God by hunting down and at times killing Christians.  He thought that was what God wanted him to do.  As a Jew, that trusted more in the law than God, he looked at these Christians as just another blasphemous fad religion that needed to be squashed so, with the Jewish court behind him he set out to do just that.  And then one day he literally met God and saw how far from God he really was.  He was trying to open the Jews’ eyes and he was using their favorite past-time, the law, to do it.  You see this often in his epistles, references that only a former Jew would grasp.  In part what he was doing was equipping Jewish converts with the understanding they needed to reach their own people.  He didn’t want his people living the same lie he had for so long, he wanted them to know the truth.  And the truth is, number one “if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is void”.  If the promises of God were based on law than it really didn’t matter if you were of Abraham’s faith or not.  If obedience to a set of rules is all it took faith became immaterial.

            The second thing he says is, if that is true, that salvation comes by law, then not only is faith voided but the original promise that was made to Abraham is “made of none effect”.  In the original Greek that phrase points to something that no longer functions.  There are a number of routes Paul could go with this such as:  the law was yet to be given when those promises were made, how could they even have anything to do with the law?  And even if they did come through the law there is no way you’d ever live your whole life by the law without ever messing up, because all it would take is one slip and you’d never see those promises.  When you take faith out of the picture, it just won’t work.

            Next he tells them why trying to live up to the law is a bad idea, he says it is a bad idea “Because the law worketh wrath”.  It didn’t save like they had tricked themselves into believing.  The law does two things, it reveals His righteousness and it exposes our sinfulness, for us it can only bring “wrath”.  Faith offers you the promises of God, the most the law could offer you is wrath.  God never intended them to view it as their savior, no, its purpose was to show them how much they needed to be saved.  The more you compare yourself to the law the guiltier you look he says “where no law is, there is no transgression”.  If there is not a law against it you can’t break it.  But it’s our love of sin that habitually drives us to violate the law we do have, a topic he touches in chapter six and particularly in chapter seven.

            It is this affinity for sin that we have that is our downfall.  Once sin has been committed it’s done, it’s unignorable, it’s undeniable; and simple faith won’t undo it, that is why Paul says “it is of faith, that it might be by grace”.  To illustrate this let’s bring back a past analogy but this time let’s work grace into it and get a more complete picture.  Once again, the Christian phrase “saved by faith” is not completely accurate and Paul never throws it out there like it is.  He always tacks on an explanation to explain its more detailed meaning.  We saw that at the end of chapter three.  In verse twenty-eight of that chapter he says we are “justified by faith” which is the same thing as being “saved by faith”.  But he doesn’t let that stand on its own, the previous seven verses actually explain the full meaning of being “justified” or saved “by faith”.  In his explanation he tells us that we’ve all sinned, which causes us to come short of the glory of God.  Then he tells us that the only redemption for that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth to be a propitiation for us.  And if we’ll have faith in that, we are saved.  But the underlying point is, and we see it in this verse, that grace made it all possible.  Now, how does that fit into our previous analogy?  Well, let’s see.  Let’s say we take a trip out into the country and while we are there you get bit by a rattlesnake.  Without treatment you will die.  The hospital that has the antivenom is twenty miles away, an impossible distance by foot but doable by car.  We can parallel this to salvation by asking the question what is it that would have saved your life?  Was it the vehicle you traveled in or the medicine?  The answer is the medicine.  A vehicle would have done you little good if you went to the wrong hospital.  Well, that is what faith is, it is the vehicle that places you in position to receive the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.  However, grace is the medicine, because without the medicine you’d die.  All the faith in the world couldn’t save you if it wasn’t for God’s amazing grace.

            The “end” or the ultimate desire of God is that “the promise might be sure to all…which is of the faith of Abraham”.  The promise of salvation was given “not to that only which is of the law”, it was made to all who share his faith in the one true God.  That is why no one is really saved by faith, you are really saved by who you have faith in.  Other than heritage and ethnicity, there should be no difference between a Jew and a Christian, Paul says Abraham “is the father of us all”.  And we stretch into every part of the world so, truly God has made Abraham “a father of many nations”.

            Next, Paul begins to speak of Abraham’s own personal faith experience and the parallel he draws is an interesting one.  He starts off by talking about God’s ability to “quickeneth the dead” and that God can “calleth those things which be not as though they were.”  These things have double meanings because they apply to not only Abraham but to all of us as well.  Look at verse nineteen, it speaks of the “deadness” of the body; let’s apply that to us first.  Abraham is the epitome of every believer.  Think about it.  When we first meet Abraham he is in a lost condition.  He was a pagan, most likely among other things he worshipped was a moon god, it was typical where he came from; still is, they just changed the name to Allah, the moon on the Islamic flag is the give away.  Then the Bible clearly documents the sin in his life.  But as Paul has already shown us God reached out in grace and Abraham trusted from then on for everything, including salvation.  He “quickened” Abraham who was “dead in trespasses and sins”.  Well, that is just like all of us, before we are saved, we are dead.  We don’t really have life, at lest not eternal life, until we are born again, that is a spiritual birth.  That is what “quickeneth the dead” means, to be brought to life.  Abraham was saved the same way we are.  When he says that God “calleth those things which be not as though they were”, it is talking about God reckoning Christ’s righteousness to us, who had no righteousness, and placing our sin on Him on the cross.

            Now, the second thing Paul is talking about here is the power of God in a person’s life.  Paul tells us that there was a period of Abraham’s life that he “against hope believed in hope”.  You ever have a problem come up in your life and it seemed like you didn’t have prayer, a situation where even hoping it would workout seemed like a waste of time?  Abraham had one, he didn’t have any children and he was so old by this point it looked like him and Sarah where going to die forgotten in a foreign land.  And he really wanted a child but here he was “about an hundred years old” the child bearing part of his life was “now dead”, his poor wife wasn’t fairing any better.  To make things worse was his name, Abram then Abraham but both bore about the same meaning, father of many.  The embarrassment he must have felt when he would introduce himself because the inevitable question was always the same, how many kids do you have?  The response was a humiliating, none.  Despite that fact Paul says he was “not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead” or the “deadness of Sarah’s womb”.  Paul says “He staggered not”.  It means that even though the situation said it was impossible and it just didn’t look like it was going to happen, He still believed God’s Word.  He didn’t stagger “at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith”.  God promised him a child and despite everything that said it wouldn’t happen, it did.  The problem with a lot of us today is we give up too easy.  We’ll stagger just like a drunk with our faith.  It is easy to believe God when things are going our way but when things take a turn for the worse and stay there a while that is when we need our faith the most but usually that is when we start doubting God.  Paul is saying if more of us would have faith like Abraham, we’d see things happened in our lives.  It’s not like he had it easy:  told to leave everything behind, brought to an unfriendly place, chased here and there for years but strangely enough you see God blessing him that whole time, because despite the circumstances “he was fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform”.  That kind of faith brings “glory to God”.  Paul finishes by saying “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness .”  All this, the faith, the years of obedience is still not enough, righteousness had to be “imputed” for him to be considered righteous.  The idea behind “imputed” is similar to the credit on a credit card, the money is given to you but it was never really yours to begin with.  That “righteousness” is a credit we could never achieve on our own, it has to be given to us and the way we reach out and accept it is on faith.  “It is not that faith merits salvation but that faith accepts salvation from God’s gracious hand.  Through that acceptance comes the righteousness that only God can impart.”

5b.)      Faith is hope  4:23-5:2

            Faith gives us hope and if we have hope it means we have a future, probably the most popular verse in Romans tells us that Romans 8:28.  That is why Paul spends an entire chapter on Abraham.  Despite his age, despite the lack of a child, despite everything that stood in his way he still had faith and that gave him hope.  “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief”, even though to the human mind the promise of a child at his age seemed impossible, accepting God’s Word on faith, he believed.  And a son was born; from apparent death comes life.  That’s what Jesus meant when He said “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day”.  Years later, by the grace of God Abraham finally put it altogether that day on the mountain with Isaac ; that is why he called that place “Jehovah-jireh”, God will provide.  God provided him a son and then He provided him a sacrifice, the very picture of the atoning work of the sacrificial Son of God.  That is what Abraham saw that day and Paul says the purpose for why it was written was not “for his sake alone…But for us also”.  Abraham isn’t the only one that will get this undeserved credit of righteousness, according to God’s original promise, to Abraham, what might have started with him will bless the whole world, Ephesians 2:14.  The only part we play in it is believing and that is not even doing anything.  It is just accepting what God says to be true.  Then Paul tells us exactly what we are to believe; we are to “believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”  He doesn’t give us a list of things to do, obligations we have to meet, just believe.  In a world that grows more complex by the day, it couldn’t get any simpler.

            As we get into chapter five some groundwork needs to be laid.  If you wanted to give this chapter a theme it would be reconciliation.  See, Man once had a relationship with God but when Adam sinned it changed, change happens to be the most basic meaning behind the word reconciliation.  It is because of Adam that word is used here.  Paul goes on in this chapter to explain in greater detail the initial change that happened in the Garden and the subsequent change that takes place the moment you trust Jesus Christ as Savior.  Paul also shows us that this chapter is about our standing before God while the next three are more about our state before God now.  The difference is our standing with God is perfect and guaranteed to stay that way.  Our standing or our justification is independent of us; however, our state right now is imperfect, changeable, and is dependent upon us.  Another topic tackled here is, how is righteousness kept?  That is another thing the Jew of Paul’s day definitely didn’t grasp anymore.  Remember, they had enslaved themselves to the law but that is never where salvation came from, Paul proved that in the previous chapter.

            The first thing it says is “Therefore”.  This refers to everything he has said from 3:21 to the end of chapter four.  All of that is what made “being justified by faith” possible.  Now, he tells us three specific things in these two verses.  His first major point is “we have peace”.  No longer are we under the wrath of God, our sins have been forgiven.  That statement right there accomplishes righteousness for the past.  But it’s more than that, it’s more than just knowing you’re forgiven and going on with the rest of your life.  It is the picture of someone who is that “new creature”, they don’t struggle with God anymore, as they did before.  Self-will, rebellion decrease because “peace with God” takes their place.  He says that is a peace that only comes “through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Many of the promises we are give accompany our resurrection and glorification but this one is made good the moment you believe.  He mentions two other things that come through Christ.  Number two is “access”.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but buy me.”  Without Him God would always be out of reach, that takes care of righteousness in our present time.  Earlier in Ephesians we talked about “the middle wall of partition” that separated Jew from Gentile but when He paid the price on the cross it was “broken down” and “the veil of the temple was rent in twain”; giving “whosoever would” access to God.  In the Greek “access” literally means bringing in, He brought us into the family of God.  Have you ever cemented something down?  Well, that is what it means when it says we “stand” in His “grace”.  It means we’ve been permanently fixed in the provisional gaze of God, “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”.  As the verse that was beautifully penned into a song proclaims, “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

            The third major point here is the “hope of the glory of God”.  That takes care of the future and completes our righteousness.  In Paul’s day the Jews had forgotten how righteousness was kept, it was kept by God alone.  All three of these things come through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In God’s eyes we are righteous past, present, and future.  We are going to share in the “glory of God”, glorified bodies and all, which I can’t really describe but I know it has got to be better than this.  If that isn’t hope, I don’t know what is.

6b.)      The path of faith  v. 3-11

            Paul has just spent the better part of Romans, up to this point, telling us what awaits us without God but if we’ll have faith in Jesus “who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” we can “have peace with God”.  Notice it said “peace with God”, not peace with the world.  Big difference!  There is a Charismatic element out there that completely misrepresents God’s Word on this.  Some would have you believe that “peace with God” translates to peace in the world.  It is one of those unspoken teachings that all denominations have; one of those things that might never really be taught, in so many words, but everyone believes.  There is a segment of Charismatics out there that believe if you are right with God you’ll never have a bad day.  Numerous Scriptures prove this “feel-good theology” wrong, Scriptures like I Thessalonians 3:3.  Here Paul is in another place, on a different occasion but saying the same thing; he is telling the Church “That no man should be moved by” affliction, because we have been “appointed thereunto.”  Another Scripture is II Timothy 3:12, again we are guaranteed hard times.  Finally notice Jesus’ own words to us in John 15:20.  We are subject to Satan and the world system he has set up and if it targeted Jesus, it’ll target us too.

            Satan obviously can’t effect our standing with God but he can affect our state in the here and now, Romans 8:22-23.  It says that Satan’s influence is over “the whole creation” and sense we are still part of it Paul says “And not only they, but ourselves also” are subject to satanic influence.  Satan is always playing with our heads.  He’ll put thoughts in there that lead us to worry needlessly, because most of the time it is over things we can’t control or he’ll sow seeds of sin, aimed at getting us off track and out into the world.  It is an attempt by him to steal our peace, not our standing peace but our state of peace while we’re here on the earth, II Corinthians 4:8-10.  We are going to go through some hard times, Satan is going to cause things to go haywire some times, there are going to be times Satan puts sin out there in plain site and we’re still going to fall into it.  And though those things are going to happen, through Christ we’ve been given the power to “not get distressed”, to not live “in despair”, to not feel “forsaken” or “destroyed”.  Why?  Because while we bear “the dying of the Lord Jesus” “in the body”, His “life” “also” is “made manifest in our body” by our faithfulness and obedience.  Those things that we are all going to go through in one way or another Paul calls “tribulations”.  The word “tribulation” comes from the word “tribulum”, a word used in Paul’s day.  A tribulum, as Paul would have known it, was an instrument used to thresh grain.  It was made out of a stick of timber and had spikes through it, as they raked it over the grain it would separate the wheat from the chaff.  Paul is saying that tribulation in the life of a Christian spiritually does the same thing.  If you’ll give your situation over to God and learn to trust Him you’ll begin to loose the things that don’t do you any good.  For example, when you commit to trusting God, for a particular situation, you stop worrying, through tribulation you loose the chaff.  This leads to Christian maturity, that is why Paul says “we glory in tribulations”.  It not only equips us better for life but Paul goes on to say in chapter eight “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

            Now, Paul explains this as a process that begins with faith.  And tribulation is the catalyst that leads to these other things.  This is a process someone like Job knew all too well.  That book opens by giving us a glimpse into Job’s life, he had faith, he feared God.  But then things started to change.  A series of catastrophes happen that leave him with almost nothing.  But for forty chapters we see that his tribulation “worketh patience; And patience, experience; and” from that “experience, hope”.  He finally meets with God and in the end things are better than they ever were.  Now while we are not all going to have the complete Job experience, like Job we are going to go through this process and grow spiritually from it; and in the end be able to say that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.  The terminology that is used here particularly with the word “experience” tells us the Christian walk is a process.  At its origin the language used here points back to the way they used to purify gold and silver.  They would melt them down which allowed the impurities to be removed.  Using tribulation God does the same thing to us.  When we breakdown under the pressure that tribulation brings into our lives our only real resource is God.  As we begin to truly trust Him the inconsistencies, the faulty mechanisms, the unreliable parts of our lives simply fall anyway like the chaff, leaving us purer than before.

            It is because of faith and this process of obedience that we can have hope “And hope maketh not ashamed”.  However, this is a process that we regularly sabotage.  When we live in sin and disobedience it robs us of the peace and hope Paul has been telling us about.  Paul goes on to talk about “the love of God”, when you don’t have peace, you have no hope.  It is hard to feel the love of God when you go that route and that is how we breakdown the maturity process.  But if we’ll exercise the faith God has given us it is then that we are free to experience “the love of God” and that is God’s greatest desire, that we be able to share in His love.  Paul says His love “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  Having the Holy Spirit in you means you are now part of the family of God, a fact that can never change and that is why we can be “not ashamed”.  His focus here is the “love of God”, it is what motivated God to reach out with His Son and offer redemption to a lost world.  Ephesians 3:14-19  In these verses Paul says that one of his greatest goals was to make sure that we “comprehend” “the love of Christ”.  In conjunction with what we are talking about over in Romans we gather that when we are in a right relationship with God it is easy to feel that love but the thing we don’t “comprehend” is, that love is still there even when we fall into sin.  When we fall into sin and then consequently suffer judgment from God that love is still there.  Like a child, it is hard to feel that love when you are in the midst of chastisement but it doesn’t mean it is not there.  But do you see what sin does to us?  It blinds us from the “love of God”, it is still there but in His love for us He is obligated to correct sin.  Which begins a vicious little process of its own.  Our sin gets us in trouble, temporarily blocking the truth that God still loves us even while He is dealing with our sin but the flesh won’t let us feel it.  And then sense we can’t feel His love we of course fail to love God in return.  That is how you allow those times of tribulation to overtake you and the maturity process is halted.  And when we allow tribulation to overtake us we loose the very things that are meant to help get us through it.  When we get mad at God, for whatever reason, we loose our faith and because we lost our faith we loose the peace that came with it.  When you don’t have any peace you sure don’t have any patience, every experience reminds you of what you don’t got, and finally all hope is gone.  So, we can go down one of two paths:  we can walk with Christ in faith, and peace, and hope and “be filled with all the fulness of God” or we can live in sin and loose all of these things.  The choice is ours to make.

            These verses explain to us that the whole faith experience, eternally, is a path that begins and ends with faith but temporally our faith experience is meant for us to “work out” our “own salvation”; or develop the “patience”, get the “experience”, so you can have the “hope”.  If you are saved, sin no longer effects you eternally but even though you are saved it can still affect you temporally and that is why you are meant to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, put effort into living a life that pleases God.  Which, as the next verse says, would have been impossible if Christ hadn’t “died for the ungodly.”  Before we were saved it says “we were yet without strength”.  We were helpless, in our natural lost state we couldn’t:  please God, resist Satan, escape sin, or overcome death; but through Christ we can.

            Verses six, seven, and eight are one thought, that tells us the reason we are helpless is because we are “sinners”.  Sin is what the human heart has devoted itself to, that is completely opposite to the holy and righteous God Paul spent three chapters telling us about.  That word “ashamed” if you trace it back to its original roots means disfigured.  Sin has disfigured us, not only physically but spiritually and that is where it does its greatest damage.  When the lost stand before God on judgment day they are going to feel overwhelming guilt and shame, because their own lusts have disfigured them so badly.  That is the very reason “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” so, that we wouldn’t have to bare the guilt, shame, and disfigurement.  It is hard to love something that is so disfigured but our love isn’t like His love.  We tend to love attractiveness and those that love us but from God’s standpoint we not attractive neither do we love His ways.  That is why it says “God commendeth his love toward us”.  In the Greek it means to bring two things together that don’t belong together but were brought together anyway.  God had no reason to love us after the fall, we disfigured ourselves by choice but He loved us enough to give us a way out of a mess we caused.  There is a perversion out that called the Love Gospel and while He was motivated by love to save us, it was not love that did save us.  “Christ died for us” and “justified” us “by his blood”.

            We’ve been talking about the path of faith and the process of walking in Christ well, in verses nine, ten, and eleven Paul gives us an idea of the path that God took and the process He went through to save us.  He references the topic of “wrath”, which is where the book of Romans starts out.  He also uses the phrase “much more” twice.  The function of this phrase is to indicate the importance of what he is about to say, even elevate it above what he has already said.  In previous verses we are told that “Christ died for the ungodly”, “Christ died for us”.  But what Paul is saying is that Jesus did “much more” than that for us.  He is saying being saved by the blood means “we shall be saved from wrath”.  His point is that this is a gift we don’t even come close to understanding or appreciating.  This “wrath” is the same word found over in I Thessalonians 1:9-10.  That of course is a reference to the “great tribulation”, an event that spans seven years and occurs after we’ve been raptured up.  This is such a monumental event that even the OT makes mention of it in Zephaniah 1:15-18.  Later in the book of Revelation yet greater detail is given on this coming time.  It is the result of God’s wrath over sin.  That is what Jesus died for, among other things, to prevent us from having to go through this.  We don’t know how blessed we are, is what Paul is saying.  We’ve been saved from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and one day we are going to be saved from the presence of sin altogether.

                The gist of the next verse is, if you think Jesus accomplished something through His death, wait till you see what He accomplishes “by his life.”  Two words that have been used in verses nine and ten merit further investigation, they are the words “justified” and “reconciled”.  One is said to be “justified” when righteousness is credited to their spiritual bank account; that is what the whole discussion on Abraham was about.  Christ’s righteousness was “reckoned” as our own.  The moment we believed that He did it all and ask for that to be reckoned to us, we are justified citizens of Heaven.  On the other hand, one is said to be “reconciled” when all charges against them are excused, the guiltless have no need to stand before the court.  The work of Christ accomplished both.  The last verse of chapter four makes it clear, Jesus “was delivered” and put to death “for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”  It started with Adam.  Adam was created innocent not perfect as some might say.  He didn’t cast off perfection like the angels that followed Satan did, if that is what he had done then their would be a place “reserved in everlasting chains” for him but the Bible never says that.  So, he was created innocent now, if he had never sinned, at best that would simply make us sons of Adam.  But Adam did sin leaving us in need of reconciliation, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.  But it is “by his life” that we are justified or “saved”, His resurrection tells us when we die it is not over.  It is one thing to be reconciled or be found guiltless and not have to stand in the presence of God but it is another to be justified or righteous and entitled to stand in the presence of God.  His death reconciled us back to the state of Adam before the sin.  And it is that justification part, that comes “by his life” (His resurrection), that made us sons of God and will save us from “the wrath to come”.

            Perhaps Jesus’ best-known parable illustrates these truths for us best.  When the prodigal son came home he wanted to be reconciled.  If his father would excuse his behavior he would have been willing to work has a hired hand.  But Jesus tells us when you come to the Father you are “much more” than reconciled; the son is not only excused but welcomed back into the family by his father.  He was restored to the status of a son.  He had “atonement”, which is the combination of reconciliation and justification.  That gave him reason to “joy”.  We have reason to joy too, our sin has been reconciled or taken off of our account, not only that, we’ve been justified, declared righteous; that is “atonement”.  We are not only not going to die we are going to share in His glory, in Heaven, for eternity.  Like the prodigal son could have said, so can we proclaim, how great is our Father!  Now, as great as God is, without Jesus no one would be making that statement.  Notice it says we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Without Jesus going to the cross there wouldn’t be any justification and certainly not any reconciliation.  Without Him we’d all be lost, guilty, “without excuse”.  Without Him there would be no reason to “joy”, Paul says that comes only “by whom we now have received the atonement.”  Christ died for us, He lived for us, and praise God one day He is coming back for us.

C.  The gift of righteousness                  5:12-21

1c.)      The genesis  v. 12-14

            The verses we’ve just examined and the ones that remain in chapter five, many consider to be the most difficult verses to understand in Romans.  They deal with concepts and precepts that we are incapable of proving or comprehending.  So, it comes down to faith, which itself transcends any possible degree of measure; you can’t weigh faith, you can’t visually see the object of your faith, it is just something “a still small voice” in your heart tells you just is.  A God in three persons, a man and woman named Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit, plunging the world into the grips of an invisible force called sin; these verses ask a lot of their reader.  But still it can’t all be denied:  God’s hand on a life bringing someone from where they’ve been to where they’ve come, when so many else have tried and failed, the easy that a child lies with, having never been taught or coached, not to mention all the other things we people do that come by nature.  These things are very real and it is not only in our nature to believe there is a God as Paul has already told us but our nature proves we need Him.

            Once again we must begin with Adam, as we talked about earlier Adam was created innocent.  God created us to live in innocence, untouched by sin like God Himself, Genesis 1:27 and 5:1 concur.  Now, you would think that Scripture from that point on would describe Adam’s offspring in the same way but in Genesis 5:3 it doesn’t.  It no longer says that man was created “in the likeness of God” it says instead “Adam…begat a son in his own likeness, after his image”.  What happened in-between these two events that causes God to say that?  He looses his innocence by committing sin.  See, when God created Man He did something special; He created us innocent, which means we were neither guilty nor righteous.  We were in the middle and in His wisdom, knowing what Satan was going to do, being created innocent would give us an ability even the angels in their perfection lacked; unlike them we can be redeemed and we can praise God not only for His perfect holiness but for His grace as well.  Angels will never be able to do that.  But that sin cost us our innocence.  John 8:44  So, in the Garden Man lost his innocent nature and who’d we get our new one from?  Satan, we traded our innocent nature for a sin nature.

            Why is Adam to blame, how does what he did affect you?  You ever tile a floor?  What happens if that first tile is a little off center?  It’ll throw all of the other tiles you lay after it off.  Metaphorically Adam was that first tile and by choosing to sin he was positioning himself in such a way that his actions would affect everyone and everything after him.  It is because of him that “sin entered into the world” so, the next time you are a victim of a crime thank Adam.  He broke the one rule of paradise and because of that no one after him has got to experience it since.  Before he sinned animals lived in harmony, there was no such thing as survival of the fittest, all animals were herbivorous; Romans chapter eight explains the far reaching consequences of Adam’s sin and what it did to creation.  That sin also paved the way for “death” to enter into the world “and so death passed upon all men”; so, the next time you lose a loved one thank Adam.  He wasn’t like Eve, at least she had a defense, she was deceived.  He wasn’t there when Satan struck, all he did was give into temptation so, he had no excuse.  But his actions reach still farther, the last part of that verses says “that all have sinned”.  In the context in which it is used it is not talking about our own individual sin, it is talking about the original sin from which all sin is derived; it goes back to that crooked tile analogy, if the first one is crooked it will throw off all of the rest.  The instant Adam bit he made all sin possible; that means personal sin aside we are guilty by default; death reigns “even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression”.  You are not a sinner because you sin, you are a sinner because you have a sin nature.  Notice it says, after Adam sinned that “sin entered into the world”.  Sin existed prior to this because it is “the devil” that sinneth “from the beginning” but it was Adam’s sin that brought sin into the human plane of existence.  And that is the Genesis of the problem, that is where it all started.

            In verses thirteen and fourteen Paul points to a specific time period that lasted “from Adam to Moses”.  He tells us that in this specific time frame “sin was in the world” but that there was “no law” given at the time.  That doesn’t mean sin was acceptable, God never has and never will accept sin, it was just that “God winked at” sin for the benefit of Man.  This specific time we are calling the Genesis was meant for Man to see the damage sin was inflicting even before God handed down the law from eternity.  Look at what it says, “death reigned from Adam to Moses”.  Man wasn’t ready to handle a written law anyway, it wasn’t until the time of Moses that God had a people that were ready to even try to keep His law.  That is why it says sin was “not imputed” during that time.  But even in the midst of such tragedy we find hope, Adam was “the figure of him that was to come”; as he explains in the next three verses.

2c.)      The revelation  v. 15-17

            Paul devotes the entire third part of his discussion of Justification to a compare and contrast of “one man/one act”.  In these verses Paul compares both Adam and Christ and how they both stand as representatives for Mankind.  That’s the comparison but then he contrasts them.  Because they not only represent Man, they represent the two distinct spirituals paths we are all going to choose from.  Either you are going to go the path that Adam took, a path of disobedience and ultimate death or you can choose to go the way of the Saviour and be reconciled by His death and saved by His life.  He develops this truth all the way to the end of the chapter.  Some other things you see at this point are some words that keep popping up.  He uses the phrase “much more” five times in this chapter and four of those uses occur in this third section.  His reason for that is obvious; as Christians we are “much more” than Adam ever was, in Christ we gain “much more” than Adam ever lost.  Something else that keeps popping up is the word “one”, it is used a dozen times in this last section.  I Corinthians 15:20-22  Paul is saying you are either “in Adam” or lost and on your way to hell or you are “in Christ”, subject to the “resurrection” of life in the eternal kingdom of God.  You’re “in” one or the other.

            To understand verses fifteen and sixteen you must get that Paul is comparing and contrasting Adam to Christ.  Again they both stand as representative Man, and their actions repercussion through out Man of all ages, that is as far as their comparison or similarities go.  Notice how the first line of both verses put it, “But not as the offense, so also is the gift” then “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift”.  Simply put they say that while the outcomes are different both actions are similar in that they have universal effects.  Now, we’ve talked about where the problem began in the Genesis and how its effects were felt in the time period between Adam and Moses but between Moses and Jesus is another time period.  In this time period they received the Revelation, it is when the problem was diagnosed and treatment was given.  That treatment was the law.  It let the Jews know where they fell short and what they could do to temporarily treat the problem but the law was not the final solution.  Even under the law “the offence of one” affected the “many”, all it did was tell them what their problem was, which was sin, it just wasn’t a permanent solution.  But “the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ” is the permanent solution.  It “abounded unto many.”  Why?  Because if Man can do something that affects all of creation, how “much more” can God do it?  God hates sin so much that it only took one to condemn an entire world, Paul writes that “the judgment was by one to condemnation”.  And it is not that Adam’s was worse than anyone else’s, anyone one of the sins we commit everyday has the exact same destructive power.  But greater than God’s hatred for sin is His love for the sinner.  God’s grace is greater than Man’s sin.  Whereas it only took one sin to bring condemnation, “the free gift is of many offences unto justification.”  What that means is that all it took was one crooked tile to throw off all the rest but that “free gift” will take all your crooked tiles and “justify” them, make them straight.

            We’ve already talked about how “by one man’s offence” Man gave up his innocence but in this next verse we also find out that by that “one man’s offence” we gave up control.  Genesis chapters one and two tell us that God gave Adam and his offspring “dominion” over the earth, God’s instructions were to “subdue it”, “dress it”, and “to keep it.”  Along with the option of whether or not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” we had control.  But Paul tells us when Adam sinned we lost that control, we went from reigning to being reigned over by “death”.  But if you’ll “receive” “the gift of righteousness” that’s “in Christ” you’ll “reign in life”.  That’s not only one day in glory, you can reign right now, you don’t have to live in sin.  That “free gift” gives back control to not have to be dominated by temptation; you can have “dominion” again, at least over yourself.  And Paul urges us to remember, that dominion comes “by one, Jesus Christ”.  That is not denying that sin and death are still in the world, that is why Paul says we receive an “abundance of grace”.  “By one, Jesus Christ” sin has been paid for and death has been defeated.  The revelation is, He really is the final solution.

3c.)      The Propitiation  v. 18-21

            There is great potential for verse eighteen to be taken out of context so, let’s start there.  The Bibles teaches that Jesus died for everyone.  Well, there are those that try to draw a false comparison between Adam and Christ.  They try and say that since Adam’s one act brought “all men to condemnation”, Christ’s “free gift” must as well apply to “all men unto justification”.  Now, is that an accurate assessment of Scripture?  No, it not only doesn’t hold to the spirit of the rest of the book of Romans, it negates the rest of God’s Word.  With Adam, his sin filters on down to us, at the very least we are all born with a sin nature and are in need of salvation before we ever commit any sins of our own.  And even if that were not the case, in the world we live, already exposed to sin, it would only be a matter of time until we did commit sin.  Where Jesus differs with Adam is the second birth.  In His own words Jesus says you must “be born again” if you want to “see the kingdom of God.”  That tells me that physical birth isn’t what makes you a child of God.  To be a child of God you have got to be “born of the Spirit”.  That means you know that God is your provider, not you.  That means you do not “mind the things of the flesh” as much as you do “the things of the spirit”.  Now, while you don’t control being born in the flesh, you do make the decision to be “born of the Spirit”.  So, while all are born guilty, there is the capacity for all to be born a second time “unto justification”.  Keeping in step with his “one man/one act” analysis we can compare verses eighteen and nineteen.  He speaks of “the offence of one”, in the next verse he calls it “disobedience”, that’s Adam and subsequently all of us.  Then he talks about “the righteousness of one” and in the next verse he calls it “obedience”, that is Jesus.  Finally here he puts the two side by side and we see that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” but despite that “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”.

            Fittingly as Paul is about to speak of sanctification or the process of becoming Christ-like, he references the law one last time.  The law showed them how to live a sanctified life however, that was never a means of salvation.  Disobedience to the law has never damned a soul to hell but obedience to it has never brought a soul to God.  Sin and its “condemnation” were in the world long before the law.  The last verse says that death isn’t the only thing that reigns, “sin hath reigned” as well.  And it is because of sin that “the law entered”.  Paul explains it like this, sin is like an infection, you can’t always see it but the symptoms prove it’s there.  That is why when you get sick and go to the doctor they draw blood; obviously you’re sick but to diagnose what it is they got to look closer.  Under their microscopes they can tell you exactly what is wrong with you.  The law is the same way, God brought it into the world so “that the offence might abound”.  Paul has already told us in chapter two that God has placed a basic copy of the law in every person’s heart.  No matter where you are from you know things like:  lying, stealing, killing, and adultery are wrong.  No one was to tell you those things because God has just put it in you.  But life can get complicated by the things we do and some times we loose perspective and that is what the law was for.  It teaches precepts that are to be lived by.  If used right it would always point out sin, like a magnifying glass it would cause it to “abound”.  The law let Israel know where the boundaries of sanctification stood.

            “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”.  See, death and sin reigned over all Mankind because of what Adam did.  Go back to Genesis 5 and notice that a trend emerges after Adam’s sin.  “And he died”:  you see it in verse five, you see it in verse eight, you see it in verse eleven and it keeps going, even to today.  Why?  Because we are of “the generations of Adam.”  Generations pass away but isn’t it interesting in Matthew 1:1 it doesn’t say the generations of Jesus Christ, it says “the generation of Jesus Christ”.  That tells me if you’re “in Christ”, if you’re “justified by faith” you are a member of a generation that will never pass away.  This time span, we’ll just call the Propitiation, lasts from the moment you get saved to eternity.  Sin still reigns to a physical death but God’s grace gives us “justification of life” and reigns “through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.