Getting Righteous With God by Faith

Title: Getting righteous with God by Faith

Text: Romans 3:21-31

Time: August 27, 2006

I was watching a movie on television a few months ago about a man who was framed, set up to look guilty – not “The Fugitive,” but something like that. He was being framed for murder, and so he had to collect evidence while on the run from the police, in order to prove his innocence. He contacted an old friend for some help. As he was explaining his innocence and how he was now trying to prove it on his own, he said he was trying “get righteous.” He needed the help of his friend to “get righteous,” meaning, to get right with the law, or no longer a wanted man. As I heard the phrase “get righteous,” I thought spiritually of how we all need to get righteous before God. That’s the topic of the Apostle Paul’s next teaching in the Book of Romans. I’ve been teaching through Romans for the last few months, and I’m at the end of the third chapter today, Romans 3:21-31. Paul’s topic is how to get right with God, or in other words, how to “get righteous.” Now a lot of people today don’t worry about being righteous before God, but that’s not very wise because someday they’ll be sorry when they are standing face-to-face before God and he’s asking them to justify their life. Then, their right standing before God will be the most important thing of all – not their bank account, not how big their home is, not their job, not their hobbies or recreational activities, not all the things that people worry about down here on earth. On that day, there will be one and only one topic of discussion with God — how do you stand with the Almighty? Are you in a right relationship with God or not? We get a whole lifetime to get this right before we die and stand before God, yet people routinely neglect this, put it off, ignore it, dismiss it, or even disbelieve it. But on that day when our lives will be judged by the righteous standards of a holy God, we’ll need to have had all of this taken care of before Judgment Day. Are you righteous before God? How do you know? On what are you counting on to qualify as righteous? Paul wants to get us ready by explaining once again, what won’t work and what will work in getting ourselves righteous before God. The truth is, most people today, as they have been in the past, are counting on a righteousness that won’t help them, while neglecting the only righteousness that will save them. Paul talks about this. Also, he talks about the greatest event in world history, the event that makes us righteous by faith, an event that most people know about but most people don’t understand – Christ’s sacrificial death. Finally, he talks about the fact that even though we can get righteous before God, we still have nothing to boast about. So in this section at the end of chapter three, Paul tries to help us understand the most important thing of all we can learn: how to get ourselves right with God, so that on our future face-to-face meeting with God, we’ll be welcomed into life eternal with him, rather than rejected and condemned to eternal separation from him. Romans 3:21-31 (read). Paul teaches three things that are most important for us.

First, Getting right with God comes by faith not by works. Romans 3:21-24, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Much of the first three chapters of Romans are devoted to proving that everyone, the Jew and the Gentile, are all guilty before God. Nobody is righteous before God; everyone stands judged and condemned before God. Now this was hard for the Jews to accept because they thought they were the righteous because they had God’s law and tried to keep that law. The problem was that they may have had the law of God, but they didn’t keep it, even though they tried — some more than others. But they were under the false impression that because they more or less kept the outer or external aspects of the law they were righteous, self-righteous. They also compared themselves to the Gentiles who neither knew nor obeyed God’s law. By comparing themselves to the pagans, the Jews looked righteous, self-righteous in their own eyes. But Paul tries to explain that both the Jews and the Gentiles fall short of the holy standards of God because even though the Jews try to keep some of the law they fail in keeping the whole law, especially the inner or heart requirements of it. Of course the Gentiles fail in keeping both the external and internal aspects of the law; they are guilty on both counts. So everyone is guilty before God, nobody is righteous before God. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” verses 22-23. But if that is the case, what hope is there that anyone can be saved from God’s judgment and condemnation? Only one hope: getting righteous with God totally separate from what we deserve — getting right with God different from our moral performance under law. That’s why Paul explains, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Verses 21-22. Instead of a righteousness from our self, self-righteousness, we are given a righteousness from God through our faith in Jesus. We can get this righteousness as a free gift from God through our faith in Jesus. It’s so simple, but so many people stumble over it because it’s so simple. Today, whole churches don’t understand it. Millions of people who call themselves Christians, who attend churches week after week, who read their Bible, who pray, and consider themselves ready to meet God, really aren’t ready because they don’t understand that they need Christ’s righteousness, not their own self-righteousness, to be justified before God. Most people imagine their own self-righteousness is good enough to justify them before God, but what Paul’s been trying to say is nobody is self-righteous or good enough to be justified before God. We all fall short on our own. Of all the religious truth that one could know, this one is most important. We need Christ’s righteousness to save us; we can’t save ourselves. Are you trying to justify yourself? Are you counting on your own self-righteousness? If so, realize that you need Christ’s righteousness or you won’t make it. Here’s how it works.

Second, We are saved by faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins. Romans 24-26, “Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” The key phrase is, “a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” To understand this a little background must be known. The Jews, like many or most religions of the world, practiced blood sacrifice. It seems that almost all religions have known that in order to atone or pay for sins there must be a substitute death made on behalf of the sinner. Now some pagan religions in ignorance took this to the extreme of offering human sacrifices for sin whenever sin needed atonement. For example, in Central America the Aztecs offered human sacrifices as a regular part of their religion. I’ve seen some of those ruins down in Mexico and Central America. I’m glad that’s not done anymore because I’m sure it was pretty gruesome. The Jews didn’t practice human sacrifice, but they used animals like lambs and bulls to offer up blood sacrifices. The blood atonement of animals only temporarily covered the sins of the people, like a band-aid does; until the sacrifice of Christ, that’s how the Old Testament saints were saved. As it says in another place in the Bible, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” The Jews knew it, but so did most of the other religions of the ancient world. Now in Jesus Christ all the blood sacrifices for sin come together in one person at one time and provided atonement for the sins of the world. The debt of sin was paid by Christ on the cross, thus satisfying God’s justice. Through faith in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice we are forgiven of our sins and given eternal life. By placing our absolute faith and confidence in Jesus, we give him our sins, which he atones for in his death, and he gives us righteousness, which he earned for us through his sinless life. So Christ becomes our righteousness by taking our sins and giving us his righteous life. This all becomes a reality for us through our faith, or absolute confidence or trust in Christ. Now the message of faith in Christ’s blood as our sacrifice is not popular for a lot of people today. They say it’s barbaric, they say it’s savage, they say it’s primitive religion, not fit for modern people. But I’d like to hear them tell that to God on Judgment Day. I don’t care what people call it, I don’t care if it’s primitive, I don’t care anything except that it atones for my sins. If the blood sacrifice of Jesus makes me righteous before God, I’ll accept it. This is just too important a thing to reject because it doesn’t feel good or sound right. A lot of things in life don’t fit our sensibilities, but life is bigger than logic. If this is how forgiveness is accomplished by God, I want it, regardless of how it seems. Besides, once one gets used to the idea, it’s not so bad. It’s found in many great hymns. “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” “There is a fountain filled with blood draw from Immanuel’s vain. And sinners plunge beneath the flood lose all their guilty stain.” And others.

Third, Because there’s no place for self-righteousness, there’s no place for bragging. Romans 3:27-31, “Where then in boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” The long and the short of it is that because it isn’t anything we do, there isn’t any cause for us to brag or boast about anything we’ve done. God has done it all. He’s provided the sacrifice: his own son Jesus. And he’s forgiven us through that sacrifice. There is nothing for which we can take credit. There is only one person in all of history who has any reason to brag, and that is Jesus Christ. He did earn salvation for himself and for us. He did fulfill the whole law in life and was righteous in and of himself. That righteousness becomes our righteousness when we fully trust Jesus for salvation. But although he didn’t need to die, face judgment, and be condemned in our place, he willingly and out of love, did so to win our salvation. All of this work was done by Jesus; we are helpless spectators, unable to contribute anything to the whole saving process. Even our faith isn’t counted as a work. We simply lift our empty hands of faith and cry, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” That is what saves us. But there can be no boasting in that. We are all spiritual beggars, all crying out to Jesus to save us. There is no boasting in that. In fact, it’s very humbling. That’s why some people refuse to come — it offends their pride of self-accomplishment. They insist on trying to stand before God in their own self-righteousness. Maybe they think they’ve lived a pretty good life. Maybe they think they are good enough. Maybe they just can’t lower themselves to come crawling to Christ on bended need and ask for forgiveness and salvation. The point is, God will not have anyone in his kingdom who has any grounds for boasting. Everyone who enters heaven enters on bended knee. Everyone who stands before God must come in humility. The key phrase in this section is: “A man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” By trying to observe the law, no man is justified. That is what a lot of people will find out too late. Do you realize that your own good works can’t save you? Do you recognize that only Jesus can save you? Have you humbly repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus for salvation? It takes great humility to come to Christ because you must admit that you fail to generate the righteousness needed to please God the Father. All your religious deeds, all your prayers, all your obedience to the laws of God are not enough. You still fall far short. Plus, all your sins count against you in the negative direction. That’s why you, me, we all need Jesus to save us. Have you admitted this? Have you embraced Jesus as Savior? Now is the time do so if you haven’t.

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One Response to “Getting Righteous With God by Faith”

  1. chris Says:

    Jeff,

    I agree with you! I just published a book on the prayers of the Apostle Paul, and I address this same subject throughout the book. You may want to check it out. You can order the book at http://www.Amazon.com, just type in Praying The Prayers of the Apostle Paul.

    Thanks,
    Chris

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