Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 25 of the podcast. Today’s episode is Part II of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”
Today’s title is “Righteousness by Faith.”
Last week we explored the first three chapters of Romans where the Apostle Paul described the utterly depraved condition of all people, regardless of their ethnic heritage or genetic background.
Today, we’ll move into the next few chapters as Paul points his readers—and us—to the one and only hope for Adam’s race: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by which he makes atonement for our sins, and opens the door to eternal life for any individual who chooses to accept it.
Let’s start with a quick review.
In Romans 3:10 and 3:23, Paul categorically declares that every son and daughter of Adam’s race—whether Jew or Gentile—is born in sin, steeped in sin, and not one single person is naturally righteous in his/her own right.
However, Paul also states unequivocally that every individual—Jew or Gentile, male of female, slave or free—has already been justified—made right with God—through the blood of Jesus Christ. (See John 3:24 and Galatians 3:28).
That text in Galatians says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NLT).
The complete spiritual justification Paul teaches is offered to everyone who will choose to believe the promise of God.
“By deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22).
Now, let’s clearly understand this: “Righteousness” *assumes compliance* with God’s Law!
At the very end of Romans, chapter 3, Paul forcefully makes this point: “There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:30-31 NLT).
Here’s an undeniable truth factor: God has already made known his position in this equation. He has declared everyone justified in his sight by the blood of Jesus. However, the equation—the transaction if you will—cannot be complete without your personal choice. One of God’s irrevocable gifts to all mankind is the absolute freedom of moral choice for every individual. Thus, we can say without question, your faith is revealed by your choices, and your choices will be revealed by your outward actions. As the old folk-proverb says, “Actions speak louder than words.”
To underscore this vital truth, here are several verses from Paul located a few chapters later:
“Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. . . . Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. . . . But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:15-23 NLT).
So, what does this look like in real life, in the “nitty-gritty” “rubber-meets-the-road” existence of our daily routines?
The answer lies in another base-line question: “How do you treat people?”
Take a look at Galatians 5:19-25.
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
Reading these words from the Apostle Paul pulls the picture into sharp focus. The essence of sin is self-centered indulgence, whereas the heart of righteousness inspired by the presence of the Holy Spirit is others-centered and self-sacrificing. I particularly love verse 24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there!”
In another passage Paul specifies what was nailed to the cross.
“God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them in the cross” (Colossians 2:13b-15).
Thus we can see by reading these two statements by Paul together, our standing as “righteous” before God involves two actions. First, what God has already done in our behalf (nailing the record of our sins and sinfulness to the cross), and second, our response to God’s action (acceptance), consenting for those sins to be removed from both our life and our life record. Yielding the “passions and desires” of our sinful nature effectively “nails them to the cross,” yielding a new life in Christ energized by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Which brings us to this precious promise: Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
All of this, of course—purity, righteousness, a new life in Christ, freedom from sin’s dominance, and freedom from guilt—all of this becomes reality for us by faith!
In the Old Testament, Abraham—who was called the father of the faithful—provides a great example. Paul cites Abraham’s experience with these words in Romans 4:13, “For the promise that he would be heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”
Then, Paul says this a few verses later: “[The promise of imputed righteousness is] also for us!” (Romans 4:24)
“Imputed” righteousness means that God “puts” the righteousness of Christ into our spiritual heart.
And, with that, Paul makes an amazing conclusion for this portion of his letter to the church in Rome. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
So, once again we come to a point where we have opportunity to choose either to believe these incredible promises, or just let them pass and go on about living life as we think we want to. Choosing either way produces outward action, so choosing to believe God’s promises and the good news of the gospel will inevitably produce the fruit of obedient service for God’s kingdom.
By his grace, and through power of the indwelling Spirit, we can live outward lives of righteousness—that is, “right living”—that will honor God and bring hope, healing, encouragement, and blessing to other people within our circles of influence.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part III of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “Love Can Build a Bridge.” Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you! I’ll explore the next few chapters in Paul’s epistle where he writes about sharing our faith in our present world. I’m excited to share this incredible truth of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
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