Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff and it’s my pleasure to speak with you today about a very important passage in the bible.
Today we are going to examine one of the most important passages in the New Testament. It explains to us how we are made right with God.
It’s normal for people who think there is a God to ask themselves – what does it take for God to be okay with me? And so – normally, people who don’t know the message of Jesus end up landing on one of a few common options.
First – and probably most popular – is the idea of some kind of cosmic scales – I want to do good things and not do anything really bad or wrong. I just want to be a good guy, right? And hopefully the good things I do will counter balance the sinful things I’ve done – and hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood, and that at the end of your life the scales will tip in your favor.
And this is why if you were to ask someone – if you were to die today and stand before God – why do you think he should receive you instead of turn you away from his presence? And many people will say – well, I never killed anyone. And the person who has killed someone will say, well, I never killed more than one person.
I say that as a way to illustrate the arbitrary nature of being judged on good works. How good is good enough? And it’s human nature to want to be compared to someone much worse than us – so we look better. But what if you are standing in line in heaven and Mr Rogers is in front of you. What then?
Thankfully, the is not the way the bible says that we are brought into a right standing with God. I say thankfully because – the scales thing always ends up leaving us guessing. And worried or anxious and it causes us to live our lives not out of gratitude but out of obligation or fear.
Others think that God has this religious clipboard – and so long as you are baptized in the church, and attend regularly, and give some money away, and take communion, and get through confirmation, and are read last rites, or whatever… then you have fulfilled the religious requirements and God will have to let you in.
And this leaves us with a rather boring God, frankly. Who seems to major on the minors of life. Why would God care so much about things that we have to force ourselves to do.
Thankfully, this is also not how God operates.
A third was people think about being made right with God is to think of God as being so loving and so kind – that everybody will be embraced and loved and we will all get in. And this of course falls apart when we think of people who are purely evil and intentionally harm innocent people – we think – well God loves most people.
And really this way of thinking falls in on itself because it takes us back to the question – not how good do I have to be to get in but how bad must I be to be excluded from God’s presence, and who makes the call?
By default puts us back into the first group – where we are hoping that God sees me as a good guy. Enough to let me in. Because who gets to make the call? Where is the line?
There are more groups than just this, of course. There are in fact many who will throw their hands up and say- no one knows – so I’m not going to even think about it. I’m going to live my life the best way I know how and not think about it. No one can know.
But the Bible is actually very clear about how a person can be made right with God. Let me show you what the Bible teaches us about HOW we are made right with God.
It’s no secret. The bible plainly teaches this. Ephesians 2:8,9
2:8 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Saved – The Bible says the same thing ten different ways to try to help us understand that God is in the process of rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of Heaven. We are moving from death to life. From Darkness to light. From enemies to friends of God, all different ways of saying we are saved…
By grace. Not works. See the scales imply works. The clipboard is the law. Not by works. Not by the law. But rather, by grace. Out of the goodness and kindness and loving nature of God he give us a gift of eternal life. But a gift is not a gift if we refuse to receive it.
We are saved, by grace, through faith in Jesus. And faith is thinking highly enough of Jesus to trust him with your life.
Sometimes people make a mistake of thinking about Jesus as being the expert in taking away sins. He is the guilt removal expert. But the more we study the life of Jesus the more we will see that he is completely competent in every area of life.
Do we really imagine that Jesus can be Lord if he is not smart enough to teach us how to handle our kids, or our finances, or our sex lives, or our business. Can he be divine, but out of touch with our modern way of living?
Of course not. Faith is thinking highly enough of Jesus as master of all of life, that we willingly submit our own thoughts and feelings to him, and we say teach us how to live your kind of life in this kind of world. That’s faith. And that is what God is asking of us.
When you think highly enough of Jesus to trust him? You’ve crossed over into an entirely new reality itself. The Kingdom of Heaven.
This sentence is the heartbeat of Christianity. This is HOW a person is made right and placed in good standing with God.
Now I said all that as an introduction to the passage of scripture we are reading today from Romans chapter 3. And today we come to a very important portion of the letter that Paul wrote to the church that met in Rome.
And what Paul is going to do is extrapolate on this theme. In essence, he’s going to pop the hood and let us see the engine components that make this sentence on the screen work.
On Wednesday night I was at the Hub welcoming High School students who were coming in for youth group, and into the parking lot pulled this sweet looking 76 Corvette. It belonged to one of the dads who was there to pick up his daughter. Naturally – I went over to talk with him and get a better look at his car.
And I said, man I love the looks of this car – it’s fantastic looking. And he told me that really, the car as it is on the outside looks nice, but it’s what’s going on under the hood that is really special. He told me he spent two years working on and off to restore the engine.
So he pops the hood and let’s me see the engine. (This isn’t the engine – I just found this online, his looked even cleaner than this) And you know – I’m not very mechanical – but even I knew I was looking at a pretty cool sight – the engine was super clean and huge and powerful and it was impressive – in fact – as cool as the outside of the car looked, the engine was the coolest thing about the car. Seeing what is under the hood made my appreciation for the car even greater.
Now here’s the point. Ephesians 2:8,9 – is the body of the corvette. You are saved by grace through faith. Sweet ride. Even if you never saw under the hood – when you heard that thing rumble you knew there was power under there.
The passage we are about to read, from Romans chapter three? Is the engine of the Corvette. Paul is going to show us how it operates. How it can be true that we are saved by grace through faith. How did that come about?
Romans 3 is the engine that powers Ephesians 2. Does that make sense?
Today we will read three words that are components of salvation – and if we understand these three words better than today we will walk away with an even deeper appreciation of Ephesians 2:8,9.
The three words are Demonstration. Redemption. Justification.
Let’s read Romans 3, and I’ll use the New International Version again this week.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
When Paul began writing his letter to the church that met in Rome, he introduced himself as an announcer of the Good News. Well – this is the good news. The Good News is that God has made known to us a way of being made right with him that doesn’t involve scales, or checklists, or shoulder shrugging.
22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 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.
So let’s talk about our three components under the hood of Salvation. And the first component Paul points out is that the cross is a demonstration of God’s justice.
But – interestingly, if we turn a couple of pages in our bible to Romans chapter 5 – check out what else the cross demonstrates to us…
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The cross is a demonstration of two aspects of God’s nature that seem to be in conflict with one another. God’s justice and God’s love.
God is both fully just and fully loving. And this is good news. We want a just God. Imagine if someone has caused you great harm – and is arrested and goes before the judge and the judge says, “You know, I’m just too loving to sentence you for your crimes. I’m a big softie! You as the offended party would decry an unjust judge.
We wouldn’t want a judge like that, and we don’t want a God like that either.
Conversely, it goes without saying we wouldn’t want a God who is not loving, although many people live as if that’s the God you got. The image of an angry cranky God who is easily annoyed by us…
But thankfully, God is both fully loving and fully just. This being the case, the fall of mankind put God into a bind, so to speak. As a fully loving God he desired to forgive us our sins and pull mankind back into a relationship with him. But he couldn’t do that without addressing the wrongs that had been committed – our sins against God as well as our sins against one another. That would make him unjust.
So Jesus leaves Heaven, becomes a human being, dies on the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Justice is served, but God takes the punishment on our behalf.
Now it’s normal for someone to say – why couldn’t God have just said, oh listen, forget it – no sweat – I forgive you. No problem – we will allow bygones to be bygones. It’s water under the bridge! I forgive you! Why did Jesus have to die for us? Couldn’t he have forgiven us without having to pay such a price?
And here’s the answer. See, anytime someone wrongs you – there is going to be suffering involved in moving forward. And you have two choices. If someone wrongs you – then you can make them suffer for it, or you can suffer for it. But someone is suffering.
If someone wrongs you, you can make them pay. Get even. Make them suffer for it. And this is in many ways a normal response from our broken humanity. Except it usually escalates. You hurt me, I’ll hurt you twice as bad. This is why, by the way, when Moses gives the law to Israel he tells them – this is the law. An eye for an eye.
This sounds brutal to us in a way but it was actually a huge step forward in the progress of humanity, because it stemmed our natural desire to say you took one of my eyes, I’ll take both of yours.
If someone has wronged you – you can make them suffer. But the problem, or course, is that evil simply continues to be multiplied. It’s barely corked, let alone squelched. Making them suffer is giving into evil.
But what’s the other option. I will forgive them for their trespass against me. But that doesn’t change the fact that they wronged you. You are simply choosing to take the suffering yourself.
For example – If someone borrows $1,000 from you – and a month later they come to you and tells you – listen, I am unable to pay you back the money. I will never be able to repay you. You can say, okay I forgive you the debt – but the reality is that the $1,000 will have to be eaten by someone. You are eating that thousand dollars. You are choosing to suffer the loss.
Listen – when it comes to our sins – the untold ways we have harmed ourselves and one another and God through our sins… a just God says – someone has to pay. Someone has to suffer. And on the cross – Jesus says, I’ll take the suffering.
Someone is going to suffer. Someone has to eat the pain and the agony of sin and anger and murder and hate – and Jesus says, I’ll eat the pain. I’ll eat the agony of sin.
We are saved by grace through faith. Do we have any idea how much it cost God to make that statement run? Do we have any idea how much suffering and pain he ate on the cross? The cross is a demonstration of God’s justice – and God’s love.
We were in deeper trouble than we could ever have known and should rightfully have been on the receiving end of divine judgment against us. But God demonstrated his justice and his love for us on the cross.
Romans 3 lifts the hood of salvation and lets us peer at components of salvation. One of those components is the word demonstration. The second component is the word Redemption.
Romans 3 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
On the cross Jesus redeems us. Redemption means to buy back. You can redeem an empty pop can – the state of Iowa will buy it back from you for a dime or whatever.
Jesus bought us back. What does this mean? Well in the Old Testament – if you got yourself into debt that you could not pay back – there was no such thing as bankruptcy. Instead, you would become a servant of the person you owed the debt to. An indentured servant, or if the debt would never be able to be repayed, you would become a slave. And that meant you lost your rights, you lost your freedom, you were solely at the mercy of your owner.
Now the Old Testament made a way out of slavery or servanthood – the way out was through redemption. A family member could, out of the kindness of their heart, pay your debt for you and you would be free again! Your freedom returns.
In the Bible the book of Ruth is a story about a woman caught in complete poverty – destitute she was forced to glean wheat that had been left behind by harvesters working in the fields. Boaz becomes her redeemer – he acts on her behalf to rescue her from trouble. He redeems her.
Paul lifts the hood of salvation and says that the cross is a redemption story. Jesus pays the debt of sin that was on our books. He carries our debt – to the grave. And in return, through faith, we are forgiven, our debts are paid. We are redeemed.
I remember hearing a little story one time about a boy who saved up his money to purchase a model sailboat – and he worked hard to create it. He often enjoyed going to the lake and putting a string on the boat and letting it sail as he pulled it along.
One day a large gust of wind appeared and broke the string and the boat sailed away from him out into the lake and out of sight. The boy was devastated or course, thinking he had lost his boat forever.
One day though he was walking through town and he walked past a toy shop and there in the window was his boat. He went in and told the shopkeeper that that sailboat belonged to him, but the shop owner said, son, I bought that boat off from another man who brought it in. I’m afraid that if you want that boat you will have to buy it. What a mean shop keeper! Rotten guy. Nobody in town liked him, because he was mean stingy crank – but I digress…
So the boy saved his money once again, – completely emptied his piggy bank, brought all his money into the store and bought his boat. And as he walked out he said to the boat – now you are twice mine. Not only did I create you but now I bought you.
That is redemption. Jesus not only created you, but bought you. He redeemed you. o the cross. What a price God was willing to pay for you. And from this point forward you may never consider yourself worthless again. You and I both might be unworthy, but we are never worthless. What a price Jesus was willing to pay to redeem us.
This is what’s going on under the hood of salvation. the cross is a demonstration of the love and justice of God. The cross redeems all of us who would receive it through faith.
Thirdly, we are declared Justified by God the Judge.
What does it mean to be justified? It’s two things.
First – Justification is a cleansing. It’s a legal declaration stating that we are completely forgiven and no longer liable to punishment. We are cleansed from our sins. After we place our faith in Jesus, once we cross over the line of faith, then there is an instantaneous declaration that we completely forgiven.
But that’s not really enough, is it? It’s not enough to be declared morally neutral. Because how long can we stay clean before we muddy ourselves up in sin again, right?
So the second aspect of justification is that Jesus imparts to us his righteousness. He clothes us with his goodness.
This doctrine – of justification by grace through faith in Jesus, makes Christianity stand out as different from every other religion on the face of the earth. See every other religion wants to inform you about what you need to do in order to put plus marks in your circle. What you need to do to present to God a good enough record to be accepted.
Christianity gives you the perfect record – Jesus hands it over to you freely. It’s all yours. Jesus paid the price on the cross. He is eating the pain for us. He paid the penalty for us, he paid the debt. He clothes us with his own rightness and goodness.
What do we see when we lift the hood of salvation? We see just how much it cost God to bring us back into a right relationship with Him.
What did it cost your god to demonstrate his justice and love to you? It cost our God everything. And he willingly paid it – because he is loving and just and completely trustworthy.
As we turn our hearts toward worship these last two songs this morning, can we worship with a deeper appreciation of what went into making it possible that we might be able to celebrate that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus?
He Demonstrated his love and justice on the cross
He redeemed us from slavery to sin by paying a debt we could never have paid on our own.
He justified us freely by his grace and declares us cleansed from sin and clothed in righteousness.
All of this, available to us by faith in Jesus.