Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pentecost 13 - mid-week

Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28
It is natural for us to justify ourselves. When someone questions our behavior we declare it acceptable by pointing to its rightness and propriety. We are quick to defend our actions. That is not what St. Paul means by the term "justify" in our text. He is talking about God's act of justifying, not ours. In other words, Paul by these words is describing how we stand before God based on what He has done for us. To say that God justifies means that God declares human beings acceptable to Him. If that is so, we have no need to justify ourselves before God or anyone else. We don't have to explain ourselves to God, He has made up His mind and He accepts us for Jesus' sake. Therefore, the most freeing thing that could happen is for God to justify us, to declare us as being forgiven before Him. This is precisely what God in Christ has done for us. This morning, let's consider the fact that our justification by God frees us.
[1] Our justification before God frees us from making the Law our justifier.
A. Our natural tendency is to use the Law to justify ourselves before God.
1. We do so when we try to keep God's commandments to win God's approval. The man who thought that he could be acceptable to God on the basis of what he had done asked Jesus the question "but what else must I do?"
2. We do so when we refuse to let the Law reveal our failure in keeping it. When we look at the law as a mirror what does it show us? It shows us our sin.
3. We do so when we do not see ourselves as sinners who fall short of the holiness God requires. (vs. 23) simply reminds us that 'all have sinned" We can't gain access to God because all have sinned.
B. What God did through Jesus makes using the Law as our justifier totally unnecessary.
1. God sent Jesus to atone for our sins. (v.25a) Again, Paul reminds us that Jesus was sent into this world to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin. He is the one time sacrifice for our sins. He no longer has to die because He has paid for all sins once and for all at the cross.
2. God has declared us forgiven, freely, despite our sinand without preliminary improvement of our behavior. And it's all based on the redemption secured for us by Christ.
C. It is good that the Law is NOT our justifier.
1. We have no need to worry about whether we have done enough to please God. Because Jesus has done it all.
2. We have no need to justify ourselves before God or before people by comparing our keeping of God's law to other's keeping of it. None of us could keep the Law perfectly so Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly for us.
3. Of course, we try to keep God's Law, but not for our justification; God is the one who redeeds! He justifies. "apart from works of the Law" (v.28)
Transition: Paul says in our text "we are "justified by faith" Some have interpreted "by faith" to mean faith in our justifier. But our justification by God also frees us...
[2] Our justification by God frees us from making faith our justifier.
A. If faith is our justifier, faith becomes a work of the Law.
1. Faith would then becomes something we contribute to our justification and faith would cease to be a gift.
2. We could never be sure whether we had enough faith.
B. Faith is God's gift, not our achievement that caused us to be justified.
1. We can not boast even of our faith (v.27) We boast rather in Christ who has given us this faith.
2. Faith is the very opposite of works (v.28) "We are justified by faith apart from works of the Law" Paul reminds us. Faith is instrumental it is the hand by which we receive God's forgiveness.
C. It is good that faith is not our justifier.
1. The strength or weakness of our faith need not determine our justification. Our faith is never as strong as it should be. That's why we lean on Christ.
2. We need not have faith in our faith but only in the Lord Jesus Christ. What matters is this: I believe God when He says that He has freely, for Christ's sake, forgiven me of all of my sins.
What a freeing thing it is to be justified by God in the Lord Jesus Christ! By faith, through faith and only by faith do we stand justified before God. Thank Him for this gift which He has worked in us.

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