Guts of the Gospel ii

Last week we focused on Romans 3:21-22, and continued that this past Sunday as we finished through verse 26. The article, found at this link, is the continuation from last week’s article that will help us keep afresh the Gospel in our hearts and allow us to remain in awe of God’s salvation plan for us. Praise God for His Son who was and is the propitiation for us.

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3. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Justice (3:25-26)

How can God maintain His justice while forgiving unjust sinners? Paul explains in 3:25: “. . . God displayed [Jesus] publicly as a propitiation39 in His blood through faith” [or better “through faith in His blood,” NIV]. The word “propitiation” (hilasterion) refers to the satisfaction of God’s righteous anger, so that He can now deal with us graciously.40 It’s a sacrifice which takes away wrath—a wrath quencher, which satisfies God’s anger.41

Although God is merciful, gracious, and compassionate, He is also righteous, wrathful, and just. He can’t lower His righteous standard. He can’t just wink His eye with the attitude, “Boys will be boys,” or, “Let’s let bygones be bygones.”42 God must judge sin. He has done so by nailing every sin (past, present, and future) on His Son. Hence, God’s wrath, His holy anger, has been appeased by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Salvation is infinitely costly to the Father and the Son, but absolutely free to you and me.

If you still struggle with this concept, consider that God’s intolerance toward sin is like the intolerance of a surgeon who insists on sterile instruments for an operation. A surgeon’s demand for a pure operating environment is not an angry reaction to the presence of bacteria. Rather, it is an inseparable part of being a surgeon. To expose the surgeon’s scalpel to bacteria would result in contamination, and you would not get upset that your surgeon insists on absolute cleanliness in the operating room where even a speck of dirt could lead to infection. You would insist on absolute purity under those conditions. You would demand that your surgeon be completely intolerant of any impurity. If you understand a surgeon’s “wrath” against contamination in a hospital operating room, you can understand God’s wrath against sin. God is perfect and sinless in every detail, and His character demands that He deal with the slightest contamination of sin. God also knows that sin leads to total corruption and infection, so for these reasons He must judge sin.43

In 3:25, Paul indicates that this act of propitiation was “to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance44 of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” Although the death of Christ for the sins of humankind was planned in eternity past and prophesied in the Old Testament, it didn’t become an earthly reality until almost 2,000 years ago. Therefore, Old Testament believers were forgiven on account of what was about to happen but hadn’t happened yet. God didn’t revoke the punishment for sin, He suspended the punishment.45 We could say, “Old Testament justification was through faith in the promised Savior; NT justification is through faith in the provided Savior.”46 Old Testament believers looked forward to what God would someday do; believers today look back at what Christ has already done.47 Prior to the cross, Old Testament believers were in paradise “on credit” (i.e., their sins had not yet been paid historically, even though they received some of the benefits from their faith. The same thing happens when we purchase something with a credit card and enjoy possessing the purchased item, even though we have not paid for it yet). God’s righteousness was shown at the cross in that God righteously judged and punished every last sin that man has committed or will ever commit. The cross is and always will be the center point and the focal point of all history.

Verse 26 tells us that God provided salvation “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God the Father demonstrated His righteous character through the cross of Jesus Christ. The words “just” (dikaios) and “justifier” (dikaioo) are both renderings of the root term for righteous. God has revealed His justice through the cross. We deserved death and hell—that would have been justice. But instead of getting what we deserve, we were not given what we deserve. That is mercy! But God has gone one step further as we saw in 3:24. He’s given us grace, which is receiving what we don’t deserve—the free gift of eternal life. This is the gospel! God has acted with justice by slaying His Son, but He also acted as the Justifier by allowing us to be set free from our sin by trusting in Jesus. What a God! What a Savior! There is no one else like our God! He has created and orchestrated a sovereign plan that you and I would never have come up with. To Him be the glory! God does what we cannot do.

But how can all this heavy-duty theology be fleshed out in our lives? Let’s review this passage and consider three applications. (1) When we present the gospel, we must always remember to emphasize sin (1:18-3:20). Unless we recognize how bad the bad news truly is, we won’t sense a need for a Savior. The good news of the gospel (3:21-26) isn’t truly good news until we first deal with the bad news. (2) We need to begin to see fellow believers as those who have been “justified” by God. I rarely think this way about others. It’s easy to see the faults and idiosyncrasies in other people. Yet this passage teaches that fellow believers have been declared righteous and are now seen by the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ. (3) We must be sure to present an accurate gospel. This means we must understand the words and the central message of 3:21-26. If we do, we’ll have a proper understanding of God’s righteousness and the free gift of salvation. God does what we cannot do.

The Guts of the Gospel

The article this excerpt is taken from can be found at this link. It is a helpful way of keeping fresh in our minds what we discussed yesterday in our sermon on Romans 3:21-26. Getting to the heart of the gospel that we see in Romans 3:21-26, this article continues with the same thought process of the importance of Romans 3:21-22 (and 3:23-26, which will be covered next week).


Imagine it’s Sunday morning and you’re seated in church anticipating the sermon. Suddenly, a man begins frantically canvassing the auditorium offering a life jacket to whoever would take it. Eventually, he approaches you with it. What would you do? You’d probably think he was nuts and turn it down, right? At best, you might politely accept it while yawning internally at your need for it. But, if you were on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean, you’d lunge forward and grab that same life jacket as if your life depended upon it.

We’ve spent five sermons working through a section titled “Sin” that spanned Rom 1:18-3:20. These sixty-four verses contain nothing but the bad news that we’re utterly unrighteous. Paul has constructed an airtight case that every creature that has ever lived, or will ever live, is leveled under the weight of sin. The inescapable conclusion is that we’re not only guilty; we’re absolutely helpless and hopeless. In other words, we’re born into this world enslaved to sin on a sinking ship. God holds out a life jacket to us, but until we become convinced that our plight is truly desperate we’ll never joyously and tenaciously grab hold of what’s being offered to us. The intent of God in clearly exposing our sinfulness isn’t to make us feel bad—it’s to make us feel desperate! Desperate enough to wrestle with the question of the ages: “How can a person be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2)

Of course, a great chasm lies between Rom 3:20 and 3:21. It’s a deep canyon, a wide gap separating our condition and God’s character. We’re sinful and God is holy. How can we bridge the gap? How can we go from one side to the other? We can’t. But this is where the good news begins: Paul informs us in 3:21-261 that God does what we cannot do. This is not only the heart of Romans;2 it’s likely the greatest paragraph in the entire Bible. Therefore, if we fail to understand this passage accurately, we’ll be unable to grasp the central message of the Scriptures. For it’s here that we see who we are, who God is, and what God has done for us.3 If there’s one passage of Scripture to become an expert on, let it be Rom 3:21-26. Before you spend lots of time looking for principles in the Bible on career success and personal affluence, before scouring the text for ideas on how to change your wife, your husband, your kids, your parents, your pastor, and your church, look at Rom 3:21-26.4 Meditate on it. Study it. It will change your life! In these six verses, Paul reveals three ways that God’s righteousness bridges the gap between our sin and Himself.5

1. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Word (3:21)

Despite our inability to obey the Law, God’s salvation can be found in the Old Testament Scriptures. In 3:21 Paul writes, “But now apart from the6 Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” “But now,” two words made up of three letters each, serve as the hinge pin for the fate of humanity.7 After sixty-four verses of sin, you’re probably in need of some relief, aren’t you? How do you spell relief? Years ago, the answer was: R-O-L-A-I-D-S. But in this context it is “B-U-T N-O-W!” These two words signify that a “righteousness8 of God” has inaugurated a new age in world history. Unlike the first revelation of the “righteousness of God” that condemns us (cf. 1:17), this revelation frees us!9 In this context, the “righteousness of God” primarily refers to God’s activity in salvation; He provides righteousness for people who need it. The “righteousness of God” has inaugurated a new age that is “apart from the Law.”10 This is only fitting because righteousness has never been able to be obtained through obedience to the Law (cf. 3:19-20). We have been so infected by sin that we cannot heal ourselves. No one can purge his or her body of cancer by eating healthy food. Shunning cancer-generating toxins is a good way to avoid contracting the disease, but once someone has it, a cure demands radical action. Unfortunately, we were born with the disease of sin.11 But there is another way God makes His righteousness known, and it is apart from the Law.12 Once again we see that God does what we cannot do.

The righteousness of God has been “manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”13 This phrase declares that God’s righteousness has been “manifested” through His Word. The root word “manifested” (phaneroo) is used back in 1:19 where Paul writes that God has made Himself “evident” to humanity through His creation. Now Paul states that God has revealed Himself through His Word. The phrase “the Law and the Prophets” is a summary term for the entire Old Testament. “The Law” referred to the first five books of Moses and “the Prophets” to everything else.14 The primary purpose of the entire Old Testament was to point to “the righteousness of God” that would one day be fully manifested in Christ. This very phrase was used in the theological theme of 1:16-17 where Hab 2:4 is quoted. Paul’s point is that the revelation of “the righteousness of God” isn’t some new phenomenon. Only in the death of Christ is there anything new or unique. God’s righteousness has always been revealed in His Word. Therefore, if you want to know who God is and what He’s like, you must know His Word. I cannot emphasize this enough. Many people have developed erroneous views of God based upon faulty thoughts or emotions. Often, I will hear: “Well, I think God is” or “God would never…” Whenever I hear someone saying these kinds of things, I cringe. Why? Because God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.15 So when it comes to the knowledge of God and how we can be right with Him, the Bible refers us to the witness of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Do you call yourself a “New Testament Christian” and avoid the Old Testament at all costs? If so, you’re missing out on God’s full revelation. Why not balance your diet of Bible reading with healthy portions of the Old Testament? My personal commitment is to alternate between the New Testament and Old Testament. This ensures that I’m always keeping the whole counsel of God’s Word before me. This also helps me to be an accurate Bible interpreter. After all, the only way to truly understand the New Testament is by knowing the Old Testament. May you and I see the promised Messiah and His plan of salvation in the Old Testament.

[Not only is God’s righteousness revealed in His Word, in 3:22-24 we’ll also see that…]

2. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Grace (3:22-24)

God’s plan of salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes in 3:22a that “the righteousness of God” is revealed “through faith in Jesus Christ16 for all those who believe.”17 He uses the noun “faith” (pistis) and the verb “believe” (pisteuo) to emphasize the sole condition of “God’s righteousness” (i.e., salvation). There are almost two hundred verses that use the words “believe” or “faith” as the sole condition of salvation. However, we must recognize that we’re saved “through” (dia) faith, not “by” faith. Faith is merely the means. What is important is the object of our faith—Jesus Christ! If we have the right object, the amount of our faith is not what is important. This means “all” are welcome who will simply believe in Christ. While Christians are often charged with being narrow and restrictive, it’s really all other religions that are narrow and restrictive. If good works are necessary to heaven, then all of us are excluded. In these systems, everyone is disqualified. Under the Christian faith, “all” can come, regardless of their background and past failures.18 The only condition is simple belief. Let me be clear: When you come to Christ, you do not come to give, you come to receive. You do not come to try your best, you come to trust. You do not come just to be helped, but to be rescued. You do not come to be made better, you come to be made alive!19 God does what we cannot do.


Keith Krell, pastor of Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, WA, authors the above article.

An Update from the Warrens

The following link is for an update that the Warrens have provided that reveals some of what God has been doing in and through their ministry. Follow the link to hear about the exciting changes and great opportunities that they have had, as well as some ways to be in prayer for this family.

Update on the Warrens


Here is a brief excerpt from their article:

The last couple of weeks for us has truly been amazing and was the culmination of a very long road. Two Sundays ago, March 13th was the Grand Opening and Dedication Sunday of the Family Room addition to Open Door Fellowship (ODF) and Open Door Ministries (ODM). Thanks to all who celebrated with us. We thought we would share some of the events of the final week with you as well as show you some of the pictures…

There is None Righteous

The following article is written by R.C. Sproul, titled “None Righteous”. It is an article that helps us prepare for this Sunday as Pastor Craig Miller opens up Romans 3:9-20. What does it means that there is none righteous?


 

The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test — no fear — He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)

In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?

The reality is that God does mark iniquity, and He manifests His wrath against it. Before the Apostle Paul unfolds the riches of the Gospel in his epistle to the Romans, he sets the stage for the need of that Gospel: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom. 1:18).

This text affirms a real revelation of real wrath from a real God against real ungodliness and unrighteousness of real men. No appeal to some invented idea of the unconditional love of God can soften these realities.

The human dilemma is this: God is holy, and we are not. God is righteous, and we are not. To be sure, it is openly admitted in our culture that “No one is perfect.” Even the most sanguine humanist grants that humanity is marred. But, on balance … ah, there’s the rub. Like Muslims we assume that God will judge us “on balance.” If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we will arrive safely in heaven. But, alas, if our evil deeds outweigh our good ones, we will suffer the wrath of God in hell. We may be “marred” by sin but in no wise devastated by it. We still have the ability to balance our sins with our own righteousness. This is the most monstrous lie of all. We not only claim such righteousness; we rely on such righteousness, which righteousness in fact does not exist. Our righteousness is a myth, but by no means a harmless one. Nothing is more perilous than for an unrighteous person to rest his future hope in an illusion.

It was against such an illusion that Paul stressed by citing the Psalmist: “For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’” (Rom. 3:9–12 NKJV)

What comprises just under four verses of the New Testament is so radical that if the modern church would come to believe it, we would experience a revival that would make the Reformation pale into insignificance. But the church today does not believe the content of these verses: There is none righteous — not one.

Who believes that apart from Jesus not a single human being, without exception, is righteous. Not a single unregenerate person can be found who understands God.

Seeking God? We have totally revised corporate worship to be sensitive to “seekers.” If worship were to be tailored for seekers, it would be directed exclusively to believers, for no one except believers ever seeks God.

Every person turns aside from God. All become unprofitable in spiritual matters. At rock bottom no one even does good — no, not one.

Good is a relative term. It is defined against some standard. If we establish what that standard is, we can congratulate ourselves and take comfort in our attainment of it. But if God establishes the standard, and His standard includes outward behavior (that our actions conform perfectly to His law) and internal motivation (that all our acts proceed from a heart that loves Him perfectly), then we quickly see that our pretended “goodness” is no goodness at all. We then understand what Augustine was getting at when he said that man’s best works are nothing more than “splendid vices.”

So what? The equation is simple. If God requires perfect righteousness and perfect holiness to survive His perfect judgment, then we are left with a serious problem. Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such perfect righteousness can be found is in Christ — that is the good news of the Gospel. Subtract this element of alien righteousness that God “counts” or “imputes” for us, and we have no biblical Gospel at all. Without imputation, the Gospel becomes “another gospel,” and such a “gospel” brings nothing but the anathema of God.

With the righteousness of Christ promised to us by faith, we have the hope of our salvation. We become numbered among those blessed to whom the Lord does not impute sin (Rom. 4:8).


This article can be found if you follow this link.

 

Update from the Carr’s

Tom and Paula Carr

648-1 Sakai Machi, Izumi Shi, Kagoshima Ken 899-0122 JAPAN

0996-79-4748–from Japan; 937-919-5841–from U.S.;

tcarr@abwe.cc

Hi everyone,

This past Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of our Savior.  Hallelujah!  He’s risen!  How wonderful it was to have our service outdoors in a beautiful park overlooking the city of Izumi.  Though we were hoping to have some new adults join us, we were grateful to have five grade school girls, come to a service for the first time, along with most of our regularly attending adults.  We were also thankful to have over 20 kids come the day before for the egg decorating event.  Please PRAY for these children to think about the truths presented at both these times and for them and others to come regularly to the Sunday service.  In past weeks there has been good attendance by kids on Sunday mornings. PRAY that someday soon they all would put their trust in the Living Savior and become solid followers.

Rock, paper, scissors game at the egg art eventrock paper

​The boys in attendance had a great time!

boys attend

Easter Service at the park

easter serv.

Recently a young man in his 20’s named Akira made a profession of faith!  He had made another profession when he was a little boy but said he never really knew what he was supposedly believing in.  After studying with Bill, he said he finally understood and believed in Christ.  Please PRAY that he will truly follow Christ and obey his commands.  Right now he is doing a follow up Bible study with Tom.

Bill is currently back in the states helping his mom after the recent sudden illness, then death of his stepfather.  Please PRAY for comfort, strength and wisdom to care for all the details and for his mom to adjust.  This is the second husband she has had to bury.

Paula will be having a cardiac catheter ablation next Wednesday, April 6.  We’d appreciate your prayers for it to go well and that the procedure will help her feel better and have more energy.  As is common in Japan, this will involve a hospital stay from April 5th until the 8th.  The hospital is about three hours away from Izumi, so Tom will be with her there and Mitch and Tev will be staying with Becky P. and Paul Shook.

We are very grateful for your prayers and financial support.  Thank you for continuing to be a part of this ministry.

CARRying the Gospel,

Tom, Paula, Mitchell, Tevia (in Izumi) and Andrew and Lindy  (in Cedarville)