Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Back to Business...

After the short break to cover my father-in-laws story we will now return to the messages I preached at camp this year.

The Gospel:
Christ’s Righteousness & Man’s Sin (Part II)
Romans 3:21-25a

Beginning in verse 22 all the way down to verse 26 Paul explicitly defines what this godly, hope providing righteousness is. This righteousness has been made manifest through Christ. The only hope for us, who as Paul penned it “have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” is the righteousness of Christ. Because we have sinned and fell short we have to be justified before God. To be justified we must be redeemed through the sacrifice of Christ. This sacrifice is God’s public display of His righteous son as a propitiation. This idea of propitiation is slightly different from redemption and deserves our attention. Propitiation carries with it the idea of appeasement, or satisfaction. In many ancient pagan religions the idea of man appeasing his deity and pleasing him with a gift was common. However, in the NT the idea of propitiation is a work of God not of man. This means that when God justifies someone it is not as if their sins have been omitted as if they never happened. Rather, God justifies someone because their sins have been unjustly bore by another. The purpose of this substitution was that in Christ our sins may be covered. If you are paying attention then you should realize that more has to be done for us to be saved. We already saw that in order for humans to have a right relationship with God we too must be righteous. The problem that we are left with, even after our sins are forgiven, is that we do not have righteousness. This means that just as Christ had to become a substitute for our sin, he must also provide us with righteousness. This is what theologians have termed the imputation of Christ. Our sin imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. This is the great exchange that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 5:21. It is our sin imputed to Christ that gets us back to square one. It is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that brings us into a righteous state before God. This ransoming propitiation was paid for in Christ’s own blood. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:18-19
“You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold… but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

We have seen that the righteousness of God has been manifest through Christ, and now the only question that we have left is, “how do we receive this righteousness?” This really is the most important question for anyone to answer. To avoid any possible misunderstanding Paul gives an explanation of what this righteousness of God is, and how it works in vv. 22-26. It is the righteousness that was revealed in Christ, and the righteousness that is acquired by faith in Christ. Paul does not leave us guessing on this question. We receive this righteousness by faith. It is not our gift to God to please him, but rather His gift for us to satisfy His wrath. Faith is the means by which we receive God’s grace. This has always been the case. In Hebrews 11 we see that the OT saints were saved by grace when they believed in faith. But what is this faith, and what is our faith in? Scripture makes it abundantly clear the faith is more that just making a verbal declaration. In James 2:17ff we see that faith can only be expressed by works. So it is through faith not works that we receive this righteousness from God; but that faith will only be identifiable by the kind of fruit it produces.

Saving faith is placing one’s self in total submission to the Lord Jesus, understanding that because of sin you are helpless. This act will come from a belief in Christ that is the result of the Holy Spirit. We need righteousness, but we cannot attain it by our own works. Our righteousness can only come through Christ. Not even our faith, which is required of us, is a work. If faith was a work then salvation would be by works. If faith were a work then God would owe us. God would be obliged to save because of what we have done, rather than for His glory.


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