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Sermon January 20, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1381

January 20, 2019 Romans 3.19-26

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

The Gospel”

 

 

  • What is the Gospel?

 

How might we answer a simple question if asked, “What is the Gospel?” Think about that for a moment. What comes to mind? Jesus? I would hope so. Sin? Love? God? Righteousness? Propitiation? Probably not our first thought. How might we respond when asked about the Gospel? We might start in John 3.16, good start, God so loved the world that he gave His Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Why did He give His Son? What does it mean to believe? What is perish? These might be some of the questions that come in such a conversation.

I want us today, to plunge deeper into the Gospel. I want us to do that because the deeper we grow into the Gospel, the easier it is to both make it simple and to answer questions about it. The deeper we grow into the Gospel, the greater we desire to live by it and even to share it with others. Romans 3.19-26 has been called “The Heart of the Gospel” (The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges, p.46). Let’s explore five areas of the Gospel according to Paul, the author of Romans.

 

    • Righteousness...by Grace

The first area is righteousness...by grace. I add “by grace” because God’s grace infuses every aspect of the Gospel.

 

Rom 3.19-21 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it

 

Righteousness means living in accordance with God’s law, commands, precepts, statues, word. Righteousness is being in right relationship with God, pure, holy, perfect. Righteousness is complete and whole obedience to God through our actions, thoughts, and words. But we know from this passage and others that there are none who are righteous by the law. “By works of the law no human being will be justified.” Just prior to this section in Romans 3 Paul quotes from the Psalms that no one is righteous, not one! This is the understanding of righteousness that has lead us to think that only good people get to heaven. This is the residue of thinking I have to perform to earn God’s favor and make it to heaven. This is why many believe that God has given us impossible standards for life and salvation, or even worse, that people have abandoned God altogether. But righteousness means more than what I have said thus far. It is about right living and right relationship and right obedience, but we are not left to our own efforts to accomplish this standard of living.

The Gospel affirms that the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law. God and God alone makes righteousness possible in our lives through His grace, for He sent Jesus Christ who is the only one obedient to the law, perfectly faithful, without sin, rightly related to the Father, fully adherent to the law, and not only that, but completely fulfilling the law and the prophets and the whole of God’s Word. The beauty of righteousness is that where we, beginning with Adam, could never fulfill the requirements the law, there is yet One, in Jesus Christ, who has fulfilled the law on our behalf, to our benefit, to our salvation. Jesus paid the penalty of our lawbreaking and now His righteousness is our righteousness.

 

In Christ we live and breath and have our being in and on, through and by, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel.

 

 

    • Faith...by Grace

The next term is faith...by grace. I add “by grace” because God’s grace infuses every aspect of the Gospel.

 

Rom 3.22-23 ...the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

Faith is to believe in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16.31). Faith is to believe, trust, to put our lives in the hands of God. Jerry Bridges shares two terms about faith – renunciation and reliance. We renounce all our efforts to earn salvation by the law. If we believe that no one is righteous, then this step might sound apparent. Yet, we find ourselves so often relying on ourselves, our own goodness, our own actions as somehow earning grace and favor. We have to give that up, step out of that frame of mind. Instead we rely totally upon God’s grace and mercy and belief given. We rely upon Jesus alone to fulfill all that is necessary for our salvation. Not even the faith to believe “earns” our salvation. Faith itself is a gift given by the grace of God. In the same way that Jesus was completely obedient in righteousness, He also was complete in fulfilling all faithfulness. Bridges gives a nice little image of faith as the open hand to receive God’s gift, but that is not the real beauty of faith, for God, through the Holy Spirit, opens our hand (pg.51).

 

In Christ we live and breath and have our being in and on, through and by, the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel.

 

    • Justification...by Grace

The next concept is justification...by grace. I add “by grace” because God’s grace infuses every aspect of the Gospel.

 

Rom 3.24 [We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

 

What Christ has done in the Gospel message on the cross is to completely clear all charges against us. We could not keep the law, we could not earn salvation, and we could not justify ourselves before God. What Christ has done is free us from God’s wrath. Justification is a legal courtroom term; the judge slams down the gavel and we are declared not guilty before the judge and, not only not guilty, but declared righteous! Completely clean and even a new creation. This is all because of what Christ has done, nothing of our own doing. Christ has done what we could not do. Christ has set us free. Christ has taken our sentence of guilt and shame upon Himself. This is perhaps the most difficult concept for us to receive. We know in our minds that God forgives and God justifies us through Jesus. The courtroom is empty because Christ has closed the case and justice has been satisfied on the cross. But we hold court within our minds and drag around our guilt and shame of past wrongs and present sins and we struggle to let them go. This is why justification is so critical to our lives, because we do not need to carry any of that guilt and shame around. We are set free from any penalty, free from the pain of sins. This is the only way joy and peace can reign in our hearts.

I sort of think about the times when we have gone out to eat and when the meal is done, when we have eaten our full, and I ask for the check and the waitress says, “Oh, that couple that was sitting over there has already paid your bill.” I should at least leave a tip. I should at least do something. I’ve had a steak and potato and salad. I owe something to someone. But it’s all paid up; just walk right on out to the car. This is something like justification. Everything is paid for. You only have to receive the good news and walk on out to your life in Christ.

 

In Christ we live and breath and have our being in and on, through and by, the justification given in Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel.

 

 

    • Propitiation...by Grace

Now time for propitiation! I add “by grace” because God’s grace infuses every aspect of the Gospel.

 

Rom 3.25 ... and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

 

Propitiation is the term that speaks to Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. His death satisfies the wrath of God against sin. Once again, there was no way we could have done this for ourselves. God brought forth this plan to clear us. God sent His only Son. Through the blood sacrifice, the penalty for sin is paid in full. This too is where we place our belief, our faith, our trust – in open our hand and receive it. Open, receive, give thanks. Remember too that the Spirit empowers the opened hand.

God’s penalty for sin has been satisfied in the blood of Christ.

 

In Christ we live and breath and have our being in and on, through and by, the propitiation, the sacrifice of atonement, in Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel.

 

    • Through Jesus Christ

All of this: being made right with God, given the gift of faith, declared just, and having God’s wrath satisfied, all of this comes through Jesus Christ and what He has done.

 

Rom 3.24 [We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

 

Christ has paid the ransom. Christ has paid the price in His blood. Christ has satisfied the justice of God. Where we were guilty, Christ took the penalty. While we were lost, in Christ we are found. Where we were crushed in iniquity and depravity, Christ healed all our wounds by His own. What great love! What great power! What great joy! The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ and what He has done to reconcile us to God. The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ and what He has done to bring righteousness, faith, justice, and satisfaction through His blood.

 

In Christ we live and breath and have our being in and on, through and by, the person of Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel.

 

  • The Gospel Every Day

 

It has been called the greatest story ever told. The Gospel. It is the greatest story of our lives. It is the great reality of the kingdom. It is the good news of life and hope and salvation. Jerry Bridges encourages us to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. By that he means to become so utterly familiar with the Gospel, to come face to face with it in such a way that we live it daily. We live out the good news of Jesus Christ. We live out of the good news of Christ. We take time to see our sins, confess and repent. We take time to remember that Christ died for us to make us righteous and faithful. We seek to convince ourselves of each point in Romans 3.19-26. Come to know it. Claim it. Yield our lives to it. Believe it with all our hearts. Justice has already been satisfied. Righteousness has been attributed to us. Faith has been given by grace. Preach it every day to yourself until we cannot help but share the good news with another. Because of the Gospel, we never need be discouraged. Sin is washed away. Justice is satisfied. We are rightly related to God our Creator. It is God who has done all this through Christ and that is good news amid all the bad news of the world. Every day – the Gospel. Every day – the Good News. Every day – Jesus. Every day. Amen.