Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 31, 2017
As always, let us begin with our monthly memory verse, Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Next Sunday is a new month, and therefore we will have a new verse, so for one more week, keep working on Romans 3 as well as our previous memory verses of Romans 1:16-17 and Romans 3:10-12.
Today we are examining Romans 5:1-5, and the title of today’s message is the Fruit of Justification. And let me begin by saying, that I am not sure that fruit is the right word. I debated titling my sermon as the “Realities of Justification” or the “Attributes of Justification”, but I settled on fruit. Which I do not believe fits perfectly, but it is where I landed. Let us stand in honor of God’s Word. Please follow along with me as I read our text for this morning.
Justified by Faith
I am sure you have heard the phrase, or perhaps even used it yourself, “How many times do I have to repeat myself?” I wonder how many times the apostle Paul thought this in regards to teaching the doctrine that we are saved by grace through faith. So far we have seen it in the following verses:
And just so that we are clear. Faith is not the power for justification. It is the means. The power of justification lies in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that secures our forgiveness and eternal life. Faith does not save. Jesus saves. Faith did not die upon the cross in our place, Jesus did. Faith is the instrument and Christ is the object.
Also, let us remind ourselves what we mean by justification. Justification is a forensic term, a legal term. It is equivalent to an acquittal in court, a complete finding of the defendant of not guilty. And this declaration by God of sinners being not guilty occurs at the moment of conversion. We do not wait for justification, for justification comes by way of faith. As Paul says in Romans 4, at the time of faith in Christ we are counted as righteous. Therefore, at the first moment of true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ you are as saved as you will ever be. You cannot do one thing to add or take away from your justification. The verdict is sealed.
This is why the apostle Paul says in verse 1 of our text, “since we have been justified by faith.” This is a statement of past tense, not future. Our salvation in the sense of justification is as good as done at the moment of true saving faith. Paul had been justfied. Those in Rome had been justified. And you have been justified if you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
This knowledge of our justification through faith should be considered the greatest news to ever touch our ears. And it should radically change every aspect of our lives. In fact, as we embark upon a new year, if you want to be a “better” Christian the key to Christ-likeness is to be anchored in this truth. The more we understand our justification the more we will be victorious in our lives.
So this morning, let us examine some of the fruits of justification that Paul outlines for us in our text. There are basically four fruits that we will look at today: 1) Through Justification we have peace with God, 2) Through Justification we stand in Grace, 3) Through Justification we have Hope in Glory, and 4) Through justification we can have joy in our suffering.
Through Justification We Have Peace with God
Let’s look at the first one, through justification we now have peace with God. Look at verse 1 again, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does Paul mean when he says that because of our justification we have peace with God through Christ?
First, we must recognize that peace with God only happens after justification. Therefore, to state the obvious, before we were justified by faith, we do not have peace with God. The relationship with God cannot be defined as one of peace. It must be defined as not peace. So what is the opposite of peace? War. War is the opposite of peace. Therefore, if you do not have faith in Jesus Christ, then you are at war with God and God is at war with you.
Perhaps another way to describe the tension in this relationship between the unsaved and God is hostility. Colossians 1:21 says, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” Likewise, later in Romans it says the same thing, Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Therefore, all humanity that has not repented and placed their trust in Jesus Christ is hostile towards God. This hostility can be both conscious and subconscious. Many times people do not feel they are hostile towards God, but they are, for the are not doing all for his glory by the power he provides. This is why it says in Isaiah 64:6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” You can build all the hospitals and schools you want, but if you are not doing it for the glory of God by the power of the Spirit, then it is against the ordained purpose of God creating all things for His Glory.
So what is God's response to this hostility towards him? Apathy? Acquiescence? Tolerance? Mild displeasure?
Many people struggle with this idea that God is at war against sinners, in fact, many of you are probably aware of the phrase that “God loves the sinner and hates the sin.” As I have already quoted from the Bible, that is not necessarily true. God hates evildoers. God hates the wicked. God created Hell, not for sin to be eternally tortured, but for sinners to be eternally tortured.
Each individual will be held accountable for what side of the war you fight on. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” We have read the book, God has warned us, God wins, and those who oppose him will be on the ultimate loosing side.
But justification changes all of this. You go from war to peace. You go from God's hatred to God's love. You stop scattering and start gathering. This is the greatest news you will ever receive. The war is over!
Through Justification We Stand in Grace
The second fruit of justification is that we stand in grace. Look at verse 2, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Many people would be familiar with the concept of being saved by grace. As we have said many times, it is a cardinal principle of the Gospel, but far fewer people would be familiar with the doctrine of standing in God's grace. What does it mean to stand in grace?
Continuing with a war analogy will help us in understanding what God means by standing. In battles, a common term to describe the strength of a particular army is through its ability to stand. Many of us have heard the description of Custer's Last Stand, or the Battle of Little Bighorn. Where Lieutenant Colonel George Custer took 700 men to fight the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. The reason that this is called Custer's Last Stand is because this is when he was killed, along with his two brothers, a nephew, a brother-in-law and 268 other men. It was a crushing defeat for the US Army. After this battle, Custer was no longer standing. He was defeated in battle and was laid to rest.
This is not a reality for Christians. For those who have been justified by the blood of Jesus there is no last stand. We have been justified through the blood of Jesus and we are now on the winning side of the all powerful Creator. We stand in God's grace and therefore we are eternally victorious. And no battle can take this away from us. Satan cannot take back what once was his. We are secure by God's grace in Christ.
Listen to what is says three chapters later in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. ”
Those who are justified through Christ are God's elect, God's chosen ones. No power or principality can undue what Christ secured through the cross. God justified and that is the end of it. Listen to what Jesus says in John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” If you believe in Jesus, Jesus calls his shot and promises to raise you up on the last day. All who believe will be raised up. No one falls away. Why? Because we stand in grace.
Many people call this doctrine eternal security, or perseverance of the saints. We are eternally secure in Christ. That we cannot lose the victory that Christ has won for us. Why? Because we do not stand in our flesh, we do not stand in our own ability to maintain our salvation. We stand in God's unwavering grace. 1 Peter 1:5 says, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” God keeps you by his power through your faith. Meaning that God is the supplier of the faith that endures.
Some of you will say , well I know so and so who was a Christian and they fell away. Not true. They were a Judas. Their faith was not a living faith, it was a dead faith. There faith was the faith of the flesh, not faith of the Spirit. There falling away is proof that they were never really Christians. For if you are saved by grace, you stand in grace and God's power keeps you.
And this fruit of justification, standing in grace, is fundamentally important in your Christian walk. I cannot think of a greater prison than a theology that teaches that a person can lose their salvation. Every morning we would awake wondering if the mercies of God have come to an end and we who were once adopted for glory have now been unadopted to damnation. Fortunately God has given us his word and therefore given us assurance; for we know that it says in Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “
Through Justification We Hope in Glory
Which leads us to the third fruit of justification, our hope in Glory. Which is connected to our assurance in the standing of his grace. Look at verse 2 again, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” What does Paul mean the “hope of the glory of God”? Hope is later defined by Paul in Romans 8:24, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Therefore, hope is a future reality that we are waiting for. It is something that we anticipate obtaining.
Perhaps think of the hope of children on Christmas eve, hoping to receive on Christmas morn the gifts that they wrote down on their Christmas list. However the Christians hope is not for a kingdom made of Legos, but an unshakable and everlasting Kingdom that does not contain sin, death, weeping or tears. It is perfect and satisfying and complete in every way, and I think this is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the “hope of the glory of God.”
For Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” He says again in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
As those who have been justified through faith in Christ, our destiny is beyond our wildest imagination. Kids, listen to this, Heaven, being in the presence of God is infinitely better than Disney world. As Paul says, it is not even comparable.
We Have Joy in Suffering
Which leads us to our last fruit of justification. Joy in the midst of suffering. Look at verse 3, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
To many of us, this seems like pie in the sky to have joy in the midst of suffering, however it is a common command in Scripture
However, for one who has been justified in Christ, it is no paradox. It is the fruit of justification. Because of our peace with God, because of the security we have in Christ, because of the hope of future glory, nothing in this world can steal our joy.
However, notice what Paul says. Look at again at verse 3, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” The key word is knowing. Our joy flows out of knowing that suffering has a God ordained purpose. That God is allowing hard times to change you, to sanctify you. If you are a Christian, God uses suffering, not against you but for you.
We are told in our text that suffering produces endurance. It makes you stronger. Think about weight lifting. The more resistance the stronger your muscles get. If you don't work out, your muscles atrophy. This spiritual muscles of endurance produce a Christian character. A Christian disposition that is unmatched in the world. A character that should cause people to take notice and ask you questions when trials and tribulations come.
Unfortunately, for many Christians we deal with suffering just like the world. We throw pity parties. We complain. We give up. This week I was reading a book titled “Sacred Marriage” that someone who use to go to our church gave Cornerstone. This is what the author said in his chapter on suffering within marriage, “When disagreements arise, the natural tendency is to flee. Rather than work through misunderstandings (or sin), we typically take a much more economical path- we search for another church, another job, another neighborhood, another friend, and other spouse.”
Beloved, this is not how a Christian deals with suffering. We are called to endure so that God can use our circumstances to make us more like Christ. But that is not the end, not only does suffering produce endurance and endurance produce character, it ultimately produces hope. What does Paul mean?
It is quite simple actually. In the book of Revelations, John ends his book with the phrase, “Come Lord Jesus!” Why? Because he spent the vast majority of the book discussing the trials, tribulations, and persecution of the Church. This is what suffering ultimately does, he makes you homesick. You long for heaven. It makes your heart ache for your King.
My guess is that many of you have experienced this, I know I have. When tears come, what do we do? We rightfully set our eyes upon Christ and say, “Come Lord Jesus.” We desire the trials to end, our hope becomes more authentic, it becomes more real. It becomes more holy.
Therefore, the next times suffering comes, recognize that God is refining you, giving your right affections. Affections not for this world, but for him.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2017
Tonight, let us focus our attention on the most well-known Christmas passages in the Bible, Luke 2:1-7. If you did not bring a Bible with you, there should be one near you, and you will find Luke 2 on page 1018.
Also, if you do not have a Bible at home, we would encourage you to take one of ours. It is our gift to you this Christmas, and there is no greater gift that we could give you tonight then the living Word of God. Psalm 19:9-10 says, “the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” The Word of God is better that any present that is under your tree at home and it any food that is on your tables this Christmas season. So let us see what is so precious about God’s Word.
Real People, Real Places, Real Events
The one thing I love about God’s Word is that the authors provide historical markers. The Bible is not a bunch of fairy tales. Tonight we see in our text written by Luke the Physician, real people, real places, and real events. Caesar Augustus and Quirinius were actual historical people who lived 2000 years ago. Roman Historian Tacitus who lived in the first and second century mentions Quirinius in his writings titled, “The Annals.” Likewise, the Jewish historian Josephus who also lived during the first and second century writes about Quirinius in writings called the Antiquities. So these are real people listed in Luke 2.
Likewise, Syria, Galilee, Nazareth, and Bethlehem are real historical places. They are not in some galaxy far far away. They existed then and they exist today. You can jump on a plane and visit them today. Lastly, Luke describes a real event, the registration decreed by Caesar. This is what we would call a census, a systematic way to count people.
We are not told why there was a registration of all people, but most likely it was for the purpose of taxation; which we know to be a true reality in ancient times. A King always taxes his people. Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was no different. He needed to register ever person in his kingdom so that he could tax every person in his Kingdom.
So we can see, the Bible is not some made up fairy tale with mythical creatures and mythical places. The events of the Bible unfold in real life. Luke is a historian, providing facts to substantiate his testimony.
Descendants of King David
So let’s examine one of Luke’s facts. Look at verse 4. It says, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” What is going on here?
Many of us know, Joseph is the step-dad of soon to be born baby Jesus. Joseph and Mary are both Jews and they are both descendants of King David. They had Davidic Royalty in their blood. Therefore, according to the rules of the registration, Joseph had to take pregnant Mary and travel from Nazareth to a little town known as Bethlehem. This would have been an 80 mile trip and could have taken 4-7 days depending how well Mary was feeling.
No matter how long it took them, they arrived right on time. Look at verse 6, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” “There” is Bethlehem. Jesus was not born on the side of the road. They made it to their destination, so that Jesus was born in a stable environment, forgive the pun.
The question is, “Was this a result of good luck?” Was it just a string of fortunate events that led to Jesus being born once they arrived? The answer to that question is a resounding no. This was not good luck, it was God’s providence. God is the one who ensured that his Son, Jesus would not be born alongside a road, but would be born on their arrival in the town of Bethlehem.
Now, it is one thing to make such a claim, but it is another thing to prove it. The evidence to support that this was God's providence is found in the book of Micah 5:2. If you will, please turn with me to that verse. It is found on page 926 in the Church Bibles. Before we read this text, I want everyone to understand that the book of Micah was written around 700 B.C. B.C. means before Christ. This is not a debatable fact. Everyone accepts that Micah was written long before Jesus was born. Now listen to what it says in Micah 5:2.
And what are we told about this king? First, we are told that this King will have the strength of God. Second, we are told that this King will also be a Shepherd. Third, that He will be a Shepherd over God's people. Fourth, that he will be known as the brother to God's people. Fifth, his rule will produce a security for God’s people and bring peace to them. Sixth, that this Shepherd King by known in Israel, and his name will be great to the ends of the earth. And lastly, this Shepherd King’s coming is from ancient days. What does that mean? It means from the beginning of time.
Name one person that fits this description. There have been billions of people who have come into existence since 700 B.C. and only one person can fill these shoes. Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, tonight we are a part the fulfillment of Micah 5. The birth of Jesus Christ is being celebrated to the ends of the earth. Cascade, IA is 6,286 miles from Bethlehem, yet we are magnifying the name of Jesus Christ tonight, just like hundreds of thousands of Churches all over the globe. Coincidence? Absolutely not.
So back to my original statement, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was not good fortune, it was providence. Even though Caesar Augustus decreed that all people should be registered, it was ultimately God who decreed that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. This was always God's plan, even before Rome existed. As it says in Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” God is sovereignly setting the stage for the birth of His Son.
No Room at the Inn
But now I want us to look at something that stands in stark contrast. God orchestrated that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, but look at verse 7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Jesus is the Son of God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is from ancient days, the ruler of the World, and there is no room for him at the inn? God moved the heart of Caesar, but couldn’t move the heart of the Inn Keeper? What is this all about?
I will tell you what it is all about. It is not that God couldn’t make room, it is that he chose not to make room, so as to expose a sad reality about the condition of man. Listen to how the Apostle John describes the coming of Jesus into the world in John 1:9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
Jesus is the second person of the eternal Tri-Une God. Everything that exists was created through Jesus, including all of humanity. And yes it is true that his name is great to the ends of the earth, but it is also simultaneously true that his name is insignificant to the ends of the earth. This planet has over 7 billion people, 5 billion reject Jesus as their King, and of the 2 billion that claim to follow Jesus a number of them are hypocrites. Jesus is not their ruler, he is not their Shepherd, they are not magnifying his name in any way shape or form.
Just like the people of Bethlehem, the world has made no room for the Son of God in their hearts. Instead, we push Jesus off to the stables of our lives. Out of sight, and out of mind. And why is this? One word. Sin.
Because of sin, we reject the things of God. Instead of submitting to a Holy and Righteous God, we rebel and live our own way, and not God’s way. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Why? Because we are by nature sinful and we live in darkness, oblivious to our need to turn and believe in Jesus.
This is how the apostle Paul states it in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
There are many people in this world tonight who are sitting in Churches who are sitting in spiritual darkness. The only reason they are in Church this Christmas Eve is because of cultural tradition. They can't wait for Church to be over so that they could get back to their own lives. These people are just like the Inn Keeper, not willing to make room for the Ruler o the World. Unwilling to receive Jesus into their heart.
Some people may respond to this by saying so what? What's the big deal if I don't turn to Jesus as my Shepherd King? Listen to what it says in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
There are only two options in this world, to believe in Jesus and submit to him, or to run your life your own way. There is not a third option. Believing in Jesus leads to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Living your own way leads to the wrath of God.
And why is this true? It is true because you and I are sinners. And God is holy. We have broken God's law and we deserve to be punished for our sins. The punishment for sinning against a perfectly holy and righteous God is Hell. Hell is a place that Jesus describes as eternal torment. This is every man's destiny. And let me tell you something, coming to a Christmas eve service doesn't fix that problem. The only way to fix your sin problem is by placing your trust in Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of your sins on the cross. If you don't trust in Jesus, then you have no hope, and there is absolutely no reason to celebrate Christmas, for the wrath of God remains on you.
The reality is that Christmas is simultaneously a time to rejoice and a time to weep. We rejoice if we are under the refuge of Christ's wing, but we weep for those who go through religious motions but who have never placed their trust in Jesus.
As we close tonight with the wonderful song silent night we will be lighting our candles. This light represents Jesus. Jesus is the true light. As it comes to you and your candle is lit, I want you to examine your heart and ask, “Have I received the light of Christ?” If you answer no, then I would encourage you to cry out to God, turn from your sins, and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
For as it says in John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2017
Let us bring this morning with our December’s memory verse, Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
This morning it was going to be my intent to step out of the book of Romans and select a more traditional Christmas text. However, after pondering the text for this week, I have decided against it, for I believe our text for this morning is the essence of Christmas.
Some of you, perhaps, at first glance won’t agree with me, however, Lord willing by the end you will see it. And before I begin, I want to warn you that today's text is somewhat involved and winding, but hopefully it will pull some things together for you and causes your heart to be full of joyful gratitude for the promises of God. So let’s turn to our text for this morning, Romans 4:13-25.
And as it said at the end or Romans 3, this great exchange of our sin and Christ's righteousness is achieved through the mechanism of faith. Romans 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” And this is a fundamental and core doctrine of Christianity. If you do not fully accept that we are saved by faith alone, then I am afraid to tell you that you are not saved and you are still under the wrath of God and are destined for eternal punishment in Hell. The one and only way to receive the grace of Christ is to trust in the sufficiency of Christ. There is no other way into the presence of God, except through faith in Jesus. How do I know this? The Bible. I am not making this stuff up, I am just telling you what the Word of God says, “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
In unpacking this fundamental Christian doctrine, Paul uses Abraham to prove hammer home this crucial point. Last week, Jeff did a great job setting the stage. I was hoping that he was going to break out in song, “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord, right arm…” That song that so many of us know from childhood is based upon Romans 4. So parents, or teachers, if you plan on singing that song, brush up on Romans 4 so you can teach the kids why in the world they are singing such things and dancing around with their arms flailing.
What I want to focus on in our text this morning is the word promise. This is the first time we see this word in the letter to the Romans and we see it now used in verse 13, 14, 16, 20, and 21. So let us look at this promise in verse 13. It says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Their are two components to this promise. First, the promise is granted to Abraham and his offspring and second that he and his offspring would be heirs of the world. So let us first look at the first part, Abraham and his offspring.
Abraham and His Offspring
As Jeff stated last week, this promise from God to Abraham that he would have offspring and become a great nation was first mentioned in Genesis 12. At that moment, Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah, his wife, was 65 years old. As many of you know, the age 75 and 65 is not normally the time one becomes a parent, but when you become grandparents. However, a child at this time, would have been technically possible, however, extremely unlikely.
And as Jeff unpacked last week, when this promise was made, Abraham believed God's promise and it was counted to him as righteousness. Having said that, God didn't give them a child right away. He waited to fulfill his promise. Year after year passed with no children, and we eventually find ourselves in Genesis 17, 24 years later. Let us look at that text this morning. Turn with me to Genesis 17:1-8. In Genesis 17 Abraham is now 99 years old and Sara is 89 years old.
And how do we know this? Look back at Romans 4:19 says, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.“
And God did. God fulfilled his promise just like he said. In Genesis 21:1-3 we read, “The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.” And if you didn't know, Isaac is Hebrew for, “He laughs.” So God was good on his promise to Abraham, and Abraham was fully convinced he would.
Promise Based Upon Grace
It is important to understand that this promise from God to Abraham was based fully upon the grace of God. Abraham did not have to do anything to earn an offspring. He simply had to trust that God would be good on his promise. As Paul says in Romans 4:16, this promise of Isaac rested fully upon the grace of God. The fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham did not depend upon Abraham obeying the law. It did not depend upon good works. The fulfillment of the promise was based solely on the sovereign grace of God. All Abraham had to do was believe.
And this is the point that the Apostle Paul is addressing in his letter to the Romans. The promises of God have never been based upon the law of God. It has never been based upon being good enough, jumping through religious hoops. You cannot earn the grace of God. You cannot earn the promise of God. The purpose of the law is not to bring about the fulfillment of the promise. What is the purpose of the law? Look at verse 15 in Romans 4, “For the law brings wrath.” What does this mean? It means that you don't know that you are a sinner by nature until God says, “You shall not covet.” and the next thing you know you are coveting everything that is before your eyes. The law makes evident our depravity, our wretchedness, our deadness in our sins and trespasses. Therefore, the law does not earn us grace, it shows us our need for grace.
Offspring of Faith
Now, this is where it gets a little more complicated. If you noticed in Genesis 17, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of a multitude of nations. Paul points this out in Romans 4:17, “as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” Therefore, the offspring of Abraham does not only include the biological descendants of Isaac, for that would only include the Jews. Therefore, the offspring mentioned in Genesis 12 and 17 must also include the gentiles as well. How does this occur? How can Abraham be the father of many nations? The answer is through faith.
Look at verse 16, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” The offspring of Abraham are those who share Abraham's faith in God's promises. So how does this work? It only works through Jesus Christ.
As you know, Jesus is a Jew. He is a physical offspring of Abraham. He is a biological descendant of Isaac. This is why the book of Matthew begins the way it does, with genealogy of Jesus, to reinforce this truth. Matthew 1:1, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Jesus is the son of Abraham. He is a child of the promise.
Now listen to what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:16 about the promises made to Abraham, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” Paul is saying that offspring does not mean Isaac, Jacob, the 12 sons of Jacob, and so on and so forth, but that it refers to one single person, Jesus. Therefore, the promise that was given to Abraham and his offspring, really rests in the offspring that is Jesus. That Jesus is the holder of the blessing.
So the question is, if that is true, then how do we, Gentiles, get access to blessing of the promise. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:26-29, “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
The means by which we receive the blessings of the promise that was originally given to Abraham is through union with Christ. And it is only through faith in Christ we become one with Christ. Through faith, he becomes our brother, and therefore, his inheritance becomes our inheritance. Through faith we are grafted into the vine of Israel, into the vine of Jesus Christ.
This is why Romans 4:13, says, “ For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world.” The promise of inheriting the world is massive. It almost seems as if Paul is speaking in hyperbole, but he is not. Through faith in Christ we truly will inherit the world. Listen to how John Gill, the 18th century Baptism put is, “by "the world" here, is meant, both this world and that which is to come; Abraham and all believers are the "heirs" of this world, and of all things in it; "all things" are theirs, and, among the rest, the world, Christ being theirs, and they being Christ's; he is heir of all things, and they are joint heirs with him; and how little soever they may enjoy of it now, the time is coming, when they, by virtue of their right, "shall inherit the earth"
It is only through Christ that the promise of God is fulfilled and this comes about through faith, not through good works. This is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 – “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
This is what Christmas is about. That the offspring of Abraham has finally came, the holder of the promise from God. Jesus is the child of the promise. This should be the catalyst to our worship this time of year. This should be our Amen to God for his glory. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham, the true child of the promise.
However, the inheritance of the world can only be accepted by humbling ourselves and trusing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:5, ““Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Those who inherit the earth through Christ are not the proud and self centered who depend upon their good works. It will not be those who think they are good enough. It will only be those who turn from their own ability and fully trust in Jesus Christ. “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” And like I have ended so many sermons before, we can see in God's Word the pillars of the protestant reformation: Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.
Preached by Pastor Jeff Owens at Cornerstone Church in Cascade on December 17, 2017
In the Apostles Paul’s letter to the Romans so far, we have spent a few months in Romans Chapters 1-3, and several weeks in chapter 3 alone. Paul is systematically breaking down the Gospel and making clear that all are guilty both Jew and Gentile. Paul begins to summarize this argument by using the Old Testament citing Psalm 14:1-3 in our previous memory verses from Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans is full of such deep and clear Gospel truth that not only convicts us and changes hearts - it helps us understand who God is, who we are and what God has done for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I hope you are practicing the memory verses we have highlighted from Romans at home and here at church. Many of the kids in my Wednesday and Sunday classes have been practicing and some have most of these verses memorized. But as I tell them, the purpose is not just to memorize, but to store them up in your heart to strengthen, to encourage, and to share with those who do not know Jesus Christ.
The last three weeks we have been focused on what many have described as the greatest paragraph in the bible. We have seen Paul begin to unpack that God, the Father, put forward Jesus Christ as the propitiation or payment that satisfies God’s wrath because of the blood of Jesus Christ that is received by Faith. Last week we saw how God is both the Just and the Justifier. Only God himself could do what sinful humanity could never do.
Last week we ended chapter 3. The last paragraph of Romans 3 starts with a series of questions that we will see Paul continue this style of writing through our text today. Paul seems to be taking the approach of the objections that a Jew and/or Gentile might have to this idea of faith alone and does it in the form of questions that they might have. Paul would be familiar with these type of questions, because he has probably dealt them with them time and again, whether Jews or Gentiles that he has encountered in his various journeys.
While Paul has already answered some of these questions in a general sense in the first three chapters of Romans and really summed them all up in that greatest paragraph in Romans 3:21-26 that we spent 3 weeks on. Next Paul begins to break it down using questions at the end of Romans 3 that might be going through the readers mind so that he can begin to make it more real by way of example. Here he begins his defense of salvation by faith alone.
In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul is about to reach back 2,000 years to give the example of faith alone that saves, that will help give Paul’s audience then and now see the answers to these questions he is posing by a concrete example that this plan of salvation has always been God’s plan. Paul helps us see the answers to these questions by the example of Abraham starting in chapter 4 today.
Will the congregation please stand and follow along as I read God’s Word.
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
The title for my sermon today is Abraham, the father of all who believe. Paul is going to be expanding on justification by faith that he started in chapter 3 of Romans and will continue in chapter’s 4 and 5. Really, he has begun to unpack our 2nd memory verse from a couple months ago, Romans 1:17 For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Paul has dealt with the law and its righteous demands that no one stands innocent under the law, there are no good works we can offer to God that can save ourselves. The Gospel, the good news, is that God has done everything that God’s law and God’s justice requires in Jesus Christ, and that faith alone in Jesus saves. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
But 500 years prior to Moses and the giving of the law there was Abraham. If Paul is going to explain that God’s plan for salvation has always been faith in Jesus Christ then he is going to have to go to the heart of what it means to be a Jew, to be a descendant of Abraham.
Here in chapter 4 Paul introduces Abraham into the argument for faith alone. But before we get into the argument it would be helpful for us to look at Abraham. Who is Abraham? And why does Paul, led by the Spirit, see the importance of introducing Abraham into the argument for faith alone?
For a Jew, Abraham, which means “father of a multitude”, is the physical father of the Jewish people. But before he was called Abraham, his name was Abram, which in Jewish tradition means “exalted father”. The story of Abram begins in Genesis at the end chapter 11, where we learn that his father is - Terah, and also that they came from Ur of the Chaldeans and that Sarai, Abram’s wife was barren and she had no children.
God first speaks to Abram in Genesis 12:1-2 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Here we see God’s calling on Abraham’s life to leave his family and homeland and the book of Joshua gives us further information about the practice of serving false gods that Abraham’s family practiced before the one true God called him out of his homeland Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.
Abraham’s story is the beginning of the story of God’s chosen people of the Old Testament. Abraham’s life is told in 15 chapters of the book of Genesis ending in chapter 25 covering almost 1/3 of the book of Genesis. Abraham was indeed blessed when God fulfilled the promise to provide him a son by his wife Sarah, despite Sarah and Abraham trying to take matters into their own hands with Sarah’s servant Hagar, who bore Abraham a son named Ismael.
Although Abraham sojourned in the land God promised him he would only own the grave where he would bury his wife Sarah. God would indeed make Abraham’s name great.
Today three great religions of the world claim Abraham as their father:
1) Jews through Isaac the son of the promise by Sarah, and Isaac’s son Jacob who was the father of 12 tribes of Israel.
2) Muslims, also claim Abraham as their father though Ishmael by Sarah’s servant Hagar and Easu, Jacob’s brother.
3) Christians who by faith in Jesus are blessed as spiritual descendants of Abraham as Paul makes his case in our text today.
To a Jew, being a child of Abraham had become a symbol of pride and entitlement. As descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people had become falsely secure in their salvation because of their physical birth as a child of Abraham, a member of God’s chosen people.
We see this throughout the history of Israel. In fact, just before Jesus begins his public ministry, when the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to see John the Baptist, whose baptism was of repentance, John warned them and said in Matt 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. In John’s warning to the religious leaders of Israel, he was telling them that their confidence in being a physical descendant of Abraham by birth was misplaced.
For the audience that Paul was writing to in Rome we know that it is made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians and Paul has gone to great lengths to explain that they are on equal footing in regards to their sin, but now he wants to make sure they have a right understanding of salvation.
If God’s plan for salvation by faith has always been the plan, then Paul is going to have to reach back to make the argument that Abraham was not justified by works, prior to the law being given by Moses, then he will be making an argument most Jews had either never heard or more likely had lost sight of in their zeal towards their Jewish identity and seeing themselves as having some special exemption to this idea of faith alone.
So where does Paul start with this argument? With posing an idea in our text for today in verse 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Now here he could have said because Abraham was a sinner like everyone else, a fact that he has well established in Romans 3, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that includes Abraham. Jewish teaching, today and even in Paul’s time, taught that Abraham was justified by his works though. Some go as far to say Abraham anticipated the law being given and lived a righteous life deserving of God’s favor.
But in the Old Testament we see clearly from Joshua 24:2, that Abraham and his father Terah and their family were idol worshipers from Ur, their homeland. They, like the rest of humanity were sinners and Abraham could not boast before God of anything that he has done to save himself, before or after he believed.
But Paul doesn’t use Joshua’s description of Abraham to make the point, in verse 3 he goes right to the Covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis, he wants them to see the truth that has been the basis for the Covenant and been written by Moses for all to see. Paul begins teaching what Genesis 15:6 actually says when God makes his Covenant with Abram.
Let’s turn to Genesis chapter 15 starting with verse 1 through 6 to help us remember God’s covenant with Abram. Genesis 15:1-6 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Since calling Abraham out of his home, God has blessed him in many ways. But Abraham still has no offspring, no heir, no son. But God brought him outside and showed him what that blessing would look like for him. God showed Abraham what he would do for him. Then in Genesis 15:6 - the whole point Paul wants his readers to see - Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6 is the first use of the word believed in the bible. Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was not justified before God by works of his own flesh, but by faith in God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Now some may say sure he had faith in God, but how does Abraham have faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness? Jesus tells us in John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” And the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Abraham looked forward to what God would do in Jesus, just as we who believe today, look back on what God did in Jesus.
Back to Romans 4. Now to leave no definition lacking, Paul by the power of the Spirit, is going to make sure to put - faith counted to him as righteousness - into more practical terms so there is no misunderstanding what this means. Another term that is used to describe this, is the word imputed, probably not a word most of us use very often. I am sure these first century Christians appreciated Paul’s simple logical explanation as much as I do.
Paul uses a practical example to explain this faith, counted as righteousness. Paul is comparing one who works and the wages or payment that is due him with one who does not work and is given a gift.
Let’s take the first example. Everyone here understands the concept of working for wages or payment. But when we try to apply this to our salvation there is nothing ungodly people, which is everyone – including Abraham, can do to save ourselves. There are no works of the flesh, that we can do that would make God, who is perfectly holy to be in our debt, because the works of our flesh are always marred by sin. In other words, there is nothing the ungodly can do to obligate a perfectly holy God to do, period.
If you think of it as counting in math, everything we do in the flesh will always have a negative sign in front of it. In fact, all we are left with is a debt that we have no way of paying. Everything we do keeps making a larger negative number, the debt just keeps getting bigger and bigger. No matter what we do we can’t turn our negative numbers positive - or gain righteousness of our own doing.
Now let’s look at the second example, the one who does not work, but instead believes. Paul qualifies the belief here – as the one who believes in him who justifies the ungodly. Pastor Phil preached on this last week, that God is both the Just and the Justifier, for those who believe in Jesus Christ and his righteousness.
If we look at this with math again, Jesus lived the perfect life – having never sinned. He submitted perfectly to the Father’s will and plan and this was to show the righteousness of God. Christ has only positives or righteousness, no negatives or sin in the math analogy.
For the ungodly, who do not work for their salvation, but believe in what Jesus has done, they are justified by faith receiving the free gift of Christ’s righteousness.
Now Paul has brought Abraham into this argument for faith alone, but now in the middle of this argument he introduces King David, you might wonder why? But if you are a 1st Century Jewish Christian and are having trouble understanding - Paul knows he needs to make the case complete - and who better to add to the case than David.
Here Paul takes us to Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Now you might ask why Psalm 32 though? It doesn’t even use the word righteousness. But, Paul wants them to see the connection with the not counting as it pertains to iniquity, or sin, in Psalm 32. This is important for the Jew to understand that the blessing here that David speaks of, while it does not use the word righteousness, it tells us that David understood the blessing, of God not counting our sins against us, even though we fully deserve to have the counted. This displays God’s mercy in not counting our sins, even though we have sinned and deserve hell. All those negatives of our works, by the flesh.
Paul is drawing his audience of Jewish and Gentile readers into Old Testament Scripture to explain what Justification means, in God not counting our sins against us, for those who believe that Jesus Christ made the payment with his blood our sins our forgiven. Justification by faith is not counting our sin against us and the counting of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ to us.
For God to be just, our sin has to be paid for, and it is, by the blood of Jesus Christ whom God put forward as the propitiation to make the payment to satisfy God’s wrath – for all who believe.
Now Paul wants to bring in another part of the Covenant with Abraham to make this point about faith. He poses another question to help us get the point in verse 9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
Here Paul introduces circumcision into his argument for faith. By pointing out if we agree that the scripture says Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness – then, is faith for the circumcised Jew and also the uncircumcised Gentile?
To see the answer in scripture Paul reminds them that the counting of the faith as righteousness was not when Abraham was circumcised. It was when Abraham was uncircumcised in Genesis 15:6, which we already read. Now just like some of Paul’s early audience in Rome, you might be not remember the timeline of the Covenant in Genesis 15, but God commands Abraham some 14 years later in Genesis 17 to be circumcised, he and every male who is eight days old. Circumcision was to be a sign and a seal of the Covenant and of what God has done in the heart of the believer. The circumcision of the heart spoken of in Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
Paul has just used Scripture to point out the obvious - Abraham was saved by faith long before he was circumcised in the flesh. So Abraham’s circumcision was not a condition of his justification, it was a result of his faith. This was to show that Abraham is the father of all who believe.
Many Jewish Christians in Rome may have been thinking that they still had some special privilege or status because of their Jewish heritage. But Paul wants them to see that they are on equal footing, in regards to sin, and no footing to stand before a holy God except faith, whether Jew or Gentile.
The church has been fighting this since Paul’s day, through the 16th century reformation and still is today - to proclaim that faith in Christ is the only thing that saves. Jesus says I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me. Luther, Calvin and the other reformers fought 500 years ago to stand on the truth that we are saved by faith. We are to proclaim that truth to all who do not believe in Jesus, whether Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhist, and all other works based religions, which is everything except faith in Christ - even those who claim Jesus but still think they add something to their salvation.
Satan wants to twist God’s word just enough to get people to doubt, to think there is something they have to do to earn salvation. Some of you may think - going to church, taking communion, or being baptized as an infant saves. We are called to point all to Jesus and have faith in him. Just as Paul tells Timothy, we are also to fight the good fight of faith. To point people to God’s plan of salvation from the beginning, from faith for faith displayed by Abraham, the father of all who believe.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 10, 2017
Let us begin this morning with our December’s memory verse, Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Today, we are going to continue our study of the greatest paragraph in the Bible, Romans 3:21-26, and we are actually going to tag on verse 27-31 today. This will be the third and final week that we will unpack this glorious text.
The reason I have chosen to spend three weeks in this paragraph is because I want to anchor this church in the gospel. I want you to know it up and down, inside and out. I want you to be gospel saturated. I want you to overwhelmed by the immeasurable riches that are found in the good news of Jesus Christ.
And not only do I want you to know it, I want it to radically change how you live your life. I want the gospel to be so entrenched in your soul that it effects how you wake up, how you eat, how you dream, how you work, how you respond to difficulties, how you have relationships, how you spend you money, and how you work. I desire this Church to be gospel driven at its core, and before all that can happen, we must learn it.
Next week, Pastor Jeff will be preaching the Word of God and will pick up in Romans 4. So, this week, please be in prayer for him. Pray that he would immerse himself in God's Word and the Spirit would help him mine the treasures of God's Word. Pray also that God would protect him from Satan's attacks. The best way to make a wreck out of a church is to make a wreck out of the pastor. But He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
However, this morning, let us bring out attention to our text for today and stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
We have seen in the study of Romans 1-3 that all humanity is guilty under the Holy and Perfect law of God. As it says in verse 23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone who has, or will exist, is a sinner. All of us have rejected God as our King and we have made ourselves kings of our own lives. We have pursued our own glory and we have kicked the glory of God to the curb.
Perhaps the best way to think about our sin is described in 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Humanity is by definition lawless, law breakers. And whose law have we broken? God’s. The Creator. The Sovereign Lord of the Universe. We have transgressed our Holy God's law.
God is Just
So the question is now what? What is God going to do about his creatures, whom he made in his image, who have overtly and repeatedly broken his perfect and Holy Law? There would seem to be, on its face, only two options: 1) Let it slide, or 2) Punish them. God could turn a blind eye, or come with his fury.
Today, we live in a world that embraces option #1. Many people desire a God who sits in heaven and looks down upon man and sees murder, gossip, sexual immorality, theft, greed, lying, and slander and just shrugs his shoulders as if he doesn’t care. This is the religion of people like Rob Bell, Universal Unitarians, and the average guy on the street. But the question is, is that really a good option?
I can tell you first hand that it is not. One of the biggest complaints that I hear as County Attorney is that too many people are not being punished to the level they believe they deserve. People want justice and justice in their mind is prison. Imagine being in a courtroom and watching as a sex offender is found guilty of assaulting numerous young girls and the judge looks at the offender and says, the evidence is overwhelming, the jury has convicted you, you have made a mess our of your life, your victim’s life, and society as a whole; however, your lawbreaking does not bother me, therefore, I will not punish you for your crimes.
Let me ask you a question. Would you view that judge as a good judge? No, you wouldn’t. Why? Because their role as judge is to uphold justice and punish lawbreakers. Justice would not be served if a convicted rapist went unpunished. The shrugging of an judges shoulders is not an option. People long for justice, as they should. Justice is a good thing. Justice is right.
Now, if we look at verse 25 this is exactly the topic that the apostle Paul is addressing as it relates to the sins of the people of the Old Testament. Verse 25 says, “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time.” What does Paul mean in verse 25 when he says, “this was to show God’s righteousness?” Is Paul talking about the righteousness of Christ? No, here is talking about the righteousness of God the Father's judicial responsibility. That God is displaying his duties as judge of lawbreakers.
God, throughout the Bible is referred to as a Judge. James 4:12 says, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.” Isaiah 33:22 states, “For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver.” Psalm 75:7, “but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.”
In fact, everything in life is moving to the moment that God judges all humanity. Revelation 20:11-12 which points us to a future event says, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Someday all of us will be in the Courtroom of God.
Is God the Creator? Yes. Is God our King? Yes. Is God our judge? Yes. And everyone is ultimately being lead before the bench of God.
But what kind of judge is our Lord? Obviously the answer must be that He is a good judge; that He is a righteous judge. Psalm 7:11 states, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Psalm 50:6 says, “The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!”
Therefore we know that God as judge will not shrug his shoulder so sin. If God did not uphold the law that he gave, and then he would not be righteous, he would be an unrighteous Judge. If God turned a blind eye to our lawbreaking, He would be complicit in our sin. He would be a co-conspirator in our sins. And as it says in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” This means there is no darkness in God’s judicial attributes. God is a righteous judge and the sins of all people, including His people, Israel before the coming of Christ.
God is the Justifier
However, there is another side to this coin, and this is where we see the manifestation of a third option. Not only are we told that God is just, we are also told that he is the justifier. Look at verse 26, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What does Paul mean when he says that God is the justifier?
The greek word for justifier is dikaioó (dik-ah-yo'-o), and we have already seen this word in Romans 3:24, when it said that we are “justified (dikaioó ) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
And if you recall, we said that dikaioó, according to Strong’s Concordance, means to “make righteous, defend the cause of, plead for the righteousness (innocence) of, acquit, justify.” And how did we say that we justified, or declared not guilty before God? It is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and this is the third option. Therefore our options 1) God ignores our sin, 2) God punishes our sins, 3) Christ.
I want you to notice that our text does not say that Jesus is the justifier. Our text says that it is through Christ we are justified, but in verse 26 it says that God the Father is the justifier. How is God the justifier, if Christ is the one who died? It is because God is the one who offers up his son. God is the one who ordained the collision of the law and His love with His Son upon the cross.
Do you recall the words of John the Baptist in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the Lamb. Who is the provider of this Lamb? It is God the Father. God the Father is the one who offers His Son upon the mercy seat between the Seraphim.
We also see this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Did Christ give his own life? Yes, but it was because the Father asked him and the Son always submits to the Father. Therefore ultimately is was God the Father who gave His Son. This was God's redemptive plan. Just as Abraham bound his one and only Son who he loved, Isaac, to offer him upon Mount Moraiah, God bound his one and only begotten Son and offered him upon Mount Calvary.
Isaiah 53:10, written 700 years before Christ was born says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” God the Father desires to crush Christ on the cross. It was not a series of unfortunate events that lead to Christ's death; it was God's plan all along.
This was the eternal plan of God from the beginning, even before the fall. God in the garden of Eden was not reactionary to our sin, for God does not react, he ordains. And before the beginning he destined to justify His people through his Son in accordance to his eternal plan of redemption.
Here are two more sections of verses to hammer this home a little bit more. 1 Peter 1:18 says, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” Before Jesus was born, before Abraham existed, before Adam existed, before the foundation was laid, the ransom through the blood of Christ was foreknown. God always knew he would offer up His Son.
Ephesians 3:8-13, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul's mission was to bring this mystery, this eternal purpose of God to justify sinners through Christ to light.
Therefore we see that God has always had a plan, he has always had a purpose and it reveals itself in the giving of his Son. God requires a payment for sin, and God provides the payment in the providing of His son. That is God's eternal purpose to be just and the justifier.
So let us ask why? Why does God go to the trouble of creating a universe that requires him to play both sides of the fence, the just and the justifier? The answer is so that we can behold is glory. Look at verse 26 and the question that Paul poses, “Then what becomes of our boasting?”
God has orchestrated an existence that is built upon perfect law, with creatures who fall into sin, and are thereby incapable of upholding the law, so that he can send His Son to fulfill the law, so that at the end of the day, all we are left with is to stand in awe of the glory of God and trust in His ways. We play no part in our salvation. We are completely dependent upon Christ, the fulfillment of God's wondrous mystery and eternal mystery.
And this answers so many, if not all, of the questions that humanity has. For one, why does evil exist? This is why, so that God can display his glory by being just and the justifier. God desires to display his glory in his justice and holiness and his glory in his love and grace. If evil did not exist, we would not have the opportunity to know a just God or a gracious God.
The world that exists, with all of its brokenness, is the only possible way that we can know the one true God. If there was no evil, then there would be no need for Christ. And if there was no need for Christ than we would not see the exact imprint of God, the radiance of His glory.
And this is why at the end of Romans, chapter 11, after the Apostle Paul unpacks the gospel over and over and over again, from multiple angels, ends by breaking forth into praise, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”