Monday, July 22, 2019

Illustrating the Doctrine of Justification by Faith – Romans 4:1-8




Why Romans 4 is important


As we enter into a new chapter, we note that the subject has not changed.  The apostle is continuing with the theme of justification, although now his concern is to do what he has already hinted at (at 3:21 for example) – to ground the exposition of the doctrine explicitly in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.  He now points to Abraham the father of the Jewish nation and David the greatest of all the Jewish kings as examples of men who were justified by faith apart from works. The reason for adducing their examples is obvious.  If the father of the Jewish people and the “friend of God” par excellence (Jam. 2:23; Isa. 41:8) was justified by faith then would it not follow that all who follow in his footsteps are also justified by faith?  And if King David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), was also justified by faith, then why should we think that there is any other way of becoming right with God?


But there are other reasons why I think the apostle is staying on this topic.  As we have already pointed out, this is a very central doctrine and the key to the entire epistle and the gospel.  It should have the same place in the church today – Luther called it the article of the standing or falling church.  And it should have the same place in our lives.  If Paul spends eight chapters in his definitive exposition of the gospel stating, defending, and drawing out the implications of justification by faith alone, then we need to understand the reasons why he placed such great emphasis on it.  So let me give you three reasons why I believe Paul placed this great emphasis upon this doctrine.


The glory of God is at stake


First, he did so because the glory of God is at stake.  We saw that in our last study in Romans 3:27-28.  There, Paul writes, “Then what becomes of our boasting?  It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By a law of works?  No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”  In this chapter, he picks up the theme again in verse 2: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”  And then in verse 20, he describes Abraham’s faith in this way: “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”  You see that emphasis throughout.  Paul is concerned that boasting is excluded and that the glory is given to God.  According to Paul, this happens when people are justified by faith and not by works.  Those who are justified by faith do not cling to their righteousness but to the righteousness of God, and therefore have nothing to boast about. 


Thus this doctrine is important because it is inextricably connected to the glory of God which is the most important thing in the universe.  All that exists, exists in order to show the glory of God.  Every spiritual blessing which we receive is given in order to demonstrate the glory of God.  And our enjoyment of every blessing depends on this fact of the glory of God, for every blessing is in some sense a partaking of God’s glory (cf. John 17; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 5:1-2).


So, in other words, justification by faith alone was not important to Paul primarily because he was in love with the doctrine but because he was in love with the God of the doctrine.  Paul longed to see the glory and honor of God displayed.  So, if the doctrine of justification by faith is boring to us, we need to ask ourselves whether we in fact care about the glory of God.  In any case, we need to ask ourselves how much of a role this motive plays in our hearts when it comes to defending this truth.  Do we defend it because we want others to see how clever we are, or do we defend it because we want others to see how great God is?


The true happiness of man is at stake


Another reason this truth is so important is because the way of justification by faith alone is the only way men and women can become reconciled to God, and therefore it is the only way to true blessedness.  The apostle sounds this note in verses 6-8 where we read three times the word “blessed” or “happy.” 

“David,” the apostle explains, “also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (6). In the Psalm that he is quoting, David portrays his condition when he still had unconfessed sin in his life: “Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:2-4).  That is, unconfessed sin had an effect even upon his physical body.  Though it is not always the case, yet sometimes symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fear can have their root problem in sin that has been hidden.  In such cases, confession is the way out: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (5).  David knew that his good works did not counterbalance his wrong deeds.  The only way to freedom from guilt and despair is to confess the sin or sins to the Lord and to fall on his mercy and free forgiveness.  Grace is the foundation of blessing.


But there is more to the blessing of free justification than a good conscience now.  Paul was happy because he had his eye on the future.  In chapter 5, he tells us why the Christian can rejoice: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  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” (5:1-2).  We can rejoice because, as justified people, we are at peace with God and therefore have access to him through Christ.  This access is also the guarantee that one day we shall have complete access to God when we partake and see the glory of God in the eternal state.  This was what the Puritans called the Beatific Vision and it is what made Paul rejoice.  But again, this blessed rests upon the foundation of justification by faith alone.  So it is essential.


The foundation of sanctification is at stake


There is yet another reason that might not be so apparent at first.  The holiness of the Christian depends upon justification by faith.  There are two ways you can approach this doctrine.  You can approach it as a sinner who wants to be free from the burden of sin or you can approach it as a slave to sin who only wants another excuse for his sin.  For those who come to it in the latter way, Paul has stern words: “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:1-2).  Those who twist this doctrine into an excuse for their sin, wrest it, as Peter says, to their own destruction.

Rather, those who truly believe that God justifies those who trust in Jesus alone ought to be holy persons.  Notice that Paul says this in Romans 6:7, “For one who has died has been set free [justified] from sin.”  If you are dead to sin, it is because you have already been justified.  Why is this?


The reason lies in the fact that we cannot live in relation to God apart from being reconciled to him; and this happens only when we are justified.  Further, the life of sanctification must be lived in the attitude of dependence and trust upon God.  This is because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jam. 4:6).  Believing that your works are the reason God accepts you does not lead you to trust in God; instead it will lead to self-dependence and arrogance and pride.  That is why it is so crucial to believe in Jesus alone for your standing before God.  That alone leads to humble trust, and to those who have such an attitude, God gives his Spirit and grace.


That was Paul’ whole argument in the latter part of his epistle to the Galatians.  He had established the true doctrine of justification over again the Judaizers who wanted to bring in the observance of the law as something essential to salvation.  But then he administered the fatal blow to their position by undermining their main objection to the grace of God by noting that sanctification only comes through the Spirit and the Spirit is given to those who believe.  Paul’s whole argument is that only those who believe the true doctrine will live holy lives.


What does Paul mean by “faith counted as righteousness”?


Let’s now look at the text.  First of all, let’s notice that Paul has introduced some new terms into the discussion but he is still talking about justification by faith.  Because in verse 2 he says, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”  And in verse 5 he writes, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, he faith is counted as righteousness.”


But the new term he introduces is the word “counts” which is also translated by the words “impute” and “reckon” in the KJV.  He uses the term 11 times in this chapter.  It is obviously important to Paul as he explicates the doctrine in term of the example of Abraham.  What does he mean by this?


We do know one thing.  It is clearly another way of saying that we are justified by faith.  The connection with the previous chapter demands this.  Paul had there given that magnificent statement of the doctrine.  Now he defends it from the OT from the fact that Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness.  This argument does not make any sense unless counting faith for righteousness and justification by faith are basically the same thing.

Now then, what does the apostle mean?  Some have tried to make the case that when Paul says that faith is imputed as righteousness, he is equating faith with the righteousness.  So then what Paul is saying is that our faith is what makes us righteous.  


I don’t think that is the correct interpretation.  Rather, what Paul means when he says that faith is counted as righteousness is that when a person trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior, God looks at that person as also being righteous because of what Christ has done for them.  When we say that God imputes righteousness, what we mean is that God puts it to the believer’s account (the terms carries both legal and monetary connotations), so that he considers the believer in Christ as possessing the righteousness of God.  That he counts faith as righteousness simply means that this transfer happens when we believe in Jesus.


Let me give you four reasons why I believe this is the correct interpretation over against the idea that faith itself is the righteousness.


First of all, the instrumental role of faith in our justification demands it.  We have already noted that this chapter is an extension of the argument begun in chapter 3 and that Paul is now defending what he had previously defined.  In chapter 3, Paul says that we are justified by faith, that we become partakers of the righteousness of God by faith.  There faith is obviously instrumental.  It is through (not on account of) faith as a means that we become right before God (see 3:22, 25).


Second, the righteousness that is imputed, counted, and reckoned to us is specifically called the righteousness of God (3:21,22).  How you can call faith the righteousness of God is beyond me.  So when the apostle says that faith is counted as righteousness he must mean not that faith is the righteousness but that it is the means by which this righteousness is appropriated.


Note what Paul says in 10:10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (KJV).  The righteousness is the same as that mentioned in verse 6, “the righteousness of faith” (KJV) which is also the same righteousness in verse 3, “the righteousness of God.”  So, in some sense, righteousness which is imputed is both a faith-righteousness and a God-righteousness.  But it is not a faith-righteousness in the same sense that it is a God-righteousness.  For, as Paul says, man believes unto righteousness; similarly, man confesses unto salvation.  Just as confession is not salvation, but leads to it, even so faith is not righteousness but leads to it.  The righteousness of justification is the righteousness of God in the sense that God is the origin of it; it is the righteousness of faith in the sense that it is through faith in Christ that we become the possessors of it.[1]


Third, if faith were our righteousness, this would make a work out of faith.  For then we would be able to boast in our faith as the reason for which we were saved.  But this makes nonsense out of all the texts that contrast faith and works and say that we are saved by grace.  On the other hand, if faith is simply the hand by which we receive God’s righteousness, then faith is no longer a ground of boasting.


Fourth, though Paul never explicitly says it, I think we are justified in saying that the righteousness of God which we receive is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Christ.  As John Stott argues, “on at least three occasions Paul comes so close to this picture [being clothed in Christ’s righteousness] that I for one believe it is biblically permissible to use it.”[2]  He then goes on to point to 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 1:30, and Phil. 3:9.  In 2 Cor. 5:21, the apostle says that God made Christ to be sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  In 1 Cor. 1:30 he says that Christ is made for us (among other things) righteousness.  And in Phil. 3:9, Paul writes that he wants to be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”  It is a righteousness that comes to us, not one that emanates from us.  And it comes to us in a way that it is inextricably tied to Christ and what he has done for us, and therefore is justly called the righteousness of Christ.


To recap, when Paul says that faith is counted as righteousness, he means that when God imputes faith as righteousness, he means that we are justified by faith in Christ and that it is on the basis of what Christ has done for us that we receive, not our own, but the righteousness of God.  


Perhaps an illustration might help us grasp this concept. Remember Onesimus, the slave of Philemon?  He had run away from his master, evidently after having stolen some money from him, and had come to Rome.  But as God’s providence would have it, he met Paul and became a converted man.  Paul sent him back to Philemon with a letter and in it Paul asks him to forgive Onesimus.  In the course of the letter, Paul brings up the matter of stolen property and writes on the behalf of Onesimus, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge[3] that to my account.  I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it” (Philem. 18-19).  This is what we mean by imputation.  It means God putting the righteousness of God to your account when you believe because Jesus has already paid the price with his blood.


Let’s see now how the apostle develops this thought in the first eight verses.


Exposition


In these verses Paul demonstrates the compatibility of the OT with his teaching that sinners are justified by faith alone, apart from works.  He appeals therefore to Abraham the greatest patriarch of all.  Beginning in verse 1[4], he asks, “What then shall we say was gained[5] by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?”  In other words, how did Abraham find favor in the eyes of God?  Many of Paul’s contemporaries would have pointed to Abraham’s obedience as the key reason he found favor with God.  The apostle takes up this premise in verse 2, when he writes, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”


What is Paul saying here?  He is explicitly denying that Abraham had anything to boast about and therefore he could not be justified by his works.  He supports this with the following verse.  Verse 3 says, “For what does the Scripture say?  ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”  Gen. 15:6, which the apostle quotes here, makes it clear that it was the patriarch’s faith, not his works, that was imputed to him as righteousness.  Remember that the apostle is illustrating the principle of 3:27-28 with the example of Abraham.  Surely if anyone had a reason to boast in their obedience, it was Abraham.  But not even Abraham could boast for he had no works sufficient for his justification before God.  Even he had to be justified by faith apart from works.


In verse 4, the apostle shows why it is that counting faith for righteousness (as opposed to justification by works) is the only way to exclude boasting.  Verse 4 says, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.”  In other words, if you work to earn a wage, then when that wage or reward is given to you, you can rightfully say, “I earned this.”  Salvation then is not a matter of grace, but becomes a matter of debt and a ground for boasting.


Verse 5 gives the other side of the coin: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Here the apostle unpacks for us what he means by having faith counted as righteousness – or, alternatively, what he means by justification by faith alone.  The people for whom this is true are described negatively and positively.  Negatively in the words “the one who does not work” and positively in the words “believes in him who justifies the ungodly.”  Now there are three things in this verse that point to the fact that we are justified by faith alone, wholly apart from works.


First in the words, “to the one who does not work.”  This makes it clear that works have no part in our justification.  Justification is not a process of moral change that makes us fit for the kingdom of heaven.  Justification happens in an instant, at the very beginning of the Christian’s life, so that there is no time to clean up our act.  Good works are necessary, but they do not provide the foundation of one’s relationship with God.  Justified people work from a right standing with God, not in order to get a right standing with God.


Second, in the words, “but believes in him who justifies the ungodly.”  The word “ungodly” is very important here.  Not only do our works never come into consideration in the matter of our justification, the people who are justified are described as ungodly.  Or, to put it another way, though our good works do not come into consideration, our bad works do.  How can this be?  How can God justify such people?  The reason is because “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).  This also means that our faith cannot be considered as a good work.  Though we are justified by faith, though faith is counted for righteousness, yet even in the act of faith, we are still considered “ungodly.”  Faith is not the righteousness imputed and adds nothing to it.  


Finally, in the words, “his faith is counted as righteousness.”  As John Piper has noted, this does not say anything about the works springing from faith, but simply says that faith itself is counted as righteousness.  We are justified by faith alone.  God imputes the righteousness of his Son to those who, leaving the rags of their self-righteousness behind, cling in faith-dependence upon Jesus.


In verses 6-8, the apostle buttresses his account by appealing to the experience of King David.  Notice that here the imputation of righteousness is parallel with the non-imputation of sin.  Though justification is not only the forgiveness of sins (as some unfortunately reduce it to), yet it does necessarily involve it.  There is no acceptance with God apart from the forgiveness of our sins, purely by grace and apart from works.  There is a double act in our justification: the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness, the erasing of our debt and the addition of a positive balance to our account, the righteousness of God.  Truly such people are blessed.


Conclusion


I don’t know where you stand this morning, how you are burdened with sin – whether with the guilt of sin or with power of sin or both.  Or maybe you don’t care about sin at all.  But regardless of where you fall, this text has something to say to people in each of these categories.  


To those of you who are burdened with the guilt of your sins and failures: you know you are a sinner before God and that God is righteous and you don’t know how in the world God cold accept you and forgive you.  This text tells you how this can happen.  For those who do not work but who believe in the one who justifies the ungodly, as ungodly, they are given a righteousness that gives them peace with God and access into his presence.


To those of you who are struggling with sin’s dominance in your life, remember that God imparts his Spirit not on the basis of works but on the basis of grace.  The foundation of your sanctification is your justification.  The temptation is to think that because we have failed therefore there is no hope, and then to give up fighting sin.  But God is not waiting to strike you down or strike you off because you have failed – if you are in Christ your standing with him is not in jeopardy.  So keep fighting your sins, not out of fear but out of your security in the gracious love of your Father who accepts you completely in Jesus Christ.


To those of you who do not care – what can we say?  You do not care about your own soul.  You are among those whom Paul describes in Romans 10 – “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”  They needed to be saved, and so do you.  Unless you are willing to submit yourself to the righteousness of God by faith in Christ, you are lost.  Awake sinner, and come to Christ!


May God bless these words to each of us.  Amen.



[1] See John Murray, Romans (NICNT), p. 359.
[2] John Stott, Romans (BST), p. 128.
[3] The word ellogeo is synonymous with logizomai.
[4] Again, I want to point out that in my own exposition of this text, I am indebted to John Piper’s exposition of it.
[5] “Gained” in the Greek: “The dominant thought in this usage is that of being granted a favored standing before someone who has the power to withhold or bestow the favor he chooses.” From The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 323.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Applying the doctrine of justification by faith: Romans 3:27-31




The doctrines of the Bible, its teaching, are the word of God.  They are true and are worthy to be held for no other reason than that.  They are revealed to us by God through men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it would be insane for us to refuse to believe what God has himself made known to us.  And it seems reasonable to assume that God has not revealed inconsequential truths to us.  Deut. 29:29 is relevant here: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  God has given us his word so that we may do something with it, namely, obey it and put it into practice in our lives.


For that reason, when we look at the unfolding of the gospel in Romans 3, we should not think that this is unimportant or irrelevant.  However, there are right ways of holding doctrine and there are wrong ways of holding doctrine.  What the apostle does here shows us how doctrine of justification by faith ought to work in the life of a believer.  


He shows us, for example, that this doctrine does not just dangle on its own.  It ought to have a profound affect upon the way we think and live.  If we hold this truth as something merely interesting on a theoretical level, then we have failed to see the gospel for what it truly is.  The problem is that a lot of people see this sharp dichotomy between doctrine and practice.  But the apostle would have abhorred all such categories.  The foundation for Biblical practical living is the doctrine the theology of the Bible.  This ought to have a profound impact upon the ways we face each day and interact with others.  As we move through the passage, we will consider some more concrete ways we should do this, but for now I just want to make this observation.  Doctrine implies holiness of life.  This is the point of the opening words of the text: “What then?”


So what specifically is Paul doing here?  Having elaborated the doctrine of justification by faith, he now draws three inferences from it.  The inferences are that (1) justification by faith promotes humility by excluding boasting, (2) it promotes missions by removing distinctions, and (3) it promotes holiness by upholding the law. 


These issues were of particular concern in Paul’s day, especially in terms of the interaction between the church and the Jewish community.  Remember that Paul generally began his evangelistic efforts in the synagogue.  And moreover, he defines the gospel in this very letter as that which has Jewish priority: it is the gospel “to the Jews first.”  They are God’s historic covenant people.  So it is not merely a matter of missional convenience to address their concerns; it was a matter of theological fidelity to do so.  And so the apostle wants his Jewish family to see that the gospel does not invalidate faithfulness to God’s own word in the law.  That is essentially what he is doing here; there is nothing in the gospel which is fundamentally contrary to the law of God.  Indeed, the law is upheld by the very gospel that Paul proclaims.


Let’s consider each implication in turn.


The gospel promotes humility by excluding boasting


“Then what becomes of our boasting?  It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By a law of works?  No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (27-28).  We might not normally think of the OT in terms of the prohibition of boasting, but the emphasis in it on the dangers of pride, which is everywhere, especially in the wisdom literature, illustrates the fact that what Paul is doing here is showing that the tendency of the gospel message is not in a different direction from the OT.  “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar” (Ps. 139:6).  Of the seven abominations that Solomon mentions in Proverbs 6, “haughty eyes” are first on the list (Prov. 6:16-17).  And then there is that great word in the prophesy of Isaiah: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isa. 57:15).  So here we see that the message of the gospel is in keeping with this emphasis in OT.  The two are compatible in terms of this spirit of humility which is promoted in both.


Now it’s probable that Paul’s main reason here in pointing this out is to undermine the pretense for pride in some of his Jewish brethren, who looked on the Gentiles with disdain.  Apparently some Jews found a reason for boasting in the law, by interpreting it as a law of works.  That is, they saw the law as a way to merit the favor of God by their law-keeping.  Of course, if you have merited the favor of God, then that means that you are better than those who haven’t, and that gives you a ground for boasting.  The apostle will come back to this in 4:1-5.  There he will say that Abraham didn’t having anything to boast about since he was justified by faith and not by works: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (4:4-5).


This emphasis on works-righteousness therefore put the law-keeper at odds with the requirement for humility before God.  But the apostle says that the gospel undermines this.  Why?  Because the gospel is not a law of works but a law of faith (or “principle of faith”: here I think the apostle is using the word law metaphorically in terms of a principle).  Though Paul’s Jewish brethren thought they were keeping the law by opposing the gospel, the apostle shows that actually the gospel preserves the very spirit of the OT better than themselves.


In opposition to works-righteousness or salvation by merit, the gospel tells us that we can only be make right, not by looking to ourselves but by looking away from ourselves to Christ.  We are “justified by faith apart from works of the law.”  Thus there is no room for boasting in yourself.  For you can’t boast in yourself if you are not looking at yourself or trusting in yourself.  


The emphasis here upon humility and the exclusion of boasting is important for a number of reasons.  For one thing, it’s just the truth about who we are and what we can do.  To fail to humble ourselves before God is to live in a delusion.  We do not receive salvation because we earned it; we receive it as beggars. In fact, the way God saves people underlines the fact that he alone is the one who ought to receive the glory (1 Cor. 1:26-31). We need to be reminded of this because this is not just a Jewish problem, it’s a human problem.  As John Stott puts it, “all human beings are inveterate boasters.  Boasting is the language of our fallen self-centeredness.”  Paul had already written to the Christians in Corinth who loved to boast in their wisdom, “For who sees anything different in you?  What do you have that you did not receive?  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).  Every boast is a denial of grace and a brick in our own Tower of Babel of pride and achievement.  Better to knock it down than to have God humble us: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).


Another reason this is important is because the reason we exist is to glorify God.  But we cannot live lives that glorify God if we are boasting about ourselves: these are incompatible modes of living.  Either you live for the glory of God or you live for yourself; you cannot do both.  This is the point of the Isaiah passage we referred to earlier.  God dwells in two places: he dwells in the high and lofty place and he dwells with those who are lowly and contrite.  In other words, God does not dwell with those who worship themselves.  Rather, God seeks those who worship him (Jn. 4:24).  


And this leads us to a third reason.  If God made you to worship him, it is futile to seek true fulfillment in any other way.  In other words, if you want to be truly happy, don’t live for yourself; worship God.  Now this is not to say that there aren’t plenty of people out there who are perfectly content without God.  I don’t deny that there are.  However, to use C. S. Lewis’ analogy, it is also possible to be perfectly content making mud pies in the slums because you don’t have any idea what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  In fact, however, we know by experience that the best way to become a miserable person is to become fixated on yourself.  I like the way John Piper put it once: to worship yourself is like going to the Alps and then locking yourself in a room full of mirrors.  Everyone knows what it means to be “taken out of yourself,” to experience something transcendent as the way to experience something truly delightful and wonderful.  But the one who transcends every category of wonder and beauty and power and wisdom is God himself.  Everything else that we worship can only be a faint image of the God who made it.  If we refuse to worship him, we are only robbing ourselves of the purest and best and lasting joy.  And it is the reason idolatry is not only wicked, but pathetic and heartbreaking.


Pride is dangerous because it is the root of so many evils.  It is the root of selfishness because it puts oneself before others.  It is the root of unforgiveness because it blinds us to our own need for mercy.  It the root of lust and covetousness because it makes us think that we deserve better than what we have.  It is the root of anger because we fail to see that the people who annoy us are less important than people themselves.  And on and on.


This means that if we kill boasting, we will inevitably become better people: more forgiving, more sacrificial, more loving, more longsuffering, and more contented.  Isn’t this the kind of person you want to become?  The only path to it is the path of humility.


And the gospel is the only sure path to humility.  Again, I want to point out that I’m not saying there aren’t humble people out there who don’t believe the gospel.  We should expect that there would be since all men and women are made in the image of God whether they are saved or not.  However, I do want to point out that secularism, which is the clearest alternative to the gospel here in the West, gives you no reason to be humble (despite protests to the contrary).  For secularism has no place for the grace and mercy of God.  The only salvation it knows is a salvation that man bestows upon himself.  And that being the case, the secular mind has every reason to boast and pride.  Secularism has no argument against despising those who are different than yourself.  Secularism gives no reason to show grace to those who are not in its tribe.  The gospel, on the other hand, says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” whether that neighbor is a conservation or liberal, white or black, Christian or non, your spouse or your enemy.  Why?  Because we are saved by a love that we didn’t deserve and which we received, not by merit, but by faith alone.


But that’s not the only inference the apostle draws out.  


The gospel promotes missions by removing distinctions


“Or is God the God of the Jews only?  Is he not of the Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one – who will justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (3:29-30).  Another emphasis in the OT is the emphasis on the world-wide extent of the blessing of Abraham: “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).  However, the Jewish exclusivism that plagued Paul’s nation lost sight of this facet of the blessing of Abraham.  Salvation is not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles since God is the God of both.  Unlike the false gods of the nations, the God of Israel is not just a tribal deity, but the God of the whole earth.


However, when Paul says that God is the God of the Jews and Gentiles, I think what he is saying is that God is the God who saves Gentiles as well as Jews.  Yes, God is the God of all men in terms of creation.  But sometimes when God says to people, “I am your God,” what he means is that he is for them in a saving way.  This, surely, is the point of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:33), and what lies behind Rev. 21:3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  So the apostle is arguing here that God saves Jew and Gentile.  This is, of course, in complete agreement with the message of the OT.


The apostle is saying that the gospel proves that God saves both Jew and Gentile because salvation – justification – is not a matter of law-keeping but rather a matter of faith.  By wrongly emphasizing the law – both its ceremonial and moral aspects – the Jews had made salvation a matter for Jews only.  The only way to be saved was to be part of the people of God which they defined solely in terms of belonging to Israel and that meant obeying the law of Moses.  However, in doing so they actually ended up running contrary to the actual teaching of both the law and the prophets.  Salvation, even in the OT, is not seen as only for Israel but for all the nations.  The gospel, on the other hand, maintains this balanced perspective.


Salvation is available for all because justification is not offered to us on the basis of law-keeping but on the basis of faith.  Neither Jew nor Gentile could keep the law as the basis of acceptance with God.  But faith opens a door through which all may go in.


And this means that the gospel is a gospel for all the world.  The word for “Gentiles” is the word for “nations.”  The gospel is a gospel for the nations (cf. Matt. 29:18-20).  Of course, it begins with those around us here at home.  We ought to be a light so that those around us can see the gospel in our lives and hear it from our lips.  But we don’t stop there: we go on to help those who are bringing the gospel into all the world and to take it there ourselves if God so allows us to go.  The gospel is not something for us to hold on to; it is something for us to share and if we are unwilling to do that, it means that we have missed something very fundamental to the gospel.


There is another way to look at this as well.  To believe the gospel means that we do not see our particular tribe to more favored than others in terms of our worthiness before God.  It means that we do not look down on others or maintain a posture of superiority.  For God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of everyone else.  We are not saved because our upbringing was better than someone else’s.  We are not saved because of our education.  We are not saved because we aren’t as bad as the next person.  Justification by faith rules that out completely.  To accept this doctrine means that we accept the fact that we cannot save ourselves, that we are not good enough.  That cuts out racism, and it cuts out snobbery of any kind.  It makes us approachable and empathetic people.  That is to say, it makes us more like our Savior.


Now I’m not saying that a Christian can’t be a patriot or love his country.  I’m not saying that a Christian can’t appreciate aspects of his heritage and culture and upbringing.  But what I am saying is that if we have truly embraced the gospel, we don’t make these things barriers for bringing the gospel to others or welcoming others into our lives.  Rather, we follow our Savior by welcoming the outcasts and the marginalized and loving them with the love of our Savior – who loves us with a love that is both infinitely to be desired and yet complete undeserved.


This brings us to our final point.


The gospel promotes holiness by upholding the law


Finally, the apostle concludes by saying, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?  By no means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law” (31).  Now the first question here is, what does Paul mean by “the law”?  Because a lot of people read that and just think Paul is talking about the boundary markers like circumcision and the like, which distinguished Jew from Gentile.  However, as Tom Schreiner points out, “law” in Paul regularly refers to the commands of the Mosaic institution.  Though some of these are boundary markers, most of them have to do with living before a holy God and which are applicable to Gentile as well as Jew.  The argument against the gospel would have been that it led to antinomianism and licentiousness.  For if we are saved simply by faith, what need have we for holiness before God?


Paul answers by saying that “we uphold the law.”  What does he mean by that?  How does the gospel uphold the law?  Though Paul does not give a complete answer here, I believe he does address this later on, especially in chapters 6-8, and this indicates what the apostle meant.


First, he surely meant that faith in Christ incompatible with a life in sin.  This is certainly what he is getting at in Romans 6.  Faith upholds the law by enabling the Christian to live under the grace of God which empowers us to truly fight the sin in our hearts.  Faith empowers obedience.  Faith is not an excuse for sin but the freedom to truly fight it for the first time.  We need to remember that the apostles didn’t just preach faith, but faith and repentance, for you cannot have one without the other.


The irony is that the law itself gives no power for obedience.  Faith actually gives us the power to be law-keepers: not in the sense of keeping the law for the purpose of meriting God’s favor out of fear, but for keeping it for the purpose of pleasing the One who saved us out of love.  Faith upholds the law; the law can’t uphold itself.


Another way that faith upholds the law is by pointing us to the one who fulfills the law in every jot and tittle (Mt. 5:17-18).  Yes, there are aspects of the law that no longer apply, but the reason they don’t apply is because they are fulfilled in Christ.  For example, we don’t sacrifice goats because Christ is our sacrifice.  In this way, the law is not abolished but fulfilled.


He also fulfilled God’s moral law by expiating the sin that brought the just wrath of God against us (Rom. 3:25-26).  God’s law has thus not been done away; it has received notice it deserves, being fulfilled by Christ for us and by the Holy Spirit in us.


So let me ask you: has the doctrine of justification by faith made a difference in your life?  Has it made a difference in your relationships?  Recently, I had the privilege to officiate at Jacob and Stephanie’s wedding, and this is one of the things I said to them: “Let the gospel transform your marriage into one in which forgiveness is freely given and received.  To believe in the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone on the basis of grace alone and not to have a gentle and forbearing and longsuffering and forgiving spirit is a shocking contradiction.  To not extend forgiveness to our spouse is to forget that we were purged from our sins.  So preach the gospel to yourselves, preach it to each other, live it out, and you will find a pleasure in your marriage that is unattainable outside of fellowship with Christ.  Let the fragrance of the gospel sweeten your marriage and your love for each other.”  Indeed, let the fragrance of the gospel sweeten every aspect of our lives and adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things (Tit. 2:10).


Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Gospel of the righteousness of God. Romans 3:21-26




In the preface to his commentary on Romans, Martin Luther describes this letter as “purest Gospel.”  He goes on to say, “It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.  It is impossible to read or meditate on this letter too much or too well.  The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”  This kind of thinking is in stark contrast to the way the Christian church in the US has evangelized unbelievers: often the gospel is seen to be something you believe in order to get into heaven and then you move on.  For many, the gospel is not something to be meditated on, but a life vest to be stowed away under your seat just in case you need it.  But for the most part, the gospel has no practical import in the lives of many professing Christians.


However, as Luther observed, the gospel is not something to be cast aside and saved for later.  It is the life-bread of the soul.  It is not something we learn and then move on – it is something to which we must keep coming back again and again.  The fact of the matter is that the gospel has tremendous practical implications and it is simply impossible to hold on to those implications and live them out in our daily walk unless we maintain a firm hold on the content and meaning of the gospel.


Nowhere is the gospel printed in bolder letters than in the paragraph in front of us.  Here we have its essence distilled.  If you want to know what the gospel is, here it is.  It comes to us through the vocabulary of the OT (hence, “the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it”): righteousness of God, faith, grace, sin, propitiation, blood.  And I think it is necessary for us to understand what exactly is meant by each one of these words in order for us to properly understand the apostle’s argument here.  So as we move through the text this morning together, we are going to hang our thoughts on these great words and phrases: righteousness of God (21-22), faith in Christ (22-24), sin (23), grace (24), and redemption and propitiation by the blood of Christ (25).


The righteousness of God: Salvation's Author


The gospel is the gospel of the righteousness of God: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (21-22).  If you remember back to our message on 1:16-17, we defined (following John Stott) God’s righteousness to be his “just justification of the unjust.” In the OT, God’s righteousness is often parallel (though not, I think, identical) to God’s saving activity.  Well, here we see how God is rescuing and saving his people.  He saves them by bestowing upon them his righteousness, by giving them a righteous status, by declaring them to be righteous.  And he does this is a way that magnifies rather than undermines his own righteous character. 


To see that this is the case, all one needs to do is to look for the thing that makes God’s righteousness necessary.  What is it?  Well, it is the unrighteousness of man: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18).  And then in the previous verses, Paul had concluded, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified [declared righteous] in his sight, since though the law comes knowledge of sin” (3:20).  In other words, because we are unrighteous we cannot be declared righteous.  And this is a problem since God is righteous.  How can a man be justified before God?  How then can sinful man have fellowship with God?  This is an eternally serious and weighty question.  


It is very important that we see this link in the previous chapters between man’s unrighteousness and the impossibility to be justified by works.  When Paul inserts God’s righteousness as the solution to this predicament, he is telling us that this is how this problem is solved.  The way unrighteous men and women come to be justified and declared right before God is through the righteousness of God. 

The rest of this paragraph tells us how God’s righteousness has come to bear on this particular problem.  The apostle will tell us how God’s righteousness is appropriated – how it comes to be applied to us personally – why it could happen this way, and how this accords with God’s just character.


But before we look at those aspects of the apostle’s argument, we need to pause and reflect on the fact that the solution to man’s preeminent problem is not something he is or does.  This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Ephesians 2:4.  You could say that Romans 1:18-3:20 is summarized in Eph. 2:1-3.  In each case, as soon as the apostle has described man’s sinful and hopeless state in sin, he goes on to say the solution is God himself.  So, in Eph. 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (KJV) is the solution to man’s death in sin.  And here, in Romans 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested” is the solution to man’s condemnation on account of sin.


This is wonderful because when man tries to fix things often all he does is just mess things up even more.  Even with all the technological advancements, we have only found more destructive ways to tear each other apart.  The UN, which was supposed to be the answer to war and injustice in the world, has not kept genocide and oppression and war from breaking out again and again.  We find ways to justify our inhumanity to man, whether through abortion or racism or greed or any number of other ways.


Now that’s not to say we shouldn’t try to find solutions to problems in this world.  We should try to alleviate suffering and evil whenever and however we can.  And there has been much good done in this world by brave and sacrificial men and women.  The point I am trying to make is that no solution to evil man can come up with has even shown itself to be very permanent.  And when we are talking about the fundamental problem of mankind, our basic sinfulness and rebellion against God, it is certain that man is not going to be the source of its solution.  God must be.  “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


The fact that God has stepped in to save us from ourselves and his own just wrath is breathtakingly amazing.  Or at least it should be.  Why should God have to save us?  If we think he must, it is only because we have an over-inflated view of ourselves.  God doesn’t owe anything to us, especially since we have forsaken him in order to worship other things.  We are sinful and he is holy.  We should not dare believe it if not God’s own word had not revealed it to us.


One more thing: the fact that God has stepped in to save us means that the salvation he offers is certain to save.  “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God though [Jesus]” (Heb. 7:25).  Think about it: any religion that offers salvation through your works and worth automatically makes assurance of salvation impossible.  For how could we ever be sure we were good enough, that we had done enough?  But the fact that God has stepped in to save us and has taken the burden of sin-created consequences upon himself means that we can have a sure hope of salvation.  We can rest in the righteousness of God.


The question, then, is: how do we do that?  That brings us to the next few verses.


Faith in Christ: Salvation's Means


God’s righteousness is clearly not given to all.  The Bible does not teach universal salvation.  So the question is, how do come to be the recipients of the righteousness of God?  Paul now answers that question in verse 22: “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction.”  He comes back to this again and again.  In verse 25, the apostle says that the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ for us is “to be received by faith.”  In verse 26, he describes God as “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  The point is that the righteousness of God – that saving act of God by which we become legally righteous before him – is received by faith.  Those who are justified are those who have faith and those who are not justified are those who refuse to believe on the name of the Son of God.  This is the reason that “whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).  Again, as Paul put it to the Galatians, “we also have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).


What is Paul referring to here by “faith”?  First of all, we should note that this is not just generic “faith” he is describing.  This is not, for example, faith in oneself.  It is not faith that things will turn out right.  It is not an overall optimistic attitude.  Nor is it faith in the spiritual for faith in a generic ‘god.’  Rather, this is very specifically faith in Christ Jesus.  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


And when we talk about faith in Jesus, we are not talking about a Jesus who is the reflection of our own wishes.  This is the Jesus who was revealed in history, the Son of God who came into this world through the womb of a virgin, who walked its dusty roads in Judea and Galilee, who was betrayed and crucified and rose again.  The gospel is based on history.  You cannot divorce the two.  The faith of which the apostle is speaking here is faith in that Person who lived among us and died for us.  This is what the apostle meant when he wrote that “now the righteousness of God has been manifested” (21).  How was it manifested?  It was manifested and revealed and made known in the person of Jesus Christ.  This is the faith that justifies.  Do you believe in this Jesus?  If you do, then the Bible says that you are saved and justified and accepted before God.


But what is faith?  Faith is not simply an intellectual assent to certain propositions, although it is not less than that.  If faith doesn’t go further than that, it is no better than the dead faith of James 2.  Rather, faith is in addition trust in Jesus Christ.  It is banking your life on him.  It is receiving him as your Lord and your Savior and living your life in light of that reality.  That is why, in the NT, faith is almost always paired with repentance, turning from sin.  You simply can’t truly believe on Christ in the biblical sense of the word, and not turn from your sin.  You cannot truly receive him as your Lord and go on living as if you called the shots.  If you are trusting in Christ, then your life is characterized by conversion from sin to God.  In the NT, conversion is described in terms of those who have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).


And faith is not looking at yourself.  It is looking away from yourself.  We don’t have faith in our faith.  We have faith in Christ.  We look to him as the source of our salvation.


We are saved by faith no matter how small or how great that faith is.  It is true that we can grow in our faith.  But we must remember that we are not saved by the amount of our faith but by the object of our faith.  Our Lord often characterized his own apostles as “little-faiths.”  And yet he nowhere suggested (with the exception of Judas, who ended up proving that his faith wasn’t real) that their small faith undermined their place in the age to come.  Thus, the way to deal with the fear of false faith is not so much to examine our own faith but to look constantly at Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  


Why does God choose to save people by faith, you may ask?  Well, it is not because faith stands in for the righteousness of God.  In other words, we are not saved because our faith makes us worthy of God’s acceptance.  God could have saved us apart from faith, because, as we shall see, the basis of our justification is nothing we have done but what Christ has done for us.  Rather, God chooses to save us by faith because it is by faith that God is seen by us to be glorious in his grace and salvation.  And in being seen as such, he is not only glorified, but we are directed to the only one who can truly save and satisfy our sin-weary souls.  As John Piper is wont to put it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” but the only way we could ever be satisfied in God is by faith.  It would simply be impossible to delight in God apart from trust in his Son.  We are saved by faith because it serves the interests of the glory of God and the good of our souls.


Sin: Salvation's Need


Though the apostle has spent almost 3 chapters developing the fact of universal sinfulness, he comes back to it once again in verses 22b-23: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The point is that as regards sin, no one stands above anyone else.  Jew and Gentile, you and I, are all under God’s just judgment.  Therefore we must all be saved in the same way, and that way is the way of faith.  It is not like some people can be saved by their works because they are better than the rest, but everyone else has to be saved by faith.  No, we must all be saved by resting, not upon our own works, but upon the worth of Jesus Christ alone.  And that means that we must be saved by looking outside of ourselves to Another, to Christ.  


When Paul says that we have come short of the glory of God, he wants to remind us of what he had already said in chapter 1, namely, that our fundamental sin is idolatry.  We worship and serve the creature (namely, ourselves) rather than the Creator.  We do not glorify God or gives thanks to him, and this is the primary reason we are separated from God and why we end up messing up every other relationship through selfish acts and words.  For once we enthrone ourselves, we cannot love either God or our neighbor.  It is the root of all human misery and the reason why we must all be saved.  Though we have tried to be God, we have only demonstrated that we are not.  We cannot save ourselves; God must save us.


Grace: Salvation's Cost (to us)


By our sin we have not only become indebted to God, but we have become indebted to him with a debt that we cannot pay.   Salvation therefore cannot come to us by way of us paying for it.  We cannot merit God’s favor.  Thank God, then, that salvation comes solely and completely by grace: “and are justified by his grace as a gift” (24).  I think it is important to note that this is a continuation of verse 23: “all have sinned . . . and are justified by his grace.”  Justification and salvation do not come to the righteous but to sinners.  Our Lord still calls sinners – those who have fallen and are broken and so completely hopeless that they do not know where to turn – it is precisely this type of person that our Lord calls to come to him.


Yet we have to continually fight against this mentality that we need to earn God’s favor.  Even as believers in the doctrine of salvation by grace, we can easily slip into thinking that God is just waiting for us to mess up in order to bring the hammer down on us.  Grace reminds us that we have to stop relating to God as if he were keeping a list of our failures and accomplishments.  But God does not love you because you first loved him.  You love him because he first loved you.  He relates to you from eternity to the present only on the basis of grace.  If you belong to Christ, if you trust in him, then today is a day of grace for you.  Tomorrow will be a day of grace as well.  And the next day and the next, on to the day when God completes his work of grace in you (Phil. 1:6).  


There is a line in a prayer in the book Valley of Vision that struck me recently as profound.  In one of the prayers, the author writes, “my trials have been fewer than my sins.”  I know that is true of me.  I suspect it is true of you as well.  And why is that?  It is because God relates to us on the basis of grace, not works.  And the trials God does allow to enter into our lives, no matter how painful, are not there to punish us but to grow us and to draw us closer to himself who is the truest source of rest for our souls.  We should not interpret the events of our lives on the basis of works but in light of God’s grace toward us.  God will not withdraw his favor and his love from his children.  Truly, his steadfast love endures forever.


Redemption and Propitiation: Salvation's Cost (to God)


We now come to what I consider to be two of the most important verses in this crucial paragraph: “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (24-25a).  One might have asked at this point, “Okay, Paul says that God’s righteousness rescues us by justifying us by grace through faith.  What I don’t see is how God can possibly do that?  How can a holy God declare people who are actually sinful to be righteous?  Wouldn’t that make God unrighteous?  On what just basis does God remain righteous while making righteous the unrighteous?”


To see that this is what Paul is getting at here, note how the apostle ends this paragraph (25b-26).  He basically says that God has done what he has done in verses 24-25a is to show that he is just.  He has forgiven sins and shown forbearance: one what basis could he do this?


Paul answers that question here.  The basis upon which God can justify the ungodly is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  We must remember here what Paul said back in verse 21.  We must interpret the meaning of these words in light of their OT background.  The word “redemption” harks back to the Exodus from Egypt by which God delivered his people from slavery and bondage, and then to the blood sacrifices of the OT liturgy that took away the guilt of sin.  The word “propitiation” was the word used in the law for the lid that covered the ark of the covenant, the “mercy seat,” the place where the blood from the animal sacrifice was sprinkled on the day of atonement (see Lev. 16) so that God’s holy wrath was appeased and his favor secured for the nation of Israel.  


Now we know, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, that those animal sacrifices never actually took away sin.  There is just no real correspondence between the guilt of the person who sinned and the animal that took their place.  Rather, the point is that in the 1500 years of the law, God was building a vocabulary by which we could understand and interpret what took place on the cross.


What did take place?  This: on the cross Jesus became the one who redeems us from the bondage of sin and the one who, by God’s own purpose, appeases his holy wrath against us on account of our sin.  In God’s moral universe, all sin must be punished.  But if we are to be saved, it cannot be punished in us.  How then can God remain consistent with his holiness?  He does so by substituting his Son in our place.  Out of love, God sent his Son, and out of love the Son came to stand in our place and to absorb God’s wrath again our own sin.  Because of what Jesus has done, we can be free from the claims of sin upon us and declared righteous in God’s sight.  


So you see it is not about being good enough or doing enough to counterbalance the bad we have done.  For Christ has already undone all the bad we have done by purging our sin and expiating it upon the cross.  Salvation is by faith in Christ because he is the one who redeems us from our sins, and it is by grace alone because Christ has accomplished salvation for us from first to last.  We don’t give part of our sin to him to expiate – he takes all of it and purges it completely.


Now, the question before us is this: if this is true and all your sins can be completely forgiven by believing in Christ Jesus, then why not believe on him right now?  God will not go back on his word.  If you trust in his Son you will be certainly saved.  It is the very best news in the world, for it is the offer of eternal life by faith alone in Jesus Christ.  Will you not come to him right now by faith and be saved?


On the other hand, if we are already believers in Christ, let us hold firm to the gospel daily.  Let God’s grace in Christ form the basis of our hope and our identity in this life.  Let it inform the way we look at our trials and the way we enjoy our blessings.  Let it flavor every aspect of our life.  Let us be gospel-centered.  And let us share the gospel with those who are yet outside the community of the saved.  This is not news to hide, it is news to share for all who will listen.

The increase of sin and the abounding of grace. Rom. 5:18-21

Verses 18 and 19 of Romans 5 not only complete the comparison that Paul began in verse 12, but they also summarize the overall argum...