Jan 29 2023 Rom. 3-4 How to Get to Heaven
29th January 2023
Paul begins addressing the Jewish Christians who struggle with how to deal with the Gentile Christians.
Maybe you have experienced this – certain Christians who believed that ‘we’re the real ones.
In Chapter 3 – Paul sums up this argument he has been having with himself – playing devil’s advocate back and forth:
Romans 3: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
BAM! We are ALL sinners. We all fall short. This began with – they exchanged the glory of God… in Romans 1:19-20 – we have ALL exchanged the glory of God. There is no ‘these people are better than others’
For them it was Jews are better than Gentiles – we tend to have our own.
I find myself in the ‘certain sins’ discussion – THOSE are the really bad ones and the ones we need to discuss – these are our favorite sins – not the ones we like to DO, the ones we tend to DISLIKE and talk about – and there are 4-5 passages that we go to in the New Testament and maybe a few in the Old Testament – and they will say – See, Paul talks about this in these passages! But we don’t continue reading – and in the same or next verse – there are 8-9 other sins that are mentioned and usually 2-3 that I do!
We want to treat the sins that other people do as different or more severe. Paul is saying, NOPE! It is all wrapped up – we are all sinners.
24 But they are justified freely by his (God’s) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
ALL of them! All redeemed by His grace.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded.
There is no boasting in the Christian life.
27b By what kind of law (Torah) – or, by what kind of Old Testament? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
There is a lot of theological language –
Justification/redemption – being made right with God – having our relationship with God restored – only by grace and faith and nothing else – not by reaching some great standard – so that we can freely have all of our sins forgiven so we can be brought back into relationship with God.
When it says works of the Law/Torah – when we move it into our context – what I am thinking – not that being good gets you to heaven. That is what we are thinking Paul is talking about here. But he is wholly unconcerned by that.
He is talking about Torah – cultural identity markers – being circumcised and observing Old Testament Laws is not required to be save or to have a right relationship with God.
But that is exactly what the ‘weak’ are saying – you have to become like us.
This is oversimplified – because you could go and read books that spend 500 pages discussing this….
So there is not boasting – we think if our good deeds outweigh the bad – we’ll go to heaven – but that is not what Paul is talking about.
Paul continues the dialogue he began with himself – and Abraham is the patriarch – they put so much stock in this.
Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 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? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
So, when we think of Abraham, let me set the stage.
In Genesis 11 we have Tower of Babel. Before that, there was the flood – before that the world was corrupt and violent, so there is the Flood. Noah was righteous – saved – and then things spiral down again.
Then there is the Tower of Babel – they all come together – and there is a rejection of God – building a world without God that they might become God themselves – and God looks down again – we don’t know the years of all these, some try to guess… then we get to Abraham…
What we think- He sees this tower and destroys it and scatters the world – and we think – he saw Abraham – who was a good guy – like Noah – but that is not what happened. Genesis never says that at all.
Abraham, actually – what we find – was no different. There is none who does good. None who seeks God. Not even Abraham.
But God chose Abraham – in the midst of the mess – and blesses Abraham – because He wanted to. That is the sole reason. Abraham did nothing – God just wanted to bless Him.
After God blessed him – Abraham believed God, so God reckoned it as righteousness. He did not believe God BECAUSE he was righteous, rather, God made him righteous because he believed.
4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
If we want it to be by good deeds, it is not by grace. If you think it is, you separate yourself from grace.
5 But to the one who does not work (who is he talking about? Abraham – that is the context), but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly (Before God came to Abraham – he was ungodly!), his faith is credited as righteousness,
So, before God chose him – he was a Gentile!
Have you seen finding your roots – I’ve never seen it – but it seems like discovering you are related to greatness – but
When you go back, we are all sinners!
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."
So the three heroes of Israel – Abraham, Moses, and David – he cuts them down! Look! All of you – your heroes are people whose lawless deeds were forgiven. Who was blessed? The people without lawless deeds? No. The ones whose lawless deeds have been forgiven. We waste too much time getting to the point of no longer having lawless deeds – we need to focus on the fact that God forgives our lawless deeds – the more you get your forgiveness – the more you make progress – the more you grow.
That needs to be our focus – sure, we can address things – all that – but it must come from this massive foundation of I’m forgiven.
Later, Paul will address should we sin more that we get more grace? No! But if we are so forgiven that people think that… if we are to confuse folks it ought to be about forgiveness!
9 Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also?
This goes from works to circumcision – becoming like the Jewish people is the concern… continuing in
9b For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness." 10 How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised... 13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
We have a righteousness of faith – it is because of our belief in Jesus that we are righteous and only because of that – and there is no boasting when you have that.
Some say, Christians think they are better – not because we are better, but we are forgiven – the only boasting we have is in Jesus and the cross – all we can ever boast in.
That would be so transformational if that were the only thing that Christians ever boasted in.
14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace,
He keeps saying this over and over – FAITH AND GRACE AND NOTHING ELSE…
16b in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
So there is a lot of theology – and he is trying to deal with the judging that is going on in the church.
He is talking about the mission of the people of God. We have a mission of grace to the world. Our mission is one of grace and faith.
The gospel is a thing of grace and faith to the world.
What is happening in Rome – they have taken that mission of grace and faith and added stuff to it – and it is destroying the mission to the world – they have added their cultural superiorities – their heritage – to the gospel – and Paul is correcting that.
They are saying to become a Christian – the gospel says you need to become like the Jews – but we have our add-ons too! We add things on to the gospel. We don’t SAY it when we ‘share the booklet’ – but we do say it – we do add things on to the gospel.
Tim Keller was on a podcast – and talked about some things we do to add-on
He called it Separatism – isolating ourselves – building a wall around ourselves so that we are unaffected by the world.
The New Testament calls us distinct – aliens and strangers – but we are never to withdraw or isolate ourselves. We are to fully engage the world – without conforming to cultures. There is not one culture.
Our number one culture that we always talk about is the world’s sexual culture. But we don’t talk about greed – because ‘that one is not as bad!’ – but of course it is!
Our mission to the world –
When the terms sinners and Gentiles were used – it was derogatory – and like they are beyond redemption -and we do the same thing – we think people are so far from God that they are beyond redemption – but that is the people we have been called to minister to.
We need to learn – as Jesus did – to engage in a way – the Incarnation – We need to be incarnational with people – He came to dwell within us – and we have worlds that we need to live in – be it our job, neighborhood – whatever – a world of ‘gentiles and sinners’ -- and God wants us dwelling among them.
For all of us – it will be different. Some people need to get involved in a ministry to very specific people – that is GREAT! Homeless or immigrants! That is fantastic! But not everyone can do that – for you it might be people at work or in your neighborhood. They are everywhere.
A little practical thing – think – (and I know we are not supposed to think this way) – who are the people you would consider to be the real Gentiles? (For someone on the Left, it is someone on the Right and vice-versa – and God maybe telling us to bring Jesus to them. That does not mean to go tell them that they are Gentiles beyond redemption -but to live among them – read the gospels.
And make that something that you begin to do! You don’t have to join an organization to accomplish that! Let's pray...