This morning’s sermon is the sixth in our series through Romans titled “The Study of Salvation”. The book began by identifying the unrighteous. After much deliberation, we found that there is no one who is “right” with God. All are sinful and guilty of violating His commands. Consequently, every person is the subject of God’s wrath and judgment. Furthermore, all people are in need of salvation in order to escape the justice of God.
Having recognized its paramount importance, we must now learn what salvation is and how it works. While there are many excellent definitions you could use, let’s consider salvation to be the means by which a person is delivered from the condemnation of God. Salvation is a process that consists of several different facets, including justification, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
In the coming chapters of his letter, the apostle Paul delves into each of these concepts and how they work together in the overall functioning of salvation. He begins his teaching with justification, starting in the middle part of chapter 3 and continuing through the end of chapter 5. Therefore, this will be our topic for the next few weeks. Following the messages on justification, we will move into sanctification and glorification.
I. JUSTIFICATION COMES APART FROM THE LAW (Romans 3:19-20)
The law of God applies to all of those who are under its jurisdiction. For the Jew, this refers to the written Law of Moses. For the Gentile, it refers to the law that was written upon their hearts. In either case, all people have some knowledge of God’s commands and are held accountable accordingly. But as we have discovered in the preceding chapters, all men are guilty of violating these laws.
Because of the fallen nature of humanity, no person is able to perfectly keep God’s law. Thus, obedience to it through works can never lead to justification. Such an approach is doomed to failure. The Law was not given to men as a means to attain righteousness. On the contrary, it was given to reveal our inability to do so. Perhaps in realizing our depravity and sinfulness, we will turn to God in repentance and seek salvation in Him.
Thus, it is the Law that teaches us that we are sinners. It presents us with the troubling reality about ourselves - we are desperately wicked. Our unrighteousness separates us from God and results in a great need for salvation.
II. JUSTIFICATION COMES THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS (Romans 3:21-26)
The righteousness of God has been manifested “apart from the Law”. The Law and the Prophets, which include the writings of the Old Testament, were simply witnesses to it. The righteousness of God is found through faith in Jesus Christ. All who believe in Him are justified “as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
Baptists define justification as “God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of peace and favor with God.” Those who have been justified have been forgiven of their sin and have had the charges that were against them dropped. Thus, their legal standing before God is rectified.
Jesus shed His blood and died on Calvary’s cross as a “propitiation” for our sins. In other words, His death appeased God’s wrath and averted His harsh judgment. Christ endured the full extent of God’s fury toward sin so that those who place their faith in Him would not have to. Although the Father loves the Son beyond measure, He did not withhold His wrath from the Lord Jesus but rather poured it out to the utmost.
Therefore, because Jesus willingly bore the punishment for man’s sin, God’s sentence against it has now been executed. The ransom has been paid; the penalty enforced. As such, when any person places their “faith in Jesus” unto salvation the LORD fully pardons their guilt. The punishment that Christ received substitutes for that which the repentant sinner deserves. In this manner, the believer is justified or acquitted.
III. FAITH ESTABLISHES THE LAW (Romans 3:27-31)
Salvation comes wholly through faith in Jesus Christ. All boasting in good works is excluded. Justification is by faith alone, and is available to both Jew and Gentile. God will justify any one who genuinely confesses Christ as their Lord and Savior. Once a person justified, the hindrance of sin that had separated them from God is removed. The pathway between them is cleared so that their relationship can be completely restored.
Justification leads to reconciliation, which then results in regeneration. Once the debt of sin is cancelled, one’s relationship with God is restored. When this connection is established, new birth occurs as the Holy Spirit comes into the life of the new Christian. They are made into a new creation, brought to spiritual life by the almighty hand of God. Such power is evident in the life of a true believer.
In summary, faith is the catalyst of justification. Apart from it no one is justified. Even still, faith does not nullify the Law. The commandments of God are still valuable to and consequential in our lives. As believers, we are not to live our lives lawlessly but rather in submission and obedience to God. Such living provides evidence of the genuineness of our faith. Thus faith serves to establish or undergird the Law, giving believers a richer and more proper understanding of its purpose.
Salvation is a process, not an event. However, like all processes, it must have a starting point. When a person comes under conviction, having realized their sinful condition and need for salvation, and they turn in repentance to God through faith in Jesus Christ the sequence begins.
The first step of salvation is justification, which is absolutely necessary to pave the way for all that will follow. God forgives the sinner and justifies or pardons the them, thereby dropping the charges that had been levied against them as a result of their sin. Because the penalty for these sins has already been paid once by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, God is just in not rendering this punishment twice. As a result, the justified believer is no longer separated from God.
As soon as the barrier is removed, at the moment of salvation, God indwells the new Christian with the Holy Spirit. His presence serves to secure the new believer’s standing before God and bring about spiritual life where formerly there was only death. This is known as regeneration, or the new birth, and happens instantaneously following justification. Both are the gracious actions of God.
Each of us is a criminal, having broken the law of God. The charges have been filed against us, and we are simply awaiting judgment. When our day in court arrives, we will be found guilty and sentenced to an eternal punishment. However, if before that day, we will place our faith in Christ who has already served our penalty and bore our sin then we will be justified and freed from the looming condemnation.