[July 30]—Righteousness Apart From The Law

Romans 3:21-31

Moses said to his people: “[If] we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”  But Paul’s main point in 1:18-3:20 that we will never be able to obey all his law. Jew and Gentile “alike are all under the power of sin.” So if we’re going to be righteous before God, we’re going to need another source of righteousness.
            Someone once pointed this out to me, and it’s really true: In all the Bible, surely one of the most beautiful words we can ever read is one simple 3-letter one. We were lost, condemned before his Throne, running away from him as fast we could run, and in just about the worst situation we could ever find ourselves. . . BUT. That’s the word.
We were lost. . .BUT.
We were condemned before a just God. . . BUT.
We were all heading into an eternity without any light, any hope, nothing except the punishment we were due. .  .BUT.  
            Enter Jesus. He stepped into this world and lived not only a sinless life, but a perfectly righteous one. He looked people straight in the eye and said “I always do what pleases [the Father].” The Father takes the righteousness of Christ and offers it to us. And how do we receive it? By believing in Jesus, by trusting in him, by placing our faith in him. We’re saved by his righteousness, and faith is the conduit of this gift.
            This is why Paul said that the first thing that’s revealed in the Message he presented was the “righteousness of God.” In the Good News, God’s righteousness is revealed. Yes, we know his righteousness (or at least we can) by how much he hates sin. We can see it in the righteous life of Christ while on earth. But what Paul is referring to here is that God’s righteousness is revealed in the “great transaction” made between Savior and sinner.
            I want to emphasize that this was not God’s problem; it was ours. We were the ones in the mess, and we put ourselves there. But if he wanted to let us into his presence, something had to be done.
In verse 26, Paul hints at another explanation of our problem. God is just. He can't wink at sin, he can't excuse sin, and he can't just let a sinner go. We’re sinners before him. We’ve transgressed his law. He doesn’t take any pleasure in destroying us, so what could be done?
But now because of what Christ did on the cross, he can be both A) just and B) the one who justifies (declares righteous) those who believe in Jesus. His justice and love are both satisfied.
            God presented Jesus as “a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood.” The word “sacrifice of atonement” has also been translated as “propitiation,” which according to Merriam-Webster is the act of making "(someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired." The Father’s wrath against my sin was poured out on Christ on the cross and was fully satisfied. Jesus bled and died, and his blood--his death--covers my sin once and for all.
            The wisdom of the Almighty is really on display here. It’s so simple that a child of six can understand it well enough, and it’s so deep that the deepest thinkers will never plumb its depths. However, your particular understanding or explanation or theory on how it works is not nearly as important as participating in it. As C. S. Lewis put it, people have been eating food for a very long time before anyone came up with an understanding of nutrition or vitamins. It’s the same with this.
What’s Paul conclusion? There are two things excluded here. First, there’s no room for boasting, no room for pride. You bring nothing to this transaction except your need and your sin.
Second, there’s no room for misunderstanding. He anticipates a major objection to this. Does this notion (salvation by grace through faith) somehow nullify God’s holy standard—as revealed in his Law? Once again, we have the strongest possible negative in the Greek: Never! God Forbid! Never Ever Ever!!!
On the contrary, this upholds his law. How? We’ll get to that soon.

Lord Jesus, I think once again it’s time for me to imitate Job. Time to close my mouth for a while. 

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