“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26 (RSV)
Paul makes it clear that the righteousness of God never comes from attempting to perfectly keep the law. Instead righteousness is given to us through our faith in the saving grace of Jesus as manifested in His perfect life and perfect sacrifice. We are never called upon to work harder, strive harder or sacrifice more but instead to believe.
What is it that we must believe? We believe by faith that Jesus exists, loves us, and longs to have us come home again. We believe that through His sacrifice at Calvary’s cross we are declared righteous and our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We believe that Jesus rose again on the third day, went to the right hand of the Father and never ceases to intercede on our behalf.
We believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost to all believers. Through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit working within our hearts we have the courage and desire to proclaim the glory and grace of God to a fallen world.
We believe that through baptism we enter into the new covenant and the sign of our belief in the mercy and salvation of Christ is manifested in our partaking of the Lord’s Supper. And we believe that when we accept Jesus we have spiritually entered into the Kingdom of Heaven and we wait for the reality of the Kingdom to be fulfilled in our lives with the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.
We believe that a professed Christian will live out the fruit of the Spirit in their life. But there is no merit in living the Christian life; it is simply the result of knowing we are saved by grace and allowing the joy, peace and wonder of God’s love to dwell within our heart. We are thus transformed from self-centeredness to being Christ centered. Do we still fall and stumble as Christians? Of course we do because we are sinful by nature, but this is no longer the purpose of our life and when we fall we allow the Holy Spirit to pick us up, dust us off and continue our spiritual journey with Christ.
Paul reminds us that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory and thus are justified, (declared right with God) by the free gift of God’s grace that purchased us back from slavery to sin and death (redemption) through the blood of Christ’s substitutionary death on Calvary’s cross. He tells us, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood-to be received by faith.” I wonder sometimes how much we really appreciate the good news of this text.
The problem with the law is that it can’t save us because we do not keep it perfectly. Our attempts to live perfect lives is to repudiate the wonder of Romans chapter 3:21-26 because Paul informs us in these verses that it is “Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,” that is received through faith that brings us into harmony and right relationship with God. The focus of a Christian is upon the merits of Christ and not focused on our own pitiful attempts to become like God through perfection.
It is when we surrender the arrogance of believing we can be like God (the whole problem of Eve and the Devil in the garden of Eden) and accept His grace that we enter into right relationship with God. This is wonderful news for us sinners. Our focus is in the bigness, wholeness, wonder, magnificence, benevolence and graciousness of God and we accept all that God is and offers us through faith in Him.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” As Christians our faith is not blind faith, but instead is based on our “being sure” and being, “certain of what we do not see.” By absolute faith in the goodness and love of God and His promises we live trusting in the words of God as manifested through the Word of God. Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”(See Romans 10:8, 9)
Scripture explains that the source of our faith is from God and not something we conger up in ourselves. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Martin Luther once wrote these heartfelt words, “I saw that this ‘righteousness of God’ was a gift from God. It was given into the hand of faith of all who felt their need of Jesus. This is the gospel-the good news.” Then he said, “I was a new man. The Bible was a new book. I had found paradise.”
To believe in God is to have faith in God. Faith or believe (same word in Greek) is found 64 times in Romans. So, here’s the simple question, do you believe or have faith that God died for YOU and He loves YOU unconditionally? If you do then you have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven and a saving relationship with God. Now that’s good news!