|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||No Fear of God|
|Text||Romans ch.3 v.18 |
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"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3, 28)
Now then it is very clear from the words of this text that the apostle Paul is announcing something of very special importance. How do we know that? I think we can say we know it from two sources. First of all, this use of the word 'therefore'. "Therefore we conclude" (text). The word 'therefore', as you know, is a word which we use when we have come to the end of an argument and when we have stated our case and given our reasons. And here we are showing the results of all that we have said. So, this word 'therefore' is a pointer to show that here the apostle is stating something of special importance. And then, this word 'conclude' also gives us the same understanding. "We conclude" (text). To conclude means that you are summarizing everything you have said so far. You know when you are stating a case or argument or giving your point of view or your particular doctrine, you argue this and this and this and then at the end you conclude and this is therefore the main thing. This is the main point. And the main point is something therefore of tremendous importance. All the more so because the writer is none other than an apostle of Jesus Christ, divinely inspired, to tell us something from God, something which concerns our everlasting good. So you and I may be quite clear when we look at this conclusion that the apostle is telling us something which is of the utmost importance for our life and our spiritual good in this world and the next. "Therefore", he says, "we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3, 28)
Now what is meant by being justified? What does this word mean? Let me give you some negatives first. The apostle is not talking about being justified in the eyes of men. You remember that Jesus was once talking to some Jews and you will find this recorded in the Gospel of Luke 16, and this is what He said to these Jews. They were very religious people, very devout, very pious. And Jesus said to them, 'you are they who justify yourselves in the eyes of men but God knoweth your heart. Because the things which are highly esteemed among men are an abomination in the sight of God.' So when Paul here talks about being justified, he is not speaking about our attempts to justify ourselves in the eyes of men. What does this word 'justified' mean? Well, let me take another negative. We have to take it slowly and carefully because on this subject of being justified, people make a thousand mistakes. It's because people make so many mistakes that the apostle took so long to come to his conclusion. He's already been writing for the best part of the 3 chapters before he comes to his conclusion. So the conclusion he comes to is something not so very obvious. It is something which people may readily have missed and failed to see. Therefore, he takes his time stating his case. And I want to say to you now that to be justified does not mean to be made righteous. Now that is a very common and a very frequent mistake.
It is made, for instance, as a terrible mistake by most of the churches in this country today and especially by the Roman Catholic Church. Let me just quote from their recent catechism of 1994. It is called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And this is what it says about justification. 'By justification, God makes us inwardly just by the power of His mercy.' And notice that they said God makes us inwardly just. And I have to say to you that is exactly what justification does not mean. And that's why I am taking these two negatives. It does not mean either of those two things. What then does justification mean? It is an act of God in which He reckons men righteous, not that He makes them inwardly righteous. But that He accounts them righteous. It is not a change of our spiritual state but an alteration in our legal status before God. There's a world of difference. It's not something done in us, that is sanctification.
Now in order to make it a little clearer, regarding the way Paul is reasoning and arguing His case, and bringing his conclusion, let me remind you that justification is a term which has to do with the law court. The court of law. And in the court of law we have these things. We have first a judge, second we have a law, third we have a criminal or one who is said to be so. And then we have a sentence or the verdict passed by the judge on the alleged criminal on the basis of the law and following from the sentence there will be his punishment if found guilty. Now the apostle Paul,inspired by God, tells us that that is what is our condition in a spiritual sense. Let's work it out. The judge is God or if you like, Christ. He is the Judge of all men. The law is His moral law, the Ten Commandments. Who is in the dock? It is of course, every man, you and I. We are all before God and we are to be judged in terms of how we have lived in relation to God's moral law, the ten Commandments. And depending upon how God sees us in relation to His moral law, He will either pronounce upon us His sentence of guilty or not guilty. He will either condemn us or He will acquit us. And if we are not justified, then our situation is, we must be punished in terms of the law of God. Now that's the great truth concerning justification. I state it again because this is the perpetual mistake we all tend to make. Justification has nothing at all to do with changing our heart or making us religious or making us devout. Justification is a change in our standing before God. It is an alteration from God's judgment about a man, that he is guilty. To God's judgment, that he is no longer guilty but is free from condemnation. Sanctification is the change in our heart which is referred to by the Roman Catholic Catechism . What they say is perfectly true with regards to sanctification but it is certainly not true with regard to justification.
Now, my friends, let me go on from there and say, justification is the secret of the Gospel. Justification is the great mystery right to the very heart of the Gospel. Christianity is the only religion in existence which teaches us the right way to be justified. All the other religions including I am afraid, Roman Catholicism, they teach a false view of justification. Only the Gospel of Christ among all religions teaches the true way of justification. And as you will have gathered from my remarks, here is the main difference between Bible religion and Roman Catholicism. Here was the difference between Christ's preaching and the preaching of the Jewish Pharisees. Exactly the same difference. They went wrong on the way of justification, Christ put it right. But the Church again went wrong in the Middle-Ages. And it was Martin Luther under God who again had to put it right. So then let us say, why is it, absolutely necessary for us to be justified. The answer is because we cannot be acceptable to God without this justification. God justifies our persons before He accepts our works. I can give you a very simple illustration of this. I knew some years ago a dear lady, who when I met her was a Christian, but she had been a minister's wife in the Church of Scotland and she had spent many years working very hard as the lady of the manse to promote all the things in the Church of Scotland congregation. But then some years later, she has been converted. She was not converted when she was in the manse. But she was converted later as a consequence of something that happened to her. And this is what she said to me, 'looking back, all that I did as the lady of the manse was a waste of time, and a waste of strength.' There was no reward for her in it because at that time she was not a justified person. Her prayers were not being heard because she was not a justified person. Her works were of no spiritual value because she had never been justified. All that she did was a waste of time until the point she was truly brought to faith in Christ. And of course, she could have gone on to say this, 'that until we are justified we cannot enter into Heaven.' Therefore, nothing is more important, nothing could be more important than that a man or a woman, or a young person should be absolutely brought to the point in which they are justified before God.
Now I want to give you three reasons why this justification before God is an absolute necessity.
First, because of the character of God, Himself. God is perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, absolutely just. And because that is His character, there is no way that anyone can be acceptable to Him unless he comes to be justified before God. I give you a second reason. It is because of the effect of the first sin of Adam. Now we are used to be thinking of ourselves as sinners. And so we are. But we were sinners before we sinned. And that sounds strange. But we were sinners before we actually came into this world. We were sinners in our mother's womb. Now that's very strange to those who don't know their Bible. They say how can a baby have sinned before he has actually spoken a word, or before he has walk about, or spoken, or done anything? Or even thought a rational thought. How can a baby be guilty of sin? And the answer the Bible gives is this, because all those who are born into Adam's family have Adam's first sin reckoned to them and that is the basis of their condemnation. That's the second reason why we need to be justified. We are guilty from our mother's womb. I give you a third reason why we need this justification. It is because of the perfection and the strictness of God's own moral law. The Ten Commandments show no mercy. The Ten Commandments will not accommodate any man's sin. God as the Judge of all the earth, will not bend to please those who are sinners like ourselves.
Listen to the words of the apostle James which you will be familiar with. James says, if a person keep the whole moral law, or the Ten Commandments, and yet if he breaks one of them, he is guilty of all. I put this in an illustration. Suppose a man lived to a thousand years of age. And supposing all those years he never broke any of the Ten Commandments. Of course it is impossible but let me say this, for the sake for making a point. Supposing just before he dies, he sinned once, in word or deed or thought. That one sin would be enough to condemn him in the eyes of the Law. The Law is as strict as that. You may say to me, that's too strict surely. And I explain, no it isn't. It's like this, you see, to break a part of the law is to break the whole law. The law is a unity. The law of God is a unit. I am going to use an illustration in case the point is not being taken. Supposing we have a beautiful vase. Now we put it on the shelf. Supposing a young boy comes along and he is fascinated by this as children are and he decides he is going to lift it up and he damages just a little piece on the handle. He's careless with it, he mishandles it, he breaks just a fragment of the handle. Then comes his mother and she says, 'you have broken my vase.' 'Oh no, mother, I haven't broken the vase. I have just broken a little piece of the handle. Not the vase, just the handle.' And of course, you see at once, It's the same thing. To break a piece of the handle or a piece of the lip is to break the vase. So it is with the moral law, to break one of the laws of God is to break them all because they are a unit, and they are a unity.
Why are most people in the world careless about religion? Why are so many church going people careless about the things of God? And the answer is because they do not realize the strictness and the perfection of God, or the strictness and the perfection of God's Law. I will give you a sign to tell you when you or others began to be truly serious about the things of God. It is when people begin to ask questions. People who don't ask questions about themselves and their condition and their state are people who are sleeping the sleep of religious death. They are slowly drifting through this life without stopping to realize the absolute need they have of being justified in the sight of God. As soon as a person begins to realize the seriousness of their condition, they start to ask questions. You find this everywhere in the Bible. What must I do to be saved? What must I do? Where must I turn? Where shall I find help? Who can show me the way out of my difficulty and predicament? Now that's the way people talk as soon as they realize that we are all born condemned. We are all born under the condemnation of a righteous judge.
Now let me tell you three deadly mistakes concerning justification, things which are very very common. I am not making these things up just to fill in a space in my paper and in my sermon. These are things that are all over Inverness, all over the world. The first mistake that people make about justification is this. They say surely God is a God of love and therefore surely He is not going to condemn me because I have some mistakes in my life. Surely, they say, God's love must be deeper than hell. Now the answer to that, I will give you in a moment. but that's a very common idea. God is a God of such love there's nothing to fear. Let me answer that in a moment. I give you my second, not mine, but the mistakes of many people made. Many people make this mistake also. That when we have done something wrong, they think we can make up for it by doing something good. Now that's very common, isn't it? We are all inclined to that. We've done something wrong so to blot it out, we think, we can do something good. That's the way people often talk. They say, I have done my good deed for the day. And what they mean is that they did a hundred things which are not good but this one good thing, which they supposed they have done, is more than enough to blot out the bad and God is sure to forgive that because of this one good thing. That's a very common view. A deadly error but is very common.
And then, there is this other view, very briefly, the idea that sin is not such a bad thing after all. That sin is not something which God treats with that deep seriousness that so many preachers imagine it is treated with by God. And these things are all mistakes. These things are all errors. These are things which are very common and the effect of believing these things is it stops men and women from coming to know what true justification is. Right, now, what is the answer then to these things? Well, the answer is, look at the cross of Christ, and see how God dealt with sin on the cross of Christ. Now there we have Jesus Christ who is absolutely perfect. He is the intimate son of God, eternal like God the Father, perfect like God the Father, sinless, holy, righteous, just. But the sins of men were laid on Him. And on the cross, you ask yourself, how did God deal with Christ? Did God say when He saw His Son on the cross bearing our sins, did God say, ah well, He is my beloved Son, therefore I mustn't touch Him. I mustn't condemn Him. I mustn't cause Him to suffer pain. I must spare Him. All the agonies that the sin of man deserved were laid on Him. To say that is to answer the whole point. There was no mercy for Christ on the cross. God did not spare Him, the whole wage of divine vengeance. He became a curse for us. He bore the full weight of the wrath of God. He bore, what we call, hell pains, in His soul. And that is because of the strictness of God's holy character and the strictness of God's law. If anybody in history deserves to be exonorated and spared, it was Christ. He never sinned after all. He did nothing wrong after all. He glorified God a hundred percent always and yet when sin was laid on Him, God did not spare Him. Now that is the proof. It is unanswerable. You and I need to know, that is an unanswerable argument. If God did not spare Christ, He certainly would not spare anybody else when they come into His presence as condemned. I say these things really for one principal reason and that is to tell you again that you and I need to be justified more than anything else. We have got to be justified. That's what my text after all is talking about. The conclusion Paul makes that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Let me move on then and ask this further question. How can we be justified? Now, this as I said before, is the heart of the Gospel. This is the kernel of the Gospel. This is the cream of the Gospel. This is the dead centre of the Gospel. God's wonderful method of salvation. It is the gift of God. And it is the gift of a righteousness which God provides. Now the righteousness which God provides is something which Christ had Himself to bring into existence. It is not the righteousness which Christ Himself had in eternity past. He did not give us that gift. It is the righteousness which He worked out for us by His perfect life of obedience to the laws of God. Every act of obedience that Christ performed to the moral law was a stitch of an embroidery. In the seamless robe of righteousness which He Himself offers to us for our justification. We say that there is in Christ an active obedience and a passive obedience. And both of these forms of obedience were essential to bring us into a state of justification. His active obedience was his fulfilling the law for us. And His passive obedience was His suffering our curse on the cross, being damned for us, being made accursed for us. Bearing the wrath of God in His body, mind and soul, when it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Now this active obedience, and His passive sufferings for sin, is what we call, the righteousness of the Gospel. It is something which Christ worked out in His life. And it is something which is offered to us as a free gift. And the free gift is received by faith alone.
You remember how Paul begins this epistle, something like this. He says, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Because you see faith is an eye that sees and faith is also a hand that receives. This righteousness of God in the Gospel is a free gift from God which our eyes see once the scales of blindness are removed. And this faith which we have in Christ is also a hand that receives the righteousness of God. And that is why the apostle says the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. It is the gift of righteousness. Now this is why, Roman Catholicism is perniciously dangerous. Roman Catholicism teaches many things that are quite right. It teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. It tells us that Christ is God and man. It believes that Christ died for our sins and rose again. It pays great attention to the teaching of the Bible though it adds tradition to it. There are many things in Roman Catholicism which are right but at the most crucial point of all Roman Catholicism is fatally wrong. It does not tell us how we can be justified.
The Roman Catholic Church reminds me of a sweet shop and a little boy walking along the street and pressing his nose against the glass and admiring all the sweets inside. But he can never find the door to get in. So he can never enjoy anything. All he can do is press his nose against the glass and see it. But he can never taste it because there is no door to get in. So it is with Catholicism. They do not show you the true method of entering into the blessings of God. You see them but you can never taste of them. You see the Roman Catholic catechism says this, I am quoting it again, 'Justification is not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.' Now listen to this one, 'justification is conferred in baptism.' Now you see how dangerous that is! It tells all people baptized in the Catholic Church that they have got justification. But no man has justification through baptism because of the concluding remarks of Paul. Listen. "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3, 28) Neither baptism nor the Lord's Supper nor any good thing you may try to do can bring us justification. The conclusion he makes is stupendously important. This justification comes to us by faith and by faith alone in Christ alone. And the man receives it without respect of baptism or the Lord's Supper. Without respect to good works of any sort whatsoever.
Now I point out to you, my friends, that this justification is a wonderful, sublime and heavenly gift from God. Let me tell you why. First of all, because it glorifies God's justice and His mercy. It glorifies God to save sinners in this way. Why? Because if we could get justification through some good deeds of our own, do you know what we will all do? We would take some of the glory. We would say it was my work. I went down there and I had baptism. Or perhaps it's sprinkling you want to do. Well, I got it through sprinkling. I did it. And I got it. I made my decision to become a Christian and it was partly my work. But no sinner can boast. Did you notice what it said in the previous verse, 27? Where is boasting then? It's excluded. By what law, of works, nay. But by the law of faith. When we realize that we are justified by faith alone in Christ, what happens? It cuts away all opportunities to boast. There is no grounds for boasting. And that means Christian, real Christians, justified Christian, they talk in a most peculiar way which nobody else can possibly use as a form of talk. They say Christ is my righteousness. Oh, they will say, I myself am a wicked sinner, the chief of sinners. But He is my righteousness. He is my life. You see the strange conversation. Nobody talks like that but the real Christian. The Pharisees never did. You remember the Pharisees prayer that Christ describes. This Pharisees in the temple, here he was. Oh, wonderfully dressed up. Everybody knew what he was. And then there was this poor Publican with his head down. He was ashamed of himself. You remember his prayer was, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner.' And the other man's prayer was very different, wasn't it. 'God,' he said, 'I thank thee that I am not like other men. And certainly not like this publican. I fast twice in the week. I give money here, there and every where. I thank thee, o God, that I am so good.' You see, he was boasting. But those that are justified never boast. They can't boast. They have nothing to boast of. It's all God's grace and all His mere goodness. And all His free gifts. You see that why it is by faith alone that no one may boast.
Now as I close, I want to say to you, my beloved and dear hearers, this is the thing we must get. Whether we get other things or not, is of no importance. Education has its place, and money and jobs and so on, they have their place. But justification is what we must get. Otherwise, we cannot escape hell. There is no other way to get out of there or to get exemption from there rather, but to have this justification. Now what is it good to get these other things, if at the end of our little life, we go down to eternal darkness? What's the point of it? You see, how senseless this world is. Chasing this and running after that. But missing the main thing! It is for that reason, the apostle was inspired by God to point us all to free gracious justification without works. That's why this conclusion was written by Paul. Oh, let your soul flow out in gratitude to God. Cry to Him that He would both give you this justification and give you the certainty that you got it and then give you the spirit the apostle had to deny himself everything to serve Christ in this dark world. And to make known this justification, far and wide, which is the one supreme and essential necessity that men may be saved.
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