“God’s Righteousness Revealed” (Pt. 1)
January 22, 2017
Martin Luther had a problem. Listen to his words: “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in my way but that one expression, ‘the justice (righteousness) of God,’ because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.”
Martin Luther was not the first one to wrestle with God’s justice. Listen to the words of Job: “In truth I know that this is so, But how can a man be in the right before God?” (9:2). And “How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?” (25:4). Even Solomon recognizes the “problem” God has in accepting the unrighteous: “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 17:15).
For most of us, “justice” sounds ominous (we like and love “grace”) — but justification is one of the most precious words of our faith. And we will see that this morning and in the months ahead as we return to our study of the book of Romans. And it is particularly significant that we come to this passage this morning as we think about cultivating an emphasis of evangelism in our church body this year, because this begins Paul’s section on the gospel in this letter. Chapter 3:21 through 4:25 is Paul’s explanation of how one must be saved. This is the core truth of what we share with those who need the gospel.
And because of that, many commentators (beginning with Martin Luther) have called 3:21-26 “the center and heart” of the entire book of Romans. And one of my favorite commentators goes even further, saying this “is possibly the most important single paragraph ever written.” [Morris, 173.]
So what does Paul say in these verses? Over the next weeks we will unpack the theme of these verses:
When man had no means to save himself, God justly provided a declaration of righteousness through Christ.
- What Justification Is (v. 21)
- How Justification is Appropriated (v. 22a)
- Who Needs Justification? (v. 22b)
Download the rest of this sermon from Romans 3:21-22.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.