SERMON FOR AUGUST 2, 1998 FROM ROMANS 3:24-25

 

          This week, we continue our study of the very heart of the gospel as Paul lays it out for us in the third chapter of Romans.  We have said the theme of verses 21 and following in this third chapter is, The gospel of Jesus Christ solves humanity’s most unsolvable problem, our unrighteousness before a holy God. Two weeks ago we saw that unrighteousness, when you boil it down is our failure to express the moral and ethical perfection of God.  That is his standard for humanity--to be like Him, morally and ethically.  We looked at the degree to which we fall short of this and saw that only Jesus Christ has ever lived up to this standard. Therefore, the only hope for fallen humanity is to some how share in HIS righteousness.  Last week, we saw that God has indeed enabled the church to share in the righteousness of Christ.  When God does this for a person, he, to use Paul’s term, JUSTIFIES them.

          Justification is HOW God is able to transfer His righteousness to a sinner who is in fact unrighteous.  We saw that in justification, God thinks of  believers sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us.  He also declares us to be righteous in His sight.  We emphasized the fact that justification, in and of itself, does NOTHING to change the person internally--it is simply a legal declaration that a person’s status has changed.  The internal change DOES occur in conversion, but that is regeneration, not justification.  Justification is a purely legal concept and is the opposite of condemnation.  Part of justification is the forgiveness of sins, but it goes beyond simply forgiving us.  To be ONLY forgiven would make us morally neutral before God--neither good nor bad.  We are not only forgiven in justification, but we are also given the righteousness of Christ so that when God looks at us, he sees the very righteousness of Christ.

          We asked the question, “How can God declare us to be righteous when we are in fact unrighteous?”  We know that this is not some kind of spiritual deception or smoke and mirrors God has perpetrated.  How is God able to keep his integrity while declaring a person to be righteous who is clearly not righteous in their behavior--who is clearly NOT meeting the standard of the law?  We said that God can do this by IMPUTING Christ’s righteousness to us.  We looked at what it meant to impute something to someone and noted this imputation of righteousness was actually the third time in salvation history that God had imputed something to someone.  The first imputation involved God imputing the sin of Adam to the rest of humanity. We didn’t sin in the garden, yet Adam’s sin was imputed to us.  The reason this was done (as we’ll see in chapter five) is because we were all IN Adam, united to him genetically and spiritually.

          The second imputation was on the cross where our sin was imputed to Christ.  Christ willingly volunteered to become united with our sin on Calvary. He became “ONE with our sin” and our sin was imputed to him on the cross.  From this we saw that the reason God can impute the righteousness of Christ to us is because in conversion, God unites us with Christ.  We become “in Christ” or “one in Christ” when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.  Because of our union with Christ, the Father is legally entitled to impute to us the very righteousness of Christ.  This is the beautiful concept of justification as we looked at it last week.

          Let’s look at the text again beginning with 3:23-25.  Paul says, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. [v.24) and are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.”  This text, as we said last week contains the pillars of the gospel, justification, grace, redemption, propitiation and faith.  Understanding these terms will enable us to have a more profound appreciation for the gospel.  Having treated justification briefly last week, this week, we will look at grace and redemption.  Justification deals with the transference of God’s righteousness to sinners and HOW God is legally able do that.  Grace touches on an even more basic question. Not HOW God could legally transfer the righteousness of His Son to us, but WHY would He do such a thing.  Part of the answer to the why question is seen in verse 25 which we will look at when we get there, but part of the answer is encapsulated in this wonderful word, “grace.”

          Paul says in verse 24 we are “justified freely by his grace.”  If we are going to understand grace, we must first see that grace is an expression of God’s love along with attributes like mercy and benevolence.  They are all simply different facets of the love of God.  Grace is but one conduit through which he expresses his love to us.  Why would God transfer His Son’s righteousness to us at the expense of His Son’s life?  Because He loves us.  We see this in chapter five, verse eight.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The story is told of a great theologian who, after decades of theological reasoning and research was asked to articulate the most profound thought or concept he had ever discovered.  Without hesitation he responded, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  You can’t get more profound than that.  Why did God bring about the gospel?  Because he loved us and his love is seen in his grace.  But what specifically does grace mean?

          Chuck Swindoll, in his book, “The Grace Awakening” tells us that to understand this word, we must remember that the word comes from an old Hebrew term which means, “to bend, to stoop.”  Swindoll quotes Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse who said, “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.”  God, in the soaring heights of his own holiness and righteousness, stoops down, bends over and lifts sinners to himself through the blood of his Son.  God calls humanity to be like himself--to be on his level morally and ethically.  Humanity looks up from their bottomless pit of sin into the face of a holy God.  We are helpless, utterly powerless to stop our rapid descent into the dark bowels of hell.  How much less are we able to ascend to the height of God’s holiness?  The sinner can in no way bring himself to God’s level.  So, God in his gracious love through His Son, stoops down and reaches down into the pit and picks us up out of the muck and mire, washes us with the precious blood of his Son and gives us the righteousness of Jesus, elevating us to His own towering level of perfect righteousness.  A free gift--totally, utterly, unmeritted, condescending favor.  Why does God make us righteous through the gospel?  In part, because he loves us and He expresses that love through His grace.  We are “justified freely by his grace.” 

          In the time remaining, let’s look at redemption.  Paul says we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Jesus Christ.”  Justification addresses the issue of HOW God could legally make sinners righteous and grace addresses the issue of WHY God would do such a thing in the first place.  One or the many questions redemption answers is, “WHAT is required of God to do such a thing?”  This is God’s plan from start to finish.  What does it cost Him to reclaim his fallen people?  What is redemption?  What does it mean to be redeemed?

       One of the best ways to discover the meaning of any theological term in the New Testament is to see how the concept is applied in the Old Testament.  The ultimate Old Testament picture of redemption is the Exodus.  The Jews are in horrible bondage to the Egyptians who enslave them mercilessly.  The Old Testament repeatedly refers to this as God’s great act of redemption or deliverance for the Jews.  These texts are a very small representation of those texts which refer to this redeeming act of God. Exodus 6:6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. This is the language of redemption.  Deut. 5:15  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  2 Kings 17:36  But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship.  Jeremiah 32:21  You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror.  God redeems a people from slavery by use of his outstretched arm and liberates them from their cruel oppressors.

          Many of the elements you hear in that redeeming work, we also see in Christ’s work of redemption.  We see these elements in a common definition of redemption which is, “the sinner’s release from bondage by means of ransom payment.”  That’s just a definition.  In order for us to appreciate that, we have to unpack it into its component parts.  There are three basic elements of that definition.  First, the state of bondage which requires redemption, second, the price paid to redeem sinners and finally, the state of the redeemed after redemption.  First, lets take a look at what is meant by “bondage”--the state of bondage which is broken in redemption.  We have seen in chapters 1-3, the reason sinners are not righteous and can never be righteous on their own is because of the powerful, tyrannical reign of sin in their lives.  Sin enslaves all people--no exceptions.  Jesus says in John 8:34, “... "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.   In chapter 7:14 of Romans, Paul says, “I am unspiritual sold as a slave to sin.”  Every baby born into this world is, because of the sin of Adam imputed to them, is enslaved, in bondage to sin.  Unless they are redeemed at some time during their lives, they will die in bondage and remain in the bondage of sin for the entire existence in eternity.  Sin holds people in bondage in three broad ways.  Sin enslaves through its guilt and penalty.  It enslaves through its defilement of people and through its power to dominate and control people’s lives.

       We see the enslaving guilt and penalty of sin in Galatians 3:13. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." Here is a powerful picture of the enslaving guilt of sin.  All who sin are under the curse of the law and the curse of the law is spiritual death in hell.  The death penalty has already been pronounced on every person in this world.  Apart from the redemptive work of Christ, every person on earth is totally bound by this.  The picture that comes to mind is that of a condemned prisoner who has been escorted into the execution room of a federal penitentiary.  In the case of lethal injection, they are strapped to a gurney, in the instance of electrocution, they are bound to an electric chair, in the case of  poison gas they are strapped into a chair awaiting the mixture of lethal chemicals under their seat. 

          The bondage of the guilt of sin means that every person born is, unknown to them, seated in that spiritual electric chamber, strapped by their own guilt to the spiritual execution table or gas chair.  They spend their entire spiritual life waiting for their sentence to be carried out.  Every moment of their lives is spent in bondage, strapped down, utterly helpless with no way to free themselves from the guilt and penalty of sin.  Unless they are redeemed, the sentence, which has been awaiting them all their lives will be carried out after they physically die.  Do we see people this way?--strapped to a spiritual electric chair--guilty and deserving of the ultimate death penalty with NO WAY of escape on their own?  No one has ever, on their own escaped this spiritual execution chamber--the sentence is ALWAYS carried out.  The only hope of release from this bondage is redemption through Christ.  That is the hopeless picture of the bondage of guilt apart from redemption.

          The bondage of sin goes beyond guilt to the bondage of defilement.  The guilt of sin ruthlessly holds people down while the evil filth of sin pollutes their soul.  We see this aspect of bondage in Romans 6:19 where Paul says,   “... you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness...

The word translated “impurity” in the New Testament is used 30 times. Over two thirds of those uses describe demons by the use of the phrase “unclean spirits.”  This is the spiritual uncleanness shared by demons, those black, vile wretched creatures who serve Satan.  Sinners are bound by the spiritual defilement of demonic blackness and corruption.  They can be nothing else because John eight tells us that they are children of Satan--Satan is their father.  Why would they not bear his corruption--his vile rottenness?  Satan is their father and he perpetually defiles them leading them into more and more putrefying sin.

          They are nothing more than meat to him, their soul’s rotting by the defiling, corruptive power of sin.  The more they live and sin, the more their souls rot and send off a putrid, spiritual stench.  They are helpless to reverse the decaying process.  They may in some superficial way, sense their rottenness and try to cover it up with self-righteous good works but the result is an even more pungent spiritual stench.  Their sin is continually defiling them and they are powerless to do anything about it.  They are in total bondage to the enslaving defilement of sin.

          Finally, sin binds people through its power to control people’s lives.  Paul says in Romans 6:16, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether slaves of sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness.”  Paul is speaking to believers here and brings out an unbreakable spiritual axiom--the one you offer yourselves to obey, you become a slave of.  Sinners have no choice as to whom they offer themselves to.  Its not a choice between sin and righteousness. They can’t make that choice--they have no power.  They are therefore enslaved to obey sin and sin is a cruel taskmaster.  They are like marionettes with the sin they obey pulling their strings.  Sin as puppet master leads them to this and they do this.  It leads them to develop this attitude, to think this thought and they comply--They are enslaved to their master--sin. Sin brings people into bondage through its guilt, its defilement and its control over their lives.

          The second element of redemption is the price paid to redeem those held in bondage.  Jesus tells us the price in Matthew 20:28.  “Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  The ransom payment to free us from the curse of the law is the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament, the great redeeming work of God was done through the power of God’s outstretched arm.  In the New Testament, the ultimate redeeming work of God was done through the humility of God’s outstretched armS. The life blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary paid in full the penalty we owed to God “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...”  The penalty we could never pay was paid for us in the redeeming work of Christ as He offered Himself as the ransom payment.

          The final element of redemption is the state of those redeemed from bondage.  The state of the redeemed can be contrasted with the state of the sinner in the three aspects of bondage we examined.  The blood of Jesus Christ--his redeeming work on Calvary has liberated us from the bondage of the guilt, defilement and the control of sin.  The sinner lives his life strapped by his own guilt into the bondage of impending spiritual execution awaiting their final condemnation.  In redemption, Christ, having paid the penalty, bursts into the execution chamber, unlashes us from the cords of guilt which hold us.  But that’s not all.  He then escorts us out of the prison, through the door of justification and takes us to the palace where we dine with the king of the universe.  Christ has set us free from the bondage of guilt! 

          The sinner lives a life of total defilement, sin’s power eating away at their rotting soul.  In redemption, Christ’s blood totally cleanses the defilement of sin.  “His blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.”  The blackness of sin is totally cleansed and our souls shine with the resplendent glory of God.  Christ has set us from the bondage of defilement.  The sinner lives under the over powering control of sin as their master.  In redemption, Jesus evicts the cruel taskmaster of sin and in his place seats himself on the throne of our lives. He fits us with a different yoke, one which is easy and light and which brings rest to our souls.  Christ has liberated us from the bondage of sin’s power to control us.  Do we believe this?  That’s redemption.

          And what are we to do in response to this?  First, we are to understand that we are purchased for a reason.  Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  We must understand that we are a purchased people and that we were purchased NOT for ourselves.  Human beings were not created to be self-ruling creatures.  We can never be happy that way.  That is a lie of the Adversary.  You are either ruled by Satan or, if God has bought you, you are HIS possession and you belong to Him.  First Corinthians 6:20  You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”  We have an obligation as purchased people--to bring glory to God.  How do we do that?  Titus 2:13 says that Jesus gave himself for us, “that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”  We are to bask in our freedom from bondage.  we are to revel in our liberation brought by the death of Christ.  But if we are redeemed, we will want to do more--to never willingly place ourselves BACK into bondage.  We should NEVER want to go back to the slavery of Egypt no matter how enticing it may seem.  We are called live out our freedom in Christ bringing glory to Him in the freedom of the obedience which comes from faith.  Leon Morris says of this, “The whole point of this redemption is that sin no longer has dominion; the redeemed are saved to do the will of their Master.” May God give us the grace to live as free people, zealous to please our holy Master.

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