CONNECTING THE DOTS IN ROMANS
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 31
Romans 1-5 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
This week I read about a man who greatly loved his little boy. Each day after work he would try to take time to play with his son. One evening the father came home, bringing extra work from the office. His usual time with his son would need to be postponed. Wanting to his son busy, the father found a picture with a large map of the of the world. It gave him an idea. Taking the map, he carefully tore it up into small pieces. Then he grabbed a roll of scotch tape.
After explaining to his son he had extra work to get done, he took out the scotch tape and all the pieces of the map and spread them out on the dining room table. He explained it was a map of the world and by the time the boy could tape it back together, dad’s work would be finished as well. Then they could spend time together. Surely this will keep his child busy for a long time, he thought.
About a half an hour later the boy proudly announced, “Okay, it’s finished! Can we play now?” Surprised, the dad responded, “That’s amazing! How did you do that so fast?” “It was simple” said the boy, “On the back of the map was a picture of a man. When I put the man together, the whole world came together.”
By now, if you’ve been following our study in Romans, you know the reoccurring theme of this great book is justification by faith alone in Christ. How are we saved? By faith alone in God’s Son Jesus Christ. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:20). You’ve heard me say it over and over in one way or another throughout the past five chapters of Romans. We’re justified by our faith alone in Christ. In fact, up to this point Paul has used the word “justified” no less than eleven times in the first five chapters (11 of 14 uses are found in chapters 1-5 alone). It’s not too much to say then, that when it comes to our salvation, justification is an extremely important word. But it is not the only word that is important to our salvation. Paul uses a host of other words as well, like sanctification, glorification, imputation, adoption, reconciliation, and propitiation. Like justification, all of them play a major role in our salvation. But for a lot of us, those words are like the torn pieces of the world the father gave his son. They don’t make a lot of sense.
Imagine with me for a moment, those torn pieces represent something other than the world. Let’s say they represent the many different books of the Bible; thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. The Bible is not just one book, but a great library of books! And its overall theme is God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Let’s be honest, for many, trying to make sense of the Bible is just as difficult, if not more so, than trying to make sense of the world!
Now, imagine the other side of those same torn pieces is a different picture. Instead of being a picture of the whole Bible, it is the picture of just one book of the Bible, the book of Romans. And those pieces are composed of things like justification, imputation, propitiation, sanctification, glorification and so on. This gives us an important clue what Paul is doing in Romans. Paul knows that when the pieces of our salvation come together, our lives will come together as well.
Over the next several Sundays, we’re going to look at some key words Paul uses in Romans that play a huge role in helping us make sense of our walk with God. My prayer and hope is your faith in Christ will make a whole lot more sense.
Today, we’re going to look at just one word Paul uses in Romans numerous times, the word justification. I’m indebted to the late Dr. Warren Wiersbe for providing us a roadmap this morning to guide us through this significant word. Ultimately, justification answers the question: How can we be right before God? Let’s begin with a definition: The gracious act of God when He declares the believing sinner to be right with Him. I want to unpack: what it means and how it works.
- Justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). What it Means.
- It is instant. Having been justified by faith(Romans 5:1). It is something God did
for you the moment you placed your trust in Christ. He’s not talking about your feelings, but God’s relation toward you; it instantly changed from wrath to peace. It is not a process, but an instantaneous act of God the moment you believe. Paul says it this way in Ephesians, After listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13). What happened after they heard the message and believed? He says they were sealed in Him. God put His seal of acceptance and ownership on them. When did He do this? The very moment they believed. The same is true for us.
- It is final. It will never change. Once God declared you right with Him, the question of
your sin was settled once and for all. Your continued trust in Him demonstrates this. He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard (Colossians 1:22-23). Justification is not the same as salvation. In salvation God gives us new life. In justification, God gives us new standing. Nor is it the same as forgiveness. If we’re forgiven and we go out and sin again, we’ll need to be forgiven again. Nor is it the same as being pardoned. If you’re pardoned as a criminal, you’re still a criminal. The record of your crimes stays with you.
What it does mean is that you are forever free from the penalty of your sin. Because of our faith in Christ, our guilt and sin before God are permanently and eternally forgiven. God says in Hebrews “Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more”(Heb. 10:17). Even though God is omniscient – all knowing, He chooses to treat us as though He has forgotten our guilt and sin forever. It is final.
- It is a gift. Beingjustified as a gift by His grace… to the one who does not work, but
believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness(Romans 3:24; 4:5). To say God justified us as gift of His grace means we made us right with Him without cause. There was nothing in us that deserves God’s justifying us. It is purely an act of God’s amazing grace. The reason God justifies the ungodly is because there are no godly! God’s gift of justification is just that, a gift. He offers it equally to anyone who will receive it.
- It is by faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the
Law (Romans 3:28). What is faith? Faith is taking God at His Word. If God says He forgives me and makes me right before Him, then faith says I need to believe what God says is completely true. To be justified by faith means putting our trust in Christ. It’s not faith that saves you, it is Jesus. In other words, your faith is only as good as the object you place it in. You may be sincere in your faith, but if you’re trusting in the wrong thing, you’re going to be sincerely disappointed.
Some people think because they believe in God, that is faith. Not true. James tells us: You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder(James 2:19). Justification is faith that comes from the heart and trusts Christ.
- It is a new life. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to
all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (Romans 5:18). Justification brings new life. This is regeneration. When you believe, God not only gives you a new standing before Him, but He gives you a new life in Him as well. God’s declaration will result in transformation. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God(1 John 3:9, NLT).
What does justification mean? Paul has shown us: It is instant, it is final, it is a gift, it is by faith, and it results in a new life. How it Works If we are right with God, its going to change us in a number of ways: 1) Our relationship to God, 2) Our response to life’s trials, 3) Our relationship to others.
- It changes my relationship with God.
- I have peace with God. we have peace with God(Romans 5:1). There is no greater
relief from fear and anxiety than to be at peace with God and to have the peace of God. Those five words bring more relief and comfort than the words, “You are cured” form the doctor. Or, “You are pardoned” to a person on death row. Having God’s peace means I no longer need fear God’s wrath because I am accepted in Christ.
This past week I spoke with a lady who was fearfully dreading an upcoming surgery. I could see she was weighed down with a heavy sense of fear and I knew why. She was afraid of dying. I asked if I could pray with her. She said yes. After we prayed, she said she felt much better. But her fear still had a strangle grip on her heart. She was concerned about making sure her home was in order should something happen to her. “Chances are slim that something may happen,” I told her, “but what if something does? Do you know where you’re going?” Her answer was a surprised, “No!” “Would you like to know?” I asked. She said, “Yes.” As I began to share the Gospel with her, I could tell her interest was giving way to fear. “I’m not sure I’m ready” she said. Then I told her it is okay if we have doubts and questions. The main thing is we step out in faith taking God at His Word. If we are honest before God with our doubts and questions, He understands. Then I told her, “If the Gospel is not true, you have nothing to lose. But it if it is true, you’ve lost everything.” “I never thought of it that way,” she responded. Though her faith was small, and her fear was great, she wanted to trust Christ. We prayed together and she gave her life to Christ. The moment she prayed God’s peace came over her. She was at peace with God and had the peace of God.
- I have access to God. we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in
which we stand (Romans 5:2). The word for introduction speaks of the process of being ushered into the prestigious court of a king and announced. In this case, Paul is saying we have confident access to the highest possible King, namely God. He uses the same term to describe prayer for the believers in Ephesus, We have boldness and confident access through faith in Him (Ephesians 3:12). But this word carries an even greater meaning. Not only do we have confident access to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but it means we also have unlimited and permanent access to Him! And as if that were not enough, our access is one of full acceptance and welcome.
I remember a conversation with someone who had a great impact on my faith early on in my relationship with Christ. It seemed to me God was too busy running the universe to be bothered with my trite concerns. To my surprise, I was told there are no concerns too small or trite that God doesn’t want us to bring them before Him. I was under the impression that my access to God was only for really important matters. Boy, was I surprised to learn God welcomes and wants us to come to Him no matter how small the matter may be! Justification means we have unlimited permanent and welcome access to our Heavenly Father at whatever time for whatever reason.
- I have hope in God’s glory. We exult in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). That
is, we can have a confident hope of one day participating in the glory of Heaven. So, we not only have the peace with God and access to Him, but we rejoice in the assured hope of Heaven as well!
The hope Paul speaks of here is not wishful thinking, but an assured expectation. It is confident, but it is also humble because their confidence is not in their own goodness, but God’s gift of grace. The person who has never trusted Christ has no such hope. He has no future to rejoice in. Instead, there is an uneasy expectation wondering if they will be good enough to make it Heaven.
- It changes my response to life’s tribulations. Warren Wiersbe writes, “The unsaved person is torn down by tribulations, but the believer is built up by tribulations.” (p.25). Paul is not saying we go out and look for trouble! He is saying we know something about tribulation that others don’t. We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us(Romans 5:3-5). The word tribulation means direct suffering. God never wastes our pain, our disappointment, our failures, our struggles. He promises to use them to work for us, not against us (Rom. 8:28).
Our English word for tribulation comes from a Latin word, tribulum. A tribulum was a huge piece of wood, like a railroad tie, with nails driven into it. Oxen would pull it over the grain to thresh it. That’s what tribulation does for us. It is God’s way of separating the wheat and the chaff, the grain from the waste (Wiersbe, p. 26). But Paul says God uses tribulation to work for us, not against us. Why? Because we know God is for us not against us. Years ago, I remember meeting a lady who’d been bedridden for years. Paralysis had consumed her body. But that didn’t stop her. She discovered she could paint if she had a brush in her mouth. Her paintings brought a ray of bright hope in the hallways where they hung. She was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. Why? She knew God would not waste her trials. Justification changes our response to life’s tribulations.
- It changes my relationship with others. Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us(Romans 5:5). This verse points to the new life God’s justification brings. When we trust Christ, God pours His love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The secret to a Christian’s ability to become better instead of bitter through life’s trials comes from God’s indwelling love and Holy Spirit. This means we have a supernatural love, an ability from God to love others beyond our own ability. I can’t say that I have always cooperated with God in this. There are some people that make it seem impossible to love! But when I do, when I say, “Okay Lord, help me to love this person.” He does!
What does justification mean? It is instant – the moment you trust Christ. It is final – both the penalty and guilt of your sin are permanently and eternally forgiven. It is a gift by faith – you can’t earn it or buy it. It is an undeserved gift from God. It is a new life – one of the indelible marks of justification is inward change.
How does it work? My new life means a changed relationship with God; I have peace with God, I have access to God, and I have a confident hope of Heaven. It also changes my response to tribulation, as well as my relationship to others. When we put the pieces of justification together, our lives come together as well.
Let me close by asking, have you accepted God’s gift of justification? Are you at peace with God? Have you placed your trust in His Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? The Bible says Jesus is the Hope of the nations. He is the Prince of Peace. Without Him we have neither lasting hope or peace in this life or the one to come. But with Him the Bible says we can have a living and confident hope and a peace that surpasses all human comprehension.