Buried with Him; Raised with Him

Romans 6:1-14

Buried_and_Raised_Facebook_2-1024x768Paul begins this section of Romans with a great hypothetical question: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” The impact of Paul’s question and answer cannot be missed. Only if the Gospel is as wonderful as Paul has been saying would he even broach such a question. If we preach the proper Gospel, it should prompt the same question. The Roman Catholic Church feared that people would take the doctrine of sola fide as a license to sin. But, such logic is faulty. Grace does not encourage us to sin at all. If so, we do not understand the grace of God. Martin Luther responded to the charge by explaining that we are justified by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone Justification by faith alone was never intended by God as a license for sin. We are justified unto sanctification. The fruit of true faith will always be conformity to the image of Christ. We have dies to sin, so how can we live any longer in it? We have died and have now entered into a radically new life. The foundation of the Christian life and morality is this: “You are not what you once were; so no longer live as you once did.” We should know who we are and learn to live as such. The gospel teaches us that if we have true faith in Jesus Christ, works of obedience are not only inevitable but immediate. A justified person is a changed person.  Justification is the fruit of faith and faith is the fruit of regeneration. Only the regenerate have faith, and all the regenerate are changed. The beginning of the process of sanctification begins with justification.

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The Great Exchange

Romans 5:12-21

GreatExchange

Paul begins this section of Romans speaking of “headship.” As our covenant head, Adam was unable to fulfill the faithful task which God had assigned him, and fell for the lies of the enemy. The doctrine of “original sin” refers, not to Adam’s first sin, but to our corruption as a result of his since. This corruption was a then transferred to us because Adam was our covenant head. All mankind are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), and therefore born into Adam’s sin nature.

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Weak, Ungodly Sinners

Romans 5:6-11

when-we-were-utterly-helpless-christ-came-at-just-the-right-time-and-died-for-us-sinners-romans-5-6In our weakness, Christ died at the right time. Dying for another peons is rare enough even if that person were somewhat righteous. The Father loved us and Christ died for us when we were weak, ungodly sinners. Salvation is the total work of God in the life of a believer that brings that person into a peaceful, family relationship with the Triune God.

The justified sinner has been saved from God’s wrath (verse 9). This verse speaks with an argument from the greater to the lesser. We were utterly, undeserving objects of that wrath. Since we have been justified by faith, even when we were enemies, how much more shall we be saved from the wrath of God? The wrath of God is spoken here in both a present and future sense. God’s providence towards us will not reveal itself against us in wrath. Yet there is a future or eschatological sense in which the wrath of God will be fully released upon those who reject His Son.

Being justified, we have present peace with God and even comfort in our sufferings. We also have confidence that God will complete the work in salvation to the end. Salvation is now and not yet. We presently are already the Bride of Christ. We just have a clue, the barest scent of the end that is in store.

The description “weak, ungodly sinners” is an apt description of one who is outside of Christ. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin said it this way:

First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from Him, all that He has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what He has received from the Father, He had to become ours and to dwell within us…for, as I have said, all that He possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with Him. To sum up, the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to Himself.

All mankind is born into Adam, and subject to condemnation. Those in Christ may take comfort in the outlandishness of God’s love that is found in Christ Jesus.

Thus, we are saved from His wrath, but also saved by His lived. This is the second reference to “much more” (verse 10). Believers are reconciled even when they were enemies. The relationship is restored with our Heavenly Father. Much more will be be saved by Christ’s life for He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus continues His ministry as prophet, priest and king on our behalf. By these means, He guarantees the completion of our salvation, and His return in glory will confirm the final outcome of that completion.

Yet, there is another “more than that” (verse 11). He enables us to rejoice in God through Jesus Christ. We rejoice not only in the work He has done in saving us, but we rejoice in God Himself. This is only because we have received reconciliation. Once again, Paul is putting his trust in what Christ has already done. This is all because Christ declared “It is finished!”

The Righteousness That Comes by Faith

FaithLikeAbrahamRomans 4:12-25

Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish race, was justified by faith, not by works, and not by circumcision. The rite of circumcision was merely a memorial which signified what God had already done. Faith came first, then circumcision and the Law. The rites were a sign and seal of the accomplishment of God in Abraham. The latter does not abolish the former.

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Abraham: Our Father by Faith

Romans 4:1-12

Paul begins the next section of Romans with a question: “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?” (Romans 4:1). Here, the Greek word “flesh” is sarx. The most basic meaning of sarx, and the most common in secular Greek, is “the material that covers the bones of an animal or human body.” But more often, Paul uses sarx to refer not to the human body narrowly but the human being generally. This, then, refers to the depravity of the human condition in its fallen state. So, the question here is what was gained by Abraham according to this human condition? Was Abraham justified (made righteous) according to the works of the flesh? Of course, this is a resounding, “No!”

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The Law of Faith

Romans 3:22-31

Paul begins this section of his epistle by stating that the distinctions between God’s image bearers has been abolished in Christ. We are all born in Adam, our sin being inherited from him. All are condemned as sinners and hence all justified only by faith. This means, also, that the way of righteousness by faith is opened to all. We are not only equal in guilt, but also equal in the gift given and equal in receiving that gift by faith alone.

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Justification Not by Works

(Romans 3:9-22)

Here,  in verse nine, Paul asks the question, “Are the Jews better off?” This seems to be a contrary answer to a similar question in Romans 3:1. Those advantages focus on God’s gracious gift to Israel. They had advantages, but had squandered them. In this present question, Paul is asking in terms of the advantage of being justified. In this, the Jews have no advantage over the Gentiles. Both are condemned under sin (verse 9). Paul had explained this condemnation of the Gentiles in chapter one and the Jews in chapter two. The Jews had boasted that, as God’s people, they were in possession of the Law, that they were approved, and the Gentiles were left wanting. How wrong they were!

Protestants have largely seen justification as a law/court idea, a metaphor from the penal system. The term does have the connotation, but it is both that and more.  The idea of justification and that of righteousness are connected. Righteousness in Scripture picture refers to a relational status with God. It does not coney the idea of sinless perfection, but rather a right standing with God. Righteous people are those who confess their sins. In Abraham’s case, being righteous is almost used as a synonym for being “the friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). This conveys the idea of being in right relation with the Father as a faithful son. The term also carries the idea of having your sins forgiven or not imputed.

It is impossible that justification can come from works, even works of the law. The problem with this lies in the problem of merit. Obedience is our duty, so how can we merit anything by doing what we should Luke 17:10 says, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Merit simply turns God into a banker. The problem with this is, we have no collateral! Instead, the Bible uses the concept and terminology of sonship and inheritance, but we tend to think in terms of wage, workers, and merit. The medieval church’s soteriology became greatly confused with the idea of merit. We are sinners, and it is impossible to merit anything from God.

In the first place, we are God’s enemies. Scripture makes it clear that sin and condemnation are universal. The Jews had applied the term “enemies of God” only to the Gentiles, yet not realizing that, outside of Christ, we are all without hope. They had misinterpreted their own Scriptures that had been given them from God. Paul is speaking universally of sin, to all who are not justified by faith alone; however, the Law silences all boasting by showing that all are guilty of sin. Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (verse 20). The Law requires complete and full obedience to God’s revealed covenant, including love of God and neighbor. No sinner can possibly attain to this. But, as the Law had done its work, so now God’s righteousness was manifested apart from the Law as witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.

Paul goes on in verse 21 to speak of the “righteousness of God.” This phrase can have several connotations. It can be God’s fight of forgiveness and right standing for believers in Christ, the righteousness which pleases God. However, it appears here that Paul is referring to God’s own covenant faithfulness, or as John Calvin translates this, “by the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe.” In other words, the righteousness of God is manifested by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and received as a gift by all who believe.

In conclusion, the Father has shown himself to be utterly true to His covenant promises by means of sending His faithful Son, Jesus, who did and was as God’s Son all that Israel (as God’s son) had failed to do and to be. And, all of this was on behalf of we who believe. What marvelous and gracious good news this is!

God’s Faithfulness to the Jews

Romans 3:1-8

The nation of Israel enjoyed many advantages and privileges as God’s chosen race. Paul has just reminded us that racial descent and circumcision are not what make a Jew. It is covenant faithfulness that has always been the standard for membership into God’s household, but in the Old Testament as well as the New. It was never about physical descent. Circumcision was a sign and a seal of righteousness by faith (Romans 4:11). Here, Paul refers to natural Jews, speaking of physical circumcision.

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True Law Keeping

Romans 2:12-29

In this section, Paul addresses the Jews who have the law, but have rejected Christ. Sin, not possession of the law, is the basis of God’s judgment against mankind. The Jews had been living in the same kind of godlessness that was found among the pagans and Gentiles.
All of the human race is underneath the oppression of God’s indictment
. We are born in Adam, and remain so unless God affects a change.

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The Universality of God’s Judgment

Romans 2:1-11

In the second chapter of Romans, Paul continues his indictment of the human race. There is a universal rejection and suppression of God’s manifest self-revelation, so that man is ultimately without excuse
. In verse 1, the sin of hypocrisy is emphasized. Jews had a tendency to have a judgmental attitude towards Gentiles, but this text is applied universally to all believers
. Paul’s indictment of the pagans was exactly what Jews believed. All were considered idol worshippers. The same downward spiral of idolatry led to the Jews eventually rejecting their own Messiah (John 1:11). Therefore, Paul turns his words of warning to those who judge the pagans but do the same things. They judged themselves as being righteous and condemned the pagans, but Paul says they are condemning themselves, justly under the judgment of God. The same standard is used for all.

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