************ Sermon on Romans 3:24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 13, 2003
Lord's Supper Sermon
Today is Lord's Supper Sunday. We are reminded again that Christ came into the world to save us. But what exactly is salvation?
In our Scripture reading there are four images of salvation: propitiation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation. Today we want to look at the third image, that of justification.
I What is Justification
A Justification borrows its image from the courtroom. The court is in session. The defendant is before the judge – something like my son Joshua this past week because of excessive speeding. The accused's knees are trembling, his hands are shaking, and his voice is quivering. What will the judge say?
In Paul's image of justification we are to see a heavenly courtroom. The Almighty God sits on His throne as Judge. The sinner stands before Him with trembling knees and shaking hands because he or she is guilty – don't forget, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23).
We hear this often enough – that "all have sinned" – but what exactly does it mean? In the original Greek of the New Testament there are six different words which all are translated by the English word "sin." Here is a list of those words:
Apeitheia – rebellion; a willful rejection of God's Word and his standards.
Asebeo – a failure to show proper reverence to God through godly behavior.
Hamartano – voluntarily "missing the mark" because we are not loving or obedient.
Parabasis – transgression, crossing over or going beyond a limit that God has set.
Agnosia – sin that results from ignorance; this ignorance can be due to an unwillingness to be open to God's truth (Eph. 4:18), or can be an innocent ignorance (Acts 17:30).
Parakon – disobedience that results from inattention.
Six different ways that all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God.
B Now, what is justification? Justification is a declaration that the sinner is considered just in God's sight. God looks at the guilty sinner and says, "As far as I am concerned, you are NOT GUILTY." In justification God treats the sinner as if he had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if she was as perfectly obedient as Christ Himself (Catechism, A 60). Notice, God does NOT say, "You are NOT a sinner." God cannot say that because then He would be saying a lie. In justification God does not declare bad people to be good, or that they are not sinners at all. Rather, in justification He says, "I am going to treat you like you are NOT a sinner." Rather, God is pronouncing guilty sinners legally righteous, free from any punishment. In justification God announces that our status is holy even though our character is anything but. It is on the basis of this status that Paul can call us "saints," "people who have been set apart."
C I tell my Catechism students that in justification God does what I call "gracious arithmetic." God does a kind of gracious arithmetic to solve the problem of sin. God subtracts and adds in order to save us. He subtracts from us our sin; then He adds to us in its place the righteousness of Christ.
D When we look through the Bible, we see that earthly judges are to justify the innocent and condemn the guilty. For instance, Moses gave instructions to the Israelite judges that they were to decide cases referred to them, "acquitting (i.e. justifying) the innocent and condemning the guilty" (Deut 25:1). And, Proverbs has this to say: "acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent -- the LORD detests them both" (Prov 17:15). The prophet Isaiah pronounced a terrible curse upon judges who "acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent" (Is 5:23). To condemn the innocent and justify the wicked is to turn justice on its head.
Now along comes Paul and writes, "God ... justifies the wicked" (Rom 4:5). Think about this: earthly judges are to justify the righteous, the innocent, the pure while the heavenly Judge justifies the wicked, the sinner, the fallen. This must have shocked Paul's Roman readers. How could God possibly do such a thing? It is outrageous that the Divine Judge should practice what He has forbidden human judges to do. How can God treat unrighteous people as being righteous? The very thought sounds preposterous.
How can God treat unrighteous people as being righteous? To answer this question I want to look with you at the source, ground, means, and results of justification.
II The Source, Grounds, Means, and Effects of Justification
A What is the source of justification? Paul tells us when he says we are "justified freely by his grace" (Rom 3:24). Being justified by grace first means that we are justified by God. No one can justify themselves. Sinners can't declare other sinners to be righteous, pure, and holy. Self-justification is a sheer impossibility. Therefore, says Paul, "it is God who justifies" (Rom 8:33). But, then, it is only God Who can.
Being justified by grace also means that we are justified "freely" (Rom 3:24). It is a free gift. It is not something we earn, or deserve, or merit. It means we do not get what we deserve. In fact, we get exactly the opposite of what we deserve. Don't forget, "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Rom 3:10). We – all of us – deserve condemnation and everlasting hell-fire; instead, we are justified freely by His grace. My brothers and sisters, that is the way I got saved. And, that is also the way you got saved. We do the sinning and God, freely out of grace, treats us as if we did NOT sin. We do the sinning and God, freely out of grace, justifies us.
Topic: SalvationWell, except for the end, those kids had it completely right.
Subtopic: Only Through Christ
Title: You Gotta Be Dead
This preacher said:
I was testing the children in my Sunday school class to see if they understood the concepts of grace and salvation. I asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?" "NO!" the children all answered.
"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, the answer was, "NO!"
By now I was starting to smile. Hey, this was fun! Well then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked them again. Again, they all answered, "NO!"
I was just bursting with pride for them. Well, I continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?" A five-year-old boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD."
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we want to remember that the source for justification is God's free grace.
B What is the basis, the ground, for God justifying guilty people? How can He do this without contradicting His own justice? After all, God's justice says sin must be punished. Paul's answer: God justifies by Christ's blood (Rom 5:9); we are justified by Christ's "sacrifice of atonement (Rom 3:25) and by the "redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). What does this mean? This means justice is still carried out, sin is punished, evil is redressed, guilt is dealt with. How? Simple, really. Christ took it on. Christ took our place. God's justice was experienced by Him, our sin was punished in Him, our evil was redressed by Him, our guilt was borne by Him. "Justified by his blood" means that Jesus has borne the penalty of our law-breaking.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we want to remember that the ground for justification is the blood of Christ.
C What is the means of justification? Paul answers this when he tells us we are "justified by faith" (Rom 5:1; cf Rom 3:22). We need to understand this correctly. Faith never saves us. We are not justified because we believe. God's grace is the source, Christ's blood is the ground, and faith is only the means of justification. Faith is the means by which we are united to Christ. Furthermore, faith is the only means. Without faith, in other words, we cannot be justified.
Topic: ForgivenessWhat is true for George Wilson is true for us. In order to be justified, we must accept what God, out of grace, has done for us by the blood of Christ.
Title: The Pardon
About the year 1830, a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. However, President Andrew Jackson sent him a pardon. But Wilson did a strange thing. He refused to accept the pardon, and no one knew what to do. So the case was carried to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Marshall, perhaps one of the greatest justices ever, wrote the court's opinion. In it he said, "A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged." And so he was.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we want to remember that the means of our justification is faith.
D Finally, we want to ask about the effects of justification. The first is acceptance. When He justifies us God accepts us. Yes, He knows we are miserable sinners. Yes, He knows we are not worthy to be called His children. Yes, He knows there is nothing pure and holy about us. Yet, He accepts us anyway. He accepts us as His children. He accepts us as true descendants of Abraham. He accepts us as part of His church. He accepts us into the Kingdom.
The second effect is holiness, or godliness, or sanctification. People who are justified not only are pronounced holy, they also want to become holy. Justified people have their character and conduct changed so that in all things they strive to please God. As the little boy put it, you gotta be dead – that is, you gotta be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11).
The third effect is confidence. Paul puts it best later on in Romans when he says
(Rom 8:33-34) Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he that condemns?The point is that justified people can look with humble confidence to the future, the Kingdom, the coming again of Jesus Christ, and even the Final Judgment. They have nothing to fear even though they are guilty and sinful and fallen.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we want to remember that the effects of our justification is acceptance and holiness and confidence.
God has justified us, my brothers and sisters. He says, "I will treat you sinners like you are NOT GUILTY." The source for this is God's grace; the ground is Christ's blood; the means is faith; and the effects are acceptance, holiness, and confidence.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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