Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 2: Sunday
You know, different parts of Scripture are dear to me for different reasons. I love Philippians because it brings me back to focus my life on Christ, I love Galatians because it’s Paul’s line in the sand to stand in the freedom of Christ, I love Hebrews because of the encouragement to hang on and trust and believe Christ, I love Ephesians because of the overflow of the riches of Christ that are so evident in it—but Romans—Romans is my rock. I became a Christian through Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter defines me. My sin and my Savior are all written within its heart. The power of God for salvation explodes from Paul’s words.
Last night the events of my day had left me too unsettled to go to sleep. I knew the Sunday Bible reading would bring me back to Romans; since it was already Sunday, I decided to open my Bible and read today’s reading: Romans 3–4.
In the first part of chapter 3, Paul quotes passages from Psalms and Isaiah 59, to make his point that “there is none righteous, not even one,” and he concludes that every mouth is closed and the entire world is accountable to God. You know, before I knew that Paul had used Isaiah 59 as part of his indictment of our sin, I was reading Isaiah 59, the summer I became a Christian. I had already found words in the passage that astonished me because they described exactly how I was feeling in my search to know God. In The Finished Work of Christ, Francis Schaeffer writes:
“The person who doesn’t have the Bible is judged by the perfect standard of God on the basis of his or her own condemnation of others, as we saw in 2:1. No one can ever say, “I have perfectly kept the standard by which I have judged others.” But then along comes the Jew, saying, “Yes, but we have the Bible.” And God says, “Yes, and you haven’t kept it either.” So, the conclusion now is all blackness. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh [ever] be justified in [God’s] sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
“We have come to the end of Paul’s presentation of the “first half of the gospel. Paul has taken most of the first chapter, all of the second chapter, and a lot of the third chapter to show us that we all need salvation. He hasn’t yet told us how to be saved.
“…Christianity differs radically from existentialism, and this is why people react so strongly to Christianity, but not to existentialism. Existentialism says man is a zero and he is hopelessly damned. Christianity says man is damned, not because of what he is but because of what he has freely chosen to do. If a man is damned because of what he is, you can’t say that he’s wrong—he’s just pathetic. But Christianity says that man is not pathetic. In fact, man is a marvelous creation of God. But he is also a rebel against God, and as such deserves God’s wrath. Man is not pathetic, man is a rebel…he is caught in a net, all right, but he is there by choice. And if men and women are caught in this net by choice, says the Bible, then there is something more involved: They must accept the responsibility, the guilt for being there.
“And that brings us to the second half of the gospel.”1
Those who have acknowledged their responsibility and guilt, who understand they are without ability to ever justify themselves before God and stand as a guilty rebel under His judgment, are ready to hear the second part of the Gospel. Now we hear the hope—“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.” The righteousness of God revealed.2
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In Romans 4, Paul will explain the last three verses of chapter 3: Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness:
A favorite song of mine is an old one by Nancy Honeytree, Clean Before My Lord. We either stand before God as a guilty rebel under His judgment, or through faith in Christ, we stand clean before Him in joy and wonder.
Where do you stand? Repent, and believe the Good News.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
1Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 70–71.
2My pastor, Mike Braun, when preaching through Romans, titled the first part of the letter, “God’s Righteousness Revealed.”
Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter