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3-27 The Gospel Leaves No Room for Boasting!

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MBC – 3/6/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson

“The Gospel Leaves No Room for Boasting!”

Romans 3:27-31

Ø      ROM 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

Ø      ROM 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

Ø      ROM 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Ø      ROM 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Ø      ROM 3:25 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;

Ø      ROM 3:26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Ø      ROM 3:27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

Ø      ROM 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Ø      ROM 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,

Ø      ROM 3:30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Ø      ROM 3:31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Intro and review on the atonement.

For the last several years, a group of so-called Christian scholars from all over the world meet together in Santa Rosa to work on a project. The group is the Jesus Seminar, and the project is to vote on which portions of the Gospel should actually be considered historical. They vote! The founder of the “Jesus Seminar” said this:

Ø      “The doctrine of the atonement—the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction—is subrational and subethical. This monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system in which the gods had to be appeased by offering them some special gift such as a child or an animal.”

Paul said “may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What is grotesque and foolish to unbelievers is the most precious truth in the world to believers. Romans has brought us to a study of what Christ’s death on the cross means. There is nothing deeper than the doctrine of the atonement, but there is nothing that is more personal and relevant to every one of us.

I believe that deep in the heart of every person, there are two questions that are bound to surface at one time or another:

1.) Is there justice in this universe? Will people who commit horrible, heinous crimes ever get what they deserve? We think about those who torture children. The BTK killer, a serial murderer who got away with it for 30 years. What if he or Scott Peterson dies of natural causes before they can be executed—do they just get away with it?

  • A man named Richard Rubenstein told a story about what happened one Sunday afternoon in the Buchenwald concentration camp where Jews were being tortured and killed like animals. A group of Jews decided to put God on trial for neglecting His chosen people. He says, “Witnesses were produced for the prosecution and the defense, but the case for the prosecution was overwhelming. The judges were Rabbis. They found the accused—God—to be guilty and they solemnly condemned Him.” He said that after the Holocaust it was impossible to believe in God.

Deep in our hearts, we desperately want to know if there is a God who will exact justice. And deep in our hearts, we know what Abraham knew: (Gen.18:25) “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"

But that has to prompt another question, if we think about it at all—

2.) Will God forgive me? And how can He? You and I know our own hearts and our actions. How many of us here would be in jail or dead if we received the just consequences of our sins? So there is a tension in our minds: we sense this deep necessity for justice, but we also want it to bypass us—but how can that work? Remember Spurgeon’s pre-conversion struggle that we read 2 weeks ago? “The sin I had committed must be punished. But then there was the question how God could be just, and yet justify me who had been so guilty. I asked my heart: ‘How can He be just and yet the justifier?’”

Beloved, the Cross is God’s answer to both of these questions because it declares the righteousness of God: Yes, there is a just, holy God, who will punish every sin of every person to the nth degree. No one gets away with anything. Every sin of Hitler and Stalin and Scott Peterson will be fully punished--and every sin of you and me will be fully punished.

  • Remember the analogy we used about the train: God’s wrath and coming judgment on sin is like a huge, thundering train roaring down the tracks. For those who thumb their noses at God and ignore His mercy, and mock the gospel, they are tied to track and they will be crushed. But the Cross de-rails the train for those who trust in Christ, and sends all of God’s wrath on their sins—onto Jesus Christ, and He is crushed in their place. If Jesus has suffered in your place, then God’s wrath is spent. It’s over. You will never face God’s judgment for your sins. What Jesus cried out on the Cross before He died was for believers and believers only: “It is finished!”

My friends, the train is coming. Will it crush you, or has it already crushed Christ in your place? As long as you are still breathing there is time to de-rail the train!

Now let’s tie this into vv.27-31, and I’m going to give just a quick explanation of what Paul is saying here:

I. Why the Gospel removes boasting.

In v.27, Paul asks, “Where then is boasting?” Answer? There’s no room for anyone to boast about their salvation in this scheme! Why not? Because you don’t have anything to do with it—nothing at all. You can’t take any credit for something you didn’t do. God saved you through His electing grace, through Christ’s righteous life and substitutionary death, and the Holy Spirit’s regenerating call on your life. Your salvation is all of God and His grace. Give Him all the glory and the praise!

“But I did the believing!”

“God didn’t believe for me! It was my faith that de-railed the train—isn’t that something?” Well that is an understandable question, but hold on to this thought--I’ll demolish it in just a second--but remember, Paul is contrasting faith with works—right? He is setting them against each other as 2 opposite ways to approach salvation. So whatever faith is, it can’t be something that earns salvation. God doesn’t save because of anything we do:

I heard a girl say once, “I’m just so glad that I was smart enough to believe in Jesus!” I hope she was really was a child of God, but if so, it certainly had nothing to do with her intelligence, but only the grace of God. But do you see that if people came to Christ because they were smart enough of good enough or “religious enough” to believe in Christ, they could boast when they got to heaven that they were there because they had something over those who didn’t choose Christ.

Ø      I’ve had this conversation with Arminian friends who reject what the Bible says—that God chose us unconditionally, apart from anything good within us. They believe that God looked down through history and chose those who would choose Him—so He picked the winners. And they reject total depravity: they believe that some lost sinners, in and of themselves, with their free will, choose Christ. I asked an Arminian friend: “Aren’t you saying that ultimately, the reason you are a Christian and someone else isn’t, is because of you and your choice, not God and His choice?” “Yes.” “Then you have something to boast about over others.” He replied, “Oh I would never take credit for my salvation!”

But he could! Bless his heart, he’s humble, but not logical. When Paul asks, “Where is boasting?” He isn’t saying, “Now let’s be try to be humble here. I know that you could boast if you wanted to, but it just doesn’t look very Christian.”  No! He is saying, there is no reason for boasting, no basis, because you really have nothing to boast about!

Beloved, let me say it as plainly as I can: When it comes to the good news of the Gospel, most Christians today—most—have heard it wrong! They have heard that God put His Son on the cross to make salvation possible for anyone who is smart enough or logical enough or desperate enough to believe it. But that is where God stopped—He can’t go any further. The rest is up to us—He’s not sovereign, we are.

Ø      But my friends, God’s amazing grace is much more amazing than that! Much more amazing than God simply making salvation possible for good-hearted people who want to get saved. The amazing grace of the Gospel is that JESUS SAVES. God sent His Son to seek and to save the lost! He has to seek them, because there are none who seek after God, not even one. And He has to save them, because they can’t save themselves. He doesn’t make salvation possible, He—saves! He does everything, from start to finish to get stubborn, lost sinners into heaven.

Yes, He does it through faith—

Ø      EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith--and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (the faith to believe is itself a gift from God!)

Ø      EPH 2:9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

Ø      EPH 2:10 For we are His workmanship. . .

There is no boasting in a salvation that is through faith—more in a minute.

He goes on with a rhetorical question: “Or is God the God of the Jews only, Is He not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”

Why is Paul talking to himself? Well he is really talking to stubborn Jews who thought that they were the only ones who would receive any mercy from God. Paul says, “You all believe that God is one, right? Well isn’t He the God of Gentiles too? (They would have to say yes, there can’t be two gods, one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles.) Well, how could Gentiles be saved if salvation came through keeping the Law of Moses and they didn’t have it? No, God’s way of being saved is the same for Jews or Gentiles, it’s through faith. 

So another question might arise, again from a Jew: “So Paul, you are throwing out the OT?” No, salvation through faith doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the Law of God, as a matter of fact, it is essential:

  • ROM 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The Law of God was not given as a way of being saved, it was given to show us our sinfulness and our need for the mercy of God! So the Law has a place even in your evangelism and mine:

Our Crossroads group heard the actor Kirk Cameron talk about this at the conference they went to: When you and I are talking to people nowadays, a whole lot of them don’t see any need for a Savior because they don’t understand how they have offended a holy God. This is where you bring in the Law of God:

  • “So, you think you’re a pretty good person—do you ever lie?”

  • “Well, yeah, I suppose, I mean, everybody lies once in a while.”

  • “So you tell lies. . . what does that make you?”

  • “A liar?”  “Yep. Let me ask you this: “Do you ever steal?”

  • “Uh, no, I don’t steal.”  “You expect me to believe that? You just told me you were a liar.”  etc. . . . .

So the Gospel establishes a place for God’s Law, it doesn’t do away with it. And it establishes the Law in another way too: Salvation is not on the basis of you or I keeping God’s Law. It couldn’t be, because we can’t do it! God’s standard is 100% obedience, and one infraction blows the whole deal. We could never be saved by keeping the Law.

But salvation is on the basis of keeping the law—am I contradicting myself? No, listen carefully: salvation is not on the basis of our keeping the Law, it’s on the basis of Jesus’ keeping the Law! For all of those who trust in Him, He is their Substitute before God, right? His death on the cross substitutes for theirs as punishment for their sins, and His perfect, obedient life and lawkeeping, substitutes for their disobedience and lawbreaking!

* * *

The point we want to make this morning is that a salvation is all for God’s glory, as Paul says at the conclusion of 11 chapters of gospel teaching in Rom.11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be the glory!

This is why God devised a plan to save sinners that doesn’t involve any contribution from them, because then there would be a basis for boasting and He would have to share the glory. Every other religion in the world gives man a part, and therefore, something to boast about:

Ø      Imagine two chairs in the middle of an empty room. One chair is labeled "Do" and the other chair is labeled "Done." Those two chairs represent the two kinds of religion in the world—two ways to get to heaven. Every religion is either a "Do" religion or a "Done" religion.

The "Do" religions say that in order to please God you have to do something: pray, join a church, give money, be good, keep a list of dos and don'ts, go to Mass, offer a sacrifice, make a pilgrimage, wear certain clothing, go to the temple twice a year, follow the Ten Commandments, and so on. Now all of these religions might seem to be very different on the outside, but they all teach that salvation is "earned" by the things you do. And if you do something, you have something to boast about when you get to heaven.

Ø      Every religion in the world is a "Do" religion, except one. Christianity is a "Done" religion. Finished. The question is, “Which chair will you sit in? Every one picks one or the other. But if you pick the one that says “Done,” you have nothing to boast about, right? “Can I help, can I bring anything?” No. Nothing. It is Finished!

And God gets all the glory. But--

II. If works have any part in salvation, we have something to boast about:

If we contribute even 1% to our salvation, there is room to boast, so Paul makes it as clear as he possibly can—

Ø      ROM 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

V.28 was the backbone of Martin Luther’s theology, and if you have seen the movie, you remember that when Luther was kidnapped by his friends on the way back from the Diet of Worms, he was smuggled into the castle at Wartburg where he translated the Bible into German. And when he came to Romans 3:28, right after the word “faith,” he inserted the word “alone.” This was a dig at the Catholic church, because they didn’t believe that we are justified by faith alone. They believed we have to add our good works. So when Luther heard how furious they were with his translation, he wrote this:

Ø      “If your papist make much fuss about the word “sola,” alone, tell him at once, “Doctor Luther will have it so . . . Are the papists doctors? So am I. Are they theologians? So am I. . . therefore the word “alone” shall remain in my NT, and though all the papal donkeys get furious, they shall not take it out!”

[Shortly after this Luther signed up for a sensitivity training class at the local JC.]

The truth is, many other translators had put the word “alone” in this verse long before Luther did (Origin, Aquinas), because obviously, this is what Paul means! And Luther recognized that unless salvation is through faith alone, God alone will not get all the glory!

Did Rome repent and see the light? They did exactly the opposite: between 1546—the year Luther died, and 1564—the year John Calvin died, they convened a council called the Council of Trent to establish where they stood on the Gospel, and they made it official: salvation is by faith and works, not by faith alone in Christ alone.

Canon 9: “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification . . . let him be anathema.”

Canon 11: "If anyone says that men are justified . . . by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, or that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, (he is a Christian? No.) let him be anathema.”

I.e. The RCC officially denied the gospel, and officially became a false church. And the RCC has never changed its position. The RCC says that you can’t be saved if you sit in the “Done” seat:

Ø      "Many things are necessary for salvation. All these things work together faith, baptism, the Eucharist, the doing of good works, and others as well. Redemption is one thing, salvation is quite another. There is nothing lacking on Christ's part; there is much to be done on ours." ("The Apostles Creed" published by the Knights of Columbus, pps 18-19.)

Ø      Also, in a booklet published in 1967, under the sub-heading, "We Must Atone Too", it says that "even though the satisfaction of Christ was complete and universal, nevertheless all adult Christians are obliged to imitate their suffering Master and make personal satisfaction for their sins by good works.” ("You Shall Rise Again" published by the Knights of Columbus, p. 3.

But what does God’s Word say?

Ø      GAL 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.

But we need to make another point this morning about faith-- Faith is not a work. What do I mean? It’s not as though in salvation, God has His part and we have our part—faith. Faith is not our part in salvation--

III. If faith is a work, we have something to boast about.

I pray that I can be clear in explaining this because it is so important. Faith is not something that we do and God says, “Good job! Right answer! Now I will reward you with salvation for your faith!”

Ø      “Faith is nothing but the instrument of our salvation. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified because of our faith; nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified on account of our faith. The Scripture never says that. The Scripture says that we are justified by faith or through faith. Faith is nothing but the instrument or the channel by which this righteousness of God in Christ become ours. It is not faith that saves us. What saves us is the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect work. It is the death of Christ upon Calvary’s Cross that saves us. It is His perfect life that saves us. It is His appearing on our behalf in the presence of God that saves us. It is God putting Christ’s righteousness to our account that saves us. This is the righteousness that saves; faith is but the channel and the instrument by which His righteousness becomes mine. The righteousness is entirely Christ’s. My faith is not my righteousness and I must never define or think of faith as righteousness. Faith is nothing but that which links us to the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness.” D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 3:20-4:25, p.120

What is faith? Faith is not a power or force that we exert! All of this mumbo-jumbo you hear in songs and from motivational speakers about the power of faith and believing is just fluff. Faith in faith, believing in believing—is just optimism. Faith has no intrinsic value or power. Faith in itself is nothing, and does nothing. The value of faith is in what it believes. It’s not the faith that is important, it’s faith’s object. Faith in Christ saves because it trusts in Christ who saves!

  • It’s my old bridge illustration: You’re driving on a dark, stormy night and you come to an old wooden bridge that crosses a flooded, rushing river. You have to make a decision—should you cross or not? You decide that the bridge will hold, and your drive across.

  • What held your car up? Was it your faith--or was it the bridge? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It wasn’t your faith, it was the object of your faith! If that ole bridge was ready to crumble, your faith wouldn’t have mattered one bit. Faith will never carry you across a rushing river—only a bridge will do that.

We Christians tend to put too much emphasis on the act of trusting and too little on Who and what it is that we trust! Faith shouldn’t be introspective—looking inside, it should be extraspective—looking outside. And if you want to strengthen your faith, don’t sit on your couch grunting and straining to believe more—open your Bible with humility and reverence and stare at the content of your faith—what is to be believed. And you will get off the couch saying, “I believe it. That is absolutely true.”

*I have such a burden on my heart that every one of you here this morning understand the Gospel, trust in Christ, and find eternal life. But I know from being a Christian for over 3 decades now that many, many people come to church week after week, and are honestly convinced that they believe it and are on their way to heaven and they aren’t.

Let me ask you this morning, you who believe that you are on your way to heaven. “Why do you believe you are going to heaven? On what basis?”

Is your answer: “Because I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins?” or is it, “Because Jesus died on the cross for my sins—and I believe that!”

Do you see the difference? Are you trusting in your faith, are you trusting in Christ? Maybe you say, “You are splitting hairs, I don’t see the difference.” The difference is between trusting in yourself for your salvation—and trusting in Christ! I’m not saying that if you can’t articulate these things, you aren’t saved. But I am asking you this morning to seriously consider why you believe you will go to heaven when you die.

When you come to that rushing river, do you believe that your faith will carry you across, or do you believe that Christ alone can carry you across? Do you see the difference?

Do you say, “But I have to believe, I have to have the faith, I have to believe all this stuff—I’d better sit in the “Do” chair.” Or do you say, “I can’t do anything to save myself. My only hope is to sit in the “Done” chair.”? That’s what it means to trust in Christ alone for your salvation!

Ø      Missionary translating the Bible. . . looking for a word for faith. . . man came in bone-tired, collapsed in a chair. The missionary said, what is the word for what you just did? The man told him, and the missionary had his word for faith.

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