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Romans 3:21-31

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Romans 3:21–24 ESV
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Intro:

Briefly, before we jump into today’s text, let me remind you what the book of Romans is all about.
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Paul is writing to a group of people who had received the life saving message of Jesus. Believers had traveled to Rome, they had declared Jesus to the unbelievers there… AND, THROUGH THE WORK OF THE HS, MANY PEOPLE CAME TO FAITH… AND A CHURCH WAS FORMED.
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Unlike the other churches to whom Paul wrote… he did not play a part in starting this work in Rome. God worked, in spite of any apostles participation…
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Unlike the other churches to whom Paul wrote, this is not a letter of correction. Paul is not prompted to sit down with pen and paper and write a letter, because news of troublesome behavior had gotten back to him.
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PAUL WROTE TO THE ROMAN CHURCH, BECAUSE THEY HAD RECEIVED SALVATION IN AND THROUGH THE GOOD NEWS… THE GOSPEL OF JESUS… -but that’s all they really knew.
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They had received the Gospel that saved them… But had yet to understand the Gospel that maintained them.
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THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN ABOUT THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST… there were many other aspects of Jesus’ work, that needed application in their lives…
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SALVATION IS GREAT… But without an understanding of Jesus’ all encompassing work in the life of the believer… A saved person is just as prone to create, establish and enforce wrong doctrine, and wrong ideas.... as anyone else.
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THE UNKNOWING WORLD LOOKS ON IN JUDGMENT AT THE CHURCH AND CRITICIZES OUR DIVISION… Sometimes, it’s the church itself that criticizes the division…
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And the critics are right… we are divided. But, even as they propose that everyone lay down their differences and come together as one… it can’t happen… the beliefs that divide us, are too strong.
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Every since the first church formed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost… people have been getting saved… and those same people have been forming their own ideas.
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The church in Rome was isolated from a source of apostolic instruction. They were saved… they had some stories… they had some testimonies…
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SLIDE 3

They had the Gospel that saves, but not the Gospel that maintains

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They were at risk of forming their own ideas for the Christian life… So… to help prevent that.... TO PREVENT THEM FROM COMING UP WITH:
DOCTRINES THAT WOULD LEAD THEM INTO SINFUL BONDAGE…
DOCTRINES THAT WOULD ROB THEM OF THE FREEDOM THAT JESUS OFFERS TO THE BELIEVER...
DOCTRINES THAT WOULD LEAD THEM AWAY FROM HOLINESS AND INTO MORAL COMPROMISE...
DOCTRINES THAT WERE ADOPTED FROM THE RELIGIOUS LIVES THAT JESUS SAVED THEM FROM...
DOCTRINES THAT WOULD BLIND THEM TO THE REALITIES OF GRACE THAT JESUS OFFERED THEM…
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Paul wrote to them, and delivered the ultimate commentary on the Gospel.
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The church I got saved in, was a good church to get saved in, because salvation was the ONLY thing they ever talked about.
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I actually took my step of faith at a summer camp that this church sent me to… But only after witnessing and hearing the salvation message time and time again. I’m pretty sure I even responded to that message a few times out of guilt.
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It was a good church to get saved in… but it was not a good church to learn anything else about the Gospel in.
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They knew the book of Romans… but it was only taught in the context of the Roman Road… which is a short list of verses which outline a person’s need for Jesus… and how that person can become saved.
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They taught the Gospel that saved… but not the Gospel that maintained.
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AS WE MOVE ON INTO CHAPTER 3, STARTING AT VERSE 21, PAUL BEGINS TO BUILD HIS GREAT LESSON… NOT ONLY ON THE MESSAGE THAT SAVES… but also, the message that maintains..
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Chapter 1:1-17 were words of personal introductions and personal testimonies… But, beginning at verse 18, Paul delivered a message that didn’t end till verse 20 of chapter 3..
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That message was crystal clear… It doesn’t matter who you are… or what you have done… or what religion you have followed… or what family you have been born into… - NONE OF THAT MATTERS…
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you are… completely hopeless and in utter despair. There is no hope for salvation in your works… in your birthright… in your religion… - in you whatsoever. THERE IS NO HOPE FOR SALVATION, IN ANY WORK THAT YOU CAN PERFORM.
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THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE THAT PAUL HAS DELIVERED TO EVERY ASPECT OF HUMANITY:
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SLIDE 4

We need Jesus!

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You might ask… why did Paul have to say so much, just to say… “we need Jesus”?
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Well, because he’s writing to humans… and humans will always look for a way to exempt themselves.. OH, THAT’S THOSE PEOPLES’ PROBLEM… OH, I’M NOT LIKE THAT… OH, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A GOOD PERSON...
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So, to every group that would make an exception for itself, Paul wrote: - NOPE, YOUR ATTEMPTS AT EXEMPTING YOURSELF, DO NOT WORK. IN YOUR OWN EFFORTS… THERE IS NO HOPE.
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bu the works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight…
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So, here we are, at a place of despair.. all is lost… and Paul introduces a glorious transition:
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SLIDE 5

BUT NOW...

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He just told them in the previous verse… that the works of the law will not justify any human being.
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But now… NOW!!!! NOW!!! the righteousness has been manifested apart from the law.
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WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
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It means, that God has done something for all of us… WHICH IS… different… separate… set apart from - what we can do in our own efforts… or in our own strength… which.. btw… is how the law is obeyed… in our own effort… and in our own strength.
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It is not by the works of the law that we gain righteousness… but rather, as we learned in the previous verse..
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IT’S BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW… THAT WE LEARN… basically… WHAT UNRIGHTEOUSNESS IS… OR.. we learn: WHAT IMPERFECTION, IMPURITY, DISOBEDIENCE, AND INCAPABILITY IS.
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through the law comes knowledge of sin.
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God has shown us what a righteous, pure, holy, and obedient life looks like… and from the moment Moses revealed the ten commandments, to this very moment, today, right now…
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nobody has achieved righteousness through the law.
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SOME PEOPLE NATURALLY STILL THINK IN TERMS OF THE LAW… they can’t help it… it just seem logical... and it’s easy for our fallen NATURE to make sense of.
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so… for many people… the law is a LIST OF RULES… As long as I follow this list of rules, God will be happy with me… - But Paul has made it clear… anything that is less than perfect in our flesh… is not good enough.
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Some think of the law like a check list… as long as you go through these certain motions, and follow these certain steps, and fill every little box in with a gold star… then God will be happy.
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SOME PEOPLE THINK OF THE LAW AS THEIR MEANS OF PROMOTION… If they can do more things in the law than another person, then they can lord it over them… they can be the boss.. they can be looked upon as a great spiritual leader.. THEIR ROBES WILL BE FANCY, THEIR HATS WILL BE TALL… THEY’LL HOLD SCEPTERS… THEY’LL HAVE THRONES… and people will have to submit themselves to their greatness.
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PEOPLE HAVE BEEN STRIVING TO GAIN RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW… and Paul tells them.... THAT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD WAS MADE MANIFEST APART FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW..
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And it should come as no surprise to a student of the Law and of the Prophets… For they bear witness to this…
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SLIDE 5
Romans 3:22 ESV
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
Romans
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through faith… not ‘by’ faith… and there is a difference.
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We can see the distinction clearly in .
SLIDE 6
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Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
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By grace… this is how God accomplishes our salvation… by His work of grace…
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But how do we experience the work of grace that God has done? Through faith. Faith provides the avenue through which God can deliver His miraculous gift into our lives.
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-If we were to saY, that we were saved, by faith, RATHER THAN ‘THROUGH FAITH’… then we are turning faith into a work.
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SOME DO THAT. SOME TURN FAITH INTO A WORK.
- IF YOU DO FAITH GOOD… IF YOU DO FAITH RIGHT… THEN GOD IS OBLIGATED TO RESPOND TO YOUR WORK OF SUPER POSITIVE THINKING AND SUPER POSITIVE CONFESSING.. And because of your work of faith… God will heal you.. God will enrich you… God will promote you…
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AND THEN: When all those promises that they gave on Christian TV fail you…-the TV preacher climbs in his jet plane and flies home to his mansion while you continue to struggle…
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well.. the blame falls squarely on you… you didn’t receive.. you were not healed.. you are not free of debt… BECAUSE: you must’ve had a doubt. - So instead of being set free by Jesus… you are instead… left in a place of despair… and bondage.
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There are entire doctrines that turn faith into law. Jesus wants to bless your lives by grace through faith… and the church is coming up with crazy doctrines that take God’s work of grace out of the equation, replacing it, with a work of faith…
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Faith, for us… is simply a matter of trusting what jesus has done on the cross.
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You are trusting that your chairs will hold you up today… through faith… you relinquish your weight onto that chair…
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but it was the engineer and the welder, and the fabricator… who actually did the work which enables you to rest your bodies… nearly 2 feet above the ground.
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The church at Ephesus was told this with clarity… this is not your doing… - it is the gift of God… this is not a result of works… you may not boast in your acquisition of salvation.
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At the end of vs. 22, back here in Romans 3, Paul continues to remind his Jewish readers, that they are on equal footing, before God… with the Gentiles… and he reminds the Gentiles… that they are on equal footing with the Jews.
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God’s work of grace, is delivered through faith… and it doesn’t matter who you are… it only matters that you have faith.
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There is no distinction…
SLIDE 7
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
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THE BEST AND THE WORST PERSON… THEY ARE ALL SAVED THE SAME WAY… BECAUSE: they have all fallen short of the glory of God.
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God’s glory… His Wonder… His might… His signature upon creation… the beauty that amazes us a we look at a DNA strand… or at a mountain range… or at the far off galaxies…
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His glory… can only be defined as ‘amazing’.
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It’s hard to know what it means, practically, to fall short of His glory.. - does it means that we fall short in giving Him glory… because: what we are able to give, is so insufficient compared to Him?
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MAYBE WE FALL SHORT IN BEING A REFLECTION OF HIS GLORY… Adam was created in perfection… Before the fall, Adam and Eve were perfect reflections of God’s glory… - But then, that perfection broke… and humanity became the mess we recently studied in chapter one… WE can no longer reflect the glory that existed in our original creation.
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Maybe it simply means.... we can never be as amazing as God is… or, we can never satisfy the amazing standards of an amazing God.
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IM NOT CLEAR, EXACTLY, ON WHAT WE ARE FALLING SHORT OF… but I am clear on the fact that we all, are missing the mark.
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All have sinned. All have missed the mark of perfection. The word ‘sin’ was used in archery - WHEN SOMEONE MISSED THE BULLSEYE… THEY WERE TOLD… THAT THEY SINNED. It could have been an excellent shot…
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in the wind from 100 yards in the rain with a long bow and crooked arrow… the arrow hits, 1/8th of an inch from dead center- THAT SHOT IS A MIRACLE… IT IS MORE THAN IMPRESSIVE. but when the judge looks at it… it is called: sin.
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And then… they guy with the fancy compound bow… from 20 yards… no wind.. no rain.. with the counterweights and the sights and the range finder… he shoots, and sinks his arrow in the dirt 5 feet in front of the target… THE JUDGE LOOKS AT IT.... IT IS CALLED: SIN.
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Here’s the message so far…
YOU CAN NO GAIN RIGHTEOUSNESS BY YOUR WORKS.
YOU CAN ONLY RECEIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS BY BELIEVING IN THE WORK OF JESUS
THERE IS NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN GREAT ARCHER WITH A LONG BOW IN THE RAIN… OR HORRIBLE ARCHER WITH ALL THE BEST EQUIPMENT…
ALL HAVE SINNED. ALL FALL SHORT.
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Romans 3:
SLIDE 8
Romans 3:24–25 ESV
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
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Here is the means by which one receives justification: we receive it: AS A GIFT. - Basically: If it’s not free, then we can’t have it.
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In the world we live in… if someone is trying to give us something good, for free, we naturally think that there’s a catch.
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And there pretty much… always is.
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When it comes to the most amazing thing that could ever be given to you… your salvation… your restored relationship with God…
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IT’S THE OTHER WAY AROUND… There is no catch… the only way that you can receive it… is freely, as a gift.
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Now, this word ‘gift’ is interesting… because, sometimes we give gifts for a cause… if you accomplished something… like a graduation… or a wedding.. or you got good grades… you might get a gift.
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That kind of gift, is not this kind of gift..
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++For instance… check out this passage in
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Matthew 10:8 ESV
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
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or, you might be more familiar with the wording: ‘freely you have received, freely give.’
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SLIDE 10
John 15:25 ESV
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
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how did they hate? without cause.. - JESUS DID NOT EARN THEIR HATE - this is the same word that Paul interprets as ‘gift’… they hated me ‘freely w/o cause’.
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Once again: PAUL RE-ENFORCES THE CONCEPT OF GRACE HERE… We only can be justified before God… by receiving a gift, that we have not earned with a cause.
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IN VERSE 25, WE COME TO A BIG RELIGIOUS WORD: Propitiation - -It’s not a word that we would generally use in regular conversation with our mechanic, or with our neighbor, or with our children..
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It’s a religious term: it means: ‘to turn away anger by the offering of a gift’
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It would have been familiar to the Romans in a religious sense, for they would have understood it to mean: “satisfying the gods with a sacrifice”.
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- JESUS SATISFIED GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON SIN… - the very same sin that all of mankind is guilty of … and because of what Jesus has done.. our guilt can be replaced with righteousness of God… freely w/o cause… BY FAITH!
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Romans 3:26 ESV
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
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Notice this: God is just, and God is the justifier.. which means… He is the one who makes people just.
-If He is is only just, and not a justifier… then He can condemn all..
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But praise God… He is also a justifier.. - he is also.. IN THE BUSINESS OF SETTING STRAIGHT… THE BROKEN AND CROOKED PEOPLE WHO COME TO HIM BELIEVING…
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SLIDE 12
romans 3.
Romans 3:27–31 ESV
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
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Boasting is such an unbiblical thing to do… - having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude… which is a ‘boastful attitude’… is such an unbiblical thing to have.
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This is why: the natural man hates grace. Grace takes from us… the right to boast.
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Because of grace, we can’t point back at anything that we did… any work, any gift, any act of generosity, any performance… and pat ourselves on the back for it..
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God has done everything for us… and anything we give back, can be one of two things..
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An act of worship and thanksgiving with eternal ramifications… -or.. - a temporary reward of human recognition.
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Many of you are great servants… who give and do things above and beyond.. - And when you do it, I know that you are striving to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing..
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I know that you don’t want recognition for the service, or for the gift.. AND I DON’T WANT TO GIVE IT TO YOU… Yes, I feel compelled to give it to you. I feel compelled to recognize your gifts and your work… BUT I ALSO DON’T WANT TO ROB YOU.
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I am thankful for you. And so, sometimes you might get a note or a card, or something verbal… and I am saying thank you for being a servant… for being obedient… for being a giver… but I’m not going to thank you for a specific dollar amount, or a project, or a gift.
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I don’t want to get in the way of something eternal and real between you and God.
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What becomes of our boasting? IT IS EXCLUDED. THE LAW OF WORKS IS OUT THE WINDOW… we are now operating under the law of faith..
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In verses 29-30… again, Paul reminds the Jews and the Gentiles that they are on level playing field. He has had to do this multiple times… WHY? -BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE NATURALLY DRAWN TO THE IDEA THAT THEIR SECT, THEIR HERITAGE, THEIR RACE, THEIR NATIONALITY, THEIR POLITICAL IDENTITY… -makes them better than other people.
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THE CHURCH HAS HAD IT’S FAIR SHARE OF THIS… The church has tried to embrace and justify some form of prejudice… one way or the other since the beginning..
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Jews got saved… Jews hated Gentiles and Samaritans… they brought that hatred with them into the church.
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Samaritans got saved… Gentiles got saved.. they hated the Jews… they brought that hatred with them into church…
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We’ve been struggling with this stuff in the church since the very beginning… - and even today… in 2018… -groups assemble themselves together under some form of commonality… whether it be race, or socioeconomic status, or doctrine, or whatever… and they subtly fall into the idea that their group is somehow better than the other groups.
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SLIDE 13

No One Is Better!

NO ONE IS BETTER… paul has repeated this idea over and over again… AS WE STAND BEFORE GOD… AS WE RECEIVE HIS GRACE… WE ALL BELIEVE IN THE SAME THING, AND RECEIVE FREELY THE SAME SALVATION… THE SAME WAY.
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NOW.. in closing… consider verse 31 - -do we then overthrow the law by faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
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I’m not going to explain that verse to you today… it belongs to next week’s study… this is Paul’s transition into the message of Justification by Faith.
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So next week… we’ll reference back to this verse… as it gives us context for what is yet to come.
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With that: Let’s close!

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