Sermon: Justified by the Returning King - Romans 3

Because we stand accepted by God through the Lord who will one day return to us, we can live freely each day to obey Him joyfully until then.

Sermon series: Living in Light of the Returning King

  1. Justified by the Returning King
  2. Following the Returning King
  3. Perseverance through the Returning King
  4. Consummation in the Returning King

Scripture: Romans 3:21-26

Connection to unit theme

We are born with a radical disease that results in death. Our rebellion has left us guilty before God and deserving of His wrath. In the gospel, Christ Jesus provides our justification, the radical remedy we need. Because we stand accepted by God through the Lord who will one day return to us, we can live freely each day to obey Him joyfully until then.

Introduction idea

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love." So wrote Burt Bacharach in 1965. Is he correct? Is love what the world really needs? If you were tasked with writing a song about what the world truly needs, what would you put in the place of "love"? Perhaps your answer would be a change of circumstances, sweet circumstances. Or maybe it would be behavior, better behavior. Or, more theological knowledge. Or, as many in our culture suggest, self-esteem. Maybe what the world needs now is for everyone to feel better about themselves.

None of these "solutions" reach the core of our problem. If we don't understand the depth of our problem we can't offer correct solutions. Reactions to the Newtown tragedy illustrate this point well. Minutes after the deadly shooting pundits offered their opinions about what would prevent such tragedies in the future. Seldom did anyone mention the core of the problem: the woeful condition of our hearts.

The Bible proclaims we are spiritually dead and our hearts are terminally diseased. Superficial remedies will not work. As John Stott has said, "A radical disease requires a radical remedy." Solutions such as improved behavior or better circumstances might help for a season, but will eventually fail because they don't go deep enough.

If we really want change, we need must admit the radical nature of our problem. Romans 3 is the climax of Paul's argument that both Jew and Gentile alike are guilty before God. All have the same radical disease that requires a radical remedy.

I. Our sin requires a radical remedy - 3:21-23

One superficial response to change is to believe right observance of the Law will do the trick. The problem with this response is its failure to address how radical our disease is. This is why Paul says, "but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law."

The Law is like the "check engine" light on the dashboard of your car. It can tell you there is a problem, it can even diagnose the problem, but it is helpless to fix it. The light's function is to prod you to take your car to the mechanic. Yet the Law does tell us how horribly we fall short. Paul sums it up by saying, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." God lovingly created us in His image to display His glory through our enjoyment of Him. Yet, as the Law accuses, we all rebel against God's loving rule and choose instead to pursue our own enjoyment and glory. As a result of our rebellion we are now spiritually dead, enslaved, and under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Application: What superficial remedies might you be trusting in? Is the Law prodding you to change? Are you allowing God's Law to make you aware of your sin, or are you using it to try earning your own righteousness?

II. Christ is our radical remedy - 3:24-26

Why would someone ignore a "check engine" light? It could be laziness. One might ignore it because they have little knowledge of cars and don't take it seriously. The most likely reason may be a lack of resources to fix the problem. Romans 8:3 says that "God had done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do." What has God done? He has justified us. He has lovingly acted to rescue and restore humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ God is reversing the curse of Genesis 3.

Romans 3:24-26 shows that this rescue and restoration comes to us "by grace as a gift." Justification is a declaration that, in faith, we are acceptable to God and our sins are pardoned. God has credited the righteousness of Jesus Christ to our account. Everything has been accomplished for us in Christ. In Him we have the resources necessary to cure our radical disease.

Application: Have you come to Christ to receive His pardon? If you are a believer, are you still trusting in Christ to cover your "after-conversion" sins?

Conclusion idea

You can ignore a "check engine" light, crank up the radio to drown out an engine noise, apply duct-tape to a cracked dashboard, or even disconnect a warning buzzer. We often treat sin this way. Rather than acknowledge our problem we try to silence the Law's condemnation. When this fails we attempt foolish, half-hearted solutions rather than doing the one thing needed; heartfelt repentance toward Jesus. When the Law condemns us we should agree with its accusation and flee to Christ.

It has been said that you are either wholly justified or wholly condemned. This is true because one is either "in Christ" or "in Adam". All who are in Christ are totally justified - there are not degrees of justification. Our position before God has been forever changed. But the benefits of justification do not stop there. Christ's work has radically transformed us, giving us freedom and power to obey the Law. The Law drives us to Christ, where our rebellious hearts find healing.

Mike Leake is the husband of Nikki, father of Isaiah and Hannah, as well as the associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Jasper, Indiana. He frequently writes at SBC Voices and his personal blog, mikeleake.net. He is also slowly working toward completing his Master's of Divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.