Romans – “Therefore…”
Many years ago Randy and I attended a convention of workshops for pastors. There were many great leaders we are interested in hearing and gleaning from their experiences. One, in particular was Max Lucado. The room filled quickly to overflow into the hallway. Pastor Lucado came into the room after all were settled in seats and shouted a hearty, “Good Morning, Saints!” An equally hearty response by all gathered was, “Good Morning, Pastor!” Then, without hesitation, Lucado shouted, “Good Morning, Sinners!” The crowd was taken aback and slowly responded with a quieter “Good Morning.” Randy and I smiled at each other. We know we are sinners saved only by God’s grace. We are saints only by the grace and generosity of Jesus Christ, His Son who died for our sin.
I think of this when I come to the passage where Paul explains the phenomenal grace of God. Some are flippant and irreverent and say that Paul is telling people to sin more so that God can give more grace. He sets them straight with what God intended. Read carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully. Let’s see what we learn so God can help us and we can help others.
Romans 3, The Message
1-2 So what difference does it make who’s a Jew and who isn’t, who has been trained in God’s ways and who hasn’t? As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference—but not the difference so many have assumed.
2-6 First, there’s the matter of being put in charge of writing down and caring for God’s revelation, these Holy Scriptures. So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Jews abandoned their post? God didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same:
Your words stand fast and true;
Rejection doesn’t faze you.
But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms God’s rightdoing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out? Since our bad words don’t even make a dent in his good words, isn’t it wrong of God to back us to the wall and hold us to our word? These questions come up. The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic No! How else would things ever get straightened out if God didn’t do the straightening?
7-8 It’s simply perverse to say, “If my lies serve to show off God’s truth all the more gloriously, why blame me? I’m doing God a favor.” Some people are actually trying to put such words in our mouths, claiming that we go around saying, “The more evil we do, the more good God does, so let’s just do it!” That’s pure slander, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
We’re All in the Same Sinking Boat
9-20 So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
God Has Set Things Right
21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
25-26 God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
27-28 So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
29-30 And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.
31 But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.
What do we learn?
–We are all sinners.
–God is generous with His love for us. So He sent His Son to save and redeem us as His own.
–By believing in Jesus as Savior as the Truth, Way and Life, we are saved. Jesus becomes Lord of our lives from a heart of gratefulness for His gift of eternal love for us. We love Him because He first loved us…and laid down His life for us.
–We are humbled, not proud, of what God has done for us.
–Our lives should confirm what God has done in us. We trust and obey His Word with a heart to please God in grateful praise for what He has done in us.
–We are saints, made holy by God…only God. We are not saints because of anything we do or say, only because of God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son.
“Nails didn’t hold God to a cross. the sinless one took on the face of a sinner so we sinners could take on the face of a Saint” – Max Lucado.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for saving my soul. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for loving me so much that you thought I was worth dying for. I give you my life. Continue to transform me to be more and more like you intended for me to be. We praise You as the One and Only who can give life eternal. Help me. Help those around me. In Jesus Name, Amen