God's Game-Changing Answer
God's Game-Changing Answer
‘We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we are the worst people on the face of the earth and that nobody does as many wrong things as we do. But Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory (excellence) of God. Every man, woman, or child who was ever born, or ever will be, has a problem with sin. But the good news is that God has provided an answer to our dilemma,’ writes Joyce Meyer.
When Saint Augustine found the answer in 386, ‘a clear light flooded [his] heart’. Martin Luther found the answer and a few years later the Reformation began, in 1517. When John Wesley understood the answer in 1738, his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ and the seeds of a revival began.
In each case, their lives were radically changed through understanding ‘the righteousness of God’. It’s a game changer. The moment anyone comes to understand this expression, it changes your life. It certainly changed mine.
God’s answer gives you his peacePsalm 85:8-13
‘I grew up in an atmosphere of strife,’ writes Joyce Meyer, ‘and that was all I ever knew. I had to learn an entirely new way of living. Now I am addicted to peace. As soon as my peace disappears, I ask myself how I lost it and start looking for ways to get it back.’
God has promised ‘peace’ (v.8) to his people. This does not necessarily mean outward peace. The pressures, difficulties, trials, battles and busyness may not disappear. But in all this, God has promised to give you his peace. This peace comes from listening to what ‘God the Lord’ says (v.8).
Peace is very closely connected with righteousness. The psalmist says, ‘righteousness and peace kiss each other’ (v.10b). In the same way that love and faithfulness go together (v.10a), so do righteousness and peace. Peace comes from living in a right relationship with God (Romans 5:1).
God, thank you that you make it possible for me to walk in a right relationship with you and to enjoy the peace that follows.
God’s answer is a gift you receiveRomans 3:9-31
We long for peace. We long to be in a right relationship with God and with other people. But how do you receive this ‘righteousness from God’?
Paul continues his argument that no one is righteous on their own. ‘There's nobody living right, not even one’ (v.10b, MSG). ‘They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys’ (v.12, MSG). Righteousness is the way to peace, but the reality is that ‘the way of peace they do not know’ (v.17).
Paul concludes his argument in this section: ‘And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else?’ (v.20, MSG). The two little words that follow are of huge significance: ‘But now…’ (v.21).
Having set out the problem, Paul now moves on to describe God’s game-changing answer – ‘a righteousness from God’ (v.21). This righteousness from God cannot be achieved through the law because no one (apart from Jesus) has ever kept the entire law. The Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) testifies about this and points towards God’s answer (v.21).
‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (v.22). This righteousness from God cannot be earned. It is a pure gift that you receive ‘through faith in Jesus Christ’. It is a gift ‘to all who believe’ (v.22).
Paul then uses three images to describe what Jesus’ death on the cross has achieved. Each is like a facet of a diamond. Each image is intertwined with the others:
The penalty of sin has been paid
Justification is an expression from the law court. We ‘are justified freely by his grace’ (v.24). God is a just judge. He could not ignore our guilt.
He came in the person of his son Jesus Christ to die for you and me: ‘… in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (vv.25–26). He paid the penalty himself.
You are justified ‘freely by his grace’ (v.24). Grace means undeserved love. It is free. There is no merit on our part. You cannot earn it. It is a gift. Therefore, there is no room for boasting (vv.27–31).
Through his death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our every wrong action, word and thought. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you are justified. You have nothing to fear. The penalty has been paid. You have received the gift of righteousness from God.
The power of sin has been broken
The second image Paul uses comes from the marketplace: ‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (v.24).
Debt was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, they might be forced to sell themselves into slavery in order to pay them off.
Suppose a person was standing in the marketplace, offering themselves as a slave. Someone might have pity and pay the amount they owe, then let the person they’ve paid for go free. In doing so, they would be ‘redeeming’ them and paying a ‘ransom’ price.
In a similar way for us, ‘redemption… came by Jesus Christ’ (v.24). Your sins are like a debt that stands against you. Jesus, by his death on the cross, paid the ransom price (Mark 10:45). In this way, you are set free to have a relationship with God. Your relationship is restored. You receive a righteousness from God.
The pollution of sin has been removed
Paul’s third image in this passage comes from the temple. ‘God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood’ (Romans 3:25).
In the Old Testament, very detailed laws were laid down regarding how sin should be dealt with. There was a whole sacrificial system that demonstrated the seriousness of sin and the need for cleansing from it, as sin was passed from the sinner to the animal, which was then killed.
But ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (Hebrews 10:4). The old sacrificial system was only a ‘shadow’ (v.1) of what was to come. The reality came with the sacrifice of Jesus. Only the blood of Christ, the ‘once for all’ (v.10) sacrifice of atonement, can wash away your sin and remove its pollution. This is because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He alone lived a perfect life. Through his blood you receive God’s game-changing answer – a righteousness from God.
Lord, how can I ever thank you enough for the gift of ‘the righteousness from God’ by faith in Jesus? Thank you that as a result of your righteousness I can receive peace, forgiveness, freedom and cleansing through the blood of Jesus.
God’s answer challenges us to right livingAmos 3:1-4:13
Paul tells us that God’s game-changing answer – ‘a righteousness from God’ is something about which ‘the Law and the Prophets testify’ (Romans 3:21). Amos is one of those prophets.
As Amos turned to speak the word of the Lord against Israel, we see God’s desire for righteousness in that all their sins are punished. The Lord said, ‘Out of all the families on earth, I picked you. Therefore, because of your special calling, I’m holding you responsible for all your sins’ (Amos 3:2, MSG).
The people are condemned in what is almost a law court: ‘“Hear this and testify against the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord’ (v.13).
It is as if God calls witnesses to testify against his own people: ‘You women! Mean to the poor, cruel to the down-and-out! Indolent and pampered, you demand of your husbands, “Bring us a tall, cool drink!”’ (4:1, MSG). They are condemned for their superficiality, self-centred indulgence and their treatment of the poor and needy.
Over and over again, God speaks to his people in an attempt to draw them back to him: ‘The fact is, God, the Master, does nothing without first telling his prophets the whole story’ (3:7, MSG). ‘Yet,’ he declares, ‘you have not returned to me’ (4:6,8–11).
When we understand this Old Testament background, it makes it all the more staggering that the apostle Paul writes, ‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (Romans 3:22). God’s game changer is that Jesus has paid the penalty for you; you are righteous in God’s eyes, you can approach him with confidence today. Speak to him as your loving Father and know his peace deep in your heart.
Lord, thank you that your desire is always that we return to you and walk in a right relationship with you. Thank you that you have now made that possible through Jesus.
‘“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.’
In our vicarage garden the rose has mildew, the squirrels have dug up the bulbs and bindweed is taking over the whole garden. Either I need to repent more or work harder in the garden!
Verse of the Day
‘The LORD… promises peace to his people…’ (Psalm 85:8).
Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 2014) pp.1804,1805.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.