June 8, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 3:21-31)

Submitted by Grace K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflection

Analysis of the Text

        Reread Romans 1:18-3:20 

        Reflect on today’s passage in the light of what came before

        Given the impossibility of a human-achieved righteousness, there is a righteousness that comes from God, i.e., given by Him as a gift to be received in faith.  Think about the nature of this righteousness—i.e., being granted right standing before God—and how it was achieved, and how it is received 

Righteousness, or being in a right standing before God, cannot be achieved by human effort/achievement. God is absolutely holy and pure, and there is nothing that is hidden in his sight.  I have NO chance of being “right” or acceptable before this God with my own effort. I may be able to put up a good persona before people by trying very hard to keep my composure, watch my words, sacrifice my time and energy to meet the needs of others, but God sees the cauldron of all kinds of sin that is breeding and just ready to boil over – my greed, impatience, envy, deceit, malice, anger and any other kind of evil you can name. I am not righteous.

Righteousness is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became our sacrifice of atonement with his blood. The guilt of sins that I have committed from birth to the present, to all the sins that I will be committing in the future, and not only mine but every single person’s sins added altogether throughout history – Jesus took it all upon himself on the cross and atoned for our sins by his blood. There is NOTHING that I can do to reverse the scars, effects of sin that rippled and continues to ripple, and there is NOTHING that I can do to ensure that I will now be pure and make the right decision as I look to the future. Righteousness can be received through anyone placing her faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

        Think about what this text says about God as just and gracious at the same time

God is just as He does not leave sin unpunished. God would not be a just God, if he just left sin in the world as is and let people do whatever they want in harming others and themselves. He demonstrates justice by punishing sin, but upon Jesus who bled and died. It was a very costly sacrifice. God is also gracious though because He did not make it so difficult or impossible for us to receive the atonement that came through Jesus Christ. In fact, we are “justified freely by his grace” and we are justified simply by putting our faith in him. That’s all? I don’t have to jump hoops, pay exorbitant amount of money, sacrifice anything on my end to receive God’s atonement in order to be declared righteous before God. The world does not work like that – whatever is precious and valuable, we must pay, and is costly. But justification of my sins is by faith; I can only describe this as God’s amazing, inexplicable, or what someone called it — scandalous grace.

        Think about the boasting of the Jews referred to in chapter two, and why being justified by faith in Jesus eliminates all boasting

The Jews boasted about many things. They boasted about the fact that they are Jews, that they have a relationship with God, that they have the law and know his will and what is superior wisdom, and thus able to be a confident guide and light for people. Equivalent in modern day context would be being raised up in the church, being Christian, having been baptized and taught the stories and wisdom in the Bible, having gained spiritual authority and respect from others who are new to God, and doing a lot of ministry in guiding and counseling people. But they are not justified by the things that they do and knowledge they know. Apostle Paul’s response to the Jews who were boasting is that they know the truth from the law but are not living it out; they are hypocrites for they do not practice what they preach in their own lives and God’s name is blasphemed.

In a way, the more that I know of God’s laws, the more trouble that I am in, because my real life actions and heart are proven to be so far from God’s standards and God’s heart. I cannot possibly boast and take pride in the fact that I know God’s law, that I am being taught the Bible through messages and sharings week after week, that I attend a wonderful church where God is active and the Word of God and relationship with God is central, and that I have people who look up to me and I am counseling and guiding them. Often times, when I take time to think about the things that I have corrected and counseled someone about, I realize that I am guilty of the very same thing and that I am really no different from them at the core. I, too, have problems of envy, driven by emotions, passivity and being comfort-seeking, approval seeking and people consciousness, of not fearing God, etc. I am justified by faith in Jesus who bled and died for me; my life is spared from the consequence of sin (and death) by a death of another, Jesus, and is able to receive this gift by simply putting my faith in Him. So how can there is any boasting? It is when I am focusing on things that I accomplished and am that pride and boasting arises. The accomplishment of my righteousness is purely and only through what Jesus has done so there cannot be any boasting. My boasting can only be on Jesus and what He has done for me.

Personal Application

Write out some points of personal application from today’s text.

There are times that I get overcome by awareness of my sins. My conscious convicts me of how short I fall from the kind of person that I need to be as a leader – when I drop the ball, paralyzed by times by extreme insecurity and self consciousness, concerned more about my image and reputation; as a mom and a teacher – when I lose my patience and respond with anger and temper, ignoring their needs because I get caught up in what I need to do; as a wife and daughter – when I am not able to see from their perspective and respond with my own emotions or when I am lazy around the house. This is when I hear the voice that says that I am no good, that I am not fit, that I am but a self-focused sinner who can only do damage than good, and I go on the path towards discouragement and self pity, saying that even though I try, I seem to end up at the same place.

But this is the very place where I can affirm and agree with the truth of God’s word. That’s right; I am not righteous; I cannot achieve my own righteousness. Knowing what is right, the kind of person that I need to be as a leader, a mother, a wife, a daughter – I cannot because I am a sinner. What is at the core is my sinful nature and I can agree with the voices that say that I am no good, I am not fit, that I am self-focused and that I cause more damage than good. But right away I need to affirm the truth of where my righteousness comes from and receive it by faith. My sins are real and have been atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. I can receive it simply by humbling myself and believing it in faith that my righteousness comes now from Christ. Justice for my sins have been satisfied, so I no longer need to keep staring at it, think about it, feel discouraged about it. I can apply Christ’ righteousness and this fact only leaves room for me to glory in the atoning work of Christ, that I saves me from sin, and gives me a hope and a new purpose and future for my life.

Submitted by Seungsoo L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

3:22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

The previous passages kept referring to the God’s Wrath, The Law and the sins of mankind that angered God and caused God to bring down righteous judgment upon man.  It was made clear that there is no one righteous.  Not even one who seeks God.  Yet God demonstrates in today’s passage that He will give us the righteousness.  He will provide the righteousness that we don’t deserve.  The righteousness that is only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  It was the outright rebellion of man towards God that caused God to have no other recourse but to sacrifice His son who was perfect.  The only suitable sacrifice of atonement was Jesus.  It’s clearly stated in 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  This is what puts men on equal ground in the eyes of God.  We are all sinners regardless of who we are.  Whether God looks at the most horrendous murderer or a normal law-abiding person who never breaks any rules, and God says that they’re both sinners through and through.   This shows us that God shows no one any favoritism.  God requires of us total purity, total absence of sin, in another words God requires perfection.  It was not possible for humans to achieve this perfection unless Jesus was the atoning sacrifice.  Today’s passage reflects the unfathomable, immense love of God.  In response to men’s unrepentant, stubborn hearts, instead of God retaliating with wrath on men, he punished Jesus instead.

  • Given the impossibility of a human-achieved righteousness, there is a righteousness that comes from God, i.e., given by Him as a gift to be received in faith.  Think about the nature of this righteousness—i.e., being granted right standing before God—and how it was achieved, and how it is received 

3:25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished

The nature of God’s righteousness was solely achieved through the sacrifice of the only one who is completely righteous, Jesus.  Since it’s impossible for man to have right standing before God on his own, regardless of how they live their life, Jesus’ sacrificial atonement is the only way to be righteous before God.  This righteousness is accomplished through the shedding of blood of Jesus, only his sacrifice and blood satisfy the criteria for God’s justice.  In order for anyone to receive this righteousness, they simply need to believe in Jesus.

God is just and gracious at the same time in that He does not compromise on his requirement of perfection in order to be righteous.  God only considers those who are completely sinless to be righteous.  But the problem is that there is no one who is sinless.  Everyone falls short of the glory of God.  God’s plan to save mankind from sin was to punish the only one that could take the place of man and satisfy God’s justice for sin.  Jesus Christ had to shed blood and die on the cross in order man to have any chance of being right with God.  This is grace. Jesus Christ took the punishment on our behalf so that we can be considered righteous before God.  Redemption is only possible through Christ Jesus which is a free gift that cannot be earned by any man.  This is how justice and grace are possible at the same time.  God’s solution to man’s sin is a free gift of salvation towards those who believe in Jesus because only Jesus can meet God’s justice.

  • Think about the boasting of the Jews referred to in chapter two, and why being justified by faith in Jesus eliminates all boasting

The Jews were confident in their relationship with God because of their outward manifestations of their piety.  They may teach the Law, they may hold positions of spiritual authority, they may even correctly interpret the Law itself.  3:28 states, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”  This verse states that what we do does not justify us.  Only faith in Jesus can justify us before God.  This aptly describes so many who are confident in their service to God and how the things that we do will save us.  The Jews were boasting because they had so many things that they could list to show just how much they were doing in service to God.  It is not possible to boast about being justified because our works cannot get us closer to God.  We cannot be justified by how many years we’ve been serving God in ministry.  Even teaching and memorizing the Bible can’t save us from our sins.  Only by faith in Jesus can anyone be saved.

Personal Application

Every year, I’m reminded of Jesus’ sacrificial atonement and my own utter helplessness to deal with my own sins during Passion Week of Easter.  But I feel the total release from my sins as I confess them before the cross and ask for Jesus’ forgiveness. Often though as life gets busier with new child, job and other responsibilities, I often get wrapped up in the things that I need to do.  I often go from one thing to another.   Often, I don’t stop myself from the mundane life often enough to see that I stand no chance if not for the blood of Christ shed for my sins.  When God looks at me he doesn’t want me to ‘perform’ or become someone that can be “useful” for him in ministry.  God’s not interested in my production for Him.  I think often that I’m a good Christian if my Interhigh ministry is going well. Or if I’m able to help the brothers that I’m ministering to are growing and moving along in the spiritual journey.  I often think that if I’m not messing up in ministry and not making mistakes then God is pleased with me.  This passage just reminded me again that I’m utterly helpless before a holy, righteous, perfect God.  If not for Jesus Christ intervening in my life, I would have been buried in my sins of self-pity, self-centeredness and total spiritual blindness.  If not for Christ atoning for my sins, I would be heavily in depression and without direction/purpose in my life.  God’s showing me through this passage that my focus must not be on myself.  In me all I see are disappointments, failure to meet even my own expectations in life.  But God is saying don’t look at myself because He says there is no one righteous.  Jesus can lift me up and give me hope even when I see my sins that bring me down and cause me to despair or to get down on myself for my failures.  Feeling like I’m barely managing life sometimes and I know that my capacity is small and I get down on myself over it.  God is telling me to simply look to Jesus and believe in Him.  God loved me so much as to send his one and only perfect Son to die for me on the cross.  That needs to be my source of strength and my source of significance.  There will be no end if I look toward my sin.  My sins will have no end.  But Jesus puts a stop to all of that and I’m forgiven.  The Jews were confident in all the things they did for God.  But God says be confident in Jesus instead because he’s the atoning sacrifice acceptable to God.

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