Romans Part 2 – Righteousness Received - Hope 103.2

Romans Part 2 – Righteousness Received

A four-part series by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth podcast, and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra, Sydney.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 23 Jan 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

For daily devotions, check out Real Hope – The Podcast

Real Hope - The Podcast cover art


Open prayer

Good morning, everybody. We’re coming to a very wonderful passage, so let’s pray and ask the Lord to give us his help.

Loving Father, once again, we pray that you would cause our hearts to be as good soil. That the seed of your word would be planted in and bring forth fruit to your praise. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.


Well, this, friends, is our Sunday in the masterpiece, which is called Romans in the New Testament. And this letter is dealing with something which unbelievers hardly ever understand. So unbelievers, of course, want a good life, they want a better life. And unbelievers, if they’re going to tolerate the church at all, would expect the church to be sort of a moral guide or a do-gooding organization somewhere in the world. But the Bible tells us that we humans are like sticks on the ground, broken off from the vine, and that cannot produce the fruit of a good life unless somebody will reconnect us.

And it’s the gospel, it’s Jesus Christ, who’s able to reconnect a person to God himself from whom will flow a new life and the fruits of a better life. So we are not dealing with unrealism here. We are dealing with the very great realism of how people in this world can be reconnected with their maker and then begin to show the signs of a brand new life. The great John Wesley said, “I want to know one thing, the way to God, and how to land on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way. And for this end, Christ came from heaven. He has written it down in his book. Give me that book. At any price, Give me the book of God.”

Well, one more incentive for you this morning to listen carefully to this passage is that one of the finest minds that Australia has ever produced, Dr Leon Morris, who was the principal of Ridley College in Melbourne. He has said that these verses, Romans 3:21-26, 5 verses are possibly the most important single paragraph ever written. Just think about that. Possibly the most important single paragraph ever written. Well, so far, we’ve seen that the gospel news is the cure that the world needs. If we are to face God safely, spotlessly, joyfully, there’s no point in pretending that we are fine as we are. We need a cure. We need help. As one preacher has said, “You may not be in the pit of the murderer. You may actually be standing,” he said, “On the mountain of a very decent person, but nobody is touching the stars and the gap between God and us is beyond us.” Romans chapter three verses 20 to 31 brings in the answer of how God connects himself to us.

And I want to think about it under two headings, first of all, a dreadful silence and then a wonderful sound. Chapter three verses 19 to 23, a dreadful silence and a wonderful sound. And then the second point is a powerful tour, T-O-U-R, and a joyful boast, chapter three verses 26 to 31. So first of all, a dreadful silence and a wonderful sound. If all this sounds very confusing, I’m hoping to make it not confusing. And I do think this is an incredibly important few verses for us. And I’m absolutely convinced that there are some people in the church, even this church, who don’t understand the heart of the Christian faith yet. So a dreadful silence and a wonderful sound. Before God, imagine standing before God, we are told in chapter three verse 19, “Every mouth will be silenced.”

What will it be like for a person, imagine there is no saviour, there’s no Christ, what will it be like for a person to land in God’s courtroom? Nobody’s going to be able to plead innocence. And chapter three verse 19 of Romans tells us that every mouth will be silent, speechless, there’ll be no excuses. I remember a long time ago watching a television program in a courtroom and a huge man was being charged with murder. And he was charged with the murder of killing somebody by hitting them with a candlestick. And this huge man said that he couldn’t possibly have killed the person with a candlestick because he’d had a terrible injury to his shoulder and he could no longer raise his arm above this. And I remember the prosecutor, this very clever barrister, Perry Mason, for those of you who remember, said to this huge man, “How high could you lift your arm before?” And this man said something like this, “Oh, I could lift my arm right up here.” And suddenly the whole courtroom knew, and he himself was struck with silence, speechless, as his guilt was plain to everybody.

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

Now, we need to feel this speechless silence ourselves. I need to feel it and you need to feel it as well. Our case, if left to ourselves, landing before God, is guilty, unrighteous. We may think that we’ve got a case to make, but we’ll have no case according to God’s word. Every mouth will be silenced before God. And we should feel the force of this not only because it’s true, but because also it’s the first step in knowing who we must turn to and who we must put our confidence in. One writer has put it like this, “How do you know whether a person is a Christian?” The answer is that their mouth is shut. And people need to have their mouths shut or stopped. People are forever talking about God, criticizing God, pontificating about what God should or should not do and are asking, “Why does God allow this and allow that?” Well, friends, you don’t begin, says this writer, to become a Christian until your mouth is shut, stopped, and you’re speechless and have nothing to say.

You see, you put up your arguments, you’re producing all your righteousness and suddenly God’s law speaks, and it all withers to nothing and you’re speechless. It’s very important for us to get this dreadful silence, because then we begin to realise that we cannot trust ourselves and we must trust Christ. The law of God, the standard of God, is so perfect and so high that we will have nothing to say. So, friends, picture me in God’s courtroom. Imagine me, I just land there, I’ve got to defend myself, and suddenly, I say something like this, “Well, Almighty God, I tried to be a good husband. I tried to be a good father. I tried to be a good minister. And I made sure that I never did this, and I never did this.” And suddenly, out comes the truth, the truth about my thoughts, the truth about my words, the truth about my deeds, the truth about my neglects, and I’m speechless. I’m silent. I have absolutely nothing to say.

And so it will be for you and for everyone. We’re told in Romans 3:23, we’ve all fallen short. You may feel as though I’m being very accusatory when I say this of you, but remember, friends, we are the people who come into church and we kneel down and we say something like this, “Almighty God, we’ve strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We’ve left undone those things we ought to have done. We’ve done those things we ought not to have done. There’s no health in us.” We are people who admit this. And then into the silence comes this very wonderful sound. Suddenly, we read in chapter three verse 21, “But there is a righteousness.” There is a way to stand in God’s courtroom, righteous, spotless, safe, joyful. And we read about it from chapter three verse 21. Paul tells us about this very wonderful news. This sound breaks the silence.

First of all, in 3:21, this righteousness comes from God. It’s not being produced on the Earth, it’s come from heaven. It’s not a human creation, performance, it’s a divine gift.

Second, we read that the Old Testament, the law and the prophets has prepared the way for this righteousness. The law and the prophets is basically saying to the world, “You need help and help is coming. And the help will be a person called Jesus.”

So thirdly, the righteousness, verse 22, is because of Jesus. It’s his life, his death, his resurrection, which pays for the gift of righteousness. I was interested this week in my reading to be reminded of something I’d read a long time ago of the poet called Horace in the first century AD. And Horace told people a lot about drama and theatre. And he said this very interesting thing, he said, “If you’re putting on a play, don’t bring a God onto the stage unless there is a need for a God.” In other words, it’s just going to be unnecessary to bring a guardian unless there is a terrible need for a God. And Paul tells us that there is an absolute need for God, for a saviour. We’ve all fallen short. And the Lord Jesus comes onto the stage to bring the solution.

Fourthly, this righteousness is for all who believe. It’s not a reward for achievers, it’s for those who believe or receive. If you’re drowning in the surf and you believe in the lifeguards, you wave your arm and they come. We trust and they rescue you. If a television reporter comes running up to you and says, “My, how did you get out of that wild surf?” You won’t start talking about yourself and what you’ve done. You’ll point over to the lifeguard. And that’s how the Christian thinks about salvation. When asked about salvation and a new life, we don’t talk about ourselves, what we’ve done, what we haven’t done, we point to our rescuer, Jesus Christ.

And fifthly, this righteousness, verse 22, is something that everybody needs because there is no difference, all have sinned and all have fallen short. Whether Jew or Gentile, all need the saviour. So do you see in these early verses of this wonderful section, that there is a silence which will take place in the courtroom of God, but there is the wonderful sound of the gospel, which tells us that there is a gift of righteousness which must be received in this life if we are to make it into the next world? There’s no point in waiting until you’re in the courtroom, that will be too late.

So what does God think of every person in the world? Well, he looks on every person in the world and he sees that they’re condemned and his wrath is on them. But he also looks at every person in the world and he invites them. So his love is held out to them. And the righteousness that he provides for the believer is not a perfection inside as if I become a Christian and I’m suddenly perfect inside. It’s not a moral righteousness where I suddenly become like Christ. It’s a status, it’s a legal righteousness. It’s like a person getting married. The minister stands up at the front and he says, “Husband and wife.” Now, he’s not saying you are now a perfect husband and you are a perfect wife. He’s saying your status, husband, your status, his wife, and may there be progress.

And so it is for the Christian. You put your trust in Christ. Your sinful self is trusted to Christ and he gives you the status of his righteousness forever. And it’s for all who believe. So, dear friends, don’t wait. Please don’t wait. Please don’t wait until you have become a good person where you’ll suddenly say, “Well, now I’m worthy to arrive safely with God.” The more time you have, the more time you’ll have for sin and failure. But the one who sees and hears what Christ has done and throws themself on him will immediately find that they are secure, forgiven, safe, and then slowly mature like Christ. So that’s the silence left to ourselves, unrighteous. And then the sound, righteousness through Christ.

Now my second point, and I hope briefly, is what I’ve called a powerful tour, T-O-U-R and a joyful boast. This is chapter three verses 24 to 31. What I mean by a powerful tour is that in these verses 24, 25, 26, Paul takes us down the street of Jerusalem to visit three significant buildings. With my Weet-Bix in the morning, I’m reading each morning, a book of cities. So I’m working my way alphabetically through this book of cities. And basically I’m finding out where the city is and what the high points are and who the famous people who’ve lived in the city have been and what the special attractions are and what the weak spots are and all that sort of thing. Paul takes us down the street of Jerusalem to three great buildings.

The first one in verse 24 is the law court. Imagine we walk into the law court with the apostle Paul, and there is a man who is about to be condemned. He deserves to be condemned. He’s guilty. Suddenly, someone steps forward and says, “I have paid his penalty. It’s all been dealt with.” And the judge says, “Well, I declare you then to be free, to be justified, not because you are sinless, but because the penalty has been paid.” That is the Christian experience. We stand guilty, Jesus Christ to step forward to pay. So we can be lawfully set free or justified, not just having our sins forgiven, but righteousness placed on us like a cloak.

The second building in verse 24 is the slave market. You imagine we walk in with Paul to the slave market and there is a woman about to be taken into slavery. She has absolutely no defence. She has no case. She has no security. Suddenly, someone steps forward and says, “I’ve paid your release. It’s all been dealt with.” And the organiser says, “Well, if I’ve got my money, you can go free.” This again is the Christian. We are tied up in the chains of our sin and our guilt. We have no solution. Jesus steps forward, and through his costly death, he says, “I’ve paid the price of your release and your new free life.” It’s as the hymn writer says, “He cleanses us from the guilt of sin and the power of sin. That’s redemption.”

The third building that we walk into in 3:25 is the temple. We walk in and an execution is about to take place. Somebody is about to be sacrificed or killed and then suddenly someone else steps forward and says, “I will take their place, let them go free.” And the priest says, “Okay, well, we’ll release the one and we’ll take and sacrifice this person who has offered.” And so it is for the Christian. Because Christ has died and shed his blood, the believer is set free from eternal death. We have been set free from our guilt, our slavery, and death because of the Lord Jesus when we have put our trust in Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus has the double effect of solving the problem of God’s anger, which is a good righteous anger, and also the problem of our guilt, which is a serious fatal guilt.

Notice a little detail in chapter three verse 25. Paul also says it was very important that Christ died because there were so many sins of the past that had not been dealt with properly. You think of the sins committed by people like Abraham and David and Moses, and the apostle Paul says all those sins were waiting to be forgiven, they’d not been punished. And because they’d not been punished, it was actually looking as if God didn’t care. But Christ came and at the cross, the sins of the past were dealt with as well as the sins after the cross. So the work of Christ on the cross works backwards to forgive all God’s people who came before him. And it works forwards to forgive all God’s people who come after him. Well, do you see these three great words that belong to the law court, the slave market, and the temple? We are acquitted, we are freed, and we’re rescued, and it’s for all who turn to Christ.

Well, what’s our boast? As we finish, what’s our boast according to 3:27? It’s not us. It’s not our performance. We don’t strut around with our arms folded pretending that we’re great, it is because God saves us through Christ. He has died for us. And he’s a global saviour. Somebody this week sent me a song, the Amazing Grace song, the hymn by John Newton, being sung by people all around the world. So it began with somebody in America and then it went on to countries in Europe and Africa and South America and Asia and Australia and all around the world. And there was this global singing of the grace of God. The gospel is for the world. And, of course, we don’t blame the law for our sin, that would be crazy.

The law helps us to realise our sin just like a doctor I heard of who went to the barber once and said to the barber as his hair was being cut, he said, “That sore on your lip is a serious sore. You should see to it getting fixed.” The barber took absolutely no notice. When the doctor went back for a haircut later, the barber was not there. The barber had died. The warning of the doctor to the barber was a very loving thing to do. The warning of the law to us is a very loving thing to do. The law is a friend. The law warns us, but doesn’t save us.

Now, I want to finish completely this morning by reading you a quote of these lovely words, but now. I’m saying this especially to the Christian who says, “Yes, I know that I do not deserve to be saved. I know that Christ has come and saved me.” This lovely little hinge, but now, means so much to me. This is what the writer says, “When the devil attacks you and suggests that you’re not a Christian, you’ve never been a Christian because of what is still in your heart, or because of what you’re still doing, or because of something you once did, when he comes and accuses you, what do you say to him? Do you agree with him, or do you say to him, ‘Yes, that was true, but now’? Do you hold up these words against him? Or when perhaps you feel condemned as you read the law in the Old Testament, as you read the Sermon on the Mount, and as you feel that you are undone, do you remain lying on the ground in helplessness, or do you lift up your head and say, ‘but now’?

This is the essence of the Christian position. This is how faith answers the accusers. The accuser, which is the law, the accuser of the conscience, and everything else which would condemn and depress us. These are very wonderful words and is most important that we should lay hold of them and realise their tremendous importance and their real significance of eternal significance. Life-changing, world-changing, eternity-changing words.

Closing prayer

Let’s give thanks to our God together. Father, in this little paragraph so much is said. So much is said that is important and precious. We feel the force of being reduced to silence as we think of our own sinfulness. We hear the sound of the gospel of the Lord Jesus, someone who’s able to bring us into fellowship with you forever. We thank you for the reminder that the Lord Jesus has not only saved us from the guilt, the slavery, and the death of our sin, but has brought us into the very life and family which is yours. Please write these words on our heart, that we might not only know our need, but the good news and help those in this world to grasp them as well. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.