In this second paragraph of Romans 3 which we have been studying, Paul is providing three natural conclusions or inferences from these doctrines, among which is the teaching that in terms of salvation is but one way of salvation for everybody (see verses 27-28; 29-30; 31). Today we will be studying the second point which is the one Paul develops in Romans 3:29-30. These verses teach that the fact that there is only one way of salvation follows from the fact of their being only one God. God is the God of all. So the salvation He provides is but one salvation for all. Far from being narrow or sectarian, this truth actually swings the grand door of salvation wide open for everybody.
The gospel that Paul has been expounding maintains the great high principle of monotheism, for it is the gospel of this one God. It flows from His grace. It has been accomplished by His Son, who died for us. It requires us to be like Him. At the same time, the gospel does not promote any kind of exclusiveness, for it is a gospel offered to all alike – apart from their religious advantages or disadvantages, understanding or lack of understanding, good works or very evil deeds. It presents a God as equally a God of the Gentiles as of the Jews. God deals with both classes on precisely the same principles; He pursues, with regard to both, the same plan, and offers salvation to both on exactly the same terms.
That is what I want to do (and you should too); to apply the gospel developed in Romans 3 as universally as possible. My method is simple. I want to tell you that whoever you are or whatever you may or may not have done, this gospel is for you, because it is for everybody. I want you to see that if you will come to God in the way He has appointed for you to come – He will receive you and will never cast you out.
I can only think of one thing that could possibly turn you away from this gracious, embracing, “all are welcome” gospel. And that is that you do not want to go into the Father’s house with all those other types of people. But if that is so, do not call Christianity narrow or bigoted or mean or self-righteous or sectarian. It is you who are sectarian, and Christianity is the only thing I know of that can cleanse you of that blight. Only Jesus can give you grace to place your pride aside and step through that wide door of salvation as the rebellious sinner you truly are. No one else will go through – only sinners who have confessed their sin, turned from it, and believed on Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Romans 3:29-30 Reflection Questions:
Paul says that Jesus’ faithfulness was His dealing with sin to the point of death. How does the death of Jesus show God’s willingness to deal with sin when He had earlier left it unpunished, perhaps making Him look unjust?
Did you know that the gospel is for everyone? If so, how are you showing and telling the gospel to everyone?
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:16-17
Dear faithful and thankful Seed-Sowers:
It is almost Thanksgiving! I would like to thank each and everyone of you. You have touched my life and the life of my wife and family in so many gracious ways. We are blessed and we are thankful.
This weekend I am in Pittsburgh to celebrate my mentor and my spiritual director’s retirement after 47 years in ministry. What a wonderful and faithful servant the Rev. Dr. John Gray Hamilton is. “Hammy” or John followed Jesus and served in four different churches during his 47 years of ministry. Think of all of the lives he has touched and changed by sharing God’s grace and love. Think of giving over 2,000 sermons! By the way, our church heard that I wanted this Sunday off so that I could fly out to Pittsburgh and attend John’s last Sunday service. Someone purchased my airfare, another purchased my hotel, and other anonymous people donated the funds for a car rental, and meals. Imagine that: the church being the hands and feet and heart and soul of Jesus.
John Hamilton was my home-church pastor for 13 years. He was the pastor who helped me to decipher my call into ordained ministry. He followed Jesus and he taught me how to listen and follow Jesus for myself. Today that my hope and prayer, that we all listen and follow Jesus.
Our reading comes from the Gospel of Mark. Let’s pray before we begin. “Lord, Jesus, You are our Lord and Savior, You call us to come and follow You. Help us to have ears to hear, eyes to see, arms and feet ready to follow and serve wherever you call us. May your Words become life to our weary souls. Amen”
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:14-17
Retired minister and author, Bob Russell, told the following account to illustrate how Christians often go along with the moral pace of those around us, and that, by comparison, we feel safe since “Everyone is doing it,” therefore, we’re okay. Russell writes: Two months ago my wife and I were visiting our son Rusty and his family. One day Rusty was test-driving a foreign-made car and was frustrated because he couldn’t figure out how to change the speedometer reading from kilometers to miles. That evening he suggested we take the kids and all go out for ice cream. “We’ll need to take two cars,” he insisted, “so you and mom just follow me.” I followed him … and was surprised when a policeman whizzed up behind us with his lights flashing. I couldn’t imagine he was after me because it didn’t feel like I was speeding. And besides, I was going the exact same speed as the guy in front of me. The officer came up to my window and said, “Sir, you were going 58 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone. But wait right here, I’m going to deal with the car in front of you, and I’ll be right back.” When he went to my son’s car, Rusty quivered, “Officer, I know this is going to sound like a line, but this is the first day I’ve driven this car, and I can’t figure out how to change it from kilometers to miles, so I had no idea how fast I was going. The guy behind me is my dad, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing either!”[i]
Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t really buy you much of an excuse with God, does it?
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, is put into prison. John had been baptizing people in the Jordan and calling for them to repent. Jesus continues the story line by calling the people to repentance, Jesus also calls them to believe in the Good News! This may be the only place in Scripture where we are told by Jesus to believe in the Good News. Imagine THE REAL, LIVE, GOOD NEWS is telling the people to believe in the good news! (Would have loved to be there.) Let’s go to the Greek word Jesus’ uses for “believe” is a present active imperative. In the Greek it means that this a command and the action of believing is non-stop and ongoing. To “believe” in the Greek culture was to place your trust, to rely on, to have confidence in and to put your faith in…the good news. The good news of what Jesus was saying and — not just once, but every day, every hour and every minute of every year.
Jesus is saying, “Hear the Good News! The time has come! The Kingdom of God is near. The time that God will rule and reign is right here. The time for God to have supremacy is at hand. The time has come for us to change our minds, to turn back, to turn around and to change direction is at hand.” You know how I always ask you to put yourself in the story? This is no different. Put yourself on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This Jesus character is going from boat to boat; asking people to repent, be baptized, and follow Him. I propose a preposterous idea: maybe today you are hearing Jesus calling out to you: turn around, come back, change your mind, repent, be baptized and follow. Is this the GOOD NEWS you are hoping for? Could it be that Jesus wants us to put our trust in Him? To have confidence and faith in Him? And not just today but for every single day of the rest of our lives?
RADICAL CALL — FOLLOW ME
In the days of Jesus, we need to understand how amazingly radical the call of Jesus really was. During the days of Jesus, the Rabbis (the priests of the synagogue) would come to town and choose the best and brightest of the boys to become their disciples.They would take them and train and educate them. The boys who were not chosen would go into their father’s businesses. We can assume that Peter and Andrew, James and John and the rest of the disciples were not among the best and brightest because they were working in their father’s businesses. Imagine the scene: Jesus comes walking along the shore and calls out to them sitting in their boats, “FOLLOW ME.” The Greek word for “follow” is “opiso” — “come after or come behind.” Put yourself here into this story. You have grown up in a little fishing village called Bethsaida. You’ve made a trip or two to Jerusalem, but most likely never traveled very far from home. You have no hope of doing anything greater than working in your father’s fishing boat.
Listen again to Jesus words … “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
What a radical message! Let me tell you how I heard Jesus say, “Follow me.” “Hey, hey, you! Dave Peters, I see you. Working in the family business selling tires! You. Yes, you! FOLLOW ME.” At first, all I thought Jesus wanted was for me to shape up a little. And then a little more. And then a whole lot more! Here’s what I want to say to you today: Let Christ rule and reign in your life. Repent. Turn around, change your mind, your heart and your direction. Believe and keep on believing. Never stop having trust and faith in this Good News! What a radical call! “Come follow me, (insert your name)! I will make you fishers of people!”
What happens? These untrained, uneducated fishermen follow Jesus! They had never traveled very far. They had never talked about much other than what was happening in their fishing village. And along comes Jesus; their world is turned upside down. History tells us that John became the Bishop of Ephesus, Peter went to Rome, and Andrew went as far as the borders of Russia! By following Jesus, their hearts were enlarged enough to take in the whole world— not just the four corners of Bethsaida.
Immediately the men left everything and followed Jesus. Take note: one of the radical demands of a radical call by Jesus is that you must respond with a radical obedience. (“Immediately” means at once, without delay, without hesitation.)
So What? What a year we’ve had so far. I don’t know about you but 2019 has not been an easy year, it’s had some ups and downs. I’m ready to begin a new decade, are you? 2020–here we come!
As we begin to study this new series, I want us to hear the words of Jesus as if they were spoken to us. I want us to hear them with new ears fresh every morning. “(YOUR NAME,) follow me.”
Remember Bob and Rusty Russell? Rusty had no idea as to how fast he was driving…but Bob—Bob knew exactly how fast his car was going: 58 in a 45. Bob had decided to follow Rusty. That’s our choice each and every day, are we going to follow Rusty or are we going to follow Jesus? The world behind me, the cross before me…sounds like a catchy tuna–I mean, tune.
Maybe for this series, you can go and get a new journal. Call it your “SEED OF FAITH GOOD BYE 2019” journal. Let’s study all the times Jesus (the good news) calls us to FOLLOW Him! It’s going to be another great series. I’m praying for you. Kiss the wave.
Let me explain, this is a famous quote by Charles H. Spurgeon. “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the ROCK OF AGES!” I remember wrestling with my call to go into ordained ministry. I went to see Pastor John. We met over a series of time. We prayed. He checked in with me and listened to me. I remember one day, I knew God was calling me into full-time ministry. No doubt about it. John looked at me and said, “Okay, I’ve been waiting for this day. Dave, if you can do anything else–then go do that but if you must answer this call–then know that it will break your heart.” I said, “I know. I must follow.” John has been there for me for the past 22 years of my ordained ministry, for my 3 years of seminary, and for my many other years when I served as youth director. He was wise and he was right. Following the call of Christ has broken my heart…but in a good way.
The world behind me, the cross before me. I have decided to follow Jesus. Go ahead, get that journal out.
See You Sunday …
God loves you and so do I,
This next section of chapter 3 (vv. 27-31) is a postscript to verses 21-26. The earlier verses, the first paragraph, tell of the plan God has devised to save men and women. It is by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and can be summed up in the words “justification by grace through faith alone.” The next five verses, which make up a second paragraph, present three consequences or implications of this plan. The first is that this way of salvation “by grace through faith” excludes boasting. The second is that it provides one way of salvation for everybody. The third is that, far from allowing a person to indulge in immorality or lawbreaking, as some suppose, it actually upholds the law. God’s way of salvation provides a level of morality of which mere adherents to law, apart from the grace of God in the gospel, cannot even dream.
With today’s study we will study the first implication of the doctrine of justification by faith, which concerns boasting. For boasting is related to pride – it is an expression of it – and pride is the greatest of all sins according to biblical Christianity. If pride is the greatest of all sins and God’s plan of salvation does not destroy pride – rooting it up, casting it out, and even dusting off the place where it stood – then it’s not a good plan. It has failed, and we need a faith other than Christianity. Pride was the very first sin (see Isaiah 14:13-14). Pride made Satan want to ascend into heaven to the very throne of God, but the Bible says it actually brought him “down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” (v. 15).
Where in the range of human experience and relationships is pride most evident and at the same time most clearly wrong and inappropriate? The sphere of life in which people show the most pride is religion. And there is a good reason for this. Religion – not true Christianity, but religion in the generic sense – is the ultimate setting for the very worse expressions of pride. For it is in religion alone that we are able to claim that God, and not mere human beings, sets His approval on us as superior to other human beings. Moreover, the more demanding or rigorous our “religion is, the more prideful we become. Do we need an example? The Lord Jesus Christ provided one when He compared the humility of the tax collector, who was saved by faith in the mercy of God made known in the sacrifices, with the pride of the Pharisee who boasted of his goodness (Luke 18:11-12).
The fact that the Pharisee did not see himself as a sinner in need of mercy shows that he did not know God at all. Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it: “How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say that they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how he approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men… Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”*
But how can we forget about ourselves – we who are filled with pride? It’s the very nature of pride to do the opposite. The answer is that in ourselves we cannot. That is what being saved by grace means; it means that we cannot save ourselves. We are no more able to save ourselves or forget about ourselves than are other human beings. But we are enabled to forget about ourselves when God turns our attention to Jesus, who died for us and binds the whole of our hope and life to Him through faith. Which brings us to our Romans 3:27-28 text. Salvation by grace is the one doctrine that undercuts all boasting.
So let’s be done with boasting in the church of Jesus Christ – “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Christians are all nothing but sinners saved by grace. If you do not believe that, you are not saved. You are still trusting in your own good works, your feelings, your superior religious knowledge or your faith – not in Jesus. Jesus saves! That is the message of Christianity. If you believe that, you will forget about yourself and bow low before Him.
Romans 3:27-28 Reflection Questions:
How often do you give yourself credit for doing some good works, instead of giving God the praise and credit?
Are you worshiping an imaginary god?
What do you do daily to forget about yourself?
*C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958), p. 96, 97.