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The Implications of Justification - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 3:27-31

  • 2016-05-01 AM
  • Romans
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You'll remember that several months ago when the Supreme Court decision about same sex marriage came down that Chief Justice Roberts, along with several other justices, issued a stinging rebuke of the majority in his dissent. I'm not going to deal with that issue this morning, that's an issue for a different time, but I do want to read a part of his dissent, and I want you to pay attention to what he comments on here, which is judges' growing tendency to ignore the law.

Listen to Justice Roberts, "Under the constitution judges have the power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The majority's decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or in this court's precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial caution and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own new insight into the nature of injustice. As a result," he writes, "this court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia." And he ends this section of his dissent with these words, "Just who do we think we are?"

Now, I read that because, sadly, what happened at the Supreme Court in that decision, according to Justice Roberts, is happening as well across our judicial system. It is becoming increasingly common for judges to legislate from the bench, to make decisions that are not based on the law. In fact, they often ignore the law or even contradict the law. And what do we call judges who ignore the law in their decisions? We say that they are unjust. They're unjust because they are there to rule based on law.

Sadly, that is exactly the opinion that many people have of God. They think that God, in order to accomplish salvation, in order to forgive us, simply ignores His law; He just turns his back on His law and rescues us. If that's how you think, Paul says, you don't really understand the gospel that I preach. Because the true and living God, the one who has given us the gospel, the one described in the gospel, is perfectly and eternally righteous.

The word righteous means He acts in accordance with the standard, He keeps His law. Do you understand that God never breaks His own laws? He's righteous. Judges 12:1, I'm sorry, Jeremiah 12:1 says, "Righteous are You, O Lord," and, of course, there are many other texts, exalt God's righteousness. God not only never breaks His own laws, He never tolerates others breaking His law. God never winks at the breach of His law. Habakkuk 1:13, says of God, "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor."

In addition, God never fails to punish those who break His law. You remember that great, that great statement of God's character, made by Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:7. He says this of Himself, "'I will by no means acquit the guilty.'" God says, there is no way that I'm going to let those who've broken My law go free without punishment. Job understood this. In Job 10:14, he says, "If I sin, then You would take note of me, and would not acquit me of my guilt."

You see, at the bedrock understanding of the gospel is the reality that God will completely and thoroughly judge every single sin that has ever been committed. You believe that? God will judge every single sin that has been committed. He will punish it to its full degree. That means, He will punish every single sin I have ever committed. He will punish every single sin you have ever committed. Either He will punish you for your sins against Him in hell forever, which is what the Scriptures teach for those who don't embrace Christ, or He will punish Jesus for every one of your sins. But every sin will be punished, because this is the bedrock of God's character. He's righteous. He's just. Unlike human judges, He has to rule according to the law because He's righteous.

You see, God made us. God made you. He sustains your life. He's the one who's keeping your heart beating at this very moment. He's the one who gives you every good thing that you enjoy. And therefore, He owns you. He has a right to tell you what to do. And what He has told us to do in His law is not arbitrary, it's not capricious. Instead, it is a reflection of His own righteous character.

Frame writes this, "The moral law of God is not something above Him that has authority over Him, nor is it something He has created, as if He could change it at will. Making adultery to be virtuous, for example. Rather, His moral standard is simply Himself. His person. His nature. His acts are righteous because He's a righteous God. The standard for our moral behavior is not an abstract concept, but an infinite person, God himself." This is what makes sin so bad. When you and I sin we're not simply violating some abstract law code. We are violating the very character of God Himself.

Now, God has the right to do some things that He tells us we don't have the right to do. For example, He has the right to take a life where that's not my right, except as He's prescribed in capital punishment or in a just war. But in the larger sweep you have to understand this, God cannot downplay His law. He cannot ignore His law. He cannot act contrary to His law. For to do so would be to violate Himself. So this is key to understanding the gospel. Even in the gospel itself God must act consistent with His law because to do so is to act consistent with Himself. That is Paul's argument in the last verse of Romans 3.

Now, let me remind you of the paragraph we're looking at, Romans 3:21 down to verse 31. In verses 21 to 26, this is really the core of the letter to the Romans. It is the gospel Paul preached. It's the heart of the Christian faith. It's about how a man who is a sinner can be declared right before God based not on his own efforts, his own works, but rather he can be declared right with God through the work of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus' perfect life of obedience, through Jesus' substitutionary death, and through Jesus' resurrection, a sinner can be declared right with God solely by faith in that finished work of Jesus Christ. That's justification by faith alone. That's what Paul is explaining in verses 21 to 26. We are declared right with God based on the work of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith in that work alone.

Now, having explained the gospel in verses 21 to 26, beginning in verse 27 and running down through verse 31 Paul gives us the implications of justification. Let's read it together. Romans 3:27,

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Now as I've pointed out for you, if you look at the second word in this paragraph the word then, back in verse 27, that is Paul's ordinary word that is usually translated therefore. These are the logical implications, therefore, of the gospel of justification that he's just explained. He wants to make sure we get the gospel right. So think of these implications here as kind of cross checks to make sure I really do understand the gospel.

Now, the first implication of a proper understanding of justification by faith alone that we looked at together is found in verses 27 and 28; it's this, it excludes all human boasting. Verse 27, "Where then," or where, therefore, in light of justification by faith alone, "is boasting? It is excluded." Paul means here the sinner's boasting before God about his works, his deeds, his merits. Paul says, that kind of boasting is completely excluded by justification. That is, the word excluded, literally, is a word that means to shut the door. Paul says, the true gospel has slammed the door on all human boasting. That's because we contribute nothing to it. So, if your understanding of the gospel lets you still boast about something you are or something you have done, then you don't really understand the true gospel. Because the true gospel slams the door on all human boasting, nothing to claim before God except Christ.

Now, a second implication of a true understanding of justification by faith alone, and we noted this a couple weeks ago, is that it underscores the exclusivity of the gospel. We see this in verses 29 to 30. It underscores the exclusivity of the gospel. Now, as we noted last time, in these two verses Paul underscores for us four theological realities, or truths, about God that are essential to the gospel. One of them is clearly implied but not directly stated. And that is theism, there is a God. He started with that assumption in verse 1 of chapter 1. And, of course, in chapter 1 he showed how God has made Himself manifest in His creation. In chapter 2 He's made Himself manifest in our hearts through conscience and through the substance of the law written on the heart.

Secondly, he notes here in these verses, monotheism. Not only theism but monotheism, there is only one personal God. As I noted for you, in the Greek text verse 30 begins this way, "Since indeed God is one." There's only one God. In the Old Testament He declares Himself by name. God's personal name is Yahweh. Which is a Hebrew word that simply means He is. When we say it, Yahweh, it's He is, He just is, He exists. He doesn't depend on anyone or anything for His existence like all the rest of us do. He's the only being in the universe who can say that. He simply is. In the New Testament, of course, our Lord taught us to refer to that one God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So there's monotheism.

Thirdly, we learned in this text, universality. The one true God cares for all humanity. God is not a local deity. He's not confined to the land of Israel. He's not confined to a building like this. He is the God of all the earth. All flesh is His. He owns it all. He keeps it all running. One true God cares for all humanity. Verse 29, "is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also." There is only one God and He is universally God.

And then the point that Paul was really building toward and that is exclusivity. There is only one way to God. There is one God and that God is God of all peoples, and there is only one way to know that God, to be reconciled to Him. Verse 30, "since indeed God is one He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." You see, what Paul is saying here in these verses is that if you think there are any other gods except Yahweh, the God of the Bible, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or if you think there's any other way to be reconciled to that God except through the life and the death and the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, then you don't understand the true gospel. Because the true gospel is an exclusive gospel. "There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved."

Now that brings us, this morning, to a third and final implication of justification by faith alone. If you really understand Paul's gospel, the way he's taught it to us in this chapter, then you will understand that it validates God's law. Verse 31, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." Now, the first thing we have to do here is discern what Paul means by "the Law." As you know, Paul uses that expression in a very flexible way. Already in Romans he's used it in a number of different senses. So which sense of the word law does Paul mean here?

If you read the best commentaries on Romans, you'll find that there's a lot of disagreement about this. But essentially, there are two primary views. The two most common views of what Paul means by law are, number one, the entire Old Testament. This view argues that Paul's point here is that the entire Old Testament bears witness to justification by faith alone. They point to, for example, verse 21, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested," and this way of salvation is "being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets," the entire Old Testament. And they say that's really all Paul is saying again in verse 31. In that sense, this view says, justification doesn't nullify the Old Testament, it actually bears witness to justification. And, of course, that's true, the Old Testament does bear witness to justification.

But a second view, in this context, is more likely. And that is, that by law Paul means here the Mosaic Law or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible. And even there, primarily the commands that are given in those books. Why do I say that? Well, notice the context. Look at verse 28. He has just referred to works of obedience to the law. In other words, doing what the law commands, what it requires. And he says, that will not justify you; you're not going to be right with God by keeping His law. But that's the way he's using law and in verse 31 he's still using the word law in that same sense. So he means all the Mosaic Law commanded and required of us.

Now, with that understanding look at Paul's question again, verse 31, "Do we then nullify the Pentateuch," all of those Old Testament commands, "through faith?" Again, notice the word then, that familiar word therefore. He says, do we therefore, in light of justification by faith as I have just taught it to you, "Do we nullify the commands of the Pentateuch," all of those commands God has for us?

The Greek word for nullify, nullify is not a word we use every day, the Greek word for nullify means to invalidate, to make legally invalid. Our English translators chose this word nullify. Webster defines nullify, the English word, this way, to render legally void or inoperative, to deprive of value, to make futile or of no consequence. So Paul is asking this question, is it true, as my critics say, that justification by faith alone invalidates, renders legally void, makes of no consequence, God's commands to us in the Old Testament Scripture?

Now, you can see why some might wrongly come to this conclusion. I mean, after all, think about what Paul did teach. Look back at chapter 3 verse 20. He said, "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight." Verse 21, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested." Verse 28, "we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law." You can see how someone might wrongly come to the conclusion that the law doesn't matter anymore. But Paul here addresses that wrong conclusion. A conclusion that many of his listeners came to about justification by faith alone. Undoubtedly, many of the Jews to whom he shared the gospel responded with this complaint. In essence, they said this, Paul, if your gospel is true and God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone, then that effectively makes God's law and all of those commands invalid, it makes it worthless.

Now, how did they come to that conclusion? What led them to conclude that justification nullifies God's law? Well, there are several misinterpretations of justification that led them, and lead people today, to conclude that justification nullifies God's law. In other words, there are some wrong ways to look at justification that lead to this conclusion.

You will conclude that justification invalidates God's law if you wrongly believe that justification by faith means, number one, God no longer cares about His law at all. This group of people, they essentially think that in accomplishing our salvation God just ignores His law, He just sets it aside, He acts like it doesn't even exist, so that He can forgive sinners. People like this, sort of, think of God as loving us to heaven, as if that were all that were true about God. And He just makes a decision to dismiss our sin. Okay, you broke My law, you rebelled. It's okay. It's like an overly permissive grandfather. He just lets it go. It's okay.

But God is a just judge. What would you think of a human judge who said, it's okay, that murder? It's okay. You're sorry, you're forgiven. You'd say he's unjust. Well, the same thing is true of God. He can't just do that. In fact, look at verse 25, "God," in the gospel we learn that "God had to publicly display His Son as the propitiation," as the satisfaction of His just anger against our sin. That's what the gospel teaches. And in fact, you remember, in verses 25 and 26, God even had to vindicate His justice at the cross in letting ungodly sinners live a moment longer than their first sin. He had to vindicate His character in doing good to sinners.

Another misinterpretation of justification that can lead you astray is the idea that, well, no it's not that God doesn't care about His law any more, instead it's that God lowers the standard to make it possible for us to be right with Him. These people don't believe that God just abandons His law altogether. They still agree that God wants us to do what's good, God still demands righteousness, but let's understand this, none of us is ever going to be perfectly righteous, God knows that, and so God decided to settle for a lower percentage of obedience than 100 percent. In other words, God grades on a curve.

You know, you go, you remember that Algebra 2 class in high school and you take the test and you come in and the professor says, okay, percentage wise all of you failed, but I don't want all of you to fail so I'm going to grade on a curve, I'm going to lower the standard, and those of you who really truly failed percentage-wise, you made a B. People think God does that. He just, sort of, lowers the standard.

In fact, most people think God not only grades on a curve, they think the required percentage to be counted righteous is what? Fifty-one percent. How often have you heard somebody say to you, well, you know, when I get to heaven God is going to, you know, if my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds. What they're really saying is, if I get 51 percent good, then that's going to be righteous enough for God. But what you don't understand is, you just said 49 percent of what God says in His law you ought to do or not do, you've invalidated, made it worthless. God doesn't care. And the truth is, we don't even do the 51 percent, because none of us, apart from Christ, can do anything God has required of us in the way that pleases Him. If you believe that God lowers His standard to save people you invalidate His law.

You also nullify God's law if your version of justification teaches, thirdly, that God no longer demands the penalty for disobedience. In other words, God said there would be a penalty for sin, but He doesn't really mean it, He's not going to keep it. There are actually views of Christ's death that teach this. For example, one view of the death of Christ teaches that His death was just to demonstrate God's love. And in demonstrating God's love it just draws us to God. Listen, any view of what happened at the cross that teaches that God is not compelled to punish sin, nullifies God's law. That's not the gospel Paul preached. Again, compare to verse 25, God had to publicly display His Son as the satisfaction of His wrath, His justice.

You also notify God's law if you teach that, fourthly, God does not require that believers obey His law. Now, this is not Paul's primary point here in the context, He's dealing with justification here, not sanctification, but it is a common misunderstanding of justification and he will address it later. You remember chapter 6 verse 1, he says,

What shall we say then? Are we [who have been justified], Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Listen, justification by faith alone doesn't change God's law. Nor does it change God's holy character. In fact, Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:16, to us who are Christians, he says, "as it is written, 'You be holy for I am holy.'" That doesn't change after justification.

Now, look at that list. If you have mistakenly embraced one of those bad ideas about justification by faith alone, then you are nullifying God's law by your distorted version of the gospel. But look again at Paul's question in verse 31, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith?" That is, do we invalidate God's law through a right understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith I've been teaching? Notice his answer, verse 31, "May it never be!" This is one of Paul's classic responses. It's a strong way to say, don't even think like that. Don't ever come to that conclusion. That could never happen.

And then Paul turns, in verse 31, and makes a positive doctrinal assertion. And it is foundational to an understanding of the gospel. Notice what he says in verse 31, "On the contrary," by justification by faith alone, "we establish the Law." The word establish literally means to cause to stand. In this context a leading Greek lexicon defines it as, to reinforce the validity of, to uphold. Paul argues that if you truly understand the gospel he preached, you will never imagine that God's law has been deprived of its value, that it has been rendered legally void. Instead, a proper understanding of justification by faith reinforces God's law.

So how does justification by faith alone establish, reinforce, validate God's law? Very briefly, and I mean that, I want to show you that Paul's gospel establishes God's law in six ways primarily. Justification by faith alone establishes God's law because, number one, it teaches that Christ perfectly fulfilled all of the law's pictures and types. I love Colossians 2, turn there with me, Colossians 2:14. Paul uses an image of our forgiveness that's a powerful one. He pictures our sin as accumulating debts that we owe God. When we fail to obey His law it's like we just added another line to our indebtedness. It's like an IOU that just keeps building. And notice verse 14, "He cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of His decrees against us, which was hostile to us." How? Well, "He had it nailed to the cross." In other words, God took a list of your individual sins Christian, every sin you have ever or will ever commit, it was a debt you owed God, and He took that debt list and He nailed it to the cross and Jesus paid for every single one of them.

Now, notice the ramifications of that in verse 16, "Therefore," in light of that, "no one is to act as your judge in regard to," the ceremonial laws of the Pentateuch whether it's, "food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day." Don't let anybody judge you in those. You don't have to keep those anymore. Why? Verse 17, I love this, "things which are," you'll notice the word mere is added by the translators, "things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance," I don't like that word, I'll show you in a minute, "belongs to Christ."

Notice the marginal reading for substance, "things which are a shadow of what is to come, but the body belongs to Christ." You see the picture? If you're seeing someone come but you don't yet see them, you just see their shadow, that shadow tells you something about the person who's coming. The shadow was all of those ceremonial laws required by the Old Testament. That was Christ's shadow. But He's now arrived. We have His body. We don't need His shadow anymore. We don't need those ceremonies anymore. The body is Christ. All of those ceremonies were the shadows cast by who He was. They helped us to understand Him, but now He has arrived. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that the entire priestly system of the Old Testament and all of the sacrificial system, that all was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the law in that He was the reality to which it's ceremonies and its sacrificial system pointed.

Number two, justification by faith alone establishes God's law because it teaches that Christ perfectly kept all of the laws' precepts. We, obviously, have broken God's law. We've seen that again and again in Romans. Romans 3:10 tells us that, "'There is none righteous, not even one.'" Verse 12, "'There is none who does good, there is not even one.'" Verse 23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We've all broken God's law. Not once, but many times.

In fact, all the law really does is show us how bad we are. Look at chapter 7 verse 7. This is Paul's pre-conversion testimony. He says, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'" He says listen, all the law does is show us our sin. We've broken God's law again and again and again. But Christ kept it all. He kept it all. Every single one of its precepts. Everything God required, Jesus kept.

There are so many places the Scripture makes this point, but I love the one in Matthew 3:15 where Jesus shows up with John the Baptist to be baptized. What was John's baptism? It was a baptism of repentance. And so John understandably says, I'm not going to baptize You. You don't need to repent. You need to baptize me. To which Jesus says this in Matthew 3:15, "'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'" Jesus was acting to fulfill all righteousness. Not for Himself, He was perfectly righteous, for us. You realize that we're required to repent, because we have sinned. Jesus didn't need a baptism of repentance because He didn't need to repent, He'd never sinned. So why was He baptized? In our place. He repented the way we should always repent, even though He didn't need to. He did everything He did to fulfill all righteousness. John 8:46, Jesus said this to His enemies, you try saying this to your enemies, "'Which of you convicts Me of sin?'" In John 15:10, I love this, Jesus said, "'I have kept My Father's commandments.'" Which one of us can stand up here this morning and say, "I have kept my Father's commandments."

Why did He do it? Turn to Galatians 4. Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of the time came," when the historical circumstances were just right, "God sent forth His Son." By the way, this implies preexistence, it implies His deity. I was conceived, I wasn't sent forth. "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman," there's His humanity, He was one of us, "born under the Law," born with an obligation to keep God's law. Why? Verse 5, "so that He might redeem those who were under the Law," and so "that we might receive the adoption as sons." He was born under the law and kept it for the sake of us who were born under the law and didn't. He kept it for us. He kept it in our place. Do you understand this is a bedrock truth of the gospel? God saves us by providing us with real righteousness, earned by keeping His law. Just not our keeping it, Christ's keeping it.

The gospel establishes God's law because it teaches, thirdly, Christ completely paid the law's penalty. There is a penalty for sin. We don't like to think about this but it's just the reality. In Genesis 2:17, God says to Adam, listen, in the day you rebel, in the day you disobey me and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "'you will surely die.'" Ezekiel 18:4, "The soul that sins will die." Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin," what we earn from our sin, "is death." Certainly that's physical death. Again, this is not a subject we like to think about, but every single one of us in this room, if the Lord tarries, will die. We will decay and we will die. Why? Because of sin. Because of sin.

It also means spiritual death. We're born spiritually dead. We're like walking zombies. We have no relationship to God. Paul says, in Ephesians 2:1, "you were dead in your trespasses and sins." But it also speaks of eternal death, what Revelation calls the second death, eternal suffering in punishment for our sins apart from Christ. But Christ paid the penalty.

If you're still in Galatians look at Galatians 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law." In other words, as many as are relying on their obedience to God's law, they're "under a curse." You say, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. They're trying to obey God and they're under a curse? Yes. Why? "'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by 51 percent of the things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'" No, that's not God's standard. "'Cursed by God is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law.'" How many sins do you have to commit to come under God's curse? One. "Now," we know, therefore, "that no one is justified by the Law before God," that "is evident." We've got to keep it all. So we're justified "'by faith.'"

Now notice verse 13. I love this. Christ paid the penalty. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law." Christ redeemed us from the curse God had placed on us for our failure to abide by all things written in His law. He became the cursed one for us, God cursed Him, "having become a curse for us - for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" God treated Him as if he had committed my sins. He got the curse I deserved. He completely paid the law's penalty.

Robert Haldane, great commentator on the book of Romans says this, "It is quite obvious in what way gratuitous justification by Christ establishes law." Listen to this. "Can there be any greater respect shown to the law than that when God determines to save men from its curse He makes His own Son sustain its curse in their stead and fulfill for them all of its demands?" In other words, could God think any higher of His law than that, to say the only way this can happen is for me to curse My Son in your place? Certainly the gospel establishes the law.

Number four, Christ fulfilled the law's primary purpose. Christ fulfilled the laws primary purpose. If you're still there in Galatians 3, look at verse 21, "Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law." In other words, if you could get righteousness before God based on law-keeping, then God's law would work. But that's not what it was intended to do. Verse 22, "the Scripture has instead shut up everyone under sin," it's put us in the prison of sin, "so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

"But before faith came," now that may be a reference to Christ's coming or it may be a reference to our coming to embrace Christ in our own lives, and both are true, "before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed." Now watch verse 24. Here was the major purpose of the law. "Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." Listen, justification by faith accomplishes, establishes the law because Christ was the primary purpose of the law. It was to point to Him. It was to show us our sin, show us the impossibility of being right with Him, apart from Christ. So the gospel establishes the law.

Number five, Christ enables believers to love and to obey the abiding standards of God's law. This is the message of Romans 6 and 7 and even the early verses of chapter 8. The gospel teaches that those in Christ through the work of the Spirit both can and do grow in their obedience to God's law. Look at Romans 7. In the second half of Romans 7 Paul is talking about his post conversion life, his life as a believer. And he says in Romans 7:22, "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." In fact, verse 25, "with my mind I'm serving the law of God," as a believer.

Look at chapter 8 verse 4, he says, "the requirement of the Law," what the law demands, "is being fulfilled in us," that is believers, "who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." That's all believers. He's saying, do you see, that through the gospel God makes it possible for us to actually love and obey His law? It's Ezekiel, God writes His law on our hearts. He gives us a love for it. And an ability to obey it, not perfectly, but really and truly. This isn't how we earn justification. He's talking about people who've already been justified.

And the gospel establishes God's moral commands by enabling the believer to actually obey them. John Stott writes, "The justifying work of the Son and the regenerating work of the Spirit cannot be separated. It is for this reason that good works of love follow justification as their necessary evidence." If you claim to be a Christian but you don't love God's law and you don't desire to keep God's abiding moral commands to us, then you may very well not be a Christian at all.

Finally, the gospel establishes God's law in that it teaches that Christ's gospel taught the very same remedy for breaking God's law that the Old Testament taught. This isn't some new idea. Justification by faith alone is exactly what the Old Testament taught. And Paul is going to show us, in chapter 4, two great examples, Abraham and David, and say, this is how they came to be right with God. The gospel of justification by faith alone is in perfect harmony with the Old Testament and with God's law.

Paul says, listen, if you truly understand the gospel of justification by faith alone, you will not demean the law of God. Instead, you will understand that it actually establishes God's law because the gospel teaches that Christ perfectly fulfilled all of the law's pictures. That Christ perfectly kept all of the law's precepts. That Christ paid in full all of the law's penalty. That Christ fulfilled the law's primary purpose - that it was to point us to Him. Christ enables His followers to obey the abiding norms of God's law. And Christ's gospel of justification by faith alone, taught through his apostle, is exactly what the Old Testament taught.

Believers, understand this, what you read in Romans 3:21-26, that is the only gospel. That is the only gospel that saves. It is the only gospel that justifies. It is the only way to be right with a holy God, our creator. Praise God for it. Thank God for it. Celebrate it. And for goodness sakes, defend it from those who would undermine it. Any gospel, any understanding of justification that doesn't establish God's law in these ways, is not the gospel Paul preached.

If you're here this morning and you've never believed in Jesus Christ, you've never repented of your sins and believed in Him, let me just remind you that you can't sit on the fence on this. If you've ever been to New York city you've seen a street sign that says, Don't even think about parking here. Don't even think about parking here. Listen, you will make a decision today, about what you're going to do with the gospel. You will either leave here continuing to reject God's kind and gracious offer of forgiveness through the life and the death and the resurrection of His Son or you will instead decide to repent and believe in Him for eternal life. Why would you wait? Don't you see the offense that is to a gracious, kind God who gives you His Son, for you to say, no, not today? No, I'm having too much fun with what I'm doing. I plead with you, today, call out to Him in your heart. And He will declare you to be right with Him, based on the work of His Son alone. Your lawbreaking will be forgiven because of the work of the one law-keeper.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for the truth of the gospel. Thank You that You are righteous, that You never violate Your own character or Your law. But thank You, O God, that in the gospel You establish the law, because our Lord perfectly kept it and entirely suffered the penalty for our lawbreaking. Father, I pray that You would help us to love You, to praise You, to celebrate the gospel, to defend the gospel, and to share the gospel with others.

And Father, I pray for the person here today who still hasn't repented and believed. Lord, help them to see that they are making a decision, either to come to You in the way You prescribe, the only way that any sinner can come to You, in and through Your Son by repentance and faith in Him, or that they will make the decision to once again reject You, to reject Your Son, to reject Your gracious offer. And in so doing, they are merely accumulating more of Your judgment to themselves. Father, may this be the day of their salvation. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.