Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Biblical Orthodoxy: A Theology of the Cross (pt 3)
...sin and grace (Romans 3:23-24)

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;" (Romans 3:23-24).

3. The Cross Demands the Glory of God

soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)

All glory belongs to God and man may not share in that glory. All that we have in life and salvation if from His sovereign hand; He has accomplished all through Jesus Christ our Lord - not only the atonement on the Cross, but even granting the faith which allows sinful men to be saved. Every aspect of salvation is a grace-gift from God, and thus all praise belongs to Him alone and not to any man.

The Sinfulness of Sin and the Sinner

Romans 3:23a "for all have sinned..."

Man by his very nature is corrupt-totally depraved, conceived in sin, dead in his trespasses and sins. By nature a child of wrath; depraved in his mind and deprived of the truth. He is a sinner not because he commits acts of sin, but because he is born sinful-with a sin nature.

“Sin strikes at God and says, ‘I don’t care what You said, I’ll do what I want.’ It is God’s would be murderer. Sin would un-God God if it could. Sin defiles the conscience. Sin is irrational and forfeits blessing. Sin is painful—it hurts. Sin is damning. Sin is degrading it mares the image of God and man. Like Samson, it cuts the locks of purity and leaves men morally weak. Sin poisons the springs of love and turns beauty in leprosy. Sin defeats the mind, the heart, the will, the affections and it has made a whole world of people—all of mankind—children wrath by nature; objects of God’s wrath. Sin brings man under the domination of Satan and his sick sin system, which he controls. Man and the world is a slave to sin, open rebellion and defiance to God and a slave to Satan.” (author unknown).
That great puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards, brings us to the crossroads of this issue when saying:
“Sin is naturally exceeding dear to us; to part with it is compared to plucking out our right eyes. Men may refrain from wonted ways of sin for a little while, and may deny their lusts in a partial degree, with less difficulty; but it is heart-rending work, finally to part with all sin, and to give our dearest lusts a bill of divorce, utterly to send them away. But this we must do, if we would follow those that are truly turning to God: yea, we must not only forsake sin, but must, in a sense, forsake all the world, Luke 14:33 'Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.'"
Thomas Watson emphasizes this as well by the aphorism:
"Another subtlety is to draw men to evil, sub specie boni, under a pretence of good. -- The pirate doeth mischief by hanging out false colors; so does Satan by hanging out the colors of religion. He puts some men upon sinful actions, and persuades them much good will come of it. He tells them in some cases that they may dispense with the rule of the Word, and stretch their conscience beyond that line, that they may be in a capacity of doing more service. As if God needed our sin to raise his glory."
And because our nature is totally corrupt, the only thing that we are deserving of, if God was only just, holy and righteous, is to be sentenced to perditions flames for all eternity. On my best day, doing my best good works, clothed in the rags of my own righteousness reward me the hottest fires of hell. Absent of God’s grace through Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit – I am deserving and worthy of eternal judgment.

John MacArthur profoundly says,
“Most unsaved people do not think of themselves as enemies of God. Because they have no conscious feelings of hatred for Him and do not actively oppose His work or contradict His Word, they consider themselves, at worst, to be “neutral” about God. But no such neutrality is possible. The mind of every unsaved person is at peace only with the things of the flesh, and therefore by definition is “hostile toward God” and cannot be otherwise (Rom. 8:7).”
Not only are all unbelievers
enemies of God,
but God is also the enemy
of all unbelievers.

The Psalmist says that God is "angry with the wicked every day" (cf. Ps. 7:11). God is the enemy of the sinner, and that enmity cannot end unless and until the sinner places his trust in Jesus Christ. As Paul declared near the opening of this letter of Romans, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).

No man is without excuse.

To those who foolishly think God is too loving to send anyone to hell, Paul declared, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [the sins listed in v. 5] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6); “and the Lord does hate all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:5). You see, Hell is not the absence of God, but the wrathful presence of God poured out for eternity upon Satan and all his minions, and all who have rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, who do not confess Him as Lord and Savior of their lives in unmitigated fury and gall forever.

But on the cross, Christ took upon Himself all the fury of God’s wrath on behalf of the elect that sinful mankind deserves. And those who trust in Christ are no longer God’s enemies and no longer under His wrath, but are at peace with Him (Roms. 5:1).

What is the glory that Paul is speaking of here?
Romans 3:23b - "and fall short of the glory of God,"

This glory is not the "doing of all things for God's glory." Roms. 3:10-18 settles that issue plainly. It is not the future glory of glorification (Jude 24-25) that all true believers will receive one day in eternity; i.e., the believers future reward as found in 1 Cor. 15:43; 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:17; Col. 1:27, 3:4; and 2 Tim. 2:10.

IT IS the entrance of sin that causes all to fall short of God's glory. The term glory of God means here "glory imparted by God": IOW, in the sense of approval, approbation and praise. Following this line of thinking you could translate this verse as saying, "All have sinned and continually are unworthy of God's praise and appraisal” (present tense). All continually fall short of God’s holy approbationl of our lives.

There is nothing we can to please God, satisfy God, merit His favor; to be in right relationship with Him apart from His grace. We are completely depraved, conceived in sin, by nature children of wrath, sons of disobedience, no seeking after God, no one doing what is right, no fear of God before our eyes, etc. (cp, Roms. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-3; Psalm 51:5).

So what Paul is meaning in verse 23 is this:
"all continually sin and constantly fall short of conformity to God's image."

William Hendrickson translates this way:
"All have sinned and as a result are now in a state in which they are falling short of (or lacking) what they possessed before the fall, namely, the inestimable blessing of having the approval of God resting upon them."
That is why Spurgeon clearly states:
"Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through His blood; if you are justified, it is through His righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because He is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in Him. Thus Jesus is magnified-for all is in Him and by Him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us-for it is obtained in Him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved "in whom" we have obtained all."

4. The Cross Distinguishes the Grace of God
-sola gratia (grace alone)
Romans 3:24 "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;"

Salvation comes by grace alone, not through any merits intrensic of the sinner. Thus salvation is an unearned gift. This is a response to the Catholic doctrine of merit.

This is the first time Paul uses the verb to justify in a positive sense to set forth the doctrine of justification by faith. Justify here means to declare righteous. Justification then may be defined as:
"the gracious act of God, whereby, on the basis solely of Christ's accomplished mediatorial work on the cross, He declares the sinner just, and later accepts this benefit with a believing heart."
Justification stands over and against condemnation.

Justification is also a matter of imputation: the sinner's sin, guilt and penalty of sin is imputed to Christ; the Savior's complete righteousness (His active and passive obedience) is imputed to the sinner (2 Cor. 5:21).

We are justified Paul says "as a gift" or freely; in other words, absent of any human merit. Man cannot earn the great and awesome blessing of justification-being made right with God. We can only receive it as a gift and that receiving is even an act of grace.

"By His grace"
And this was all accomplished by grace.

Grace presupposes sin, guilt, and demerit; it addresses the fact that not only have we not earned the favor of God, we have earned the curse of God. Grace means we don’t get the curse we deserve, instead, we get the blessings we don’t deserve, because Christ earned them in our place. The Gospel is the message of the grace of God.

The historically accepted definition of grace is: unmerited favor. But this is really inadequate. It is a definition of kindness rather than grace; it doesn’t go far enough.

My friend, Jerry Bridges, gives a tremendous illustration of this. He says,
“A hungry hobo comes to your door asking for a meal. You give it to him freely, without him doing anything to earn it. This would be considered ‘kindness’, but not ‘grace’.
Here is a biblical definition of grace:
1. ‘God’s favor through Christ to those who deserve His disfavor.’
This is designed to compare/contrast to the historically accepted inadequate definition of grace above.

2. ‘God’s blessings through Christ to those who deserve His curse.’
I think that this is the better of the two definitions.
Again, Jerry Bridges is masterful in illustrating this truth:
“The hobo robs you after eating your free meal. He then returns one month later. But instead of calling the police, you give him another meal.

Let’s look at this definition of grace a bit closer.
1. Grace is: ‘God’s blessings through Christ’.
Christ is the only basis for both our redemption from the curse and our attaining any of God’s blessings. Apart from the Fifth Marian Dogma; The Treasury of Merit; Penance; Purgatory; etc. that Romanism teaches as “the means of grace by which we merit eternal life…”, true salvation by grace is through Christ alone!

Consider these verses:
Rom. 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Rom. 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

Rom. 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Rom. 5:21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2Cor. 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

2Cor. 13:14 ¶ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

Eph. 2:7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

2Tim. 1:9 who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
Could it be any clearer? Grace is only through Christ Jesus the Lord. And contrary to postmodern religious affections being touted today, biblically - "whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:23)

2. Grace is given “to those that deserve His curse."
We have assaulted the holiness of God. We have broken His law. We have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. And we have followed the way of our own lustful, prideful, rebellious hearts; recreating God in our own image to accommodate our sin and sinful behavior.

As Paul said in Titus 3:3, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”

That is my testimony; and this is yours as well.

Here is Jerry again providing this insightful and penetrating illustration by saying:
“This takes us from seeing ourselves as the hungry hobo to seeing ourselves as the hobo-robber.”
This is why the law should never be divorced from gospel preaching. For the law brings conviction upon our sinful hearts, revealing that we are the hobo-robber; we are sinful and sinners who commit acts of sin. And that all sin, though it may wound others and hurt ourselves, is ultimately an act of rebellion against a holy God and God alone.

That is why grace is never static; but active. We could say that grace is ‘God in action.’ Grace is not just a benevolent attitude on God’s part to sinful people; but grace is ‘God in action’ for our good and His glory.

By this active God of grace to coming to sinful people like me and you, He is saving us, justifying us, empowering us, sustaining us, equipping us, etc. And it is all ‘by His grace.’

G.S. Bishop powerfully defines grace as:
"Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the ax of justice; so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures; so adverse to God that they cannot turn to Him; so blind that they cannot see Him; so deaf that they cannot hear Him; and so dead that He Himself must open their graves."
"through the redemption (accomplished) in Christ Jesus"
Redemption is deliverance by means of a payment of ransom from the guilt, power and punishment of sin.

Romans 8:28-30, the golden chain of salvation, says:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God--that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose. For those he foreknow, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Whom He predestined, Oh, He called: whom He called, He justified: and whom He justified, these He glorified."

Beloved, not only are we saved by grace, but we stand in grace everyday as well. Our finite sin can never exhaust His infinite grace (Roms. 5:2).

We are great sinners; but He is a greater Savior.


ann_in_grace said...

Not easy to comment on your posts. They are so good :)

("No man is without excuse." <--- this double negative makes it not right.)

Terry Rayburn said...


Really good series on the Cross.

So good to see real Justification honored. One of the biggest attacks on the Church today is legalism in various forms that destroys Justification by faith.

By adding works to faith, and thrusting Justification forward to the final Judgment of God, Neo-Legalists are denying the once-for-all Justification of the Bible, where God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, apart from works, as a free gift, at the time of our believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Perspective, Norman Shepherd, and Federal Vision guys are teaching faith plus works, in a very subtle way, and many of the Emerging/Emergent Church folks have caught this bad virus.

How refreshing to see the pure imputed righteousness Justification, wherein we are declared righteous, permanently, by faith alone, because He became sin for us.