Romans 3.27-31 – The ultimate measuring stick

When I was younger and there was any practical work to be done around the house or garden my Dad would bring out his spirit level, that metal stick with the little bubble in it, to see if what was being done was straight and true. When the work was finished, we would line up the level to see how good the work really was. Until then, we could have claimed to have built the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, but until we measured up, we would never know if what we were boasting in was good or not.

In this short paragraph today Paul tells us about the ultimate measuring stick, the ultimate spirit level to check ourselves against,

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

The boasting is that of the Jew, that of God’s chosen people, that of one who thinks they are pretty set and pretty straight in terms of righteousness. Compared with living a sinless and spotless life, compared to giving our life as a ransom for many, compared to willingly sacrificing our lives to save the entire cosmos, do we have much to boast in? If Jesus is the measuring stick, then our achievements seem to pale into insignificance in a works-based way of thinking, don’t they…

Woop woop, I didn’t shout at my kids for two hours yesterday…

woop woop, I didn’t beep my horn and flash my lights when I was cut up on the road…

woop woop I read my Bible today…

woop wo- you get the picture…

Why is our boasting pointless and excluded? By the law of faith. Compared to the salvation we receive, compared to the justification we receive before God through faith in Jesus, compared to this, our own boasting is excluded. As we read, God justifies the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith, too, not through anything we do.

Paul tells us that God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles, basically, the God of everyone. God’s law for His people of old always looked forward to the good news of justification by faith alone, apart from deeds, as we will see tomorrow. That’s why Paul can write that the faith we have upholds the law, as we are living the life that God always wanted for His people, a life of faith, and we are living the life now that was always promised and designed from old. 

Part of that is not boasting in anything other than what Jesus has done, what Jesus has done for you, and what Jesus will do for us all in the coming time. 

Point to ponder – Am I boasting in my own efforts of righteousness?

Prayer – Father, forgive me for those times when I may have boasted, maybe even without knowing, about my own earthly efforts of righteousness. I know you are a merciful God, I know you are a God who forgives, and I know you love me. Help me to only boast in the cross of Christ and nothing else. Amen.

Romans 3.19-26 – Sola Fide

When Martin Luther kick started the Protestant Reformation over 500 years ago, much of what he was arguing for was true Biblical Christianity, basically, that we should be turning to the Word of God alone to say what is what.

What came out of the Reformation, in terms of principles, can be summarised in five solas, one of which is sola fide, or, faith alone.

How important is sola fide? Well, Luther said that it is “the article with and by which the church stands.”

In this wonderful passage from Romans 3, Paul talks about sola fide for our salvation,

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

What else is there to say here aside from sola fide? Paul is so clear! 

…by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…

…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…

…justified by his grace as a gift…

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…

…all are justified bu his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…

…of the one who has faith in Jesus…

We would certainly have to agree with Luther when he said that the church stands on this; we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

Good works are never going to save us or get us closer to God – for sure, the good works come when we are saved, we feel compelled to do good, to serve others, to have our love come out in service to others (Hebrews 6.10) – but bottom line we are saved by sola gratia, sola fide.

Point to ponder – Am I doing things each day to try and earn God’s favour?

Prayer – Father we know we are able to confidently come to you in prayer only because Jesus stands between us as our perfect high priest, and it is by faith in Him alone, and through your unending grace alone that we are saved. Help us to know this for sure today, help us put no energy into being righteous by our own efforts and trust wholly in your provision for our justification, our ongoing sanctification, and our ultimate glorification. Amen. 

Romans 3.1-8 – Why not just…

Today Paul builds on the previous section and asks well, if God shows no partiality, then what advantage has the Jew? Why not just live as we like to show just how good God is?

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,

and prevail when you are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. 

So as God’s chosen people, does their faithlessness cancel out God’s faithfulness? By no means Paul says! Once you have promised something to your children, even if they misbehave in the meantime you still follow through on your promise, don’t you? You follow through because you made a promise and you want them to see that when a man or when a woman makes a promise, a commitment, that they stick to it. Parenting and grace need to be applied together! Now take this thought and apply it to what we know about God; cannot lie, unchanging character, good, faithful, pure, just…great is His faithfulness, and it is not dependent on us!

Paul then asks a couple of rhetorical questions, maybe you’ve heard them before;

  • If I am bad and that makes God look even better, why am I being condemned as a sinner?
  • Why don’t I just do bad stuff so God can prove that He is good by doing even more good stuff?

Sadly, these questions come from those who have no real change of heart to speak of, no real conversion experience, no relationship with God to consider. Consider those questions in the context of the fact that we are justified by faith; we believe all that is said and written about Jesus in God’s Word, we believe by faith that God raised Him from the dead, we believe by faith that God is who He claims to be, we believe by faith…but now we want to do a load of bad stuff? It just doesn’t compute. 

Today then, when there is a choice to be made, big or small, choose the option that glorifies God most through your conduct, not by taking a path away from Him in a misguided attempt to show just how good He is compared to your bad self!

Point to ponder – Having been justified by faith, am I now living by faith?

Prayer – Father we know we can come to you openly and honestly because Jesus stands before You in righteousness, and that when you look at us you see His righteousness, not ours. For this we thank you. We pray today that through the power of Your indwelling Holy Spirit we are able to make good choices, choices that glorify You through our actions, our behaviour, our words, and our conduct, and not choices that lead us away from You. Amen.

Romans 2.17-29 – Carrots and peas

I want you to imagine going to the supermarket and buying some tins of food. Even if you never buy food in tins you can still imagine this…so you go to the supermarket and you think “What I need now is a tin of peas”, so you buy your peas, get home, open the tin to eat them for your lunch and find that you’ve actually bought a tin of carrots. I know, carrots are fresh and delicious and better not bought in tins, but, shock, your tin of peas is actually a tin of carrots. How would you feel? This tin is labelled peas, but it’s actually carrots.

You bought it in good faith, but the outer label doesn’t match the inner goods. 

Today Paul is writing as much to the Romans, 

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Just as calling yourself a tin of peas if you are actually a tin of carrots is wrong, so is calling yourselves a Jew if you actually aren’t, says Paul (vv.17-24). He says that if your outer label says something that your inner goods are not, our label is meaningless (v.25), and that, in reality, if our inner goods are right, correct, and proper, then our outer label will be regarded as right, correct, and proper, regardless of what it said previously (vv.26-27). 

As soon as we call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus, or believers, we have a label to live up to. Sadly, when we inevitably don’t due to our inherent human nature we tarnish the label. Think how sad you were when you opened the peas and saw carrots…But, instead, we should be focused on what is inside, our inner goods. The inner goods receive praise not from man but from God, and He will change our label accordingly.

We focus on the inner person, which is being renewed day by day to conform to the image of Jesus.

Point to ponder – Does my outer label match my inner goods?

Prayer – Father, help me to focus on being a believer, on being a follower, on being a disciple. Help me today to think of this first and foremost, to live a life of righteousness that brings only glory to You and Your name. I pray that my actions match my words, and my deeds match my claims. Amen.

Romans 2.12-16 – Your moral compass

So often nowadays we hear people justifying their lifestyle by saying things like “Only God can judge me”, which of course is true. Or sometimes people get all morally relative and say things like “I’m a good person, I’ve never killed anyone.”, but the comparison game has to come to a head somewhere, doesn’t it. Often people are working from their own moral compass, that thing inside of us that tells us whether something is right or wrong, our conscience. But the problem is that our consciences can be violated, as a result of our inherent sinful nature, our conscience can not be so true, and our moral compass can point somewhere other than true north. Paul speaks to this in Romans 2.12-16,

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We see that, basically, there is no excuse whether we have the law or not (v.12), and, actually, even if we hear the law, and even if we hear the Good News of Jesus, simply hearing doesn’t actually save us (v.13), we need to do something with it! 

Paul goes on to say that even those without the law in front of them can still abide by it because it is written onto their hearts (Jeremiah 31.33 and the New Covenant). This is a wonderful privilege we have; to be living under the New Covenant of grace and to have the law of the Lord written on our hearts. That still, small voice, the tug of the conscience from inside, our conflicting thoughts that accuse or excuse, this is all our moral compass at work.

Through being in right relationship with God the Father through faith in God the Son, Jesus, we have God the Holy Spirit living in us.

This guarantees us that our moral compass is pointing to the absolute True north and means that no matter the circumstance, situation, dilemma, or problem we may face that we always have the right path before us, because God has put His law within us, and it is written on our hearts

Point to ponder – Is my moral compass pointing True?

Prayer – Father thank you for the world changing, life giving sacrifice you made for us by sending your Son to die for our sins. We know that this was the turning point in the history of the world, and in our own lives too, when we came to acknowledge and accept this. Help us to keep our minds on your law, and help us to keep our moral compass pointing to You. Amen.

Interested in morality? Our worldview devotional series covers the four big questions a worldview has to answer; origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. 

Read it here.