Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: Paul has just completed the most powerful and comprehensive statement ever made on the sinfulness of man. No man can ever be good enough to make himself right with God. If the book of Romans ended here, man’s condition would be hopeless. We would all be doomed to Hell. However, praise God! Romans does not end at 3:20, but proceeds.
Romans 3:21a “But now. . . .”
Be grateful for these two words. They are this book’s “Great Turning Point” (Lloyd-Jones), the axis on which Romans makes a complete turn.
Before this, the book pointed to our hopelessness; now it points to our Hope. Its prior emphasis has been our sin; henceforth, the emphasis will be our Sin Bearer. It has spoken of ruin, but now highlights redemption.
Good News! God has provided a remedy for sin. There is a way by which men can be made right with God. A man can know for sure he will go to heaven when he dies.
Since the first sin in Eden, man’s dilemma has been how to get right with God. We are stuck with sin. It cleaves to us. How can we nevertheless be acceptable in God’s sight?
There is only one way, but thank God there is one. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Yes, there is a way our sins can be forgiven. Let us “reason together” with Paul, and learn how.
Romans 3:21b “. . .the righteousness of God without the law is
manifested, being witnessed by the law and the
The Bible, “the law and the prophets,” has revealed “the righteousness of God” apart from works. Righteousness here denotes what is necessary to make one right in the eyes of God. Its first characteristic is that it is “of God.” He is the Author of it. Whatever it takes to be right with God, it will not be conjured up within us, but rather received as a gift from God.
God is the essence and giver of all life. He is also the center and source of all righteousness. He alone has inherent rightness. Hence, He alone can dispense it. He demands righteousness and provides it.
The second characteristic of being right with God is that it occurs “without the law.” Forget about law as an aid to salvation. God’s is a no-law righteousness. In no way can we merit our salvation. Someone else will have to come to our rescue. Our only hope will be some form of substitution bestowed by grace. Since one cannot produce it, it must be provided.
Herein is the distinctive message of the Bible. In all other philosophies, men strive to merit God’s favor, but The Book shows the way whereby God takes sinners and saves them though they can never earn it or deserve it. Paul will now tell the means God uses to save undeserving sinners.
Romans 3:22a “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith
of Jesus Christ. . . .”
Our only only ONLY hope for being right with God is by “faith of Jesus Christ.” This means a faith of which Christ is the object. One is saved by putting his trust in what Christ has accomplished for him.
Faith of itself is not enough. Faith does not save. It is not enough to believe this or that religious philosophy. “Sincerity” is not enough. Buddhists, Mormons, Moslems, etc., have sincere faith but are lost. Faith must focus on Jesus. Religious faith in general will not suffice, nor shall a belief in the Bible as the Word of God, nor a belief in the existence of God.
In fact, it is not enough to believe in the existence of Jesus. One can believe Jesus lived, came from heaven, was born of a virgin, performed miracles, rose from the dead, etc., and still be lost. “Faith of Jesus Christ” is not belief about Him or admiration for Him. It is not believing He was a good Teacher, Moralist, Example, etc.
“Faith of Jesus Christ” refers not primarily to intellectual belief in what Jesus was, but rather to a personal appropriation of what Jesus did. It means trusting Him to do something specific for you now based on what He did at Calvary for all men.
Lest I be misunderstood, the intellectual assent to what Jesus actually was is essential. Before one will trust what Jesus did, he must believe Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God. However, a person cannot be saved until he presses on to trust in what Jesus can do because of what He is.
No man who looks away from sin to his Savior need despair. However, he must look to him as personal Savior. There must be a recognition Jesus died in “my” place for “my” sin, and is now willing on the basis of faith to forgive “my” sin and come live in “my” heart. Faith is merely the instrument by which salvation achieved for us in Christ comes to us. Jesus does the saving.
“Faith of Jesus Christ” means one is no longer looking at himself or at his own deeds. It implies dependence on Someone else. He looks entirely to Christ and His finished work. On that alone he rests. He hears “It is finished” and trusts in the truthfulness of it.
Our faith in Jesus must be one of total trust. Do not try to mix grace and merit. Do not lean partly on Christ and partly on self. Fling self totally upon the mercy of God. Lean hard on Jesus.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
(Edward Mote, 1832)
Christ is the only trustworthy foundation for salvation. Faith is worthless without a firm foundation. A man drives his car across a bridge because he believes the construction will support the vehicle. However, if a support has been knocked away, all the faith in the world will not keep the car from being wrecked. Christ is a worthy foundation, steadfast and sure. Believers are often like the elderly woman who said she often trembled on the rock, but had learned the rock never trembled under her. (God help us to go one step further and reach the point where we are so attached to the rock that our own trembling ceases.)
Romans 3:22b “. . .unto all and upon all them that believe: for
there is no difference:”
Each is just as guilty of sin as anyone else; and each is just as eligible for salvation. All are treated equally. The offer reaches to everyone everywhere every moment. At this very instant you can put your trust in Christ. Yes, you can be forgiven now.
The Devil and evil can not reach farther than Christ can. Wherever sin travels, Christ can also come. There is ample room for all in His family.
There’s room at the cross for you.
Though millions have come,
There’s still room for one.
Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.
It is all of grace, my friend. God wants to give it to you right now. You might say, “That is too easy, preacher. Folks will accept the gift and then live like the Devil.” Not true! Once Christ enters your heart, He goes to work to cleanse from sin.
If salvation by grace is a lie, if you put your trust in the finished work of Christ and yet end up in Hell, you will find there the Bible and this preacher. If it be a hoax, Peter, Paul, Luke, and John the Beloved will all be there waiting for you.
A young Scotch preacher went to the deathbed of one of his elderly saints who had walked with Jesus many a year. Now, “in the valley” this dear old lady seemed to have extra sweet communion with Jesus. The pastor marvelled at her peace and assurance, but was somewhat alarmed when she said, “Young man, if I should not be in Heaven, the good Lord would lose more than I could ever lose.” The preacher immediately asked for an explanation, and what he heard made a lasting impression. “If I should not be in Heaven, all I could lose would be my own soul, for that is all I have to lose. But if I should not be in heaven, the good Lord would lose His name and honor, for He has promised to saved them to the uttermost that come to Him by Christ, and that is the way which I have come.” Believe it, dear listener. There is no other way but by faith of Jesus Christ.