ROMANS 3 – 5:8

God’s Word is a Treasured Possession - Romans 3:1-2

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

At first Jim was excited to be the one entrusted with the heirloom family Bible. He knew that it was a treasured possession of his grandfather, and he was pleased to be singled out to get it.

But when Grandpa began to ask him questions about the book, Jim was a little put out. “Do you mean I am expected to read it?” he asked. “Not just read it,” Grandpa answered. “Read, mark, learn, and take it to heart!”

Generation after generation of Jewish people were entrusted with the very words of God. God sent his prophets directly to the people, and the faithful ones spoke as God told them. When it came to writing the Bible books, men of God put down every word as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Reading and hearing those words, Jewish people realized that they had some special responsibilities as the group from whom the Savior would come. They had to practice circumcision. They had to follow special ceremonial laws that pointed to Jesus.

At times it seemed like a burden, and at times the Jewish people were put out. “Why us?” they asked.

But it was an advantage to have the very words of God which told faithful readers and hearers about the coming Savior and the way to heaven. Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

Grandpa knew that when he gave the Bible to Jim. He knew that the family Bible was written in archaic English, and that Jim would have to check a modern translation to understand the meaning of some verses. But Grandpa knew that the effort would be worth it, because the Bible is the very Word of God.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, it is extraordinary that you have entrusted me with your very words in the Holy Bible. Help me to believe and live them in a way that glorifies you through your Son, Jesus. Amen.

A Call to Repentance and Faith - Romans 3:3-8

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right in your words and prevail in your judging.” 5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

It is a tragedy when a leader in the church is revealed as someone who is really an unbeliever. It shakes people’s faith to know that someone they trusted was really a hypocrite.

It is an even greater tragedy when those people, their faith shaken, stop going to church, cutting themselves off from the power of the Word, the only thing that can heal their spiritual wounds.

Did God do something wrong to let a hypocrite become a leader in the church? At first it might seem so. How could an all-powerful, all-knowing God let something like that happen?

God does not want us to sin. He condemns sinful thoughts, words, and actions. When anyone, even a church leader, sins, it becomes an opportunity to call another sinner to repentance and faith in Jesus for forgiveness. That is how God brings good out of a bad situation.

It is not an opportunity for the fallen church leader to complain about unjust treatment. It is not an opportunity for Christians to say, “See, he did something bad. I can do something bad too! I’ll just ask for forgiveness later.”

God is faithful. He promises us forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus as our Savior. Even in the worst of times, God is there for us with his call to repentance and faith.

Prayer:
Lord God, give me a heart that trusts and glorifies you in all situations. Amen.

Declared Righteous - Romans 3:9-20

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better ? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

People like to make their own lives sound good, no matter how bad they are really going.

Some people say, “At least I am not as bad as my relative or my neighbor.” But they are really just trying to take the spotlight off of themselves. God’s law does not allow that. It says, “Don’t talk like that. Look at yourself in the mirror, not your relative or neighbor.”

Other people say, “At least I am not as bad as I used to be.” But they are really just trying to compare themselves to their previous way of life, a lower standard, rather than to God’s law. God’s law does not allow that. It says, “You are accountable to God.”

Still other people say, “I do a few bad things, but I make up for them with random acts of kindness and a generally good life.” But they are really just trying to be declared righteous by the good things they do. It won’t work. God’s law says, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”

We know our sin. Our own lives will not get us to heaven. Only the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus does that.

Prayer:
Lord, when I am tempted to rely on my own life, call me to repentance and teach me to trust Jesus. Amen.

A Righteousness from God - Romans 3:21-24

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God wants to have fellowship with us. He wants us to live with him and experience his love and blessings. Finally, he wants to bring us to his heavenly glory. He has one requirement—we must be righteous. We must have the “rightness” that makes us acceptable to God. Setting the standard, God declares, “Be perfect.” We are to be and do everything according to what meets his approval. And what meets the approval of the holy God is nothing less than perfection.

Try as we may to reach that level of rightness by striving to do what God commands and avoiding what he forbids in his law, we are faced with the fact that it is impossible. The truth is that all of us “fall short” of the perfection that God requires. On our own, we are helpless and headed for hell!

Oh! How we need saving! God knew that, and in mercy he acted. He came into our world and freed us from the tangled mess of our sin by suffering for us the punishment we deserved. And he gave us his own perfection, so that God now counts us as perfectly right. We meet God’s approval because Jesus has covered us with his righteousness. What we could never produce on our own, God has freely given to us.

Jesus did exactly what we needed him to do: he saved us. Trusting in Jesus we have life with God and we will enjoy fellowship with him forever!

Prayer (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 376):
Jesus, your blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress;
Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day—who can a word against me say?
Fully through you absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Serious about Sin - Romans 3:25-26

God presented [Christ Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

What good is a law if it is not enforced? For example, a stretch of road has a posted speed limit, but people go too fast because it is infrequently patrolled by the police. A parking space in front of the store is reserved for those with handicapped permits, but able-bodied drivers ignore the sign because they are quite sure that parking there will be overlooked. We’ve all done things that go against the law. If we are not forced to pay the price for our wrongful actions, we are emboldened to keep doing them. We conclude that the authorities aren’t serious or don’t care, so we can just do as we want without any fear of consequence.

It’s tempting to think that way about God. In his patience, he does not quickly bring judgment on us for our offenses against his law. As a result, we might be led to think that he is not serious when he threatens punishment for sin. And if we think that he is not serious about sin, we feel that we can live according to our own desires without fear of his justice.

The truth is that sin is very serious. In fact, God says that the consequence of sin is death! And that’s more than the kind of death associated with cemeteries. The consequence of sin is eternal death—condemnation in hell!

The fact that God “left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” is not because he isn’t serious about sin. It is because he mercifully loves us. Instead of carrying out his justice on us who truly deserve it, he laid the punishment for our sin on his Son. By shedding his blood on the cross, Jesus died the death that God’s justice demanded for sinners. With his justice completely satisfied by Jesus who served as our substitute, God has justly declared us free from the condemnation of death. Trusting in Jesus we have the gift of life with God forever!

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to never minimize the seriousness of sin. Lift up my eyes to see the cross to count the cost that was paid there by my Savior to take away the punishment I deserved. Lead me to praise Jesus always for the life he has given me. Amen.

Boasting - Romans 3:27-31

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Boasting about ourselves is not a characteristic that other people like very well. Even if the claims we make about ourselves are true, people grow weary quickly when we brag about who we are or how much we have or what we have done.

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

What matters most is who we are before God. By ourselves we have nothing on which to base our boasts. Try as we may to live according to God’s holy will as he commands us in his law, we fail again and again. We fall short of the holiness that God requires of us to live with him.

Though we are undeserving, in his great kindness God gave us the holiness that we need. He did this through Jesus who took away the guilt of our sin by dying in our place, and credits our Savior’s perfect life to us. Since the holiness, the righteousness we need to live with God has come to us from God, we can’t take the credit. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.” We can’t boast about something we haven’t done or about something that is given to us that we haven’t earned.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Boasting about Jesus is good and praiseworthy! For through his cleansing blood God has washed me completely clean, and by faith alone in Jesus I am delivered from the power of death and saved from the condemnation of hell. About Jesus my Savior I am glad to boast.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am glad to boast about you and praise you for all you have done that I should be your own and live with God forever! Amen.

Nothing to Boast About - Romans 4:1-3

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Does it irritate you when people boast when they have absolutely nothing to boast about?

A football player raises his hands to the crowd and thumps his chest after scoring a touchdown. The problem is, moments ago his team was trailing 42-0. The gorilla-like “look at me and the great thing I have done” display seems more than a little out of place. Really?! You are going to boast now?! Your team is still behind by 36 points! Toss the ball to the official and jog back to your sideline.

I must admit, such boasting irritates me.

I must also admit, I am guilty of sinful boasting. Maybe my boasting isn’t so in-your-face and blatant. Maybe I put on a better show of humility. But I boast nonetheless. About my earthly accomplishments. About my spiritual accomplishments. About how much better I am than others. If not outwardly, then in my mind, and in my heart. And so I boast before God who knows my mind and my heart.

That’s wrong. Sinfully wrong.

Like Abraham, I have nothing to boast about before God. Even if I kept all God’s commands perfectly, I would have nothing to boast about, I would only be doing what God told me to do. Besides, I have sinned, many times, and because of each sin I fall short of the glory of God.

So, life with God is not about boasting. It is about the righteousness that comes by faith—God-given, Spirit-born faith in Jesus, the perfect Son of God whose righteous life is credited to me and to you.

Thank God for creating and sustaining in you the faith that connects you to Christ and his righteousness.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the faith that connects me to Jesus. Enable me to live in the confidence that his righteousness is my life, my hope, my peace, my joy, my future. Amen.

Learning from Abraham - Romans 4:4-12

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” 9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

In the opening chapters of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he has made clear the truth that righteousness comes from God by faith, not by our works. In the verses before us today, he supports this truth using the circumstances of Abraham’s life.

When you go to work, you expect that you will be paid; that’s how it works. You agree to do a certain job or work a certain number of hours for a salary or hourly wage. You have this expectation because you have entered into a work-wage relationship with your employer.

That’s not how it works with God. Yours is not a work-wage relationship; your relationship with God is a faith-gift relationship. By faith God credits you with the gift of righteousness. This is just as it was for Abraham. Abraham wasn’t credited with righteousness because he was circumcised; he was circumcised as a sign and seal of the relationship he had with God by faith.

What does that mean for you and all who believe? Thank God we are not right with him by virtue of a work-wage relationship! If that were the case we would have absolutely no certainty. In fact, if we got what we earned or deserved, we would be doomed! As it is—living in a faith-gift relationship with God—we have the confidence that comes with and through Jesus.

Paul puts it like this: You are blessed! You are blessed to know that your transgressions are forgiven. You are blessed to know that your sins are covered. You are blessed to know that your sin will never be counted against you.

Oh, the joy of the faith-gift relationship which is ours through Christ!

Prayer:
O Lord, fill me with joy today—the joy of knowing my sins are forgiven, the joy of knowing I have been credited with the righteousness of Christ, the joy of knowing all this is mine through the gift of faith and not by works. Today may I and many others walk in the footsteps of the faith of our spiritual father, Abraham. Amen.

Only One Way - Romans 4:13-17

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

“There is more than one way to skin a cat.” The origins of this English saying are uncertain, but the meaning is clear. There is more than one way to achieve an aim. There is more than one approach to solving a problem. There is more than one way to get from A to B. Whatever you are trying to do, there are alternate ways of doing it; if plan A fails, one goes to plan B, and so on.

While this may be true in many earthly endeavors, the apostle Paul makes it clear that it is not true when it comes to heaven and eternal life.

For example, if you could get to heaven following the law, the “more than one way” axiom would be true. One person could choose plan A, another plan B, and so on. However, the law does not bring life; the law brings wrath. That’s because where there is law, there is transgression (sin), and where there is sin, there is condemnation (hell). The way of the law as a means of righteousness and eternal life does not and cannot work. That leaves us with only one way.

And what a beautiful way it is! The promise comes by faith. Righteousness comes by faith. These are beautiful words: by grace… guaranteed… to all!

The righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus is the way for all. It is the only way for all.

That is not a limiting truth; it’s a liberating truth. You are free from doubt, free from worry, free from uncertainty concerning your eternal future. You are free to rejoice, free to worship, free to serve, free to live. Free, through Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Help me cut off every thought and philosophy that suggests there is another way or multiple ways from me to you, from earth to heaven. May I rejoice in you always! Amen.

Fully Persuaded—by God’s Promise and Power - Romans 4:18-25

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

I have faith in God. Then why don’t I always live like I have faith? Why do I grow impatient so quickly? Why do I dwell on people’s failures when I should be praying for their futures? Why do I question God’s wisdom and will and ways? Why is my thinking clouded with doubt?

Abraham was not perfect. Scripture makes that clear. Yet, against all hope, Abraham believed. Even though he was almost 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old, Abraham believed. He knew that, as far as having children was concerned, he might as well be dead. He knew that his wife Sarah was well beyond childbearing years. As far as having children was concerned, she might as well be dead too. Yet Abraham believed he and Sarah would have a son.

Why did Abraham believe against all hope? Because it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Because God had said to him, “Abraham, you are going to have a son, and through that son I will ‘make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore’” (Genesis 22:17). God had said it. And Abraham believed God’s promise.

Why did Abraham believe against all hope? Because he was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Abraham knew that God’s power overcame what he saw in himself and Sarah: old people whose bodies humanly should not, could not, be the source of life. But God was almighty. And Abraham trusted God’s power.

By faith Abraham believed that God could raise up a son from his all-but-dead body, and by faith we believe that God raised his Son’s body from the death that held him. In both cases, death could not prevail. Abraham was blessed with a son. And we are blessed with a Savior. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

When the circumstances of life tempt you to question God’s wisdom or doubt God’s ways, believe what Abraham believed—that God will accomplish his good will, even when it doesn’t seem likely, even when it doesn’t seem possible—by his promise and his power.

Prayer:
Lord God, strengthen me with a faith that gives glory to you, fully persuaded that you have power to do what you have promised. Through Jesus our Lord, who was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Amen.

Access to God - Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

If you wanted to telephone the president of the United States, do you think you could get through to him? Oh, I doubt it greatly! You and I don’t have access.

How about your governor? Senator? Representative? Do you have access to them? Can you dial them up on the phone and have a chat? Probably not! In fact, we might not even have regular access to the people to whom we are the closest: our spouse, our children, our parents, our siblings.

But how about the Almighty Ruler of the universe? Do you have access to him? The amazing answer is a resounding, “YES!” You can talk to God anytime you want, about anything you want. God – the Almighty Ruler of the universe – not only hears you, but he answers you! And he answers in the way that’s BEST for you, because the Almighty Ruler of the universe loves you dearly. After all, he declared you to be innocent because of what Jesus did for you. He won peace for you. And because he won peace for you, you have access to God, all day, every day!

Prayer:
Assure me, O God, that I’m at peace with you. Remind me that you will use all things to bless me. Encourage me to make use of the amazing access which you’ve given to me, access to YOU! In Jesus’ name I pray it, for it was Jesus who won access for me. Amen.

God Chose to Love Us - Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Which of the following is more accurate?

1. God looked down from heaven and said, “All of you are doing so well! You’re showing love to each other, you’re honoring me, you’re listening to my Word, you’re doing so well! So, I’m going to come and die for you.

2. God looked down from heaven and said, “All of you are awful! You’re bitter, angry, selfish. You don’t show love for one another, you don’t listen to my Word, you don’t give me honor. So, I’m going to come and die for you.

While it’s disappointing for us to admit it, the correct answer is “b.” God looked at us and we were in horrible shape! Listed in the second option above are just a few sins; hundreds more could have been listed. And we don’t commit sins just once or twice, we commit sins over and over again, because sin isn’t just what we do, but also what we say and what we think and what we desire! Sin also includes the good that we FAIL to do, for example, failing to love God with all my heart. How many times already today have I failed to do that? And yes, every time I fail to love God with all my heart, that is sin.

And so you and I deserve to go to hell.

But God chose to love us! Yes, in an amazing act of HIS will, he determined to come to this earth for you and me and all people to live and die for us! In an amazing act of his will, he determined to save us from hell! In an amazing act of love, Christ came to be our Savior! God has chosen to love us with the most amazing love ever!

Live today in confidence! You have God on your side! And, God … loves … you … dearly!

Prayer:
Assure me that you have chosen to love me, dear Savior! Fill me with peace because of it! Amen.

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