In church, our pastor has been doing a series called Christianity 101. It lays down some of the basic understandings of Christianity. You can watch or listen to the past four sermons here, or you can listen to them in our iTunes Podcast. I’ll be doing my own series for a few days here as well, that also parallels what he has preached. God seemed to work this perfectly for me, because I had it only my mind all weekend, already, and when I did my daily reading, (I’m doing a “read the Bible in a year” plan) the following passage was on my list to read, and it fits perfectly with what I wanted to talk about today anyway.
Romans 3:21-31 New King James Version (NKJV)
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Paul has been writing to the Church at Rome about the Justification of the Believer through faith, not by works or circumcision. Many people wrongly put the focus on works, saying that it is by works someone is justified because that is the way we are programmed to think in the world. Many Jew’s also thought that the Gentiles should be circumcised and live as the Jews because God only loved the Jews. Paul explains in Romans that there is One God and He is the God of the Jew and the Gentile.
Perhaps one of the most well known Bible verses is seen in this passage: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul is telling the Jews that both the Gentiles and the Jews are both equally inadequate for the glorious life that God wants for us. This falling short is from our sin. Remember, only one sin is enough to make us fall short.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If the wages of sin is death, this means that if we sin, even once, we have a debt of death that must be paid. This debt is laid on us and keeps us from God, for sin cannot be in His presence. God is a perfectly just God, and will not abandon His rules. He laid the rules down in the beginning that if we sin, there must be death.
The Debt Forgiven
But God is also a perfectly loving and forgiving God and is faithful to forgive our sins. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is great news. We will be forgiven our sins if we confess them!
But we just saw that God is perfectly just, and the wages of sin is death, so if we sin, there must be death. We also saw that we have all sinned. So does this mean that God doesn’t stick to His word? Is He like the young parent who tells their child, “You better eat your broccoli or you won’t get any ice-cream,” but when the child throws a temper tantrum loud enough and long enough the parent gives up and gives the child ice-cream anyway? Certainly not.
In the NASB translation Hebrews 9:22 says “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” He has a plan of forgiveness that has been set down from the beginning. The Hebrews called it the Law or the Torah. For there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. This is why they sacrificed animals to God, to have the shed blood which cleansed their sin. The innocent blood of the lambs cleansed their sins. But they still had to acknowledge their sin, and that they were short of the glory of God.
Now, when Jesus died on the cross, He became that sacrificial lamb for us. That is what it means when we say He died for our sins. Since we know “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” He is the one who shed His blood for our forgiveness. But there would be a problem if Jesus had ever sinned. Because then His death would only forgive His sin, not ours. However, the Bible tells us Jesus was without sin for His entire existence.
This is how God can be both a fully just God, and a fully loving God. He follows His own rules. Sin means death, and blood must be shed. So Jesus dies instead, even though He didn’t have to, and we can use His blood in place of ours.
Acts 2:37-39 NKJV
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
When we hear and accept the truth that we are sinful and cannot be in God’s glorious presence, but He will forgive us, the natural response is “how do I get this forgiveness?” Peter gives us the answer in the book of Acts: repent and be baptized.
Imagine a store. In this store, each item on the shelves is a sin. When we check out we go to the cashier. Even if we only had one single item in our basket, (when we all, myself included, would have multiple baskets filled) the cashier rings it up and tells you the cost: You must die and forever be apart from God. But if you have accepted the Forgiveness of Christ and repented of your sins, you have a coupon. On this Coupon it says:
I already died for this person
My challenge to you this day is one of the utmost importance. If you haven’t repented of your sins, do so now. There is no magic word or formula or ritual to do so, but just a simple acknowledgment that you are sinful. That even though you’ve done some good on this earth, you have also done wrong. This wrong lives in you still and cannot be forgiven without the blood of Christ. Ask God to clean you with His blood and to help you to be truly repentant of your sins.
If you know you are a justified believer, having repented and been baptized in His name, my challenge is different. The last command Jesus gave us before He ascended back to the Father was to spread His word. To make disciples (followers & believers) of all nations. So spread the word. It can be as simple as sharing this on Facebook, or actually engaging people in His word. Not everyone is a preacher, but we are all missionaries.