Advent of Jesus Christ

Romans 3:9-20


But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed; being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, 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, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Father, we thank You, we thank You that this word is to us. It is to us who so desperately need this word of Your grace, and we are thankful for Your grace. As we stand here today, a couple days away from the celebration of Your coming, the celebration of Your birth, Lord we stand here recognizing that Your birth is a great gift. As we prepare to give gifts to one another, we prepare to receive gifts, Lord we pray that we would be those who give out the greatest gift, having received it Lord. So work in us, Lord increase our joy in You, we pray; for we ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”

You can be seated.

For the last couple of months we have considered, in depth, the reality that all humanity is fallen, and therefore, all of humanity is lost. Fallen because of sin, and desperately lost, walking in darkness. At every single level, humanity is lost. We know for certain the unbelieving hedonist, they are sinfully lost, I mean their hedonism is clearly seen. But not only them, the moralist, and also the religionist are no better off. As we’ve seen in chapters 1, 2, and the beginning of chapter 3, all are guilty before God. Every single one of us. And our desperate place, the one who has that morality because of their conscience, or that person who is come up in a religious background, by the way of the conscience, or by the revelation given to them in the Law, they know for certain that they are lost. Whether they want to recognize it or not, admit it, verbalize it or not; we recognize that none of us measure up. Our mouths are stopped, and we are therefore guilty before God, because of all that we have done. And God’s Law, it works to expose our guilt. As we saw previously in our study last week, that it is by the law comes the knowledge of sin, there in verse 20 of Romans, chapter 3. And so we are under the power and the influence of sin. And even our good deeds, those done even according to the law of God, they will not make us right in the sight of God. This is the desperate condition of humanity. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves right before a holy God. And even the good works that we do, they will never suffice. The prophet Isaiah, speaking to the nation of Israel, the people who had a religion ordained and established by God there at Mt. Sinai; he says to that nation, he says there in Isaiah 64, verse 6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousness is like filthy rags before God.” So even the good things that we do in accordance to God’s Law, because of our fallen heart, those things are tainted, our good deeds are even tainted. And so we are desperate. This is our condition – completely lost.

Now, some, when confronted with the desperate plight of humanity, will respond, “But my God is a loving God. And because my God is a loving God, He would never judge me. He would never send me to hell, because He is a loving God. Right?” I mean that’s what we see in the scriptures: “For God so loved the world.” We see even in the Old Testament, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And so the love of God is displayed many times in the words that we have here in the scriptures. And so we recognize that God is a loving God; and so because God is a loving God, we assume, based upon that love, that He will not judge. Because we seek to process the love of God through kind of our own earthly mindset, a fallen mindset of what love is. But the reality is that God is loving, and because He is loving, and because He is also just and holy, therefore, because of His very nature, He cannot clear our guilt, He cannot just pass over guilt, because of His justice. So, although His nature is that He is love, it’s not that He just loves, He is, in His very nature, in His very essence, He is love; but He is also just, at His nature, and at His essence. In fact we read in the Proverbs, in Proverbs 17, verse 15, Solomon, that wise guy, he says there, he speaks truth when he says this, Proverbs 17, verse 15, he says, “He who justifies the wicked is an abomination to God.” I want you to think about that for a moment. “He who justifies the wicked is an abomination before God.” Now to justify the wicked, in the context of that word justified there in Proverbs, chapter 17, the idea is to clear over guilt. Someone is very evidently guilty, they are wicked, they have done something that is wrong before humanity, and before God, and to release them from a just punishment is abominable to God. It’s an abomination to release a wicked individual. We cannot simply clear over guilt. It is repulsive that a wicked person would go unpunished. And since we are created in the image and likeness of God, that’s what we read in Genesis, chapter 2; since we are created in the image and likeness of God, we also have an incredible repulsion when we see someone who is guilty, and they are cleared from punishment. It just…it affects us at a deep level when we see that. We cannot stand injustice. Amen? We’re disgusted at injustice. But this, what we find there in Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 15, it creates something of a significant problem. You see, if the law is unable to make us right before God; if there’s nothing that we can do to make ourselves holy and right before a holy and righteous God; and if God abominates the injustice of clearing the guilty, then how can we be made righteous? What can we possibly do to be made righteous, if we cannot make ourselves clean by the law, and God abominates clearing guilty wicked sinners? How can we escape the righteous wrath of God? How can a loving and gracious God, who is also just and holy, maintain His justice, while at the same time justifying or making us righteous? How can He continue to not become a self-abomination, according to Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 15; and also release us, forgive us, who are sinfully lost?

This is what the Advent is all about. You see, when we celebrate, once a year, the birth of Christ – the Advent, the coming of this Great One; what we are celebrating is the answer to that question. Now, I recognize, and you should recognize as well, that it is highly unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th. Let’s just get that out of the way. We’re merely celebrating His coming. Christmas, Christ-mas, means celebration of Christ. We’re celebrating His coming. We recognize that the picture that we sometimes have in our heads, or on Christmas cards, or in Nativity scenes, is not necessarily what that scene looked like. When we sing songs: “No tear did He shed,” that’s just probably not reality. I mean, most of us in here have had little children, little babies; Jesus came into the world as a little baby, probably not on December 25th. But what we are celebrating is the Advent, the coming, of the One who answers this great question. God cannot, because of His justice, because of His nature, He cannot merely clear over guilt. And we cannot, by our works of righteousness, under the law, make ourselves right before a holy God. So how can we escape His wrath? Which is just, it’s right, that He would pour out wrath upon sinful man. It is right that He would pour out wrath upon those who have committed injustice, and wickedness, and gone against the character of God. It’s only right that He would do that.

And we, in our core, although if we are ever under the light of His wrath, we don’t think so; but in our core, we recognize that justice must come. We want justice. And the reality is that we all love justice; and I can prove this by the way that we process things when someone cuts us off on the freeway. And every single one of you know that you’ve had that time where you wish, like me, that you had lights on the top of your car when someone does something. Don’t you? Yes!! Why, because we love justice. We just want that person to experience and taste justice…until we are the ones doing the cutting. And I know you’ve had this experience; where you do something knowingly wrong, driving – driving’s an easy one to pick on, because we all fall short in our driving. My wife would tell you that I especially fall short in my driving. And so maybe you’ve had that time where you accidently, it’s always an accident; you go through a red light, and then, in your rearview mirror, you have like a minor panic attack, because you think that you see justice, in your rearview mirror. And immediately there’s a cry in your heart for mercy. So, as it relates to us, we always want mercy. Amen? As it relates to others, we want justice…we want justice. God created us this way. He fashioned us in His image and His likeness; and so we desire justice; we recognize the need for it; especially in a fallen world, and we see the effects of the fall all the time around us, more and more as time goes by.

And I’m convinced that it’s not necessarily that crime is on the increase, in the sense that there’s more of it than there ever was before; but there’s just more of humanity and there’s more availability for us to know about it. Crime is always there. The realities of the fall are evident continuously. Look through history; be a student of history, and you’ll find it. You know, things are just as bad now as they have been at other times in history. Wickedness abounds. And as we see the abounding of wickedness, the love of many grows cold. This is what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 24, “As wickedness abounds, the love of many grows cold.” Now, the reality is that this growing cold of love happens in us as well. Because as we look out over humanity, and we see things that are wicked, are fallen, are wrong, we become cynical, we lose love. We look at the world in a different way. And so when we are walking down the street and we see someone who looks a little different than us, we kind of…we get up tight. Because why? Because we’ve been affected by the realities of the fall. And so our love for humanity grows cold. And so the world is sinfully lost. And a gracious God; He is gracious, He is loving. He cannot clear over guilt, and all of us, as we have seen, are guilty. “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3:20. “Every mouth is stopped, we have all come before God as guilty,” Romans 3:19.

So this is what we have seen in the first few chapters of the book of Romans. The problem is laid out with extreme clarity, and there is nothing that we can do to make ourselves righteous. So what can be done? Look at verse 21: “But now…” “But now,” I love those two words. We love the “buts” of the Bible. “But now…” Something has changed; there is a change of course, a change of direction here in verse 21. After we have come to the recognition of our utter helpless lostness; when we recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, make ourselves right with a holy God by our own good works; at that right time, we read, “But now.” In Romans, chapter 5, verse 6, in the New Living Translation, I like the way that it reads, it says this: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time.” “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time.” You know those suspenseful movies, where it seems like everything is falling apart, and you’re just sitting on the edge of your seat, hoping that something good is going to happen, and then at “just the right time” Frodo comes on the scene. You know. Or something… I mean, at “just the right time.” And there’s… And you know it’s going to happen mentally, because that’s the way Hollywood makes movies. They want to make money, so they make movies that we connect with. And so, you’re sitting there, and you’re…oh…come on. And then, “just the right time,” there comes Hans Solo, and everything’s okay. Now amplify that like a million times. And Jesus, “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time.” You see the law made way for the coming of Christ at “just the right time.” The law was given for the purpose of preparing the way for Jesus to come at “just the right time.” So that He could come on into this scene, if you will, when everything seems utterly lost and helpless… “at just the right time.”

There’s this little bird up here, he’s trying to get in the sanctuary. He wants to be here this morning. I keep seeing him bounce against… He wants to come in. Sorry. It’s distracting me. You wonder, what goes through his mind when he’s up there teaching? I’ll tell you what goes through my mind. There’s a bird, trying to come in the sanctuary. He wants to be here.

“At just the right time.” How can we be made righteous? The Advent is the answer to that question. How can we escape the righteous wrath of God? The Advent is the answer to that question. How can a just and holy God maintain His justice, and at the same time justify the wicked; and we are all wicked. And so we have the answer: “But now.” “But now” what? “The righteousness of God.” “The righteousness of God.” Now, we talked about the righteousness of God earlier in the book of Romans, in chapter 1, verse 17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Why does the righteousness of God need to be revealed? Verse 18, “For the wrath of God is revealed,” it’s going to be revealed, “from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” So, the righteousness of God must be revealed. Why? Because the wrath of God is going to be revealed, and so we need the righteousness of God to be revealed. But this is the righteousness of God, apart from the law. Why apart from the law? Well, we saw previously in chapter 3, that by the law, there is no righteousness. We cannot be justified, that is, made righteous by the deeds of the law. So the law cannot make us righteous, and God cannot clear over our guilt, just arbitrarily because he’s quote a loving God. He can’t do that. He’s just! And so how does He make way for us to not be under His righteous wrath? How does He make way for us to be made righteous, and at the same time, continue to maintain His justice? How does He not go against His character? Well, “the righteousness of God is revealed apart from the law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” So he says, this isn’t something that the Prophets didn’t foresee; this isn’t something that the law didn’t speak of. The law was given, not to make us righteous, as we’ve already seen, but the law was to expose our error; it reveals righteousness. It reveals what is right to a holy God, and in so doing, it reveals that we are completely and desperately lost. But the law cannot make us righteous. But the law bears witness of the Righteous One, because, as I said, the law reveals righteousness. The Prophets foretold the coming of this One. It foreshadowed this momentous arrival. And that’s what Advent means, Advent means the coming on the scene or the arrival of a Great One.

And so, in the Prophets we find that it was prophesied 700 years before Jesus would come that He would be born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14. The scriptures prophesied, foreshadowed, that He would be born in Bethlehem, Micah, chapter 5, verses 1 and 2. The scriptures revealed that He would be a child of Abraham, Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, in chapter 12, and then again in chapter 22. The scriptures foretold that Jesus would descend from the tribe of Judah; we find that in Genesis, chapter 49, verse 10. The scriptures foretold, they predicted that He would be born of the line, a royal line from David, Jeremiah 23, verses 5 and 6. They foretold also that He would receive gifts given by kings, He would be worshipped by shepherds, in Psalm 72, verses 9 and 10. We could go on, and on, and on about the scriptures speaking about the coming, the Advent of this One, the Righteous One. “There is none righteous, no, not one,” but He is the Righteous One, who came, who appeared on the scene – the Everlasting One, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God. This is what the scriptures reveal; that He would come onto the scene; and the gospels show us that He did.

Verse 22, Romans, chapter 3, “Now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The righteousness by the law is impossible. There is no righteousness by keeping the commandments of God. The commandments of God are to reveal our unrighteousness. And how many of you recognize it does it very, very well? So the commandments were given to reveal our unrighteousness. Therefore, righteousness must come some other way. What’s the other way? The righteousness of God, which comes by faith, but faith must always be attached to an object. It’s not just some sort of, “Well, I have faith;” like some people do about the Chargers winning a Super Bowl. That’s just blind faith! Your faith needs to be seeded in a good object. And at the moment, I’m sorry, it’s impossible! I’m not making friends here, I recognize. But, the faith that we have must be attached to an object that is faithful, that is worthy of our trust. And so, the faith which brings the righteousness of God is our trust; and this is what faith, biblical faith, saving faith is; it’s a trust. It’s not just a mental recognition; just kind of like, “Yeah, okay, I accept that.” That would be a mental recognition. You can get a lot of people to make a mental recognition about Jesus, but saving faith is trusting that what He did 2,000 years ago on the cross is the sufficient payment for your sins. And when you stand before a holy God, as a guilty, wicked sinner, all you will say is, “What He did on my behalf is sufficient for my salvation. My good works mean nothing.”

And so he says, “to all and on all who believe.” This imparted and imputed righteousness from God by faith is to and upon all those who believe, that put their trust, their confidence in Jesus for their salvation. It is not for a small select few, but it is upon all that believe. If both Jews and Greeks are under the power and the influence of sin, then all are in the same condition. And this is what Paul says there in verse 23, that there’s no difference it’s upon all that believe, there’s no difference. Why? Because we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; every one of us, there’s no one who escapes, verse 23. Even if they are a descendent of Abraham, even if they are of the children of Israel, even if they are those who have the priesthood and have the law, and have the temple at that time, it’s not there any longer. It doesn’t matter if they have all of those things, they’re still a sinner before God, and need the Advent, they need Christ. We all do.

Verse 24, “being justified freely,” freely, “by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth,” or God purposed, or God determined, “set forth as the propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” Why? “To demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of those who come by faith in Jesus.” So here he’s saying that God, who is holy and just, is able to maintain His justice while also justifying sinners. Now that’s against Proverbs 17, verse 15 – God abominates those who justify the wicked. So how can He maintain His justice and justify the wicked at the same time? The answer is: in Jesus. In what way? Well, we are justified freely by God’s grace, it’s a gift; but it has to come, it’s a gift that’s purchased, it’s not cheap. So that gift has to be purchased, and that’s what redemption means – it is purchased, by something. What is purchased? That redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is the purchase price to lay hold of that gift of grace for us, so it can be imparted to us. He Himself is the price that is to be paid. How so? Well God set Him forth, He purposed, He planned; God the Father planned that Jesus would be the propitiation. Now, that word propitiation, it’s a, you know, it’s a theological term, and it simply means the atoning sacrificethe atoning sacrifice. God the Father determined that Jesus would be the atoning sacrifice for us. We know that He would be sacrificed because we read of His blood being shed there in verse 25, and therefore, our trust, our faith in Him secures that for us. We are trusting in what He did on the cross for us, that it is the only sufficient payment for our sins. There’s nothing we can do. He paid it all.

Now this, Paul says there in verse 25, demonstrates God’s righteousness. This demonstrates God’s justice, if you will; that Jesus would die in our place. How so? Well, we read there, at the end of verse 25, “because in His forbearance,” in His patience, in His, literally, His tolerance, in His tolerance “God had passed over our sins that we had previously committed.” Now this doesn’t mean that He would not judge them; it’s just that He tolerated, for a time, the sin of humanity, because He has purposed plan. He has every right, in His justice, God does, to completely obliterate us, because of our sin, our fallen wickedness. He could, at a moment, pour out His righteous wrath, and He has. He poured out His righteous wrath in the form of a flood. We read of it in Genesis, chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9. He poured out His righteous wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah and three other cities, in Genesis, chapter 18. And yet, in the midst of His righteous wrath, there was still grace – grace upon Noah and his family; grace upon Lot and his wife and his two daughters. God poured out grace even upon some wicked individuals, so there was forbearance even upon those individuals – Noah and his family, and Lot and his family. God tolerated even their wickedness. Why? Because He had a future plan, wherein He’s going to demonstrate His justice; He’s going to demonstrate His righteousness. It’s going to be clearly seen. Well, how is His righteousness clearly seen? Well, Paul uses the same words in the next verse, in verse 26, “to demonstrate at the present time,” at this time, His justice, “His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” And so God, at the present time when Paul wrote this, just a short 30 years before this time, God poured out His justice, His righteousness upon Jesus Christ, as He, who is without sin, as the scriptures reveal; Jesus is perfect, He’s holy, He’s God incarnate, without sin, “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” and yet He became sin for us. He, in His flesh, bears all the sin of humanity, on the cross, and God pours out His just wrath upon Jesus. And so He demonstrates His righteousness, He demonstrates His justice there in Jesus Christ, there on the cross. He had, in His tolerance, in His forbearance, passed over our sins, that we had previously committed, and then He demonstrates His justice, His righteousness in the shedding of the blood of Jesus, “for without the shedding of blood there can be no removal, no remission of sins.”

Verse 27, Romans, chapter 3, “Wherefore then is boasting?” Where then is boasting? What can we boast for ourselves? That Jesus died for us. Have we done anything? We’ve done nothing. We’ve sinned. It was our sin that caused His death. So we have nothing to boast of. Now Paul writes this because the moralist, the one who doesn’t do what the hedonist does, does not practice wickedness, at least out in the open; the moralist boasts about their morality. And they will say things like, “Well God would certainly not send me to hell, because I’m a pretty good person. I’m not as bad as that wicked, wretched heathen.” The moralist will boast about their morality; the religionist will boast about his religion and how good he’s kept his religion, the tenants of his faith. But there is no boasting in Christ, because “all have sinned and fallen short of His glory.” “And the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus,” because He is the atoning sacrifice; He is the redeeming price that was paid for the gift of grace. So that God, who is just, could maintain His justice, while at the same time offering a way for us to be justified, made righteous in His sight; to escape His just punishment. “Where is boasting then?” It’s excluded, it’s gone. You cannot boast. And that really grates against our very humble natures. We can’t boast about all that we’ve done to earn salvation, because we’ve done nothing but sin. “For by grace were you saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works.” So our good works come post salvation; as a proof of our salvation, but we are not saved by our works.

So, where is boasting then? “It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” There is another law – the law of faith. Now there was the Law of Moses, that spoke of works that we ought to do, but the Law of Moses was to show us that our works would never measure up. So there is a law of faith, that supersedes, if you will, the law of works. A good way to explain this, or illustrate this is this concept that we all understand very well – the law of gravity. It works very well. And it’s very hard for us to overcome the law of gravity. How many of you recognize that? But there is another law that supersedes the law of gravity – the law of aerodynamics. It’s able to overcome the law of gravity, in a very awesome way. I mean, have you ever flown on a 747? I mean, it’s a big thing. And you get in there, and you wonder as it’s hurling down the runway. There’s a part of you that just goes, “Is this really possible?” My wife would say, “This is just not natural.” But as it begins to lift off, and you think, “How is that possible? I weigh a lot less than that…even at Christmastime. I can’t get off the ground.” How is that possible? Well the law of aerodynamics. And so the law of faith supersedes the law of works; because the law of works could never make you fly. But the law of faith gives us the ability, in Christ; as long as you’re in the 747, you’re okay, you overcome the law of gravity. As long as you’re in Christ, you’re okay. Now, step outside the 747, at 37,000 feet, it’s going to be problems…real problems. “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” The conclusion of the matter is this: man can be made righteous before a holy and righteous God, and God maintains His justice, because He poured out His just wrath upon Jesus, in our place, and we, in Christ, can be justified apart from our own works.

“Or is He the God of the Jews only?” No. “Is He not the God also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” So this is not just for the people who are descendents of Abraham. “Since there is one God who will justify,” the descendents of Abraham, “those circumcised by faith.” He justifies them, not by the works of circumcision, not by the works of the law, not by their lineage from Abraham, He justifies them by faith, “and the uncircumcised through faith.” God is one and He works in this way with all. Well then, “do we make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” So the law was not given to make us righteous, therefore we don’t make the law void by faith. The law was to show us our need for Christ, the law was to expose our sickness, our sin, our falleness. So we don’t make void the law by believing in Jesus, we just prove that the law is true; that it is holy, just, and good. Because what the law says, “it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all may become guilty before God. Because “by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

You see, here is the Advent story. This is what Christmas is all about. It’s not about poinsettias, although they might look nice. It’s not about Christmas presents under a Christmas tree. It’s not about Christmas lights. It’s certainly not about Nordstrom’s and Macy’s and Robinson’s-May, although there are some people who would have you think so; mostly those who are shareholders of those companies. But it’s not about those things. It’s about Jesus Christ the Righteous, who became a man; God became a man for the purpose of dying to be the redemptive price for our sin. You see, the sad reality is that we live in a day and age where this has been completely relegated to myth. There is a 4-story sign in Times Square at this very moment, that has a picture of Santa Claus, and it says, over the picture of Santa Claus, “Let’s keep the Merry.” And then it has a picture of Jesus on the cross, and it says, “and get rid of the Myth.” Thank you, the Atheist Society in America; their national day is April 1st. But, this is the view today – Let’s keep the Merry, let’s get rid of the Myth. And in the eyes of humanity, Jesus is a myth. But this is what the scriptures reveal – Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords; the only One whereby peace with God can come. And He came to pay the price, that we could receive the gift of grace. And if you’ve received that gift today, then you have the awesome opportunity to give that gift to someone else. And this world is in need.

Let’s stand.

Father, we pray, we pray that we would be those who are passionate about bringing that gift to others. And as we exchange gifts with family members and friends who maybe don’t know You, this next week, in just a couple of days, God, give us a stir in our hearts, give us a passion to share with those that we are with, the gift of Your grace. Father, we thank You that we have a day set aside, as a nation, where we rejoice in Your coming, in Your Advent. Help us to use it as an opportunity to share Your grace. We pray in Jesus’ name.