Keep­ing the Re­for­ma­tion in con­text

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - [De­vo­tion by Randy Moll. Scrip­ture is taken from the New King James Ver­sion®. Copy­right © 1982 by Thomas Nel­son. Used by per­mis­sion. All rights re­served.]

“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 Christ Je­sus, 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.” Ro­mans 3:21-26 (Read v. 19-28)

“Keep­ing the Re­for­ma­tion in Con­text” sounds like one of those ser­mon ti­tles some­one in a lib­eral church might write – of­fer­ing up some new mean­ing to the Lutheran Re­for­ma­tion that has noth­ing to do with the truth. But this ti­tle has to do, in­stead, with keep­ing to the truth brought to light and pro­claimed through the Lutheran Re­for­ma­tion and not al­ter­ing it or chang­ing its mean­ing. It has to do with tak­ing noth­ing out of the con­text of God’s Word but let­ting Scrip­ture in­ter­pret Scrip­ture so that we rightly un­der­stand and truly be­lieve the truth re­vealed to us in God’s Word, the Bi­ble – the same truth pro­claimed by Dr. Martin Luther and the Re­form­ers.

The Lutheran Re­for­ma­tion brought em­pha­sis to three “So­las”: Scrip­ture alone is to be the source and judge of all Chris­tian Doc­trine (not churches or men); Sal­va­tion is by God’s grace (or un­mer­ited fa­vor) alone for the sake of Je­sus Christ’s holy life and in­no­cent suf­fer­ings and death in the stead of all mankind; and we are for­given, jus­ti­fied and counted right­eous by God through faith alone in the Lord Je­sus Christ and His aton­ing sac­ri­fice upon the cross. There­fore, it is fit­ting that we look at the Scrip­tures be­hind the chief ar­ti­cle of the Chris­tian Faith, jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by faith alone and through grace alone in Christ Je­sus, and learn the true Re­for­ma­tion doc­trine re­vealed within the text and con­text of Scrip­ture.

I say this be­cause there are still many within the out­ward pale of Chris­ten­dom to­day who so em­pha­size hu­man works and hu­man co­op­er­a­tion with the Holy Spirit that they over­throw the Bi­ble’s doc­trine of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by faith alone in Je­sus Christ and His aton­ing sac­ri­fice. And there are those within the pale of the church to­day who so em­pha­size the ben­e­fits of the aton­ing sac­ri­fice of Je­sus that they would re­move faith from the equa­tion, teach­ing that God has freely jus­ti­fied all peo­ple – even those who are clearly un­be­liev­ers and con­demned to hell – apart from faith in Je­sus Christ. To­day, we look at God’s Word and keep the Re­for­ma­tion in the con­text of that Word rather than go­ing be­yond the truth re­vealed by God in the Scrip­tures.

The open­ing verses of to­day’s text – es­pe­cially v. 9ff. which con­tain quotes from the Old Tes­ta­ment – make clear that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be jus­ti­fied in His sight, for by the law is the knowl­edge of sin” (v. 20). We do not and can­not mea­sure up to the de­mands of God’s per­fect law and are far from right­eous and ac­cept­able in God’s sight based on our works. As the Bi­ble says, even our best works are “like filthy rags” in His eyes (Isa­iah 64:6). In­deed, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v. 23).

How can we sin­ners be right­eous be­fore God? That too is an­swered in to­day’s text: “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” (v. 21).

No­tice that this right­eous­ness of God apart from our keep­ing of the law is “through faith in Je­sus Christ, to all and on all who be­lieve.” This also de­fines the all in verse 23ff.: “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 Christ Je­sus, 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.” While this pas­sage is of­ten used as a proof that God has jus­ti­fied all (in­clud­ing un­be­liev­ers), it clearly teaches that God jus­ti­fies sin­ners who place their

faith in Christ Je­sus and the re­demp­tion He ac­com­plished when He shed His blood upon the cross for the sins of the world. God is “just and the jus­ti­fier of the one who has faith in Je­sus.” Be­liev­ers are “jus­ti­fied freely by His grace through the re­demp­tion that is in Christ Je­sus … through faith.” The right­eous­ness of God is “through faith in Je­sus Christ, to all and on all who be­lieve.” Cf. Ro­mans 1:16-17; 4:1ff.; 5:1-2; 2 Corinthi­ans 5:18-21; Colos­sians 1:19-23; Psalm 32:1-6; John 3:14ff.; 8:24.

So how are we jus­ti­fied and counted right­eous in God’s eyes? Is it by works? No, for our works don’t mea­sure up no mat­ter how hard we try! Is it by God’s grace for Christ’s sake and through faith? Most cer­tainly! As the Scrip­tures say: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of your­selves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any­one should boast” (Eph­e­sians 2:8-9).

Grant that we ac­knowl­edge our un­wor­thi­ness and sin and trust not in our works but in You alone, Lord Je­sus, for par­don, for­give­ness and life ev­er­last­ing. Amen.

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