What Saves? by Andrew Farley


Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
Romans 3:19
Here we see that the purpose of the Law can be summarized in two words – ‘Shut Up!’ The Law silences every person. When 613 demands are placed before you, the wisest thing is to say nothing at all. If you think you can get right by your doing, the Law virtually places the standard too high for us to reach.
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. (3:20)
The Law does its work when it shows me my problem, so that I would seek a solution. Do you truly believe that you can sin a billion times without adding or even affecting your status as a sinner? When we realize this we see that rightness comes not by doing, but by our trusting. By the way of works, indeed, not one single human being will be made right with God.
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (3:21-22)
If God makes us right, then how right have we become? There is actually a bragging, but it is not of our works, but our confidence in God who gave us our righteousness. We are either right or wrong – there are no levels to righteousness. And when we are right, we ought to believe that this is the same righteousness of God, in Jesus Christ.
This righteousness does not come by works, but through faith. This breaks any distinction between Jew and Gentile – the righteousness of God comes through believing in Christ, regardless of other things that may form our identity – race, gender, profession, etc. – by this we realize, It’s not about us or what we do, but it’s all about who Christ is and what He did for us.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (3:23-24)
The biggest misunderstanding about Christianity is that we allegedly believe that God grades on a curve – that ‘we’ll see if we make it’… but righteousness is not progressive! Rightness is not progressive! You either have been made right by faith, or you’re still trying. Have you trusted, or are you trying?
We have been made right as a gift by the grace of God – it’s a gift, and though we think we can pay God back for the gift, we can’t. Think of it this way – a billionaire comes to your home and offers to give you a billion dollars. While you may be excited at first, eventually some questions come out – ‘Why? What’s the catch? What’s this for?’
Of course, we would also bring ourselves to asking God why He did what He did, and why He gave it all as a gift – well, to be frank, there was no other way for us to be saved than for Him who has everything to become nothing, that those of us who had nothing would be everything. There was no other way for us to be justified. God paid a whole lot for us…
…and will we be receivers? This is a gift, and it’s free.
whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (3:25)
God displayed Jesus publicly as a satisfying sacrifice, a perfect blood offering for us to be perfectly cleansed and perfectly saved – It’s intentional for Christ to be presented as such in public, that many and all who believe would be witnesses of the way of grace. We are strange in the sense that this is a way that counters the way of the world, a world that preaches that you do before you receive. We receive, and therefore, we do.
for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (3:26)
When we see ourselves as people who were used to being self-centered, egotistic, and even egomaniacal, having faith in Jesus does take some effort. While we may know in our hearts that it’s about faith, the world would still tell us, without relent, that it’s about works and what we do. The ego pushes back any efforts to trust… and people push back thinking that they can make it through morality and ethics.
But see, this is the effect of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.. and we have all be tricked into thinking this ourselves; but praise God because we have been led to trust instead of trying.
Let’s trust, and let’s see what happens. There will be disappointments, but the thing is, Christ is faithful to finish what He began in us.
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. (3:27)
How much bragging is there in this life? If it was about our doing, well, it’s always going to be about bragging… but if it’s a gift, then we not only stop bragging, but we start appreciating the gift in others, too!
This, this is such a refreshing call for us who are used to getting ahead by getting ahead of others! Knowing that the righteousness and favor we have with God is a gift given to us which has nothing to do with who we are and what we do humbles us and also enables us to empower others instead of tearing them down! We brag in Jesus, and we applaud Christ in others!
 
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (3:28)
Our relationship, our rightness has nothing to do with what we’re doing… and we ought to remember this because every morning we may go back to the delusion that our favor with God is maintained with our performance. We ought to always remember that we are okay with God because of Christ’s finished work.
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. (Romans 4:1)
Entitlement accompanies work. If rightness came by working, earning, then you will be getting what you deserve. This sense of working and earning and deserving would leave us looking at God as if we were deserving, instead of receiving. We need to be receivers, and not deservers.
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (4:5)
‘To the one who does not work’ – how confounding! To get salvation, we do not work. To have righteousness, we are asked to ‘not work’. There is an art to doing nothing. We rest and appreciate the righteousness of God imputed to us by the finished work of Jesus Christ. We would do so much more when we lay aside our efforts, and place our focus on Christ and what He has done for us instead…
“just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.'” (4:6-8)
Therefore it was also credited to (Abraham) as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, (4:22-24)
What does it mean to be saved?
A person comes to rightness with God when it dawns on them that Jesus Christ had to do it, because we couldn’t – He had to die on the cross to take away all our sins, once for all. Jesus Christ rose from the dead in order to gift me eternal life. When we believe this about Him, and when we believe that He has the authority to save me, we open our doors to receive Him in our lives.
With that, (1) our sins are forgiven and taken away forever, and (2) He gifts me eternal life.
He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (4:25)
Christ made us right by resurrection. Resurrection life is eternal life, and we are right by resurrection. We aren’t right by the cross alone, but we are right by the resurrection of Christ. We possess in us the resurrected Christ. He was raised for our rightness.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (!) (Romans 5:1)
Summary:
Law shuts everyone up. No one is made right by works.
We are made right with God as a free gift of His grace.
He died for our sins.
He was raised to make us right.
We have peace with God through Him.
Application:
Are you trying or trusting?

 

The way of trying is a dead end. It starts with trusting, it continues with trusting, and it ends with trusting.

 


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