Sermon – July 4, 2021
Romans 3:21-26 – Righteousness Manifested (mp3)
This week, Bill Cosby, formerly convicted of sexual assault, was allowed to walk free in Pennsylvania. It was not because the court, the jurors, the prosecution, the press, or almost anyone else in America thought that he was truly innocent. Rather, he was released on a technicality. Knowingly guilty, he is now a free man. This is not much different than those who profess Christ; knowingly guilty, we are justified freely by Jesus’ death on our behalf. Yet, what of justice? It is hard to say that justice was served in Cosby’s case; does our forgiveness mean God is unjust? What can we say to these things?
1. The good of the gospel
Paul begins to speak of the good news, but in a rather odd way. We would think that he might mention “grace” or “mercy” first, but when he comes to speak of the gospel, he simply says that it is the “righteousness of God manifested.” We must be clear: the justification of sinners is not achieved by God setting aside his justice or simply ignoring it. Rather, and quite oddly, it is the manifestation of it.
2. The God of the gospel
This is because of God himself, who is both merciful and gracious and yet will by no means clear the guilty. How can both things be true at the same time? Where do we see God like this? Only in Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can manifest the true nature of God; a God both of justice and mercy. In this we find that understanding God right truly is the gospel, and that the gospel is the true revealing of who God is. The mercy of the gospel is no less than the mercy found in the very nature of God.
3. The glory of the gospel
We are familiar with verse 23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We take the “falling short” to be sin itself. This is helpful and true! Paul seems to be reaching back to the first chapter, and explaining how the denial of God’s glory is sin itself. Yet, in that sin, we don’t simply refuse to give God glory, but we remove ourselves from rightly reflecting his glory as well. We fall short of our glory, a glory that is restored in the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ.
4. The gift of the gospel
Finally, we must realize that this good news is a true gift. It is undeserved and unwarranted. We are not owed this from God. But, out of the good pleasure of his will, because he truly loves sinners, he has manifested his mercy and grace in Jesus Christ himself. And, like any good gift, it must be received. It cannot be left under the tree, waiting to be unwrapped, but must be taken, opened, and used! We do this through faith and trust. Friend, have you trusted in Jesus?