Trinity 6


We Believe



Sola Scriptura
Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia
Grace Alone
Sola Fide
Faith Alone


In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Trinity 6
July 3, 2005

Text: Romans 3:21-31
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.


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." With those words St. Paul summarizes the first two and one half chapters of this letter to the church at Rome. What exactly can the law do for you? All it can do is teach you about your sin. Your knowledge of sin comes from the law. The law teaches us sin because the law is so comprehensive in its demands that no one is able to make the claim that he has fulfilled it all. That is why St. Paul quoted Psalm 14: "there is none who does good, no not one."

Despite this clear testimony from St. Paul regarding the law and our abilities to keep it, we find time after time that, individually and throughout the religions of the world, we strive to use the law to provide the righteousness we need. We use the law to try to be holy, just, godly, blameless. But the law cannot work within us the total cleansing that we need. That is why Paul says, "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in [God’s] sight."

Why, then, do we so want to be saved by the law? Why do all religions other than the Christian religion, focus on law, works? The law is compelling because it appeals to our pride, our desire to do things on our own, and not to depend or trust on what others do. Small children teach us about ourselves very well as they insist on trying to do things themselves, even when failure is guaranteed by their lack of coordination, strength, etc. They still must try, and they can be quite insistent on that.

Man-made religions play on this desire for our own works. The focus is on our accomplishments, our doing something. And even the Christian who has heard for years and years about the grace of God, salvation and righteousness by faith alone, still is tempted to replace the grace of God with his own works, his own holiness.

Against all of this St. Paul teaches: "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." As long as we do not believe the first part of that sentence (all have sinned and fall short) we will remain in doubt regarding the last part (being justified freely). That is why we must hear again and again the complete inability of any human works in the realm of justification. We cannot be self-justified. We need God’s work.

Here in chapter 3 of Romans we have one of the classic descriptions of the difference between works of the law and the free grace of God in all of Holy Scripture. Yet despite the brilliant clarity of God’s Word many still are bound and determined to include, at least in some small way, their own works. But it cannot be. All sin. All fall short of what is demanded. You are supposed to be as glorious as God, as perfect as God, as holy as God, as loving and kind and generous as God. You are not. Not one of us is. So we must quit going back to the law for any security in regards to our salvation. The law gives no security. In fact, it leads to boasting, to prideful pointing to one's self as your own savior. So Paul says, all boasting is excluded. You are not saved, you are not given the promise of heaven, you are not forgiven, you are not holy and righteous on your own.

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law...." The deeds of the law are completely outside justification. Justification, the fact that God declares you righteous, holy, blameless, is all about Christ, about the shedding of His blood, about His righteousness. You enter into this picture only by the grace of God, that undeserved, unearned, unmerited love of God for each and everyone of you, for the whole world. And the righteousness of God is yours by faith in Jesus Christ.

What this means is that you can speak of yourself truly and accurately as holy, blameless, forgiven, an heir of heaven itself and the glory of God. But you can do this only by faith in Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness that you have. It is now yours, not because you helped in any way to keep the law and all its demands, but because Christ fulfilled the law for you, in your place. And He gives to you His righteousness as you trust in Him.

Last week we heard the Augsburg Confession, the great confession of the Lutheran Church. I want to read to you again that fourth article, the one I described as the article by which the church stands or falls.

Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ's sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21–26] and 4[:5].

Notice that this article depends precisely on the words of Romans we have heard today. This article is the one by which the church stands or falls because here is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Martin Luther further explained the importance of this chief article in another of our Lutheran Confessions, the Smalcald Articles. There he wrote:

On this article stands all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubt about it. Otherwise everything is lost, and the pope and the devil and whatever opposes us will gain victory and be proved right.

The law cannot give you a conscience free from doubt about your salvation. The law shows sin, that's all it can do with sinners like you and me. Therefore if you want to be certain of salvation, of the free forgiveness of all sin, look to Christ Jesus, the Savior, the Son of God. He has spilled His righteous blood for us. He has paid for our sins, completely and fully. By faith in Him you are justified, you are given His righteousness. Trust that gift of God. Do not doubt, but believe this good news for you and for all; in Jesus' name. Amen.

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