Monday, February 6, 2017

God's Spiritual Rescue Plan - Romans 3:1-24

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Romans 3:19-20 "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; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction."

Over the last several weeks I have periodically posted some blogs on various sections in the Book of Romans. These particular posts represent observations gleaned from a series of sermons I'm preaching at our church on Sunday morning. The aim is to preach through this powerful book of the Bible. It always amazes me how much difference there is in studying a particular book of the Bible versus preaching it. Moreover, the greater challenge comes in living out what you preach - a challenge that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit working inside you. 

At anyrate we will be looking today at what I am calling: "God’s Spiritual Rescue Plan" in Romans 3:1-24. If we were to summarize this final leg of Paul's opening statements on mankind's spiritual, moral and relational crisis before a Holy God, we would note the following:

1). In Romans 1:18-2:29 we explored how mankind is in a state of spiritual and moral crisis, and what God has done about it. 

2). Today we will explore Romans 3:1-24 concerning mankind’s relational crisis. 

3). We shall see God’s rescue plan and how it all relates to you.

The above summary will represent what appears to be Paul's goal in Romans 3:1-24, as well as what we aim to understand in our study of these verses. As we navigate through what appears to be a "spiritual autopsy" of sinful, fallen human beings, we will note two main thoughts. These two main thoughts represent what preachers call a "problem-solution" pattern - namely, where the author presents a major problem and God's greater solution. To that end, let's look at Romans 3:1-24 and God's rescue plan for our relational crisis.

1. Relational Crisis of fallen humanity. Romans 3:1-20

One of things we have noted in our study of Romans thus far is that in order to appreciate the remedy of the Gospel, one must come to grips with the disease - sin. In terms of the relational crisis characterizing all human beings born into this world, we can note the following:

a. unbelief 3:1-4 
b. unrighteousness 3:5-6 
c. unworthiness 3:7-8 
d. unwillingness 3:9-18 
e. under-judgment 3:19-20

As one looks at the deplorable condition fallen man finds himself, the list reminds you of a coroner's report. The bleakness of this record is intentional. No one can save themselves. None are worthy to be saved. This is indeed a crisis of epic proportions. 

The Apostle Paul quotes at least eight Old Testament texts in Romans 3:10-18. In Romans 3:10-12 we see him appealing to Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3, both of which begin with the observation of how the fool as said in his heart 'there is no God'. Romans 3:13 alludes to Psalm 5:9, which expresses the unreliability of fallen man's words; as well as Psalm 140:3, which in context has the Psalmist begging God to rescue him from "evil men." 

Or again, Romans 3:14 refers to Psalm 10:7, in which we find fallen man described as arrogant and unmoved by God's overtures of grace. As we continue on to Romans 3:15, the Apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:7, which supplies a vivid portrait of sinful man running away from God to get to evil. Then once more, when we look at Romans 3:18, we find an quotation from Psalm 36:1, which describes the corruption of those who do not possess a healthy reverence or fear of God. 

When one reads through all of the Old Testament texts just mentioned, each context fills in the darkness of this bleak picture we find in Romans 3:10-18. By the time you explore Paul's argument and the testimony of scripture - it is patently obvious that on God can save such a wretched lot such a us. We see then the relational crisis of fallen man, which includes of course the moral (Romans 1:18-32) and spiritual (Romans 2:1-29) crises all ready expounded upon by the Apostle. But now let's get some hope. Let's turn to the second part of this lesson, namely...

2. God’s Spiritual Rescue Plan. Romans 3:21-24

As we have explored the details of our relational crisis, we can now explore the details of God's spiritual rescue plan in Romans 3:21-24. The details for this are as follows:

a. Bible sourced 3:21 
b. Christ-centered 3:22 
c. Faith-received 3:22b 
d. Grace-based 3:23-24 
e. For you 3:22 i.e “there is no distinction”. 

The plan of God in desiring to save fallen man is pretty straight forward. When we say "Bible sourced", we refer to that quality of God's revelation - the Bible - that makes it the sole means by which the Holy Spirit converts the human soul (see James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). When we secondly note how this plan is "Christ-centered", we are noting how Jesus is both the "author and finisher" of this plan (see Hebrews 12:2). Thirdly, to say that the plan is "Faith received" indicates that faith is the sole means by which what Christ achieved on the cross and from the empty tomb is readily applied by the Holy Spirit. 

Wherever the Spirit, His Word and a willing heart meet - expect change. Fourthly, to express this plan as "grace-based" refers to how the whole project is rooted in God's desire to save the sinner from wrath, from the consequences of their sin and from themselves. Grace is grace because it is unmotivated by the intended object of God's saving plan. 

There is nothing commendable within the sinner that makes him a worthy object. Only God can generate within His own being, between the Three-Persons of the Trinity, the necessary and sufficient love to save those sinners upon whom He brings the Gospel. Then finally, to say that God's rescue plan is "for you" means that no one can claim a good reasons for excluding themselves from it. God is making His well-meant offer of forgiveness to all men, women, boys and girls.

Now there is a word which I will briefly focus - a word that will be the focal point of Paul's central discussion on the Gospel itself - namely, "justification". Man’s problem is that he needs to be “straightened up” on the inside and declared “right with God” or justified. One cannot be justified by the Law. Each person can only justified as a gift by His grace when received by faith. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines the doctrine of "justification by faith" as follows: 

“Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.”

The Spirit’s task is to find specific people in every nation, tribe, people who are readied and ready to respond to receive God’s rescue plan, the Gospel. For instance, in Acts 18:9-10 the Lord said about the city of Corinth “I have many people in this city”. When I look at the place where we live, it can be said that there are people here ripe for the picking. God has not only targeted people at any given moment and time but He has particular believers which He wants to use to bring the Gospel to those people. 

Thus, this phrase "I have many people in this city" could include those God desires to use in sharing Christ with those sinners whom the Spirit has been working-over and softening over the course of the time. The Spirit is working. We need to go and be where they’re at to urge them to respond to the Gospel.

Closing thoughts

Today's post considered God's rescue plan in calling forth sinners to be rescued or saved from their relational crisis. Here is what we discovered:

1. Relational Crisis of fallen humanity. Romans 3:1-20

The crisis’ symptoms: unbelief / unrighteousness / unworthiness / unwillingness / under-judgment 

2. God’s Spiritual Rescue Plan. Romans 3:21-24

The plan’s details: Bible sourced / Christ-centered / Faith-received / Grace-based / For you

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