Justification by faith is important.
It glorifies God.
It humbles us.
It unites Christians.
One reason Paul wrote the book of Romans was because of tension between Jewish believers and Gentiles.
It’s hard to appreciate now, but in Paul’s mind, this would have been the single biggest division there was between people. We think of the division between black and white, between rich and poor. Paul thought of the division between people who were Jews and people who were Gentiles.
It was such a big division that even after people became Christians, it was still a problem.
A lot of it having to do with, Jews thinking Gentiles had to become Jewish to really be part of the people of God, and while that obviously is not a problem we often consider, there still are all kinds of others things that divide us.
We’ll divide over anything.
And so, while it is kind of amazing that you can be proud of the color of your skin and divide from others on the basis of that, people clearly do.
And if it’s not race, it’s our position. Some of us have money and others don’t, and the people with money feel superior to those who don’t, so often, and the people who have less, are angry at the people who do.
Or even education. One person in a family, is super smart, and so he goes to school, and gets a good education, and you know, he starts feeling superior to everyone else in his family who didn’t, and they start getting angry at him as well, because they are like who does he think, he is.
As we look at this world, there are all kinds of things that divide us. And honestly the world doesn’t really have a solution, beyond, try to be nice. Because, it can’t deal with the fundamental problem, which is part of what I love about what the Bible teaches about justification, because it does.
First, by showing us what the problem really is.
That is where Paul begins.
As he’s confronting certan Jews who were feeling superior, he started out by looking at the sinfulness of the Gentiles. Which of course, the Jews he was speaking to, would have completely agreed about. They would have been like yes, Paul those Gentiles are awful. When suddenly in chapter 2, verse 1, he turns the tables, and says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, everyone of you who judges, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you the judge practice the very same things.”
If there’s one thing a true understanding of justification by faith does, it shows you, that you are not better.
At that time many of the Jews felt better, because they had the law and they had something called circumcision, and so if they wanted to be justified, they would hold this up, as their little badge, we have the law, we have circumcision, which of course made them feel superior to everyone else, which is why, Paul takes them back to the law of God, and shows them, that it doesn’t do them any good, really, if they don’t obey it.
Which they didn’t.
Just like the rest of us.
You see, we are all in the same position. There’s nothing any of us that we can show God, and say, look at this, I am really better than everyone else, because there’s not any of us who deserve salvation.
It’s funny, though.
While most of us have learned we can’t go around saying, we think we are better than others, we have so many problems in our relationships with other people, because we think we are better than others.
Our culture is better than your culture, our race is better than your race, our abilities are better than your abilities, whatever, which justification by faith absolutely demolishes. Because the first thing it shows us is that in terms of the most important relationship in our lives, the most beautiful person in the universe, we are all absolutely in the same position.
We all deserve to be damned.
And actually, if we are holding up any of those things to God as a reason he should love us, look at my education, I am worthy, look at my race, I am better, if we are trusting in any of those things, we are not going to experience salvation.
The cross brings us all down to the same place.
Racism, feeling superior to others, feeling inferior to others, it really is a theological problem.
First it is a denial of what the Bible teaches about us. Second it is a denial of what the Bible teaches about God.
Which is where Paul goes next in verse 29.
“We hold that that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only?”
It’s like wait, I know, there are these different groups of people, out there, but there is only one God, right? And the Jews, knew there was only one God. That was a fundamental part of their religion. God is one, which is why Paul asks, “Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.”
And since, we are all in the same position, we all need to be saved, and we can’t save ourselves, then there is only one way for any of us to be saved, and that is for God to save us, and since there is only one God, obviously, then there is only going to be one means of salvation: justification by faith alone.
The only way any of us are going to be saved is if God will provide a righteousness, that He can give to us as a gift, and if that’s how we’ve been saved, we’ve all been given the righteousness of God, as a gift, through faith, then, what happens to all these distinctions?
The cross doesn’t only bring us down the same place, it also brings us up to the same place.
If Jesus died for me and Jesus died for you then why am I acting like you are somehow something less? If, I was so sinful that God had to pour out His wrath on His Son for the sins I committed, then how am I acting like I am somehow someone better? If the only way I am saved is because I have been given a gift that I didn’t deserve by God, and the only way I was able to receive that gift, is because God opened up my hands, and knocked everything I was cling onto out of them, so I could come to Him empty handed, then how can I, ever look down on someone else? And, if justification means, that the perfect righteousness of Christ has been credited to my account, that the most holy God, the most important person in the Universe, accepts me and forgives me and delights in me and loves me, because of what Jesus did, then how dare I, go around feeling inferior to anyone else.
Justification by faith alone is important.
There is a reason why God saved us this way and there is a reason why we have to keep this truth at the forefront as a church.
It glorifies God. It humbles us. And, it unites the church when we actually believe it. Fight racism by believing justification by faith alone and living a life in step with it.