The Glowing Heart of the Gospel, Part 1: Justification Through Christ (Romans Sermon 16 of 120)
April 23, 2000 | Andrew Davis
I. Introduction: William Cowper’s Salvation
We have by the handsome and attractive providence of God, come to the heart of the entire Bible on Easter Sunday morning. There are no accidents. God works all things after the council of His will and so we get to contemplate really the center of it all today. When we come on Easter Sunday morning, I feel inside myself that there's a gap between what I'm able to express, what I'm able to speak and sing, and what the reality is that we're thinking about. Isn't there a gap there? There's a gap between what we can say and sing and think, and what is really there in the cross and in the empty tomb. And so at times like that, we reach for a certain category of gifted people called poets. We look to poets and we sing their hymns because we know that regular words just won't do. And so we sang this morning, a couple of hymns by Charles Wesley. My favorite "Christ, the lord is risen today." I'd love to sing it all year round, not just on Easter Sunday.
But on Easter Sunday, it seems to take hold of my heart in a special way. Poets and they're able to, with special words and with special phrases, get their hands around that truth and make it real. One of the hymns we sang this morning, "There is a fountain filled with blood," was written by William Cooper. Now, William Cooper… You expect those that are going to be singing and writing about exalted themes to be happy people. But I can't imagine anyone in here to be going through any misery compared to what William Cooper went through in his life. He led a miserable, miserable life. He had a tragic childhood. When he was six his mother died, and his cold and distant father sent him away to boarding school, where he was tyrannized by teachers and by older pupils alike. And so it went on and on to the point where, when he was about 21 years old he attempted suicide and almost succeeded. And when he did not succeed, he felt he was there by under the wrath of God for having tried to take his life. He felt that there would be no forgiveness for him, no salvation. He was not one of God's chosen people. He was condemned to hell. And there was nothing he could do about it. And so he became more and more despondent, and he would sit, William Cooper, and look out a window for hours and hours, and people would come and try to talk to him and he wouldn't even acknowledge that they were in the room.
Finally in 1763, about 13 years before our country was born, he was committed to St Albans Insane Asylum in London. And there by the happy providence of God, he met Dr. Nathaniel Cotton. Nathaniel Cotton was an Evangelical believer and a poet in his own right and he began to minister God's love to William Cooper. He began to speak to him and hold out hope for him. If any of you have ever tried to minister to somebody like this, suicidal depressed. They will say to you, "I've heard all that before. There's nothing you can say to me, there's nothing that's going to change." And that's what he said to Nathaniel Cotton. But Nathaniel Cotton was patient, continued to minister to him. And he would leave Bibles around where William Cooper could find them.
And one morning he found the Bible, and he opened up to John chapter 11 and in John 11 is reflected there, the story of Lazarus's resurrection. "And in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ," he said and in his gentleness in dealing with the grieving William Cooper said, "I saw the first glimpse of hope for me. If Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead And if he had the gentleness to deal with Martha and Mary in that way, there's hope for me. There's hope for me." But he was not converted until the book, the Gospel opened up to Romans 3:25 which we're getting at this morning. He had asked, he had prayed. William Cooper said, "God give me a revelation. I need something," and the Bible opens to Romans 3:25. It's impossible to count the number of people that have been converted by the book of Romans but here we get to the center and the heart of it.
So he read in Romans 3:25 which we're going to focus on next time. God presented Christ as a propitiation or a sacrifice through faith in his blood. And he realized that all the wrath that he deserved had been poured out on someone else, Jesus. And this is what's William Cooper read or wrote, "Immediately at that point I received the strength to believe it and the full beams of the sun of righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement he had made, my pardon sealed in his blood and all the fullness and completeness of justification, In a moment I believed and received the Gospel. Unless the almighty arm had been under me I think, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears and my voice choked with transport. I could only look to heaven in wonder and fear, overwhelmed with gratitude." William Cooper was saved just by reading Romans 3:25. Now It's been my prayer all week that God would do the same in this room today. These words that I'm about to read have converting power.
II. Lloyd-Jones: “The Acropolis of the Bible”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, when he came to preach on this section, said that this is the acropolis of the bible. Now the acropolis in ancient Greece was a hill, the highest part of a city where the temple and the government buildings were surrounded by a wall, a citadel. It was the most important place. And when you were up there, especially at the top of the temple, you could see all the surrounding country side. You could see it all. So what did Lloyd Jones mean when he said, "This is the acropolis of the Bible"? What it means is that if you grasp Romans 3:21-26, you can see the whole bible. All of it spreads out and becomes clear before you. Or I could say, "This is the glowing heart of the bible." Imagine the fiery sun, massive, powerful, and all the planets revolving around that massive center. If you understand Romans 3:21-26 and if this message becomes the center of your life. Then all the chaos and the disorder that you feel will go away, and there will be order and structure. You'll understand how the cross, the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and the empty tomb, should be and will be the center of your entire existence. This is the glowing heart of the Gospel.
Listen to Romans 3:21-26. Read along in the Bible if you would, now with eyes and I'll read with my voice. Romans 3:21, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice because in His forbearance, He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
Because this passage is so important, we're going look at it for three weeks. We're going to have three sermons and I've divided it into three major themes. There are more than just three themes in these verses, but this morning, we're going to look at justification. Next time we're going to look at propitiation, and then after that, demonstration. First, justification. Sinners declared righteous. Sinners declared righteous. Next time, propitiation, namely, the Holy God's wrath appeased and removed. And then finally, demonstration. The gracious judge's righteousness, His justice, displayed for all to see. So that's how it breaks apart. We're going to focus this morning on justification. Namely, sinners declared righteous.
III. Justification: Sinners Declared Righteous
Now, what is justification? What is justification? In verse 20, we've already learned that by works of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight. But then here in verse 24, it speaks of those who are justified as a gift by His grace. So there we see how we are not justified, namely, by works of the law, and then how we maybe justified, namely, by grace through faith. So what is justification? Well, the Greek root of the word is linked to righteousness. The adjective "righteous", where we already saw in Romans 3:10, as in "There is no one righteous, no, not one." That word is dikaios. Dikaios. The noun "righteousness", which we have met here on verse 21, but now the righteousness of God has been manifested, is dikaiosune. Dikaios, dikaiosune, then justification is the verb dikaio, to declare righteous, to declare just. We can also translate that whole root as justice. So there's a relationship between justice and righteousness. So the question is, how can we, who are sinners, who are not righteous, no, not one, stand before a Holy God and be declared just or righteous? That's the question. That's the question.
And so this really... You have to understand now, there's a debate going on, but you need to understand. Justification does nothing to you. It doesn't change you at all, it's external to you. Sanctification transforms you from within. Justification is a declaration made about you, outside of you. And we see that very plainly in Luke 7:28 and 29, at that point Jesus was defending the ministry of John the Baptist and it said, "And when all the people and the tax gatherers heard this, they justified God having been baptized with the Baptism of John." They justified God. Let me ask you a question, when they justified God, did they do anything to God? Did they change God in any way? No, they declared Him to be righteous. That's what was going on there, they declared Him to be righteous. And that's what justification is. That the declaration about a sinner, that that sinner is righteous.
Now, there is a need for justification. Is there not? We need to be justified. And the reason is, that every single person has a court date. We all have a court date. Now, you don't know what your court date is, do you? Do you know what your court date is? I don't know what my court date is. But we have court date. Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed to men to die once and then face judgment." Every one of us has a court date. And what will be required of us at that time? Righteousness. The righteous judge will demand, He will require righteousness. Well, I've already said, Romans 3:10 says you don't have it. Romans 3:10, "There is no one righteous, no, not one." So you have a court date and you don't have what's needed to survive the court date. You must be justified. You must be justified.
IV. How Sinners Are Justified: Five Principles
I can't imagine a topic more important than this one. Can you? Is there anywhere you need to be? Is there any other topic you need to be thinking about? Then how do you survive that court date in which the righteous judge will declare you righteous? Oh, this is incredibly important. And so we need to understand justification and how it happens. And so I see in the verses that we're looking at this morning, five principles. Five principles. Justification is:  Prepared and proclaimed but not accomplished by the law.  It is performed by God.  It is procured by faith in Christ. And  It is provided by grace.  It is purchased by Christ Jesus.
1) Prepared and Proclaimed, Not Accomplished, By the Law
Alright, let's start with the first one. Justification is prepared and proclaimed but not accomplished by the law. Now, we already saw in verses 19-20 that no flesh, no one will be justified by works of the law. You cannot be declared righteous by the law. The law doesn't do that rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. And it will also say in verse 28, "We maintain that a man is justified apart from observing the law." No justification comes through the law. The law cannot produce righteousness in us. It cannot declare us to be righteous. It cannot forgive our sins. The law can't touch any of our problem areas. And so therefore we cannot be justified by the law. No righteousness comes that way. And therefore, as we asked last time, the Jews who heard Peter preach, the day of Pentecost, remember what they said, "Brothers, what shall we do? If righteousness doesn't come by the law then we're lost." Not so. The Gospel message comes and proclaims the righteousness from God. But it comes apart from the law. However, we must understand the law testifies to this. The law testifies to the righteousness which comes from God by faith.
Verse 21, "but now a righteousness from God, apart from law has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify." Now, how do the law and the prophets testify to the righteousness from God? Or they did it in the past and they do it in the present? Law and the prophets testified in the past, in that this is an eternal gospel. It's not a new message. It's not like Paul is innovating here. It's not like he's coming up with some new way that they had never heard before. The law and the prophets testify to this. Paul already said this in Romans 1:1 and 2, very beginning of the whole letter to Romans it says, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God, the Gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His son." So the Gospel is promised ahead of time by the prophets regarding the Son. And then at the very end of Romans. Romans 16:25 and 26, "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings so that all nations might believe and obey Him." At the beginning of Romans and at the end, Paul says the same thing. This is no new message. This is the same Gospel that the law and the prophets have testified to all along.
And so he says also in 1 Corinthians chapter 2:7 he says, "We speak of God's secret wisdom. A wisdom that has been hidden but is now made known, an eternal gospel prepared before the foundation of the world for your glory." Eternal Gospel. Alright, and so, Paul is going to unfold, as we continue moving on he's going to unfold how the old testament, the law and the prophets testified through it. If we had a long time, we could show all the prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ: Crucifixion, resurrection. How many times did Jesus say in that final week of His life, "But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?" You see, the law and the prophets testified to the crucifixion of Christ. So that's a testimony in the past. The law and the prophets also testify now. They testify in the present that we need justification by faith. In the 18th century there were these great Evangelist that would go around and they would preach the Gospel. And everywhere they would go, they would begin the same way. What they called, "law work". Now, what is "law work"? Well, you remember last week I was talking about rototilling my lawn. That is law work. It's the breaking up of that self-righteousness so that you are ready to receive grace.
Law work does that. The law breaks apart your hard heart and convince you that you need grace. So the law testifies to this righteousness from God. And secondly it says that, justification is performed by God. Verse 21 it says, "But now, a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known." But now, think about that. "But now." What that means is, there was a certain flow, a certain direction. And then God stepped in and as God likes to do, He interfered. Does God just allow history to roll on unchecked or untouched? Not at all. He interferes. But now, but now God interferes. There is a righteousness that comes from God and it interferes. The very same thing is said in Ephesians chapter 2. "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked… we were by nature, children of wrath. But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love…" stepped in and changed that whole situation. God inbreaks history and changes everything. And this is more than just a change of flow in Romans. Romans 1:18-3:20 is the same section. That "law work", convincing us that we need forgiveness. Convincing us that we need salvation. There's law work been done here.
2) Performed By God
But then suddenly at verse 21 we get a change. And from verse 21 on, we get Gospel. We get Gospel, we get forgiveness. But it's not just a change there, it's a change in history. All of history has its hinge at the cross of Christ, doesn't it? But, now... And so this is a righteousness from God. Now, if you look down at Verse 23 and 24, it says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace." Now, I don't know if any of you remember 7th grade English, the difference between and active and a passive verb. You remember that? Maybe you didn't do well in 7th grade English, so you had it again in 8th grade English. What is the difference between an active and a passive verb? An active verb, you were doing the action. Passive verb, you are receiving the action. Is justification active or passive here? It is passive. In Verse 24, it says, "Being justified." You don't do the justification, you receive it. It happens to you. Well, then, who does it? Well, it is God who justifies. Romans 8:33, "Who then will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is He that condemns?" God does the justification. God justifies us, how? By giving us a righteousness, which is not our own, a righteousness, which comes from God and is by faith.
In the ninth century in France, there was a king, Charlemagne, and people would bring him various gifts, try to get the most unusual gift that they could give to him, maybe some gold, or something shaped in a certain way. And they would bring him this gift, and he would marvel at it. He was a powerful king. One day, someone brought him a relatively plain looking tablecloth, put it on the table, and they ate their meal on it, and he was wondering what there was about this tablecloth. Well, when the meal was over, they took all the dishes off the tablecloth, and they folded it up, and they threw it in the fire. And he was shocked. He said, "Why'd you throw my tablecloth in the fire?" "Just watch, sire." Nothing happened to the tablecloth. Why did nothing happen to the tablecloth? Because it was made out of a new material, asbestos.
Now, what is there about asbestos? What's special about asbestos? It doesn't burn. It's heat resistant. May I suggest to you that all of us are in need of an asbestos robe, an asbestos robe for judgment day? And if you're not wearing the asbestos robe, you'll be consumed by that day. Do you have your asbestos robe on? Let me describe to you. You can get asbestos out of some fibers found in mountains in Georgia and in Quebec. It's long fiber and all that. You know where to find asbestos if you really need it. Where are you going to find the material for the robe that's going to cover you on judgment day? Where are you going to look?
Most people begin by looking inward. They begin to look to themselves by their good deeds. They're going to weave a robe. Will that survive judgment day? Will that robe survive the heat of that day? Answer is no. You need an asbestos robe. And the fibers of that asbestos robe are woven with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.
When I came to this concept in Romans 1:17, "There's a righteousness from God through faith," I held it out to you. I held out a robe, free of charge. Did you put it on? Maybe you put it on in the past. Once it's on, you don't need to take it off; it's permanent. But maybe you haven't put it on yet. Put on the asbestos robe. The day is coming, you have a court date. It's coming. And who can stand in that day? The righteousness of Jesus Christ is your asbestos robe. There's a great exchange here. Justification occurs by God. It's external to you. The righteousness is not your own. It's not your own.
3) Procured By Faith in Jesus Christ
The third point about justification is that's it's procured through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I hesitated to use the word 'procured.' You know why I chose the word? Because it begins with P. If you look at all of them, they all begin with P. I chose 'procured.' Now, what's the danger in using the word 'procured?' Because you may think that you bought it and that's the danger. I figured, "Alright, I'll do the 'procured' thing, but I'm going to take a minute and explain that you didn't buy this." You procured, in other words, you received it. It became yours by faith in Jesus Christ, by faith in Jesus Christ, and by that alone.
Jesus, at one point, said to His disciples, "I tell you the truth, unless you're converted and become like little children, you'll never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." What is there about little children? Well, people hypothesize about this. Jesus didn't explain exactly what He meant, but I think that little children are great receivers. I'm not saying they're great takers. I'm saying they're great receivers. They receive very easily. They receive truth from their parents. They receive provision. There's no pride there. They just receive. They receive all the time. And that's what it means when I say, "Procured by faith in Jesus Christ." I mean by faith apart from works. Apart from works, just receiving what God has given. Receiving the gift of a declaration that you are righteous in His sight, simply by believing in Jesus Christ. Childlike faith, a confidence that Christ and Him alone is sufficient for you.
And that faith which justifies, is focused on the person of Jesus Christ. I guess, to be particular, may I say to you that faith itself does not justify anyone? Faith itself doesn't justify anyone. Faith in Jesus Christ justifies. There's all kinds of faith-filled people, all kinds of believing people. These days, they're called 'people of faith.' Have you heard about that expression? I'm constantly invited to prayer meetings with other peoples of faith. I usually don't go, because they are not my flavor of prayer meeting, usually, because, at that point, I'm not sure what God it is we're praying to. People of faith.
A Muslim will pray to Allah and he'll have full confidence that he's being heard by Allah. Or a Hindu will pray to Krishna, or to one of the pantheon of Hindu gods, and they will have full confidence. Does that faith save? It's not faith which saves, it's faith in Jesus Christ which saves. It's faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone, which justifies. And it's a faith which focuses on the promise of life. God has given us a promise, that if we will just believe, He'll give us eternal life. And so when you hear that promise, what happens is, faith starts to spring up. The way hands just reach out and say, "I'm ready. I'm ready, give it to me." That's what faith is. It's a receptive heart and faith comes from hearing the message. You start to hear and you say, "I want that. I want that asbestos robe. I want to be clothed with the righteousness that's not my own. I want it. Oh, give it to me." Child-like, receiving faith.
And the thing that's so beautiful about faith, is that it's universally effective. It's universally effective. It says in Verse 22, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and lack the glory of God." There's no difference. What does it mean when it says, "There is no difference?" You've quoted Romans 3:23 all your Christian life; you know that verse. But it always bothered me that it began with the word 'for.' "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That's the middle of a sentence. "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of glory of God."
Well, what does that mean, "There is no difference?" I think in that context, there's no difference between Jew or Gentile. But in the larger context of Romans 3, there's no difference between any person and any other person. Every one of us has sinned. There's no difference. There's no distinction. Paul uses the same word in 1 Corinthians 14:7. Talking about speaking in tongues at that particular moment, He says, "How will anyone know what tune is being played, unless there is a distinction in the notes?" If Bill got up here, or any other musician, and there was no distinction in the notes, you wouldn't have any idea what tune was being played. I never, I don't know that much about music, but isn't that true? There has to be distinction from note to note. And every note must be handled in a different way, whether by pressing a certain valve on a trumpet, or pressing a key, every note has it's own treatment.
That's not the way it is here. Justification is the same for everybody. It's the same for everybody, whether a poor beggar in Calcutta hears the Gospel message, and just simply believes in Jesus Christ, justified for all her sin. A wealthy banker in Tokyo, wrapped up in materialism, but hears the Gospel message, and just believes in the Savior. A single mother in Chicago, a mother of three children, struggling to make ends meet, one day, hears this Gospel message and all she does is just believe. There's no difference. It's the same for every person. Or maybe a street child in Mexico City, struggling to make ends meet by stealing, and by whatever way that he can; someday, a street worker comes, and preaches the Gospel, and he just hears, and believes, just simply believes. There's no difference. It's effective in every single case and it's the same in every single case: Simple faith, and that person is justified, all the guilt for their sin removed forever, and they will not be condemned on judgment day. Justification is procured by faith in Christ.
4) Provided By Grace
Fourthly, it is provided by grace. When I say, "There is no distinction," I also mean that there's no special treatment. And the reason for that, is that all of us have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Our universal sinfulness puts us at need for grace. Do you see that? We're not going to stand up in front of God and boast on that day. We're not going to stand up and say, "This is why I think you should let me into Heaven." There's no distinction. All of us need forgiveness. All of us need this grace. For all have sinned, everyone of us, and so we need grace. And there will be no boasting on that day, because we've all been forgiven freely by grace.
Now, I have nibbled at this many times, but now we come to it, Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I've wrestled with this. It bothered me, because it didn't seem to make sense. What is the picture you get with, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?" Oh, we're trying, Lord. We keep wrestling, we keep trying, and we just never quite get up to your standard. We want get close to you, we're reaching, we're scrambling up that hill, but we just can't get there." Is that the picture that Romans Three gives, when it says, "There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God," is that the picture? Are we trying, but we never quite get there? Are we aiming for God, but never quite reach Him?
I was troubled by this, until I started looking into it, and grammatically, the best translation for this, I believe, would be, "For all have sinned and lack the glory of God." The exact same Greek word is used in the story of the Prodigal Son. Luke 15:14, remember that story? Left home, went away, had all this money. What did he do with his money? Squandered it on riotous living. And after he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. The same Greek word, 'in need.' What does that mean? It means he had nothing. He's got nothing to eat, no money to buy it with, he's got nothing. And so that's the same word. Let's put it back into Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned," and let's say, "Lack the glory of God."
Now, how do we become glory of God lackers? Well, what happened is, we're created in the image of God. We're created to be like God into righteousness and holiness, but because we despised God and despised His Word, we traded His glory for something earthly, something small, something insignificant, some idol. And the glory of God got moved from the center, and some idol got put in its place. "For all have sinned and dispensed with the glory of God." And because we don't have that glory, we're under judgment. God's wrath, which we we'll talk about next week, is His passionate response to glory despisers. "Do you despise my glory? You're under my wrath." Now, thankfully, the cross of Jesus Christ takes away wrath, but there's a passionate response to those who despise His glory.
And, therefore, you can see with Romans 3:23, and with the whole context of Romans Three, we are in need of grace, are we not? We need this message of forgiveness. We need it. And it says, "All have sinned, and lack the glory of God, and are justified," look at that next word, "Freely by His grace." Oh, what a word. All these words are great. They're justified freely. The Greek means, literally, 'according to gift,' 'according to gift.' You can't earn it, you must not earn it. You must not. You must simply receive it as a gift; it's a free gift. Justification, namely that the holy judge will declare you completely righteous on judgment day, is offered to you as a free gift. Now, what would happen, if a friend is offering to you a gift, and you reach into your pocket, and start reaching out some filthy bills to pay for it? It's not a gift, you've ruined it. You can't receive it that way. It's offered freely as a gift to you, that's what it says, "Justified freely," and this is in direct contrast to works.
Romans 4:4, which we'll get to in the future, it says, "Now, when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but according to debt." In other words, most of us come at this whole problem of our guilt before God by wanting to work it out. "I got myself in this mess, by gum, I'm going to get myself out." No, you won't. No, you won't. If you come and try to earn this thing, your wages will be thrown back at you. Romans 4:5 says, "However, to the man who does not work, but trusts God, who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness." Same message. You can't labor for this, you must receive it freely as a gift. This is not a new message, by the way. This is nothing new. Isaiah preached the same Gospel. Isaiah 55:1, he said, "Come you all, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters," and you who have what? "No money. Come, buy, and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without price." Spurgeon gave a beautiful illustration of this. I can't do any better than just read what he said. This is Charles Spurgeon: He said:
I tell you, Sir, if you bring in any of your deservings, you shall never have it. God gives away his justification freely; if you bring anything to pay for it, he will throw it in your face, and will not give his justification to you. He gives it away freely. Old Rowland Hill once went preaching at a fair; he noticed the merchants selling their wares by auction; so Rowland said, “I am going to hold an auction too, to sell wine and milk, without money and without price. My friends over there,” said he “find a great difficulty to get you up to their price, my difficulty is to bring you down to mine.” So it is with men. If I could preach justification to be bought by you at a sovereign a piece, who would go out of the place without being justified? If I could preach justification to you by walking a hundred miles, would we not be pilgrims to-morrow morning, every one of us? If I were to preach justification which would consist in whippings and torture, there are very few here who would not whip themselves, and that severely too. But when it is freely, freely, freely, men turn away. What! Am I to have it for nothing at all, without doing anything?” Yes, Sir, you are to have it for nothing, or else not at all; it is “freely.” “But may I not go to Christ, lay some claim to his mercy, and say, Lord, justify me because I am not so bad as others?” It will not do, Sir, because it is “by his grace.” “But may I not indulge a hope, because I go to church twice a day?” No, Sir; it is “by his grace.” “But may I not offer this plea I mean to be better?” No, sir; it is “by his grace.” You insult God by bringing your counterfeit coin to pay for his treasures. Oh! what poor ideas men have of the value of Christ’s gospel, if they think they can buy it! God will not have your rusty farthings to buy heaven with.
We want bring our grubby little coins and offer them to God to pay for it. You've got to have empty hands. God doesn't want you paying for this. You can't afford it. You can't afford it. It's free to you, but was it free? Was it free? No, it was incredibly expensive.
5) Purchased by Jesus Christ
And that's my fifth point about justification: It is purchased by Christ Jesus. It's purchased by Him. Verse 24, it says, "We are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." All these words are weighty; they're all weighty. What is the word 'redemption?' The word 'redemption' is the image of the release of a helpless captive or a group of helpless captives by the paying of a price, by the paying of a price. There's all kinds of Old Testament pictures of redemption. God has prepared us well to understand this. For example, He uses the word 'redeemed' or 'redemption' to talk about Him getting Israel out of slavery. By His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, He paid the price and got them up out of slavery. And while He did that, the Exodus Passover, remember, the angel of death was to pass over, and Moses gave the command that the firstborn of every Jewish household should be redeemed with the blood of the Passover lamb. That means, brought out of danger. What was the danger? That the angel of death would kill that firstborn Jewish boy.
'Redeemed,' the payment of a price, the release of a captive. Payment of the price, release of the captive. All kinds of pictures of redeemers, the best of all in the Old Testament. Job 19:25, I love this one. I could stand here and talk about the kinsman-redeemer, there's so many pictures here of Old Testament redemption, but I love this one the best. Job 19:25, this should sound familiar to you, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand upon the Earth, and the worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh, will I see God." What is the danger that Job faces? Death. And who can redeem him? His redeemer. And who is His redeemer? Well, I'll speak some of his words, "The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." He paid the price. What is a ransom? It's money paid to kidnappers to get somebody out of trouble. It's the same image. He came to pay the price, and He did pay it, and it was incredibly expensive, incredibly expensive.
If you look at God and say, "Oh, God, of all the universe, what is most valuable to you?" If you say, "Is there anything more valuable then the blood of your own Son?" The answer is, "No." And so Peter spoke of that price. First Peter 1:18-19, he says, "For you know that it was not with perishable things, such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." Oh, yeah, it was bought, but you can't afford it. The price was paid by Jesus Christ and by His blood. He is our redeemer.
Today, we have seen justification. We've begun to understand it. We've seen that justification is prepared and proclaimed, but not accomplished by the law. We've seen, secondly, that justification's performed by God; it's external to you. It's external to you. It was done for you when Jesus died on the cross. Number three, it's procured, you receive it by faith in Christ. Procured by faith. Number four, it's provided by grace. We didn't deserve this. We deserve wrath and judgment, but instead, God gave us all this. What a feast. And then, fifthly, it was expensive. The price was purchased by Christ Jesus.
V. Summary & Application
Now, I want to close with another illustration from Spurgeon. I've never found anything as powerful as this one, "What is the problem with justification by faith? It runs directly contrary to our pride. We want to earn it, we want to work it out, and so there are, I believe, in all the world, only two religions: Salvation by grace and salvation by works. All of those cults and all of those world religions, it's just the same thing in different flavors, and forms, and then there's Christianity, as rightly understood here in Romans 3:21-26, 'Justification by grace through faith alone.' And so we have to labor to get people to let go of their works." And so Spurgeon told this story, He said, "Justification by faith is something like this:
There is a story told of a captain of a man-of-war, whose son — a young lad — was very fond of running up the rigging of the ship; and one time, running after a monkey, he ran up the mast, till at last he got on to the maintruck. Now, the maintruck, you are aware, is like a large round table put on to the mast, so that when the boy was on the maintruck there was plenty of room for him; but the difficulty was — to use the best explanation I can — that he could not reach the mast that was under the table, he was not tall enough to get down from this maintruck, reach the mast, and so descend. There he was on the maintruck; he managed to get up there, somehow or other, but down he never could get. His father saw that, and he looked up in horror; what was he to do? In a few moments his son would fall down, and be dashed to pieces! He was clinging to the maintruck with all his might, but in a little time he would fall down on the deck, and there he would be a mangled corpse. The captain called for a speaking trumpet; he put it to his mouth, and shouted, “Boy, the next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea.” It was, in truth, his only way of escape; he might be picked up out of the sea, but he could not be rescued if he fell on the deck. The poor boy looked down on the sea; it was a long way; he could not bear the idea of throwing himself into the roaring current beneath him; he thought it looked angry and dangerous. How could he cast himself down into it? So he clung to the main truck with all his might, though there was no doubt that he must soon let go and perish. The father called for a gun, and pointing it up at him, said, “Boy, the next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea, or I’ll shoot you!” He knew his father would keep his word; the ship lurched on one side, over went the boy splash into the sea, and out went brawny arms after him; the sailors rescued him, and brought him on deck. Now, we, like the boy, are in a position of extraordinary danger, by nature, which neither you nor I can possibly escape of ourselves. Unfortunately, we have got some good works of our own, like that maintruck, and we cling to them so fondly, that we never will give them up. Christ knows that unless we do give them up, we shall be dashed to pieces at the last, for that rotten trust must ruin us. He, therefore, says, “Sinner, let go your own trust, and drop into the sea of my love.” We look down, and say, “Can I be saved by trusting in God? He looks as if he were angry with me, and I could not trust him.” Ah, will not mercy’s tender cry persuade you? — ”He that believeth shall be saved.” Must the weapon of destruction be pointed directly at you? Must you hear the dreadful threat — ”He that believeth not shall be damned?” It is with you now as with that boy — your position is one of imminent peril in itself, and your slighting the Father’s counsel is a matter of more terrible alarm, it makes peril more perilous. You must do it, or else you perish! Let go your hold! Trust in Christ and Him alone!
Let's close in prayer.