So far Romans 1 has shown us that immoral people are unrighteous, and that God must punish all unrighteousness. These people have no excuse because they have a conscience and can see creation.
Romans 2 has shown us that moral people are unrighteous as well – they do not keep the laws they have been given.
Romans 3 starts by emphasizing that by works and actions there is no one righteous. When we finally realize that even our most righteous work is worth nothing to the Lord due to our impure motives, the sins we have committed and our inability to change, then Paul lets us know that there is another way to be righteous: by placing our faith in the work of the Lord Jesus.
This is the great truth of the Protestant Reformation: salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone.
Ephesians 2.8-9 say it like this:
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
You are saved and made righteous only because Jesus Christ bore all your sin and iniquity on the cross. 2 Cor. 5.21 says:
21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus, who never sinned – never did anything to make himself unrighteous, became unrighteous on the cross. He literally became sin on the cross with your sin. All of the sin you have ever committed and ever will commit was laid on the Lord Jesus. All of the righteousness He committed was laid on you.
He became sin with your sin so that you can be righteous with His righteousness. This is the central truth of Romans and the central truth of the entire New Testament. Yet there are still so many Christians trying to work for their salvation, to earn God’s merit, to strive hard enough that they can be healed, be assure of heaven, be this that and the other.
But the gospel message is this: you will never be good enough for God. But that is ok – He is good. And in His goodness sent a man to die on the cross and take the punishment for all of your sin. If you put your faith in Him, that completes the exchange and you will be made the righteousness of God.
Do you realize this: believing in Jesus makes you the righteousness of God. You are as right with God as Jesus is. You can stand before God without fear, without inferiority, without shame. Not because of anything you have done – not that you can boast (Eph. 2.9), but because of what Jesus has done.
If you are a Christian, you are righteous. You do not have to go to hell when you die and you do not have to endure hell on earth. You can go to heaven when you die and you can enjoy heaven on earth. If you are not a Christian all you have to do to become righteous is believe – Romans 10.9-11 says:
9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
All you have to do is believe that Jesus rose from the dead and say out loud that Jesus is Lord. Then you are saved and you are righteous. Then you shall never be ashamed. You might feel ashamed – but that is because you are trying to approach God on the basis of your actions and your actions are not enough to be righteous. If you approach God on the basis of Jesus’ actions, you will not feel ashamed because you never have to be ashamed because the work of Jesus is complete.
Let’s look at the first few verses of Romans 4. Here Paul is writing to the Jewish people, but the principles apply just as much to people from any religion. You can only be righteous by faith, not by what you do or don’t do. Stop thinking about what you have done and what you have not done – and start thinking about God’s grace and what He has done.
1What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
Paul here brings the Jewish people back to Abraham. He is making the clear point that Abraham lived before God as a righteous man, but that contrary to what some people might have thought, Abraham was not considered righteous because of his actions. He was righteous because He believed God.
2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Paul is saying that Abraham was not good enough to be righteous by his actions. You must realize that even the most moral people are not good enough to be righteous by their actions. They have to believe God and that He makes people righteous by faith.
4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
If you are still working and doing good works to make God impressed with you, then you are saying God owes you something. That you deserve every blessing you have.
This is nonsense – it is pure pride. Yet so many Christians talk and act like this. Even word of faith people act like this. It is not true. You cannot work for any blessing. Every blessing you have – righteousness, peace, joy, health, wealth – came because Jesus Christ took the curse on the cross, bore your sin on the cross, and made the blessing freely available. All you have to do is believe and receive.
God makes the ungodly righteous by faith. Say it out loud. Write it on a piece of paper, learn it, meditate on it. Get it into your heart – you are righteous because of Jesus Christ, not any good works you have done. When you look at your works and feel righteous, you are not righteous because of your works, you cannot boast. You are righteous because of Jesus.
When you feel unrighteous because of your works, you are not unrighteous. You are righteous because of Jesus. Your righteousness never changes because what Jesus did never changes. You can always approach God by fiath in His grace.
6Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Even King David sinned, as any student of the Old Testament is aware. David did not say that you were blessed because you never sinned. He said you were blessed because the Lord will not impute sin. Impute is an accounting term which means not put into the account.
Because Jesus took all of your sin, then every sin you commit if you put your faith in Jesus is not put into your account. No matter what you have done wrong, no matter what you ever will do wrong, no matter what sins you have committed, no matter what you have done. It doesn’t matter because it will not be put against your account.
It was put against Jesus’ account. He was punished for you. He died your death because of your sin so you could live His life.
Many Christians do not accept this powerful Scripture because they think it is too good to be true, but it is true. If you are a Christian, then no sin you have ever committed and no sin you ever commit will EVER be laid at your account. You will never have to be stand before God on the basis of your sin, because Jesus Christ has completely dealt with the sin issue.
You can stand before God right now as if you have never sinned, with no sense of fear, no shame.
That indeed is a place of blessing and there is nothing you can do to earn it, you cannot boast about it. God has given it to you freely. That is what grace is: you have been given what you do not deserve: complete forgiveness of sins.
You are the righteousness of God in Christ.
A few months ago I was talking with a Muslim man. He has committed a number of sins that are disturbing his conscience. He feels guilty – and he should he is guilty. He has broken the commandments of God and is unrighteous.
He told me that he prays, that he fasts, that he goes to mosque, but feels no relief. I told him he wouldn’t, that makes sense to me. That surprised him because he felt that religious rituals and prayer would assuage his guilt.
I told him it couldn’t deal with his guilt. I said if he was in a court of law he couldn’t claim innocence of the crimes he had committed because he has prayed or done other rituals. Rituals cannot make you innocent. I understood his anguish as I showed him that there is none righteous not one.
It is important to show people the futility of having any faith in their ability to do right and be righteous, because they are then open to the good news that there is another way to be righteous.
I then said that what he needed was someone to live a perfect life and then offer up that perfect live as a sacrifice for him, then – and only then – could God count him as righteous. Only then could he have peace with God.
He said that no one would ever do that for him, so I told him all about what Jesus did.
He did not became a Christian that night – the peer pressure of his family being part of the issue – but he knows the gospel now. And one day he will receive the love and mercy of Jesus and put His faith in the work of Jesus.
But, although this was a Muslim man, there are many in the churches that are not Christians or are Christians but because they do not know why they are righteous, are condemned, lacking peace, feeling defeated and unloved because they know that according to their actions they are unrighteous.
Listen – according to your actions you are. But you are blessed – every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit is not being put against your account. You can approach God as if you have never sinned. You can stand before God as a righteous man.
You can pray and have your prayers answered. You can lay hands on the sick and have them healed. You can do the works Jesus did. You can be a force of life on the world.
Bless God forever!