The Key to Heaven

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.Romans 4:5

This is the third devotional in a row on Romans 4:5. And maybe you are thinking: Wait a minute! How can a holy God justify ungodly people? It just doesn't seem right.

The only way is the cross of Jesus, because on the cross Jesus paid for our sin. On the cross he took the punishment for the sin of ungodly people. John Stott once wrote: "How is it possible for the righteous God to declare the unrighteous to be righteous without either compromising his righteousness or condoning their unrighteousness? That is our question. God's answer is the cross."

The Bible does not teach salvation by faith plus works. Or faith plus being good enough. Or faith plus churchianity. Or faith plus baptism. Or faith plus anything. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (4:5). Faith plus nothing.

Imagine you are touring an enormous old castle and you get separated from the group. You are lost somewhere in the basement and you come to a big wooden door. You push but it won't budge. However, a worker comes along with a key. He turns the little key and it opens up wide.

Those who would be saved by works push against heaven's door but it won't budge. But faith is the key that opens that door at once.

Will you put your faith in Christ? Will you abandon your trust in yourself, your trust in you being good enough, and will you transfer your trust to Christ? O, do it now, dear friend. Lord, all my trust is in Christ alone.

Jesus Paid It All

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
Romans 4:5
On your judgment day, will God ask you these questions? "Did you do enough good works to get into heaven?" "Were you good enough to get into heaven?" "Did you do enough for the salvation of your soul?" The answer?
No. God will not ask you these questions. Romans 4:5 makes that clear: "His faith is counted as righteousness." That verse makes it clear that none of those questions are the ones that God will ask you.
Rather, the single question that God will ask us is: "Did you put your sole faith in Christ to save you? Did you refuse to rely on your own good works, but rather believed in him who justified ungodly people like you?" That's the question.
If God said to you that in order to be saved you had to go to church 500 times in your life and spend 500 hours reading the Bible and spend another 500 hours praying, and make sure you give ten percent to God's work, then you would do it. And you would feel proud of yourself for doing all of those works!
But that's not what God says. Instead he says: "You can never save yourself. You cannot remove your own sins. You cannot be good enough to earn heaven. Your only hope is a Savior." So what you do is put your faith in a Savior.
Let me ask you, dear friend: Is that too simple for you? It is simple. It is so simple that most people miss it. The gospel is free - free to us that is. It cost Christ his own life-blood. Free for us, costly for Christ. Jesus paid it all.
God, thank you that you made a way for me to be saved, that you did for me what I could never do for myself. Thank you for a Savior.

What About Abraham?

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
Romans 4:1
In Romans 1-3 God underscores, repeatedly and emphatically, that we have all sinned, that we are all guilty, that we all deserve judgment, that we are all under the holy wrath of God. Then, beginning in Romans 3:21, there is the abrupt But now! But now we can be right with God. Not by our good works or our merit or our religious effort, but by trusting Christ to save us. Now readers of Jewish background are probably thinking, "But what about Abraham, our founding father? He had lots of works. He obeyed God, he left his homeland, he got circumcised, he even obeyed God in being willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Was Abraham not justified by works?"
In chapter 4, God addresses Abraham, the founder of the Jewish faith. Paul writes: "What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God" (4:1-2). Then, after raising these two questions about Abraham, Paul answers with Scripture: "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'" (4:3).
Paul goes back to Genesis 15, which is the first passage talking about the righteousness of Abraham, the justification of Abraham. And how did Abraham gain that righteousness? Was it because he obeyed God, because he did good works, because he was good enough? No, it was because he believed God. He took God at his word. Thereupon, God declares Abraham righteous, right with God.
All through the Bible we see that we are made right with God through faith, not through works. For example, in the book of Romans, which is widely considered the most important theological book in the Bible, there are no less than 61 times that we have salvation by faith. In the Gospel of John, the only book in the New Testament which is explicitly written to unbelievers, the word faith, or believe, occurs 98 times. This includes the classic John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
It is true that there are a few difficult passages that don't sound like salvation by faith. But by contrast, there are scores and scores of passages that declare that we are made right with God by faith. A basic rule of Bible study: Interpret the unclear passages by the clear passages.
And what exactly is faith? It is trust, dependence, believing in Christ, taking God at his word. When you sit on a stool, you are trusting that that stool will hold you up. Imagine two stools sitting on a stage and you're sitting on one stool. You get up and sit on the other stool. You transfer your weight from one stool to the other. That's like biblical faith. You transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus. Biblical faith is a transfer of faith. It's a transfer from self-reliance to reliance on Christ.
This requires humility. You are basically saying to God, "I cannot do it. I cannot save myself. I am a sinner. Lord, I need you to save me." If that is your heart, God will sweep you up into his loving arms and save you completely.
Lord, all my hope, all my trust, is in Jesus.

Four Phrases

And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:24
There are four vital phrases in this one verse. These four phrases underscore that salvation is not by our efforts but by God's rescue, that salvation is not the work of man for God but the work of God for man.
The first phrase is "and are justified." This verb is in the passive tense. You do not justify yourself, but God justifies you. This is something that is done to you not by you. To be justified means that you are declared right with God. In the original language, the word justified is the same root word as the word righteousness.
The second phrase is "by his grace." Grace is God's favor for people who do not deserve it. Grace is something that is absolutely free and undeserved. Grace is a matter not of earning something, but of receiving something. Later in Romans, Paul is so emphatic that grace is incompatible with works and merit: "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (11:6).
The third phrase is "as a gift." This phrase simply underscores and emphasizes the second phrase, "by his grace." Again, the point is so strong: We do not deserve salvation, we do not work for it, we cannot earn it, we cannot pay for it. It is free! It is a gift! I have a friend in our church, Michael Smalley, who donated one of his kidneys to his dad. If his dad didn't have a new kidney he would die. His dad didn't pay for the kidney and he didn't earn the kidney, but it was a gift, totally free. That's the way we get into heaven, by a gift.
The fourth phrase is "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Embedded in this word for redemption is the idea of a ransom. The idea is that we were held by sin and the ransom price had to be paid. Jesus paid that price on the cross with his own blood, by his own death. A few years ago there was a spectacular rescue operation of a mine in Chile. Thirty-three miners were rescued after 69 days at a total cost of about $30 million. That's a lot of money, but the ransom price for you was even higher. It was the shed blood of Christ. "Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Lord, thank you for the gospel, that you make us right with you by grace, as a gift, through the redemption in Christ Jesus. All glory be to you.

The Wrong Standard

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23
When it comes to sin our tendency as humans is to compare ourselves with others. And when we make these comparisons, we do not compare ourselves with people who are less sinful than we are, but rather people who are more sinful than we are. "At least I'm better than that person!" "At least I'm not as sinful as those people!" "At least I don't do that!" "At least I haven't committed adultery!"
The problem with our comparisons is this: When it comes to sin, the standard is not other people. The standard is Jesus Christ. And Jesus is perfect. All of us fall short of his glory.
In baseball, if you hit .300 for a season, that is super. In fact, if you hit .300 for your career, you will probably end up in the Hall of Fame. But life is not baseball. When it comes to life, it is not enough for us to hit .300, we have to hit 1.000 because God is perfect and the least little sin will separate us from God. Moreover, we don't have the least little sin, but we have tons of sin, sin in our attitudes, in our actions, in our words. We have sins of pride, of unbelief, of selfishness, of fear, of anger, of impurity and much more. We all fall short of the glory of God.
Bishop Handley Moule stated this truth in a vivid way: "The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it [sc. God's glory], but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they."
Father, I confess to you my sin and my sinfulness, and I am so grateful that you gave us a Savior to rescue us from our sin.

The Essence of Sin

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23
Romans 1:18-3:20 is the most important section on sin in all the Bible. And then, three verses later, in Romans 3:23, we come to the most important single verse on sin in all the Bible. But what exactly is sin? What is the essence of sin?
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, considered by many to be the greatest English-speaking preacher of the 20th century, wrote this:
I am not asking whether you know things about Him but do you know God, are you enjoying God, is God the centre of your life, the soul of your being, the source of your greatest joy? He is meant to be. He made man in such a way that that was to be the position, that man might dwell in communion with God and enjoy God and walk with God. You and I are meant to be like that, and if we are not like that, it is sin. That is the essence of sin. We have no right not to be like that. That is sin of the deepest and worst type. The essence of sin, in other words, is that we do not live entirely to the glory of God. (Spiritual Depression, 31)
Another British evangelical, J.I. Packer, once described sin in this way:
What, in positive terms, is the essence of sin? Playing God; and, as a means to this, refusing to allow the Creator to be God so far as you are concerned. Living, not for him, but for yourself; loving and serving and pleasing yourself without reference to the Creator; trying to be as far as possible independent of him, taking yourself out of his hands, holding him at arm's length, keeping the reins of life in your own hands; acting as if you, and your pleasure, were the end to which all things else, God included, must be made to function as a means - that is the attitude in which sin essentially consists. Sin is exalting oneself against the Creator, withholding the homage due to him, and putting oneself in his place as the ultimate standard of reference in all life's decisions. (God's Words, 73)
More succinctly, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great Soviet dissident and writer once wrote, "If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God."
All three of these statements are true. We have all sinned against a holy God. We have all fallen short of his glory. All of us.
Lord, I confess my sin and my sinfulness to you and I am so grateful that Jesus came to save us from our sin.

Faith Alone

The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction.
Romans 3:22
A while back a friend asked me if I would go to M.D. Anderson, the world renowned cancer hospital in Houston. The man that I was visiting was dying of pancreatic cancer and he was only 53 years old. I knew him a little, not well. He had been a great distance runner, a member of the U.S. Olympic team. When I came into the room and greeted him, he looked at me and said, "I'll shoot straight with you: I'm afraid to die." I appreciated his honesty and I asked, "Are you ready to meet God if you die?" He responded, "Yes, I have asked forgiveness from Jesus, but I am worried that I have not been good enough." At that point I explained to him that it was not about being good enough, that salvation is a gift of God, freely given when we place our trust in Jesus. If he had placed his trust in Christ to save him, then he could be assured that God had accepted him and that he would go immediately to heaven.
I appreciated this man's honesty. I am concerned that many people wonder if they have been good enough, if they have done enough. But the only question is: Am I trusting in Jesus to get me to heaven or am I trusting in myself to be good enough? The Bible teaches over and over, and nowhere more emphatically than the book of Romans, that we are justified, or made right with God, by faith, by trust, by believing in Jesus.
Someone put it this way: "God justifies the believer - not because of the worthiness of his belief, but because of Christ's worthiness, who is believed."
If you have never done so, then right now breathe a prayer: "Jesus, I trust you alone to save me. All my hope is in you. Thank you that you died on the cross and paid for my sins. Thank you that you are faithful to hear this prayer and save me. Thank you so much. Amen."
Lord, I am so grateful that my salvation does not depend on how good I am but only on how good Christ is.

Heart of the Gospel

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.

Romans 3:21



Some scholars consider Romans 3:21-26 not only the key paragraph in the Book of Romans, but the key paragraph in the Bible.  This is the heart of the gospel, a packed summary of what God does for us in Christ on the cross.  There are so many key theological terms in the passage:  righteousness, law, faith, sin, justification, grace, redemption, propitiation, blood.


Paul begins with the righteousness of God:  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.  This term, righteousness, is a vital term in the Book of Romans.  Sometimes in the Bible the term refers to God’s righteous character.  At other times the term is used almost synonymously for God’s salvation or deliverance.  Quite often the term refers to God’s gift of righteousness to us, or God’s gift of right standing with him. That is the meaning of the term righteousness here in Romans 3:21.  The righteousness of God is God’s gift of our right standing with him.


How do we get this right standing with God?  Through faith.  “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (3:22).  The verse is especially emphatic because the words faith and believe are two forms of the same root word in Greek.  It is like Paul is saying:  “The righteousness of God comes through belief in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.”  We receive the gift of being right with God through faith in Christ, which means through believing in Christ or through trust in Christ or through reliance on Christ and not ourselves.


It is noteworthy that this root word for faith occurs twice in verse 22 and twice more in verses 25 and 26.  Furthermore, in the theme passage of the Book of Romans, Romans 1:16-17, the word occurs four times.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (1:16-17).


The Bible is so emphatic:  We received the gift of right standing with God not because of what we do, but because of our faith or belief in what Christ has done for us.



Lord, all my hope, all my trust, is in Jesus Christ to save me.


But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.

Romans 3:21



A few years ago, on August 5, 2010, the Copiapó mine, an hour south of Santiago, collapsed.  Thirty-three miners were trapped 2300 feet below the surface.  To appreciate the situation, 2300 feet is almost twice the height of the Empire State Building in New York City.  Things looked bleak indeed for those 33 miners and their families.  The rescue operations began and ideas flowed in from around the world.  Work went on around the clock. The whole world kept watch.  After 17 days, all 33 miners were still alive.  After 50 days, all the miners were alive and this was the longest that any miners had ever survived underground.  Finally, after 69 days all 33 miners were rescued!  Glorious rescue!


These 33 miners could not rescue themselves.  They could not do anything to contribute to their rescue.  The rescue had to come from above.  The miners were trapped in darkness, helpless and hopeless, waiting on rescue from above.  In some ways, the story of the Copiapó mine is a picture of Romans 1-3.  In the first three chapters of Romans we see that all humans are under sin and guilty before God, deserving of his wrath and judgment.  We could not rescue ourselves.  We could not even contribute to our rescue.  The rescue had to come from above.  We were trapped in darkness, helpless and hopeless.


If the story ended at Romans 3:20, then we would be left at the bottom of the mine, trapped in darkness.  But the story does not end there.  The next verse begins:  But now!  But now!  When things looked the bleakest:  But now!  When we were helpless and hopeless:  But now!  These two words represent the moment the shaft breaks through to the miners, a shaft of light and hope and grace.  The rescue had arrived.  But now!



O Lord, we are so grateful for the rescue above all rescues.

Hating Sin

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20



Romans 3:20 completes the longest and most thorough passage on sin in all the Bible. Beginning with Romans 1:18 Paul talks about several aspects of sin.  Here’s the flow of thought.


1:1-15              Introductory Thoughts


1:16-17            Theme:  Right with God


1:18-3:20         Sin


1:18-32       Depraved Gentile Sin


2:1-15         Hypocritical Religious People


2:17-3:8      Self-Righteous Jews


3:9-20         Whole Human Race


Paul underscores that both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews), that both the religious and the irreligious, that all people are under sin and in desperate need of a Savior.


Why is there such an inordinate emphasis on sin?  As we saw recently, unless we recognize the depth of our sin problem, we will never appreciate the wonder of God’s grace.  If we do not recognize our sinfulness, we will see no need for a Savior.  As the seventeenth-century pastor, John Owen, put it:  “He that has slight thoughts of sin never had great thoughts of God.”


God hates sin, because God knows that sin destroys us.  And if God hates sin, then we must hate sin.  “The pardoned sinner hates the sin that cost the Savior his blood” (Charles Spurgeon).


Let me ask you:  Do you hate the sin that cost the Savior his blood?  Or, do you tolerate sin in your life with “It’s no big deal”?  Is there any part of your life that needs to be surrendered to Christ?  Your language?  Anger?  Fear?  Way you love your spouse?  Temper?  Sexual purity?  Pornography?  Spending?  Giving?  Gossip?  Self-centeredness?  Honesty?  Envy?  Unforgiveness?  Compassion for lost people?



Papa, may I hate the sin that cost the Savior his blood!

The Purpose of the Law

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20



No one has ever been saved by their works.  No one has ever been saved by their own goodness or performance.  Every person who has ever been saved has been saved in the same way:  by the initiating grace of God through our responsive faith in God.


In the Old Testament, salvation was based on a promised Savior.  That is, the blood of the animal sacrifices could never really atone for sin.  They were simply a temporary covering until one day the Lamb of God died in our place on a cross and paid for sin.


Before the cross people were saved by God’s grace through faith.  Through faith in a coming Savior.  After the cross people were saved by God’s grace through faith.  Through faith in a Savior who came.


Abraham is the greatest example.  As Genesis 15:6 states, and as Paul underscores in Romans 4, Abraham was justified by his faith, not by his performance.  That is the same way that you and I are justified, by the grace of God through faith in a Savior, not by our performance.


So, in light of all of this, what exactly was the purpose of the law in the Old Testament?  The law was never given to save us.  Rather, the law was given to show us our sin and hence point us to our need for a Savior.  Romans 3:20 is a central passage on the purpose of the law:  “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”


So the law does not bring the forgiveness of sin, but the knowledge of sin.  The law helps us to realize how sinful we are and hence our need for a Savior.


Martin Luther stated it classically:


The principal point … of the law … is to make men not better but worse; that is to say, it sheweth unto them their sin, that by the knowledge thereof they may be humbled, terrified, bruised and broken, and by this means may be driven to seek grace, and so come to that blessed Seed [sc. Christ].



Thank you so much that we can trust a Savior and not our own performance to get into heaven.

Pervasive and Ubiquitous

As it is written:  “None is righteous, no, not one.”

Romans 3:10



In verses 10-18 Paul quotes no less than seven Old Testament passages.  Seven in a row!  That tells us something about the way Paul saw Scripture.  Paul saw Scripture the way Jesus saw Scripture:  “It is absolute authority.  It is God’s Word written.”


Paul has seven quotes in a row to emphasize the severity of our sin problem.  Our sin problem is bleak!  It is as deep as it is broad, as pervasive as it is ubiquitous.


Sin is universal.  There is not one single exception.  Not Billy Graham.  Not Mother Teresa.  Not your godly grandmother.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote:


“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


Theologians speak of our total depravity.  That does not mean that we are as bad as we could be but that we are not as good as we could be.  There is no part of us that is untainted by sin.  For example, I have never preached a sermon with totally pure motives.  My pride and self-centeredness bleed through to some extent every time.


What is the essence of sin?  Rebellion against God.  The passage ends with this stinging statement:  “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (3:18).  That’s the problem:  a rebel heart against God!



Lord, thank you that even though our sin is great, your grace is greater.

The Sin Boulder

What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.

Romans 3:9



Paul has been talking about the human sin problem since 1:18.  Indeed, 1:18-3:20 is the largest section on sin in the Bible.  The question arises:  Why does he spend so much time on sin before he gets to salvation?


This is what Paul would say:  If you don’t recognize the severity of your sin problem, then you will never appreciate the wonder of God’s grace.  You will never appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross.  Slight thoughts about sin lead to slight thoughts about grace.  If we are going to love God back – the first commandment – then we must recognize our sin and what God did to save us.


As Paul begins the final movement of the sin section, he underscores that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin.  Under sin.  It’s like we have the oppressive weight of sin on top of our chest, like a giant boulder, squeezing the life out of us.


Only God can pulverize this boulder of sin and set us free to breathe.  God did it!  He did it in Christ, and he did it at the cross.


Lord, may I see my sin the way I should, so that I can see your grace the way I should.

Blame Game

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Romans 3:19



John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself.  The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth.  The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun – until it bounced off his forehead.  The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms.  Unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye.  Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform and shouted, “You idiot!  You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”  (Don McCullough in Discipleship Journal)


There is a lot of foolish talking going on today – all kinds of excuse-giving and blaming others.  But one day, one day, every mouth will be stopped.  Every mouth will be stopped and the whole world will be held accountable to God.  Every one of us will have to own up to our own sin.  No longer can we blame circumstances, our upbringing, our parents, our spouse, our boss, or other people.  We did it.  We rebelled against God.  We sinned.  We are responsible.



Lord, I acknowledge to you, the holy and sovereign God, that I have sinned against you and I am completely dependent on your mercy.

Lies and Distortions

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?  (I speak in a human way.)

Romans 3:5



In Romans 3:1-8 Paul raises no less than eight questions, eight questions that people were asking.


The first two questions, about the advantage of the Jews, are reasonable questions.  But the remaining questions are so far from the truth, such distortions of the truth, that Paul answers with ringing cries, such as “By no means!” or “Their condemnation is just.”


For example, with our question in 3:5, Paul responds with “I speak in a human way” because he finds the question almost embarrassing to ask.  Then he follows that with a sharp retort:  “By no means!  For then how could God judge the world?”  (3:6).


So many times, the enemies of the gospel, both human enemies and demonic enemies, take a truth and distort it.  In fact, we ourselves are susceptible to enormous self-deceptions and rationalizations.  The only antidote to the lies and distortions of God’s truth is to saturate your mind with God’s mind, to treasure and read and meditate and obey God’s holy Word.


Be alert to the lies of the enemy and the distortions of God’s Word.  Lies such as these:


  • God is not really good. He cannot be trusted.
  • God is a mean God and he’s mad at you.
  • Because of your failures, God has written you off.
  • You can sin and get away with it. There are no real consequences.
  • You’ve just got to do this sin. You have no choice.  You can’t help yourself.
  • To be happy, you can’t obey God on this command.
  • God doesn’t hear your prayers. You might as well give up.
  • You have to earn your salvation by being good.
  • If you don’t measure up, God will reject you.



O Lord, protect us from all lies and deceptions.  Thy Word is truth.

Twisted Thinking

What if some were unfaithful?  Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

Romans 3:3



Paul’s immediate answer to this question that some were asking:  “By no means!  Of course not!  No way!”


The premise is twisted thinking:  Because some of the Jews were unfaithful, that means God is unfaithful?  These questioners are looking at people, who are sinful and flawed, and they then make a conclusion about God.


People in our world make a similar argument all the time.  It goes like this:  “Look at those Christians!  They are so arrogant, condescending and judgmental.  If that’s Christianity, it must not be true.  God cannot be real.  Jesus cannot be God.”  Or, it goes like this:  “Look at those Christians fighting wars against one another, in Lebanon or Ireland or in the Balkans.  Or, those white supremacists are Christians.  Even many of the Nazis.  It must not be true!”


It is not uncommon today for skeptics to look at flawed people and make a conclusion about God.


Several thoughts in response:


  1. Just because someone claims to be a Christian or goes to a church does not make them a genuine Christ-follower. Millions of people are “cultural Christians” who do not know Christ.


  1. For those who are genuine Christians, none is perfect. All of us are flawed.  Deeply flawed.


  1. The only perfect man is Jesus. Focus on Jesus:  Who was he?  How did he live?  What did he say?  The test of Christianity is Christ.


Our unfaithfulness does not diminish God’s character in the least.  That’s twisted thinking.



Papa, though I am deeply flawed, I thank you for a Savior who lived a blameless life.


Then what advantage has the Jew?  Or what is the value of circumcision?

Romans 3:1



At the end of chapter two, Paul made several strong statements about the Jewish people:


  • There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles in salvation.


  • Being Jewish won’t save you.


  • Having the law won’t save Jews.


  • Being circumcised won’t save you.


  • A true Jew is a Jew inwardly, not outwardly.


By the end of chapter two, Paul’s readers would think, “Wait a minute!  Aren’t the Jews God’s chosen people?  Doesn’t that matter!  If there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, then what advantage is it to be Jewish?  Does circumcision have value?”


Paul’s immediate and emphatic answer:  “Much in every way.  To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (3:2).  When Paul begins to enumerate the advantages of being Jewish, the first thing he thinks of is the Word of God.  “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.”  They were entrusted with the very words of God.  And this is a treasure beyond all compare!


The preface to the ESV states of the Bible:


“This Book [is] the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.” With these words the Moderator of the Church of Scotland hands a Bible to the new monarch in Britain’s coronation service. These words echo the King James Bible translators, who wrote in 1611: “God’s sacred Word… is that inestimable treasure that excelleth all the riches of the earth.”


Is this God’s sacred Word to you?  Do you see the Bible as the oracles of God, the very words of God?  If so, you will read it, delight in it, memorize it, study it, obey it and share it.



O Lord, may I treasure your holy Word.