Sermon on Romans 3:19-28, for Reformation Day. Soli Deo Gloria--To God Alone Be Glory! A celebration of the blessings of God's blessings to Emmanuel Lutheran Church at our 50th anniversary, and 500 years of the worldwide ringing out of the joyful Gospel of freedom in Christ Jesus. Why does the Gospel leave us no grounds for boasting? What does some of the theological language of Romans 3 mean, and why was "justification by faith" the issue that Martin Luther said the church stands or falls on? What is the difference in the place that good works have, in Luther's reading of Scripture, and in what was being taught by the church?
- The book of Romans as a whole, and Romans 3:19-28 in particular, was crucial to Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the Bible, as He immersed Himself in study of the Bible. This passage gives such a clear description of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, apart from the works of the Law. Nevertheless, it has some theological terms that may not be familiar to us, and some weaknesses of the English language prevent us from seeing the relationship of all the ideas. Here is a quick vocabulary list to help clarify:
- “the Law and the Prophets”—expression for the Old Testament (v. 21)
- “works of the Law”—obedience (or lack thereof) to God’s commandments (v. 20, 27, 28). This is excluded from our justification
- “justified”—in Greek it’s part of one word family, together with “righteous” or “righteousness” (below), and means “to declare righteous/innocent”. “Justified” can be thought of as God’s legal verdict of innocence—not by “works of the law”, but only by faith in Jesus (v.20, 24, 26, 28)
- “righteous/righteousness/just”—in Greek, all part of the same word family, meaning upright and innocent. Note there are two kinds of righteousness—by the law (we are actually all unrighteous by this measure) and the righteousness “apart from the law” (v. 21), which is the “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus” (v. 22) (a free gift!)
- “believe/belief/faith”—again, all one word family in Greek, but split in English into the verb “believe” and noun “faith”. Means our trust in God, or “honesty about dependence” on Him.
- “propitiation”—a putting away of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the satisfying of the just demand of the Law that sin and evil be punished. (v. 25)
- “redemption”—to buy back, from sins and death (v. 24)