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God’s Righteousness Revealed

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

God’s Righteousness Revealed: Summary of Romans 1-11

The past 2 weeks of life for me have had some sobering, heavy moments that force me to connect this short life with the next life which is eternal.

My daughter wrote me 2 weeks ago. The senior pastor in their church and his wife are about my age. Brian and Lynne. We know them. Good people. Great family. They love the Lord.

Our daughter Jenna messaged us on Thursday a.m. two weeks ago:
“Lynne found out yesterday she has cancer. It’s in her breast, bones, liver, and lungs. It’s everywhere and very aggressive. The doctor gave her 3-4 months to live without treatment. And maybe a 1 year with treatment. Their initial thoughts are to do a little treatment to make it to their son Kevin’s wedding in 5 months.
“Absolutely devastating. We cried when they called with the news. There was absolutely no warning.”

They hope she can make it to her son’s wedding in July. I wept.

Stories like that remind me of something I so quickly forget: That this life is short. And the next life is eternal. And I am forced to go back to my foundation in Christianity…..that the story of the Bible is that God is the God of hope. We have hope in him. Brian and Lynne—facing their greatest challenge in life— have hope in Christ.

My daughter also wrote this:
“Very tough time. Yet I was so encouraged by Lynne. She said her prayer is that through this we will be reminded that God is good and is always there with his presence, provision, and protection.”

I often think about the Lord and the life to come. Yet being confronted with the brevity of life compels us to consider even more, “What then?” What then? What happens after death? Is there existence afterward? Is there a God? Am I right with God? How do I know? And how should I live this life?

All other questions and problems in this world, while not unimportant, become smaller in perspective.

This morning, we are looking at a book in the New Testament that speaks truth about life. Life here and now. And life beyond the grave. The book of Romans provide us with words of HOPE.

Romans

You can open your Bibles to Romans. The first chapter.

Romans is a letter by a man named Paul to a church in Rome, Italy. And it answers some core questions of life. What about God? What about us? Are we OK with God? If not, how can we get OK?

This letter we call “ROMANS” is a letter of hope. It is a letter of Good News.

Brian and Lynne in the story I just mentioned are two people who believe the message of Romans. They are people of hope. Not merely wishful thinking. True hope. Many of you in this room are the same: You are people of hope. Romans helps us find the JOY of our HOPE. And a PEACE from God and with God.

We began teaching through Romans 16 months ago, in fall 2015. Averaged 2 weeks per chapter. We’ve pressed “PAUSE” multiple times to teach on other topics.

Now we are back at it for the home stretch.

The message of Romans is both simple and complex. It is straightforward yet deep. Someone once said about the Bible,
 So simple, a child can understand.
 So profound, the greatest mind cannot plumb the depths.
This is like Romans.

Today we will review where we’ve been. We have taught through 11 chapters.

Romans 1-11 should shift the way we see life and man and God. It doesn’t get down to many specific commands. Not many “To Do’s.” YET… it is highly practical. It is life transforming. These first 11 chapters ought to change the way we think. And the way we think ought to change the way we live.

Theme of Letter

Two verses early in the letter provide what might be the theme of the letter.

Romans 1:16–17 ESV “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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The greatest theme of the letter: Righteousness. How we get RIGHT with God. The other word for this is “JUSTIFICATION.” God justifies sinners. Sinners…all of us…. are guilty of crimes against him, but he declares some of them righteous.
How does this happen? By faith. Trust. Dependence on the work of God. Not by works. Solely by God’s grace and kindness.

More on this later.

Paul spends the rest of the letter with EXPLANATION…… and IMPLICATION.
Explaining in great detail what this hope is. How it came about. He wants us to grasp these truths. To have them shape our way of thinking.

And then in the last fourth of the letter (which we will begin next week), he gives Implications. What are the Implications of this truth on our lives? How all of this should affect our lives? What we should do and say and think? How we as God’s people should live together?

Today we will BLAZE through 11 chapters. Buckle your seat belt.

Chapters 1-4: HOPE!

So let’s review at this first section. Chapters 1-4.

These 4 chapters go deep into what true hope for mankind is. It expands on the theme we just read in vs. 16-17. How we get right with God. Why we even need to get right with God.
These 4 chapters tell us where to find hope. And how. HOPE is one of the best words in the English language. Hope. Biblical hope is very different than we sometimes use the word. Sometimes we use it as a synonym for “WISH.” “I hope I get that new job. I’m crossing my fingers for good luck.”

Biblical hope means that we have a solid conviction of future good. Not because we have an optimistic personality. Rather because God, who has promised good, is faithful.

Romans 1-4 gives us hope.

But I have to tell you, this section doesn’t start that way. It actually starts with a message of BAD NEWS. Trouble. Telling us that we have no hope.

One passage that tells us WHY we need righteousness from God: It’s because we’re in trouble. We are under WRATH.

Romans 1:18–20 ESV “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

God’s WRATH….his ANGER…is being revealed (PRESENT TENSE….that’s alarming!) against man’s EVIL. Man in his evil heart is trying to SUPPRESS the truth of God. Truth about God and about man. In our sinfulness, all of us have an internal propensity towards sin…Crimes against God… and against what is true and right and good and holy.

And no person in the world has an excuse. We cannot legitimately plead complete ignorance and say, “I didn’t know anything! It’s not my fault! Don’t blame me!” God has made it plain to every human on the planet of who he is. His eternal power. His divine nature. Deep inside, all of us, even the staunchest atheist and agnostic, knows.
If HOPE is the confident expectation of future good, then this is the opposite. This is confident expectation of future BAD.

This points not to HOPE but to HOPELESSNESS. Without God’s help, every man and woman on the planet is in a hopeless condition. Eternally hopeless.

Chapters 1 and 2 and half of 3 tell us we are under the wrath of God. All of us. Not just obviously evil and demonic people like Adolph Hitler. Even the religious.

As a 19-year old in college, I was confronted head-on with this. I heard truth like Romans 1-3. And the Spirit opened my eyes. And I was afraid. Afraid of God’s wrath and going to hell. I gradually began to understand my lostness.

This section of Romans tells us we are all trapped. Lost. In need of rescue.

But then halfway through chapter 3, Paul turns a corner. He begins expounding on the Good News. Where TRUE HOPE comes from. Not just wishful thinking.

Now Paul tells us how to find TRUE HOPE.

Romans 3:21–25 ESV “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—”

Being right with God…at PEACE with God…has been made known to us. But it’s not from following God’s law. It’s not through our performance. Paul himself was a very religious man. Zealous for some of the things of God. But even that did not make him right with God.

22 “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

Believe. Same word family as “FAITH.”
Faith in Jesus Christ. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. (Remember Romans 1:16-17, the theme of the letter? This is it.)
This solves the great dilemma of the wrath of God hanging over us. The result of being right with God is being given LIFE forever with God in glory. So the outcome is astounding! This is where HOPE comes in.

So let’s think about hardships in life.
Consider this couple, Brian and Lynne, confronted by cancer. She will die this year, barring a miracle. How in the world does Romans 1-4 help them? Does it take away all Grieving? No. Does it take away all Fear? No. Will it take away the pain from cancer? No.
But it gives them HOPE. Not mere wishful thinking, but HOPE. A rock to stand on. They are facing PAIN now, but they know God has promised a glorious eternal future in Christ. This is HOPE.

Paul continues:

“For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Every person has sinned against a holy God and falls short….we miss the mark…We miss the glory and greatness and holiness of God.
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…”

When I was a teenager, although I was very disinterested in God, I remember a phone conversation my mom had with a friend. They were talking about eternal life. Heaven. Being right with God. My mom probably had not read Romans before, for she said to her friend, “Maybe we get to heaven if the good outweighs the bad.”

Only a few years later, the Lord brought the message of Romans to her, and she found out the true answer: Righteousness comes through faith in Jesus as a gift. By GRACE, not by works.

God’s way is counter to our human nature. In our PRIDE, we desperately want to earn justification. To boast in what we have done. But this can never be. God’s way is by grace. And by his power and plan. Through his Son, Jesus, who came to DIE in our place.

If you want HOPE for this life and the life to come, Romans 1-4 has it.

Chapters 5-8: GLORY!

So in Chapters 3 and 4, Paul ushers us into a right relationship with God. We find through Jesus, we are now OK.

So we move rather seamlessly to the next section of Romans, chapters 5-8. One word that comes to mind for me in this section is GLORY!

Paul begins with one of my favorite verses in Romans.

Romans 5:1 ESV “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So simple. Yet so profound. Justified by FAITH…not by works…and we have PEACE with God. God is at peace with us.
No more wrath. Just peace. No more Guilt. Just rest.

I think often of this one verse. When I sin. When I feel the guilt. When I’m tempted to wallow around in shame. When I’m tempted to simply “TRY HARDER” and hope that God is OK with me. I read this and I exhale. I relax. I am at peace with God. Never wrath again. Only hope. Peace

But this is just the beginning.
Paul goes on in these 4 chapters to blow our minds with the fullness of the Gospel.

These 4 chapters speak to us about GLORY. God in his great mercy has drawn us out of destruction and death and slavery. And he has brought us into GLORY and honor and exaltation.

God has saved us to become a new people. Saved for glory and honor and nearness.
A “new humanity” as one person described it. Transformation from the inside out.
All OUR attempts at righteousness by our own works are attempts at transformation from the outside in.
But the gospel doesn’t work that way.
God does something inside us. And TO us and FOR us.

Paul goes on in chapters 5, 6, and 7 to describe this new humanity. We are brand new. New creations. Changed from the inside out. And we have the HOPE of GLORY in our future resurrected, glorified bodies.

The story I shared about Brian and Lynne was 2 weeks ago.
Then one week ago, I received some more sobering news. An old friend of mine here in Ames, a former co-worker, is a good man who loves the Lord Jesus. He has a grandson, Drew, just 2-1/2 years old. The same age as my grandson. Drew has been battling with cancer for nearly a year, and regularly I kept up with reports from his mom, the daughter of my friend. But I knew that recently Drew was declining. The cancer was capturing him.

Then 10 days ago, little 2-year old Drew’s mom posted this short note:
“This afternoon at 2:15, Drew entered into Paradise. Thank you to all of you who have seen us through this journey with Drew, and will be with us as we start the next journey. More details to follow, and I’m sure more words. But for now there’s nothing else to say, but that Drew is done. He is finished. And he is free. Praise God.”
I sat there and cried. I cried for them. I thought, “How would I feel if that was my grandson? I might cry for 5 days straight.”

Yet I know this mom and much of her family have believed in Jesus. They have eternal life. They have hope. And they know the GLORY that is coming soon, when Christ returns.

And so in the midst of TEARS and GROANINGS and WAILING, they have hope.

This HOPE of LIFE and GLORY does not take away all pain now. We still will have pain and sorrow and tears in this life.
But the Hope of GLORY strengthens us deep in our soul. This Hope of Glory brings comfort and encouragement. The Hope of Glory gives eternal perspective that without, we would utterly despair.

Fortunately we are infrequently confronted with such terribly sad news like the death of this little boy.
Still, in the same way as this family, we ought to eagerly read the NT, including Romans, with great eagerness.
With a hunger. A hunger to say to God, “Please, Lord, tell me there is something much, much better ahead. Please tell me that I have Hope of a Glorious new world and resurrected bodies and an intimate relationship with you forever and ever.

And now we come to Romans 8. Probably my favorite chapter in the Bible.
Chapter 8 is like the FINAL ASCENT up the tallest mountain. And at the top, the view is spectacular. It is GLORIOUS.

Romans 8:1 ESV “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation. No wrath. Ever again….for the one who has FAITH in Jesus. We read the news every day, and we look for Good News. You will NEVER EVER find news as good as this.

Romans 8:15–17 ESV “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

God, by his enormous kindness, takes us from a place of WRATH—worthy of being cast out into the outer darkness—and puts us in a place of FAMILY. He ADOPTS us as his sons and daughters. He is our Abba. Daddy. Father. And we are now his HEIRS who will inherit his entire kingdom. Forever and ever and ever and ever in Glory with him in his kingdom. If you know Jesus, this is your new identity. This should change you. This should revolutionize the way you think of yourself.

Romans 8:32 ESV “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
We may often wonder, “Will God be good to me again? Will he be good to me this week? This year?” The answer to that is found right here: Look, He didn’t spare his Son, but had him KILLED for your sake. With that in mind, it is preposterous to think he would not be good to you after that. Everything is EASY in comparison. There is so much more in this chapter alone.

In all this summary of Romans with all the Hope and Glory, my words falter. My understanding has a limit.
Really, what you need to do is go and experience Romans 8 yourself. In the midst of the pain and sorrow of life, and in the midst of the joys and pleasures of life, experience God and his Glory…..and his Glory for his people.

Last fall, my wife and I went to the I-Max Theater at the Science Center in Des Moines. The movie was a documentary about the National Parks. It was amazing. They have a gigantic, dome screen that fills your senses. Gazing at the breathtaking scenery on this gigantic, curved screen that fills your senses. It was spectacular. I was speechless. The majesty and beauty of God’s creation.
But I left wanting more. You see, I just watched it. I’ve only been to a couple of National Parks, and experienced them myself. And even then, I’ve found myself wanting more.
Maybe not until after Christ’s return and we’re on the resurrected earth will we taste fully the beauty and glory of God’s creation.

This is what Romans 8 is like for me. I’ve tasted some of it. It’s glorious. Yet I want more.

As Christians, we walk around defeated. We act like paupers. We sometimes live like there is no future glory.
A day is coming when all will be changed for you who know Jesus. God has begun the changes now. He has promised glory. It’s begun already. But the fullness of it will happen the day your heart stops beating.

I don’t want to leave this section of Romans, but we have to move on.

Chapters 9-11: FAITHFULNESS!

Then we go to the third segment in Romans. Perhaps the most difficult section to grasp and to understand its relevance for us today. It’s challenging to summarize this.

One word that comes to my mind is “FAITHFULNESS.” God is Faithful. He is trustworthy. He is True. He never LIES. He never forgets a promise. God can be TRUSTED.

Paul has to the Romans so thoroughly about this glorious gospel. That righteousness is through faith in Jesus the Son of God. That we are not righteous by our ethnicity or by our birthplace or even by our works, following closely the Law of God.

So an obvious question, and especially to the Jewish and Gentile Christians back in Rome, would have been, “Well, then what about Israel? How do they fit into God’s plan of salvation through his Son?”

You see, by the time of Paul’s writing the letter, the majority of Jews had rejected the Messiah who came from their nation. He had been promised to them through Abraham, Moses, and David. Now he finally came, and by and large they rejected him.

What happened? Did God miss something? Did he make a mistake? Are his promises not true?

No, all is as it is supposed to be. God is still true and right and faithful.
He is Wise and Sovereign. He knows what he is doing.

Romans 9:6–8 ESV “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

Part of Paul’s point is this: The true descendants of the great man of faith, Abraham, are not physical descendants. The true descendants of Abraham are “faith” descendants. Anyone who believes the promises of God about the Messiah, the Great Descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even us pagan Gentiles.

Paul’s words would have been astounding to Jews in those days. God has opened his salvation up to people all over the world.

Paul also goes on to say that God is not done with Israel yet. He is still praying for them. Telling them about Jesus.

Romans 10:1 ESV “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

And someday, many will turn to the Messiah.

There is much more than this, but one point in this section is that God has not failed. His Word is true. His promises are true. If he says something will happen, it will. He is completely, utterly FAITHFUL. He is true. He is utterly dependable. He will not forget. He is not spacey. He is not FICKLE. He will keep his Word, and I can trust him.

What then?

So we have blazed through Chapters 1-11. Where is Paul taking us? Mostly simple yet deep truths. Not many “To Do’s”. Very few commands.
What next? Store it away as nice information? Be proud we understand so much?

Paul spent 11 chapters with an EXPLANATION. And not much IMPLICATION, that is, not many commands
A message so simple a child can grasp it. So deep the greatest mind cannot plumb the depths of it.
We have to absorb it. Consider it. Believe it. And then rejoice and worship. And let God transform us from the inside out with this. These truths ought to change us.

That is why the very first verse in the next section trumpets this thought.
Paul says,

Romans 12:1 ESV “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

He is saying, “Do you now realize how good and glorious God is? Do you understand the HOPE and GLORY that is now yours? “Are you amazed by his mercy?” “Now in light of all that, present your life to God. Tell him, “My life is yours. Take my life. It is for you.”
Paul is saying, Let the truth of God’s mercy transform you. From the inside out.