After posting Saturday’s devotional, I realized that my picture of God’s Righteousness Ledger was wrong. I have corrected it on the original post but wanted to make sure that my subscribers saw the corrected version of the picture. And I have a few more things to say about it.
The original version of the picture:
The updated version of the picture:
My reason for updating the picture is that Abraham’s faith — and our faith — is not unlimited. But when we put our faith in God’s Promise, He credits Jesus’ unlimited righteousness to our account.
You don’t have to have a lot of faith; you just need to have faith. Faith is your response to God’s activity. Believer, when you were given new life in the Spirit, you were able to trust God to make good on His promises. And because you responded to God’s activity, God credited the unlimited righteousness of Jesus to your account on His Righteousness Ledger.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV)
Note the six things that Paul is driving home in just two verses:
- Grace is undeserved favor.
- You have been saved through faith. (passive on your part — something that happened to you — and done in the past)
- This salvation is not of anything you have
done,or will do — or can do.
- Salvation is God’s free gift.
- It’s not of works. No one can do anything to gain salvation or contribute to salvation, otherwise, salvation wouldn’t be grace, but wages.
- Because salvation is a free gift of God despite what you have done (or will do) you have nothing to be proud of, to boast of, to brag of. You were no more deserving of salvation than anyone else who ever lived.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (CSB)
In today’s Bible reading, Paul refers to several Psalms (Psalms 14:1-3 and 53:1-3 which are virtually identical) and Isaiah 59:7-8 to show the Old Testament basis that everyone is under the penalty of sin.
I used my Bible software to do an in-depth word study from Paul’s Greek in Romans and the Hebrew from Psalms and Isaiah. This Bible software is state-of-the-art, the best software you can buy, and it has all kinds of language resources including lexicons, dictionaries, and commentaries from world-class scholars. Let me share with you some astounding revelations from the original languages:
– No one is righteous
– No one understands
– No one seeks for God
– Everyone has turned aside from God
– No one does good
– No one fears God
It is very clear from my in-depth study of the Greek and Hebrew (and any plain reading in an English translation for that matter!) that Paul leaves no exception to those who are under the penalty of sin. Everyone deserves God’s judgment. Every. One. Of. Us.
You may respond, “But I’m a basically good person. I go to church. I sing in the choir. I write big checks and drop them in the offering plate.” Paul says that religious people are no better than nonreligious people when it comes to true righteousness. He paints a very bleak picture of mankind. But Paul is simply quoting from those Old Testament passages.
The theologians of the Reformation attempted to reclaim the Biblical understanding of Justification in asking how people are made right before God. They said that to understand Justification, you have to begin with another central doctrine (teaching) called Total Depravity.
In this doctrine, they said that the Fall of mankind affects every person to the very core of their being. Because that term “total depravity” sounds like it says that we are completely incapable of any good at all, modern theologian, RC Sproul has named this doctrine Radical Corruption (radical comes from the word for root so he says our corruption extends down to our roots). Taking into account what Paul says in Romans 3, the Reformers said that even our will was affected by the Fall; no one seeks for God. We don’t have to look far for sin influence in our lives; John Calvin said our hearts are idol factories. How true!
So if mankind is under the penalty of sin and every one of us is guilty and deserving of God’s wrath, then how in the world are we to be justified — given a right standing — before God? Paul answers that question, “For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Romans 3:28 (CSB)
Paul will continue to develop his thoughts on justification by faith over the next few days’ Bible readings.
So where does that leave us? Let me ask, are you right with God? Would you say that you and God are on good terms? What is the basis of your being on good terms with God? Have you depended on your behavior to be right with God?
Today’s reading is pretty clear. None of us really seeks for God. All of us are affected by a radical corruption that has been passed down through the generations from our original parents.
The only hope of any of us being justified — being on good terms with God — is faith alone.
Have you put your faith in Jesus alone?
Or are you relying on your own good behavior to be on good terms with God?
Paul seems to condemn himself in today’s Bible reading. He tells his readers to not judge, but he seems to do that very thing as he progresses through Romans 2. So what’s going on?
Jesus told his followers to not judge, lest they also be judged. (Matthew 7:1) But Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t judge” in a vacuum. He says,
Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3–5 (CSB)
Jesus points out — as does Paul in today’s reading — that everyone sins. Everyone. And to point out someone else’s sin while not acknowledging our own is the problem with judgment. Jesus’ main idea in Matthew 7:3-5 is that every one of us has problems seeing properly. And Paul says that every one of us is a lawbreaker. Whereas we judge on a sliding scale — with us on the “good” end of the scale and not worthy of the worst punishment — God judges without showing favoritism: Everyone is equally guilty of breaking His covenant laws and therefore equally worthy of eternal separation from God in eternal torment.
Jesus’ main idea in Matthew 7:3-5 is that every one of us has problems seeing properly. And Paul says that every one of us is a lawbreaker. Whereas we judge on a sliding scale — with us on the “good” end of the scale and not worthy of the worst punishment — God judges without showing favoritism (Romans 2:11): Everyone is equally guilty of breaking His covenant laws and therefore equally worthy of eternal separation from God in eternal torment.
Paul brings out a crucial thought at the end of the chapter: It’s all about relationship! While Jewish readers might point out their physical differences with Gentiles, claiming God’s special blessing because they were circumcised, Paul says that what really matters is that someone’s heart is circumcised. The problem isn’t doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. The problem is Fallen Humanity has a heart problem. Jesus said that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. (Luke 6:45) Hence, when we speak in judgment of someone with partiality — as we are prone to do — our words reveal what our heart really believes.
Do you judge? Do you talk down about other people in order to make yourself look better? That’s the problem that Paul is talking about. CS Lewis said, “The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.” Until we cross over to the other side of eternity, we will continue to deal with that “inner cesspool”.
Anytime you think you’re “all that”, remember that you, too are cut from the same piece of fabric as the rest of humanity, no better and no worse on God’s holiness scale. You are no more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than anyone else who ever walked on this planet, hence, your need for grace and mercy.
By definition, grace and mercy are undeserved. If someone deserved grace and mercy, it wouldn’t be grace and mercy; it would be “wages”. Because of sin, God owes you nothing. There is nothing you can bring to a negotiating table with God. And that’s what makes the gospel message so beautiful!
In today’s Bible reading from Matthew 27, we see Jesus’ last moments as He dies on a cross just outside Jerusalem. He cries out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Billy Foote’s song You are My King (Amazing Love) begins, “I’m forgiven because You were forsaken. I’m accepted. You were condemned.”
As I am typing this and considering the verse, Billy’s description, and the picture, tears are welling up in my eyes. Jesus voluntarily became God’s sacrificial lamb, dying on the cross and taking the wrath of God head-on, becoming the atoning sacrifice for sin that wasn’t His — it was mine and it was yours — all to bridge the chasm between our Holy Creator and us, the fallen creation.
His death accomplished what our feeble attempt at obedience to the Law wasn’t able to — and wasn’t designed to do: give God’s people eternal forgiveness and eternal life. His death reestablished a relationship between God and His people, a relationship that had been severed a long time ago in a garden (Eden). And Jesus’ battle in another garden (Gethsemane) secured the victory over sin, a victory that God’s people experience vicariously.
Jesus was abandoned. Jesus was condemned. Jesus died. He endured all of these things so that you wouldn’t have to. Believer, your sin-debt has been paid. You have been adopted and you will never be abandoned by your Father. Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, power and desire to walk a life that pleases God is available to you.
Spend a few minutes worshiping God. Spend a few minutes expressing your gratitude for the incredibl