If It Weren’t For Grace

Last Sunday, we spoke of a “feud” between the Jews and the Greeks in the church at Rome. And we mentioned how the Jews were having a hard time of accepting Christ as their new Messiah and letting go of the old “Law”. I think we could all admit, that at times we all struggle with the law. You see, we don’t mind it when someone else gets stopped by the police but we’re not real happy when it’s us. I read a true story of a woman who called the police about speeders in her neighborhood endangering the lives of children walking to school. Well the next day, she was stopped for speeding. She even told the officer, “I’m the person who called yesterday to tell the you about the speeders.” And as he handed her the ticket, he replied, “Well, then you should be happy…we caught one.”

The law is the law, and if we’re caught breaking it, we pay a penalty. And that is the same message in the Bible. The Law of God is the Law of God, and if you break it there’s a penalty as it says in our text (Romans 3:19-24) this morning.

How many of you have ever gotten a speeding ticket? Me too. Do you remember thinking, “Was I really speeding?” Have you ever thought that you really didn’t break the law…maybe just bent it? Well, that’s what Paul’s facing with the Jews. Because they believe they’re not “law breakers” maybe just “law benders”. Besides, they thought ALL they had to do was ‘obey’ the Law and they’d be ‘acceptable’ to God.

But Paul’s letter says that “through the law we become conscious of sin.” (v 20) Meaning that the purpose of the Law was to make them aware of just how bad they really were. And why did they need to be reminded of just how bad they were?  Because “…the wages of sin is death” and it’s important that they understood that “All have sinned…” And what awaited them was an eternity separated from God. Besides, the Law was never a “means to salvation”. The purpose of the law was to reveal sin and to expose the real destructive power of it.

Now it’s important that you notice 2 simple words at the beginning of v 21…“but now.” It’s here that Paul shifts from the old to the new…from death to life. Paul says that despite the past…God reveals His righteousness. So what is God’s righteousness?  It’s having the right relationship with Him and with others.

The right kind of relationship with others is when we love them as we love ourselves. And God’s righteousness is His gift of salvation that is given through faith in Jesus Christ to anyone who believes in Him. The Law’s main focus was not to cleanse people…but to point out the need to be cleansed. So how can you be cleansed?

Well, the Bible says that you are “saved by grace.” But if you want to be cleansed by grace, you have to do something.  The scripture says you are saved by grace through faith, so God expects you to:

  • Hear the Gospel
  • Believe in His Son,
  • Repent of your sins,
  • Confess your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior,
  • Be Baptized

All of these things are part of your response. But none of these will actually save you! If it weren’t for God’s grace, if He hadn’t freely offered to save us, then you could believe all day long…you could repent til the cows come home…you could be baptized a 100 times and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Why?

Because it was what God DID that saved us. It was what God DID on the cross that gives us salvation. The believing, repenting, confessing and baptizing is just our way of signing up.

Former atheist Lee Strobel once wrote “…other religions are spelled “D-O” because they teach that people have to DO a bunch of religious rituals to try to please God. But Christianity is spelled “D-O-N-E” because Christ has done it all on the cross and we just need to receive Him.”

Let me show you the difference. In the Buddhist faith they teach a parable about a prodigal son who rebelled and left home. But when he returns and wants to rejoin the family, the Buddhist teach that the son must work off the penalty for his behavior by spending years as a slave. But in Jesus’ parable, the prodigal son is warmly welcomed home by his loving father and given undeserved grace. Grace? What’s this Grace?

Well, the Bible says that “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

So, ‘grace’ was when our loving Father reaches into our dead sinful souls and brings us back to life. But let me ask you, “Could your soul have done anything to save itself?” The answer is “No.” Because it was dead. Because the “wages of sin are death.” So you had no hope for salvation…except through Jesus Christ.

And so Paul writes: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) God did it for us because we couldn’t do it ourselves. And just how did God do that?

Paul writes in v 24 that we are “… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” When did Christ give us redemption?  On the cross. “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.”