Daily Devotional

November 6, 2019

Daybreak: Romans 3:21 through 4:25

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:27-28)

A number of years ago, I became acquainted with Tillie Nelson, a lovely older lady who was affectionately called “Aunt Tillie” by many in our church family. Aunt Tillie was a petite woman, but her grammatical expertise and editorial prowess were mighty; she was legendary in our circles for her abilities and quick wit. She was also kind and unfailingly gracious in sharing her knowledge with others. In fact, her whole life testified to a vibrant personal relationship with Christ.

As I became familiar with Aunt Tillie’s story, I learned this had not always been the case. While she came from a good family and had attended church from the time she was a little girl, she lived for many years with a mere profession of Christianity. A refined and well-educated woman, she had taught Sunday school and been active in organizations to benefit youth. She read her Bible and prayed regularly, and even had accepted a call to the mission field and spent six years teaching in India. When she returned home, she served in her church as Welfare Secretary, taught a Bible class, and organized a Young Woman’s Missionary Society. In fact, her life revolved around her religious “works.” However, deep in her heart, she was dissatisfied. She felt that a Christian should not do some of the things she was doing, but she was unable to give them up.

She accepted a position as private secretary to her brother, who was a member of the United States Congress, and about that time, two of her brother’s sons were converted during a service at an Apostolic Faith Church. The change in their lives was so dramatic that Aunt Tillie’s brother urged her to visit our annual camp meeting convention in Portland, Oregon, to investigate.

During those camp meeting services, Aunt Tillie began searching her heart and comparing her life with the Word of God. She related, “What an astonishing discovery I made! The Lord revealed to me that I merely had a profession of Christianity. What was I to do? Should I confess that I was not saved, after having been a missionary and active in Christian work for years? How could I possibly admit that while I was trying to convert others, I was not converted myself ? Yet, I knew I would be a coward if I did not do so. One night I knelt at the altar of prayer and pleaded guilty before God, as a sinner. I could not keep back the tears. I asked His forgiveness, and reached out to Him in faith. He was gracious to me and saved my soul. How good it was to have at last a salvation that I knew about!”

Aunt Tillie’s experience illustrates the point made by the Apostle Paul in today’s text: justification is not obtained through religious works or “deeds of the law,” but through faith in Jesus Christ. Our redemption was purchased at a tremendous cost — the Blood of Jesus Christ. We are justified in God’s sight when the righteousness of Christ is freely imparted to us on the basis of His sacrifice at Calvary.

If salvation could be earned by good deeds, Aunt Tillie surely would have merited it, but all of her efforts in the name of God could not provide the peace and assurance her soul craved. That came through faith in Jesus Christ, and she lived for the rest of her days with heartfelt appreciation for redemption through Jesus’ Blood.

Do you have an assurance in your heart that you have been justified and your sins forgiven? Come to God the way Aunt Tillie came, in repentance and faith. It’s the only way!

Background

Having established the sinfulness of man and his inability to obtain a right standing before God through his own efforts or merit, in this portion of text Paul proclaimed God’s solution: justification through Christ Jesus, to be received by faith. In verses 21-26 of chapter 3, the Apostle summarized the purpose of the Law and introduced his readers to grace — a concept unexplored to this point in his epistle. He continued in verses 27-31 by presenting several conclusions about righteousness based upon what he had just written. Chapter 4 is a sidebar in which Paul defended his teaching of justification by faith apart from the works of the Law, citing the example of Abraham to illustrate and support his position.

Verses 21-26 of chapter 3 include several important truths upon which the Gospel rests. These include Paul’s view of the purpose of the law, which was to drive home to men’s consciences the conviction of sin, and to point forward (along with the prophets) to a more perfect revelation of God’s righteousness.

Romans 3:21-23 is a summation of the universal nature of the remedy God offers in Christ Jesus for the universal sinfulness of mankind. The Apostle used athletically-oriented words in verse 23 to make his point: the word “sinned” (from the Greek hamartano) in his statement “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” expresses the idea of an arrow landing short of the target, or a runner lagging behind in a race.

Verses 24 and 25 contain three words which are key in Paul’s explanation of the Gospel: “justified,” “redemption,” and “propitiation.” The word “justified” has the sense of being judicially pardoned by an act of God’s grace and thus declared righteous and absolved from the penalty of sin. “Redemption” implies liberation from a state of captivity through a ransom price paid — in this case, the price was Christ’s death on Calvary. “Propitiation” expresses the concept of a substitutionary and atoning sacrifice, indicating that through Christ’s death, the wrath of God against unrighteousness is appeased or satisfied.

A series of questions in verses 27-31 provide the framework for three conclusions regarding righteousness: that righteousness by faith negates boasting, that righteousness by faith is for all, and that righteousness by faith does not annul the Law but fulfills it.

Knowing that those steeped in Judaism would point to Abraham as a rebuttal of his teaching of justification through faith apart from the works of the Law, in chapter 4 Paul presented an analysis of how Abraham was made righteous. The Apostle pointed out that it was not by works (verses 1-8), nor by the requirements of the Law such as circumcision (verses 9-12), but by faith (verses 13-25). In verse 3 he quoted from Genesis 15:6 to substantiate his assertion that Abraham’s trust in God’s promises was what was “counted unto him” (accredited to his account) as righteousness. In verses 7-8, he quoted David’s opening words from Psalm 32, which express the joy of justified people.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    God’s plan of salvation
    B.    God’s remedy
        1.    Justification by faith (remission of past sins)
            a.   Provided by Blood of Jesus (3:21-26)
            b.    Obtained by faith (3:27-31)
            c.    Abraham an example (4:1-25)
                (1)    Not by works (4:1-8)
                (2)    Not by circumcision (4:9-12)
                (3)    Not by the Law (4:13-25)

A Closer Look

  1. How many times in Romans 3:21-31 did Paul use the phrase “by faith” or “through faith”? Why do you think he stressed this point by repetition?

  2. Why is it futile to put confidence in the rituals or observances of religion as the basis for salvation?

  3. What are some ways our attempts to do good prior to being justified differ from the righteous life we live after being justified?

Conclusion

Good works will never give us a right standing before God. We can only be justified through faith in Jesus Christ and His Blood that was shed for our redemption.

Reference Materials