Sermon for Sunday March 10th, the First Sunday in Lent
The Lessons: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
The Text: Romans 10:8b-13
The Topic: Saving faith
According to the Associated Press, in 1997 the U.S. Treasury Department planned to put into circulation a new-look fifty-dollar bill with special features designed to thwart counterfeiters.
After printing an estimated thirty million copies of the new bills at a cost of $1.44 million, however, it was discovered that the bills had a flaw. There were small breaks in the fine concentric lines around the photo of Ulysses S. Grant.
That presented a dilemma to the Treasury Department. In the first year a new bill goes into circulation it is especially important that it have no flaws because persons unfamiliar with the bills may assume the defective bills are counterfeit.
Larry Felix, a spokesman for the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said, “Clearly, if you’re going to introduce notes for the first time, you’re going to make sure the notes are as flawless as possible.”
And so, the bills in question were put under seal at Federal Reserve district banks pending a decision whether to destroy them.
The more valuable something is, the more necessary that it be flawless. Human beings are infinitely more valuable than a fifty-dollar bill. Since we will live forever, since we are moral beings in a moral universe, since we are created in the image of a perfect and absolutely righteous God, God’s standard for humanity can be nothing less than perfection.
– p. 393, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers, from Craig Larson and Leadership Journal. Baker Books, 2002, 2nd Printing, 2008.
TWO KINDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
At the beginning of the tenth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul testifies to the zeal of Israel for God, and for righteousness, only it is a determination to establish their own righteousness without submitting to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3), for what God requires is perfect righteousness, to which no man can attain by his own efforts. To this Holy Scripture bears ample witness, for example, the psalmist in Ps. 143:2 (KJV) writes:
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
In Romans 3:23 we read that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, while in Galatians 3:22 (KJV) we find this statement:
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
What, then, is the perfect righteousness that God requires of every person? It is the righteousness that only the Lord Jesus Christ has and is. In Romans 10:4, St. Paul affirms this by saying that Christ is the fulfilment (or “end” – KJV) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:30, St. Paul declares that God has made Christ the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption of believers.
ROMANS 10:8b-13: THE ACCESSIBILITY OF RIGHTREOUSNESS BY FAITH
Our Second/Epistle Lesson begins with the good news of how accessible this righteousness is. It does not need us to perform impossible feats of ascending into heaven or descending into the earth to bring Christ near, so that we have access to his righteousness. The good news is that the perfect righteousness of Christ that God requires of everyone is received by faith. Quoting Deuteronomy 30:14, St. Paul in Rom. 8:10 proclaims:
The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
In its original context in Deuteronomy, the word applied to God’s command to love him wholeheartedly and obey his commandments. Now, in its new Christian context, it applies to the affirmation of faith one makes in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Affirming one’s faith is a result of hearing the Gospel preached and deciding to put one’s faith in Christ.
Now this is wonderful news! For the same God who requires perfect righteousness of all people, in his love for all people, has given and sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to be their righteousness, received by believing in one’s heart that God has raised him from the dead, and by expressing one’s faith in Him. In essence, this is one of the earliest and simplest forms of a Christian creed – the requirement of faith that confesses Jesus Christ is Lord, and God has raised him from the dead. For if you believe these two things, not only do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but that He is all He claimed to be, and you are entrusting yourself to Him, receiving Him as Lord, and vowing to follow Him as Lord for the whole of your life.
It is this faith and confession of faith by which one receives the righteousness that Christ is and has to give, according to Rom. 10:10 (KJV), “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
By calling on the Lord, by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord, by confessing faith in Him, and believing God has raised him from the dead, one receives God’s perfect righteousness, is accounted righteous and is given eternal salvation. This is the faith that saves, or brings a person salvation. This is the faith that many have missed because of its apparent folly or simplicity. Many have missed it simply by assuming they have no need to call on the Lord for salvation, or by assuming that they cannot possibly be saved because their sin is too great. But St. Paul emphasizes that there is no difference between Jew and Greek, nor, we might add today, between any one race or nation and another in this matter, for the same Lord over all is rich in generosity and provision to all who call upon him. In testimony to this, St. Paul quotes from the Book of the prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered .
(Joel 2:32a, KJV)
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
Will you pray for those who have no knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ to come to believe in Him, as you have done? Will you lead others to receive the righteousness and salvation that the Lord Jesus Christ alone can give?