Glory to God alone

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one -- who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

-- Romans 3:21-31, ESV

The book of Romans systematically answers life's greatest questions, assuages death's greatest fears, by telling us how to be right with God. I would put this particular text on a pedestal. As a matter of fact, I'll put it on five. You will recognize them as the five pillars of The Great Reformation.

Scripture alone

Important among the words of the Bible are "grace," as well as "faith." "Jesus Christ" is the greatest name above all names in the Bible, the Savior sent to provide "redemption," or salvation, through "a propitiation by his blood." Together these words teach it is God who justifies, which is to say, God saves. He settles your sin account for you and wipes it clean. He affords His righteousness to you, so you can be like Him, with Him, for now and eternity. And when God justifies, or saves, He does so by grace alone.

Grace alone

Saved people "are justified by his grace as a gift." God chooses to give the gift, based on nothing done or decided by us. God made His choice, which the Bible refers to as election. He predestined us to receive the gift. And when the gift arrives, God puts it in an offer too good to refuse. Grace makes the unrighteous righteous, the unjustified justified, the spiritually dead alive. Grace alone saves, by imputing the miracle of faith.

Faith alone

"Faith," as defined by Scripture, is deeper than the shallow substitute espoused by many today. Romans reveals we are unable to seek or understand God without faith. Faith cannot rise from the inside out, it is an enabling power that comes from the outside in. It is not a mere decision man makes for God, it is a transformation God makes in man. Faith creates an attitude of absolute trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ alone

We are saved by the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, who is for us "a propitiation by his blood." With His death and subsequent resurrection, Jesus absorbed God's wrath, purchased God's mercy, and gives God's gift of salvation, transforming a sinner into a saint. When Jesus told the parable of the tax collector and the sinner (ref. Luke 18:13), what the sinner literally said when he was justified, when he was saved, was "God propitiate me, the sinner." This is what grace and faith does, it causes you to look to Jesus Christ for mercy, for forgiveness, for righteousness, for justification, for salvation.

Glory to God alone

No one can brag of being saved by being good. Nor should we boast of walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or making a decision for Christ. Decisions are work, as people get paid all the time for doing nothing more than making decisions. When "boasting ... is excluded" in your life, when worship is conducted with word and sacrament, not rock music and reckless manipulation, other people can begin to see the real Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ. Through Scripture alone, it shines as a Gospel of grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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