7 October 2023

There's a plan: Faith is key!

Lieutenant Joel Watson

Lieutenant Joel Watson encourages us to trust in God’s plan.

Key text

How early is too early to start watching Christmas films? For many reasons, Miracle on 34th Street (1994) is a favourite in my family’s house, not least for its climactic moment. A man claiming to be the real Santa Claus finds himself in a court case to determine his mental stability. Proceedings go against him but, at a crucial moment, one of Santa’s little admirers presents the judge with a Christmas card holding a US dollar bill. Boldly circled on it the judge reads: ‘In God we trust.’

Pause and reflect

  • How easily do you trust others?
  • In daily life, how might you find yourself showing trust to others?

The apostle Paul often uses courtroom language to address deep matters of faith, and this proves to be the backdrop for Paul’s account of the good news of salvation and righteousness.

Our study passage begins with the words ‘but now’. They hold significance because they acknowledge the striking difference of what was formerly believed and what is a new reality. In the preceding verses of Romans 3, Paul writes about the shameful and sinful nature of humanity as a consequence of turning from God and his intention for all aspects of creation.

God’s law reveals our human failing to live up to his righteous standard. Despite our best efforts, righteousness is not something that can be achieved.

Instead, Paul explains: ‘Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (v22).

God acts in a way that affirms his own character of justice and righteousness. He provides a new way – the decisive means for all humanity to experience a reconciled relationship with himself through Jesus, who died in our place. This is good news.

Paul reminds us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (v23). However, when we put our faith in Jesus, God declares us ‘righteous’. We are justified by grace (see v24). This is a key aspect of Salvationist theology.

A photo shows the large pillars of a building surrounded by autumn leaves.

Romans 3:28

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Read Romans 3

In his book Be Right, Warren Wiersbe writes: ‘God puts the righteousness of Christ on our record in the place of our own sinfulness. And nobody can change this record.’

Pause and reflect

  • Take a moment to close your eyes and picture Jesus dying in your place.
  • We all need God’s forgiveness. What is your response to his offer of grace?

The role of righteousness through faith is emphasised by Paul repeating it consistently throughout our study passage. However, before acknowledging the work and ministry of Christ, Paul focuses on the person of Jesus. It is by placing our faith in Jesus that we are saved. Therefore, the gift of righteousness is dependent upon an intentional relationship with Jesus – our Saviour.

It requires faith that is active and alive as we identify with Jesus’ death, acknowledge our need for forgiveness, experience transformation by the Holy Spirit and receive new life – salvation.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds us: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (vv17–21).

In our study passage, Paul stresses that God took the initiative: ‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood’ (v25). Our human response to this must, and can only be, faith in Jesus.

God ‘justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (v26). We are fully accepted by God, and his gift of salvation is everlasting. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul assures us that: ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory’ (3:4).

Towards the end of our study passage, Paul poses the question: ‘Where, then, is boasting?’ (v27). The answer, in short: it is excluded.

The Jews held the proud status of being God’s chosen people. However, he concludes that God is God of the Gentiles too. Just as sin is universal, so too – and much mightier – is the love of Jesus. All receive the same invitation to believe in Jesus and be saved.

The righteousness of God, which is available only through Jesus Christ, is unreachable by our own efforts, no matter how hard we might try. The depth of God’s grace, outworked through the redemption achieved by Jesus on the cross, allows for no competitive claims. No one can boast except in Christ and in the hope of the glory of God, which is ours by his righteousness, through faith (see Romans 5:1 and 2).

God is judge over all people. In love, he acted to set us free by sending Jesus into our sinful reality so that we, by faith, may be offered the highest honour of being raised with him.

The gift of righteousness through faith calls us to shift our focus from the outward appearance of righteousness to the inner transformation that faith brings. As we seek to live a life of faith, may we be reminded of the gift of righteousness that is ours in Jesus Christ. All is grace. Trust him!

Pause and reflect

  • How does righteousness through faith transform your perspective on life?
  • How could you share your experience of God’s grace with someone new this week?

Bible study by

A photo of Joel Watson.

Lieutenant Joel Watson

Corps Officer, Teddington and Twickenham

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