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How Prisoners Go Free
Romans 3:9-26
Skip Heitzig

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Romans 3 (NKJV™)
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips";
14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known."
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

Freedom is a huge word for the Christian believer. Picture yourself nervously standing in a courtroom before a judge who has just read the pile of evidence against you. Just before the gavel strikes the bench proclaiming your guilt, a piece of evidence strikes his gaze and he unexpectedly announces your innocence. You can now go free! Here Paul explains how any person anywhere can find hope and freedom because of the gospel.

When the wrath of God meets the righteousness of God, where does that leave us? The apostle Paul says that we are marked by sin at birth but marked righteous at salvation. In this series through Romans, Skip Heitzig explains the essentials of Christian doctrine that can transform your thoughts, words, and actions. Move from sinner to saint, and from saved to Spirit-filled as you inscribe the essence of the gospel onto your heart and soul.

Outline

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  1. Our Guilt Is Universal (vv. 9-20)

    1. Condemnation of Sin (v. 9)

    2. Confirmation by Scripture (vv. 10-18)

    3. Clarification of a System (vv. 19-20)

  2. God’s Gift Is Available (vv. 21-24)

    1. It’s Completely Scriptural (v. 21)

    2. It’s Completely Suitable (vv. 22-24)

  3. This Grace Is Remarkable (vv. 24-26)

    1. God Acted Graciously (vv. 24-25)

    2. God Acted Judiciously (v. 26)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: August 4, 2019
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "How Prisoners Go Free"
Text: Romans 3:9-26

Path

Freedom is a huge word for the Christian believer. Picture yourself nervously standing in a courtroom before a judge who has just read the pile of evidence against you. Just before the gavel strikes the bench proclaiming your guilt, a piece of evidence strikes his gaze and he unexpectedly announces your innocence. You can now go free! Here Paul explains how any person anywhere can find hope and freedom because of the gospel.
  1. Our Guilt Is Universal (vv. 9-20)
    1. Condemnation of Sin (v. 9)
    2. Confirmation by Scripture (vv. 10-18)
    3. Clarification of a System (vv. 19-20)
  2. God's Gift Is Available (vv. 21-24)
    1. It's Completely Scriptural (v. 21)
    2. It's Completely Suitable (vv. 22-24)
  3. This Grace Is Remarkable (vv. 24-26)
    1. God Acted Graciously (vv. 24-26)
    2. God Acted Judiciously (v. 26)
Points

Our Guilt Is Universal (vv. 9-20)
  • Christ's sacrifice on the cross is the key to liberty. In Romans 3, Paul used the language of freedom to express key concepts. He presented our guilt and our freedom; we were sentenced as prisoners, but the judge has pronounced our forgiveness through Christ.
  • Condemnation of Sin (v. 9)
  • Paul presented a fourteen-count indictment against humanity and used Scripture to show the magnitude of man's guilt.
  • Confirmation by Scripture (vv. 10-18)
    • Paul stated that all are guilty before God; we've all sinned, and none of us are righteous.
  • Clarification of a System (vv. 19-20)
    • In contrast to Scripture, many believe that people are fundamentally good, and guilt is a wasted emotion. Humans are good in that God created us in His image, but humanity has fallen away from God's goodness.
    • People feel guilty because we are guilty; the feeling is a symptom of the problem.
God's Gift Is Available (vv. 21-24)
  • Paul moved from the wrath of God in verse 20 to the grace of God in verse 21.
  • It's Completely Scriptural (v. 21)
    • To highlight God's grace, Paul referred to a theme he had already introduced in Romans 1:16-17—the righteousness of God, and salvation by faith in Christ.
    • Paul understood that righteousness in Christ is a gift from God.
  • It's Completely Suitable (vv. 22-24)
  • The same Old Testament that announced our guilt (see Isaiah 53:6), also announced God's gift of salvation through the new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-37). The Old Testament proclaimed salvation through the sacrificial system, recognizing that our righteousness is not our own. Christ fulfilled the sacrificial system as the ultimate sacrifice (see Hebrews 10:10).
This Grace Is Remarkable (vv. 24-26)
  • God Acted Graciously (vv. 24-25)
  • The word justification is used thirty times in the New Testament; Paul used it fifteen times in Romans. It's a legal term, meaning "to declare righteous." It does not mean to "make righteous," but to pronounce someone righteous. God "freely" (v. 24) pronounces us justified, without cause; God declares us righteous because of Jesus.
  • God Acted Judiciously (v. 26)
  • Redemption—"set free by paying the price." The idea is that someone purchases the freedom of another by paying a ransom. Redemption indicates value; God sees humanity as precious and worth saving (see John 3:16). Our value comes from being created and loved by the God of the universe.
  • Propitiation—appeasement and satisfaction. Satisfaction is used only twice in the New Testament but over twenty times in the Old Testament, primarily with regards to the Mercy Seat. Blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat to satisfy God's requirement of the payment for sin. It was the only place in the Old Testament where God said, "I'll meet you there." Jesus is the only meeting place where God and man come together, and the only mediator between God and man (see 1 Timothy 2:5).
Practice

Connect Up: The declaration of Scripture is clear, but profound—all are guilty, but, through God's grace, all can receive the gift of salvation in Christ. Two key attributes of God are found in the guilt/grace model: God's perfect righteousness and His all-goodness (love and grace). Why are both attributes necessary for a biblical picture of God? How are these two attributes related, in that you can't have God's grace without His holiness?

Connect In: The guilt/grace pattern can be found in our interaction with other Christians. As an example, someone may wrong you, but you are called to forgive them (see Matthew 18:21-35). Without using names or indicting someone, share the story of a time when you had to go out of your way to forgive someone when they didn't deserve it. Discuss how God gives us grace, and how we are to follow His example.

Connect Out: Romans 3:23-24 is one of the clearest proclamations of the guilt/grace reality. Using this text, how would you reach out to an unbeliever, describing our guilt, as well as God's grace? How can you tie in your personal testimony? Why is it important to balance the truths of guilt and grace when leading someone to Christ?

Transcript

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How Prisoners Go Free - Romans 3:9-26 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

A sobering fact you may not be aware of. There are about 2.3 million Americans in prison.

What that means is, one person out of 138 Americans is in jail. One out of 138. We have, in fact, the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Now get this. The United States has 5% of the world's total population, but 25% of the world's prison population. Staggering, isn't it?

If the US prison population were a city, it would be among the country's 10 largest cities. There are more people living behind bars than live in the city of Philadelphia. There are more people living behind bars than who live in the city of Dallas, Texas.

Question. How do prisoners get free? Well, let me tell you about an ingenious way one person thought he could go free. This happened up in Canada, up in the province of Ontario, Canada.

The city is Guelph, Ontario. A man was arrested for armed robbery, taken to an incarceration facility. The police officer-- the constable, called in Canada, John Bolton was his name, noticed around the prisoner's neck a cross.

Now, that interested him, because he knew the prisoner was not religious. But he's wearing a cross. So he said, let me look at that cross. He looked very carefully and he noticed, out of the top of the cross, a little protrusion.

And so he asked the prisoner about it. Goes, oh it's just a thing. It's a design. It's a style. Didn't really mean anything.

So not convinced, the constable had the prisoner take the cross off and discovered that that little protrusion from the top of the cross could unlock most sets of handcuffs. And in fact, it was that discovery that exposed the attempt of a number of prisoners in that facility who were making keys to look like crosses. So it was the cross that was the key to their freedom.

There is a cross that sets men and women free. It is that cross that is the key to liberty. That's the language, in part, that we find in our text.

Go down to verse 24, even though we haven't really read anything yet. Look at the word "redemption" that is in that verse. That's a very important word that means to set a prisoner free-- redemption.

"Jesus said, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives." He even said, "Whoever the Son sets free will be free indeed."

In this section of Romans chapter 3, Paul announces both guilt and freedom. As prisoners, we are brought into the courtroom. The charges are read. The judge has the gavel.

And before they can go down and pronounce the guilty verdict, out of his mouth come these words-- he's free. She's free. They can go free.

And we wonder how is that possible? If I'm guilty, how can I have my liberty? Well, we're going to at that in this section. What we are about to read is a summary of the entire first three chapters of the Book of Romans.

And not only is it a summary of that section. There is a pivot in this section. I want to make three statements based on the paragraphs we're about to read, three statements that sum up everything so far in this book.

And these are the three key facts of the gospel. They deal with our guilt, God's gift, and this grace. Our guilt is universal, God's gift is available, this grace is remarkable. Those are the three statements that sum this up.

Now let's begin with the first. Let's go into the courtroom and notice how universal humanity's guilt is. Look at verse 9.

"What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin."

Now watch this. "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands, there is none who seek after God. They have all turned aside, they have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one.

Their throat is an open tomb. With their tongues, they have practiced deceit. The poison of asps," a really bad snake, "is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways. The way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes."

This section that I just read is like a law court. And Paul, like a prosecuting attorney, brings a 14-count indictment against humanity. How? By quoting Old Testament scripture, the law and the prophets by quoting psalms, by quoting Isaiah.

These are 14 different quotes out of the Old Testament that he piles up all into one. He's like up a prosecutor who walks into a courtroom and piles up the evidence against the person. And so scripture upon scripture upon scripture to show the magnitude of our guilt.

I'm not going to take the time to go through all of these statements. I think you get the picture. But he does divide it up into three categories. These indictments fall in one of three categories.

First of all, who a person is. Second what a person says. And then finally, what a person does. So character, conversation, and conduct is what this list of accusations are all about.

Think of it like fireworks. We have had fireworks in the first three chapters about the wrath of God. This is the grand finale. You know what a grand finale is? At the end of the fireworks, it's they all go off at one time?

So first three chapters, it's like boom. And then boom. And now it's boom, bam, boom, bam, bam, bam. So you're the guy hearing these charges, and they're all about you and me.

So notice something, verse 9. What then? Two words form the first question, what then? It could be translated, what shall we conclude, then?

He's making a summary statement. It's as if he's saying, as I finished chapter 3, after talking about the raunchy crowd and the religious crowd and the self-righteous crowd as all guilty, how shall I conclude this? And here's the conclusion.

You're all messed up. All y'all are guilty. That's his point.

Now there's a repeated word you shouldn't miss. It is the word "none." It appears four times in verse 10, "As it is written, there is none righteous."

Look at verse 11. "There is none who understands." Also in verse 11, "There is none who seek after God."

Again, look at verse 12, at the very end of it, "There is none who does good, no, not one." None, none, none, none. You see the point he's making?

Now look at another repeated word. It's the word "all." Verse 9, "For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin."

Look at verse 12. "They have all turned aside." Go all the way down to verse 19. "We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God."

All, all, all. Just in that one paragraph, there are four nones and three alls. 4 plus 3 equals 7. Interesting that in the Scripture, seven is the number of completion or completeness, totality. This is God's complete indictment against humanity.

So how many people are righteous? None, none, none, none. How many people are righteous?

Or-- yeah, how many people are guilty? All, all, all. It's unmistakable, the point that he's making.

Having said that, this is his summary statement. We have a problem. Very few people believe that.

In fact, most people believe that mankind is basically good. It's what psychologists will tell you. It's what leaders say.

It's what politicians say. It's what musicians affirm and poets say. All of them support and reinforce the notion that mankind is basically good.

Psychology Today calls guilt a "wasted emotion that only results in self-stigmatization." I even found a website called How to stop Feeling Guilty. Well, I was interested right away. I got on that website and I read it, I scrolled down. I wanted to see if even once, they would say here's how to get rid of guilt-- repent.

And do you think I found it? No I didn't. What I found is here's how to stop feeling guilty. They gave several suggestions.

Among them are change your perspective. It's just a matter of how you look at it. That's one way. Also, reflect on lessons that you learned. And this very horrible thing you feel guilty about, just use it as a teaching moment and that's it.

Then another one was, do something good for somebody. And then finally, do something for yourself that makes you feel good inside. That's how you stop feeling guilty.

Now, it is true that mankind is good, in the sense that we are created in the image of God. God created man and said it's good. But you don't have to read very far in Genesis to figure out that that which is good fell pretty quickly. So mankind quickly fell from the image, the ideal that God put within us. So we're made in the image of God, but that image is pretty faint these days.

So the assumption is that mankind is basically good. But deep inside, every one of us still has that gnawing feeling of guilt. We deal with it. We all deal with it, whether it's because of something we've done in our past, or it's we know who we really are on the inside. But our smiles and mannerisms conceal that.

At the same time, society has declared war on guilt. I even read an article from the Associated Press a while back about a very inventive artist from New Jersey who came up with an idea called disposable guilt bags. They're just little paper sacks, little brown paper sacks.

But in this kit come not only paper bags, but instructions. And here they are. Place bags securely over your mouth. Sounds like I'm in an airline.

Place bag securely over your mouth. Take a deep breath and blow out all the guilt. And then throw it away.

Boy, if it were only that simple. And you would think an idiot wouldn't buy that bag. 2,500 of them sold almost instantly when they were put out.

Here's the deal. People feel guilty because people are guilty. The feeling is only a symptom of the problem. All of the counseling in the world, you can blow in a bag till your face turns blue, doing something good for yourself, that will only fix things temporarily, superficially. Only masks the problem.

The guilt has to be dealt with at a deeper level. So that's the problem. That's the indictment. Guilt is universal.

Now the summary statement for that comes all the way down in verse 23, where Paul says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So picture it this way. Let's say we're all at the beach right now. We're in Southern California in Huntington Beach, and we can see off the coast is an island called Catalina.

It's 25 miles off the coast. Everybody who lives there sees it every night when the sun sets, if the sky isn't smoggy. But there is Catalina Island. And so all of us take turns running down the Huntington Beach pier toward the ocean, toward Catalina, and we jump.

Now, question. How many of us are going to come short of Catalina? All of us. You might get a little further. Some of us will just plop off the pier.

Others of us will get a little bit better jump into the water. Some of us may be very toned and athletic, and we'll make it further. But none of us will reach the glory of Catalina Island. We're all going to fall short.

Well, that standard, called the glory of God, every human being, religious, non-religious, hypocritical, whatever, has fallen short of that glory. Which brings us to the question, where does that leave us? In a word, speechless. Look at verse 19.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight. For by the law is the knowledge of sin."

Now the prosecution rests and the prisoner is given a chance to respond. And in a courtroom, if the charge is made and that prosecuting attorney has mounds of evidence, and it's overwhelming evidence and the prisoner knows the evidence is against him, it's clear, and there's just no possible defense he can muster up-- when the judge says you're free to speak for yourself, he might just say, I have nothing to say your honor. Or he might say, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me. But there's silence.

I remember it, many years ago, I did something really, really bad when I was a teenager. I won't even tell you what it was. Take my word, it wasn't good. And my dad found out and he knew all the details. And when I stood before him and those eyes bored into me, just looked at me, I couldn't say a word.

I couldn't say, yeah but-- There just-- I get it. I'm guilty.

Interesting, in the Book of Revelation, in chapter 8, when the seventh seal is about to be opened, as God levels incredible judgment upon a guilty earth, it says, "there is silence in heaven for the space of a half an hour." So where does it leave us? It leaves us speechless.

And every now and then, I'll meet somebody goes, yeah well let me tell you something. When I stand before God, if I do, I have a few things I want to tell him. I have a few questions for him.

Let me give you a little advice. Don't stand before God apart from Christ. Don't think you can stand be-- and you all will stand before God. But don't do it without Jesus Christ.

So the first key fact, and he is belabored this and sums it up here, is the guilt, our guilt, is universal. But there is a second key fact, and that is God's gift. God's gift is available.

Now look at verse 21. And I'm so glad for this first couple of words "but now." I mean, something good's coming up.

"Butt now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even," or that is, "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

This is the first transition in the Book of Romans. Do you remember, I said there's four sections of the book? The wrath of God, the grace of God, the plan of God, the will of God. This is the first transition between the wrath of God and the grace of God. It's found here.

Between verse 20 and verse 21 is a Grand Canyon, where we move, we pivot from the first section to the second. And I love verse 21, "But now." After a long dark night, sun begins to shine in the horizon. Or in the language of The Chronicles of Narnia, the long dark winter is over and Aslan is on the move. Finally.

I love this section. And before we even unravel any more, I want you to know how important it is. One of my favorite commentators, Donald Grey Barnhouse drew a heart over these verses in his Bible.

And he wrote in his commentary, "I'm convinced today, after these many years of Bible study, that these verses are the most important verses in the Bible." Leon Morris, another great writer, said, "This is possibly the most important paragraph ever written." And Alva McClain said, "If I could only have six verses out of the Bible, and the rest be taken away, I'd pick these six verses from verse 21 to 26, because, "he said, "all of God's gospel is there."

So what is he talking about? What is he introducing? The righteousness of God. You see it? "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed."

What Paul is doing is going back to a theme he introduced in chapter 1. I want you to see that. Go back to chapter 1. Turn there to chapter 1, verse 17.

Got chapter 1? Verse 16. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is the power of God that brings salvation for every one who believes. For the Jew first, and also for the Greek."

Here it is. "For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith as it is written. The just shall live by faith." He introduces the thought, the righteousness of God.

But then he plummets downward in the very next verse. Notice it. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth and ungodliness." And from there on, all the way through until now, it's all been in the muck and the mire and darkness of the wrath of God.

Now we're back up to the theme he introduced in chapter 1, the righteousness of God. Now he opens the windows. Now he lets the light in.

What does that mean, the righteousness of God? It does not mean God's own personal righteousness. It means the righteousness he provides, the righteousness he gives as a gift.

And why is that important to us? Well, our clothes are pretty raunchy. Isaiah 60, "For all of our righteousness is as filthy rags," it says.

All of our righteousness is as filthy rags. Boy, you need new clothes. And here is the robe of righteousness that is given to us.

I just want to highlight, it is this verse that revolutionized the life of a 21-year-old Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther. He was reading the Book of Romans. There was one phrase he was having trouble with.

You know what that phrase was? "The righteousness of God." It bothered him, because he said, I thought it meant the righteousness that God personally has by which he punishes people.

I'm God, and you're not. I'm righteous, and you're not. I'm after you.

But he wrote this. "Night and day I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon, I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise." It changed his life. It brought the Protestant Reformation, and I would say it even changed Western society.

Notice what he says about it. "The righteousness of God, apart from the laws revealed being witnessed by the law and the prophets." Now, he just quoted the Old Testament to say you're guilty 14 times. The law and the prophets say you're all messed up.

Now he says the righteousness of God, apart from the law, is revealed. So the same law and prophets that announced our guilt announces God's gift. Some of you who know the Old Testament think, it does? Are you saying that the Old Testament predicts salvation as a gift by faith?

Absolutely. Here's one of the prophets, Jeremiah 31. God announces, I'm going to make a new covenant with the house of Israel. Not like the old covenant of the law. I'm going to write my law in their hearts.

Or Isaiah 53, there's a prophet. "All we like sheep have gone astray. But the Lord laid on him," Jesus, "the iniquity of us all."

Or how about the Old Testament sacrificial system? In the Old Testament, you and I, for worship-- aren't you glad we don't have to do this on Sunday morning? We'd bring an animal. We'd lay our hands on the animal. We'd confess your sins on the animal.

A priest would take a knife, slit its throat. The animal would bleed out and die. And that sacrifice God would allow to cover your sins.

At that point you realize I'm not here on my own righteousness. Something has been done to allow God to forgive me. And in this case, it was an animal. All of that was looking forward to the time when those sacrifices would stop, because Jesus Christ would come.

Question, how is this righteousness available? Would you look at verse 22 to answer that question? Even the righteousness of God through what?

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Faith. In whom.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Mark that. Note that it's not faith in God generally. It is faith in Jesus Christ specifically.

Faith in God is not enough. I'll say it again. Faith in God is not enough.

People say, I believe in God. So? Well, they love God. They follow God. So?

Faith in God is not enough. Faith in the Son of God is enough. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

It is specifically in the one who paid the price on the cross. Faith in him. Our guilt is universal. God's gift is available on all who believe.

Let's end with this third one. This grace is remarkable. Look at verse 24 again, and we'll finish this out. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiate nation by his blood through faith to demonstrate his righteousness. Because in forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time his righteousness that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

See, God has a little dilemma. If he's going to be perfectly just, he has to judge sin. And if it says guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, you're all guilty, He's got to do something with it. So how is He going to be just, and at the same time, let the prisoner go free?

Justify people. He has to let it all be taken out on one sinless victim so that he can confer something on others who are guilty. He's just, as well as the justified.

How does it happen? There's a keyword here, grace. Now, you know what grace is.

Grace is unmerited favor, undeserved favor. The message translation says sheer generosity. God is filled with sheer generosity, grace.

Now, I want to show you how this grace works. If you don't mind, we're going to look at three terms. Consider this a theology 101. Just very basic, but important. There's three words here we need to understand to really get the picture of grace.

First is the word "justify" or "justification." See it in verse 24? Being justified. The term, the word, justification shows up 30, 3- 0-, times in the New Testament. 15 of those times are in the Book of Romans alone.

"Justification" is a legal term. It comes from the law court of antiquity. It's a forensic term.

If you were brought into the judge in a courtroom, after all the evidence is given, or lack thereof, he would make one of two proclamations. He would either say "condemned" or he would say "justified." You want to hear the second.

That's a proclamation. It's a declaration. "Justify" means to declare righteous and then treat a person based on that declaration. It does not mean to make somebody righteous.

Now, this is important. It means to declare, not make. See, I know some of you really well, and you're not all that righteous. Some of you know me really well, and I'm not always all that righteous.

It doesn't mean to make righteous. It means a proclamation or a declaration. It's God saying, I pronounce you a righteous man or righteous woman. And I'm going to treat you like you never sinned.

In fact, it helps to explain the word by breaking it apart. I'm justified. That means God treats me just if I'd never sinned. Justified, just if I'd never sinned.

Well, how does all that work with the wrath of God? How can God justify when that wrath is hanging out? Well, one Puritan by the name of Henry Smith explains briefly by saying, "Christ hides our unrighteous with his righteousness. He covers our disobedience with his obedience. He shadows our death with his death that the wrath of God cannot find us."

Beautiful picture. It's like God saying, I'm going to cover you up so that wrath that has to be done can't find you. It's going to all fall on Jesus, so that his perfection can be imputed to you. How is that done. It says we're justified verse 24 justify what's the next word?

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Freely. "Freely" means without a cause. There is no reason that God should do this. That is, you can't produce a reason.

It doesn't come from you. The cause is not from you. You can't provide it. The cause is in Jesus. God declares you righteous because of what Jesus did.

So I know you've heard this before, but think of grace in that acronym, G- R- A- C- E-. God's riches at Christ's expense. That's grace. And that's the first word, "justification." Comes from the law court.

Look at the second term, "redemption." Now, redemption is language that comes from the slave market. It means to set somebody free by paying a price. So they would go into the slave market and they would pay a sum of money called a ransom to set a prisoner free, or a slave free.

But here's the deal. The fact that money was given shows that the owner places value on the prisoner or the slave. He's willing to pay money. So redemption indicates value.

What does that mean to you and me? It means you are so precious to God, that God looked at your life, looks at your life, and said you are worth all of the pain that I'm going to send my son through. You're worth it. I'm willing to pay that price to get you with me forever. That's the idea of redemption.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world--" aren't you glad it didn't say, for God so loathed the world that He sent His son to punch us out? He loved the world. Here's a story to illustrate it.

An American tourist went to Paris and she bought a very inexpensive amber necklace at a trinket shop. Paid under $25. But when she was going through customs to bring it home, she had to pay and an inordinate amount of duty tax to get it out of the country. She didn't know why.

She got back home, had it appraised. The jeweler who was looking it over, and then turned his head away from the little loop. He said, I'll give you $25,000 right now for this necklace.

$25,000? I didn't pay $25. What makes it so valuable?

And he said, look here, and showed her the inscription that read "From Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine." Ended up in a trinket shop in Paris. She bought it. Napoleon Bonaparte, Josephine his first bride.

Now the value goes up because it's identified with a famous person. Your value comes from being loved by the God of this universe. That's redemption. Keyword, justification, redemption.

Third word, an odd word, is verse 25, "who God set forth as a propitiation by his blood through faith to demonstrate his righteousness. Because in his forbearance, God passed over the sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time his righteousness that he might be the just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Of all three words, this word is the least familiar word.

In fact, I'm going to guess you never used the word "propitiation" once this past week. Am I right? Unless you read in the Bible, you never used the word. In fact, you only find it twice in the New Testament-- once in Romans, and then in first John.

And modern translations don't even use this word anymore, and here's why. It's hard to translate the Greek word "hilasterion" into English. "Hilasterion" is a Greek word. He is our hilasterion.

My translation says propitiation. Doesn't help much. Might as well have said "hilasterion."

So other translations have tried to translate it. The New International Version says "sacrifice of atonement." Today's English version calls it "a means by which men's sins are forgiven." That's so generic. Doesn't help at all.

The Revised Standard Version is a little bit closer, "a means for expiating sin." And finally, surprisingly, the New Living Translation gets closest to any of them. Calls it "the punishment for our sin to satisfy God's anger."

That is more demeaning. The word, the basic idea, means appeasement or satisfaction. So God's wrath is appeased, satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

So that, that's a just act of punishment. And he can say to you and I, you're justified. You can go free. You have liberty.

Now, I mentioned the word "propitiate" is used twice in the New Testament. You still following me, right? OK, so it's twice in the New Testament.

But if we had a Greek translation of the Old Testament, it's called the Septuagint version. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but they translated it into Greek a couple hundred years before Christ. If we had a Greek version, that word in Greek shows up 20 times.

And it's translated in the Old Testament "mercy seat." Ring a bell? Remember the mercy seat? Remember the Ark of the Covenant? There was a lid on top of the Ark of the Covenant called the mercy seat.

Propitiation. What happened on the mercy seat? Blood got sprinkled on the mercy seat. Inside that box, the Ark was law, the 10 Commandments broken by God's people over and over again.

And God said, I will meet you. The only place I will meet with you is on the mercy seat. So what kept God from judging his people? The blood that was on that mercy seat that covered all of their infraction, all of their guilt, all of their sin.

What it means to us, to bring it to a conclusion, is Jesus is the only place God in heaven will meet with mankind on Earth. Jesus is our propitiation. The only place we can come together is in him. So Paul summed it up by saying there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. He is our mercy seat.

So that's how prisoners go free. Jesus satisfied the just demands of God's holy law. He, by his act, brought us our freedom, paying the price of his own blood. God is now able to declare you as righteous as Christ and treat you as such. That is all summed up in the word "grace," God's grace.

Here's the deal, though. Here's the only clincher in the whole deal. Ready for this?

You gotta receive it. If it's a gift, you have to receive it. If I give you a gift at Christmas and I plop it down on the table in front of you, and you stand there with your arms folded and you do nothing but go, huh, what good is that gift?

Nothing, zip, zero, zilch, nada. It does you no good. You have to receive the gift, open the package, and enjoy it.

I read this week about a prisoner in Florida who was pardoned by the governor. And yet, the prisoner refused to be released. I don't know what was going on in his head.

He refused it. He just was prideful. The case went to court. The judge ruled and said, unless the pardon is accepted, that prisoner has to serve his entire sentence.

Unless you accept God's forgiveness, you won't be forgiven. If you're not forgiven, you still have guilt. You can blow into that bag all day long. You can go to your psychologist all day long so you shouldn't have guilt. You'll never get rid of guilt till you come to the cross to get forgiven.

But when you do, God will say, I declare you just as though you never sinned. And I'm going to treat you that way, because the ransom that was paid, the price that was paid, is enough to make you my son or my daughter. You are justified. You are redeemed. And that is where I will meet you, that mercy seat, and there alone.

Let's bow our heads. Father, Paul is just so masterful here at in these words, inspired by your spirit. But nonetheless we just we marvel at how he breaks it down and deals with non-Jew and then Jew, irreligious, religious, hypocritical, all mankind pronounces all of us guilty so that all of us can be saved. Because we realize what needs to happen.

We have to admit that we have a problem. And we have to admit Jesus Christ into our hearts, into our lives, as the only sacrifice for atonement. The one who paid the price with his own blood. The one who gives us the key to unlock the door of the prison through his cross.

Lord, I would pray, and I do pray, for anyone who is here today, who doesn't personally know Jesus-- never done that, or maybe needs to come back home, they've wandered away too long. They need to come back home to a place of stability and forgiveness. Give grace for that to happen in Jesus' name, amen.

Can we all stand? We're going to sing a final song, and I'm going to give you an opportunity, an invitation. If you are not certain-- now listen carefully. If you're not certain that-- not if, but when, you die, if you're not absolutely certain that when you die, you're going to go directly to heaven, do not pass go, do not collect $200, you're going to go right to heaven.

If you're not sure, I want you to be sure. If you have wandered away from Him, you're not walking with the Lord, you had some religious experience younger, but you're not doing it today, I want you to come back to him. As we sing this final song, I'm going to give you an opportunity to just say excuse me to the person who's next to you, find your nearest way to an aisle, and come stand right up here.

I'm going to lead you in a prayer, simple prayer, humble prayer, of asking Jesus into your life. As we sing this song, you get up and come. You get up and come.

[MUSIC - ELVINA HALL, "JESUS PAID IT ALL"]

(SINGING) Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

[APPLAUSE]

You know, it always starts off this way. Whenever there's an altar call, it's like, I don't want to be the first person. Please be that first person. You're going to hear a floodgate of enthusiasm when you say, I'm going to make a stand for Jesus. I'm going to come back home to him, or I'm going to give my life to Christ.

Come and be sure. Come and receive the gift of forgiveness. I call you publicly because Jesus called people publicly. So you just get up and make that stand and come stand right up here. In a moment, I'll lead you in a prayer.

(SINGING) He washed it white as snow.

See that? What a welcoming response. Come stand up here. God bless you.

(SINGING) All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed--

God bless you. We're glad you're here. Welcome.

You hear the words of that song? Jesus paid it all. He paid it all. He did all the heavy lifting. You come and receive that gift of salvation.

God bless you guys. Come on. Yes, come on up.

(SINGING) He washed it white as snow.

Most of them are coming from this side. I guess this is the perfect people side. I don't know.

[CHEERING]

Yes. Awesome.

Real quickly, anybody else? I'm about to lead this fine group in a prayer. You come and be a part of that.

[APPLAUSE]

All right, so glad so many of you are here. It's my opportunity and privilege to lead you in a prayer. I'm going to pray out loud.

I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. Say these words from your heart and say them to the Lord, OK? Say, "Lord, I give you my life.

Lord, I give you my life.

I know that I'm a sinner.

I know that I'm a sinner.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me.

I believe in Jesus.

I believe in Jesus.

That he died on a cross.

That he died on a cross.

That he rose from the dead.

That he rose from the dead.

And that his blood was enough.

And that his blood was enough.

To pay for my sin.

To pay for my sin.

I turned from my sin.

I turned from my sin.

I turned to Jesus as Savior.

I turned to Jesus as Savior.

I want to follow him as Lord.

I want to follow him as Lord.

Help me.

Help me.

In his name, I pray.

In his name, I pray.

Amen.

Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know.

Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

[HEART BEATING]

Additional Messages in this Series

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5/5/2019
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The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
Romans 1:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Today we embark on a thirty-two-week journey through the book of Romans. Considered to be Paul the apostle’s magnum opus, this book is largely responsible for igniting the fires of the Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival. As Paul introduced himself to the church at Rome, he got right to the heart and soul of the matter—the gospel—the good news that presents Jesus Christ as God’s great answer to the pressing need of the human race.
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5/19/2019
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Unashamed!
Romans 1:16-17
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Standing up for and speaking out about our faith in Jesus Christ can sometimes feel awkward and intimidating. Often our message is not received with glad faces or with open arms by the people we work with and live next to. As Paul was planning to visit Rome, he expressed eagerness rather than hesitation to herald this message. Why was that? The apostle gives us five reasons for his readiness and enthusiasm.
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5/26/2019
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Is God Mad?
Romans 1:18-32
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Message Summary
The Wrath of God Is Revealed God is full of love, right? Right! That’s the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there’s some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God’s grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, we learn about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can’t wrap their heads (and hearts) around.
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7/7/2019
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Four Mistakes Religious People Make
Romans 2:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Jesus was not a religious leader. He was a righteous leader. And He was often confronting the religious leaders of His day. Likewise Paul found many enemies among the religious elite of his day, among both Jews and Gentiles. After announcing his theme of good news in Jesus, Paul promptly plunged into the bad news of God’s wrath—a subject that religious people sometimes love (but for all the wrong reasons). Paul tells us some of their most common mistakes.
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7/14/2019
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Hypocrisy Gets an Audit
Romans 2:17-29
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
All businesses, corporations, and individuals have blind spots. Auditors can help by giving a clear and unbiased reading of practices and procedures, and then give appropriate recommendations for change. Here, Paul played the role of auditing the hypocrite—the one who has spiritual style but no substance. Let’s consider the assets, the deficits, and the net appraisal of the one who wears a spiritual disguise.
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7/28/2019
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The Advantage of Having the Bible
Romans 3:1-8
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Message Summary
Those who have been raised in a home with spiritual foundations and the teaching of Scripture have an edge over those who were never exposed to such benefits. The advantage of having access to the Bible is enormous, but it is not a fail-safe. Paul addressed the Jews who were caretakers of God’s own words, and much can be applied to anyone who has the advantage of revealed truth but fails to take it to heart.
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8/11/2019
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Old Age; Young Faith
Romans 4
Skip Heitzig
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Our skin may wrinkle but our faith never has to. Abraham’s faith was vibrant and youthful even when he was nearing one hundred years of age. As Paul points to the patriarch Abraham as an example for justification by faith, we can learn what it means to believe God through all the ages of life. How vibrant is your Christian faith? Have you let cynicism and doubt choke out your confidence in God?
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8/18/2019
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Our Benefits Package
Romans 5:1-5
Skip Heitzig
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Why is being a Christian so great? Every unbeliever you meet is asking that question as they observe your life. What are the benefits of living with a committed faith in Jesus? After explaining what it means to be right with God by believing in Christ, and after illustrating that principle with Abraham, Paul gives a short list of some of the benefits of a saved life.
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There are 8 additional messages in this series.