Romans 3:21-25, 27-28
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
This past week we had our church’s soccer camp. It certainly was a great week, with a lot of sweat and a lot of fun. With the soccer camp and the World Cup tournament going on right now, I’ve certainly had a lot of soccer on my mind these days. One of the things that makes soccer different than a lot of other sports is that usually scoring goals is really rare feat. And there is so much work and so much effort that needs to be put into scoring a goal, that when a goal is actually scored, it really is a big deal.
In fact in this World Cup there have already been a number of elaborate goal celebrations. Some put out their wings to fly across the field, others get down on their knees on a slip and slide, or front flips. After several goals the Columbian players all ran to the bench and did a choreographed rhythmic dance. Some teams plan these celebrations out well in advance just in the hopes that a goal will be scored.
But goals in soccer aren’t the only thing worth celebrating. Whether it’s a completed project at home or a meeting a deadline at work, it’s exciting when a goal is achieved. In fact in these verses from Romans that we are focusing on today, we see another goal that is worth celebrate. And so in the grace of God, and the work of Christ, we are celebrating a goal together and we are celebrating a goal in our Savior.
As we read through these verses in Romans we see that there is kind of a theme, a goal that is mentioned. And the goal is justification. That word justification is one of those theological words that the bible uses that has a very specific picture with it – the courtroom scene. And justification is being declared not guilty by the judge or jury for whatever crime is set before you.
But usually when we think of justification, we think about justifying our own actions. This idea of wanting to justify yourself, it’s not an unfamiliar thing. I heard it in the soccer field a couple times this week. I would call a hand ball - “It wasn’t my hand it was my wrist.” And that wasn’t the only time. Whether it was an errant pass, or unable to follow directions, there always was an excuse ready to get out of the blame.
We try to justify our actions too. A reason we lost a game in high school, a reason we did the wrong thing – because I was trying to do what was best for my family or someone I love. And sometimes the reason is just selfishness
But no matter how we try to justify ourselves, we all end in the same place, there is no difference – we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Paul here said that many times people have tried to achieve it one way – through the law. And that’s a natural way to think. It’s easy to think that the way to make God happy is to do what he says. And you know that would be true if we could meet God’s demands. But the only way to make God happy through the law is perfection – something that no one can achieve. That’s why Paul says here, “There is no difference – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But that is not where these verses end. “There is no difference, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Unlike on a soccer field or at work where a group effort or hard work is needed to achieve the goal, the goal of heaven is already done for you. And it is completely free. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection has made your goal a certainty. That is the gift of grace. That is the love of God. So now we can celebrate that this goal is achieved!
Pastor Nick Schmoller