21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
The book of Paul has so far been mainly about ‘rules’ and ‘Laws’ and ‘Sin.’ Now, Paul turns towards the Good News!
And the good news will come as no surprise!
But how does this work? Jesus dies, our sin is forgiven. But how? Why do we not offer the animal sacrifices the Old Testament demands anymore?
God does not ask us to follow the Laws in the Old Testament blindly, as it is clear from the last couple of posts that we get nowhere doing that. What God wants is us to have faith. This means that we only have to believe in Him and in what He has done through Jesus to be free from our sin. This offer is open to everyone (v23-4)!
It works because the result of our sin is judgement. Again, we saw that in chapter 2. What God has done is to treat our sin as a ransom: He has paid to set us free by effectively punishing himself (in the person of Jesus), rather than us. Our sin is transferred to Jesus, and Jesus has suffered for it! No matter how you put it, that really shows how deeply God loves us all – Imagine all the guilt in the world at the same time, and voluntarily going through the punishment for it.
So why Jesus and not an animal per person? Well, Paul says here that God showed forbearance before the time of Jesus: He allowed an animal sacrifice in order as a symbol of what was going to happen to Jesus as payment of sin. That was the law, but as Jesus has now been sacrificed for us, the animals are no longer necessary or effective. So Jesus’ sacrifice is not just for now, but for all time, past, present and future. Can the ancient prophets have known about Jesus and had faith in them? Maybe not, but as we will discover tomorrow, they had faith in God. However, since Jesus has now been revealed to us, we have to have faith in what he has done, because how can we believe in God if we don’t believe in what he has done for us?
Paul goes on to address an issue of boasting. Where does this come from? Well, you may have noticed as you read that there are going to be Jews and non-Jews in the audience when Paul’s letter is read out. The boasting is similar to the ‘holier than thou’ attitude that some Jewish Christians had. Paul restates that the only thing any follower of Jesus should be proud of and proclaim loudly is faith in Him. Laws mean little on their own, and so setting yourself up as better because of ‘following the rules’ more closely is insignificant. God is one, and his laws are fulfilled in Jesus as it is through him that our sin is removed.
Over to you!
- Challenge: How much would you have to love someone to die for them?
- Response: Do you believe Jesus died for you?
- Pray: To understand that Jesus’ sacrifice sets us free.