Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Did you find some good news as you read Romans 3 and 4 last week? I sure hope so! I love that I’ve been given the “righteousness of God.” That’s almost too much to believe, isn’t it? And that’s the point.
This right standing before God, this “okay-ness,” is only mine if I believe God is good enough to give it to me. But that’s the hardest thing in the world to believe. Who would think that by simply believing God tells the truth, we are counted as righteous? Who would believe a just God “justifies the ungodly” without becoming unjust himself? But it’s true!
Here’s good news: if you believe he’s forgiven you and given you right standing before him simply because he said he would, not because of any of your good works, but only by faith nude, you are blessed.
In what way?
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (4:7-8).
All your lawless deeds are forgiven. The Lord will never count your sin against you. What would your life be like today if you really believed you’re completely forgiven? To be completely free of guilt, to have that “I’m not making it. I always mess things up. I have to try harder” thought pattern shattered forever? Knowing that God knows all your ungodliness and yet forgives and justifies you should transform everything about you.
How Could God Forgive Us Without Making Us Pay Our “Fair Share”?
It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (4:24-25).
Jesus Christ was “delivered up;” he died for our trespasses. On the cross he bore all God’s just wrath and then he died as a sinner in our place: deserted, in weakness and shame, bearing the full weight of all the punishment we deserve. The heavens were silent and darkened that day, but another day was coming when he would be “raised for our justification.” That means when God raised Jesus from the dead, he was vindicating him. The resurrection is God’s “Amen!” in answer to Christ’s “It is finished!” The resurrection means that all the blessings are ours now: we are forgiven; we are justified and all by faith alone. How do we know? We know because Jesus is alive. There simply is no better news anywhere.
In Romans 5 and 6 Paul continues to proclaim the good news. He begins chapter 5 by assuring us that God is no longer angry with us. Even when we suffer, it’s not because he’s angry, but because he’s working hope into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We have salvation, justification, and reconciliation through faith in Jesus.
Grace = Freedom to Sin?
In chapter 6 Paul answers the argument that we always hear (especially in our own hearts) when we talk about the good news. Here’s the argument: If God loves to pour out grace on sinners, and he gets glory by doing so, then maybe we should sin more so he can pour out more grace, and thereby get more glory for himself. Paul is flummoxed by his own rhetorical question.
What? Haven’t you been listening? Did you miss the part about your union with Christ in his death and resurrection? You are forgiven because the old you that deserved death has died and a new you has come into being, a new you that has the record of all of Jesus’ obedience. How could you go on living as if all this good news weren’t true? Don’t you understand what your baptism means?
I’m really sure if you got news that a mysterious benefactor left you $10,000,000, your life would change. But this is better than a generous inheritance! This is news of a whole new you: a you without guilt, without a sentence of death hanging over you, without a celestial frown lurking behind every dark cloud, a you with a completely clean slate, a holy, beloved, cherished you. It’s better than a do-over, better than a Mulligan, or a resolution to try harder. And it’s the news you need to remember even though you may already be a Christian. You’ve been given a new life and been guaranteed that you can’t mess this life up. Why? Because God loves and justifies sinners. Jesus has already done it all. In light of that good news, rejoice and live in grateful response. What do you need to do? Believe that this good news is about you!
If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post and the posts for week one and week two. Click here to download the reading plan.
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves Me, Give Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.