Yesterday I preached from Romans 3:21-26 in our series through Romans. Paul made it very clear in the previous section that both Jew and Gentile stand in need of salvation because all have sinned. Paul turns his focus in this paragraph to the righteousness that’s required to please God. Paul moved from examining the sin of the human heart to pointing to the righteousness required by God.
We live in a confused culture where people are fooled and being fooled into believing the lie of the devil that we are all pretty good and the world we live in is a pretty good place as well. Consider if you will, Luke Bryan’s successful country song titled, “Most People are Good” which repeats the following line:
I believe most people are good
And most mama’s oughta qualify for sainthood
I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights
I believe you love who you love
Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of
I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks
I believe most people are good
That type of song played over the speakers of a vehicle in the summer months with the wind blowing your hair provides a very deceitful picture of humanity that stands in contradiction to what the Bible says. Paul has already quoted from the Psalms earlier in this very chapter where he said the opposite.
Romans 3:10–12 — as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
What God demands from all of us is complete perfection. God has given his Law and he demands that it be kept—without breaking one point. However, it’s the very purpose of the Law that points to our inability to uphold it and it likewise reveals our imperfections. This serves as a means of teaching us our need for a righteousness that’s outside of us. If our righteousness is broken and polluted (Is. 64:6)—how can we please God? The answer is found in Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther once labored to please God in his flesh. He flogged his body in self chastisement, froze his body by sleeping on the cold stone floor to the point of frostbite, and he starved his body to the point of perpetual fainting episodes. Luther understood he was to practice his religion with precision, but the more he looked into his heart, the honest evaluation was not good. He could see corruption, sin, and human depravity. Therefore, he attempted these methods of chastisement in order to please God, but even then, he could not escape his sense of guilt and inability to perform the righteousness that God required.It was through reading Romans 1:17 about the righteousness of God that God caused him to see for the first time what he really needed. He could see for the first time that the righteousness of God was not something he performed, but instead, something he received by faith. It was there that Luther was born again.
Paul is laboring in this text to point people to their hope in Christ where they can receive the righteousness of God by faith. The righteousness that God demands is one that he provides. Our righteousness can only condemn us, but it’s God’s righteousness through Christ that saves us. When sinners come to the place of realizing their utter dependence on God in salvation—they turn to Christ and cling to his work on their behalf on the cross. It’s there, at that point of desperation and pleading for mercy, that God grants to them the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ—one that cannot be performed, purchased, or earned.
Have you received the righteousness of God by faith? Have you turned to Jesus and embraced his work for you? If not, realize that you can’t please God in your flesh. Your righteousness will condemn you—it’s not capable of pleasing God. Turn to Jesus Christ and place your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross and you will be saved as God receives the death of his Son as a full payment for your sin and then clothes you in the righteousness of Jesus.
Titus 3:5 says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,