Our Calling As A Church
In his March 13, 2009 column in The Wall Street Journal, W. Bradford Wilcox, looking at the church from the world’s point viewpoint, states, “Secularism seems to be on the march in America…the number of Americans claiming no religion now stands at fifteen percent up from eight percent in 1990 and two percent in 1962. The secular tide appears to be running strongest among young Americans. Religious attendance among those 21 to 45 years old is at its lowest level in decades. Only twenty-five percent of young adults now attend services regularly, compared with about one-third in the early 1970s.”
God instituted the church and has not given up on it, however some churches have given up on God’s plan for the church and have adopted a methodology and message from the world. The true church, purchased by Christ’s blood and committed to God’s Word, will remain until the Lord returns.
In this first installment of our new series, we ask, Who Are We As A Church? The first truth is that We Are Sinners Saved Through Christ. With that in mind, let’s review the Gospel and make application to us as believers. Note several truths from Romans 3:19-26.
First, no one is declared righteous by observing the law (verses 19-21). The word righteous means complete conformity to the law of God. The standard of obedience required by the law is absolute perfection. James 2:10 tells us, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Many people think God will accept them because they are generally decent people but only perfect obedience is acceptable to God. We can never attain a righteousness that is sufficient for salvation through our own obedience. One person may be a mild sinner and another may be a flagrant sinner, but both are sinners.
Suppose sixty percent is the passing grade on a college exam, it does not matter if you scored a forty and I scored only a twenty, we both failed to get a passing grade. There is no boasting that your failing grade is superior to mine. All that matters is we both failed the exam.
Then, there is a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ (21-22). Since we cannot attain righteousness on our own, God has provided it for us through Christ. The Gospel is good news! The sinlessness of Christ is as much a historical reality as the fact of sin. Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Adam’s sin with Christ’s righteousness. One man’s sin brought the world’s ruination the other man’s perfection brought restoration. Where Adam failed to completely obey God, Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed. Because He lived in perfect obedience to the law, His death paid the penalty of the law that we broke. When God declares us righteous, it is based upon Christ’s righteousness which is imputed or credited to our account. This transaction of righteousness is accomplished by faith, not works. Faith is the means God uses to bring salvation to us. When we say we are saved by faith alone, we mean apart from works. More accurately, we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
Third, all who put their faith in Christ are justified by grace (23-24). God’s plan of salvation treats all people equally, since all people are sinners. So if we are to live by the Gospel every day, all tendencies to compare ourselves with other sinners must be put away. Justification is like the two sides of one coin. On the one side we are declared “not guilty” before God, and on the other side we are declared righteous through Christ. To live by the Gospel means we know that Christ’s life, death and righteousness are ours because of our union with Christ. Now these statements from Romans 8 make sense: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (1); “If God is for us who can be against us?” (31); “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (33). These are objective truths. Because of our failures, we often feel under condemnation and we sometimes feel that God is against us but it’s not true! At such times we must preach the truth of the Gospel to ourselves, and believe what God has said about our justification.
Finally, justification is through the redemption that came by Christ (24-25). Charles Hodge, professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the 19th century, defined redemption (as used in verse 24) as “deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom…the price of our redemption was the blood of Christ.” Although it was free to us, it was purchased by Christ with His blood. Justification is different from a pardon. A pardon is excusing an offense without exacting a penalty. Often when a president’s term is finished he will pardon known criminals at the expense of justice, as political favors. But with God’s justification, the penalty of our sin was fully paid by Christ. Through the “sacrifice of atonement” (propitiation), Christ turned aside the
wrath of God. Propitiation is seldom a part of our vocabulary but it should be. Propitiation means to appease the wrath of God against sin. The Father initiated the whole plan of salvation. Then He provided His Son as the sacrifice to satisfy His justice and appease His wrath against sin.
So when we are smarting under the conviction of our sin, when we realize we have failed God one more time, we must preach the good news to ourselves and claim the blood of Christ. As the well-known Gospel song says:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is the Gospel by which we were saved, and it is the Gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives.