(g) Faith in Christ Alone
In this chapter Paul has been expounding the various aspects of the great doctrine of Justification by Faith. He has been answering the question posed by Job, “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). Paul using the examples of Abraham, and to a lesser extent David, has shown us that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone and is without works, circumcision and the law. In the final verses of the chapter he brings his teaching to a wonderful climax as he comes to the heart of the matter, justification is by faith in Christ alone. It is Christ as the object of true faith that is the focus of this study.
1: The Essence of the Christian Message
Regarding these verses Martin Luther in his commentary on Romans wrote, “…the whole of Christianity is comprehended.” At the heart of the reformation was Luther’s discovery that one only needed to rest alone in Christ and his finished work for salvation. This why we must resist Romanism and Ecumenism. Catholicism denies and undermines this core Gospel truth, all we need is Christ and the work he wrought when he died and rose again. A study of apostolic preaching reveals that this was fundamental to their message. From Peter’s assertion on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:23,24, 36) to Paul’s definition of the Christian Faith (1st Corinthians 15:3-4), the message was consistent throughout.
2: The Saviour Delivered up to Death
While saving faith rests upon the person and work of Christ it also has God the Father as its object. It is important the glory of God and the Trinity of the Godhead in the matter of faith. Christ was delivered up to death by his Father. He did not merely die at the hands of cruel men. He was neither an innocent victim or a martyr, he was sent to the cross by the will of God. In faith we are trust the one who gave his Son to that cruel and shameful death. Christ himself taught this truth in that greatest of all verses (John 3:16) and Paul beautifully captured the offering presented by the Father in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son…”. The story of Abraham silently and obediently strapping his only Isaac to the altar on Mount Moriah is the most powerful biblical illustration of God’s delivery of Christto the cross.
3: The Vicarious Sacrifice of Christ
The word “vicarious” means in place of. While this is not a word we use regularly it remains a most important theological term defining the Christian Faith. Christ did not simply die, he was delivered “for our offences”. The offences are ours. We are guilty of offending God along with a guilty and polluted world that has rebelled against its creator. Christ, however, bore the shame of all our offences and our sin became his guilt. This takes us beyond the physical pain to the spiritual torment as three hours of hellish darkness engulfed the only begotten Son. Barabbas was the murder who ought to have died that day. As he walked a free man because of the people’s choice he looked back to that centre cross silhouetted against the sunset on Calvary’s hill and he could say Jesus died for me. Spiritually every child of God can look backward to that cross with a thankful heart, he died for my sins. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “Christianity can be expressed in three phrases: I deserved Hell; Jesus took my Hell; there is nothing left for me but his heaven.”
4: The Glorious Resurrection of our Lord
Paul here stresses that we are justified by the resurrection of Christ. While it is most certainly true that we are justified by the redemption purchased by the blood of our Saviour, Romans 3:24, the resurrection is key because it proves that God the Father accepted the work of Son. Indeed these verses emphasises that the Father who delivered his Son to the cross “raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead”. If Christ had been a normal man who sinned and had his offering been imperfect he would not have been brought forth from the tomb. Christ offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin to his Father (Hebrews 9:14) and God showed his acceptance of this offering in the resurrection. The famous American evangelist and Christian apologist R.A Torrey wrote on this very point:
“When Jesus died, he died as my representative, and I rose in him; when he arose, he rose as my representative, and I arose in him…I look at the cross of Christ, and | know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulchre and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know that atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been. My sins may have been as high as the mountains, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that covers then is as high as heaven. My sins may have been as deep as the ocean, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that swallows them up is as deep as eternity.”
In ancient times Israel, on The Day of Atonement, waited with bated breath while the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies carrying blood for their atonement. With joy they heard him moving out the presence of God with the tinkling of the bells that were fastened to the hem of his robe. God had accepted the offering. The news of the risen Saviour, seated at God’s right hands, is the ringing of joy bells that there is cleansing by the blood that he shed.