May 12, 2024

What’s Law Got to Do With It?

Pastor: Allen Snapp Series: The Summit Of Our Salvation Topic: Faith Passage: Romans 3:27– 4:12

The Summit of our Salvation

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

May 12, 2024


What’s Law Got to Do With It?

What would you do if you woke up one day, checked your bank account and found a million dollars in it that hadn’t been in it the day before? That’s exactly what happened to Kelyn Spadoni in 2021. A couple years ago Charles Schwab & Co. went to transfer $82.56 into Kelyn Spadoni’s account but instead of transferring $82.56 they transferred $1,205,000 to her account. How does that happen? That’s a lot of extra zeros. Anyway, Spadoni quickly transferred it into a different account and bought a house and car and stopped communicating with Schwab as they tried to get it back.

She was charged with theft, bank fraud, and illegal transmission of funds as she tried to pocket 1.2 million dollars accidentally credited to her account.

I share that story because we find in Romans 4 the Greek word for crediting or putting into an account used 11 times. The word logizdomai (log-geed-zo-mai) is used 11 times and depending on the Bible you use can be translated “reckoned”, counted, or credited. And as we’re going to see, it’s better than waking up to find a million dollars credited to your account and it’s no mistake. It is the gift of God.

Let’s pray and then read 3:27-31

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:27-31

I’m calling this message “What’s Law Got To Do With It?” because Paul wants his Jewish and Gentile readers to know how faith and law interact in the gospel.

Paul has just taught us that God is both Just and the Justifier of those who believe in Jesus Christ. He is both Judge and Attorney for the Defense. God didn’t save us by violating His justice, He saved us by upholding His justice in our place. He didn’t do away with His justice, He turned His justice on Himself as Jesus hung on the cross. All have fallen short of the glory (holy standards of God’s righteousness) and are justified by grace through faith in Christ.

What that means is we have nothing to boast about. If we were saved by keeping the law, or keeping a set of rules, or doing good works, we’d have something to brag about.But the law of faith is about trusting in what Jesus did and that silences all boasting about ourselves. So if we’re saved by faith rather than the law, where does that leave the law? The Jews rightfully revered the law. Given by God through Moses the law was a central part of what it meant to be Jewish. Their lives revolved around keeping the law. Paul can imagine the Jews asking if the gospel has destroyed the law or made it irrelevant.

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Rom. 3:31

The gospel doesn’t undermine the law, it upholds it, it establishes it because it says Jesus kept the law perfectly in our place. He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. But if we are saved by faith apart from the law, “what’s law got to do with it?” Paul turns to Abraham, the father of the Jews and the birth of the Jewish nation.

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness Rom. 4:1-5

Abraham is the father of the Jews – one of the most revered forefathers in Jewish history. The question is did God consider Abraham righteous because of his works or because of his faith?

God comes to Abraham in Gen. 15 and tells him He will protect him and be his reward. And Abraham pours out his heart to God saying, “what reward can you give me since I have no son? I have no heir to carry on my legacy.” God says “look up at the sky Abraham. Do you see all those stars? If you can count the stars then you’ll be able to count the number of your descendants for I will give you a son.”

It says “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (vs. 3)

Logizdomai. Abraham was counted as righteous. God filled his account with God’s own righteousness. Why? Because he kept the law? No, it would be over 240 years before Moses would receive the law. Was it because Abraham was circumcised? No, it would be another 14 years before Abraham would be circumcised – which means God counted him righteous when he was still an uncircumcised Gentile. But he put his faith – he trusted in - the promise of God and God filled his account with righteousness. And unlike Kelyn Spadino it wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t a clerical error. Abraham was justified – made righteous – because he believed.

Paul calls upon David, the greatest Jewish king who ever lived (other than Jesus) to confirm this truth by quoting Psalm 32, written after David committed adultery and conspiracy to murder Uriah.

just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “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.” Vv. 6-8

David had nothing good in his account. He had broken the law and sinned against God. Happy (blessed) is the one whose deep debt to God is forgiven. Forgiveness is always one person absorbing the wrong of another. When we forgive someone, we aren’t saying they didn’t hurt us, we’re not denying the pain and cost of that wrong, we’re saying “you hurt me, you wronged me, but I will absorb that hurt, that wrong. I won’t require you to pay me back. I forgive you.”

On the cross Jesus absorbed our wrong, our debt, so we could be forgiven. Blessed is the one whose sins aren’t counted against them (the account is emptied of the debt) and to whom God counts righteousness apart from works.

Paul comes back to Abraham to point out the spiritual principle that Abraham was counted righteous before he was circumcised, before he was a Jew. Which means he is not only the father of the Jew, he’s the father of the Gentile who, like him, believes the promises of God:

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. Rom. 4:9-12

Circumcision didn’t make Abraham righteous. It was given as a sign and a seal. As a sign it showed that he had believed God’s promise and belonged to God. As a seal it reminded Abraham that God had made a promise and He would keep it. As Christians we are given the Holy Spirit as a sign and a seal. As a sign that we have believed in and belong to God through Christ and as a seal the Spirit has sealed us for the day of redemption, attesting that we are saved and sealed for the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

We either relate to God on the basis of wages or the basis of gift.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. Rom. 4:4

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, Rom. 3:23-24

Legalism leads us to think that by our works (keeping Mosaic law or your church’s rules or doing good works or any other work-based effort) we are earning merit in God’s eyes. When we work we get paid – what gets put into our account isn’t a gift it’s a wage.

If you are trying to keep the law and make it into heaven, you will do one of two things: either you will change the law or you will be crushed by it. You will change it from “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love God with all your heart, mind, and strength” and “do not covet” – all that heart stuff that we really can’t do and rewrite it as “don’t drink alcohol”, “don’t smoke cigarettes”, “go to church”.These are things we can accomplish.

ILL: My Dad had studied the martial arts some and when I was 11 or 12 years old I came upon a how-to-do-karate instruction book. It showed how to do karate chops and kicks and flips. I had no one to spar with so I grabbed a couple throw pillows and sparred with them. I’d hit them and kick them and flip them with ease. It was amazing how quickly you can get good when your opponent is a throw

pillow. Lowering the standard doesn’t make us good, it just makes us deceived.

Or carrying the weight of the law will crush us. Condemn us. I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, I’m not measuring up. Jesus says “come to me you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”

His yoke is grace. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Freedom. Love. Humility. And with his yoke, we have the power of grace to enable us to honor and uphold the law, not dismiss it.

Only the gospel allows us to recognize and uphold the perfect standards of the law, because we know that the law matters enough to God for it to bring death; but we also know that it no longer means our death. We don’t need to ignore the law we cannot keep, or be crushed by the law we cannot keep. We are free to have a right respect for moral absolutes and to care deeply about justice. We can be secure in ourselves, non-judgmental of others, forgiving to those who wrong us, and not crushed by our own flaws and failings. The gospel frees us to uphold the law. ~ Tim Keller

Let’s pray.