Day 8: The Great Exchanges
Romans 1:16-17 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"
When The Lights Turn On
Sometimes we have moments in life where it feels like we are converted all over again. Last night at RUF Large Group, I was preaching on Romans 3:21-31 when after the sermon a visitor came up to me and explained one of these types of moments. He said that he had grown up in the church and knew he was saved but that the text really spoke powerfully to him. You could sense the joy and emotion that was coming over him because of the reality of the free gift of justification in Christ.
It is tempting in those moments to think that one is finally and truly converted. Sometimes this is what happens. People can say that they are a believer and be in the Christian community and yet not be born again. But, sometimes someone really is a believer but God does give these moments periodically in their life where it feels like they are born again for a second or third time.
Sinclair Ferguson says, "When the wonder of the gospel breaks into your life, you feel as though you are the first person to discover its power and glory." On the one hand, we need to be careful that we don't overlook the "normal" and "ordinary" seasons of the Christian life. But, there are times when the Holy Spirit so visits us that it feels as if this was the time we really became a Christian.
The Great Exchanges
Last time I preached through the book of Romans was to my youth ministry at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, Mississippi. On the night that I preached Romans 3:21-31, there were two young men who were visiting and both were converted that night. One grew up Roman Catholic and the other grew up Presbyterian but had grown to hate the church. But, on one night over this central text in Scripture, two lives were forever changed. Twice now I have seen what happens when Romans 3:21-31 is preached. What is it in that text that is so eye-opening?
Exchange #1: In order to understand the context, you need to see what has come before. In 1:18-3:20, Paul has been laying down the fact that all people everywhere (besides Jesus) are a sinner. And what does that sin look like at the very foundation? It looks like an "exchanging". We "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man...God gave them up...because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie...For this reason God gave them up...For the women [and men as seen in v27] exchanged natural relations for ones contrary to nature" (1:23-26). Sin is exchanging God for someone or something else which can result in very backwards and unnatural living.
Exchange #2: Ferguson says, "God exchanged the privilege of man's communion-knowledge of Him for His righteous wrath against man (Rom. 1:18ff). Instead of knowing, trusting, and lovingly glorifying God, mankind by its ungodliness and unrighteousness (the order is signficant) drew forth God's judgment." In other words, we exchanged a good standing with God for a condemned standing with God. We exchanged friendship with God for enmity with God. Therefore, God exchanged our communion with Him for condemnation. Not only was God our enemy but we were His enemy.
Exchange #3: This is where Romans 3:21-31 comes in. "But now..." Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words.” Why would he say that? First, because now it is clear from 1:18-3:20 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that now the Law cannot help us. Secondly, but now there is a righteousness of God apart from the Law. John Murray reminds us that this means that for God to justify us in Christ, God needs from us no contribution, no assistance, and no preparation. This is completely apart from the Law. Instead of us taking God's wrath, Jesus took the wrath of God on the Cross by becoming the propitiation. Instead of us taking condemnation, Jesus took our condemnation so that we might get justification. Instead of us taking hell, Jesus took our hell so that He could give us His heaven. Instead of us having to obey perfectly, Jesus obeyed perfectly and gives us that very righteousness so that we might stand before God justified.
What is our response? Merely to believe that Jesus is enough. We don't need to add anything to Jesus. Heidelberg Catechism #62 says, “The righteousness that can pass God’s judgment must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law.” And Jesus alone is who provides that for us. That's why Jerry Bridges can say, “All who trust in Jesus need never fear the possibility of experiencing the wrath of God. It was exhausted on His Son as He stood in our place, bearing the guilt of sin. That is what propitiation means.”