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Writing to the church in Rome, a church made up of converted Jews and gentile converts, Paul continues to affirm that salvation only comes through faith. Paul brings us back to the law, having not mentioned it since the start of chapter 3. His purpose is to teach us that if we live by the law we will be judged by the law. The problem is none of us can ever keep the full law. Therefore, if we can’t depend on the law to save us we need to have faith in God through Jesus Christ.

To cement his argument Paul draws our attention once again to the father of the Jews, Abraham. He wants us to know that because of Abraham the gospel is extended to the gentiles and is truly known as the father of us all.

Paul concludes by assuring us that it is faith alone that saves us, the same faith Abraham had when faced with trials and the seemingly unchangeable circumstances of his life. But the God who makes promises, keeps them. And this is the God we are invited to place our trust in through Jesus Christ so that we can know our inheritance in heaven for all eternity.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

For those here, I wonder, can you remember completing your driving test? I don't want to assume that everyone passed it on their first attempt, but if you are driving now, I'm going to assume that you did pass it at some stage. I'm not going to guess your age before the days of driving tests, but did you know that only 47. 1 percent of learner drivers pass on the first attempt? While 48. 4 percent pass on their second, and 47. 8 percent of those having to take it for the third time, pass it then. It's not easy to pass your driving test. And I am thankful that when I look back and took my driving test, there was no theory as part of it, of which I am greatly appreciative of. But not only do we prepare by taking driving lessons, and we know that there's a mandatory number of those, but we also have to study the highway code. This is my copy of the highway code from whenever I did it. Maybe it's a familiar purple copy. In fact, when I flicked open to it, I even found this afternoon... My driving report will keep that hidden. This is the highway code whenever I was doing it. A few years ago I had to take my motorbike test and this was the highway code that I had to use for that. Much thicker, of which I didn't appreciate. And even worse, the theory test and the thickness of that. It's not easy to pass your driving test. Because not only do you have to know practically how to work a car, but you have to know what the rule of the road is. Examiner isn't just looking to see if you can change gear. They're looking to see if you know the distance by which you should. Indicate the distance by which you should allow for braking and stopping what the road signs mean, what the markings on the road mean and what their colors mean, because whenever you set a driving test theory or practical, you are marked on how well you know the code. What is the rule of the road and how long or how well do you know it? Now tonight, we're not going to be thinking about Paul's driving test, or indeed that of Abraham, but the law, or the faith by which we will be held accountable to when we face the judgment. And Paul wants us to realize once again what he taught in Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 to 9 when he said, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works. So that no one may boast. Paul is drilling at home. And he has been for the past three chapters in Romans about that salvation. A life in eternity with God is only, only by faith alone. And so we're going to look at this passage in three parts this evening. First of all, the law of God. Secondly, the faith of Abraham. And then thirdly, the grace of the gospel. So let's start in verses 13 to 15 with the law of God. And Paul brings us back to where he left off in chapter 3. He hasn't mentioned the law since the start of chapter 3. And he's assumed that we have understood in what he's been saying. has been a comparison between law and faith. But before we go too far forward, I want us to remember that the law is not bad. The law is there for our good, but it won't and it can't. Jesus confirmed this in Matthew's Gospel chapter 5 in verse 17. Christ didn't do away with what the expectation of the law was. Rather, he presented to us the fulfillment of the law. Salvation in him and in him alone. And so in Christ, the law has benefit in that it teaches us God's best way to worship him and to live together as his people. But again, it could never and it can never save. And this is what Paul draws us to in verses 13 to 15 and why we began with the highway code. When we take our driving test, we are judged on our knowledge and practice of the code. But this code can never pass the test for us. We can't simply hand this over to the examiner and say, there you go, we'll exchange my license for the code. No, we know that's not how it works. Because actually, if we were to be tested on every letter of the code, we would fail. But what Paul is drawing us to, and what he's drawing to the congregation in Rome to, is that the law of God is for our good, and that is it. You see, the Roman church was made up of Jewish believers and they believed correctly that the church was an extension of biblical Israel as the people of God. But there were those in that church who thought that the law still benefited their standing before God. They thought that by living the law they earned favor with God. Again, it was transactional. I do this for you, God, and then you do this for me. And I wonder, are we guilty of the same? Do we think that we can add to our salvation by our works, or indeed, that our works can save us? Paul tells us to get that idea completely out of our heads. If we think that we can earn salvation by observation of the law or by religious practice, then we have failed to grasp the ability of the law to do that. That's why Paul writes in verse 15, For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, there is no transgression. We can try and keep the law of God, but we will never be able to do that. And so we will ultimately face God's wrath, if that's what we're trying to do. I wonder, is that something you want to face, God's wrath? I don't believe any of us here would say, well, we'll take our chances when it comes to the judgment of God. So why do we still reject the full benefits of salvation by thinking that our goodness can save us? Scripture is clear. We can only be saved by faith in God through Jesus Christ. And that's how it's always been. Faith in God in the Old Testament and faith in God through Jesus Christ in the New Testament age. You see, the law's condemnation has been removed by grace. Breaking the law or transgression of the law is not lethal to us. God has dealt with that sin in Christ, whose death removes the penalty for transgression from believers lives. And this is where Paul wants to take us next. He wants to move on from the law of God, those first few verses, into a fuller understanding. And he looks at the faith of Abraham and this is what we look at in verses 16 to 22. And what Paul has been doing and what he does really right up until the end of chapter 11 in Romans is give us a positional argument. That's an argument where he takes both sides. It's not that he believes both sides. Rather he is convinced and convicted of faith alone. And as he presents that, he positionally places himself in those who will disagree. So it's a positional argument. He places himself on both sides so that he can give logic to the faith and the argument that he presents. And so throughout this great positional argument that Paul has given us, he has drawn us back to the father of the Jews. He's drawn us back to Abraham. And Abraham has rightly been presented to us as a man of faith. And we have seen that Abraham wasn't perfect, and we know that as we understand Genesis, but his faith in God remained throughout all his days. And in verse 16, Paul brings us to the promise that was given to Abraham. And this is a challenge to the church in Rome, as well as an encouragement to us tonight. The promise given to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, and then again in verse, in chapter 15, and again in chapter 17, was a covenant. And that covenant required a sign and a seal. The sign and the seal of the covenant to Abraham was circumcision. And Paul addressed that, and has addressed it in every chapter so far. But the new covenant in which we live through the blood of Jesus is signed and sealed. But it is the promise that is the key, not the sign and not the seal. It was the promise that would be guaranteed to all his offspring, to all Abraham's offspring. And so the challenge comes to the Roman Christians from a Jewish background that not only was the gospel for them, but it was for the Gentile also. But the old ways of Jewish faith didn't lead. And so the good news is that we, the Gentiles, have access to God freely through the blood of Jesus Christ. That's why Paul in verse 16 again says that Abraham is the father of us all. This is the news that salvation has always been, not just for the Jews or the children of Israel, but for all people who would worship the one true God. And Paul assures us of this because he then goes on in this passage to quote Genesis chapter 15 or 17 in verse 5. And Paul uses this to demonstrate God's initiative in salvation that it was all of God and nothing of humanity. Abraham believed this covenant promise of God, even though at the time he had not even fathered a son, let alone a nation. But Abraham believed. He believed that God could enliven his aged body and bring something, like a people, like a nation, out of nothing. And, and later, this dogged faith continued. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. Because as Hebrews 11 and verse 19 says, he considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead. From which, Figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. That great test of Abraham where he was asked to sacrifice his one and only son, a foreshadow of that ultimate sacrifice of the one and only son of God. And Abraham was willing to do it because of his faith and his faith alone in God. Look what Paul goes on to say about Abraham's faith in verse 19 back in Romans chapter 4. He confirms that Abraham stood. He stood firm in the faith, and it was that steadfast faith in God that was counted to him as righteousness, in verse 22. And verse 19 tells us of Romans 4, He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. Against such obstacles. Abraham's faith remained in the God whom he worshipped and the God of his salvation. And oh that we would have such faith when there are times of pain, times of sorrow, doubt and anger. Every joy and trial falleth from above. Isn't that what we've just sung in hymn 443? But yet what are we to be? Stead upon Jehovah. Hearts are fully blessed. Finding as He promised perfect peace and rest. Do we have the faith of this? The faith that we're reading here in Romans? The faith that we have sung? Because we often face trouble. And when it comes, it come, we respond in two ways. We either blame God and say it's all His fault. Or we go through the mantra of being assured of God's will. We tell ourselves over and over again, and this mantra is good, but it must be accompanied with faith and not simply words. We must go to God each day through his word and prayer so that our words, so that his words will penetrate our hearts and we will know God's peace in each and every storm that comes our way. Because the outcome of this is what Paul commends of Abraham in verse 21. Fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That indeed, Abraham was fully God's. As he placed his faith in him. And Abraham's faith was well placed in the promises of God. And he placed his trust in the only one who could keep those promises. Promises are easily made. Promises are easily broken. But God's aren't. When he makes a promise, he keeps it. When we read the Bible, when we go through Scripture, we see promise after promise. And not one single one of them. has been broken. What about you? When it comes to living faith, does faith actually play any active part in your life? Or is it simply your living false religion that ultimately is a law to us? You see, we are free when we have faith in Christ and that freedom brings us into eternity and into its safety and its security. That's what Paul confirms as faith's end goal in chapter 8 and verses 38 to 39. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you, and will you, have the same deep faith in God as Paul is challenging us? Will you trust Him who makes the promises to keep His promises? Will you trust Him with your very soul, that every joy and trial in this life, you trust Him so that He will lead you truly home? And this deep faith will only take us finally to one place, and that is the grace. And so we're going to finish by thinking of what this is. And Paul concludes this chapter by raising our eyes. He tells us to look beyond what we see, to look to the great truth of the gospel. And we see the example of Abraham being used to encourage us today. Abraham's righteousness, counted to him because of his faith in God, is to appoint us to the same God through Jesus Christ. As Paul confirms in verses 24 to 25, It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. And aren't these wonderful words? Look at them. They're wonderful. They tell us exactly what God has done for us. And isn't he a good God? These should be wonderful words to those who believe. And they should be a caution to those who think that they're okay. God has made a way for us to know him through Jesus Christ. And God continues to keep his promises, and through the new covenant in Christ's blood and through whom the law has been fulfilled, we can know him, bear witness to him, and know his love for us. As Paul writes later in Romans chapter 5 and verse 8 because God shows his love for us and that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. See tonight. We are able to know the love of God through Jesus, but this isn't just a head knowledge of this love. It must be something deep in our hearts. It cannot be false religion that makes us think I'm good enough, because none of us ever will be. Will you stop depending on works? Will you stop depending on how it looks? And will you stop depending on practices for your salvation? And will you trust fully in Jesus Christ? Will you know the grace of the gospel, the full covenant promise of God in the good times and in the bad times? Will you know that God demonstrated his love for us in sending Jesus while we were still sinners? We didn't have to get ourselves right before God Invited us to this salvation. He knows our frame and yet he chose such a wonderful salvation. May your heart Be glad in Christ, with the faith that we see through Abraham, complete in Jesus Christ, the blessings and benefits of salvation, as we not only live the law of God, but have faith in him and know the truth of the grace of the gospel. It's not by works, lest any of us should boast. It is only by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Will this be your faith tonight? I truly hope it is. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you for your word. We thank you for the book of Romans, the heart of the gospel. We thank you for what it means for us to know the truth, to live in the truth. So challenge each of our hearts. Convict us by your spirit, each and every one, so that we may love you more, and love the world less. So that we may live well now and forevermore. Forgive us for when we've depended on ourselves for our salvation. Help us to get over ourselves and turn to Christ. Run to Him so that we will be assured of such a wonderful salvation. And we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

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