Romans 3:28-30, 5:1-11
Romans is the Apostle Paul’s longest, weightiest and most important letter in the New Testament. He lays out in this letter the full richness of his experience with Jesus. We heard the main theme of Romans last week in chapter 1:16-17 where Paul says – For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.
The theological term for what Paul is speaking about here is called justification. It means we are saved, justified before God, made righteous in God’s eyes not by what we do or don’t do in this world but on the basis of faith in Jesus. Faith alone.
In chapters 1, 2, and 3 the Apostle Paul makes the argument that God deals with all people on the same basis – all are sinners – all are under the power of sin. Paul is simply telling the truth here. He is saying out loud what all of us know about ourselves and the brokenness that is present in our lives. We are sinners and that is the truth, plain and simple.
In chapter 5, where we land today, we hear the pay off, the ‘so what’ of justification. The answer to the question of why does this matter and what difference does it make in my life and your life.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.
That is such a great verse!
Therefore we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore we have peace with ourselves, in our hearts and in the depths of our soul.
Therefore we have the peace which passes all human understanding.
This is what it means when Paul says we are justified by faith.
To be justified by faith means we don’t have to justify ourselves. We no longer have to make excuses. We’ve all done it. We try and justify our actions, our words, our choices and our behavior. We do it because we want to be right. We do it because we think it will make us feel better. But deep down we know better.
It means we can stop trying to make ourselves worthy of God’s love.
It means we can stop feeling guilty that we don’t measure up to some standard that we or someone else has created for our lives.
I was listening to a podcast this week on a site called Working Preacher. It comes out of Luther Seminary. Professor Craig Koester, who teaches New Testament at Luther spoke about the term, justifying the margins, as it relates to word processing. Do you know that term?
As someone who didn’t take keyboarding in high school, don’t ask me why, and who is basically self-taught on the key board, I had to look this up to better understand why Professor Koester would use this term as it relates to the reading today from Romans.
“Justifying in margins has to do with where the text is aligned. Justification refers to whether the rows of text on a page appear straight up and down in line with the margin or show a ragged edge. Margin justification works in Microsoft Office programs the same way it does with other printed and on-screen text, but it’s much easier to justify margins in an Office program than it is using a typewriter for example.”
I kind of like that example Dr. Koester uses. The margins of my life are aligned, straightened out and it is God who aligns my margins.
There is no longer a ragged edge. We could use that as a definition for sin couldn’t we.
My margins are justified. Your life is in alignment with God. Our edges are no longer ragged.
This is God’s work in Jesus. This is the God who is always seeking me out in order to straighten the relationship and make it right. This is good news. This is the gospel.
Paul keeps pushing the point in chapter 5. He reminds us what it means to be standing in grace and how much God does for us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
God justifies the margins at the right time. Think about that. What does that look like for you?
We think of salvation as a onetime event and that is true. Jesus died on the cross and God raised him from the dead and it happened once. It only needed to happen once and this is what Paul is referring to when he says at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
But what do your margins look like today?
Are they ragged? And if they are ragged what is the cause of them being ragged? What is it today that you are struggling with in your life that is causing you to be out of alignment with God’s purposes in your life, with God’s plan in your life, with God’s direction in your life?
Can you name what this might be for you, today? Take a look at what it is that keeps you from experiencing God’s peace and what do you need to do about it?
Confess it? Make amends with someone? Do the thing you have been putting off doing? Make the change in your life that will give you wholeness instead of ragged margins. You are the only person who can answer these questions.
And let me remind you of where you stand – what Paul tells us – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand
For while we are still weak, at the right time, God has the power to align our margins and straighten things out. The right time is today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.
Because God justifies our margins we have access to this grace in which we stand and we can boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God.
This is truly where faith meets life.
At the right time God will empower us to do what we need to do.
At the right time God will give us what we need the most.
At the right time God will eliminate the ragged edges of our lives and bring us into alignment with His purpose and plan.
This is hope. This is peace. This is God’s justification.
Thanks be to God. Amen