Calvary Road Baptist Church

 “RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH NEEDED”

Romans 3.22b-23 

How many of you folks like to go to the mall, not to do any shopping, but to just sit somewhere and watch people? People are so funny. And by that I include myself. We humanoids are a strange lot, as is evidenced by spending time at the mall just people-watching. It’s great entertainment for me, and it’s free.

Let me illustrate with a few examples of how people behave. Take needs, from a kid who needs candy to a guy who needs a cigarette. Most people are completely confused on the subject of needs. There are so many desires that we treat as needs, and there are so many needs that we treat as options having a low priority. The guy who is completely addicted to cigarette smoking has convinced himself that he “needs” a cigarette. I will admit that he is addicted to cancer sticks. I will even go so far as to acknowledge that there are observable physical reactions that he will suffer through when he is denied the opportunity to inhale the products of the incomplete combustion of weeds and chemicals wrapped up in paper. But can that man rightly and properly say that he “needs” a cigarette? No. He wants one very badly. He has a powerful desire to inhale noxious fumes. He may even resort to going into the trash and through the ash trays to finish off the cigarette butts that he had earlier thrown out. But he does not “need” a cigarette when the word is rightly understood. What he “needs” is to stop coating the mucous membranes of his mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs with tar and nicotine. That is what he “needs.” But our perceived “needs” are not always our genuine “needs,” are they?

Back to the mall. Ever watch people who go to get Mrs. Field’s cookies? I do. I have gone to get Mrs. Field’s cookies. They, we, go to get cookies, not because we want them so much as because we convince ourselves that we “need” them. As a matter of fact, I used to tell the girl at the counter “I need two chocolate chip cookies and a small carton of milk, quickly.” Did I “need” those cookies? Not at all. I “need” to avoid those cookies, if you get right down to it. So we know that so many things we think are “needs” are actually desires and wants. But there is another funny thing about human beings. We also fail to recognize, so often, real “needs,” and mistake them, instead, for optional luxuries.

Take the little boy who is asked by his mother whether or not he “needs” to go to the bathroom. He will tell his mother “No,” and then wet his pants two minutes later. Or the six-year-old girl whose mother takes her to school for the first time. If you ask that girl she will tell you that she doesn’t “need” to learn how to read, she doesn’t “need” to go to school. She “needs” to stay home with her mommy and remain a little girl her whole life. But we know that the little girl must learn how to read to function in society, to read God’s Word, and to serve Christ effectively. She “needs” to learn how to read, even if she does not immediately perceive her “need.”

Jump with me from such mundane things as that to things that are intensely spiritual. We can do that because the same faulty judgment exercised with respect to cigarettes, with respect to cookies, and with respect to reading, is exercised with respect to spiritual “needs.” There are spiritual “needs” which God’s Word shows that both you and I have, which we do not always perceive. We “need” something that we do not “feel” we “need.”

In our text for today we are told that we, you are told that you, “need” the righteousness which comes by faith. You may not think you “need” this righteousness which is by faith. You may not perceive your personal “need” of this righteousness which is by faith. But the passage we look to today establishes the genuineness of this “need.” Please make your way to Romans chapter 3, where we will read the last half of verse 22 and also verse 23. When you find that passage I invite you to stand as we read Romans 3.22b-23, these few words which comprise my text: 

22  for there is no difference:

23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. 

Having already established that justification is “needed” by his readers, and by all men, the Apostle Paul has now embarked on a detailed explanation of this thing called justification. And what is justification? It is the means whereby God imparts the status of righteousness that a man “needs” to have, to maintain, and to enjoy, a right relationship with God.

Because this righteousness that comes to a person who is justified is acquired by faith, it is referred to by Paul as the righteousness which is by faith. Notice two concerns of the reader that Paul uses to show us our “need” of the righteousness which is by faith: 

First, THERE IS THAT CONCERN I CALL THE CRITERIA OF THE NEED 

At the very end of Romans 3.22, Paul begins his proof of man’s “need” of the righteousness which is by faith by declaring, 

“For there is no difference.” 

With this statement, Paul is hearkening his readers back to his argument of Romans chapter one, in which he established beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Gentiles are a depraved and reprobated lot. There is absolutely no doubt among those who know anything about the holiness and righteousness of God that outside the nation of Israel there existed a spiritual darkness that was complete. But this brief declaration doesn’t stop with the unrighteousness of the Gentiles. This is a summary statement that reminds his readers of what they read in Romans chapter two, as well, and Romans chapter three, also. The Jewish people, as well, were devoid of any personal righteousness which could be obtained by good works or works of the Law, such as keeping the Ten Commandments.

“But pastor, it would take a delusional man to miss the obvious fact that the Jewish people were not nearly as wicked and as sinful and as debauched in their lifestyles as were the Gentiles.” Folks, if that is your thinking, you are missing Paul’s whole point here. Listen carefully. When Paul declares that “there’s no difference” between the Jews and the Gentiles, he is not referring to the differences in the patterns of their sinfulness. Obviously, the Jewish people committed far fewer sins than did the Gentiles, if what you’re doing is counting and weighing the seriousness of the sins that are committed. But that’s not at all what Paul is doing.

When he indicates that “there is no difference,” he is telling his readers that the nature of the two groups is the same, that the destiny of the two groups is the same, that the two groups, both Jews, and Gentiles, are both utterly depraved. The Jews, you see, are not as bad as the Gentiles, but they are as bad off as the Gentiles. In that regard, possessing a sinful nature that is at enmity with God, there is no distinction to be made between Jewish people and Gentile people.

So, both groups of peoples meet the criteria established by God to be in “need” of the righteousness which is by faith. They are men. They are sinful men. 

Then, THERE IS THAT CONCERN I CALL THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE NEED 

Verse 23 reads, 

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

The characteristic is expressed in two ways:

First, there is typical conduct: 

“. . . all have sinned” 

In this phrase, we have the classic Greek word for committing sin, harmartanoo. It is a word that refers to committing a wrong, and means to miss the mark, to be off target, to fail to hit the spiritual bull’s eye.[1] In this phrase, coming at this particular point in his argument, Paul’s desire is to communicate in a decisive way what the final analysis of human behavior turns out to be. We just missed it. We didn’t just miss it. We missed it. Period. And to miss the mark, to fail to hit the spiritual bull’s eye, is just what people who are unrighteous and who “need” the righteousness which is by faith do by nature. This is a blanket statement that covers all of mankind. Indeed, so fully does this declaration cover the behavior of the human race that there has been only one human being who has ever lived who does not fit this description. That, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ. All others have sinned.

Then, there is the typical consequence of that typical conduct: 

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

To “come short” is something that we are presently doing. At present, you and I are coming in too late, with far too little. We are failing, or lacking, or being short. But what are we “coming short” of? “The glory of God.” But what exactly is “the glory of God?” Is it glory that comes from God? Is it glory that should be given to God? We know that this glory is not the transcendent glory of God, for the Bible is very clear in its pronouncement that God will not share His glory with another in that respect. But, on the other hand, Paul says that we shall be changed from “glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” in Second Corinthians 3.18. And he talks about the glory of our earthly bodies and the glory of our heavenly bodies after the resurrection, in First Corinthians 15. Can I give a shot at explaining what I think Paul means here? I am of the opinion that Paul is telling us that we human beings sinned. We missed the mark. We are off target with regard to our personal righteousness. The result of that will be seen in eternity and will affect our glory. We know that believers will someday experience the resurrection of the body, First Corinthians 15, and will then have what Paul terms the glory of a celestial body. There will be a radiance and a glow that is not the awesome wonder and splendor of God’s incomparable glory, but that is far and away more glorious than what we presently possess. The consequence of sin, however, is to fall short of that glory. If the only numbers in your personal equation have to do with your having sinned, you will fall short of that glory which God has in store for those who go to heaven, with tragic and eternal consequences. 

Here is what we have from our text. First, there is no difference with people. Even though not all people are equally bad, all people are equally bad off. The destiny of relatively good sinners and moderate sinners and extremely wicked sinners is the same. In that regard everyone is the same. Second, we saw that the typical behavior of human beings is sin. People are not basically good, they are basically evil. They do not basically do righteous things; they basically do sinful things. So much so that the conclusive summary statement that describes the behavior of all mankind over all time is “all have sinned.” That may not seem so bad unless you examine the consequence of such conduct. You come short of the glory of God. That which would await you if you were personally righteous upon your arrival in heaven, which is a wonderful glory that would accompany your new glorified body, you now will not receive. And the reason you will not get the glory that goes with your heavenly body is because you will not get your heavenly body. And the reason you will not get your heavenly body is because you will not go to heaven. And the reason you will not go to heaven is because you do not have what it takes, righteousness.

Now, do you see why righteousness is such a necessary thing, such a “needed” commodity? But there is one remaining problem. It is beyond your personal capacity, and mine, to come up with personal righteousness. You have to have it to get to heaven, but there is no way you can produce it for yourself.

Now we come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? He is the One Who has personal righteousness. And He has enough righteousness to give away. And He gives it away to those who place their trust and confidence in His ability to save their sinful souls, which is to say He imputes it or credits it to your account. It is the righteousness which He gives to those who trust Him that is called the righteousness which is by faith. Though you may not “feel” the “need” for such a righteousness as this, you have to have it to be reconciled to God and also to get to heaven. And the only person who has it is Jesus Christ, the righteous.

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[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 49-50.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org