I was recently in Dallas, Texas and several times drove through what is one of the most amazing and confusing connections of roadways anywhere in America. There is an area to the southwest of downtown Dallas that has always been called “The Mixmaster.” At this point Interstate Highways 30 and 35E join, along with a collection of other state roads and city street exits. It was a mess when I lived there in the late 70s and early 80s, and it has only gotten worse with the growing population of the past three decades. The Mixmaster received national notoriety and dubious distinction by being named as one of the top ten ‘Worst Commuting Bottlenecks’ in the nation by the American Automobile Association.
You might feel a little bit like this when you read today’s passage and see the crossroads of a whole host of “cross words” in a stretch of but seven verses! It seems like there is a lot of theology and big terms coming together in a very small space! In fact, 13 of the 68 cross words on the final word search puzzle are used in this passage, and many others are inferred or illustrated by the material discussed. Books have been written on this paragraph, and future words and teachings in our series are a part of this reading.
I reference you back to the very first of this series of devotionals – “No Excuses for Mankind’s Situation” – where the reading was from Romans chapter one. Here Paul stated his theme – the righteousness (perfection) of God in Jesus Christ. This is the problem we have, due to sin: To be right with God, we need to be perfect, but we aren’t … so we need to get perfect somehow, but we can’t! And so verse 20 today (from chapter 3) states that the Law could not make anyone perfect – it could only make a person aware of their destitute situation. However, there is a big BUT coming next (sorry if that phrase weirded you out a little bit!).
In verse 21, there is a righteousness out there that has been made known, being testified about in the Old Testament Scriptures, and is now revealed in Jesus Christ. This perfect standing may be given to all who believe through faith (this process is “imputation” and will be the cross word for this coming Sunday!). It does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, all have sinned, and all who trust are in the same way graciously justified (the word for the following Sunday!) – which means to be declared righteous – because the debt has been paid by Christ’s blood through his redemption (our word for this week!) that was an atoning sacrifice (the word for Good Friday!) for all the sins of all time. Wow – that’s a mixmaster of theology!
The final verse basically says that God did this because He could! Again, as we’ve seen before, God is both the one giving the payment and the one receiving the payment. That is amazing grace!
So, where is there any room for you or me to be at all angry with God – annoyed with him that he is maybe not seeming to do quite enough for us? Hey – when is enough, enough? Not only has he given us salvation to be of benefit now, but there are all sorts of eternal inheritance benefits that accrue to us as well … and these will be detailed in the next several readings. Wow!
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Cross Words to add to the puzzle:
Jesus – the puzzle had to have the name of the one who made it all possible!
Righteousness – a condition of perfection. This is the answer to the question: “What is the one thing you need to be saved?”
Nails – the human instrument hold Christ to the cross, though it was love and obedience that actually held him in place.