Does Faith Make You Righteous? Understanding Romans 3

This is a really important passage here. This Romans 3:21 to the end. Everybody agrees it’s very important. But how are we to understand it is the question. What is the problem in trying to understand a passage like this? You must understand the whole Bible before you can explain this. And that’s not possible. We must begin from nothing. Understanding has to grow up. The problem in trying to understand it is that everybody goes to just little pieces of it. One little thing sticks out and that makes them think of something and that’s all they go to. But not the plan behind it.

Do children in Haiti play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey? They put a blindfold on. They’re blind, can’t see. They have the tail in their hand and they try to pin it on the donkey without looking. You turn the child around and he doesn’t know where the donkey is and he tries to go pin it on the wall. Is that what you’re doing in trying to interpret the Bible? Trying to understand the Bible?

Try another example. If you were trying to explain what is a car, automobile, and you were trying to explain it to someone who never saw one. How would you explain automobile? To someone who never saw one? (A maid described it as having chairs in it.) I wondered if they would say it has chairs in it. Is that how you interpret the Bible? You don’t say it has a motor, moves the pistons, that moves the wheels. You must go to gasoline explodes. The chairs, that’s not explaining the car. That’s describing one detail. It’s not the heart of the issue. Now how do you interpret the Bible?

Now the important question, if Paul was sitting here right now, and you explain this passage, does he say yes, that’s what I meant? That’s what I had in mind. There’s a plan for an automobile. The man who made the first car, he had a plan. And if you don’t explain the machine through that plan you’re not explaining the machine. This passage here that you’re reading, how do you explain it? How do you go about it? Besides what you say, what is your idea in explaining it? You must be the apostle Paul. You have to be, and if you aren’t you can’t explain it. You must have the same mind. And speak the same way, or you can’t explain it. Maybe you can describe a detail. An automobile is to put air in the tires. That’s not explaining it.

Now how do you explain the idea with this passage here? And do that first and explain the details later. That’s very difficult. I’ve never tried to explain this passage to the brothers and sisters in New York. It’s too difficult to have the background and the right idea first and the plan that Paul had in his mind. He wasn’t just writing things, he had a plan for the whole book. And for the whole Bible. They agree. But to find that is very, very difficult. Many people make many guesses. And they disagree. So, I fear that I’m doing the same thing. I just make an idea and it’s just another mistake. So I wait.

How many years ago was it that I began to explain the Escape Recipe to the maids? (Over five years ago, they said.) And the maids didn’t agree. They said no, no, no. Now you agree. Why? This passage is doing it all over again, much deeper. It’s much more difficult. I have never tried to explain it. What idea must we have in our minds before we even read it? If we aren’t thinking the same as the apostle Paul, we can’t have that idea. Now what idea did he have in mind? That’s what you should be explaining rather than one word in here. Verse 21, “But now…” Something happened. Now the way to explain anything is by going to the original idea and the plan in the minds of those who began it.

For example, have you noticed how when the Bible tries to explain something it goes back to the beginning to start the explanation. Everything connects to the beginning. And you follow it back. Agree in the beginning. Same with automobile, same with the Bible. So how shall we do that with this now? It’s hard to explain this to the brothers and sisters in New York, and it’s much harder with Haitians. A better example. You’ve all heard of the fig tree. You all say that means Israel. When Jesus cursed the fig tree. What does that passage mean? Christians always say that means Israel bore no fruit, Jesus cursed it. But that can’t really be true because the fig tree was back in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Way before Israel, way before. It must be much more original. Something much deeper. It probably applies to Israel, but that’s not the meaning.

We don’t want to make mistakes like that in interpreting. We must be able to go back to the beginning, the plan from the beginning. Don’t just go halfway and stop there. It must be back at the beginning and follow it through. And now we have to do that in reverse. And when you read a passage, the important thing is to find out how does it connect to what passages? Not just another passage that sounds the same. According to what logos does it connect? As we say, according to what ideas, you have to have ideas before you can make connections. We must find the right ideas. If they’re the wrong ideas they lead us astray. How do we know they’re the right ideas? What ideas do we need to find the true connections?

Now this chapter 3 of Romans, it’s near the beginning of the whole book. And the two and a half chapters before it is leading up to it. This passage is very important because this passage makes it start to sound like what the rest of the book of Romans is talking about. This is the first passage that really sounds familiar. It’s hard to see the plan before this. Now you need to be looking for four different things when we’re reading this in order to make the right connections. And they’re not easy to deal with, but that’s what you need in mind. You all know now the Escape Recipe gives you a preview of salvation in the whole Bible. What you must have, or try to get is the idea of what is the whole book of Romans all about and the whole New Testament?

Often you need not too big an idea and not too little. Just appropriate kind. What idea of Romans do you have to have in advance in order to see what the whole thing is talking about, how it goes together? (They said righteous, faith and the law.) Very good. You should think of this passage as a crossroads, what is the crossroads? Sometimes four, sometimes five, sometimes six roads.

This passage is very important as a crossroad. Now what are the different roads that are connecting here? If we try to approach this passage from the point of view of the terms. If we tried just the terms faith, righteousness and law, and just study those terms, this is too difficult. I know, I’ve done it. It would take ten years. But yet you must come to that. Because the two effect each other. The understanding of each of the terms and any other understanding of the passage has to agree. It’s very simple, and very difficult. It is both. The terms is not really the approach. This is very, very difficult. Not for introduction. It’s better to try the crossroads, the crossroads of ideas, not starting with the terms. Very, very difficult.

So, what are the crossroads then? This passage is like a monument. It tells you something very important is here. You’ve all seen the red and blue verses. Do you know what they are? Everytime in the New Testament where they appear together at all. The righteousness of faith is very important. We can call it almost, the basis. And we need to understand it. And this is one of the roads that are the crossroads here. Not the term but the phrase, the righteousness of faith. And we must read this looking for that. Why is the righteousness of faith so important? And how shall we understand it for its own sake? There’s something very, very important just about that. It’s very important in all the New Testament. That’s one of the roads running through here. You can take this road to other passages that talk about the righteousness of faith.

But of all of these righteousness of faith passages this one is probably the most significant. And is very good for introduction. Romans 3 takes four cards, that’s the only one that has four, others have 2, most are just one. The righteousness of faith and believing, faith and believing. Now this is a problem just in language. In English you say faith and believe. In Creole, la fwa and kwe. And in French, the same thing, it’s two different words. But in Greek, they are one word. And all the translations hide that. All of them. Do you all know that they are the same word in the original? They are the same word, so ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness’ is one of these verses then. Because believe and faith are the same word.

Abraham… Who can finish the sentence? What else? What’s the point? You should say, Abraham is one of the crossroads. Abraham is very important in here and in all the Bible. He goes back to the beginning and he’s right here. And his faith. That’s one of the crossroads. We must understand that and look for that everywhere when we study this. What’s another crossroad that’s here? She said justice, but we’re not going to do terms. Although it’s true righteousness for it’s own sake is a very good help here. And law. Certainly we have to deal with law as opposed to the righteousness of faith. But you want to stay away from the terms approach right now. Abraham and his call and his faith. God called Abraham and he called me. Now how is that the same thing? How do you explain that? That is difficult.

What is another crossroads here? What did Paul have in mind? What else was on Paul’s mind when he wrote this? You remember the verse that says, “All things hold together in Christ…”? That’s a crossroads. That’s the ultimate crossroad.

I’ll tell you another very, very important crossroad that you never think of. That you never connect to this. It’s the mystery of Christ. Do you remember reading the words, “the mystery of Christ” in Ephesians 3:6? The Gentiles, not the nations. It really means the Gentiles. This is a subject that you never deal with. But you must if you want to understand this passage and Romans and all the New Testament. The great question, what does the Jews and Gentiles, what do they matter? You know you’ve heard of this. It’s certainly an important thing in the Bible, it was on Paul’s mind when he was writing this. And so, we ought to speak of it. So, what are the crossroads here now? One word is that this is the beginning of the explanation of Romans. What you read here in this passage is what you look for in the rest of Romans being expanded and developed. Another road is the righteousness of faith and believing. And then there’s Abraham and his call and his faith. And fourth, there’s the mystery of Christ, that Jews and Gentiles are one. Now this is where we say. How can this be?

Do you know how Satan always accuses God? How does Satan accuse God all the time? Satan tells God, God you are cheating. How does he tell God you are cheating? Why does he say, God you are cheating? Always. He says you are making it too easy for the Christians. You are breaking your own rules. What is this faith business? Where did you get this?

When you play a game of football, you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. Satan tells God, “you are changing the rules in the middle of the game”. This is very important. Is God changing the rules in the middle of the game? Is the devil right? Is He making it too easy for the Christians? And the Jews – they always had to obey the law. What is this faith business? Is God breaking the rules? Is He cheating on His own rules? This is very important.

What do you do with that? Is Satan right? God is changing in the middle of the game? No? How do you prove it? Satan is very wise. “You are making it too easy for the Christians.” Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. That’s too easy. This is very important. Now what is happening here? Is God changing the rules for our sake? No? How do you prove it? Is He changing the rules for your sake to make it easy for you? Now for instance, this business of Jew and Gentile, how can the two be one? If Abraham is not your father, if you’re not descended from Abraham, you’re not a Jew. But the Bible says you are through faith. But how does that agree with God’s rules? You are now a son of Abraham because you believe? You weren’t born from Abraham.

To this very day the Jews argue, you are not a Jew. You don’t come from Abraham. And Satan is right, and the Jews are right, in a way. How are you Abraham’s son? You say because you believe. But how do you explain that? Isn’t that breaking the rules? That’s making it too easy for the Christians, for the Gentiles. You have to be circumcised and convert and become a Jew. According to the Jews, in New York. Many, many today, and Israel. If you are not descended from Abraham, you are not a Jew. Then why does the New Testament say you are a Jew? Is it wrong? So how do you make them agree?

It seems as though faith fell out of the sky. In the Old Testament, there is no specific word for faith. As there is in the New. In Hebrew. It’s only in the New, in the word. And the New Testament says “now that faith has come”. Before faith, you were guarded under the law, but now that faith has come you are no longer under a guardian. Faith looks like something new. When the apostles and the Bible try to prove something, they go back to the beginning. And here they are going back to Abraham to prove about faith. But to explain how is difficult. But you can see that is what they are doing. The Bible is speaking of how the faith that Abraham had is for us also. And in Hebrews Chapter 11, we read that Noah had faith. Before Abraham. And Abel (Adam’s son) had faith. In Hebrews 11. So faith is way back at the very beginning. Even though there is no word for it in the Hebrew. But the apostles could explain it. And they did.

Already in Romans Chapter 1, verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel… the power of God… everyone believing, Jew and Greek.” What does “Greek” mean? The Jew and Greek. They’re one of the Gentiles. So combining them into one is the mystery of Christ. In the body of Christ, everyone is the same. That’s very important, and that’s original. It’s not something new. It’s just new to our understanding. It was there all along. We can see in Chapter two where it talks of “oh man”. It is talking to the Jew and Greek when it says “oh man”. In verse 17, he is talking to the Jews only. And from there on in fact, he is talking of what a real Jew is. And he is speaking of how it is not just the physical outward thing that makes you a Jew. Chapter three starts out with how is the Jew any better? Any better than what? Better than the Gentiles. In verse 9, I have already charged both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin”.

Everybody is. It makes no difference. It says “there is no difference”. That means between Jew and Gentile. In verse 22 it says “for there is no difference”. In fact, before we start our passage here (in verse 21), the whole point is that the whole world be under judgement to God, in verse 19. That means Jews and Gentiles. Everyone. So this is very much in Paul’s mind as he is writing the first two and a half chapters. And we see it right in this passage too. So this is one of the crossroads.

In verse 21 it says “but now a righteousness of God has been ____”. That is not good (the word “revealed”). There are two words in Greek (reveal and apocalypse). And the word reveal is kept for that word. It is Strong’s number 601. But the Creole says reveal. But it is a very different word in Greek. It is one of the pheno family. 5316 down to 5318. And that’s the word that is here.

A righteousness of God has been “something like manifested” or now you can see it. You can see it, but not in our usual “see” way. When it says pheno, now a righteousness of God has been phenoed, what it means is that the righteousness of God apart from law has been made present. It’s saying that it’s here. Not that it’s revealed. That’s important. Because of a whole other subject you have to get into to understand this. What is wrong with the law?

There is something wrong about it somehow. But you also read the law is holy and just and true. How can there be anything wrong with it. And yet in Romans 8 it says the law weakened by the flesh. What is wrong about the law because of the flesh? It’s not the law’s fault, it’s the flesh. But what is the problem exactly? This is very important. It comes back to pheno, not reveal. Now why? The law is based on you being good. And you obey the law yourself. By your own works, but the flesh is not able. The law is conscious, you knowing that you are reading the list of things to do, and you do it. The law depends on you being obedient. But the flesh isn’t. And cannot submit to God’s law. Now that’s the area of the problem. And if God just made a new law, it would be the same problem all over again. The whole point is the righteousness of faith and faith itself are very different than the law. They work very differently.

The old Jews, when they had their son, they had to teach him the law. And it took 12 years, and when he was 12 years old, then he was considered able to keep the law, and he is an adult. But now through faith, one who converts through faith, if he has faith, he is of faith, he can obey God immediately. Through the obedience of faith, which is unconscious. Faith is not based on you learning and obeying, you doing it. Faith is supernatural. We never read that it’s a gift. It’s never called a gift. It is never received either. Nevertheless it is of God. It’s not of me. If I could get my hands on it, if I were able, I would ruin it. But it’s something I can’t operate. Never do you do anything with your faith, never in the scriptures. That is in the conscious planning way. To obey the law you have to consciously understand and decide to obey. That is not the operation of faith at all. This is very very important.

If the righteousness of God were actually revealed, then it would be something of our sight and our mind and our understanding. And something that we operate and are in control of. We are not in control of faith. Never do we control it. Not in the New Testament. Instead the righteousness of faith has been made present. This itself is a very important point. Faith starts out like a baby. But it is already there. It’s not like you study for 12 years, and then suddenly you are a Christian. It works very differently than the law. Faith is of hearing. Something which is very important that you could start looking for in the scriptures is the difference between seeing and hearing. And the flesh says seeing is believing. But the Bible says faith is of hearing. And it doesn’t come through our mind. It’s deeper, more original. It gets behind our thinking. It’s bigger than our thinking. God is making it easier for the Christians, but He is not cheating to do it. It was there all along, and now it is known to be present. Apart from law.

Do you understand that law is based on you understanding and deciding yourself “I’m going to obey it”. And that is what is meant by works of the law. But faith also has works, but it is like the reverse of the law. The works come from the faith. They are not works that you do with your faith. The way you do with the law. The basic original difference between law and faith. So that you can get an idea of what law and faith are through the way they work. Law depends on your mind, on your thinking, on your faithfulness.

But faith is very different. It doesn’t depend on your mind, you can’t think your way into faithfulness, only by depending on God. The man said “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”. Jesus said he was justified. He was depending on God. The works of the law, they rely on themselves. Works of the law are relying on yourself. And that is the flesh at work. The works of faith are the works that God planned long ago for you to walk in them. They aren’t works that you decided to do.

This opens up a great, great area for all of you to consider. How do you know that what you are doing is a work that comes from faith and is not a work that you’re doing to try to be righteous? For instance, in coming here to Haiti, this is a good work. But is it attempting to be righteous or is it coming from faith, and how would you know? That’s a very good question. Is it the works of faith that is coming from you or are you just doing works of righteousness? There is no righteousness of God when it is still works of the law. And doing something just because you know it’s right. That’s works of the law, because you know it’s right, and so you do it. That’s not faith. This is very, very important.

The problem, this passage here, Romans 3:21, you’ll notice how it ends. Verse 29 and 30 – so we have to look for other passages that are similar in idea and not necessarily words. But it is very treacherous, how do you know they are the right ideas? For instance, in the Old Testament faith was there. But there is no word for it. Yet we read that it was there. So we must have the right idea of faith to see where it is in the Old Testament. Apart from the letter, the word.

And verse 31, what does he wind up saying? Now, how can you be establishing law, when we are establishing faith? Unless they are the same thing in some way. But that is very deep. Now Abraham is the patriarch. The father. The next Chapter – 4:1. Abraham is a very big issue right here. So what is the word that we have to deal with with Abraham and us? It’s a lot more important than you think. And in five years you’ll admit it. To understand Abraham a lot, you have to understand things like John Chapter Three. Where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “unless you are gennaoed again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God, you can’t enter it. The translations talk of “born again”. But that’s silly.

That’s a very poor translation. Very bad. It’s much more original. That same verb, gennao – is much more original and is concerned with Abraham. Abraham involves this verb and me. So it is possible for me to become a son of Abraham through faith. Not just what we call born. And we are in Abraham through this gennao word. Sons of Abraham – that’s another difficult step. Genesis 15:6 is where Abraham begins.

How is someone going to be righteous? How are you going to be righteous? You need to be righteous or you can’t stand before God. In First John 1:9. we read that he that was born of God, you may be sure that he that is gennaoed of God is righteous. To be righteous, you must be the same word. Gennao. In First John 1:9 says that. So that righteous is connected to this 1080 word. Very much. How are you going to be righteous? You must understand, the only way you are ever going to be righteous is by obeying the law. You can’t get away from that. You must obey the law or God is breaking the rules. You are not under law, you are under grace. But you must obey the law. But it is not as the basis. It is through faith.

Jesus said, not one dot will pass away from the law. You think I came to get rid of it? No. Do you think the law is gone now? That’s only arrogance. Many so called Christians talk like that though. They don’t know what they’re saying. So really obeying Christ is really obeying the law. And that is only through faith. Now you’ve been hearing and reading about the righteousness of faith. Now do you have faith? Are you of faith? You must get serious and decide. Are you of faith, and if not, you are of the flesh.

Now do you think you have faith? How do you know? Are you just taking for granted, arrogance? Or are you a little baby growing up and doesn’t really know anything, but he is growing into something?

It you are of faith, are you righteous? If you are really of faith, are you righteous? This is more important than you think. You must be righteous, or else you are finished. Are you righteous? Does faith make you righteous? Prove it. Faith does not make you righteous. You are not righteous because you have faith. You are never going to be righteous unless you keep the law. Do you think faith is some way out of this? If you are of faith, then you are able to be righteous. But it is not automatic. Any more than if you are justified by faith, you have salvation. No scripture says or shows that if you have or are of faith, you are righteous. You are not righteous unless you obey.

And that requires your involvement. Now get this right. No one is automatically righteous. Never. Read it, show me. Where? Because you have faith you are righteous? This is what James was arguing about. Was not Abraham justified by works – the works that come from faith. And he wasn’t righteous until those works. Then he was righteous. And you’re no different. Do you have false security? Are you righteous? Only if you are obeying through faith and have the obedience of faith. We are not of those who shrink back. Hebrews 10:39. One can shrink back from faith.

The same as the plants growing up, only one of them continues. The desire for other things choke the word. The righteousness of faith – it is usually understood as the righteousness that faith gives me. But you can’t find it in scripture. Yet that is the way people think and talk. The righteousness I have because I have faith. How is God glorified by that? It’s the righteousness that can come from faith – the righteousness of faith. The righteousness that faith can produce. You must begin to study this. It’s not a new kind of work, that you do. But these are the works that God prepared for you to walk in. Those are the only ones that mean anything. If it’s your efforts, it’s your work, it’s your righteousness, it’s not going to help you. The righteousness that comes through faith. Not having a righteousness of my own, but that which is of faith. Not that faith automatically gives it. I told you I waited ten years to do this. To make sure. The righteousness of faith–super important. Now how are we to understand it? That’s where we started. There’s a great deal to it. It goes way, way back to the beginning.

This is the nature of an introduction only. Believing – the verb – to believe – and the noun, faith. One is a noun, the thing, faith. The other is the verb. But they are the same thing. In the scriptures believing is always conscious. You can’t believe accidentally. You know you believe if you believe. But faith begins unconscious, as a baby. But we never do something, you never use your faith. Never. Nor are we lead by faith. Faith doesn’t lead us. The Holy Spirit leads us. We walk by faith. You walk by your legs. But we are lead by the Spirit. We must connect these things, and keep them in the right connection in order to understand. This is very very important. Much more than you think. This is very far reaching.

The words “the righteousness of faith”. People have a big Bible in their house. And they keep it on the shelf. And they respect it, and they never read it. With you, the righteousness of faith, that’s what it is. You respect it. But you really know nothing of it, don’t understand it, don’t look for it. And you must change that. The righteousness of faith is extremely important. And you are able to understand it and to learn about it. Why do you need justification by faith? Because the only alternative is the flesh. And you try to justify yourself. And it will never work. No man ever did. So you are one or the other. Are you making sure which you are? Does it matter to you, or is it all right dusty on the shelf? Or is this your very life? This is only an introduction and background of how to deal with this passage.

But this will start to then explain other passages too then. This is broad. If Paul were here, he would agree. That’s what I say. Faith plus gennao are the two things that lead to Abraham, and unite us with Abraham. All who are of faith are sons of Abraham. But to be a son of means you have to be gennao. Look for the connection in gennao and 1 John 1:9, righteous and gennao. Everyone is considering, ‘I am of faith, I’m sure that I am of faith, therefore I am righteous’. Not so. Faith apart from works is dead. The therefore is the problem. I am of faith, therefore I can be righteous, yes. It will only come through obeying the law as God said in the first place. Nothing has changed. But Christ is the fulfillment of the law. That’s where the obedience of faith is the obedience of Christ. And obeying the gospel. They come down to the same thing. The righteousness of faith and the red and blue verses. And the whole New Testament. How to understand it.

The obedience of faith works the same way as the righteousness of faith. It’s the obedience that comes through faith, it’s not obeying faith. If it’s obeying faith, then I am doing the obeying toward faith. Of myself, I’m obeying. Did you ever wonder about that – the obedience of faith, is that us obeying faith or is that the obedience that comes through faith? Are you going to be religious and righteousness or the righteousness of faith?

Why are there no brothers here now? They are shrinking back from faith. And they know it and they say it. And they can’t hide it any more. And they must convert or fall away. That’s very dangerous. And they say they are a bad example for the children. This is very dangerous. That’s very sad. We must pray for them. Write them and tell them to convert. It’s crazy not to convert. We do not want this man reigning over us. It means I must submit. And the flesh refuses. Only faith can overcome. I don’t overcome, God through faith. The only way you will ever be righteous is by obeying the law. You must understand it’s the law of ordinances and commands that has been set aside, not THE law, the law of God. That’s what the scripture says. The writing. The law of writing and commands is what is set aside, not the law of God. The difference. That’s why Paul said do we overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! The law of writing. And then they want to make the Bible the word of God. The writing is that hopeless.

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