This is an exegetical sermon from Romans 3:27-30. It explains how there is only one God who can accomplish and desires our rescue. This sermon was originally preached by Pastor Justin Bragg at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA. Audio unavailable.
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:: The Resolved ::
Justin Bragg (elder)
“One God and One Salvation”
Romans 3:27 then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Nate set up 3 implications derived from 3:21-26: salvation by grace through faith
1. Salvation by grace through faith excludes boasting (27-28)
2. salvation by grace through faith means that there is one way of salvation for everybody, regardless of who you may be or what you have done (29-30)
3. Salvation by grace through faith upholds the law of God rather than subverting it as some suppose it does (31)
Nate hit the exclusion of boasting last week, tonight focus on number 2 – one way of salvation, and next week hit the third one in v31
Paul has just made it clear that we are justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Now he asks, “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
There is an order of thought here. There are three steps to look at one at a time and show how they relate to the issue of salvation.
- First, there is the simple, yet massive statement in verse 30 that “God is one.”
- Second, there is the inference that since he is one, therefore he justifies Jews and Gentiles in the same way, not two different ways. He “will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”
- Third, since he is one and justifies all peoples in the same way, not different ways, he is not the God of the Jews only, but the God of the nations as well.
Paul answering the question he raised: is God only for the Jews? No, because:
I. God is one
II. Since God is one, he justifies Jews/Gentiles in one (the same) way
III. Since God is one, and since he justifies everybody one way, he is, to answer the question, God of all nations, not just of the Jews
I. God is one
Every nation has its own set of prejudices, and it is important to realize that Paul is running up against two groups of people and their inherent prejudices.
The Jew – who believe in one God, but not in salvation for anybody outside Judaism.
The Gentile – who believe in salvation for everyone (or at least its possibility) but not in one God.
The chief theological tenant of Judaism is its monotheism – the belief in mono (one) theism (God) – the belief of Judaism as found in the OT
Every pious Jew practices prayers and sayings from the Old Testament.
Chief among these prayers/sayings is the shema (Hebrew for hear), recited as a confession of faith prior to reading formal prayers in the synagogues each Sabbath. “Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (duet 6:4). This saying was to be kept before people always: (7-9)
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Nothing distinguished the Jew from the rest of pagan world more than his fierce and uncompromising monotheism.
While the gentile nations worshiped the debased deities described in Romans – (1:23) “images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles”– the Jew maintained the highest regard of his conception of the one true God
But this conviction went to what has been called “a degenerate theocratic exclusiveness.”
A scorn of gentiles to the point of supposing them to be spurned and hated by God.
In the liturgy and morning prayers there was a sentence in which Jewish men thanked God that he had not made them ‘a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.’ the Jew said, “God loves Israel alone of all the nations of the earth.”
The gentiles had their own problems. Whereas Israel accompanied monotheism with exclusiveness, the gentile had tolerance without monotheism.
It was said of Athens that there were more gods in the city than people.
These many and diverse gods permitted and encouraged the most wicked moral practices.
Greece was a moral cesspool, and Rome was even worse.
The portraits that we have seen in Rom. 1:29-33 and 3:13-18 are no exaggeration
What is Paul and even us today to do in addressing these two serious, yet opposite fatal flaws?
If we are firm in our conceptions of one great and moral God, the source of all good, we seem to become narrow, self-righteous, and bigoted. If we are broad in our doctrines, believing that all are equally right in believing in whatever god or gods suits them best, we plunge into polytheism and depravity
In answering the question ‘is God not also the God of gentiles” Paul answers ‘yes, he is the God of the gentiles.’ in v. 30 he explains why God must be the God of the gentiles as well as of the Jews.
In quoting the Jewish motto, “there is one God” he takes the most basic Jewish belief of monotheism and turns it against Judaism for the sake of the argument
If the Lord our God is one Lord, then God must be the God of the gentile salso, else they are left without a god.
Jews for sure believe that God was the God of the whole world, but he was only the God of the gentiles by virtue of his creative work – only Jews had a meaningful relationship with God.
The Jew claimed strict religious and ethnic privileges. Adherence to the law was the dividing line between the good guys and the bad guys. Paul makes clear that the torah no longer functions as a dividing barrier between those who are outside and those who are inside the sphere of God’s people. Monotheism, seen in Christ means that there is no such barrier, that all have equal access to the one God, and this access is granted through faith alone, not by works in obedience to the Jewish law.
There are some important implications from “God is one” – what does this statement really mean?
1. Only one true God
First of all, there is only one true God, not many gods.
This is an absolutely necessary belief, in view of what it means to be God.
Paul says in Romans 11:36, “all things are from Him and through Him and to Him. To Him be glory for ever.”
If that is what it means to be God, there cannot be two of them. If the very meaning of being God is that He is the ultimate source of all that is, there can be only one. Two beings cannot both be the ultimate source of all things. One would be the ultimate source of the other, and so only one would be God; or both would be equally ultimate and neither would be the source of all things, and so neither would be God, by Paul’s definition. There can only be one God, the Creator and Sustainer of all.
2. The unity and coherence of God
Which leads us to a second implication of Paul’s statement in Romans 3:30 that “God is one.”
For Paul, the oneness of God is not simply a statement that there is only one true God, but also a statement that this God has a unity and coherence to his identity.
He is what he is and not something else.
He has identity in himself.
He has fixed attributes. He does not change.
He is not inconsistent or schizophrenic.
He does not have contradictory personalities.
All his characteristics cohere in one unified being.
He makes himself known as who he is. He is one.
3. one God, not three
there is a third implication of Paul’s words, “God is one,” but we will leave it for another time – the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit are God, but not separate deities, making us polytheists
We do not worship three Gods, but one God.
The mystery of the Trinity is a stumbling block for Muslims and Hindus and Jews and secularists.
It always has been and it always will be.
Does it surprise you that the one true God would exist from all eternity in a way that pushes our little minds to the breaking point?
no time here to take it up, but suffice it to say now that the revelation of God through Jesus Christ is that Jesus is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is God and there is one God.
That is the first step in verse 30: God is one.
II. God has one way of saving people
One cannot deny that there are a multitude of religions claiming paths to salvation. Some are exclusive, some are inclusive. Some deny a supreme being, and others affirm one great being. Some affirm multiple deities, and some affirm the human being himself to be the ultimate reality.
It’s like watching commercials during the super bowl. Car commercials. Every one telling you their car is the best for such and such reasons. Now, you cannot buy every car, and drive every one to go to the grocery store. You must choose one.
Amidst a barrage of advertisements, you must decide which car really is the best
‘Which of the world’s religions (or none) are right and which are wrong?’ it is very puzzling.
1. Religions are more or less equal – at least if pursued sincerely
God is on top of the mountain – people take different paths to get to the top, but all end up there
2. although all religions of the world probably have some value, some are obviously better than others
It follows that one of these, whatever one it might be, must be the best of all.
This view allows everyone to believe his or her religion is the best, or at least superior to some others
3. There is only one way to come to God – through faith in Jesus Christ – and all other religions are really only ways of running from the one true God
Perceived to be narrow, bigoted, hateful, ignorant, wicked, cruel, intolerant and arrogant – the kind of thinking that leads to genocide, religious wars and witch hunts
The belief of Paul is that one God has one way of saving people; namely, justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 30: ” . . . since indeed God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith, is one.”
The oneness of God is connected to the oneness of the way he makes people right with himself. This has tremendous implications for religious pluralism in the world.
It implies that not all religions are true and lead to heaven. It also implies that those who know the true God because of his gracious revelation should try to persuade others to know and trust the one true God.
And it implies that, since the true God of the Bible is a God who is known only by faith and not external coercion, no violence or force will be used to demand or restrict religious belief.
Which means, that the uniqueness and singleness of the one true God of the Bible is both a threat and protection for religious pluralism.
Pay attention here because we live in an increasingly pluralistic society.
The absolute claim of the God of the Bible on all persons and all religions is a spiritual threat to religious pluralism because it calls for repentance from all false religion and faith in the one true God through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
But this single, true God of the Bible is a protection for religious pluralism because he forbids that his cause be advanced by the sword or by external coercion.
Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” (John 18:36). Christians are called to love our enemies and to suffer injustice rather than return evil for evil.
Therefore, true Christianity is both a threat and a support for religious pluralism.
It is a spiritual threat, and a political support. True Christianity will not endorse ethnic cleansing against Muslims. True Christianity does not advance by the sword or the gun. It advances by proclamation and persuasion and prayer and love and by being persecuted, not persecuting.
We must make both of these clear.
1. Our belief in one true God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ in history means that we do not count all religions equally true or equally saving. Christianity is a missionary faith, or it is false to its own foundations. People will call this arrogant and presumptuous and offensive.
2. So the other thing we must also make clear is that it is a loving thing to plead for people to know and trust the one and only living God through Jesus Christ. And the spread of our faith is not by violence or coercion. That would be self-defeating. No one is saved by a forced act. Faith is cultivated in others by proclamation, persuasion, prayer and love.
God threatens religious pluralism with the glorious freeness of grace. He comes to every world religion and every personal religiousness or irreligiousness and says, I offer you the good news that you may have forgiveness of your sins and be reconciled to your Creator and have everlasting life by grace alone through faith alone in my Son Jesus Christ. I have already acted in history to remove my wrath and to take away human guilt. If you will have it as your loved and trusted treasure, it is yours.
Now you can call that arrogance and presumption, but a better name for it is love.
Christianity does not come to other religious systems and try to replace one way to work for God with another way to work for God.
The one true God has made a truce at the cost of his Son’s life.
He offers pardon to every person freely and everlasting joy to those who will trust his Son.
The oneness of God means that there is one way to salvation, not the way of works, but the way of faith. Because it is a way of faith it cuts across all ethnic and political and language and cultural barriers. Verse 30: “God will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” “Circumcision” stands for any religious or ethnic trait that you might think would commend you to God.
“Uncircumcision” stands for any trait, or missing trait, that you think might keep you from God.
The gospel of Jesus Christ comes and says, “Justification (getting right with God) is by faith, not works. Having certain ethnic or religious advantages prove to be of no advantage. Not having certain ethnic or religious advantages proves to be of no disadvantage. the reason is that faith in Christ, by its very nature, looks away from distinctive (positive or negative) that you have in yourself, and looks to God’s free grace in order to be justified and have eternal life.
God’s oneness means that there is one way of salvation for all.
because this one God is the great sovereign, self-sufficient God who can’t be worked for, but overflows in grace, the one way of salvation is by grace through faith, and that is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone – any culture or race or ethnic group – should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
That’s the second step: since God is one, he justifies Jews and Gentiles in the same way, not two different ways. He justifies the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised by faith (Gentiles).
III. God is the God of the nations
now the third step: since God is one, and justifies all peoples in the same way – by faith alone in Christ alone – not different ways, therefore, He is not the God of the Jews only, but the God of the nations as well.
Verse 29: “is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also.” and “Gentiles” refers to all kinds of ethnic groups.
So what does it mean for us today to say, God is the God of the nations, the God of every ethnic group?
John Piper offers four implications:
1. That God is the God of the nations means that God created all the nations.
Acts 17:26: “He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”
Ethnic differences are God’s doing.
Beware of your prejudices. Look at God for the love that he has for the nations.
2. That God is the God of the nations means that he will redeem a people for himself out of every nation.
Revelation 5:9: “they sang a new song, saying, ‘worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’”
God means to have a redeemed people from every ethnic group. Therefore, none is to be despised, but loved and pursued with grace.
3. That God is the God of the nations means he will justify anyone, anywhere, from any nation through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
There is one way of salvation for all the nations. God is God of the nations because he has made a way for them all – the same way and it is a way of grace.
4. That God is the God of the nations means that God desires to be known by all the nations.
Psalm 96:1-4: “O sings to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”
Do you see where the text is leading us: “declare his glory among the nations” – and the neighborhoods.
What is it that this verse is teaching us? Where does it stop being an intellectual exercise and start making a difference in our lives? Do you look at this verse and think it makes strong points against pluralism, and affirmative statements for God’s oneness and the exclusivism with which he saves people? Is that message going to make a difference in your life? Will that message be the one you declare to your family and friends? I don’t believe we’re quite there, we need to see what it is that these verses really accomplish.
Who may come to Christ?
The gospel of Jesus Christ, vv 21-26 is for everybody, because Christ has removed any barriers that might have prevented any person from entering his kingdom family.
The gospel is about one God, who offers one salvation for everyone who believes
Escape the crippling sins pride, murder, stealing, and adultery. Jesus says whoever comes to him he will never drive away (Jn 6:37)
forget about your profession, your income bracket, your social status, your identity as a student, a skeptic, a religious person, black, white, Hispanic or Japanese, a moralist, a partier, a loner or a geek… forget it all. There is one way of salvation, and it is offered to everyone.
Is God the God of Americans only? Is he not the God of the Asians too? Yes – since there is only one God, who will justify the American and the Asian through that same faith. Is God the God of the Catholics only? Is he not the God of the Protestants as well? Yes – since there is only one God who will justify the Catholic and the protestant through that same faith.
Is God the God of the upper-middle class people only? Is he not the God of the working class and the poor too? Yes, since there is only one God who will justify all persons of all financial backgrounds through that same faith. Is God the God of middle class white people only? Is he not the God of children and poor post college students too? Yes, since there is only one God who will justify all persons of any age through that same faith.
That God is one, and that he saves every person in the same way and that this salvation is available to every single person in the world – is the message of the gospel. Take it. You are not prohibited if you seek and desire to find your joy in Christ alone.