Romans 3:19-26

Henry Mahan

My subject is "Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" Many people do not like direct questions about their relationship with God. They do not like to be asked questions like "do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" I suppose it is like an dishonest accountant, having his books examined – he's not comfortable when he's exposed to that type of investigation. Or, perhaps, it's like a thief, having his house searched – he's not comfortable because there are stolen goods there. The questions about our relationship with God are useful to the sincere seeker, they're useful to the man who desires to really know God. Our Lord Jesus Christ used direct questions frequently – he wasn't backward at all about asking people direct questions. He said to the disciples "Whom do you say that I am? what are your thoughts concerning me?" Another time he asked the multitude "What think ye of Christ?" That's a direct question – what think ye of Christ – whose son is he? Then once he said to Mary and Martha "Whosoever believeth in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Again he said, "What Shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" What about that? If you gain all the wealth and possessions and fame of this world and lose your soul, what shall it profit you? I know of few questions more important than the one I'm asking today "do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" Let's turn to Romans Chapter 3 and look at a few verses that show us the importance of this question. Listen to Verse 19. "Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, (that's all of us, we are all born under the law, we are all subjects of God's kingdom, we are all responsible to obey God's commandments, what the law saith it saith to every son of Adam) "that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God." The holy law of God stops every mouth. It doesn't matter whether you're a preacher in the pulpit or whether you're a person in the pew; it doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, old or young, white or black, the law stops your mouth! The law of God concludes that every son of Adam is guilty, guilty is written in bold letters on every forehead. To offend in one point is to be guilty of the whole law. So the law of God concludes that every son of Adam is guilty. Verse 20, therefore, the law cannot save you, the law cannot deliver you, therefore, by the deeds of the law, by good deeds, by religious deeds, by kind deeds, by moral works, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh, (religious or unbelieving flesh) be justified in God's sight. For by the law is the knowledge of sin – the law can't save, the law can't deliver – the law can only reveal sin – the law reveals our guilt – the law reveals that even our righteousnesses are filthy rags. So there are two things established here, Number 1, the law of God comes to all who are under the law and writes "guilty" on our record. Secondly, the law cannot deliver, the law cannot save us, the law cannot help us, the law can only reveal our sins. Now read Verse 21, "But now there is a righteousness of God without the law and it's manifested." (It's revealed, a righteousness for the guilty – a righteousness without obedience to the law). That is exactly what Paul is saying here, "now there is revealed a righteousness and it's not a self-righteousness, it's not a human righteousness, it's God's righteousness it is pure and perfect; it is holy and complete; and it can be ours without the law, without perfection, without perfect obedience to this law. It is revealed and it is witnessed by the word of God and by the prophets – it is right here written by the evangelists, by the apostles and by the prophets in the word of God. What is it? Verse 22, "It is even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ and it's unto all, Jew or Gentile, it is unto all who believe, for there's no difference." This holy righteousness, this perfect righteousness is given to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! Verse 23 "All have sinned, all have come short of the glory of God" and all who are redeemed must be redeemed, must be justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Now look at Verse 25 "Whom God has set forth," God gave his Son to be a man, to be robed in human flesh, to obey the perfect law, to be a propitiation, to be a mercy seat, to be a sacrifice, "through faith in his blood, to declare God's righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness (God's righteousness, God's holiness) that God might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus Christ." That God might be holy; that God might be righteous and still justify you and justify me. This is what Paul is saying, the believer in Christ is innocent of all charges; the believer in Christ is delivered from all guilt; the believer in Christ is justified before God; the believer in Christ has a perfect righteousness; the believer in Christ has complete forgiveness of all his sins; the believer in Christ, whether in Old Testament days or in New Testament days is accepted in the beloved. Do you believe? The righteousness of God; the holiness of God; the perfection of God is unto all and upon all that believe in Christ – that's what the Word says. Look at Verse 26, "He is the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Now do you see the importance of my question? The law has concluded that the whole world is under wrath and judgment – we're all guilty. There is no salvation, no deliverance, no righteousness by the law – it reveals sin. There is no justification any way for us through the deeds of the law. But God has declared a righteousness, his righteousness without the law, apart from the law and that righteousness is in Christ and it's upon all and it's unto all who believe on Christ. Christ came down here and worked out that perfect righteousness, and died on the cross that God might be holy and just and still justify, declare innocent, without guilt, all who believe on Christ. So to believe on Christ gives me a perfect righteousness before God and puts away my sins to the extent that as far as God is concerned I have never sinned.

Believing on Christ is more than intellectual assent to some doctrine. It's more than belief of the head, this is no more than the faith of devils. Someone may say, "Well, I've always believed that Jesus Christ lived on this earth and died on a cross." Is that what you're talking about – is that what constitutes saving faith? No, Sir! In James Chapter 2, Verse 19, the scripture says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." We may believe that a person named Jesus Christ lived on this earth 1900 years ago, died on a cross and that he was even raised from the dead and not have saving faith. When I ask, "Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and in believing, have righteousness and justification – I don't mean mental assent or agreement with a system of doctrine or statement of fact. It's more than that. Believing in Jesus Christ is more than just believing in the power of Christ to work miracles. This seems to be very important in this day – seems like a lot of people are on television and radio and special meetings emphasizing the power of Christ to heal. Nicodemus believed in his power to heal, he said, "we know that you are a teacher come from God, no man could do the miracles you do except God be with him." In John, Chapter 2, Verse 23, "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them." He commits himself to all who believe and these people believed, but these people believed in the power of Christ, not in the person of Christ – there's a difference! Saving faith is not just believing in Christ's power to work miracles – many believed when they saw the miracles, but he didn't commit himself to them. Believing in Christ is more than being associated with the religious ordinances and religious organizations. "Well, of course, I believe on Jesus – I'm a church member." Judas was a church member. Judas was an apostle. "Of course, I believe on Jesus – I'm a preacher." Judas was a preacher. "Of course, I believe on Jesus – I'm a deacon." Judas was an apostle. "Of course, I believe on Jesus – I've served the Lord – I work for my church." Judas was treasurer of the church. "Of course, I believe on Jesus – I've been baptized" – Simon Magus was too, but Peter said his heart was not right with God. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? This is the most vital, important question that I can ask you and the answer to this question is the difference between heaven and hell, life and death, salvation and damnation. The word of God says by the law we are not going to be justified. By the deeds of religion or the works of the law, we're not going to be saved. Through faith in Christ we have the righteousness of God, a perfect righteousness; through faith in Christ, we're justified, just as if we had never sinned – that's what justification is. It's more than pardon, it's more than parole, it's more than forgiveness, justification is a clean record as if we had never sinned. So the question that is important to my heart is not do I give mental assent to some truths (the devil believes and trembles, he knows that Christ lived on the earth, was born of a virgin, died on a cross, was buried and rose again – he was there when it happened) saving faith is more than mental agreement with facts. It is more than being associated with a religious organization; it's more than holding office in the church. True belief in Christ, is so immensely important that the spirit of the living God, in writing the word of God, has used many figures in the Bible in describing saving faith. I'm going to give you four of these and when I get through I want myself and you and I want all others to answer this question – do I really believe? If I do, I have a righteousness that will admit me into glory and I have a justification before God.

First of all, believing in Christ – the Holy Spirit of God says is coming to Christ! Our Lord said in Matthew 11, Verse 28, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Christ said again, "he that cometh to me shall never hunger – he that cometh to me shall never thirst." In John 6:37, he said, "all that my Father giveth me shall come to me and him that cometh to me, I'll in no wise cast out." To believe on Christ is to come to Christ. What is it to come to Christ? It is coming to Christ as the Canaanite woman came to him seeking mercy, not justice, mercy. She came to him and said, "Lord, have mercy on me." It's mercy that we need – it's mercy that we seek – it's mercy that Christ gives. Sinners have only one plea – Lord, have mercy, the publican said, "have mercy on me, the sinner." The proud can stay away – the self-righteous can stay away – the bargainer with God can stay away – Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He came into the world to save sinners – if you're a sinner and you need mercy, you come to Christ, as a sinner, seeking mercy. What is it to come to Christ? It's coming to Christ as the woman with the issue of blood came after everything else had failed. She tried many physicians and the scripture says she was only worse. She said if I can but get to him, I shall be made whole. After church membership has failed, reformation has failed, sacraments have failed, ministers have failed, and we have failed, turn to Christ. He's not A physician – he's the physician. Christ is not a redeemer – he's the redeemer. Christ is not a way – he said, "I am the way." "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Christ the Lord." When we've tried everything else, and everything else has failed, that's the way we come to Christ. As the disciples said when Christ told them "will you go away?" They said, "to whom shall we go?" Everything else has failed – there is no other hope. My only hope, my only plea is that when Christ died, he died for me. Have you come that way? Turn to Matthew 8 – what is it to come to Christ? It's coming to Christ as the leper came to him in Matthew 8 – coming to him as Lord and Master. "When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." This man came to Christ as the Lord, not as a fire escape from hell. Poor little jesus – that's about all I hear preached in this day – it's poor little jesus – won't you let Jesus have his way – won't you let Jesus save you – won't you feel sorry for Jesus and honor him by giving him your heart – that's not the Bible Jesus. The Christ of this Bible is the Lord who said, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious." The Christ of this Bible is the one who said to the women who wept and lamented him, "don't weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children." The Christ of the Bible is the one who cannot fail. The Christ of the Bible is the one who sees the travail of his soul and is satisfied. The Christ of the Bible is Lord of life and death. The Christ of the Bible is the one who says, "I have all authority in heaven and earth." The Christ of the Bible is the one who said, "Father, thou hast given me authority over all flesh that I should give eternal life to all that thou hast given to me." The Christ of the Bible is the one who said, "I pray not for this world, I pray for them which thou hast given me." Coming to Christ is coming to him humbly as Lord and Master. As the thief on the cross said, "Lord, you're not going to stay dead – Lord, you're coming into a kingdom – Lord, if you will, remember me." That's what it is to come to Christ. Have you come? It is coming to Christ for mercy, it is coming to Christ, empty-handed, it is coming to Christ as the Lord. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It's not "will you confess him as Lord, it's when will you confess him."

The second word which illustrates what it is to believe on Christ. Turn to John 1 – all men have not this faith, all men know not this Christ – he must be revealed. Paul said, "it pleased God to reveal his Son in me." Paul knew the law but he didn't know Christ. Paul knew the Bible but he didn't know Christ. I hear people say, "he knows the Bible." He may, but he may not know Christ. The apostle Paul was an authority on scripture, doctrine and theology, but he didn't know Christ. Believing on Christ is to receive Him. Look at John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." It doesn't say, as many as received his doctrine. It does not say, as many as received his preachers, although, to reject his servant is to reject him. Christ said that to the disciples, "I send you forth as sheep among wolves. He that rejecteth you rejecteth me. He that will not receive your word will not receive my word." It doesn't say, as many as received his law to them gave he the right to become the sons of God. "Now, if you'll just straighten up your life and turn over a new leaf and quit your meanness, God will take you to heaven" – that's not what it says. It says, "As many as received Him! Him!" When the Lord Jesus Christ sat down by the seashore and talked to the apostle Peter, he said, "Peter, do you love me?" He didn't say, do you love theology, do you love the church, do you love the Bible, do you love the word, do you love the law, do you love people – he said, "do you love me?" This scripture says, "As many as received Him." It is personally to receive Him. I like the verse over in Luke 10, Verse 38, which says, "Now it came to pass, as they went, that He (Jesus Christ) entered into a certain village and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house." I like that – she received Him into her house. Not just his disciples, not just his servant, not just his word, not just his law – HIM. She opened the door and she said, "Lord, my house is your house, come in." We receive him as that prophet who teaches us the Father, we receive him as that priest and advocate who atones for our sins and pleads for our acceptance – we receive him as Lord and Master – we receive him as Friend and Brother – we receive him as constant companion. Lord, come into my house. That's what it is – to believe it's to receive him. Consciously, intelligently, willingly to receive him. A lot of people know the doctrine of salvation who do not know the way of salvation. Christ is the way! A lot of people know how God can be just and justify the ungodly who do not know Him who justifies the ungodly. It's to receive Him. If some other folks have to leave so that he will abide, let them leave. If some other things have to go in order to have him, let them go. If it is to bear conflict and persecution in order to keep him, let them come. He's coming in, and all that oppose him can go out. Whatever the cost, whatever trial, whatever conflict, whatever tribulation he may bring with him, he's still coming in! I cannot always have my way; I cannot always have an easy time – God hasn't promised me that, he's promised me the opposite – conflict, trial, a cross. "He that taketh not up his cross and follows after me cannot be my disciple." We want a life of rest here on this earth – we are not going to have it – rest is reserved for later. We want a life of comfort here on this earth – it's not here it's later. We want a life free from trial and free from conflict and free from tribulation here on this earth – we are not going to have it. If you do have it, if you're without chastisement, you're a bastard, and not a son – that's what the scripture says. We must expect trial, conflict and a cross in order to walk with Christ. When you receive him, you receive his conflicts. He said, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you, it hates me."

Thirdly, believing in Christ is looking to Christ. In Isaiah 45:22, he said, "look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else." Hebrews 12:1-2, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Christ." Now when we talk about looking to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, we can't improve on the illustration he used. He said, "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." What happened in the wilderness? The people of Israel were bitten by the fiery serpent. They had been murmuring, complaining, and griping. God sent the fiery serpents in the camp, they bit the people, they were dying, and there was no cure. God told Moses to make a serpent of brass in the likeness of the serpent that had bitten the people, lift it upon a pole between heaven and earth and everybody who looked to that serpent of brass would be made whole. Christ said, "even so must Christ, the Son of man be lifted up." We're in the same shape as Israel – we've been bitten by the serpents of sin. Christ came down here to earth, made in the likeness of the serpent of sin that had bitten us. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and he was raised on a cross between heaven and earth. Now if you want to be saved, you look to him – that's what Moses said to the people in the camp. Do you want to be cured? Do you want to be healed? Look to the serpent of brass! If you want to be saved, look to Christ, not to this water, not to this man, not to this altar, not even to this Bible, not even to the Holy Spirit – you look to him who was lifted up on a cross there on that cross you see very God of very God and very man of very man. Look to Calvary – there's our substitute – there's our representative – look to Calvary – there our sins were laid on him – look to Calvary – there the debt was paid – look to Calvary – look to Christ. Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Christ the Lord. "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me." Look to Christ!

I've never travelled far around the world,
I've never seen the many thrills and sights unfurled,
But I've taken a journey of journeys for me
Up Calvary's mountain, there my Saviour to see
I've been to Calvary.
I can say I've seen the Lord.
I've been to Calvary through the witness of His word
Each day at Calvary, what a thrill of love divine
Just to think, just to feel, just to know that the Saviour is mine.

What is it to believe? It's coming to Christ – to a person. It's intelligently, willingly, coming to him – deliberately, coming to him. It's turning your back on everything else and coming to him – coming to Christ. It's to receive him. I receive Christ as my Lord and whatever comes with him, I'll pay the price, I'll bear the cross. It's looking to him, every day along the way, looking to Christ, never taking my eyes off him, not looking to my flesh. I didn't start in the spirit and expect to be made perfect in the flesh. It's not looking to others and seeing their failings and quitting – it's not looking at the road and seeing that it is going to get a little rough ahead, so I had better get out of this race – it's looking to Christ and wherever my feet walk, wherever trials, or winds, or storms, my body goes through, it's still looking to Christ.

Fourthly. Turn to II Timothy 1:12 – what is it to believe? Paul says, "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." The word committed means, to deposit as a trust for keeping and protection. My soul is my only real possession – my body is already dying – it's already getting weak – my body is going to return to the dust from whence it came, but my soul is going to live on. Everything I own on this earth will soon be gone, but my soul lives on. All that I have accumulated in this world is going to be wasted and burned, but my soul lives on. I've got to commit my soul to somebody. If I bring it down here and say "I commit my soul to the church," (I hope God will keep us faithful for a while), but this church like all the rest of them will be apostate some day, it will be a place of heresy, it always has been so! Where is the church of Corinth, the church of Rome? If I bring my soul and commit it to the church for keeping, I will soon find my keeper to be apostate and out of fellowship with God. Even the great denominations have departed from the faith. They are just keeping up a show like everybody else. We've run out of capital – we're at the bottom of the hill, rocking back and forth now – a little movement, a little motion, a little noise but no progress. If I commit my soul to the church, it will fail! If I commit it to any human being, any man, he will fail me. "I've lost confidence in so and so", I hear people say. Good, the sooner the better. The sooner you lose confidence in every son of Adam and the sooner you lose confidence in your self, the better off you will be. Where am I going to commit my soul for keeping? I've got to commit it to one who changes not – that's Christ, the immutable one. "I am the Lord, I change not." I've got to commit my soul to one who is willing to receive it – he says, "Come, I'll give you rest." I've got to commit my soul to one who is able to keep it. The book of Jude says, "Unto him who is able to present you faultless before his throne with exceeding glory." I'm telling you this – I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; I believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah; I believe Jesus Christ is very God of very God; I believe Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of sinners. That's what Paul is saying. "I know whom I have believed, I am persuaded he is able to keep." I believe Jesus Christ is willing and able to keep my soul against the day of judgment and I hereby in this last will and testament give my soul to Jesus Christ. I here and now with whatever confidence I can muster, with whatever faith I can present, give my soul to Christ to keep – how about you? He is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him. "That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not, desert to its foes, that soul though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, never, never forsake." He will keep me till the river rolls its waters at my feet, then he'll bear me safely over, there my Saviour, I shall meet. That's believing on Christ. Do you believe? It's coming to Christ; it's receiving Christ; it's looking every moment, not just today, but a continual gazing into his face, and it's committing my soul to him! That is all I have, a soul – that is all I am, a soul and Lord, I commit it to you.

Henry Mahan, Pastor
Thirteenth Street Baptist Church
Ashland, Ky.

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