1. THIS AFFECTS EVERYONE!
a. How does Paul explain the actual condition of both religious and nonreligious people? Romans 3:9, 10.
“All have the same sinful nature. All are liable to make mistakes. No one is perfect. The Lord Jesus died for the erring that they might be forgiven. It is not our work to condemn. Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.”—In Heavenly Places, p. 292.
b. What diagnosis does Paul give about the moral and spiritual status of humanity—and how is this verdict echoed today? Romans 3:11–19.
“My soul has been bowed down with anguish as I have been shown the weak condition of God’s professed people.
“Iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold. There are but few professed Christians who regard this matter [of moral pollution] in the right light and who hold proper government over themselves when public opinion and custom do not condemn them. How few restrain their passions because they feel under moral obligation to do so and because the fear of God is before their eyes! The higher faculties of man are enslaved by appetite and corrupt passions.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 347, 348.
2. THE ENTIRE WORLD GUILTY BEFORE GOD
a. Considering the perfect righteousness of God, what is the condition of the entire world—including all who may think themselves righteous? Romans 3:19.
“[Many] wrap themselves about with their own righteousness, and are satisfied in reaching their own human standard of character; but how fatally they fail when they do not reach the divine standard, and of themselves they cannot meet the requirements of God.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 320.
“The whole world stands condemned before the great moral standard of righteousness. In the great day of judgment every soul that has lived on the earth will receive sentence in accordance as to whether his deeds have been good or evil in the light of the law of God. Every mouth will be stopped as the cross with its dying Victim shall be presented, and its real bearing shall be seen by every mind that has been sin blinded and corrupted. Sinners will stand condemned before the cross, with its mysterious Victim bowing beneath the infinite burden of human transgression. How quickly will be swept away every subterfuge, every lying excuse! Human apostasy will appear in its heinous character. Men will see what their choice has been. They will then understand that they have chosen Barabbas instead of Christ, the Prince of Peace.”—The Signs of the Times, March 7, 1895.
b. What is—and is not—the benefit of God’s law? Romans 3:20.
“ ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:20. In order to see his guilt, the sinner must test his character by God’s great standard of righteousness. It is a mirror which shows the perfection of a righteous character and enables him to discern the defects in his own.
“The law reveals to man his sins, but it provides no remedy. While it promises life to the obedient, it declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin. He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed; and faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice. Thus he obtains ‘remission of sins that are past’ and becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is a child of God, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries: ‘Abba, Father!’ ”—The Great Controversy, pp. 467, 468.
3. GRACE POURED OUT
a. Since we cannot be justified by our obedience to the law, what is the only way to be justified before God? Romans 3:21–25.
“Imputation of the righteousness of Christ comes through justifying faith, and is the justification for which Paul so earnestly contends. He says: [Romans 3:20–31 quoted].
“Grace is unmerited favor, and the believer is justified without any merit of his own, without any claim to offer to God. He is justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who stands in the courts of heaven as the sinner’s substitute and surety. But while he is justified because of the merit of Christ, he is not free to work unrighteousness. Faith works by love and purifies the soul. Faith buds and blossoms and bears a harvest of precious fruit. . . . Christ and the believer become one, and His beauty of character is revealed in those who are vitally connected with the Source of power and love. Christ is the great depositary of justifying righteousness and sanctifying grace.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, pp. 397, 398.
b. How can God be just and, at the same time, justify a sinner? Romans 3:26; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21.
“Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. . . .
“The law requires righteousness—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can ‘be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Romans 3:26.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 762.
4. JUSTIFIED BY FAITH
a. To what conclusion does Paul come after explaining our justification before God? Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16.
“We are enlightened by the precepts of the law, but no man can by them be justified. Weighed and found wanting is our inscription by nature. But Christ is our mediator, and accepting Him as our Saviour, we may claim the promise, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).”—In Heavenly Places, p. 156.
b. What happens with those who are justified by faith? Romans 3:21; 5:5.
“Christ is the sinner’s advocate. Those who accept His gospel behold Him with open face. They see the relation of His mission to the law, and they acknowledge God’s wisdom and glory as revealed by the Saviour. The glory of Christ is revealed in the law, which is a transcript of His character, and His transforming efficacy is felt upon the soul until men become changed to His likeness. They are made partakers of the divine nature, and grow more and more like their Saviour, advancing step by step in conformity to the will of God, till they reach perfection.
“The law and the gospel are in perfect harmony. Each upholds the other. In all its majesty the law confronts the conscience, causing the sinner to feel his need of Christ as the propitiation for sin. The gospel recognizes the power and immutability of the law. ‘I had not known sin, but by the law,’ Paul declares. The sense of sin, urged home by the law, drives the sinner to the Saviour. In his need man may present the mighty arguments furnished by the cross of Calvary. He may claim the righteousness of Christ; for it is imparted to every repentant sinner.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1096.
c. By what kind of faith is the sinner justified? Romans 1:17; Galatians 5:6.
“Let us seek for that faith which works by love and purifies the heart, that we may represent the character of Christ to the world.”—Christian Education, p. 93.
5. THE NEW COVENANT
a. Which promises are included in the covenant of grace (the New Covenant)? Hebrews 8:6, 10–13.
“The ‘new covenant’ was established upon ‘better promises’—the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. [Jeremiah 31:33, 34 quoted.]
“The same law that was engraved upon the tables of stone is written by the Holy Spirit upon the tables of the heart. Instead of going about to establish our own righteousness we accept the righteousness of Christ. His blood atones for our sins. His obedience is accepted for us. Then the heart renewed by the Holy Spirit will bring forth ‘the fruits of the Spirit.’ Through the grace of Christ we shall live in obedience to the law of God written upon our hearts. Having the Spirit of Christ, we shall walk even as He walked.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372.
b. When is God’s law written in our hearts? Romans 5:1–5; Psalm 40:8.
“The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’ Psalm 40:8.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 176.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. In today’s world, why do we need to be very vigilant about moral purity?
2. What is the purpose of God’s law?
3. How should Christ’s suffering on Calvary influence my life?
4. Why do we have such tremendous need of a Saviour?
5. How can I live the New Covenant life?