“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”” (Luke 7:8, NKJV)
We all encounter authority every day. Whether it is the rules of the road as we drive, or the authority under which medications are dispensed, there are countless ways we tacitly accept living under authority. Yet, in matters of faith, too often we think we are free to do whatever we feel is right. We must learn to acknowledge and yield to the authority of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The authority of Jesus, which is so cavalierly rejected by many, was not taken for granted by the Roman centurion in today’s passage. He understood authority, both serving under it and exercising it. He trusted the power of Jesus to heal his servant because he believed Jesus had authority over distance and disease. When we believe Jesus has authority over us, it changes how we think and act in every area of our lives. Because He has supreme authority over us, Jesus deserves more than lip service from us. Let us be so committed to the authority of Christ that whatever His word says, we believe it and do it. Without hesitation or doubt, fully trusting He will fulfill His will, we follow Him. Submissive obedience to His word is the identifying mark of respecting the authority of Jesus.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6, NKJV)
The apostles understood they would need faith to forgive others and avoid being offenses (Lk. 17:1-4). Their request for Jesus to increase their faith did not go unanswered. The Lord explained to them how to increase in faith (Lk. 17:6-10). Please note, the Lord did not promise to send them an “enabling grace” to empower them with the ability to believe. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing God comes from His word, we can expect our faith to increase as we rely on His word to lead us (Rom. 10:17). We must trust the power of faith for our faith to increase (v. 6). We must practice our faith, trusting God’s will is fulfilled in us as we put our faith into action (Phil. 2:12-13). Little faith can accomplish great things because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17-20). We devote ourselves to the power of faith when we obey His word. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). To increase in faith, use your present faith to do what Christ commands. In the context of this passage, that means start forgiving the way Jesus said to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Faith activates our obedience, showing we trust the power of faith.
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:9–10, NKJV)
The blessedness of which Paul speaks is the forgiveness of sins, given by God as He imputes righteousness to sinners by faith (Rom. 4:5-8). This blessed forgiveness is available to all, and is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 1:16-17). Those who tried to define forgiveness through keeping the law of the circumcised (the Law of Moses given to the Jews) failed to recognize that Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was uncircumcised (Gen. 15:6). Binding any part of the Law of Moses as essential for salvation is inconsistent with this fact (Acts 15:5-11). When we “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had (while he was still uncircumcised), our faith will also be accounted to us for righteousness. Justifying faith is active (it is a walk), it is obedient. We walk in the footsteps of Abraham when we obey the gospel by believing in Christ, confessing our faith, repenting and being baptized (Jno. 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:37-38). God is not a respecter of persons. Whoever “fears Him” and “works righteousness” is “accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). We are justified by faith when we believe and obey God like Abraham did (Jas. 2:20-24).
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27–28, NKJV)
No one has room to boast before God of being a perfect keeper and therefore, of being justified by law. Everyone under the law of Moses sinned against it and were condemned as sinners by it (Rom. 3:19-20, 23). By the works or “deeds of the law,” no one is justified because all have sinned against it. It is the “law of faith” (the gospel), which is “apart from the deeds of the law,” that justifies sinners. Paul defines “works” in this context as “the deeds of the law” (the Greek text does not include the article, so literally the phrase here is “deeds of law”). Keeping law for justification demands sinless perfection. That is earning salvation. But, that avenue is forever impossible to us, since we have all sinned. None of us can earn our salvation. Scripture says we are justified by faith (v. 28). The gospel (the faith, Gal. 1:11, 23) produces personal faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Personal faith includes obedience, but an obedient faith is not “works” that earn salvation. Obedience is the action of trust in Jesus to save you when you obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). When we trust and obey the gospel our only boast is in Jesus, not in ourselves (Lk. 17:10; Gal. 6:14).
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:21–23, NKJV)
Law identifies sin, but it cannot save the sinner (Rom. 3:19-20). How God justifies the sinner is revealed in the gospel of Christ, not in the law of Moses (Rom. 1:16-17). God’s redemption is “apart from the law,” that is, the Law of Moses could not justify sinners. (Christians who attempt to justify themselves with the Law of Moses “have fallen from grace,” Galatians 5:4.) The “righteousness of God” in today’s verse is the means by which God counts sinners righteous (Rom. 1:17). How God does this is testified of by the Law and the Prophets, and is accomplished “through faith in Jesus Christ” to all who believe (whether Jews or Gentiles). Since all have sinned, no one attains to the glory of God on his own. That would require sinlessness. The sinless person is the only one who could earn justification as a debt owned (Rom. 4:1-5). Since we are all sinners, no one can earn the right to be saved. We need grace to be justified (Rom. 3:24). This is a far cry from denying the need to obey God to be saved. Without obedient faith we are lost (Acts 10:34-35; Heb. 5:8-9; 11:6). Obeying Jesus does not earn salvation, it is trusting Christ to save us because we have the faith to obey Him.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10, NKJV)
Love obeys God’s law. By doing so it fulfills law. It is indeed futile to try to separate our obedience to God’s law and our love for Him and for our neighbors. Obeying God’s commands grows out of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Loving your neighbor means loving him as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). Just as we do not seek to harm ourselves, love does no harm to its neighbor. Love does not commit adultery, does not murder, does not steal, does not bear false witness, does not covet, or do anything else that harms another person (Romans 13:8-9). Love actively does good instead of evil. Obeying the will of God from the heart is love in action (Romans 6:17; 1 John 3:17-18). Love is not set in contrast to obeying the law of God; It is not one or the other. Instead, love actively fulfills (accomplishes, obeys) the law of God.