“We are always in a better place than we deserve.” — In this article, Dr. Nixon Ng talks about the book of Romans and how the truths from this book continue to make an impact on his life and humble him each day.
Why are we doing a book study on Romans called The Gospel Explained? How can we specifically put the truths from this book into practice?
The book of Romans is very relevant, especially in our time right now. It was written to a people whose situations were not different from ours. They were experiencing sporadic persecution, and there was so much uncertainty in their future. It was in the midst of those challenges and difficulties that Paul wrote the book of Romans. It was the deep theology in this book that undergirded the practical wisdom of the Christians at that time.
The good thing about the book of Romans is it answers the big questions in life: the question of the depravity of man—his boastfulness and self-righteousness. If we think about it, the difficulties and trials we experience actually bring out who we are. Fundamentally, our issue is self-righteousness. It is expressed in different ways in different generations, but the issue is still the same. We feel that we are better than others, just like the Jews back then who looked down on the Gentiles because they didn’t practice the same things they did. When people don’t think the way we do or don’t have the same political persuasion that we do, we tend to think that they are lesser than us. But why do we think that way, when everything that we are and everything that we have is only by the grace of God? Though we were sinners and undeserving, there’s a God who justified us and made us righteous. That’s what this book is about.
What does it mean to be made righteous by God? Why is it important to understand this truth?
Justify is the verb form of righteousness. It means not just forgiven; it means as if we’ve never sinned.
We were justified because God did something. Though we are undeserving, Christ died on the cross for us—the propitiation was made through His blood. Jesus came and offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. God’s wrath was never held back. It was fully vented but on Christ, not on us.
When we begin to understand that it was God who made a way for us to be justified—in spite of our weaknesses and frailties—we can’t look to Him and boast. We are put in a disposition of humility. It’s always by the grace of God that we are in a better place than we deserve. Knowing that God sent His Son to die for us to redeem us, propitiate our sins, and demonstrate His justice humbles us.
Understanding that it was God who justified us also frees us from condemnation. Sin has the power to destroy and condemn us; that’s why some of us feel hopeless and depressed. But knowing that God has made us righteous and paid for our sins frees us from those feelings. There is no place for sadness because God has already lifted us up. It brings us back to humility without condemnation and self-judgment.
How did the knowledge of your righteousness in Christ change the way you live? How does having a right relationship with God help us face difficult situations in life?
The knowledge of my righteousness in Christ has helped me become gracious with people, especially in their failings. When we talk about failure, I am at the top of the heap. I deserve nothing that I have and even merit to die—yet here I am. When I remember that, it helps me pastor others; it helps me help them. That’s the most fundamental change. Though I still fall into judging others, when I remember what God has done for me, it makes me see things differently. It takes away entitlement, and I’m left with nothing but gratitude that I’m in a better place. I don’t care where God puts me; I’m just glad that I can do His work and serve. It humbles me every day.
When God justified us, He didn’t just forgive us or take us out of sin; He also gave us purpose. Everything that happens to us now becomes purposeful. In Romans, we are reminded that we can rejoice in suffering because we have peace with God. Our suffering is no longer punitive but formative. Before, people were afraid of suffering because they thought it’s a punishment for sin. But now, we know that when we suffer, our character is formed. The word “suffer” in its original form means “to put pressure.” When there’s enough pressure on us, endurance is produced—endurance which produces character, and character which produces hope. After things are strengthened by God and we are tested, we can fulfill our purpose and rejoice in our future hope in Him.
Truly, there is nothing that we can boast about because God has done everything for us. As we continue to seek Him, may we always remember the truths from the book of Romans and walk in gratitude and humility.
Dr. Nixon Ng is the director of the Every Nation Leadership Institute and also serves as a pastor in Victory Pasay. He and his wife, Eva, have four children: Nikko, Elijah, Nikki, and Nathanya.
Beyond the Series is a set of interviews on topics related to our sermon series.