The Tale of Two Horses

July 22, 2001

Romans 3:21-31


Two Kentucky farmers who owned racing stables had developed a keen rivalry. One spring, each of them entered a horse in local steeplechase. Thinking that a professional rider might help him outdo his friend, one of the farmers engaged a crack jockey.

The two horses were the leading the race at the last fence, but it proved too tough for them. Both horses fell, unseating their riders.

But, this calamity did not stop the professional jockey. He quickly remounted and won the race.

Returning triumphant to the paddock, the jockey found the farmer who had hired him fuming with rage. “What’s the matter,” asked the jockey. “I won didn’t I?” “Oh, yes,” roared the farmer. “You won all right, but you still don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” asked the jockey. “You won the race on the wrong horse!”

There are several horses that we have the option to ride in our lives: One is called “success”, but it too can throw us off. Others are called “anger,” “jealousy,” or “wealth.” But, these too can give out and we can find ourselves flying through the air. What will get back on and start riding? Will it be the right horse?

In today’s study of Romans, Paul talks about two “horses” if you will. Two horses that we have a choice in riding regarding our relationship with God. One horse is called “the law” and the other horse is called “faith.”

These two horses, these two ways, were constant companions with Paul in his missionary journeys around the Mediterrean world of his day. He was constantly engaged in arguements with those he used to agree with – which is the correct way to God – the law or by faith in Christ?

A. The Law – What is it?

When we think of the law what comes to mind? Courtrooms, flashing red lights, legislation, etc.

1. We have a view of the Law that is very western and non-religious.

2. The Law was started back in the time of Moses when God began to give him the rules and regulations by which the Israelites were to live.

3. By Jesus’ time, notes FF Bruce, the Pharisees “built up a body of traditional interpretation and application of the law which in due course tended to assume a validity as sacrosanct as that of the written law itself.”

4. So, the Law, as discussed in Romans is a religious law that governed Jewish behavior and defined the Jewish faith – especially how a person was saved from their sins.

B. The Horse Call “Law”

Prior to our passage – Paul makes three important points about what a true Jew is and how they become one. We need to be acquainted with these three points because they will help us understand that faith and not the law makes us true followers of God.

1. 2:29 “a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God’s spirit.”

Today circumcision is common place. A majority of male infants have the procedure done within 24 hours of being born. But, to the Jewish people the act of circumcision is a very important act of committment and dedication to God.

But, Paul goes beyond this sacred act and says that there needs to be a change of heart in order to be acceptable to God and that is more important. But, obedience and adherence to the law does not make that possible because the law only points out our difficulties.

2. 3:9 “Well then, are we Jews better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin.”

Can you imaging the response to this statement? Here is Paul, born and raised a Jew, a faithful follower of the Jewish Law and traditions, now saying to his fellow Jews, we are not better than the Gentiles! We are all guilty of sin, we are all under it’s power and we all need help!

Paul is saying that the universal human condition of humanity transcends race and every other difference that we can think of. So, no one is “better” than anybody else. And the law cannot help us in this regard.

3. 3:20 “For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it.”

Paul has been making a case over the last two chapters that the Law does not and cannot save us – it cannot make us right with God. And he links it to God’s salvation for all people not just the Jews and not just the Gentiles – for everyone. In doing so, Paul makes it more clear that the law does not have the ability to save us from our sins.

And then, we come to another one of those “buts” that indicate a change of direction.

C. The Horse called “Faith”

1. A different way of being made right (vss. 21 – 22)

A. Not by the law – but by trust in Jesus Christ.

B. Available to everyone – no matter what we have done, no matter who we are.

2. My friend Curt

A. My friend Curt came to Christ in his bedroom with his wife’s help. He was in his late 40’s. I became a Christian at an altar on Sunday morning at the age of 8.

B. Different times, different places – but the same result – we were both forgiven of our sins.

C. We were both made right not because of who we are nor what we had done or where we were at – we were made right with God because of what it says in Romans 3:22 – we were made right because we trusted in Jesus Christ to take our sins away.

3. Faith creates a right standing by a right relationship with God. (vs 23 – 26)

A. The reality – No one has gotten it right or perfect. vs. 23 (missing the mark)

B. The remedy – Jesus takes the punishment for our sins. vs. 24

C. The result – God declares, on the basis of our profession in Christ’s actions to be guilt-free!! And this is by faith in Christ alone. vs. 25

D. Which horse are you going to ride?

When you go horseback riding, and you don’t own your own horse, you never know what kind of horse and thus what kind of ride you will get!

1. These two horses – “law” and “faith” are still being ridden today.

A. A Horse With a New Name – “Works” (vs. 70’s song, “A Horse with no Name.”

1. Many, many people within and without the church ride this horse. It is a demanding horse. It is a horse that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day rode.

2. It creates sore riders. The demands of staying on this horse require larger and larger efforts that expend large amounts of emotion, time, and energy.

3. Those who ride this horse for a time experience the “high” of doing good deeds. But, the “high” fades and eventually the rider begins to wish for a different horse.

4. Pride sets in, and they refuse to get off, getting more miserable by the moment. Until the horse and or rider collaspes in a heap.

5. Romans 3:27 says: “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith.”

B.  Faith – A steady steed

1. Romans 3:28 – “We are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”

2. God’s grace, God’s mercy through the acts of Christ are what saves us and all we have to do is believe and trust Jesus Christ!

E. Conclusion:

Which horse do you wish to ride?

Paul was a driven man. He was driven by the law that he ultimated admitted that he, nor anyone else, could keep.

Paul was one of those up and comers that we still hear about. He was passionate. He was committed. He was riding the wrong horse.

And thank God, he got on the right one!

Which horse do you want to ride? The one that drives you to all sorts of good deeds yet leaves you with an empty feeling? Or the one that leads you to forgiveness and a feeling of completeness?

The choice is yours. Amen.

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