Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Justification by Faith
Text: Romans 3:19-28
October 28, 2017
Dean Otto of Charlotte, North Carolina, was riding his bike one humid morning in September 2016 when a truck plowed into him. Before the EMTs rushed him to the hospital, he prayed quietly to God, forgiving the driver in that moment. His pelvis, tailbone and ribs were broken, and he couldn’t feel his legs. “Dean's spine was torn in two and dislocated,” his doctor explained. “He had no movement in his legs. The odds were stacked against him.” His surgeon, Dr. Matt McGirt, gave him a 2% chance of ever walking again on his own. However, after months of grueling physical therapy, Otto took his first steps with a walker. Then he got around using just a cane. Slowly, he picked up speed, eventually climbing stairs and then running.
“As far as my recovery goes, it’s been a really long, rough road,” he recalled last week. “I’ve worked really hard but I’ve had a lot of great support from my doctors, my physical therapists as well as my family and friends supporting me.” During Otto’s rehabilitation, Will Huffman, the driver of the truck visited him in the hospital. The two became friends. Otto says that forgiveness had been key to his recovery. “To be able to forgive Will immediately after the accident has been paramount in my positive attitude, in my recovery from this terrible accident,” he said.
Otto invited both Will Huffman and Dr. McGirt to run a half-marathon with him, and on September 24, 2017—a year to the day of the accident—the three completed the Napa Half Marathon in California. “To be able to do that with my doctor Matt McGirt as well as Will Huffman, the guy who was driving the truck that morning on September 24, was fantastic,” Otto said.
It took a lot of faith for Will to believe that Dean really forgave him—that Dean did not hold his transgression against him. Our lesson this week explores the forgiveness that God offers to anyone who will claim His promise of justification by faith alone. The fact that God declares us righteous simply because we believe His promise (apart from any works of our own) is one of the greatest spiritual concepts the universe has ever experienced. We fallen humans are the only members of God’s creation to receive such a gift.
That is not to say that obeying the law is unimportant. The relationship between law and grace appears to be a paradox—we are not saved by works of the law, but those who are truly saved will live by the law’s precepts. It’s challenging to really comprehend that when God declares us righteous, we actually become righteous—living life as new creatures. Just as Dean’s genuine offer of forgiveness inspired Will to live as a friend of Dean, so God’s effective offer of forgiveness inspires us to live as friends of God.