In part 8 of our series on Romans, we will compare the nature of humanity and the nature of God, His judgment and faithfulness from Romans chapter 3.
Romans: The Glory of the Gospel, part 8
Let God Be True – Romans 3:1-20
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Oct. 15th, 2017
- The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul continues to unfold the logic about the sinful condition of mankind, regardless of whether the person knows the word of God or not.
- The last part of chapter 2 explains that the outward expression of faith (circumcision, baptism, confirmation, etc.) does not matter if there has not been a change or “circumcision of the heart.” This must be done by the Spirit who enables us to be transformed into a life which we live to please God and not seek the praises of people.
- The next chapter addresses the question “then what advantage is there in being a Jew,” and then goes on to further explain the character and acts of God in contrast to the total depravity of humanity. It also explains the reasons the “Laws of God” were given to us in the first place.
The advantage of the Jew
Rom 3:1-2 ESV
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
- Paul is addressing the question that the Jews had in their minds after he writes to them explaining that both Jews and non-Jews need to be “made new” by the spirit. He also addresses that the non- Jews could become “real Jews” by the “circumcision of the heart.” The logical question is: “Then what advantage has the Jew?”
- He answers the question by stating there are many reasons, and then gives the first example that they indeed were “entrusted with the oracles of God.” Knowing the word of God is an advantage because in it we understand the heart of God and the best way for us to live our life in relation to him, others and ourselves.
- You don’t have to be a believer and follower of Christ to benefit from putting the principles of God’s word into action (Honoring your parents, loving your neighbor, disciplining your children, being honest, being sexually pure, not getting drunk, obeying financial principles, etc). There are advantages of knowing the oracles of God. Thing will go better if you live your life according to the principles given to us in the word. Ignorance of the word in not a blessing.
- Later, in Romans we are given a more complete list of the “Advantage of being a Jew.”
Rom 9:4-5 ESV
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
- A second question comes to mind: what about those who had the word but were unfaithful to it? Does that mean that God is unfaithful to His word as well?
The faithfulness of God
Rom 3:3-4 ESV
What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you judge.”
- God is and forever will be faithful to His word, even if we are unfaithful in ours. God cannot and will not go back on it. He is perfect and forever without sin in any form or fashion. He is the only true one, compared to Him, everyone is a liar.
- We also must recognize there are conditional promises and unconditional promises. He always keeps His side of the equation. For instance, conditional promises are: Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added unto you (Matt. 6:33); cast all your cares on Him and then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); ask for wisdom and it will be given to you (James 1:5). Conditional promises are based solely on Him: “I will bless you and make you a blessing” (Gen. 12:2); “I will make all things new” (Rev. 21:5)
- To give further support to the argument for God’s faithfulness, Paul quotes from Psalm 51 (the Psalm that David wrote in repentance for his adultery with Bathsheba). Here is the first part of that Psalm:
Ps 51:1-5 ESV
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
- David asks for mercy because of his sinfulness in contrast to God’s sinlessness and truth. David realizes that all sin is sin against God (the only one who is true) and that God is the only one who is justified in His words, and blameless (perfectly just and true) in His Judgment. He is the only one who sees clearly and can clearly see the truth. God is faithful to His word (and always will be because He is the truth) and all other things are to be compared to Him to be measured for truthfulness.
- A third question comes to mind about our unrighteousness.
Rom 3:5-8 ESV
But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
- The object and argument people raise is “what if my unrighteousness enhances God’s righteousness” or “my badness shows off God’s goodness?” (Like a back backdrop to a diamond)
- If this would be the case, then all things bring God glory, so it does not matter what you do. This, however, is not the case, because we were not made to be a contrast to God’s glory, but a reflection of it. Evil is evil and must be condemned and judged for what it is. There is an authoritative standard of good and evil, truth and untruth, righteousness and unrighteousness and God is that standard. He is the only one who we are judged by and compared to. We as humans are utterly sinful in compassion to God’s glory in His perfection. This is the point of the next section.
The unrighteousness of mankind
Rom 3:9-18 ESV
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.”18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
- Paul uses a “Psalms mashup” to illustrate the total depravity of humanity. I would love to believe that people in their heart are generally good. We are good people, but because of the context of living in a fallen world, we do bad things. The truth is that we are totally depraved in our sin nature, and no one is righteous, no not even one. This is why we must be “born again” and given a new nature. This is why God has to call to us, because in our nature we don’t seek God – it is not that we found Jesus but that He found us, redeems us, gives us His nature, a hope and a future. his is why every person is lost without Him and we cannot earn our way to heaven.
The purpose of the law
Rom 3:19-20 ESV
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
- Every argument about our “righteousness” and our “goodness” will fall short and be stopped. We have no defense based on our own merit.
- The whole world will be held accountable to God – all must give an account – and this is the thing that people rebel against the most. We want to be the way, the truth and the life, where as He is the only way, truth and life. We “rage against the machine,” fight for our right to party and suppress the truth because of our unrighteousness to justify our sinful actions.
- This is what the law does: it gives us a standard, but we fall short of it. If there was not a law then there would not be lawbreakers. The law was given so we would know what sin is and that we are sinful.
- The law ultimately is built on love and for love through right relationship with God and His creation. Even from the beginning this was so!
- This is as far as we are going to go today. Next week, we will see where our righteousness comes from through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Next week, we will understand in greater fullness what God through Christ has done for us.
- Understand the advantages of having and following the word of God.
- Understand and trust in the faithfulness of God to His word.
- Understand that we have no argument to stand on when it comes to our depraved condition and actions.
- Understand that we are all accountable to God and our only defense is what Christ has done on our behalf. Choose to see yourself rightly and truthfully and choose to put your faith and trust in Christ.
Questions for the week ahead
- What did you learn today that is meaningful and helpful to you?
- What are the implication(s) of what you learned today in your understanding of God’s work in the world, and to you personally?