Romans 3 (23 Feb 2020)

Paul and the Bush Lawyers

1What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.’

  • V1-4: Are these verses relevant to us; we’re not jews?
  • The Jews had a big plus: the very words of God
  • Their big minus: their unfaithfulness
  • God’s faithfulness shown more clearly by the contrast
  • Be faithful: è avoid judgement, even be in a position to judge.
  • About us?? Jews had Old Testament; we have so much more!!
  • We have Jesus and the New Testament
  • So should be even more faithful.

Verses 5-8
5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’ 8Why not say – as some slanderously claim that we say – ‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is just!

“Forgiveness is too easy

  • Have known Roman Catholic friends go to Confession and Mass on Saturday and tell me that made them set for the week to do what they liked.
  • Muslims criticise easy forgiveness and claim it leads to western decadence
    • They can confess sin to God; it’s personal, direct and no intercessor
    • Then purify themselves and expect they are forgiven
    • The idea of Jesus being killed to take punishment for another is seen as offensive and unjust.
  • Some people (including some Christians?)
    • Let’s be unrighteous – It makes God look more righteous
    • God knows we can’t help ourselves…
      • He is just so he won’t punish us 
      • “boys will be boys” argument
      • Our falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness, increases his glory, therefore we should not be condemned just because we are sinners.
      • So let’s get into it! Do evil so God looks better.  Then a good thing comes from our evil
    • V6: “Certainly not”!
    • Justice requires God to bring his wrath on that which is contrary to his nature and his will
    • Those who make the slanderous claims in these verses will face the condemnation they want to talk their way out of and it will be just. (V8)

V 9-20
9What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 
10As it is written:
‘There is no-one righteous, not even one;
11there is no-one who understands;
there is no-one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no-one who does good,
not even one.’         Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20
13‘Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practise deceit.’   Psalm 5:9
‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’   Psalm 140:3
14‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ Psalm 10:7 (see Septuagint)
15‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17and the way of peace they do not know.’  Isaiah 59:7,8
18‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’           Psalm 36:1
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

  • We are all equal, treated equally, with justice, fairness – and mercy: “all are under the power of sin” (v9)
  • There is no-one righteous, not even one (v10)
  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v23)
  • How do you know you are under the power of sin – that you are a sinner?
  • Look at verses 10-18; a series of quotes mostly from Psalms
  • BUT – what’s wrong with these things?
    • Are they just a series of extremes
    • Is the list exhaustive? It doesn’t mention same sex marriage.
  • How do you know what’s OK and what’s not?
  • Jews knew because they had the law and the Talmud
  • See verses 19, 20
    • Having the law we know what to do
    • We can’t argue with it
    • We are kept accountable to God
    • We can’t keep it completely
    • So no-one is righteous – we are all sinners
    • We are all conscious of our sin.
  • BUT, does the Law apply to us as Christians?

Matthew 5:17-20
17  ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • See in Sermon on Mount: Jesus raises the bar
    • Hate == murder; Lust == adultery
    • The Pharisees were dismissed as hypocrites who missed the meaning of the law
  • Theologians see 3 aspects to the Law:
  • Ceremonial Law re worship, pointed to Jesus in whom it was fulfilled; the principles apply still
  • Civil Law re daily living – redundant after societal and governance changes
  • Moral Law – which Jesus fulfilled and expects us to keep.
    • Jesus teaching applies this; as does that of his Apostles.
    • It is a dangerous thing to edit the Bible to suit ourselves.
    • Especially in light of V 20.
      • Keeping the Law does not lead to righteousness
      • The Law leads us to a consciousness of sin; it is our teacher
      • The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin

The Conclusion – don’t try to talk your way out of this…

V21-31

21But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the ‘law’ that requires faith. 28For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

  • V 10, 23: all are sinners, all fall short of God’s glory
  • There’s no difference between us; all in the same state
  • We are all in the same, condemned, state – with no way to rationalise, argue our way around this
  • We really don’t like this helpless, hopeless situation and we look for alternatives and find none. We cannot save ourselves
  • We need a saviour
  • Rather than try to talk our way around this situation see what God has done.
  • God took the initiative – becoming in the form of a man, Jesus: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood.
  • He took on himself the blame, power, consequences of our sin.
  • He, the sinless one,  paid the price we are due to pay: death – by hanging on a cross
  • This was a glorious, merciful, loving demonstration of his righteousness
  • Even the sin of those faithful people whose sin he had left unpunished was included in this sacrifice.
  • All our sin was swept up into this one execution of justice which runs like a river of grace:
  • There was forbearance, sacrifice, redemption, atonement, justification, forgiveness, righteousness, faith.
  • We do not argue our way into the Kingdom of Heaven or earn our way there by keeping God’s Law but having been given a fresh start, a new life, we respond in gratitude, submission and obedience to those laws.
  • We have nothing to boast about, just a gift to receive.
  • Paul summarised this in Ephesians 2:

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9not by works, so that no-one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.