When Paul writes his letter to the Romans, Christianity was about 22 years old. The Holy Spirit was still in the process of revealing and defining NT doctrine through its writers. Misconceptions had arisen about the Christian faith and people needed to THINK CORRECTLY. More than any other NT writer, the apostle Paul defined the Christian faith with Romans.
Today we will look at a passage where the Holy Spirit is teaching Christians to think correctly!
Chapter 3 of Romans forms the Bridge between God’s Wrath and His Grace! In the first twenty verses, Paul deals with condemnation and concludes that the whole world—Jew and Gentile alike—is under sin and deserves God’s judgment. In verses 21-31, he introduces the theme of justification by faith, which will be his theme in the next two chapters.
Chapter 3 is really the seedbed for the rest of the book. This chapter is typical of the books of the prophets. It presents BAD NEWS and then GOOD NEWS. Four important questions are asked in BAD NEWS SECTION:
1. Is there any advantage in being a Jew if Jews are condemned?
2. Has Israel’s unbelief canceled God’s Word?
3. Why not sin and glorify God the more?
4. Is the Jew better than the Gentile?
Will look at Paul’s answer to the first three questions today.
IS THERE ANY ADVANTAGE IN BEING A JEW IF JEWS ARE CONDEMNED? Romans 3:1-2—
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.
If the preceding doctrine of Chapter 2 is true, it may be asked, “What advantage hath the Jew over the Gentile; and what profit is there in circumcision, if it does not save from sin?” If, on the contrary, the Jews, on account of their superior privileges, will be held more culpable before the tribunal of Divine justice, as the Apostle has just shown, it appears obviously improper to allege that God has favored the Jews more than the Gentiles.
So is there any advantage in being a Jew if Jews are condemned? The answer is YES because the Jews were given the very Word of God—His revealed will in His Word. The very fact that the Scriptures were committed to the Jew places him in an enviable position. God chose to reveal His mind to the Jews while Gentiles remained in darkness. This is worth everything!
Had Israel believed God’s Word and obeyed it, they would have been blessed of God and been the light of the World. If the nation would have received Christ and been saved, then, through Israel, God would have spread His blessings to the whole world.
Today we are privileged to have the Word of God. Whenever, we read hear or read the Bible, its like Moses coming to the burning bush. God speaks to us and reveals His will for our life.
May we never take His revelation for granted like the Jews did! While the Law, like all Scripture, is a great blessing in itself, the advantage of possessing it becomes a disadvantage through unbelief and sin.
A subordinate question is asked, “What value is there in circumcision?” Paul has already explained that there is no value in circumcision if one does not hear and obey the Law. For instance, he wrote in 2:13—
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Circumcision never made one person righteous in God’s sight, not even the father of the nation— Abraham—for Genesis 15:6 says—
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Abraham did not undergo circumcision until many years later according to Genesis 17. His faith made him righteous before God, not his circumcision. No outward rite, ritual or ceremony no matter how good or righteous will ever get anyone into heaven! There is only one way into heaven and that way is by faith.
And that faith must reside in God the Creator, who became flesh and lived among us. Christ died, rose and ascended to heaven so that we might be right with God.
Well! If circumcision does not make one right with God, what value is it? If Jew and Gentile are on the same footing with God, what value is there in being a circumcised Jew?
We might ask the similar question today. What advantage is their in church membership? Or value in baptism? Neither saves us!
But church membership and baptism are like circumcision; they are a sign or badge of salvation. They are a way of communicating to the world as well as to fellow believers who we are.
But if we’re not measuring up, then our church membership and our baptism are a disgrace; and instead of being sacred they blaspheme God’s name!
The distinction between the Jew and Gentile God had made Himself the moment He called Abraham. Not even Paul could stand up and say there was no difference, for there always had been. If, then, the life of the heart is more important than circumcision of the flesh, what has the choice of the Jew as a nation really amounted to anyway? By the very command of God, they had held themselves in a place of superiority to other men less favored.
Only Jews could approach God; no other member of the human race could do so without first changing his human nationality. Ruth the Moabite had to say, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth recognized that she had to become a Jew before she could have any relationship with God. Only after becoming a Jew, could a Gentile partake of the spiritual privileges. Privileges carry responsibilities.
God gave to the nation of Israel His Word—the OT. In particular, the Ten Commandments and the Tabernacle defined how man was to approach a Holy God and live in His presence in the OT times. The Jew had every advantage!
Today, the Christian stands in the place of the Jew. We have both the OT and NT as well as the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds! We have become the Temple of God. He lives in us!
Because the Jews rejected Christ, Israel advantage has been set aside in favor of the Church. But the Jew has not lost his advantage! God has not utterly forsaken Israel. Yes, the nation is in a state of unbelief right now! They have deserted God, but there is a day coming when He will save all Israel according to His promise in Zechariah 13:1—
On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
THAT DAY is the Day of the LORD. All Israel will be saved at some point in the seven year Tribulation Period. Israel is being preserved in the world in order to function in the future as God’s chosen people, but as for today, God’s chosen people are made up of every kingdom, tongue, tribe, and nation—of Jews and Gentiles—composed of every individual who is born again through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always test what a preacher or theologian believes about the promises of God with a question that goes something like this—“Is God finished with the nation of Israel?” At this point “great” theologians differ.
Covenant theologians or amillennialists spiritualize all the promises made to Israel and claim they are fulfilled in the Church. They teach that God is finished with Israel. These preachers and teachers nullify God’s faithfulness and make His truth a lie. Dispensationalists teach that God will remain true and faithful to His promises to Israel.
God will literally fulfill His promises to Israel. The Jews will inherit the Holy Land and His blessings as God has promised. Christ will sit on David’s throne and reign over the earth from Jerusalem. Therefore, God has a future for Israel as a nation as we will see in Chapters 9 to 11 of Romans.
It is important to think correctly about what God reveals in the Bible. When people buy into incorrect thinking, they are nullifying the Word of God. What is the result of their lack of faith? Does unbelief do away with God’s faithfulness or ability to keep His promises? Therefore, answers a most logical question …
HAS ISRAEL’S UNBELIEF CANCELED GOD’S WORD? Verses 3-4—
What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:
So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.
Has Israel’s unbelief canceled God’s Word? Since the Jew failed at his end, does that mean that God will turn back from His commitments? Of course not! The unbelief of people could never cancel the faithfulness of God. God is true though every man is a liar!
To substantiate this fact, Paul quotes part of Psalm 51, where King David confessed—
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
King David openly admitted his sin and God’s righteousness in judging him. Even in admitting his sins, David declared the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word. David’s sin had not cancel God’s Word or His commitments to it.
Also Paul uses this quote to say that God is right and just in embracing the Gentiles because of their faith and rejecting the Jews because of their unbelief.
All mankind needs to make David’s confession to the LORD—against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David deserved Hell but God gave him heaven! Why? Because he was better than anyone else! NO WAY! He was a dirty rotten sinner like everyone else. David was a man after God’s heart because he confessed His sin and recognized that God is right and justified in judging him. Therefore, David he cried out—
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Those who nullify God’s faithfulness by claim they don’t need God’s mercy and cleansing from sin are liars! The apostle wrote in 1 John 1:8-10—
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
If God is not just and faithful to His promises, we are miserably lost and without hope of eternal life. The Jews had deceived themselves into thinking they were right with God because they were circumcised and Jews. Being a Jew was special, but not for salvation!
In this light, Jews might object that God had been unfaithful to His covenant, in which case God would be unjust. But the issue here is that Israel had been unfaithful to the covenant, not that God had been. God had not forsaken the Jews and left them—they had forsaken God and left Him!
Many Christians need their thinking corrected when it comes to the doctrine of eternal security—once saved always saved. The Calvinists who teach this error point to Hebrews 13:5—
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
“That settles it” says the Calvinist, “God will never leave you nor forsake you.” They completely ignore the context of this promise. The writer first said, “keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Why did he say that? First, the love of money is root of all evil. Second, Jesus said in Matthew 6:24—
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
In other words, the love of money leads ultimately to deserting God and despising Him. God hasn’t left the lover of money, the idolater has left Him. He devotes himself to money and serves it instead of God. Such a person is condemned, not saved!
A more literal translation of Hebrews 13:5; reads something like this—
“No, I will not leave you; no, neither will I not utterly forsake you.”
These words were spoken to Joshua by the LORD and recorded in Joshua 1:5. However, the LORD laid down certain conditions to His promise in the next verses—
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
Obeying God’s Law is imperative to the fulfillment of His promise—never to leave nor forsake! Through the centuries Israel was not careful to obey all God’s Law and therefore, the nation not only deserted God, but often despised Him. The Jews of the first century had deserted God! So they despised Jesus. The religious leaders loved money and hated Jesus. But God had not deserted them—He had sent His Son to ransom and redeem them. They turned away from God; He didn’t turn away from them!
Many church people cling to this promise of God never leaving nor forsaking them and then live like the devil! The Book of Hebrews is were this promise is restated.
Like Romans, Hebrews is an explanation of Habakkuk 2:4— THE RIGHTEOUS WILL LIVE BY FAITH. Romans focus on righteousness, Galatians on live, and Hebrews on faith. Hebrews consists of a fivefold warning to the Christian to hold firmly to the faith we profess. It warns:
1. Do Not Drift
2. Do Not Disbelieve
3. Do Not Degenerate
4. Do Not Despise
5. Do Not Depart
The point is that God will not forsake Christians or leave; but the Christian may drift, disbelieve, degenerate, despise and depart the faith.
People who drift from faith and disbelieve Him, and they become degenerate. Thus, they despise God and depart Him—He does not leave nor forsake—they do it to Him! So Hebrews 2:1 warns that—
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
A major theme of the Book of Hebrews is that God has spoken—are you responding to His Word?
Israel failed to hear what God said and invoked His wrath. But in the overall picture, God remains faithful to Israel. Read the history of Israel in the OT. Many times as a nation and as individuals they deserted Him, but He never utterly forsake the nation! Time after time, He judged or disciplined the nation to get its attention. He kept His promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, whenever they did what He said—
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Eventually, God’s kindness, tolerance and patience runs out even with people who are called by His Name and He judges them! His punishment of sin exhibits His faithfulness to His righteous character.
An OT truth was that God received glory when He judged Israel. For example, the LORD declares in Ezekiel 39:21-23—
I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God. And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword.
So some with thinking that needs correction might ask . . . WHY NOT SIN AND GLORIFY GOD THE MORE? Verse 5-8—
But 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.)
Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”
Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.
Such thinking unveils the amazing depravity of the human heart to justify itself. Why not sin and glorify God the more? This kind of thinking needs to be corrected! Paul is abrupt and harsh. He says, “Their condemnation is deserved”—“their damnation is just!”
Those who think that God receives all the more honor and glory because they sin have been described in verse 21 of this chapter. Their thinking is futile and their foolish hearts are darkened. No one does God a favor by sinning! He is not glorified all the more by sin!
People who think this way, will turn around and say God is not justified in judging me because my sin increases His glory and enhances His truth. Such thinking is sheer folly!
If this were the case, God would never judge the world! Even Abraham recognized God is the Judge of the world when he pleaded with the LORD for the righteous of Sodom in Genesis 18:25—
Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Paul does not explain how God judges sin and gets glory from it; he merely states that all truth and justice would collapse if God did what such people claimed.
Paul’s Jewish enemies had lied about him and said the he taught the doctrine—“Let us do evil that good may result.” This statement is so contrary to all reason and Scripture that Paul dismisses it by saying that those who say such things deserve Hell.
This kind of reasoning makes God the author of sin. Look at verse 7—
Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”
SINNER was an awful insult in Jewish circles; for Paul to call EVERYONE SINNERS in Romans 1-2 was shocking. Yes, God can be glorified and His justice vindicated by human rebellion. He receives glory when a sinner repents and turns from his evil ways. But He does not receive glory when a sinner sins!
Paul like so many preachers often have to clear up misrepresentations of their teachings. One of the more difficult things in preaching and teaching God’s Word is to get people to think correctly. Many have preconceived ideas about God that are wrong! For some, they cannot fathom a loving God sending someone to everlasting darkness where there will be gnashing of teeth. They forget that God is holy.
Is God unjust in bringing His wrath on us? Does God have a right to judge me? Absolutely! For a righteousness apart from the law has been made known—and that righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe according to 3:21-22.
The very sending of Jesus Christ into the world proves that God has the right and does judge sin and that He will continue to judge sin in order to remain righteous and just. On the Cross, God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul’s point is that although God had given His promises to Israel, those promises did not mean that the unbelieving and unrepentant Jew could escape doom. Paul has already established God’s criteria for judgment in 2:11-12—
For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
Sin does not bring God glory! Trust and obedience does! As we begin 1999, let each of us commit ourselves to following our LORD. Let God guide you this year, and it will be a blessed year!