Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romans Chapter Three - Part One

Romans Chapter 3 – Part One Romans 3:1-2 Condemnation Because Of Their Unbelief A characteristic mark of Paul’s style, particularly in this letter to the Romans, is to ask and answer an obvious question his discussion has raised in his readers’ minds. The natural response to the preceding material (Rom_2:17-29) is, What advantage (perrison, “overplus”), then, is there in being a Jew? Expressed in other words the question is, What value (ōpheleia, “advantage”) is there in circumcision? The first question pertains to Paul’s words in Rom_2:17-24, and the second question to his words in Rom_2:25-29. Paul’s response is immediate and direct: Much in every way! He was not saying that being a Jew or being circumcised had no gains. By the phrase First of all Paul suggested that he was going to list a number of items, though actually he stated only one. He did this same thing elsewhere (Rom_1:8; 1Co_11:18). In this case the item he stated is the most important and in a sense includes any others that could have been mentioned. The Jews have been entrusted (the Gr. past tense could be rendered “were entrusted”) with the very words (logia, pl. of logos, “word” or “statement”) of God. This can refer to the entire Old Testament but here it probably means just the promises and commands of God. Yet, though in that privileged position, the Jews were unable to live up to God’s standards. Paul asks this question as if another Jew is asking. It seems that the covenant that God made with Abraham (circumcision) is no advantage at all. Paul asks, what is the reason for circumcision, if it does not benefit the Jew? The non-Jew up until the time of Jesus had no chance of learning of the true God. The law was revealed to the natural Jew only at that time. The promises made were for the physical house of Israel until Jesus tore the middle wall of partition down in the temple when He gave His body on the cross for all mankind. The promise of the Messiah was to the physical house of Israel. The physical house of Israel (Jew) was the one taught in the temple the laws of God. They were the privileged few. “Oracles”: This Greek word is logian, a diminutive form of the common New Testament words logos, which is normally translated “word.” These are important sayings or messages, especially supernatural ones. Here Paul uses the word to encompass the entire Old Testament - the Jews received the very words of the true God. The Jews had a great advantage in having the Old Testament, because it contained the truth about salvation and about the gospel in its basic form. When Paul said “preach the Word”, he meant the oracles of God recorded in scripture. Romans 3:3-4 The fact that the chief benefit of being a Jew was being “entrusted with the very words of God” raised another question. What if some did not have faith? This verb “did not have faith” also means “be unfaithful.” This is preferred since the same verb is rendered “entrusted” in Rom_3:2. It is true that some Jews did not believe the promises of God, but also some Jews were unfaithful to their trust. Will their lack of faith (this noun can also mean “unfaithfulness,” which is preferred here) nullify God’s faithfulness? To that possibility Paul responded, Not at all (mē genoito, “Let it not be,” a frequent exclamation by Paul; cf. Rom_3:6, Rom_3:31; Rom_6:1, Rom_6:15; Rom_7:7, Rom_7:13; Rom_11:1, Rom_11:11). Though some Jews did not believe or were unfaithful (evidenced by their sinful conduct mentioned in Rom_2:21-23, Rom_2:25), God remains faithful to His Word (cf. Deu_7:9; 1Co_1:9; Heb_10:23; Heb_11:11; 1Pe_4:19). This concept of God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unbelief is developed more fully in Romans 9-11. Paul continued Let God be true and every man a liar. This means, “Let God keep on being true even though every man becomes a liar.” This idea is taken from Psa_116:11. As still further support, Paul quoted Psa_51:4. The fact that some reject the Truth does not make it any less the Truth. Some have not the faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Romans 10:9-10 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." We see in these Scriptures just what it takes to be saved. God will fulfill all the promises He made to the nation, even if individual Jews are not able to receive them because of their unbelief. If all mankind were to agree that God had been unfaithful to His promises, it would only prove that all are liars and God is true. Psalms 116:11 "I said in my haste, All men [are] liars." Hebrews 6:17 "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath:" Hebrews 6:18 "That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:" In the last 2 scriptures just quoted, you see the word immutable. Immutable means unchangeable or always the same we see above that men are liars, but it is impossible for God to lie, since He is the Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Every man and woman (one at a time) shall stand before this absolute Truth and be judged. We will be justified by Jesus Christ when we Christians stand before Him. Those who rejected Jesus as their personal Savior will be without excuse. In verses 5-8 Paul anticipates and answers the objection that his teaching actually impugned the very holiness and purity of God’s character. Romans 3:5-6 The apostle then pursued his argument with additional questions. The first is, What shall we say to the idea that the Jews’ unrighteousness served to accentuate God’s righteousness? Could they conclude that God’s wrath on Jews is therefore unjust? Paul immediately interjected, I am using a human argument, and responded with the answer, Certainly not! (mē genoito, the same response as in Rom_3:4; cf. Rom_3:31) If that were the case, that God were unfair in judging unfaithful Jews, then He would be barred from judging the world. And of course, that could not be. So, since God will judge the world (cf. Rom_2:5) He will not be unfair in extending His wrath on guilty Jews (cf. Rom_2:11). “Commend the righteousness of God”: By contrast, like a jeweler who displays a diamond on black velvet to make the stone appear even more beautiful (def: to express approval of; praise; To praise or acclaim) “I speak as a man”: He is simply paraphrasing the weak, unbiblical logic of his opponents – the product of their natural, unregenerate minds. We have no righteousness except that purchased for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Because we are unrighteous, do we presume to judge God for taking vengeance on our unrighteousness? As I said before, those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and take on His righteousness are without excuse and deserve God's vengeance. Paul’s point is that if God condoned sin, He would have no equitable, righteous basis for judgment. One thing we can surely depend on is that God is just. God has made a way out for the unrighteous. They must accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and then they will be judged righteous, because they have taken on Jesus' righteousness. There are only 2 types of people as far as God is concerned (those who accept Jesus and those who do not). Romans 3:7-8 A second question is this: If someone’s lack of truth enhances God’s truthfulness, how can God in fairness condemn (lit., “judge”) him as a sinner? In other words, since sin seemingly benefits God, how could He turn around and judge sinners for their sin? Paul raised these two questions, which are examples of unsaved people’s casuistry, because some opponents were falsely accusing him of advancing them and proclaiming, Let us do evil (lit., “the evil things”) that good (lit., “the good things”) may result. We might try to justify our sin before God, telling God that our lie makes His Truth even greater, but He will not go for that flimsy excuse. The apostle did not reply to these slanders. He assigned such persons to God and simply observed, Their condemnation (krima, “judgment”) is deserved. Later, however, he did discuss a similar question (Rom_6:1). To suggest, as did these two questions (Rom_3:5, Rom_3:7), that God is unfair in condemning sin is to blaspheme the very nature of God. Such persons who question God’s condemning are therefore themselves condemned! Paul is saying, here, that some liars are going around saying, that He says do evil so that God's good will be greater. Paul just simply says they are lying. They not only lie, but their condemnation is just. Tragically, the apostle’s gospel message of salvation by grace through faith alone had been perverted by his opponents who argued it provided not only a license to sin, but outright encouragement to do so. In verses 9-20 Paul concludes his indictment of mankind with this summary: Jew and Gentile alike stand guilty before God. Romans 3:9 Condemnation against all human beings In this section Paul concluded not only his indictment of the Jews but also the first section of his discussion that God’s righteousness is revealed in condemnation against the sinful human race. All Are Under Sin Paul asked, What shall we conclude then? and, Are we any better? The exact meaning of this Greek verb proechometha (used only here in the NT) is difficult to determine. It seems best to take the question as coming from Jewish readers to whom Paul has just been writing and to translate it, “Are we preferred?” Both the material preceding and Paul’s answer (Not at all!) support this solution. “Not at all” is literally “not by any means.” This is not Paul’s characteristic mē genoito, used in Rom_3:3, Rom_3:6, Rom_3:31, and elsewhere. Jews have advantages over Gentiles (Rom_2:17-20; Rom_3:1-2), but God does not give them preferential treatment. “Are we better”: “We” probably refers to the Christians in Rome who will receive this letter. Christians do not have an intrinsically superior nature to all those Paul has shown to stand under God’s condemnation. “Under sin” means completely enslaved and dominated by sin. As evidence that the Jews have no preferred position, Paul stated that he had previously accused both Jews and Gentiles as all under sin, that is, they stand under sin’s power and control and under the condemnation that results from it (cf. Rom_1:18; Rom_2:5). The order of accusation was first Gentiles (1:18-2:16) and then Jews (Rom_2:1-29). This order is reversed here because the Jews were most recently discussed. Romans 3:10-12 To validate his accusation that everybody is “under sin” Paul quoted in Rom_3:10-18 from six Old Testament passages. Rom_3:10-12, taken from Psa_14:1-3, makes the point that all people without exception are not righteous (cf. Rom_1:18, Rom_1:29-31), do not understand God (cf. Rom_1:18, Rom_1:28) nor seek (lit., “seek out”) Him, have turned away from Him (cf. Rom_2:5; Isa_53:5), are worthless (from achreioō, “become useless,” used only here in the NT), and do not do good (chrēstotēta, “kindness,” or “benevolence in action”; cf. 2Co_6:6; Gal_5:22. In the 23rd verse of this chapter Paul makes it very clear that all have sinned. Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Psalms 14:1 "fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, [there is] none that doeth good." The Jews could not and did not keep the law and the heathen did not even have a law to keep. Man is universally evil. All have sinned, but praise God, He sent a Savior named Jesus Christ. His righteousness is what we must have. Our righteousness is but filthy rags. “None … understandeth”: Man is unable to comprehend the truth of God or grasp His standard of righteousness. Sadly, his spiritual ignorance does not result from a lack of opportunity, but is an expression of his depravity and rebellion. “None … seeketh”: This verse clearly implies that the world’s false religions are fallen man’s attempts to escape the true God, not to seek Him. Man’s natural tendency is to seek his own interest, but his only hope is for God to seek him. It is only as a result of God’s work in the heart that anyone seeks Him. This describes our generation perfectly. It seems there is no one seeking after God; or at least very few. If we seek God we will find Him. Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:" Even the Jews who had the law were not keeping it. The priests were twisting the law around and carrying their own customs out in the temple rather than carrying out God's law. Jesus came to save the lost world. Just as this Scripture says, no one truly deserves to be saved. Basically meaning: “To go or choose the wrong way”, much as a soldier running the wrong way or deserting. All men are inclined to leave God’s way and pursue their own. “None that doeth good”: Nine times in verses 10-17 Paul uses words such as “none” and “all” to show the universality of human sin and rebellion. Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit people cannot exhibit this fruit of the Spirit (Gal_5:22). They have no inner spiritual capacity whereby they can normally and automatically exercise genuine kindness toward others. Instead sin causes them to be selfish and self-centered. These seven condemnatory phrases end with the words not even one, which are also in Rom_3:10. This repetition stresses that not a single exception in the human race (except, of course, the Son of God) can be found. Though Paul did not quote Ps. 14:2 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men,” that verse is significant, for what follows in that psalm is God’s indictment of humanity. Romans 3:13-18 These verses describe the vileness and wickedness of various parts of the human body, indicating figuratively that every part contributes to a person’s condemnation. In sequence these quotations are taken from Psa_5:9 (Rom_3:13); Psa_140:3 (Rom_3:13); Psa_10:7 (Rom_3:14); Isa_59:7-8 (Rom_3:15-17); and Psa_36:1 (Rom_3:18). They pertain to three actions: talking (throats… tongues… lips… mouths; Rom_3:13-14), conduct (feet; Rom_3:15-17) and seeing (eyes; Rom_3:18). Their speech is corrupt (open graves; cf. Jas_3:6), dishonest (deceit; cf. Psa_36:3), damaging (poison; cf. Jas_3:8), and blasphemous (cursing and bitterness; cf. Jas_3:9-10). From talking of sin, they commit sin, even to the point of quickly murdering (cf. Pro_1:11-12, Pro_1:15-16). There is a similar Scripture in Psalms. Psalms 140:3 "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison [is] under their lips. Selah." We see from this that the tongue can be a very evil and hurtful instrument when it speaks from an evil heart. I believe that is what is meant by the throat being an open sepulcher. Look with me in the book of James to see some of this. James 3:6-8 " And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:" "But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." A sepulcher is a tomb or in this case, like an open grave. These were sealed not only to show respect for the deceased, but to hide the sight and stench of the body’s decay. As an unsealed tomb allows those who pass to see and smell what is inside, the unregenerate man’s open throat, that is the foul words that come from it, reveal the decay of his heart. When we receive Jesus as our Savior, the very first member of our body that we should turn over to Jesus is our tongue. The natural tongue is very evil, if not controlled by the Spirit. What generation in all of history has been guiltier of cursing than the present? Every movie, or at least the vast majority of them, contains terrible cursing. Bitterness and strife are on every hand. Bitterness against parents is perhaps #1 on the list. This is quoted from Psalm 10:7. It refers to wanting the worst for someone and publicly expressing that desire in caustic, derisive language. Bitterness could be described as the open, public expression of emotional hostility against one’s enemy. This is speaking of evil men; of course we know that some of the Jewish leaders of the church wanted all the Christians killed. They even thought they were doing God a favor to kill the Christians. As a result they and others are destroyed materially and spiritually, are miserable, and know no inner peace (cf. Isa_57:21). All this is summarized in Paul’s words, There is no fear of God before their eyes. Fearing God (i.e., reverencing Him by worship, trust, obedience, and service) is the essence of a godly person (cf. Job_28:28; Pro_1:7; Pro_9:10; Ecc_12:13). So for a Jew not to fear God was the height of sin and folly. In these verses (Rom_3:10-18) Paul left no basis whatsoever for Jewish readers to say that his point that Jews are sinners contradicts the Old Testament! The next few verses are describing people without understanding. They are without the love of God within them. Their desire is to destroy and make others miserable. This really is like so many gangs in our country today. They have no desire to build, just to tear down and destroy what someone else has built. They like to make others miserable thinking with their perverted mind that seeing someone more miserable than themselves will bring them happiness. They are not peace makers. How could they fear what they do not know? They do not know God. Man damages and destroys everything he touches, leaving a trail of pain and suffering in his wake. Not the lack of an inner sense of peace, but man’s tendency toward strife and conflict, whether between individuals or nations. Man’s true spiritual condition is nowhere more clearly seen than in the absence of a proper submission to and reverence for God. Biblical fear for God consists of: (1) Awe of His greatness and glory, and (2) Dread of the results of violating that holy nature.