Romans 3. Paul is steadily building his argument that all are unrighteous before a holy God, that we need the righteousness of Christ received by faith alone. If you look to the reading of God’s word, though, if you would please join me in prayer. We give thanks to you, a Lord of lords, for your steadfast love endures forever. You alone do great wonders, and by your you’ve made the heavens, you spread out the Earth above the waters, you made the sun, the moon, and all the starry hosts. Lord, we see your glory in the revelation of your creation. And we would ask that you would give us this day your special revelation into your word. Allow us to look upon the radiance of your truth here this day, even as we ask through our savior Jesus. Amen. First 8 verses. And what advantage has the Jew, or what is the of a circumcision. Much in every way, to begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means. Let God be true, though everyone were a liar, as is written, that you may be justified in your words and prevail when you are judged.
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. By no means. Then how could God judge the world? For through my lie, God’s truth abounds to his glory. Why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come? As some people slanderishly They charge us with saying, Their condamation is just. The word of Lord. A man and his wife were traveling from England to New Zealand, and a close friend had asked them if they would deliver a very valuable necklace to another member of the family there. They didn’t want to entrust such a valuable piece through the postal service, and everything went okay. They were greatly relieved when they handed it off to that family member because they had been entrusted with something that was valuable, both in terms of money and as well as it was a family heirloom. Imagine if you were on plane, you would be very aware of where the necklace was at all times. You have it on your person, you put it in the overhead, you put it in a seating front of you.
You’d be nervous about that. Certain level of stress in going to sleep on a long flight. What would you do if something happened? How would you face your friends? Be a bit nerve-wracking. And the man made this observation. He said, The point about being entrusted is that the thing that’s been given to you isn’t actually for you. It’s for the person to whom you’re supposed to deliver it. This is the point that Paul is making here in chapter 3. The Jewish people have been entrusted with the very words of God. They were given something extremely valuable and they were to carry it along and not just to keep it to themselves or get puffed up because of it. Paul here is using that as an example to show that the Jewish sin of the religious, they’re not better off than the Gentile sin of the irreligious. Because when it comes to standing on our own before God, no one is going to stand by our own merit for his righteousness. The religious have exchanged grace for entitlement. God owes me because I have special rights and privileges that other people don’t. And for the irreligious, it’s more that a person is indifferent to God.
Simply, ignore the consequences. You know, all dogs go to I don’t see why God is so worked up and upset about this thing with me. And yet, for both, for all of us, no one can stand worthy before God on our own achievements. We must receive our right standing through faith in Christ alone. Paul is going to give more of those details in the rest of chapter 3, the righteousness of Christ through faith alone. But here, he is laying the groundwork very clearly that That without it, nobody is going to stand. He has made very clear that when it comes to future judgment, God’s not going to play favorites. He judges impartially everyone. Whether you’re a lost prodigal like the Gentiles, you throw away God’s goodness with wild living and sin. Or maybe the other side, a lost older brother, like the Jews who think God owes them something or following the outward rules, even with a wayward inner heart. Paul has laid both down, saying, Neither one of you can stand before a righteous God. But Paul is anticipating a new objection coming from the Jewish side of things because he just hammered away at them.
He’s anticipating their objection, and he’s going to tell them quite clearly, being entrusted does not mean being entitled. Those are very different. You were entrusted with something, it doesn’t mean you are entitled. And he goes forward in verses 1-8 to describe that. Now, as Paul goes through these series of objections and answers, it’s rapid succession. It’s sometimes a bit hard to follow. If you read verses One to Eight, and we’re a little confused, you weren’t the only ones who struggled with this. Paul just brings this rapid fire series of arguments. He begins with, then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? And some Jewish readers might be a little miffed at Paul right now because you might be going, well, what about all the promises that God has made to us, Jewish people? Doesn’t that matter? We’re the chosen ones, right? Shouldn’t that be a benefit to us? Now, you might expect Paul to say at this point, yeah, it really doesn’t matter at all. But he doesn’t. What does he say? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the Oracles of God. Now, Paul is giving us a movie trailer, as it were.
It’s a short clip of what he’s going to go into more detail in in chapter 9. But he says that God has revealed his words through the Jewish people. That’s an enormous privilege. But they were entrusted with God’s word for the purpose of being a blessing to the nations. It was not to make them feel entitled and superior to the rest of the world. God had promised Abraham, Genesis 12, he said, In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. And then the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 49, speaking of Israel, I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. Like that valuable necklace, they were entrusted to pass it forward. Then Paul asked the next question, what if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? Now we’re at the heart of the matter of the covenant. What happens if God’s people don’t hold up their end of the deal? Won’t God be just giving up on all his promises if he judges us? Paul response by no means. The King James says, God forbid, the explanation point there shows the tone that he’s saying it in.
But God be true, though everyone were a liar as it is written. See, God is faithful to himself God. One commentator, he says, God’s righteousness is most basically his commitment to act in accordance with his own character. God is true to himself. He acts according to his own character. That is his righteousness. Our faithlessness, our covenant-breaking, it doesn’t change who God is. Paul then quotes from Psalm 51, it’s King David’s great confession of sin after he commits adultery and murder, that you may be justified in your words and prevail when you are judged. Saying God is equally faithful when he judges his people and when he fulfills his promises. David, the man after God’s own heart, the great Psalm of Israel, he did not have the righteousness that God required. And if God judged him, how much more the rest of Israel? No one is entitled to get away with their sin. And Paul anticipates in another objection in verse 5, But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? Like saying, Hey, my sin makes God look good. It wouldn’t be fair for him to judge me if it profits his purpose.
Paul’s response, By no means, God forbid, for how could God judge the world? If God lets you off because of your special position, then how can he judge anyone? And then he moves on to a more extreme objection in 7:8. But if through my lie, God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? Why not do evil that good may come? As some slanderishly charge us saying, Their condamnation is just. Saying, The ends don’t justify the means. If I rob a bank and in the process, I make the police look like heroes in catching me, then I shouldn’t go to jail, right? No judge is going to use that. Yeah, well, sure, you’re free. No, you committed robbery. You broke the law. It doesn’t matter if something good came from it. And others see that free grace part that Paul has been speaking about, and they think, well, if grace is so free and wonderful, why not just keep sinning? And when I need to, I just pull out the grace card, cancels it. Yes, We are justified by faith alone. But that faith is never alone. A heartfelt response of God’s Holiness demonstrates the reality of saving faith.
Obedience flows from our justification. A changed heart is demonstrated in the things that we do. Paul’s point here is that no Jewish person should feel entitled to God’s grace because they’re Jewish. They were entrusted with God’s word and promises, and they blew it. But God is not undone by their failure to be light to the world. His faithfulness, his righteousness has gone forward, and all of his promises are still good. He has kept his promises to Jesus, the Messiah, who is the true Israel of God. God must uphold his righteousness because every follower of God has failed. You and I included. It is the God man who does what we could not do. He completes both sides of the covenant. Why is that necessary? Because it’s much worse than you thought. In verse 9, What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. In chapter 9, Paul will mention some of the benefits for those who are Jewish. But as far as salvation goes, no Jewish person has kept the law perfectly. They are still under God’s just judgment. Why? He goes on, For we’ve already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin.
It might surprise you to know this is the first time in his letter that Paul uses the word sin. But what does it mean to be under sin? Sin is not just something wrong that we do. There is an actual power to it. Think about The person who starts drinking too much or doing drugs, at first it’s just fun. It just feels good. But what happens in the end is that this sin takes over the person’s life and they’re powerless to break it. We see that repeatedly with our sin, that it actually owns us at some point. Why do those who should know better judge other people for doing the very things that we do wrong? Because we’re slaves to sin. It’s easy to point it out in somebody else, even when we do it ourselves. Paul now gives us a series of several quotes from the Bible, and he’s showing us what the Oracles of God are telling us, the Oracles that the Jewish people were entrusted with. He begins from Psalm 14. None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands. No one seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together, they become worthless.
No one does good, not even one. You can hear that now. Someone’s going, Really, Paul? Come on. Nobody seeks God. Isn’t that really an overstatement? Are we all that bad? Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a bit here? Now, this does not mean that all people are as wicked as they possibly can be all the time. There are people out there who do nice things for sure. It does mean that in regards to God’s Holiness, everyone falls short. No one is earning anything to merit forgiveness. And most people think that deep down, they’re really not that bad. If you did a poll out there, Are you a terrible person? Not really. They could list several who are, but they’re not on the list. You might be, but they’re not. Why is that? Because we compare ourselves to people who are worse. We also think of sin as something wrong that we have done. But think about what Jesus told us with the story of the Good Samaritan. What makes the Samaritan good? It’s caring for someone else. To be righteous, we don’t just avoid doing wrong things, we actually do the right things. It’s not enough to keep from stealing someone’s car.
I think pretty much everybody here has achieved that level of righteousness. We’re not going to go out there and Mike’s going to have stolen your vehicle. We know that’s probably not going to happen. We are called to love others as ourselves. We’re called to give up our preferences for the preferences of others. Now, do you have that level of righteousness? A level that says, I will not only keep from cursing you, I will actually bless you even if you’re my enemy. Oh, that changes things, doesn’t it? Paul then gives a series of very dark quotes from Psalm 5 and Psalm 140, since their throat is in open grave, they use their tongue to deceive. The venom of ask is under their lips. Then from Psalm 10, Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. In their paths are ruin and misery. In the way of peace they have not known. Lastly, from Psalm 6, There’s no fear of God before their eyes. That’s a bleak picture. Scripture shows us that sin is first and foremost against God. Scripture tells us that our hearts, they’re not just weak and occasionally misleading.
No, our hearts are morally bankrupt on their own. This is a truth that has fallen on hard times, even in the churches. For many, God exists to make my life better and more more filled, more wonderful. There are books and series on how to have a better life in retirement and finances in the bedroom, in the classroom, and so forth. How to tap into a greater spiritual gifts and blessing, self-help therapy with a fish slapped on it. Someone goes, Well, I mean, the Bible talks about those things. Can’t we talk about those things, too? Well, yes, but always under the larger umbrella of the glory and the Majesty of God, revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, his only begotten son. Those other things are footnotes. They’re not the main attraction. They’re footnotes. And when you make those the main thing, we veer off. We no longer see our primary problem as our sin, as a front to the Holiness and the Righteousness of God. And invariably, then you take it down a path of how to have your best life now. It’s all self-focused. When God is removed from the center, we put ourselves there.
And Paul goes on, verse 19, 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. That’s the purpose of a law. Purpose of law holds you accountable. It tells you what the rules are. I’m sure you’ve seen these signs in tropical places, other things. In Hawaii, there’s several of these on different beaches. They’re warning signs on some beaches. Warning, rip tide. It might be no swimming, dangerous currents. Or sometimes they put up a sign and say, Warning, jellyfish present. Now, if you decide to jump in anyways, the sign did its part. It warned you. But the sign is no lifeguard after the fact. As you’re sucked out to see, the sign is not jumping in to save you. Its purpose was to tell you, Don’t be stupid. And that’s what the law does. Paul’s point is that we need a lifeguard. We need a savior. The law is not going to drag your sorry behind out of the water to start doing CPR compressions on you. That’s not what it does.
It just tells you, don’t do that. And Paul goes on, verse 20, For by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. The warning is there. A sinful heart thinks that when we see a sign that says, Stay out of the water, jellyfish present. That somehow God is trying to keep us from having fun, from flourishing. This is there to restrict us in some way from enjoyment. And we refuse to listen to the oracles of God. We look down and go, Oh, my. Those jellyfish are just magical in the water. Look at that. Wouldn’t it be so great to swim with them? A Portuguese man of war. I’m going in. That’s what we do. We somehow dilute ourselves in thinking this sin is going to be a great good in my life. And God knows it’s going to be a great scourge. We have a sin problem, and God is really going to judge us for it. I know that’s not a popular message today. I’m not sure it’s been that popular in any day. You’ve heard people say things like that, Well, what makes Jesus so special?
Why should I put my faith in something written that happened 2,000 years ago? Why this event? I appreciate how one writer puts it. He says, Projecting our hard-won democracy on the heavens, we demand that all humans just have the same vote and voice. How, we ask, can a unique act of God be fair? How is it fair that that one act of God now affects the entire world? You see, we believe we should all have equal access, equal opportunity. It’s a part of our ideological DNA to the core. But God is just and fair. That does not mean he treats us equally. Each of us come into the world with certain gifts, certain limitations that are not equal. My MBA career was dashed at birth. It’s not fair. Other people had the ability and the gifts. I don’t. It’s not equal. And Paul is saying, all people have fallen short. All people have misused the individual and various gifts that God has given to them in different proportions, in different ways, but all have misused them. And when we stop judging ourselves by our standards, by our intentions, by our comparison to others, and we start judging by God’s standard, by God’s righteousness, everything changes.
Because we’re quick to blame our problems on social inequalities, psychological deficiencies, extenuating circumstances. I am not responsible and accountable for my sins because of reasons. This Philomene. I appreciate Luke Timothy Johnson. He summed up our present age really well. He says, When we establish our life and our worth in a world that’s free from the Lord. It demands competition and hostility. Since life as a gift is rejected, then life on one’s own terms must be by means of having and possessing. And because they see the world as a closed system, then there is only a limited amount that can be had. My self-aggrandizing must come at the expense of yours. I am in competition with everyone for my life Life in my worth. Does that sound like the world we live in? The doggy dog world out there, there’s only so much of the pie and get your slice before somebody else gets theirs. Take a wedge of theirs if you have to, because that’s the only way you’re going to have life. It’s all about me. It is to this that Paul invites us to the open system of the Lord’s unlimited resources. Being justified by Christ, receiving a new heart, I now can confess my sin, and a spirit-led heart enables me to look beyond myself, to love others, to love God.
That’s the good news of Jesus. You don’t have to get sucked and trapped into this terrible downward spiral of just looking out for number one, of trying to please yourself and find your own satisfaction your own worth and value. Because invariably all that will do is make you compare to somebody else. And that means on Sundays, you’re doing pretty good. On Sundays, you’re not doing so well. It’s a fool’s game. It’s stacked against us from the start because it’s not acknowledging who we were made to be in God. And God is freeing us from that. We are covenant breakers, and he has fulfilled his end and our end through the personal work of Jesus. And that’s the good news. We’re not stuck in that. And if your sin is not of any consequence, it’s something you just dismiss, all of this has very little value. If you have just eaten a a full meal and somebody else presents another meal before you, it’s just, take it away. I’m full. I don’t need this. But when the Lord opens our eyes to see the desperate state of our heart, how famished we are for his goodness, his truth, and his beauty, it changes everything.
It changes how we see ourselves, how we see God’s commands. A desire then to please him because of what he has done, to step out in new and fresh obedience of repentance and renewal. To be able to see the warning signs that God has put up and go, You know, he has done this for my good, not to restrict me, that I can live in the world that he has made, freely, loving others as I have been loved, Not just doing the minimum of don’t do this. The law also includes love your neighbor as yourself. It isn’t just avoid the basement sin. It elevates us to be what God has called us to be. The high bar now becomes the goal. And the heart that is being renewed, the Holy spirit at work in us, changing us. So we love the world around us with a new love because it comes and emanates from God himself, not from our own sinful and selfish hearts. That is a picture we’re not only living by, but presenting to a world that is this lost in a wash and filth. And filth that it calls clean. I appreciate C.
S. Lewis comment. He said, When poisons become fashionable, they do not cease to kill. We have a lot of fashionable poisons in our society right now, and they are killing us. It is our sin, our distance from God, that he alone can bridge in the personal work of his son. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you, we recognize all of us have fallen short. None of us seek your righteousness. And Father, we would ask not only that you would forgive us, but Lord, as believers, that you would continue to instill in us a desire and a new affection. Father, that your spirit, that he would lead us in paths of righteousness and Holiness and joy. Open before us, Father, the fullness of what you have created us to be in you. And Father, we ask, too, that you would forgive us where we have made secondary things more important. Help us to see the Majesty and the glory of Jesus in all that we do. And Father, again, I would pray, if there are any here who do not know you, that you would open their eyes to see, their ears to hear, the clear call of the saving work of Jesus.
And this we would pray and ask in his mighty name. Amen.
Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.