The last time we met we asked the question, “Is it better to hear and not do, or is it better to do and not hear?”
We considered the situation that the Jews faced at the time of Paul’s writing
We talked about the fact that Gentiles who did not have the Law, were doing what the Law required – But the Jews (who had the Law) were not doing what the Law required
We considered the role of the “heart” in all this
We concluded that the heart is the “control center” of the person’s whole being
Every thought we think, every decision we make, and every emotion we feel comes from the “heart”
The Bible tells us that the “heart” is the “inner self” of a person – It is the actual (real) person – The body is just the vehicle that carries the real person
We also talked about the role of the conscience
The fact that the conscience was given to us as a compass – It is the part of us that tells us what is right and what is wrong – What is okay to do, and what is not okay to do
It is the built in moral compass that helps us live a right life
Together, the heart and the conscience give us a powerful tool to live in this world and make right decisions, the most important of which is Jesus Christ – How will we use the “heart” and the “conscience” when it comes to the Son of God?
Will we believe and choose to live for Him, or will we not believe and choose to live for ourselves?
This is the big question, and the question that will determine our eternal destiny
So, today we will begin to study chapter 3, and see what the Lord has for us in this section
Now remember, Paul has been making the case that the Jews are not better off than the Gentiles – Just because they are of the lineage of Abraham and God’s chosen people does not make them exempt from making right decisions
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. 3 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 are judged.”
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? (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.
9 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.”
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. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
What I want us to consider tonight is this:
Is God Unfaithful?
Is God unfair, is He unjust, does He choose people and then forget them? Has He chosen the Jews and now forsaken them?
To this I will say absolutely not!
But let’s see what the Word says
Paul begins and says, “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. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Romans 3:1-3
Paul is asking a hypothetical question here
And in light of what he has already presented in the preceding chapter (i.e. the guilt of the Jews) he is now asking what advantage is there in being a Jew (if all Jews are guilty)
In other words, if Jews are guilty the same way that Gentiles are guilty, then is there any advantage in being a Jew? – What’s the point, why do all the things that Jews are supposed to do (circumcision, sacrifices, feast days, kosher meals etc.)
Well, Paul answers this question and says, “much in every way”
In other words, “Yes, of course there is an advantage!”
“To begin with” he says, we have been “entrusted with the oracles of God” – We have been given the privilege of being the people to whom God has spoken – He has given us His Word (We need to remember that when Paul was writing this letter there was no such thing as the “New Testament”
It was being written, but it was not yet complete – The Jews on the other hand had the Old Testament in their possession for thousands of years
They had the Law of God, the Word of God, the Oracles of God
But Paul asks the question, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Romans 3:3
In other words, If God chose these people, if He chose to reveal Himself to them in His Word, and they are still “unfaithful” (unbelieving) then does that mean that God has failed?
Remember, the Jews had rejected Christ
Paul answers and says, “By no means!” “Absolutely not!” “No way!” – God has not failed!
“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 are judged’” Romans 3:4
This is a quote from Psalm 51, if you remember Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance from the heart of David, after he murdered Uriah and took his wife as his own
What Paul is saying is, God is never wrong, He is always true, He is always faithful – No matter what we do, God never breaks His promises
We’ve all heard the saying, “If God feels distant, it’s not Him that moved, but us”
God is faithful all the time
Did you know that God Himself says He is faithful – We read it all over the Bible, and all of the Bible is God’s Word – But did you know that there is a specific passage of Scripture that God Himself (audibly) speaks and tells us who He is? – In fact He tells us that this is His name!
Exodus 34:5-7 says, 5 “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there (i.e. Moses), and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7
This is a huge verse, because it is God’s self-disclosure of Himself
So, God is saying, “Pay attention, this is very important!”
You see, back in those days, they did not have highlighters, they did not italicize, or underline, (they did not even use exclamation marks!), but the way they communicated that something is really important is by repeating it
So, in this passage, God is telling Moses who He is, and He says, “YHWH, YHWH!” (The Lord, the Lord!)
Another way of saying, “This is who I am!!!”
This is also the most quoted passage of the Bible by the Bible – The prophets, the kings, and the apostles continually quote this passage to declare to the people who God is
So, God is always faithful, He tells us He is – In fact it is His name – His name is faithful
So, Paul is saying here in Romans that God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are
And this raises another question, (now hang in with me), “If God is always faithful, and we are unfaithful, does that mean that we should be unfaithful so that God will be more faithful?”
This is how Paul says it, 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? (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.” Romans 3:5-8
In other words, “If my sin causes God’s grace to be more graceful why not sin all the more?”
Is this a good question?
I think this is a good example of man’s perverted logic
Just because God is always faithful, does not mean that humans should incite His faithfulness with unfaithfulness (or incite His goodness by doing evil)
Paul answers this irrational statement to say, “Their condemnation is just” – If you sin for sin’s sake, you will die – In fact it shows that you are not a believer
So, God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are
Well, Paul goes on, and he re-states the same question as before, “What then? Are we Jews any better off?”Romans 3:9
Then he answers with, “No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks (i.e. Gentiles), are under sin” Romans 3:9
Then he quotes a bunch of verses to prove his point
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” Romans 3:10-12 (quoted from Ps. 14:1-3 and 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive” Romans 3:13a (quoted from Ps. 5:9)
“The venom of asps is under their lips” Romans 3:13b (quoted from Ps. 140:3)
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” Romans 3:14 (quoted from Ps. 10:7)
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known” Romans 3:15-16 (quoted from Is. 59:7-8)
Then he ends with, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” Romans 3:18 (quoted from Ps. 36:1)
Question is, why does Paul quote all these Old Testament verses?
He quotes them to communicate to the Jews that they are not as righteous as they think they are
This is their Book, these are their Scriptures, and these Scriptures are telling them that they are guilty before God
Again, the Jews thought they were okay with God, simply because they were Jews
And Paul is telling them that they are not – In fact they are just like the rest of mankind
They are broken, they don’t seek for God, they’re deceptive, they speak curses, they murder, they don’t know the way of peace, and they don’t fear God
Paul is making the claim that they are not what they think they are – He knows this, he was one of them
You know the story, Paul’s name was not always “Paul,” but was “Saul” – And he was a persecutor of God’s people
Listen to his testimony:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way (i.e. Christians) to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’” Acts 22:3-8
I believe, that in this moment, Paul finally realized how broken and messed up he was – He thought he was doing the will of God by killing people in the name of God!
You see, Paul (Saul) was being unfaithful, but God was being faithful
No matter how unfaithful humanity becomes, God will always be faithful
If God makes a promise, He fulfills it – If He says He is going to do something, He does it – If He says something will happen, it happens – Why? Because it’s who He is
He is “YHWH, YHWH” the One “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6
At the end of Paul’s life, when he is locked up in prison and waiting to be executed, he writes these words to his disciple and friend Timothy
“If we have died with Him (i.e. Jesus), we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself” 2Timothy 2:11-13
You see, what Paul is saying is, “We get want we want, we reap what we sow, but even if we are faithless toward Christ (God) Christ will never be faithless toward us”
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get what’s coming to us
If we are unfaithful toward God, we will get what we deserve, but God remains faithful
Again, if God feels distant, it’s not Him that moved, but us
Well, Paul concludes this section with these words, 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. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20
In other words, there is no excuse for anyone – Not the Jew and not the Gentile, all are guilty before God
But there is good news, God made a way for us to be acquitted, He has paid our fine, He has taken our punishment – He has made a way for us to be faithful – This includes the Jewish people
But that is for another day, see you next time