Romans Bible Study #7 Romans 3:1-20 Word: Law
Here we go with Paul as he puts the nail in the coffin of human “goodness.” One last section of bad news before he un-wraps the good news. We cannot over-estimate how important this section on sin is. God’s order is clear we must see the absolute hopelessness of our situation BEFORE He reveals His mercy.
1 Then what advantage has the Jew ? Or what is the benefit of circumcision ? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. The truth of God, the Ten Commandments, they were and are perfect laws, so having them in your society is an advantage. Having them as the foundation of your culture is an advantage. Paul acts like he is starting a list, when he says, ’first of all’ but that is the only thing he actually says, at this point. The Bible says, "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;” Isaiah 40:4 Barth explains this verse in an amazing way. The Law, seen as a revelation of God, puts all men on ‘one line, and their secrets are judged before Him and Him alone.’ The power and intelligence of man, the human moral acheivements, all are brought down. Those who were seen as lacking these in human history are brought up, and the way that human wisdom saw and evaluated things is seen to be profane and trivial.
3 What then ? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." G_d - the Hebrews were smarter than us, they did not presume to even say or write His name. He is in need of nothing. He doesn’t benefit from anything we do and He is not “worse off” from anything we do either. He does love us, He is grieved when we choose death but this verse says our unbelief does not make Him any less - period. God is so beyond man, so separate from man, so ’other’ that all of our ’thinking’ is off We are unable to comprehend this until it is revealed to us by the grace of God. We ’naturally’ think that humankind is the center of all things. That our best efforts are impressive to God, but like David in Psalm 51, one revelation of the truth of God brings us to the place of seeing that our broken, contrite heart is all we can offer to God, and recognizing this is “victory.” 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say ? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world ? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner ? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say ), "Let us do evil that good may come "? Their condemnation is just . Yikes again! Here we have another verse, just like last study, where if you catch the full meaning of it, you will be astounded. Paul says the condemnation that people who try to play word games with the gospel get, is just. Remember we do not want justice from God, we want mercy. Those who are convicted in their heart that God’s word is true, and then try to twist it to fit into their own desires or to nullify it, have rejected HIM and receive only condemnation that is just. It is actually more scary than any situation one can imagine in this lifetime to be found standing before God on the day of judgment knowing that you ’knew’ God’s word was true but you played a “word game” to put it off. The reasoning and logic here is wrong because it assumes that men are in a position to further the truth of God by their actions. “That assumption is false. God is assuredly not the world, and is is impossible for men, etiher by their lies or by their obedience, to add anything to or subtract anything from His truth and glory. He triumphs whether He receives or rejects us, whether He condemns us or has mercy upon us. Whatever my fate may be I can only give honour to Him.” Karl Barth
9 What then ? Are we better than they? Not at all ; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin ; 10 as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE ; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD ; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS ; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." 13 "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS "; 14 "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS "; 15 "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, There is a progression here, from the inside to the outside- from the heart, to the actions. Our ‘problem’ is internal, who we are. It can not be fixed by any outward changes - who we are needs to change = born again. 17 AND THE PATH 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 closed and all the world may become accountable to God ; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight ; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. The Hebrews had the Law and they couldn’t keep it, so no society or people ever could.
The word LAW is mind-boggling. When used with a capital ‘L’ it is the revelation of God to Moses, the ten commandments. It is perfect and as such when it meets with our flesh it brings death. John Piper gave this example of the effect the law has on our flesh - causing us to know sin, (verse 20.) Your son brings in the mail, no sin in that, looks through the mail, still no sin, but then he comes to a letter, with a return address of the school board, addressed to “The parents of….” Now the Law has entered into the situation, and his flesh which had no desire to open the mail up until now is rising up and screaming open it. The Law has brought about the knowledge of sin that is inherent in all of us.
Next time together we revel in the goodness of God, revealed in the gospel.
"To work and run the law commands,
and gives me neither feet nor hands,
but better news the gospel brings,
it bids me fly and gives me wings."