Summary: If one thing is clear, from the book of Romans, it should be that everyone stands guilty before God. Not only are those who reject God found guilty, but also those who acknowledge God and live by high religious standards. Why? Because we have all sinned.
In Hans Christian Andersen's story of The Emperor's New Clothes the Emperor parades before his whole populous without any clothes on. He had been convinced that he was wearing clothes which were invisible to everyone but the wise and pure in heart. The people, not wanting to appear stupid, joined together in praising his beautiful new clothing - until a child was heard to say, "The Emperor has no clothes!" Then the truth was known, and it was an embarrassing truth indeed.
That story could be a parable representing the current condition of humankind. The situation as it stands in our world today is one in which people believe that they are OK, when in fact they are not OK. In fact, no one is OK. We try to cover ourselves with many excuses and arguments concerning why we are doing just fine. We reason with others and with ourselves in order to excuse our behavior and situation. And we may even be able to convince many people by our arguments. But God knows the truth and, like the little child in the story of the emperor with no clothes, our condition will soon be clear.
If one thing is clear, from the book of Romans, it should be that everyone stands guilty before God. Not only are those who reject God found guilty, but also those who acknowledge God and live by high religious standards. Why? Because we have all sinned. We cannot live even by our own standards. And so, the entire human race stands condemned.
Do you find yourself making excuses for yourself for not trusting God? Have you heard others making their own excuses for not trusting Christ? Our arguments may convince others, as we hold them up to the light of God's word, they lose their substance.
Paul anticipates a number of arguments which might come up from the Jews who would read his letter. Paul deals with their faulty thinking one by one. In the end, all arguments are disposed of, as God's righteousness is revealed.
The first issue that is dealt with is the idea of religious privilege. The Jews reading this letter would see clearly that even Jews were lost. Their complaint was that if the Jews were lost - what advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? They were wondering what good all of this religious teaching, outward compliance with the Law, and exposure to the word of God would do them.
Did they have any advantage at all? Paul says, Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. The Jews were not like other people who had lived their lives in darkness and ignorance. The Jews had been entrusted with God’s word. They had the Scriptures. And this gave them a tremendous advantage over people who had never been exposed to the revelation of God.
In this revelation of God we find the truth about God and about us. The Scriptures show God in all of His majesty and eternal splendor. The Bible discloses who God is and how He has reached out in love to every single one of us. In addition, this revelation of God reveals to us who we are. It reveals how we are alienated from God and in need of a supernatural intervention. A supernatural intervention that only Jesus Christ could accomplish. It also reveals that we cannot make ourselves good by trying to be good, by trying to do good work. It reveals that our lives should have meaning and purpose and can only find that meaning and purpose in God Himself. So, having the very words of God is in itself a great advantage. It was for the Jews, and it is for us today.
The next issue is God's faithfulness. God made promises to the Jews. He made a covenant with them. Could they then question God's reliability to honor the covenant because of their lack of faith?
What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?
Has God suddenly changed in the way He deals with us? Is it possible for us to make Him responsible for our failure to be faithful to Him? This is an argument that can be very easily made today. When we fail, we look at God and ask Him why He didn't protect us . We say to God, “Where are you,” "What's wrong with You God? Why didn't You do something to keep me out of this situation?" But this is faulty reasoning. Notice what Paul says next:
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."