Summary: The Bible is an advantage only when we conform our lives to His Word rather than conform His Word to our lives
Since our dog chewed up the old one, last week I had to go get a new backwash hose for our pool. So when we were at Wal-Mart picking up a few other things, we grabbed the only one they had. Although the package said the hose would fit the 1-1/2” pipe on my pool filter it turns out it wasn’t nearly big enough to do that. So I had a choice, I could either try to stretch the hose to fit the larger pipe or I could get a reducer for the pipe that would reduce it to the same size as the hose.
While it sounds like either of those options might work, in reality only one would be a lasting solution. I could try and stretch the hose, but even if I could stretch it enough it to fit the larger pipe, it wouldn’t be too long until it burst. So I chose to get a reducer and conform the pipe to the hose rather than to try and conform the hose to the pipe.
During that process, it occurred to me that my dilemma was a perfect illustration of the two options we have when it comes to applying the Bible in our lives. We can either attempt to conform our lives to the Word of God or we can try to conform the Word of God to our lives. And only one of those two options works in the long run. This morning as we examine God’s Word we’re going to discover that…
The Bible is an advantage
only when we conform our lives to His Word
rather than conform His Word to our lives
This morning we’re going to return to the Book of Romans. Hopefully, you’ll remember that last fall we began our look at that important book of Scripture with the idea of returning to it every year for several months in the fall. So last fall, we spent about three months looking at the first two chapters of Romans. My plan is that between now and the end of November, when we start a series of Christmas messages, we’ll cover the next three chapters of Romans.
Since it’s been a while, it’s probably a good idea to briefly summarize the first two chapters of the book. Paul began in chapter 1 by introducing the gospel and then he proceeded to show why that gospel was needed. At the end of chapter 1, he primarily addresses the Gentiles and argues that even they have no excuse for their rejection of God because His nature and character is revealed in His creation. His audience, which likely consisted primarily of Jewish Christians, certainly had no problem with that.
But then in chapter 2, Paul lays out his case that the Jews are also equally in need of the gospel because God is more concerned with their hearts than with outward signs of their religion. And their hearts were no more righteous than those of the Gentiles.
As we come to chapter 3, Paul is going to address some of the objections he expects from his audience by using a teaching method known as a diatribe, which is basically a series of questions and answers with an imaginary opponent.
I hope that you’ve taken some time to read this passage before this morning and if you have, you may have had a hard time following Paul’s line of thinking here. If you did, then you have a lot of company, including me. When I first began looking at this passage a couple weeks ago, I struggled to follow Paul’s logic here and I thought maybe it was just me. But then as I began to read some other sermons and commentaries, I found that I, too, was in good company and that many men much more learned than I consider this to be the most difficult passage in Romans. So we’ve got our work cut out for us this morning. But I’m confident that we’re up to the task.
Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 3 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 1:
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of 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 every one were a liar, as it 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! For then how could God judge the world? But if 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 slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.