1. For the past four weeks we have studied the apostle Paul's withering attack on the notion that it is possible for any person to be "good enough" to withstand the judgment of God. Utilizing every intellectual, philosophical and theological teaching tool available, Paul in Romans 1:18-3:20 assembles an airtight case against his two most persistent philosophical opponents:
a. Gentile moralists who practice "righteousness by w __ __ __ __" and
b. Jewish legalists who practice "righteousness by l __ __."
2. Paul's argument is summarized in Romans 3:9-18, a passage used by the Reformation leaders as the Scripture reference for the doctrine of the t __ __ __ __ d __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ of man.
3. Paul charges in Romans 3:9 that all people -- Gentile and Jew alike -- are "u __ __ __ __" sin:
- under the j __ __ __ __ __ __ __ of sin;
- under the w __ __ __ __ __ of sin;
- under the p __ __ __ __ of sin.
a. "We speak this way, somewhat metaphorically. When we get behind in our work, or behind in our payments, or whatever, when we have lost that sense of being on top of things, we say we are underneath it all. Being 'under' suggests the metaphor of being weighted down by a terrible burden, a heavy obstacle that seeks to crush us. We think, for example, of John Bunyan's imagery of the pilgrim, Christian, who goes through life stumbling underneath the dreadful weight of sin that is crushing him. It is only when he comes to the foot of the cross and meets the Saviour that the burden rolls off his back and he is able to stand upright, free, once again. Paul is saying that everybody, Jew and Gentile, is under sin." - R.C. Sproul: Romans
b. "Paul appears almost to personify sin as a cruel tyrant who holds the human race imprisoned in guilt and under judgment. Sin is on top of us, weighs us down, and is a crushing burden." - John Stott: Romans: God's Good News for the World
c. "Under sin is a crucial motif in Paul. The apostle, of course, believed that persons were responsible for individual transgressions, but such transgressions were only symptoms of an inner grip of evil on the human race. Paul seldom speaks of sins (as individual acts), but rather of sin as a singular nature, which he tends to personify. Sin is an external power which enslaves humanity (6:16), and indeed all creation (8:21). Sin is more than a composite of human evil, more than a simple equation that sin equals the sum of human badness. In Paul's thinking sin carries two paradoxical and unresolved tensions: people sin willingly, but inevitably. Sin is freely chosen (otherwise it would not be sin), but there is a 'gravitational pull' to sin, a tyranny or domination against which humanity is powerless to contend. Humanity, in other words, is not free not to sin. Sin is thus not an occasional slip or mistake, but a personal collaboration with a suprapersonal power (Eph. 2:2) which overshadows and tragically infects the world." - James Edwards: Romans (Vol. 6: New International Biblical Commentary)
4. Last week's text passage was concluded in Romans 3:19-20. Two powerful images are set forth in these verses.
a. V.19 declares the whole world g __ __ __ __ __ before God. Of what is all mankind guilty? The answer is: u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. The evidence is so overwhelming, so well-documented, so completely convincing, that the only possible correct response to it by every person, Paul insists, is s __ __ __ __ __ __.
(1) "Paul is drawing a courtroom scene, and God is sitting on the bench. The indictment is being read to the defendant -- fallen man. Can you imagine being brought into a courtroom, having an indictment read and then having the judge say to you, 'How do you plead?' As you start to give a defense, suddenly the judge cuts you off in mid-sentence and says, 'You may not speak!' There is a certain sense in which the judgment scene of the human race will happen like that." - R.C. Sproul: Op. cit.
(2) Psalm 46:10 contains the familiar "Be s __ __ __ __ and know that I am God." We most often think of this phrase as one which invokes a quiet stillness, in optimistic anticipation of some encouraging, praise-worthy Word from God. This is a misplaced understanding of the passage. The Hebrew language used here is extremely strong, and is most correctly seen in the context of Romans 3:19. The psalmist is having God say, "Shut up! Be quiet! Not another word! Don't you get it? I AM GOD!"