God’s judgment defended
Romans 3:1-2, “1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”
The Jews are condemned along with the heathen, what advantage is there in being the chosen nation of God? Or what profit of circumcision? Since circumcision is the sign of Israel’s covenant relationship with God, what advantage is that relationship if being Jewish will not save? For the Jews, Paul’s picture that he is painting would be depressing. All of us-pagan Gentiles, humanitarians, and religious people-are condemned by our own actions. The law, which God gave to show the way to live, holds up our evil deeds to public view. Is there any hope for us? Paul says yes, for the law condemns us, it is true, but the law is not the basis of our hope. God himself is. He in his righteousness and wonderful love, offer us eternal life. We receive our salvation not through the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. We do not-cannot-earn it; we accept it as a gift from our loving heavenly father.
Oracles in vs.2 goes back to the Greek word logion, a diminutive form of the common NT word logos, which is normally translated “word.” These are important saying or messages, especially supernatural ones. Here Paul uses the word to encompass the entire OT-the Jews received the very words of the true God (Deut 4:1-2; 6:1-2; Mark 12:24; Luke 16:29; John 5:39). The Jews had a great advantage in having he OT, because it contained the truth about salvation (2 Tim 3:15) and about the gospel in its basic form (Gal 3:8). When Paul said “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2), he meant the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11) recorded in Scripture.
Digging deeper into the text we see that the Jews have numerous advantages (9:4). The Jews had the covenants and laws which had been handed or given to them by God Himself to the nation of Israel. This just harkens back for us to the understanding of all the Apostles that the Old Testament was inspired by God Himself. The Bible is still just as much relevant as it was back in the early church times as it is today. The Word of the Lord speaks across the vast expanse of time calling people to repent, believe and change their ways, so that they can come into relationship; having their own personal world line up in conformity with the plans, desires and ways of an all knowing, sovereign God. The Jewish nation had many advantages: 1) They were entrusted with God’s laws (“The whole revelation of God, “Exodus 19-20; Deut 4:8). 2) They were the race through whom the Messiah came to earth (Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 1:1-17). 3) They were the beneficiaries of the covenants with God himself (Genesis 17:1-16; Exodus 19:3-6). But these privileges did not make them better than anyone else (3:9). In fact, because of them the Jews were even more responsible to live up to God’s requirements.
Romans 3:3-4, “3For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:
"That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”
Paul anticipated that the Jewish readers would disagree with his statements that God has not guaranteed to fulfill His promise to every physical descendant of Abraham. They would argue that such teaching nullifies all the promises God made to the Jews in the OT. But his answer reflects both the explicit and implicit teaching of the OT; before any Jew, regardless of the purity of his lineage, can inherit the promises, he must come to repentance and faith (9:6-7; Is 55:6-7). The faithfulness of God refers to the fact God will fulfill all the promises made to the nation, even if individual Jews are not able to receive them because of their unbelief. Every man a liar: If all mankind were to agree that God had been unfaithful to His promises, it would only prove that all are liars and God is true (Titus 1:1). It is written just affirms the Old Testament’s validity to Paul and the Apostles. As it was written in this instance goes back to Psalm 51:4, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” David realized what every believer seeking forgiveness must, that even though he had tragically wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, his ultimate crime was against God and his holy law (2nd Sam 11:27); Romans 3:4; Psalm 51:4). Even if some Jews do not believe the Word of God, God will be faithful to what He has promised (Psalm 89:30-37). (develop further)
Romans 3:5-8, “5But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? 7For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?--as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. “
Paul anticipates and answers the objection that his teaching actually impugned the very holiness and purity of God’s character, which just goes back to what we are already developing. In the sight of God everyone stands condemned, for those who are outside of the scope and framework of the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ are alienated from relationship with Him, whether that person be a Jew or Gentile. The issue then becomes for Paul, but especially his readers the response. The response to the Law would lead one if they were honest to repentance rather than continued rejection of the truth which leads to a guilty conscience which further leads to a hard heart. Paul is trying to awaken the Jewish reader here to repentance and belief upon His name, which would lead them to repentance.
Demonstrates the righteousness of God goes back to 1:17. By contrast like a jeweler who displayed a diamond on black velvet to make the stone appear even more beautiful. I speak as a man: He is simply paraphrasing the weak, unbiblical logic of his opponents-the product of their natural, unregenerate minds. Paul’s viewing salvation from a merely earthly perspective. Paul asks: If humanity’s unrighteousness reveals God’s righteousness, then why should God punish unrighteousness? Paul explains that this is an absurd question that is nonetheless asked by many, when he adds parthetically, I speak as a man. The suggestion that God is unjust is ridiculous. Paul then answers his own question (v.5) with another question. IF God does not punish unrighteousness, then He is not just and there will be no Day of Judgment. The flaw in logic is evident: God’s justice demands that He judge unrighteousness. To claim that God is unjust because He judges is a ludicrous argument. The question in verse 7 is the same as the basic objection in v.5, except this time the sinner objects to being called a sinner if his or her sin enhances God’s truth.
Some may think they do not have to worry about sin because 1) it’s God’s job to forgive, 2) God is so loving that he won’t judge us; 3) sin isn’t so bad-it teaches us valuable lessons; or 4) we need to stay in touch with the culture around us. It is far too easy to take God’s grace for granted. But God cannot overlook sin. No mater how many excuses they make, sinners will have to answer to God for their sin. Paul then takes the erroneous argument a step further. If God can bring good out of evil, then we should not be judged for doing evil, because good may come out of it. God will be proved righteous and in that way glorified by our sin. Obviously such a position is preposterous. Paul does not even try to argue against such a senseless view; he simply assigns those who hold it to God’s judgment.
Pastor David Jenkins