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Summary: a STUDY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM. THIS IS PART ONE OF TWO PARTS ON ROMANS CHAPTER THREE.

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RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

ROMANS 3:21-31

THERE ARE TIMES IN OUR LIVES WHERE SHORT SIMPLE WORDS CAN HAVE GREAT SIGNIFICANCE. CONSIDER THE HUSBAND IN THE WAITING ROOM AT THE HOSPITAL GOES BANANAS WHEN HE HEARS THE DOCTOR SAY “IT’S A BOY” OR “IT’S A GIRL”, OR THE SHEER LOOK OF TERROR IF THE DOCTOR UNEXPECTANTLY SAYS “TWINS”.

SOLDIERS WAIT IN NERVOUS ANTICIPATION FOR THE COMMAND TO “FIRE” AND THE BATTLE BEGINS. A YOUNG MAN ON ONE KNEE AWAITING AN ANSWER TO A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE CAN BRING EXTACY IN HIS LIFE IF SHE SAYS “YES”, OR GREAT DESPAIR IF SHE SAYS “NO”.

THE TWO SHORT WORDS AT THE BEGINNING OF OUR PASSAGE ARE VERY SIGNIFICANT. “BUT NOW” INDICATES A TRANSITION IN PAUL’S THOUGHT. IT IS A WONDERFUL TRANSITION FROM SPEAKING ABOUT THE UNISVERSAL GUILT AND ENSLAVEMENT TO SIN, TO THE GLORIOUS FREEDOM THAT CAN BE FOUND THROUGH SALVATION IN CHRIST. IT TELLS US OF THE PLAN FOR THAT SALVATION, AND WHAT WE MUST DO TO ATTAIN IT.

WE KNOW THAT PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS IS A GENERAL LETTER OF INTRODUCTION, MORE COMPREHENSIVE THAN HIS OTHER LETTERS BECAUSE HE HAS NEVER BEEN TO THE CHURCH IN ROME. HE WILL DEAL WITH A VARIETY OF ISSUES IN THIS LETTER, SOME OF WHICH WERE A REALITY IN THE CHURCH IN ROME, AND OTHERES WERE SITUATIONS THAT HE FACED IN THE WORLD AROUND HIM.

HIS POSITION ON SIN AND SALVATION HAD TO BE PRESENTED CLEARLY TO THE PEOPLE OF ROME, AND HE CHOSE TO INCLUDE THAT IN HIS LETTER AS OF PRIME IMPORTANCE. HE MOVES INTO THIS KEY ISSUE RIGHT AFTER HIS WORDS OF INTRODUCTION, AND WILL DEAL WITH ISSUES INVOLVING SALVATION UP TO AND INCLUDING CHAPTER FIVE.

PAUL WAS AN EVANGELISTIC MISSIONARY. HE WAS INTERESTED IN STARTING CHURCHES AND PRESENTING THE “GOOD NEWS” OF SALVATION IN CHRIST TO ALL WHO WOULD LISTEN.

THE PROBLEM THAT HE FACED IN DEALING WITH THE SIN ISSUE WAS LITERALLY HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF A MISUNDERSTOOD BELIEF. THE JEWS BELIEVED THEY WERE GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, AND OVER TIME THEIR BELIEF CHANGED TO ALSO BE GOD’S PRIVILEGED PEOPLE. THEY BELIEVED THEY HAD SPECIAL STATUS AS THEY HAD THE LAW, AND THE OUTWARD SIGNS OF SALVATION, AND THEREFORE WERE SUPERIOR TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. THEY BELIEVED THAT WHAT THEIR HERITAGE WOULD NOT COVER, THEIR WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WOULD.

GENTILES ON THE OTHER HAND HAD NO SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD. ROME WAS A CITY FILLED WITH TEMPLES AND GODS OF EVERY SORT. EVEN ROMAN EMPERORS WERE CONSIDERED DEVINE. SACRIFICES WERE MADE TO GENTILE GODS TO WAYLAY THEIR ANGER, WOO THEIR AFFECTION, AND TO WIN THEIR FAVOR.

THE GENTILES WERE SHOCKED TO DISCOVER THAT THE TRUE GOD WOULD OFFER ANYTHING FREE, THAT HE WOULD PROVIDE HIS OWN SACRIFICE, AND TURN AWAY HIS OWN WRATH, AND THAT ONCE TURNED AWAY, IT WOULD STAY AWAY.

PAUL USES ROMANS 1:18-3:20 TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE GUILT OF SINNERS. HE SHOCKED THE JEWS BY TELLING THEM THAT WHILE THEY WERE GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, THEY WERE STILL SINNERS, THAT THEY HAD NO SPECIAL STATUS AND WERE EQUALLY IN NEED OF THE GIFT OF SALVATION AS WERE THE GENTILES.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, THINGS HAVEN’T CHANGED THAT MUCH OVER THE YEARS. HOW MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY ARE IN A RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS WERE CHRISTIANS, OR BELIEVE THEY HAVE SPECIAL STATUS IN THE EYES OF GOD BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN A MEMBER OF A CHURCH FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS?

THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE GREAT DIFFICULTY BELIEVING THAT THE GIFT OF SALVATION IS OFFERED FREELY TO HUMANITY. ONE OF HUMANITY’S MOST DIFFICULT TASKS IS TO ACCEPT RIGHTEOUSNESS AS A GIFT. WITH EVERY FIBRE OF OUR MORAL BEING WE WANT TO BE IN CONTROL OF IT, WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING TO EARN IT.

OSWALD CHAMBERS WROTE:

“THERE IS A CERTAIN PRIDE IN PEOPLE THAT CAUSES THEM TO GIVE AND TO GIVE, BUT TO COME AND ACCEPT A GIFT IS ANOTHER THING. I WILL GIVE MY LIFE TO MARETYRDOM; I WILL DEDICATE MY LIFE TO SERVICE. I WILL DO ANYTHING. BUT DO NOT HUMILIATE ME TO THE LEVEL OF THE MOST HELL-DESERVING SINNER, AND TELL ME THAT ALL I HAVE TO DO IS ACCEPT THE GIFT OF SALVATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.”

THE DIFFICULT THING THAT PAUL HAD TO DO, WAS TO GET THE BOTH THE JEWS AND GENTILES TO FORGET THEIR HISTORY AND LEARN ABOUT THE NEW ERA OF SALVATION. THEY WERE A PEOPLE WHO WERE AS ONE WRITER SAID “THEOLOGICALLY DISFUNCTIONAL.”

COMPARE IT TO RENOVATING A HOME RATHER THAN BUILDING NEW. WHAT MUST HAPPEN IS THAT THE EXISTING STRUCTURE MUST BE BROKEN DOWN IN ORDER TO ALLOW FOR THE NEW STRUCTURE TO TAKE FORM. PAUL HAD TO BREAK DOWN THE PRECONCEPTIONS OF BOTH THE JEWS AND THE GENTILES IN ORDER TO TEACH THE TRUTH ABOUT SALVATION.

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