We have made it to Romans chapter three, and immediately there is a sense that something is missing, as though we drop into the middle of a conversation. Based on this introduction if you were to say to me, I don’t understand Romans 3 I would completely understand. Here is verse one.
Romans 3:1 NLT Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision?
Because, as I noted above, we are missing the context, let’s look at the context.
“In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it. For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” (Romans 2:27-29 NLT)
Why, would the uncircumcised Gentiles, a people group despised by the Jews, condemn the Jews?
Even I, a Gentile convert accepted into God’s grace and love by the sacrifice of Jesus, a Jew, understand that God came to the Jews first. Paul tells us it is because they did not obey the law necessary to take away their sins, at least for the moment.
The problem, for me, is that I don’t obey the law either; in fact, it is even worse than that, I can’t because there is something trying to push me to the dark side all the time, and that is why we needed a savior.
Paul takes this one step further by talking about circumcision.
Beginning with Abraham, circumcision was the sign of the covenant between Abram and God.
“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. “And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.” (Genesis 17:10-12 NASB)
A question, were there any Jews at this point, following laws?
The answer is NO, and there was none until several hundred years later, and they were descendants of Judah; and yet they followed God’s instructions to Abraham concerning the covenant, by getting themselves, their children, and Gentile servants who lived in their house circumcised. Their actions, in their mind, signified that they were God’s promised people.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?
Great in every respect.
First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
[We have already seen that God initiated these words/oracles when he spoke to Abraham. However, Romans 2:13-15 conveys that it is only the doers of the law who gain a righteous standing with God; and Paul tells us that many of the Gentiles do that and they have never heard of the law. Why? Because God saw fit to write His law – all ten of them, upon our hearts.]
Abraham complied by getting circumcised as a sign.
What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
[The NLT puts it this way,
“True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful,
does that mean God will be unfaithful?”]
(Romans 3:1-3 NASB)
It’s a rhetorical question, which Paul promptly answers.
Romans 3:4 NLT “Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him, “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.”
“Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true.”
Often our purpose in a study is to prove or disprove that a statement is valid or true. Job certainly does that for us.
“Listen to me, you who have understanding. Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong.” (Job 34:10 NLT)
And though the questions come from Bildad there are still valid and true.
“Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right?” (Job 8:3 NLT)
The answer is a resounding NO. Sadly, those who ignore the morality that dwells will find out that He is just and true.
“You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.”
Almost everyone struggles with this portion of Romans 3:4, and it just occurred to me why they struggle. We think this is talking to us, about us, and it is NOT. It is talking about God, His Word, and His actions.
Virtually everything in the NT came from the Old and this line that Paul speaks sounds very much like King David in the Psalms.
“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.” Psalms 51:4 NLT
Having spent some time in recovery, I came to find that honesty was the best option. As King David just said, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.” There is, as the NASB states, NO JUSTIFICATION for what we do. Thank God for being a savior and for the fact that God purchased us back and marked us with a seal of this covenant we have with Him, which is the Holy Spirit that comes into the life of every believer that accepts Him.
Many times, because I have had these discussions/arguments with “Christians” I will put forth the argument to address the question before it comes.
Romans 3:5 NASB But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)
The NLT puts it this way.
But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.)
Maybe this is what we do when we declare ourselves to be covered by God’s grace and therefore free to cuss all we want. In this case, you are NOT proving anything other than the fact that you are an ignorant dolt that cannot communicate your emotions and feelings by the use of proper language and grammar. I certainly do not look at people like this and immediately say, my, how good God is, and neither does the general public. I can, however, extend grace toward these people.
After being in recovery for a time, I was asked to lead the men’s anger group. Being a participant is entirely different from being a leader that has to attempt to reign in someone who is on the edge of being out of control. One brother had been a medic with a special ops team during the Vietnam war. As a special ops medic, you have to fight as well as patch people up. For a time this guy merely sat alone in the break room, stroking the head of his stress dog. I stopped to talk with him and got an earful of cussing. He then said, see, you cannot handle the volcano inside of me. I responded by saying, I can handle anything that comes out of your mouth, but I would prefer to hear Jesus. He eventually came around.
Paul must have heard statements like this, “isn’t it unfair for Him to punish us?”
Are you serious? I already showed you a statement about God from Job 34:10 and it reads like this.
“Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong.”
Promoting sin goes against the nature and character of God. God is the moral standard and there is nothing unjust or unfair in what He does.
Again, Paul answers his own question.
Romans 3:6 NLT Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world?
What we do not perceive, is that God’s decisions have all been played out because there is a legal standard, based upon His moral standard; and controlled His actions in purchasing the human race back from the control of Satan.
“But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.” (Romans 3:7-8 NLT)
Merely to say, my dishonesty, or as most translate, lie highlights God’s truthfulness and brings him more glory, demonstrating how dishonest we truly are. Again, go to recovery and you will find people standing before you and saying, “Hi, I am …. and I have 15 years of sobriety.” In saying this, they are admitting that a return to the activity they are testifying of is freedom, and it is hanging out there waiting to grab you and take you captive once again if you let it. God, may, in time, get the glory, but He does so only as you testify to your dependence upon the freedom He brings.
People who are foolish enough to go back to their vomit, are nothing more than fools.
Turn to Jesus.