Today: [Romans 3:] Outside of Christ, the World Stands Condemned: In chapter 3 of our study of Romans Paul asserts that all men, whether Jew or Gentile stand condemned and guilty outside of Christ. Good works or Jewish heritage afford one no privilege in God’s sight. Ignorance or unbelief constitute no exemption from judgment for any human being on the planet – outside of Christ. Thus Christ, and faith in Christ are declared then by Paul to be the only basis by which man might come into a right relationship with the Father.
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[Rom 3:1-18 KJV] 1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision? 2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? 4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. 5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) 6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? 7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? 8 And not [rather], (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. 9 What then? are we better [than they]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps [is] under their lips: 14 Whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet [are] swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery [are] in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In Romans chapter 2 Paul contends that being born a Jew was no basis for justification before God. In v. 1 of our study today, the question is asked then, what is the advantage of being born of Abraham? More broadly was profit is there of circumcision or we may interpret this as asking what is the point of adhering to religious law or moral law if law keeping is no basis of right standing before God? The answer in v. 2 is that the advantage of having lineage in Abraham is that they were chosen to bring forth the oracles of God and they were chosen as the people through whom Jesus, the savior of the world would be brought forth into the earth. It is true that the majority of Jewish people reject the Messiah in favor of clinging to religious tradition and culture. This, however, does not nullify the fact that faithful men and women from Adam to Abraham to David right down to Joseph and Mary believed the good report and were used by God to bring forth Jesus the Christ who gave His life for the sins of the world.
In v. 4 we read that if man does not believe Paul says let God be true and every man a lier. What does this mean? The fact that men do not believe establishes the fact that God is the very thing that they believe Him not to be. You have to conceive of something in order not to believe in it. In this case, God. V. 5 goes on then to ask the question if man’s choice to believe in something other than the God who created him actually validates by this very contention that God exists. Does this mean, then that God is unjust in condemning sinful man? God forbid because if God does not establish an expectation of obedience from his creation, then there would be no basis for judgment whatsoever by God or by man. Thus when man lies and denies the existence of God he is not therefore exempt from accountability to the God he insists is nothing other than a fiction.
What is Paul saying? First of all, he contends that man who doesn’t believe in God is not simply a doubter, he is a lier because God has made himself known as chapter 1 declares through the law and in creation. Paul is saying that it is not possible from God’s perspective for anyone to be a true atheist or agnostic. The atheist or agnostic is simply someone ignoring the information encoded in his makeup that God exists and accountability exists. Thus all of mankind is concluded not only in unbelief but in disobedience. Paul is therefore saying that merely because someone expresses skepticism or agnosticism does not exempt them from accountability or judgment. You are either a penitent believer or an offender. From the perspective of heaven, there is no third option. You are either the beneficiary of God’s kindness because you have accepted His son as savior or you are the recipient of condemnation because you loved darkness more than you loved light. If you talk to unbelievers about the things of God, they will simply say “well I don’t believe that…” This doesn’t mean they are therefore exempt from judgment. This is the point that Paul is making. This is the one choice that God will not allow men to make. Adam could eat from the tree of the knowledge of God and evil but he could not eat without consequences. That is the choice that God will not allow man to have.
Therefore unbelievers are not excluded from judgment because they choose not to believe, and the religious crowd is not precluded from judgment because they vainly attempt to justify themselves as law keepers. In verse 10 Paul sums up everything he has been saying from chapter 1 to this point – there is none righteous no not one. The Jew is not blameless by applying himself to a performance-based approach to God, and the Gentile is not justified or exempt from judgment because he chooses to ignore the existence of God altogether. We cannot contend that we did not know or maintain that at least we tried to be a good person. Men will not be judged because of what they did not know about God but because of what they did know, because John says in the first chapter of his gospel that Christ is the light that lights every man that comes into the world. Thus, there is no standing in terms of justice or accountability before God outside of Christ and Christ alone.
It isn’t good enough to be a decent person, and expect to be rewarded in the afterlife. It is unacceptable to merely conclude there is no God or afterlife and just to go on living as though there is no accountability beyond the grave. All of humanity both the good and the evil are concluded in unbelief. There is none that understand (even if they think they understand). There is none that seeks after God. All men, the moral strivers or the inveterate willful sinners are not capable of standing in any advantage whatsoever before God outside of Christ. The throat that utters curses or sings hymns both of these are an open sepulcher. Both the tongue that quotes scripture or declares God is dead both of these are mouths full of bitterness and tongues that are as the tongues of snakes, condemned before God.
[Romans 3:19-31 KJV]
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 [Is he] the God of the Jews only? [is he] not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
If all men stand condemned regardless of moral striving then what is the point of having the law of God or attempting to keep it? The law of God is given as Paul says elsewhere to bring men to Christ. God gives us a moral sense as a basis not of attaining some standard of righteousness but as means of convincing us just how unrighteous we are and how genuinely we need a savior. Therefore trying to be a good person or to be a religious performer is nothing more than sewing fig leaves together while we hide in the garden from the voice of God. What shall we do then? If all of man is condemned regardless of what we believe or what we might do in order to prove our worth what is the point of living? When you are finally confronted with your own moral and spiritual bankruptcy before God and the fact that you will live on through eternity exempt from grace in unimaginable suffering is there then no recourse for us other than damnation? The answer to that question is the heart of Paul’s gospel. Man’s judgment proceeds from God yet man’s salvation also originates in God, and it is defined as the righteousness of God revealed in Christ. We cannot be right in our persons independent of God. We cannot satisfy divine justice by doing rightly either. Man is incapable whether by evil or by good of doing anything other than walking in total and absolute condemnation. Is there no clemency in God then? Only through faith in Christ and Christ alone. We are not good as Jesus declared there is none good but one, that is God Himself. We cannot do good because sweet water cannot come out of a bitter fountain neither can true goodness come out of a fallen creation. The one thing we can do is throw ourselves at the foot of the cross and admit we need a savior. In receiving Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in, changes our nature and puts us on a footing to have a relationship with God.
In v. 22 Paul declares that the righteousness man is incapable of achieving other than in his own deluded thinking is only found through faith in Christ. Christ is your righteousness, and you may access the righteousness or right standing before God by virtue of the faith that the Father has given to every man. Every man has sinned and come short of the glory of God, but even though we stand utterly condemned even in that state of condemnation, there is in our hearts a capacity to look to God, believe His message and accept His son by faith. At that moment, when we look to Him and not to ourselves, we are then wondrously justified, redeemed and set free from our otherwise hopelessly lost state (v. 24) be then justified FREELY without any other condition being met other than faith in Christ.
We cannot justify ourselves, but God is our justification at the moment we choose to believe upon His son Jesus as Lord and Savior. There is, therefore, no place to boast (v. 27) regarding what a good person we think we are. There is no point in saying “well, I’m not an ax murderer, or a thief or as bad as my next door neighbor…” It is pointless to justify yourself by comparison to others who are living manifestly more deeply in sin than you think you are. All are rejected. Again, Gandhi has no more standing before God than Hitler outside of Christ. Mother Theresa has no more standing before God than Lucretia Borgia who bathed in the blood of virgins in hopes of attaining eternal youth – outside of Christ, both are condemned. Boasting of your good works is excluded, and along with it every accusation against you is likewise excluded as a basis for condemning you in that moment you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior! Thus Paul’s conclusion (v. 28) is that man is justified by FAITH in Jesus completely disassociated with any religious law or moral expectation. Hence if man cannot be justified by law he therefore can neither be accused of breaking the law when man’s faith is in Christ. In this way, the accuser of the brethren is wholly defeated and has no basis to demand that you pay for sin because you have accepted Christ as your ransom for every transgression, whether as a lawbreaker or an alien excluded by birth from the covenants of promise because you were not born a Jew.
For this reason (v. 29) God is as much the God of a Gentile with no pedigree in Abraham as the most observant Jew. There is not one God for the Jew and another God for the non-Jew. In other words, we cannot say it doesn’t matter what you believe just so you are sincere. There is ONE God over all men by whose austerity all men will be utterly condemned OUTSIDE of Christ. But we do not have to remain outside of Christ! We can empty our hands of our dead works, cleanse ourselves of any false ideations of our own worth and fall helpless at the foot of the Cross and accept Jesus as our only hope of being in right relationship with the Father which is the whole reason God gave the law to the Jew and moral awareness to the Gentile. Belief in Christ doesn’t make the demands of our conscience void – for the demands of our conscience exist to impress us with our need of a Savior.
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