Preached by Pastor Phil Parsons at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Ia on November 5, 2017
Today we begin a new month that means a new congregational memory verse. This month we are actually tackling three verses, but they are short. It is Romans 3:10-12. Let us read it together, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Once again, the reason we have decided to have a Church wide memory verse is because one of the primary purposes of gathering together as a Body of Christ is to equip ourselves for the ministry of God. And the ministry of God is built upon the proclamation of God’s Word. So I hope that each of you will commit yourself to memorizing these verses, as well as reviewing the last two months of memory verses, Romans 1:16-17.
At this time, I would ask you to join me in turning to our text for this morning, Romans 3:1-8. Last week, Pastor Jeff indicated he saw value in standing for God’s Word to show our reverence for it, so let us do it again this morning. Please stand as I read aloud and you follow along Romans 3:1-8.
· Romans 3:1-8 - Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”
Today’s text is a prime example of why we cannot merely read the Word of God, but we also must teach the Word of God. In fact, the word “teach”, or a form of it, is used 168 times in the New Testament. Teaching was the primary purpose of the Apostle Paul’s ministry. In the last verses of the book of Acts, as the curtain closes on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul this is what it says in Acts 28:3--31, “He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” With the death of the Apostles, teaching did not end. Teaching is fundamental to the Church. This is why one of the qualifications of an elder as listed in 1 Timothy and Titus is to have the ability to teach, and today we see why as we look at our text, because it is not plainly clear what Paul is doing in these eight verses.
We Destroy Arguments
As we have stated numerous times, the book of Romans is all about the gospel. The thesis statement of Paul’s letter to the Romans was our memory verses for the last two months. Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ; that he has come to provide the righteousness that we lack. And Paul, beginning in chapter 1, verse 18 all the way to chapter 3 verse 20 will spend all his time explaining that both Jews and Gentiles are sinners, and are therefore void of righteousness, and this is a bad thing because the wrath of God is and will be revealed against all forms of ungodly. As Paul says in Romans 2:11, “God shows no partiality. For all who have sinned without the law (Gentiles) will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law (Jews) will be judged by the law.”
This teaching of Paul, that every man, both Jew and Gentile is under judgment leads to the question of Romans 3:1, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?”
Where did this question come from? This question came from numerous people who argued with Paul over the last 25 years of his missionary life. As Paul went from town to town, the first place he would go was the Synagogue. The Synagogue was were the Jews worshiped in their particular town. We see this in Acts 17:1-3, “they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Three weeks in a row Paul reasoned, explained and proved from the Scriptures that Jesus is the long awaited for Messiah.
During that time, do you think the Jews were silent? Absolutely not. The Jews would challenge him, push back, and make arguments. And in the book of Romans we see some of these arguments documented by Paul. And these are arguments he would hear over and over again.
And it should be noted, that Paul did not acquiesce, or tolerate, these arguments. He met them head on.
In fact, listen to how Paul describes his ministry in 2 Corinthians 10:5 when he says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” The Apostle Paul saw himself as an argument destroyer. And we should see ourselves in the same light. You and I are to be argument destroyers. This is one of the many reasons we gather together and study the Scriptures; so that we can wage war against the lofty opinions of the unsaved; so that we can reason, explain and prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the Chosen One of God who came to rescue his bride from the hands of Satan. So what are the arguments we see in our text today? There are basically three, however, I will spend the most of my time on the first one.
Argument #1: If all people, including the Jews, are under the wrath of God, then what was the point of God creating a Jewish nation?
If both Jews and Gentiles are guilty before God, and both Jews and Gentiles can only be saved by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then what was the point of 2000 years of Jewish History? Why did God go through the motions of choosing Abraham, and choosing Isaac, and choosing Jacob? Why send Moses to free the Hebrews from Egyptian tyranny? Why set up Mosaic law? Why have a Temple? Why have sacrifices? Why have Priests? Why have prophets? Why have Kings? What value, or purpose, was there in God establishing the Jewish nation?
Paul answers that question in verse 2, “Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” The Greek word for oracles is “logion” (lo'-gē-on), which simply means the divine Word. Therefore, Paul is saying that the primary advantage of being Jewish, before Jesus, was their personal possession of God’s Word, what we call today the Old Testament.
I want this Holy Spirit inspired response to sink in. The greatest advantage of being Jewish before the coming of Christ was the Bible. Paul and more importantly God himself, has a tremendously high view of the inspired view of God’s Word. It was the pinnacle of the privileges of God’s chosen people, Israel.
But why? Why is this true? It is true because the purpose of life is to know God and glorify him. This is why we exist, to know God, to see him as treasureable, to value him more than life itself. And the way that God has chosen to reveal himself, so that we can know him and glorify Him is through the inspired Word of God. Therefore, without the Word of God, we have no hope to know God. This was true for Israel and this is true for us today. You exist to know and glorify God. The only way you can know and glorify God is to soak in His Word, day after day after day until you die.
We must be like the Psalmist in Psalm 119:14, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” And the reason we delight in God’s Word is not because we love the smell of books, or because we like Theology, but because we delight in knowing God and glorifying Him.
And as we read the law, the psalms, and the prophets, we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
And of all the nations of the World, God chose Abraham and his descendants to possess the treasure that is the Bible, the revelation of his glory to His people, the glory of his Son. But now, with the coming of Christ, God’s word is not reserved for the Jews only. It is for all men, and we must do all that we can to get these oracles of God into the hands of the lost.
2 Timothy 3:15, “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of Godb may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Argument #2: If Israel is unrighteous, or unfaithful, and therefore under the wrath of God, does this mean that God is also unfaithful?
Or to say it another way, is their a mutual breach of the Mosaic covenant between Israel and God? This question will be taken up later in the book of Romans, specifically chapter 9-11, but we will touch on it briefly this morning.
To understand this argument you must understand the covenant that existed between Israel and God. When God called Israel out of Egypt, he entered into a covenant relationship with them. This relationship can be boiled down to Leviticus 26:12, “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” This covenant relationship came with expectations. If Israel was faithful towards God, he would bless them. If Israel were unfaithful, he would curse them. This is also laid out in Leviticus 26.
Now if you have ever read the Old Testament, you know that the nation of Israel did one thing very well and that was to break the covenant with God. As God said about them in Exodus 32:9, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.” The people of God, regularly lived as if God was not their God.
However, even though Israel rejected God, God did not reject them. Yes, he disciplined them, even to the point of exiling them to Assyria and Babylon, but he never rejected them. God was always faithful towards his people.
However, the gospel that Paul was preaching was different then what they expected. Paul was saying that if Israel would not place their faith in Jesus Christ, then God would, in fact, reject them. That the Old Testament Covenant would not save them, for a better covenant was now here, a covenant secured, not by the blood of goats and lambs, but the blood of God's Son. So they question becomes, is God unfaithful to his covenant promise to Israel?
Paul's response to that is an emphatic no. God is not a covenant breaker, God is a covenant keeper. If Israel lied when they declared their allegiance to God, God did not. His words are true and he will keep his promises to his people. And all of God's promises find there yes in Jesus Christ. However, in addition to this, God's judgment against the Jews is proof of God's truthfulness.
This is why Paul quotes from Psalm 51:4 when he says in Romans 3:4, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” It may be easier to follow this train of thought if I read Psalm 51:4 in its entirety, “Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. So that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” What is interesting about Psalm 51:4 is that it is David's Psalm written after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband.
What David is saying is that, even though he was the King of Israel, and even though he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and even though he killed Uriah, his actions were ultimately against God, therefore, if God brings his wrath, God is completely justified. God cannot be blamed for punishing David, for it makes complete sense that God would require punishment.
In fact, the wrath of God displays God righteous judgment. God's wrath shows that he is true to His Word. God's punishment for man's sin is a manifestation of God's glory as a righteous and good Judge of humanity and their sins against him. You can see Paul speak to this in verse 5, “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say?”
If God did not bring judgment against law breakers, Israel included, he would not be glorified, he would not be a righteous or good Judge. He would be a weak God; a God that was all bark and no bite. However, far worse, if God did not bring his wrath against all humanity, Israel included, not only would he be a hypocrite, he would also be evil. He would be a con-conspirator with the wretched of this world. If God didn't bring judgment for sin, he would be nothing better than a corrupt politician, in bed with the establishment of Satan, the father of lies. This leads to the third argument.
Argument #3: If our sin, brings God Glory through Judging us, why are we still considered sinners, for isn't the glory of God the ultimate purpose of God's creation?
Another way to say this argument is found in verse 8, “Why not do evil that good may come?” Or to say it another way, if our sin brings God glory, then how is it sin? This was a common argument against the apostles during Paul's day as you can see in the rest of verse 8, “as some people slanderously charge us with saying.”
To say that this claim about Paul's teaching is slander is to say that it is a lie. That Paul is not preaching that we should sin more so that God is glorified more. Paul will address this topic in Chapter 6, so we won't spend much time on this argument here for Paul did not, except to point out what Paul says at the very end, “Their condemnation is just.”
What does Paul mean, “Their condemnation is just.” Paul means that if they make this claim and live a sinful life under the false, licentious, theology, they deserve the wrath of God. They deserve Hell. For what they are arguing is blasphemy, for this argument once again turns God into Satan, hoping people will sin, so that he will be glorified.
When people make these types of arguments so as to rationalize their rebellion against God, they are examples of what we saw explained in chapter 1, verse 21, “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” They are so enslaved to their sin, the rationalize it to the point that they turn God into a demon. And there condemnation is just.
Some of you may now be thinking, “I have never heard these types of arguments before, and I probably never will.” I would disagree with that. You have heard these arguments but just with slight adjustments to masquerade them. These types of arguments against the gospel have existed for 2000 years and will continue until Christ returns. It is our job, to equip and prepare ourselves for the battle that we will find ourselves in within our family, our workplace, our neighborhoods. We are called to be contenders for the faith, buttress of truths, and destroyer of arguments and lofty opinions against our Savior and our King.