Monday, April 13, 2015

Romans 3

    Today we continue our Romans saga! I have to admit, I'm enjoying writing this series more than almost any posts yet to date. I love Romans! It presents the gospel so simply and clearly, yet mingled with theology that theologians have debated for centuries! It is a amateur writer/amateur theologian's dream!

    So, let's review quickly. Romans 1 condemned the Gentiles for their sin. Romans 2 shut the door and flushed out all possibility of hiding behind the law for Jews. Paul closed the chapter with a still open invitation that salvation can be attained by perfect keeping of the law (v. 10), or even a perseverence in trying to do good (v. 7).

    Now, I know I have friends reading this who know me well and know I would be the last person to teach salvation by works. So, how can I reconcile this apparent contradiction between what Paul says and what I believe? Did the Scripture not just say that if you do good, you can get into heaven?

    Well, that's why Paul included Romans 3. Romans 1 was for Gentiles, 2 was for Jews, and 3 is the universal, all inclusive condemnation of all men. Sure, if you do good, you can get into heaven. You can choose to follow Christ. But Paul's unmistakeable argument of chapter 3 is that none of us fit that department, for none of us do good!

    Paul first points out the advantages the Jews had because of their rich heritage in having already been granted the Law, and thus really the first knowledge of God over the other neighboring countries. The "oracles of God" I believe literally means the "revelation of God". The Jews had the advantage of having grown up with a knowledge of Yahweh, and some had even known Jesus. They certainly had an advantage over their Gentile neighbors in that respect.

    V. 3-5 seem to say that our very unrighteousness stands in such stark contrast to God's righteousness that it should be obvious God's holiness. God's truth defies every man's word, and if every man on earth denied God, every man would then be proven a liar, since God is literally truth, and the standard of it (Jn 14:6).

    V. 9-18 are to me the clearest Biblical evidence for Total Depravity found anywhere in Scripture. Paul clearly says that none do good, none are righteous, none seek for God, and man still in sin sees no fear of God, and do not even have a knowledge of the ways of peace. This is pretty undeniable evidence for man's complete and utter guilt before God, lacking in any righteousness of his own.

    V. 11 also builds up the further doctrine (an off-shoot of Total Depravity) of Total Inability, namely, that man in his natural state will not come to God on his own, because he has no desire for God. Paul explicitely says that "There is none who seeks for God". We are not naturally looking for God, on the contrary, we are either too busy storing up works for ourselves to gain our salvation or too busy enjoying our sin (and it is possible to do both at the same time) to accept Jesus.

    Thus, I see no alternative but to conclude from this passage that unregenerate man does no good actions on his own. Without the sovereign prompting of God, every man would continue in his Godless, lost state forever, with no desire for him. Eph. 2:1 clearly reflects that man is not asleep in sin, but dead in sin until we are made alive by Christ. Dead men don't know they're dead. They're not searching for a remedy to their deadness. They're DEAD! They are completely helpless and past the point of self-help!

    V. 19-20 sum up everything Paul has said thus far in the book of Romans as he says, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law (which Paul has already proven is everyone in 2:14), that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."

    Those two verses sum up everything Paul has been saying previously. We have seen what the Law says (both the Levitical and our conscience), and it should shut our mouths! We have no excuse left with which to declare our righteousness or self-suffiency. We all stand naked of our supposed righteousness and completely deserving of judgment. Paul then closes this particular part with the blazing statement that none can be justified by works of the Law (since no one can fulfill them even if we had the desire in our unregenerate sin natures).

    So, what's the point of the Law? It is there simply as an X-ray, to show us the injury, but it heals nothing. It diagnoses the issue, but I don't walk away any better than I was before. This is what the Law is. It is called in Galatians "a schoolmaster", an object to simply show me my faults and show me my need. An X-ray's sole purpose to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt my need for a healer. And the X-ray of the Law shows clearly that every one of us needs a Healer, because we all fall short of the Law's demands.

    So, Paul's main discourse on man's guilt before God is over. He now begins a new section which will spread across this last part of chapter 3 and the entirety of chapter 4, showing justification purely by faith, communicated to us by grace. Paul will be speaking here of the faith mostly.

    Since he just condemned all equally as under sin (v. 9), he offers salvation to all who believe also, whether Jew or Greek. Since all have fallen equally, all who believe are saved equally. If we truly have no righteousness of our own, then all righteousness must come from outside ourselves (Jesus Christ) and since it comes from the same source equally, our righteousness is not only sufficient but equal, since it is found solely through Jesus Christ and is Jesus Christ.

    Paul helps further cement the idea that all justification must come from outside myself in v. 27 when he concludes that boasting has no place since our righteousness does not come from us. No point boasting over something we didn't do! V. 28 seals the matter when Paul says clearly that man is justified by faith "apart from works of the Law". No, your works don't even help! Rom. 11:6 (which we'll get to later) show eloquently that works and grace have no place together. Since it has been clearly shown that our salvation is by faith and grace, then works have no place in any part of the justification.

    Paul continues his surprising rebuttal of the common beliefs held by the Jews in the day. No, no longer is God known as God of the Jews, but now He is the God of the Gentiles (the entire world, both Jews and Gentiles) in v. 29-30.

    V. 30 brings an interesting twist into the combination. No, by declaring that our salvation comes by faith, Paul does not throw out the law! Rather, the law is now fulfilled by Christ, meaning it is more fulfilled than ever before through any and all Day of Atonements and blood sacrifices. The Law has not been ditched, rather, it has been fulfilled; not by me, but by Christ, my righteousness!

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