Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Romans 3
Not Ashamed of the Gospel
You and I both know that we sin and that we do not deserve salvation. If it weren’t for the gospel message, we would wonder just how God could be holy and still allow us unholy people to come into His presence.
The Gospel is God’s power for salvation, which is the theme of Romans in 1:16. The Lads program is studying this letter and many of you are studying it with us on a weekly basis. I believe the adult class on Sunday mornings will also start studying the letter when Josh finishes the letter of Titus.
Romans 3 deals with the fact that the Jews need the gospel; that everyone needs the gospel; and how God can save sinful man and still be holy at the same time. Let’s study together…
Jews Need the Gospel: 3:1-8:
The first paragraph of chapter three continues to discuss Jews. Since Paul had said that Jews could not be saved as Jews in chapter 2, then here, he talks about the advantage of having been a Jew (ver. 1). Was it advantageous? Certainly! They had the Law (ver. 2). But in their disobedience (unbelief), God’s faithfulness was not nullified (ver. 3). God is just when He condemns (ver. 4). God is not unjust to punish (ver. 5). How could He otherwise judge the world (ver. 6)? Paul cannot be judged a sinner if he teaches that Jews cannot be saved now by obeying the Law (ver. 7). It is not possible to do evil that good may come (ver. 8).
Verses 1-8 raise four questions, each being imputed to objectors, as in the old diatribe style; and the apostolic answers are given. These are: 1.) What advantage then hath the Jew (v. 1)? 2.) What is the profit of circumcision (v. 1)? 3.) Will the unbelief of the Jews nullify God’s promises (v. 3)? And 4.) Since man’s sin is overruled by God unto the Father’s glory, how can it be just for God to punish those whose sins were so used (v. 5)?” (Coffman, 94).
“May it never be” is found 15 times in the New Testament; 14 times by Paul (10 times in Romans!). It means “May it never happen!” It is the negative sentiment of “Amen”.
“…reminding the Roman Christians that God’s faithfulness is ultimately not to Israel but to his own person and promises. God is therefore ‘righteous’ when he punishes his people for their sin as well as when he rewards them for obedience. But this does not mean, Paul concludes, that we should excuse sin simply because it always magnifies God’s righteousness” (Moo, 196).
From here, Paul uses about six quotations from the Old Testament to show that the whole world stands under condemnation. As a result, the way is prepared to show that God’s righteousness is located in Christ (ver. 21-26).
The Impartiality of the Gospel: 3:9-20:
The second paragraph of chapter three provides a catena (chain) of Scriptures to show Jews they are all lost. Paul has proven that Gentiles are lost without the Gospel (cpt 1) and Jews are lost without the Gospel (cpt 2). Now he quotes from the OT to prove his point (verses 10-18). No one is “off-the-hook” (ver. 19) because the Law gives knowledge of sin (ver. 20).
“What Paul is saying is that he has already brought against both Jews and Gentiles the formal charge that they are under sin; that is, in its grip” (Earle, 151).
“For the problem with people is not just that they commit sins; their problem is that they are enslaved to sin. What is needed, therefore, is a new power to break in and set people free from sin – a power found in, and only in, the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Moo, 201).
“Again, then, Paul implies that Israel as a whole must now be considered in this category of the ‘wicked’” (Moo, 204).
Observe here that Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah and calls them both “the Law”. As a result the whole Old Testament – not only Genesis–Deuteronomy – were the “law” of God for Jews.
“The law would justify a man, if he kept it perfectly; but it could not justify one after he had transgressed the law” (Whiteside, 75).
The Righteousness of the Gospel: 3:21-31:
The third paragraph of chapter three summarizes how God can justify the wicked. Note that “to justify” has its root word “righteous.” The Law and prophets witness to the righteousness of God (ver. 21), which is available to all (ver. 22), because all have sinned (ver. 23). That redemption is available in Christ (ver. 24), who was our “propitiation” (or “sin-offering;” ver. 25), which shows that God can be “just” but also “justify” sinners (ver. 26). Therefore, no one can boast (ver. 27); man is justified by faith, not by the Law (ver. 28), meaning anyone (ver. 29). It all happens through faith (ver. 30), which proves the Law to be validated (ver. 31).
“…the great mystery of redemption, is at last announced; the mystery hidden from the foundation of the world is finally declared, that being the device by which God can forgive the sins of men and procure their absolute justification in Jesus Christ” (Coffman, 114).
“the righteousness of God” is found in this paragraph four times (verses 21, 22, 25, 26). Remember, the “righteousness of God” is revealed in the Gospel (1:17).
“Paul is now prepared to explain how the righteousness of God - …empowers the gospel to mediate salvation to sinful human beings (cf. 1:16-17)” (Moo, 219).
In chapter 4, Paul will show that righteousness through faith is not something new. Righteousness – even under the law of Moses – was always “through faith.”
“This righteousness was ‘apart from law,’ any law, whether the law of Moses or the law under which Gentiles lived” (Whiteside, 75).
“This gospel (which means good news) was, and is still, provided for all races and conditions of men, without regard to prior privilege, not upon the basis of merit, but upon the basis of God’s gracious favor to mankind, and provided actually by and through the righteousness of Christ” (Coffman, 115).
We are saved, certainly, on the basis of the sinless life of Jesus Christ. See also Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16, 20. Faith (and the life) of Jesus was perfect – 1 Thess. 5:24; Revelation 3:14.
If “the payment of sin is death” then “the payment of righteousness is eternal life” (compare 6:23). But only Jesus Christ led a righteous life and only He deserves heaven! Then, the question is: How can God be righteous and just in punishing Jesus – who was without sin – and at the same time save mankind – who is full of sin? This is the message of the Gospel and the theme of the Roman letter!
Once again, “to justify” means to “acquit someone.” It means that, although man is guilty of the greatest crime in the world – sin against God – he is acquitted of anything and everything – through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ!
God does not ever remember the sins of man – if they are forgiven through the blood of Jesus.
“Even if I do the best I can (and the trouble is, I do not always do that), how can I be certain that my best comes within measurable distance of God’s requirement? I may hope, but I can never be sure” (Bruce, 108).
If you or I were to live a life of one thousand years, would we deserve salvation?
“In Christ” means to be “in the church” – His spiritual body on earth – it is a spiritual relationship with God through Jesus, fulfilled in the church of Christ.
“Propitiation” reminds us of the “mercy seat” from the Old Testament – compare Exodus 25 and Leviticus 16. “Propitiation” means “the aversion of God’s punitive wrath”. Some translations use “expiation” – “the removal of sin.” The word hilasterion contains both ideas.
“Christ, Paul implies, now has the place that the ‘mercy seat’ had in the Old Covenant: the center and focal point of God’s provision of atonement for his people” (Moo, 236).
“God ‘postponed’ the full penalty due sins in the Old Covenant, allowing sinners to stand before him without their having provided an adequate ‘satisfaction’ of the demands of his holy justice (cf. Heb. 10:4)” (Moo, 240).
“Paul’s point is that God can maintain his righteous character (“his righteousness” in vv. 25 and 26) even while he acts to justify sinful people (“God’s righteousness” in vv. 21 and 22) because Christ, in his propitiatory sacrifice, provides full satisfaction of the demands of God’s impartial, invariable justice” (Moo, 242)
“Justice demands that the guilty be punished, and the majesty of the law requires that the penalties of the law be inflicted on the guilty” (Whiteside, 81).
“The inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God has been God’s plan all along, as his dealings with Abraham demonstrate” (Moo, 244).
Here, “Paul is thinking of the pride of the Jews in their special covenant relationship to God (cf. 2:17). Such pride, Paul would then be arguing, has now been ruled out by the revelation of God’s righteousness apart from that covenant and its law” (Moo, 246).
The problem is that – when we think just to the Law of God through Moses – obedience in a vacuum does not accomplish anything – if it is not mixed with faith. Obedience under the New Testament – faith, repentance, confession, and baptism – does not accomplish anything either if they are not mixed with a daily life of faith! In other words, we have to remain faithful until death.
“In recognizing one’s self as a condemned sinner, there is a cause for humility, but no grounds for boasting. And the greatest ground for humility is the knowledge that an innocent Person died to save me from my own folly” (Whiteside, 82).
What is the “law of faith”? Look also at 8:2; James 1:25; 2:8, 12; Hebrews 8:10.
“…Jesus will save no one in whose heart he is not allowed to reign as King” (Whiteside, 83).
“…all must have equal access to God, and this can be guaranteed only if faith, not works in obedience to the Jewish law, is made the ‘entrance requirement”” (Moo, 252).
“…Christian faith …provides (and for the first time!) the complete fulfillment of God’s demand in his law” (Moo, 255).
Take home message: We are justified through Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us. That’s how God can still be holy.