Are we better than they?...
Romans 3:9-31 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“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 paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
Once again it is important to remember that Paul was writing not to convince unbelievers to come to faith in Christ, but to strengthen the faith of believers, to instruct them. For the Jewish believers in particular it was important that they understood that it was not by the law that they were saved, but at the same time, their faith in Christ did not nullify or do away with the “Law the righteousness.” Paul begins today’s text saying: What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. In the same way it is important for believers today to remember that we are not better than others. No matter their national origin, their belief system or any other identity or orientation, all people are God’s creation. All have sinned and God’s desire is that none would perish: but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
One of the many important things Paul says in this brief passage is: He (God) would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Many today, both within the church and outside the church, question whether God really would judge sin. They ask; How could a loving and compassionate God condemn anyone to an eternity of anguish? The short answer is He does not. Again His desire is that none should perish, that all would come to repentance. God is righteous and just. His justice requires that there be a penalty for unrighteousness. It is the only way that it is fair. Otherwise, if there would be no penalty for unrighteousness, then: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing (Galatians 5:19-21) along with lying, cheating, stealing and even murder would all be acceptable. The psalmist says: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14) The fact that God is both righteous and just are part of what makes Him God. His righteousness separates Him from people, who have all sinned. His loving kindness though is what brings us to Him. He is just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. Through Jesus we are reconciled to God. For a believer to question whether there will be a judgment against sin is to question the very one they claim to follow. Jesus says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) Sinners are not condemned by God. They are condemned by their own disbelief, by not believing in the good news that Jesus has justified them to God by His righteousness. In John 3:16-21 Jesus says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” The judgment is based on their choice, not God’s choice.
Paul ends today’s text saying: Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. It is vital that as believers we don’t proclaim the message that the world does, that there is no sin. Jesus Himself says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20) Our righteousness will not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees by being better than they were. Our righteousness will exceed theirs if we are in Christ and are justified by what He did on the cross, not by what we do. Our words and our action must never nullify or teach others to disregard sin and righteousness. Paul says that through our faith, believing in Christ, we establish the law. Jesus says He didn’t do away with the law, He fulfilled it. There is still judgment and a penalty for sin and unrighteousness. It’s only fair. But, because of God’s love, because of the lovingkindness which goes before Him, Jesus fulfilled the requirement of the penalty for sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) Some will say, what about those who have not heard the gospel? How is it fair to those who don’t know Jesus? My response to that question is first, that question does not pertain to those who ask it. They obviously know who Jesus is. I don’t know how God will handle those people, how He will reveal Jesus, the justification for sin to them. He is God, I am not. I do know though that He is just, fair and it is His desire that all would come to repentance, so I am confident that He will find a way to reveal truth to them. As for me and anyone who believes, rather than question God’s fairness, we should respond in obedience to Jesus. We should: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your righteousness and Your justice. Thank You for Your loving kindness and Your truth. Thank You that I am justified by the cross, not by my own works. I believe You are righteous and just and will reveal Your will and desire for all to come to repentance. Holy Spirit fill me, that I might live in such a way and speak what I should say, that others would know the good news. May no one stand before You and say they didn’t know You because I didn’t tell them the truth. Amen.