Ever wonder what is the point of all the difficulties a believer faces when pushing back darkness? While navigating through struggles, unpleasant experiences, trying relationships, and anticipating the challenges we see ahead, it is easy to wonder if fulfilling responsibilities and maintaining Godly attitudes have meaningful impacts and lasting consequences. Being holy and loving in a fallen world is hard work! Does becoming holy even matter if showing love is so vital to the Christian life? Some believers think the initial confession of faith is all that counts. Jesus did say, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28); and, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Friends, regardless of our inadequacies, discouragements, frustrations or inner conflicts, please be assured that gracious and Holy God cares very much about perfecting us. It is His will! As I grow in the knowledge of the LORD, I realize it is actually all about His will (which is all about love).
The trials we encounter are designed to build inner strength so that we can persevere to enjoy eternal life with our triune LORD. (Refer to Romans 5:3 to 4 and James 1:12). God is so strategically wise that He creates the solution that ensures His sovereign election stands. As you review Romans 3 in your Bible with my study notes, perhaps you will see my point.
Romans 3 begins with a question and answer that should encourage all Christians to respect the Jewish heritage and understand the eternality of God’s covenant. The prior chapters told the Roman believers (who lived in a society that worshiped many mystical gods) that all people are equally unrighteous until they receive a pardon from God through His righteous declaration of justification. All people. That is grouping the pagan, the moral, the religious, and Jewish person in one basket; namely, guilty of sin. In the King James Version of the Bible, over 1,300 words are used to ensure believers clearly understand the natural human condition. And then, after spending so much time defining the problem, Paul asked whether there is any benefit to being Jewish or being circumcised. Why did Paul move on to this question after establishing all people are on equal footing? Consider Paul’s declaration that there are benefits to being Jewish. He says:
- “Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2).
At first glance, we can certainly agree that the Jews were most dedicated and thorough at preserving the Old Testament Scripture! And praise God for that! They were also diligent to observe the ceremonial law which ultimately illustrated the types and shadows of redemption by the Lamb of God who was slain to pay for the price of sin.
- “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1st Corinthians 10:11).
Praise God for the New Testament that unfolds the mystery of the church and the mystery of grace! It is written in the old covenant:
- “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.'” (Leviticus 17:11).
Likewise, it is written in the new covenant:
- “Therefore, not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” … And according to the law, almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (These Scriptures are from Hebrews 9 starting at verse 18).
The New Testament reveals what the Old Testament concealed until the coming of the Messiah. But be sure of this, when the apostles were teaching, they were referring to the Old Testament Scripture just like Jesus did.
What do Romans 16:25 to 26, Ephesians 3:1 to 6, Matthew 13:35, Psalm 78:2, Daniel 9:25 to 27, Revelation 4:1 to 11, Acts 2, 1st Thessalonians 4:17 and 1st Corinthians 15:51 have in common?
I found that all of these Scriptures point to the unrolling of the scroll, of God’s will concerning humanity, of God’s knowledge from the foundation of the world. It has not changed, it just continues to get clearer. And, there are still prophecies from the Old Testament that are awaiting their appointed time. The ends of the ages have started but it has not culminated yet so we ought to get busy preparing for the eternal Kingdom of God.
Let us take a deeper look at Romans 3:2. The words “oracles “of God are defined as “utterances” of God, whether precept or promise. The Greek word is “lógion” (refer to Strong’s G3051) which shares the same root word as “logos” (G3056). “Logos” was used in John to explain who Christ is. It is written:
- “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. … And the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 and 14).
So, we understand that the oracles of God were the uttered or spoken thoughts of God whether communicating a truth, commandment, or a benefit of grace. At the appointed time the utterance of God was incarnated to bring about salvation. Thank you, Father, for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ! Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being the perfect sacrifice for my sin. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for training me to become holy and accepted in the triune Beloved.
Beyond Romans 3:2, where else was the word “lógion” used? It was used in Acts 7:38, Hebrews 5:12, and 1st Peter 4:11. Let us consider its use within the broader context of Acts 7.
- “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that, they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs. … But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt till another king arose who did not know Joseph. … At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; … And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. …
(At this point, for this study let us skip ahead past the details of the Exodus continuing with verse 37).
“This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ (Note: a prophet is someone who speaks the Words from God.
Now, Let us continue with the text, verse 38).
- “This is he (Moses) who was in the congregation (the word used is ekklēsia or church) in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles (here is the word: “lógion”) to give to us, whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected.
Just from the use of the words “oracles of God” we can gain a glimpse of the mystery of sanctification through the indwelling thoughts of God. In Acts 7 verses 48 to 50, Stephen quoted Isaiah 66 verses 1 and 2 to explain that God gave Moses the thoughts of God to help the children of Israel understand how to worship God sincerely (not the mere mechanical observance of rituals).
- “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”
The intention of the oracles of God was not to restrict worship to a temple made by human hands but to teach holiness. God had always desired that worship be a voluntary fellowship and acknowledgment of the holiness and goodness of God. It results from a true understanding of who God is and who we are (in view of Him). But in humanity’s fallenness, we are prone to forgetfulness; we take things for granted. We either forget that our natural state is utterly depraved; or, we forget that we are loved, chosen, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, and becoming pure. If we remember our right standing with the LORD, then we start to desire other things with a higher priority than devotion to Him. We forget to value the price He paid. Let us look at a few verses earlier starting with Acts 7:39:
- And in their hearts, they turned back to Egypt, “saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, … Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built Him a house. “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands,…
Humanity became corrupted when they accepted and acted on the enemy’s lie. This lie included rebellious thoughts and falsehoods: (1) the falsehood that human beings could be like God through an action (even one that disobeyed God); (2) the falsehood that God selfishly lied to them about the result of disobedience; and, (3) the falsehood that God was not good. Before humanity’s corruption, Adam and Eve communed with God and understood that He was the Creator. They worshiped God by living in a state of harmony with all God provided, and they enjoyed His presence. No sacrifice was required.
After the fall, they hid from God because they recognized their inadequacy compared to God; their eyes were opened. There was nothing wrong with being naked because that is how God made them. Now, with a perverted lens of God’s character, they created clothes (works of their hands) to cover their disobedience and shame. Since then, human beings have been striving to hide their flaws (or ungodliness) to portray some resemblance of Godlikeness.
Friends, we are never closer to God than when we are in sincere, unadulterated, and obedient worship.
Since New Testament Scripture teaches us that Jesus the Christ (or the Messiah) was the only perfect sinless Man, we ought to see what He said about worship. Jesus said:
- “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24);
- ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.‘ ” (Matthew 15:8 to 9).
You see, the enemy has slandered God from the beginning. He wanted to ascend above the heights of God’s splendour and failed.
Now, he and his hierarchy of fallen angels employ wicked strategies to cause God’s creation to join him in rebellion against God’s holiness, God’s glory, and God’s goodness. Whenever we try to approach holy God through our own devices and presumptions in place of God’s righteous requirement of faith in Jesus Christ, we are operating in the works of the flesh and disobeying God’s will. It is written:
- “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1st John 3:8).
- Jesus said, “… This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29).
So, Jesus Christ, the manifested Oracle of God, the Logos mentioned in John 1:1 to 5, the incarnated representation of the holiness of God (Colossians 1:15), said:
- “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. … If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever … A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you… You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (These verses were a part of Christ’s testimony in John 14 starting from verse 10.)
Let us tie this all together. When the disciple Stephen was being stoned for his testimony (that the oracles of God given to Moses were made manifest in Jesus Christ), Stephen made it clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant. Holy God would dwell with human beings who respond to being called out by faith and learn to be obedient. This is the exact opposite of the enemy’s desires and our faltering works of the flesh.
God’s grace illuminates our hearts so that we can believe, and it also gives us strength to live victoriously according to His will.
We can only receive what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us after the initial turning of the heart toward God. The Holy Spirit explains the Word of God to us in our hearts. The Holy Spirit plants within our hearts the knowledge about the Godhead through the Scripture; knowledge about His character, His thoughts, and His persons. These insights go far beyond the revelation experienced in nature, another’s teachings, and our speculation. Our bodies (that house our spirits) become the temple where God takes His seat and communes with us inwardly. It’s supernatural.
Even before our mind comprehends these things, once regenerated, we start to gain a spiritual understanding; an inward knowing. I think we spend the rest of our lives trying to comprehend it, and the more we do, the more we love the LORD.
As it is written:
- “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that YOU MAY KNOW WHAT IS THE HOPE OF HIS CALLING, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:17 to 18).
Praise God! With the Word of God planted in our hearts, our transformation begins. It is demonstrated by righteous thinking which results in (1) the praise of our lips, and (2) willing obedience to God’s desires. We learn to worship when we worship God for who He says He is, we are communing with God in spirit and truth.
He is not a god we create in our minds with our fallen desires. He is Holy God regardless of any opinions on how He administers love, grace, justice and righteousness.
You can not have true fellowship with someone you do not (1) know, (2)think about, (3) talk with, or (4) respect.
Yes friends, the oracles of God still speak to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
Now, remember that Romans 3:2 says that God selected a people group to entrust the knowledge of His character and His will. In God’s foreknowledge, He selected a people who would illustrate to us the gracious covenant of God. As it is written:
- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2nd Timothy 3:16 to 17).
God loves us so much that He not only provides redemption, but He also perfects us into the image of His Son through the sanctification process of setting us apart. Sanctification is to make holy and complete in righteousness. It is also a promise.
- “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1st Thessalonians 4:3a);
- “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2nd Thessalonians 2:13);
- “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” – Romans 8:29 to 30).
- “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13 and 14).
Romans 3:2 teaches me that God sovereignly set apart a nation that would:
- ensure the sacred Scriptures (containing law and promises along with historical evidence and future prophetic word) would be preserved;
- teach us that religious performance without heart transformation is meaningless;
- provide a way for any willing people living in Old Testament times to enter into the covenant;
- present the Gospel of God, the promise of the Messiah (who would also be Jewish from the tribe of Judah); and,
- provide a glimpse of the indwelling Holy Spirit (although veiled until the birth of the church).
That’s certainly sufficient reason to honour the Jewish nation! Since God has foresight, aren’t you glad He chose the people that He did? I am!
With the oracles of God established in this study, we will move more quickly through the remaining text. It was an important foundation because we will now see how God’s will and covenants do not change; and, praise God for that because the salvation of our souls depends on it!
After Paul reminded the home churches in Rome that the oracles of God were preserved by the Jews, he then pointed to God’s faithfulness which is evident in God’s dealing with rebellious individuals who were a part of the covenant He swore to Abraham. Let us take a look at Romans 3, verses 3 and 4 which says:
- “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? “Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.” Note: Here Paul quoted Psalm 51:4.
Now, there will be those who suggest that if the covenant people of Israel did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, why should anyone believe? Well, the fact that there are many Jewish people who (1) profess to be atheists, or (2) believe in God but not in Jesus has nothing to do with the Gospel of God. The Jewish disciples believed as did many of the Jewish church members in the first 200 to 300 years after Christ’s ascension. If anything, partial Jewish unbelief proves God is righteous in all He does since His judgments have no partiality (Refer to Romans 2:11 and 1st Peter 1:17). Also, rest assured, any unbelief does not render God unfaithful to His Word (Refer to Jeremiah 1:12 and Ezekiel 12:25).
- “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:25 to 29).
Let us look into what Scripture says about the unbelieving Old Testament Jews and the promised land. As it is written:
- “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. …. and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:2 and 6 to 7).
In this passage, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews referred to David’s writing in Psalms 95:8 to 11. David exhorted the Jews to remember the rebellion of the children of Israel who died in the desert because they did not believe that it was a blessing to enter the promised land. Rather than have faith in God (who delivered them from slavery in Egypt), they operated in fear and disobeyed the command to go into Canaan. The fear was a reaction but the disobedience was unbelief. Refer to Numbers 13 and 14 for the details.
David reminded them that although they were called out as a special people by covenant no individual person can inherit the promises unless they (1) believe what God has said, and (2) obey His instructions.
Please note: while undesirable and not God’s will for believers, having doubts and fears is not the same as unbelief. These are Failure to believe God’s word, refraining from doing what is right (James 4:17), and partial obedience (1st Samuel 15) are disobedience. Psalm 95 is dedicated to worshiping God as Sovereign, Creator, and Saviour. Praise God!
In His foreknowledge, God called Abraham (then named Abram descendant of Shem, the Semitic group formed after the flood) out of the land Ur with a promise to bless all peoples of the earth through his seed (refer to Genesis 12). So, Abraham ventured out. At God’s appointed time, God came to Abraham in a vision and reminded him of the promise. Abraham wanted to know with all certainty that he would possess the promise, so he asked God to give him assurance (refer to Genesis 15:1 to 8).
Friends, our God wants us to have His blessed assurance.
With Abraham, God signified the covenant. Abraham brought the animals that God had instructed him to bring, cut them, and arranged them in halves. Then God caused Abraham to go into a deep sleep wherein God explained how the promise would be fulfilled after 4 centuries of slavery for his descendant. God was the One who passed through the blood covenant, Abraham did not. The covenant did not depend on Abraham; it was God’s promise to deliver.
Now here is what I love about God’s covenant. He remains faithful to His covenant. He is the One that does the work; He makes the vow; He performs the cutting away of the flesh. We are merely recipients of that vow. As recipients, how we manage so our lives after salvation determines what additional blessings we inherit. You see, those ancient people mentioned (in Numbers and Hebrews 4) who died in the desert never returned to Egypt’s slavery, but because they were afraid and did not persevere (ultimately doubting God’s faithfulness), they failed to receive the reward of the promised land.
On numerous occasions, these people complained about the journey to the promise. In Numbers 14:4, they had cried out to return to Egypt, but God prevented them from returning. This too is part of His faithfulness. That’s good news!
- “For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” … God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” (Select verses from the New Living Translation of Hebrews 6:13 to 18).
If God breaks His oath, He would cease to be the unchanging, sovereign God who cannot lie. There are some conditional promises but there are no conditional covenants made by God. In the Old Testament, we read how people broke covenants they swore to uphold. God kept His covenant to Abraham and His Word to the children of Israel (individually). Joshua and Caleb (who did not rebel and acted in faith) took possession of the land along with the next generation (after those who died in the wilderness because of unbelief).
- “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (Psalm 89:34).
Throughout my lifetime I have observed that there is no problem with what God has said; any problem lies with humanity’s understanding of God, His ways, and His declared Word. How can the finite understand the Infinite? Any right perception comes from God Himself by the Holy Spirit because of His grace and it can only be received through faith. (Refer to Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:12; Matthew 11:27; and John 6:45).
Returning our thoughts to Romans 3:5 to 8, we see Paul continued to explain God’s righteous judgments are not influenced by us. He will do what He said He would do; and, what He does is always right and will ultimately bring Him glory. A Scripturally ill-informed person may try to wrongfully accuse God of unfair judgments using humanity’s failures that arise out of believing lies about God or creation.
You may have heard someone ask the following questions: If God is good and just, why is there sin in the world? Or perhaps this one. If God knew Adam and Eve were going to sin, why did God create them? Or why did God create angels that would fall and deceive humans? If He had foreknowledge, isn’t unfair of Him to judge me for my shortcomings? There is nothing wrong with asking questions, and there are answers. It is worth answering someone who genuinely wants to understand, and other times we offer explanations knowing the answer is not welcomed.
I like Paul’s response to this type of question. In verse 6 Paul simply exclaims that God is just or how else could He judge the world? I had to think a bit about Romans 3:5 to 8. Paul normally goes into great detail in his arguments so for him to only disregard the questions posed in this passage made me pause. I checked the cross reference for verse 6 and God’s Word was made clear. The cross-reference is Genesis 18:25 which states:
- “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
Two things are evident to me here.
The first is the point that God is the Judge of all the earth. A person who is refusing to place their trust in God because they are angry that He judges evil is actually admitting there is a Judge who has the authority to pronounce verdicts for every person. The unfortunate thing is that this poor person (listening to the father of lies) would rather accuse God of being unreasonable than submit to His Gospel which is the power of salvation. This just proves He is right.
The second point is contextual. Genesis 18:25 is one verse out of a conversation between Abraham and the LORD about the coming judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. I saw grace along with judgment, righteousness along with love in this account. After God had made the covenant with Abraham at age 75, God instructed Abraham to receive a sign of God’s covenant at age 99. He said:
- “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.” (Genesis 17:10 to 11).
It was at this time that God revealed to Abraham (in verse 1) that He was God Almighty; He changed their names to reflect their destinies (verses 5 and 15); and despite their impatience and wrong actions (in Genesis 16 and elsewhere), God confirmed the son of promise. Abraham was not perfect but he believed what God said and God counted that faith as righteousness. This is the same God that Paul explained will judge every person in Romans 1 and how He will judge everyone in Romans 2. God showed Abraham grace and fellowshipped with him simply because God decided to befriend him. God has maintained consistently that the just (those declared pardoned) will live because of faith (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4; John 3:36; Philippians 3:9). Now although the law had not been given yet, the natural revelation had been given as stated in Romans 1. They had the evidence of creation plus the flood.
Let us think about this. Only 390 to 400 years had passed since the great flood. With lifespans still being in the hundreds, and Noah and Abraham’s lifetimes overlapping, the oral account of how God judged ongoing sinful behaviours by the great flood would have been known (Genesis 9:28, Genesis 10:18 and 19) and at this point, all humans were only a few generations from Noah. The fear of judgment did not stop the sin in Sodom and Gomorrah. The LORD saved Lot and any of his family willing to escape with him. This reminds me of another passage:
- “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2nd Peter 2:4 to 9).
Let us continue on. Please review Romans 3:9 to 18. Rather than argue with man’s desire to escape God’s wrath while remaining in sin, Paul simply confirms that all human beings are sinners (those with religion and those without) quoting Psalms 14:1 to 3 and Psalms 53:1 to 4. It is almost as though Paul will not argue the concept of God being unrighteous because it is purely profane. Using Romans 3: 9 to 18 one can see that
God’s wrath is just since:
- Every person has failed in something (refer to verse 10);
- In something or many things, everyone is willfully blind or ignorant (refer to verse 11);
- Every person is selfish to a degree and seeks their own desires (refer to verse 11);
- Many people have deliberately turned their backs on the truth or have tried to redefine truth (refer to verse 12);
- Rather than honouring God which is profitable, people typically do not live to glorify God (refer to verse 12);
- By doing what is good in their own eyes, no one does what is good (refer to verse 12). Jesus said there is only One who is good (refer to Matthew 19:17);
- Every person speaks from their internal corruption (refer to verse 13);
- Every person lies to varying degrees whether directly, by omitting truth from others, or even by deceiving oneself (refer to verse 13);
- Every person has a corrupted character because of Satan’s poison (refer to verse 13 along with Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:9 and Revelation 20:2);
- Everyone’s heart is full of curses and bitterness (refer to verse 14 along with Matthew 12:34);
- People’s “feet are swift to shed blood;” (refer to verse 15);
- Everyone who disobeys the ways of the LORD reaps the curses (refer to verse 16);
- Anyone refusing God’s gift of peace toward humanity is deliberately choosing the way of death (refer to verse 17 along with Romans 6:23); and,
- “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (refer to verse 18).
Since we are all guilty of at least one of these things, we should also accept that no one can be good enough. As such, if we understand that perfection ceases to be if it is comingled with flaws, we should understand there is no way to be united with a perfect God unless He finds the perfect way to (1) pardon flaws, and then, (2) perfect the flaws.
Since Paul wrote to believers in Rome, he wanted them to understand God’s wrath is just and that God’s faithfulness is unwavering so He will perfect those He pardons by His grace. This message is for us today. While these home churches would contain a mixture of cultural backgrounds, Paul has now exhausted all classifications. Let us take a look at Romans 3 verses 19 and 20 (I will use the New Living Translation).
- “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
We can see that ignorance of God’s law does not void the guilt of having broken it. But how do laws given to a small group of people train the entire world who were not subject to the same laws? In both the old and new testaments, Scripture uses agriculture to help us understand certain kingdom principles. For example:
- “Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? … For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.” (Isaiah 5:1 to 4 and 7).
Jesus also used this same song in a parable saying:
- … “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, They will respect my son.’ But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.” (Mark 12:1 to 9).
These passages demonstrate that even though God called out a special people; planted them in a distinct land with their own laws with blessings for obedience and repercussions for disobedience; gave them prophets who would declare God’s words to them and priests who would intercede to God for mercy on behalf of the people; and eventually, sent His only begotten Son to them, the outcome remained the same.
With all of this provision, one should hope that the people group would be fruitful in obedience; yet, the outcome was the people group wanted to live with blessings without obedience (they would produce wild grapes).
It was a soil test. Rather than plant his choice seed throughout the entire world’s fallow ground, the landowner decided to (1) mark out a couple of acres of soil for planting; (2) cultivate the land by removing hindrances such as rocks and weeds, (3) plant the choice seed in the good environment; (4) water it; and, (5) watch over it with vinedressers. If the choice seed did not produce, it would be evidence that the rest of the fallow ground is incapable of producing the fruit of righteousness.
This soil test should teach the entire world (1) how people fell short of God’s glory, and (2) that if the Jews still needed forgiveness and were unable to save themselves through attempts to adhere to laws, tradition, and ceremony, then people who did not observe these God-given sanctification tools likewise were incapable of producing righteousness. They would need the Saviour. Jesus said:
- “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. … “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1 to 5 and 8).
God placed His choice seed into Human flesh and He (being the Son of Man) sanctified Himself (John 17:19) as the true fruitful vine (the Son of God). He did this because we could not be righteous without being attached to Him.
- “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:10 to 13).
Oh, thank you, LORD, for doing what I could not do!
Paul explained that the law was given to the Jews to (1) teach them what sin was; (2) provide a temporary way to approach God through repetitive blood sacrifice for each repentance; (3) to ensure those under the Abrahamic covenant could not boast about being a called out “special” group of human beings; and (4) to show the world that everyone is accountable to God for their actions. So, the law had a specific reach or jurisdiction and it was also a teacher to all of humanity. It had blessings and curses; protection and discipline. Because it was given by God, it reflected His righteousness and our inability to be like God (or to keep His righteousness without fault).
- For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10).
Here are some cross-references you can review: Job 25:4; Galatians 5:4; Ephesians 2:8 to 9; Romans 2:12; Job 9:2; and Galatians 3:10, 11, and 22.
Now from this next passage onward we begin to see the good news in this letter to the Romans:
- “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21 to 26).
Friends, God not only deserves all the glory, but He also gets all of it! He gets credit for being righteous and for being the one who makes us righteous. There is nothing we can boast about!
Verse 21 starts with a time identifier; namely, “but now”. Up to this point in this letter, the case against humanity has won. Guilty as charged. God is righteous and all of mankind is corrupted regardless of any efforts on their part. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from the goodness of God in the destination He had prepared for Satan (and Romans 6:23; Matthew 13:40, 42, 50; Mark 9:43 to 44; 2nd Thessalonians 1:9; and, Revelation 20:10 and 15).
But now, after Jesus triumphed over humanity’s enemies, those who believe Jesus is the Son of God who died as the payment for all of humanity’s sins and rose to life again forever (refer to 1st Corinthians 15) are declared pardoned, accredited with Christ’s righteousness, and share in Christ’s inheritance with the benefit of additional rewards for faithful stewardship of their redeemed life. He cancelled the requirements of the law and forgave all the sins of those who live by faith (refer to Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4). Yes, He died to pay the penalty for all of humanity, but only those who accept the gift, receive the gift! As it is written:
- “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13 to 15).
Jesus made a new covenant in His blood. He said:
- … “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; “for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:15 to 20).
This new covenant gives us freedom from the law that we could not keep, freedom from the power of sin so that we can be trained by the Holy Spirit to obey the perfect law of love, and a promise to enjoy a covenant meal at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
You see our covenant-keeping God promised to provide a way to reconcile humanity to Himself. How does a righteous and just God forgive sin?
- He creates the righteous requirement of faith in God’s provision of Jesus as the final Passover Lamb and complete atonement to be the terms of granting a full pardon.
- He documents the requirement by way of the oracles of God in the Old Testament Scripture. In the oracles of God, there is a typology to conceal and reveal salvation through Jesus at the appropriate time. In the interim, He uses the law as a method to allow Old Covenant Saints a way to approach God and train others in the Church age.
- He sends His Son to become one of us in flesh but without sin, and He pays the penalty for sin with His blood on the mercy seat (refer to Romans 3:24 and 25 noting the word “propitiation” which is “hilastḗrion” in Greek). It means an atoning fatality, it also refers to the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat where sacrificial blood was poured to atone for sin.
- Then He sends His Holy Spirit, the indwelling Comforter, to seal us as a guarantee for the day of redemption (2nd Corinthians 1:22, 2nd Corinthians 5:5).
I came upon this quote from David Guzik in my research and I’d like to share it with you. It is quite good:
- Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge.
- Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil.
- Propitiation solves the problem of offending our Creator.
How does a righteous and just God forgive sin? He does it by staying true to Himself. He is gracious, merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, unchanging, ever-present, sovereign, just, righteous, eternal, and so much more! He is so good that He has decided to purge the world of sin and extend His goodness and glory through those who willingly cooperate with His Holy Spirit.
He is so loving that He suffered in our place. How can anyone be all of this at every moment without changing? God is Holy (there is no one else who is like Him). Divinity in 3 personas, completely united in One and still, He invites us to be accepted in the Beloved. Why does God accept the pardoned? It is written:
- “… He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4 to 6).
- … it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).
I may not understand why He is pleased to work with me, but I sure am thankful for His sovereign election. With such wondrous love, grace, and mercy, I am privileged that He lets me call Him Father; that His Son, my Redeemer calls me His sibling and friend while forever living to make intercession for me, and that His indwelling Holy Spirit seals comforts and guides. I am just so amazed!
If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Redeemer and you sense a tugging at your heart, it’s probably the Holy Spirit beckoning you to meet Him. You can use your own words to tell the LORD you believe and ask Him to fill your heart with the knowledge of Him and the power to choose freedom over sin.
If you are still uncertain, I invite you to evaluate the Scripturual evidence for yourself. Please visit DESIRINGFRUITFULNESS.CA/CHOICES for the historical prophecies that Christ fulfilled. Or you can review the 4 SIMPLE STEPS or concepts to help you ask the LORD to bring you into right standing with Him. The steps are designed to help you know why a prayer of repentance is necessary. There are no “specific words” to pray, but there is a process to coming to faith.
All Scripture in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.