For an introduction to this series, click here.
July 4, 2007This chapter continues the theme of the righteousness of God. This chapter has some of the most profound statements about God's righteousness and man's sinfulness found anywhere in Scripture.
First of all, he continues the discussion of the differences between Jews and Gentiles. Paul says that there was an advantage to being a Jew, since they had the law of God. Just because some of them did not live by it, which was apparently troubling to the Roman church, did not mean the law was worthless.
Next Paul describes, using quotations from the Old Testament, the utter sinfulness of man: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.' 'Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.' 'The venom of asps is under their lips.' 'Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.' 'Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'" (3:10-18)
Now if you look up these verses, some of them seem to be taken out of context. Does that mean that what Paul wrote is untrue? Of course not. As an apostle, Paul had the right to use those passages and use them to fit his purpose of establishing church doctrine. Now does that mean that we have the right to do the same thing with the scripture? No, it does not. Paul had special authority as an apostle and as an inspired writer of the Word of God. We need to be very careful to examine what the Scripture means and live our lives by it as best we can.
Next Paul presents one of the clearest presentation of what the Gospel means anywhere in scripture: "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (3:21-25)
Now we use verse 23, about all having sinned and fallen short of God's glory, as a verse to tell those who are not saved that they are sinners. But the reality is that verse is only a small portion of Paul's argument here. In full, we have the entire Gospel presented here. I'm not saying this is the only passage about the Gospel there is, but this would not be a bad place to either start or finish.
Finally Paul tells us that the new way of faith in Christ does not mean that Moses’ law was worthless (which was apparently another controversy among Paul's recipients). Instead, faith in Christ is the ultimate fulfillment and conclusion of the law: "Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." (3:27-31, ESV)
I feel like this is a little short, but this is a holiday. Happy Independence Day, everyone!