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Andy and Melissa Beshore
Andy and Melissa Beshore
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Exposition of Romans - Chapter 3 - Part 1
Exposition on Romans
written by Andy (edited and organized by Melissa)
As chapter three begins, Paul has explained in the first two chapters basic foundational truths that he builds upon as the book unfolds. The first chapter illustrated how sinful we are by listing several examples of how we consistently, consciously break God’s commands. Following that, Paul makes the case that since we are so sinful, God’s judgment is very reasonable. Now Paul, in anticipation of the arguments that his opposition might bring forth, embarks on his defense of God’s judgment.
God’s Judgment Defended – Romans 3:1-8
Paul starts chapter three by illuminating the fact that the Jews of the day had a tremendous advantage over the Gentiles because they had the Old Testament, which in numerous parts taught its readers who God was (i.e. His attributes), how salvation was to occur, and pointed to the coming Messiah, which Jesus embodied (v.2). This is to what Paul referred when he said the Jews were given God’s sayings. However, in order for anyone to inherit God’s promises, they have to have a proper relationship with Him. That goes for the Jews of Paul’s day as well as for us today. The Jews thought they had that proper relationship with God, simply because God had called them “His chosen people.” The fact remained that in order for anyone to inherit God’s promises, they still had to exercise saving faith and live it out. If the proper belief was not there, they could not inherit God’s promises and neither can we. Verse 4 says that God would still be true even if we all thought that he wasn’t, then we would all be made out to be liars and liars will not inherit anything.
Romans 3:5-6 says, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?” Because all of humanity is so sinful and so regularly breaks God’s laws and has the flippant attitude toward God and His law that it does, it shows humanity how separate it is from the nature and will of God. It shows how far “up there” God is and how far “down here” we are in relation. God’s standard is perfection and is embodied in the Ten Commandments. We fall miserably short of that standard, as Paul will illustrate later in the chapter.
God has this standard so He can thoroughly judge the world. Without the standard, judgment would seem unreasonable and God would have no logical basis for sending anyone to hell (v. 6) and even people like Hitler and Hussein would be in heaven. I am sure my reader can agree that they do not expect to see either of those two in heaven.
I will go out on a limb here in verse seven. When Paul says, “For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory,…” I am thinking that Paul is referring to his lifestyle practice of persecuting and killing Christians in the name of God (Acts 8:3) prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). These acts that Paul performed actually worked to bring God glory through the salvation of Paul. So Paul says, “why am I also still judged a sinner (vs. 7)? Paul anticipated that his objectors would say that since God saved Paul despite his outright rebellion toward God (Acts 8:3) leading up to Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) to show God’s amazing work of grace in Paul’s life, why should Paul still be deemed a sinner? (Romans 3:7). Verse 8 says, “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?...” Why not do things so God will have to do some remarkable work and show His power and glory through the intentional sin of others? Paul is explaining that this is the wrong attitude to have toward sin and it will result in final condemnation.
All Have Sinned – Romans 3:9-20
Now Paul shows that all groups, Jews and Gentiles alike, are all subject to sin (Romans 3:9-18). In one of the most recognizable New Testament portions of Scripture, Paul uses the Psalms and the book of Isaiah to support his thesis that we are all under sin. This portion of Scripture indict man in three ways: man’s character (v. 10-12), conversation (v. 13-14), and conduct (v. 15-17). He uses terms like “all” and “none” to show how universal sin and rebellion is in all humanity.
Roman 3:10-18 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Starting in the beginning: “every intent of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Notice how sin begins in the thoughts. Before sin can become an action it has to take form in the thoughts. Shortly thereafter it says “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Parents, have you had to teach your kids to lie to you? Have you had to teach your kids to disobey you or did it not come naturally? Modern psychology will give you a ton of other reasons for kids disobedience but they fail to realize sin is there from birth. Ask yourself, which was here first, the Bible or modern psychology? If the Bible tells us things that psychology figured out later on its own, which of the two do you suppose has more authority? The obvious answer should be the Bible.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” On the “deceitful” point, has anyone ever had to teach you to lie? Did you not have the tendency to do it already? From where did that tendency come? It seems obvious that the tendency was there all along, even from conception. Psalms 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous…” This refers to the fact that no one lives in accordance with God standards. “Understands” is synonymous with the word “comprehends.” This refers to the fact that the carnally-minded man cannot understand God and His standard of righteousness. Romans 8:7, I think, supports this statement when it says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Minds who have not been transformed and renewed by the process of regeneration cannot understand the things of God. These minds are not influenced by God’s law. They say things like, “The Ten Commandments are a guide” and think that they do not have to be kept today. They seem to forget, that Jesus said, “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” (John 14:21). How does Jesus manifest Himself to us? It seems clear that the answer to this question is by having His commands, the Word written on our hearts (Romans 2:15).
The carnally minded seem to forget that Jesus said that in order to be called great in the kingdom of heaven we should keep His commands and teach others to do so (Matthew 5:19). What’s more, in perhaps His most famous teaching exposition ever recorded, in the following Sermon on the Mount, Jesus opened up the Law and taught on adultery (Seventh Commandment), murder (Sixth Commandment), divorce (Seventh Commandment), our attitude toward wealth (Second and tenth Commandment references). In Matthew 15:19-20 Jesus said that the things that defile us are when we break His commands and He lists six Commandments in those verses alone. I am counting "fornications" as a reference to the Seventh Commandment. Jesus taught about divorce and adultery and gave the rich young ruler six Commandments either in letter or in essence (Matthew 19:18-19). This is not exhaustive, but the point remains, God’s Law still has its place under the new covenant.
Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who seeks after God.” There are many religions out there. Every one of them thinks theirs is the only true one. In fact, all religions, with the exception of Biblical Christianity have all tried to escape the one true God. Philippians 2:21 tells us that “all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Unregenerate minds do not even search out the things of God. Ephesians 4:18 shows us that unregenerate sinners have “their understanding darkened… because of the blindness of their heart.” Unregenerate humanity tries to satisfy themselves in other religions and unless God seeks them first, they will perish. Unless the Father calls sinners, sinners cannot be saved. God has to seek us before we can seek Him. In Matthew 11:27, Jesus says, “Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” We cannot and will not know God the Father unless Jesus the Son reveals the Father to us. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “All that the Father gives Me I will by no means cast out.” So, the Father does the selecting, not us. The Father gives us to Christ. In John 6:44, Jesus plainly says that the Father draws sinners to Jesus. Only then do we get saved. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” We are not even able to seek God and His kingdom unless God first works in our hearts.
Romans 3: 12 says, “They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.” Becoming “unprofitable” (v. 12) refers to being worthless, or becoming depraved. So before coming to God, God sees sinners as “worthless or “depraved.” The fact that none of us do good before coming to God can be supported by how God views our deeds before coming to Him. If we look at Isaiah 64:6, we can glean several characteristics about ourselves and How God reacts to us. It says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”
This is clear. You and I are unclean. Our righteousnesses/good deeds are pointless, futile and a waste of God’s time before we get saved by Him. It goes on to say, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” What happens if our iniquities rule over us? They separate us further and further from God. Before long, we can never be saved by God. We can also explain “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12) using the same logic.
Now we switch focus from man’s character issues to those things that proceed from the mouth. “Their throat is an open tomb” (v. 13). What is housed in tombs? Dead things! How do dead things usually feel after a while? (Cold!) Do you like to touch dead things? (Hopefully not!) How do dead things smell after a while if they have not been to the undertaker and drenched in formaldehyde? (They stink!) Under normal circumstances are these things that you would gravitate toward or away from? (Hopefully away from!) What should God do with us if our mouths have these characteristics? Is it any wonder why God says in His Word why the mouth can have such a negative impact? Verse 13 goes on to say, “With their tongues they have practiced deceit.” This is an ongoing attribute of a lifestyle. From time to time we can expect to slip up, but if we consistently mess up with no remorse with no signs of growing in holiness, we can be sure this applies to us (see 1 John 1:6).
“The poison of asps is under their lips” (v. 13). An asp, for those of us who were not already aware (like I was not until I just looked it up) is synonymous in the Greek with a viper or cobra, two venomous snakes. So what comes out of their mouths? Poison. Do you watch your mouth? Is God convicting you if you swear? If not, there might be cause for concern for you because genuine Christians should have sensitivity to grandiose sins such as cussing. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mourning here refers to mourning over sin by Holy Spirit conviction and comfort comes by the Holy Spirit as well. Verse fourteen is basically a repetition of thirteen.
We have addressed the mouths of the depraved, now this section of Old Testament quotes concludes with a discussion on how we conduct ourselves. Verse 15 says, “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” This seems to speak to having a violent temperament, wanting to address conflict by violence, rather than more peacefully, when Jesus did clearly speak to the importance of being a peacemaker (See Matthew 5:9). This idea is consistent with loving one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). We are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us and use us. Can we say we always keep that command? I surely cannot.
Romans 3:16 says, “Destruction and misery are in their ways.” Think of the catastrophe of 9/11. That was a day that was totally characterized by destruction and misery. Think of the people behind the attacks. Think of people doing similar things (maybe on a smaller scale) constantly. Think of the perpetrators in the recent high school shootings in Colorado. Think of the suicide bombers in the Middle East. Think of the horrific things people like Hitler and Hussein did to their fellow countrymen. These illustrations were designed to make you think of something miserable and destructive. These acts or thoughts of performing these types of acts characterize the style of life here. The scary thing is that if it were not for God’s common grace, these tales of destruction could have been even worse than they were. What’s more, even you and I could be capable of things even more vile than these.
“And the way of peace they have not known” (v. 17). This seems to speak of our tendency to always have some sort of conflict, whether inner or outer, going on. This can happen externally between individuals, groups, and nations. Verse 18 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Why is there no fear? Because we have forsaken God’s law. The summation of God’s law, the Ten Commandments can be found in Exodus 20. If people were aware of the penalty of lying (Revelation 21:8), stealing (1 Corinthians 6:10), blasphemy (Exodus 20:7), adultery/fornication (1 Corinthians 6:9), idolatry (1 Corinthians 6:9), and covetousness (1 Corinthians 6:10), for example, they might flee the wrath to come.
Why use the law? Because it “stops the mouth” (Romans 3:19). It shows us our guilt. It teaches us why we need Christ (Galatians 3:24). It converts the soul (Psalm 19:7). Jesus used it in His witnessing (Luke 18, Matthew 19, Matthew 5-6). It shows us our sin (Romans 7:7, 9). It is holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). It makes sin “exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:13). It keeps us from justifying ourselves because that will not work with God (Romans 3:20). We cannot keep the law perfectly. Since we cannot, we need to know what it says so we can know that we are guilty before God, flee the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7), and embrace the Savior. There are other reasons, too, but you get the idea.