Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Romans 3:1-4

In Romans 3:1-4 Paul tackles the question that his audience is thinking about after he made clear that God’s love and grace was available to all, not just the Jews. “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?”  Paul has carefully explained in Romans 2 that the possession of the law or circumcision will not save a Jewish person. In fact, it won’t save any of us. Salvation is not based on who we are or what actions we might take. It is a matter of the heart if we fall short of complete obedience to the law, which is how all of us will stand before God, plain sinners!

Paul answers his own question about the advantage people have being Jewish. “Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” Paul knows there are many advantages God gave to the Jewish people. In particular, He entrusted them with the oracles of God, which speaks of God’s written revelation before the time of Jesus. He gave the Jewish people His Word, and that is an indescribable gift. Trapp wrote “This was their prime privilege, that they were God’s library-keepers, that this heavenly treasure was credited to them.” God gave His Word to His people, and that is a foundational advantage, although many fell short of really leveraging that gift.

The reality is that many Jews did not receive and accept God’s truth. The fact that the Jewish people as a whole to that point had rejected the gospel did not mean that God’s faithfulness to them was in vain. It did not mean that God’s work was futile or without effect. “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Man’s response does not change God’s truth. Paul reminds us that God will be justified in all His actions. In the end, it will be demonstrated that even our unrighteousness somehow proclaimed His righteousness and glory, even if only in judgment.

Paul again answers his own question. “By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” Spurgeon wrote “It is a strange, strong expression; but it is none too strong. If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false. God speaks the truth, and cannot lie. God cannot change; His Word, like Himself, is immutable. We are to believe God’s truth if nobody else believes it. The general consensus of opinion is nothing to a Christian. He believes God’s word, and he thinks more of that than of the universal opinion of men.” There is one source of truth – God’s Word.

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Romans 2:25-29

In Romans 2:25-29 Paul addresses some of the false assumptions in the spiritual arena.  The first had to do with the fact that Jews in that day believed that his circumcision guaranteed his salvation. He might be punished in the world to come, but could never be lost. Paul hits that thinking head on. “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” Judgment is based on our obedience to the law – and nothing else. That’s how it was back in Paul’s day, and how it remains today. It’s why we’re all going to fall short and need Jesus.

Today many believe rituals, like baptism or the sacraments, might save the. It will not. “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?”  Circumcision and baptism do about the same thing that a label on a can does. If the outer label doesn’t match with what is on the inside, something is wrong! If there are carrots inside the can, you can put a label that says “Peas” but it doesn’t change what is inside the can. Being born again changes what is inside the can, and then you can put the appropriate label on the outside. That label will be “Saved”.

Paul continues to try and drive home this point. “Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.” If a Gentile were to keep the righteous requirement of the law through his conscience, would he not be justified, instead of the circumcised Jewish man who did not keep the law? The point is emphasized: having the law or having a ceremony isn’t enough. God requires righteousness. We’re judged only on one thing – did we meet God’s standard?  To do so requires complete innocence from sin. And unfortunately that person doesn’t exist in any population. We are all sinners.

Paul gets to the heart of the matter – it isn’t about what we do outwardly but the condition of our heart. It’s what is inside that determines how we live and respond to God’s law. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.” We’re going to stand before God and deal with His judgment. So we better prepare. Even if the world around us praises us for how we live and what we do, that won’t cut it. The evidence of our rightness with God is not contained in outward signs or works, and it is not assured because of our parentage. The evidence is found in the work of God in our heart which shows itself in fruit. “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”

William Newell summarizes Romans 2 with “Seven Great Principles of God’s Judgment” that are worth noting:

  • God’s judgment is according to truth (Romans 2:2).
  • God’s judgment is according to accumulated guilt (Romans 2:5).
  • God’s judgment is according to works (Romans 2:6).
  • God’s judgment is without partiality (Romans 2:11).
  • God’s judgment is according to performance, not knowledge (Romans 2:13).
  • God’s judgment reaches the secrets of the heart (Romans 2:16).
  • God’s judgment is according to reality, not religious profession (Romans 2:17-29).

Romans 2:17-24

In Romans 2:17-24 Paul gets after the Jews about their assumptions. Every “boast” of the Jewish man in this passage concerns the possession of law. The Jewish people of Paul’s day were extremely proud and confident in the fact that God gave His holy law to them as a nation. They believed this confirmed their status as a specially chosen people, and thus insured their salvation.  Paul challenges that belief. Many Jews believed that possession of the law was all that was required, but having it does not justify anyone. It is only when the law is in us and controls our heart that it can justify us. And unfortunately for all mankind, that simply does not happen as all have sinned and fallen short, even the Jews.

It comes down to this principle: “You have the law, do you keep it? You can see how others break the law, do you see how you break it also?” That’s what Paul is asking the Jewish people of his day, and the question we must answer as well. It is somewhat rhetorical, because the answer is that no one keeps it. “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”

Here is the truth we must address. God applies His law to both our actions and our attitudes. Sometimes we only want our attitudes evaluated, and sometimes only our actions. God will hold us accountable for both motives and actions. “While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” It is not what we say that matters, it is what we do and how we live out the law. And unfortunately, that will be the thing we stand before God to defend. And we’ll be guilty as charged….

Many of us are hypocrites that talk about obedience and living as Christ Followers in public, but we unfortunately fall way short of actually living up to God’s required standards. And that causes those around us to question why it matters at all. Paul reminds the Jew that God said in the Old Testament that the failure of the Jew to obey the law causes Gentiles to blaspheme God. “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” We do damage to the name of God when we talk about how we follow Jesus, but live like we have no requirements at all. It is hypocrisy that shames the name and causes those around us to doubt it matters at all.

Romans 2:11-16

In Romans 2:11-16 Paul reminds us that God has one set of standards for all of us. There is no partiality, no matter race, creed, knowledge, location – it doesn’t matter. Some felt back in Paul’s day that Gentiles would be judged one way, and Jews another. But it is plain that isn’t the case, then or now. “For God shows no partiality.” Each of us will stand before God on our own and face the judgment of our lives compared to His standards. We’re going to come up short, which is why we have to have a saving relationship with the only solution to our sin problem – God’s answer which is Jesus Christ.

God’s not interested in whether we know what is right. He doesn’t care what our head knowledge is. He cares only about what is in our heart, and that is demonstrated by how we live and what we do. God’s righteous judgment is not withheld because someone has heard the law; it is only held back if someone actually does the law. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.“ Make no mistake about it, people will be condemned, not because they have the law or do not have the law, but because they have sinned. Sin is the problem whether someone knows the law or not.

Some argue that people who don’t know the law won’t be subject to it. You know, those people in a faraway land who have never heard the gospel story. But Paul explains why the Gentile can be condemned without the law. Their conscience (which is the work of the law written in their hearts) is enough to condemn them – or, theoretically this law on the heart is enough to justify them. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” It’s about the heart, and even those who have not ‘officially’ heard God’s law know it exists because of the world they live in.

People demonstrate that they understand things by the way they live. It is written on their hearts and our heart is what defines our actions. People who have never heard God’s word directly still have a moral compass they are accountable to – the conscience. “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” On this day no man will escape God’s judgment by claiming ignorance of His written revelation. Violating God’s internal revelation is enough to condemn us all. We are all ultimately accountable to God.

Romans 1:17-19

In Romans 1:17-19 Paul tells us simply that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. This revelation of God’s righteousness comes to those with faith, fulfilling Habakkuk 2:4: The just – that is, the justified ones – shall live by faith. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” William Barclay explains the meaning of this ancient Greek word dikaioo, which means I justify, and is the root of dikaioun (righteousness): “All verbs in Greek which end in oo… always mean to treat, or account or reckon a person as something.

If God justifies a sinner, it does not mean that he finds reasons to prove that he was right – far from it. It does not even mean, at this point, that he makes the sinner a good man. It means that God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all.” That is the kind of love God has for us as sinners. When we are made righteous, He no longer sees any of our past sin! The righteousness of God revealed by the gospel does not speak of the holy righteousness of God that condemns the guilty sinner, but of the God-kind of righteousness that is given to the sinner who puts their trust in Jesus Christ. How amazing is His love!

There is an opposite situation in the world around us. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the human race, and the human race deserves the wrath of God. We are not worthy of righteousness or salvation from our sin at all. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” We sometimes object to the idea of the wrath of God because we equate it with human anger, which is motivated by selfish personal reasons or by a desire for revenge. We must not forget that the wrath of God is completely righteous in character. God is righteous and just and holy and we are held to those standards and fall short.

Paul’s goal here is not to proclaim the good news, but to demonstrate the absolute necessity of the good news of salvation from God’s righteous wrath. Without God’s righteousness, we are doomed to eternal separation. And the argument that some don’t know or understand doesn’t stand up when measured against scripture. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” The problem is not that man does not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God. Therefore, mankind is without excuse.  We must understand God because that is the standard we will be held to. His Scripture tells us that story.

Proverbs 30:7-14

In Proverbs 30:7-14 Agur shares his prayer request to God. These verses contain a wise and humble prayer from Agur. He earnestly asked God for two things, and he wanted to receive them on this side of eternity, not after he was gone. “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” He asks two simple things:

  1. Remove falsehood and lying
  2. Have neither poverty or riches

Agur first asked for personal integrity. He wanted to be a man marked by truth, and not by falsehood and lies. Knowing God is a God of truth he didn’t want such deception anywhere near him. Agur’s second request was to have neither great poverty nor great riches. He wanted to be satisfied with God’s provision in his life. He wants to have enough. But the request is about more than merely food. It includes love and fellowship and relationship. Agur wanted neither poverty nor riches out of concern that either extreme might lead him to profane the name of God. He did not want to arrogantly deny God because he felt he was so rich he didn’t need God. He did not want to be so poor that he would use poverty as an excuse to sin.

He goes on to remind us that we should not speak poorly of others. This proverb has to do with harsh, unfair criticism (malign) spoken to another about a third party not present. It shouldn’t be done, and doing it without the knowledge of the one spoken against makes it even worse. If it is wrong to do this in regard to a servant, it is even worse to do it against someone else. “Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you and you be held guilty.” The one spoken against may rightfully speak a curse against the one who secretly talks about others. The curse may in fact come to pass if the one who maligns is found guilty of the offense.

Agur then reminds us of the importance of honoring our parents. It’s not an option, but rather a command. “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers. There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth. There are those – how lofty are their eyes, how high their eyelids lift! There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.” He defines generations with common actions:

  1. Those who curse their fathers and mothers – disobeys God’s command and sows seeds of conflict that will grow into a bitter harvest of personal and community strife.
  2. Those who are clean in their own eyes – blind to their own sinful need will never be washed from its filthiness. When we ignore or cover our sin, it never gets resolved.
  3. Those who are lofty in their own eyes – walks in pride and arrogance will experience God’s resistance, because God resists the proud.
  4. Those who have teeth like swords – filled with greed devours everything as if their teeth were swords and their fangs like knives. They devour the poor from off the earth and can never be satisfied.

Proverbs 21:9-12

In Proverbs 21:9-12 Solomon begins with a warning about our spouse.  It’s one of the most important decisions we’ll make in life – determining who we’ll spend the rest of our life with.  And while the corner of a housetop is not a great place to live since it is small, confined, and exposed to the elements being on the roof, yet in some circumstances the corner of a housetop is a better place to live. “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” To have the whole house but live in constant conflict with a contentious woman is misery. The same principle would be true of the contentious man. One would be better off in a more humble living situation and have peace in their home.

Out of the heart flows our actions, and Solomon warns us about who we hang out with. When a wicked man or woman does evil, it is because their soul…desires it. It’s not accidental or unexpected to them. Their inward corruption is expressed through their desires. “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.” One of the marks of the wicked is their inability to get along with a neighbor. The look upon everyone else through their own eyes and see them through a wicked lens. We should be careful of those who can’t get along with other people as it indicates the pace of their heart.

Solomon again teaches more about the scoffer.  There are degrees of fools and their foolishness. A scoffer is hardened in their rejection of wisdom, while the simple is more naïve and inexperienced. A simple man or woman can learn wisdom when they see the scoffer is punished. A scoffer has no interest in learning wisdom, and merely wants to continue to move forward in their own thinking. “When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.”  Wise men and women don’t need to learn everything through their own misery or the misery of other people. The wise can learn as they are instructed.

We all will stand before God someday and give account for our actions and heart.  God is watching and paying attention and will be prepared to answer our words. The LORD is a righteous God, and what happens in the house of the wicked does not escape His sight. He sees it and wisely considers it. God considers the house of the wicked with perfect wisdom and justice. “The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin.” The wicked are judged for their wickedness. Whatever judgment they receive fits their actions. God deals with each of us according to how we have lived.

Thoughts From Others – From Brian Dodd’s blog

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