Romans 3:5-6 “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?”
The rhetorical argument against God’s judgment of the Jews continues in these verses. Here the Jews would argue that if their sin serves to magnify God’s glory, then isn’t He unjust in punishing that sin? Of course, Paul answers with another resounding no, but it’s important that we understand what the Roman Jews are doing here because it is a very human response when confronted with sin. We want to deflect or change the subject. Think of how often, when presented the truth of the gospel and their subsequent sin, a person might respond with something like, “Well, before we get to that, let me ask you about angels” or “What about your sin?” or “Is the devil real?”—anything just so long as they don’t have to accept God’s judgment. But Paul’s point is valid today, too: God will judge the world, all of it, and our human arguments won’t change that. Instead of arguing our points, we should be humbling ourselves to what the God of the universe has mandated will come to pass. Again, He is God and He has every right to be exactly that.
Study/Meditation: In what ways have you seen people deflect when confronted with their sin? Have you ever been guilty of this? Why do you think we do this?
*Father, You are just and righteous, and I humbly submit to Your Lordship over my life. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 3:1-8
Romans 3:3-4 “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 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.’”
If God promised the Jews that their circumcision would be an outward sign of His ownership of them and then the covenant is broken because of their unbelief in Christ, does that make God unfaithful to His promise? This is the rhetorical question Paul is posing, knowing that it would be one of the objections raised by the Jews in Rome to his letter. Paul’s answer is a resounding no! As a matter of fact, in quoting David from Psalm 51:4, he is reminding them that God’s faithfulness is in His judgment and subsequent punishment of rebellion against Him just the same as it is in His blessing on those who remain constant to His commands. We cannot blame God and call Him unfaithful to His promises to us when we suffer the consequences of our own sin. He is first and foremost faithful to Himself and to His will and character. In that, we must be held accountable to Him and all that indeed makes Him God.
Study/Meditation: How would you define God’s faithfulness to His people? How does His faithfulness always lead back to Him?
*Father, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I praise You in all that You are. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 3:1-8
Romans 3:1-2 “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.”
Paul had just completed part of his argument to the professing Jews in Rome that the outward signs of their faith, such as circumcision, were of no value unless they kept the law that mandated those acts to the letter. Basically, he was telling them that their “Jewish-ness” wouldn’t get them into heaven. He knew that the next question from them would be, “What’s the point of being a Jew, then? Why be circumcised at all?” Paul’s answer is to remind them that they had indeed been set apart, and in that setting apart had been given the very words of God to guide them. We, too, have been set apart as God’s children. We’ve been given His Word to guide and direct our lives and we’ve been given the saving blood of His Son to bring us to our Lord forever. However, simply claiming to be Christian and going to church or being baptized doesn’t save us. We are privileged to know Him, but we must surrender to Him, as well, accepting that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Like the Jews, being Christian involves more than ceremony and ritual; it is a heart change.
Study/Meditation: How do you see many fall into the same trap as the Jews of Paul’s day in leaning on tradition and ceremony instead of on Christ for salvation?
*Father, give me the wisdom and discernment to see when I assume position in Your Kingdom based on who I think I am rather than who You have made me to be. Thank You for loving me. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 2:12-29
Romans 2:28-29 “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 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.”
The Jews of Paul’s day were dedicated to ceremonial law and outward displays of their heritage. Unfortunately it was upon this that they placed their confidence in salvation. Paul is telling both them and us that the difference between God’s children and the world is not a matter of outward displays but of inward change. God judges the heart because from it come one’s actions and deeds. For example, if you were to see someone that you really didn’t like and think horrible things in your mind about that person but treat them nicely to their face, God will still judge your thoughts. He sees the heart and sin begins there. Yes, it is good not to act on our evil thoughts, but it is perfect to correct our evil thoughts. It’s easy to see in this example why we all need a Savior who was perfect in our stead—none of us could do it in and of ourselves. That was and is Paul’s point: We need Jesus!
Study/Meditation: How does this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans compare to Jesus’ teaching that only good trees bear good fruit? (Matthew 7:17)
*Father, forgive me of my evil thoughts as well as my evil deeds. Thank You for sending Jesus who perfectly lived because I cannot. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 2:12-29
Romans 2:25-27 “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.”
Paul is still arguing here against salvation by any other means than the saving blood of Jesus Christ. The Jews were pointing to many different things trying to prove that they were safe in God’s Kingdom—the Law, election, circumcision—and Paul is systematically showing them how none of those things would actually save them. Circumcision was another outward sign that they used to try to prove their being set apart. Paul’s argument was that circumcision was of no value if it was only outward and not shown in what Deuteronomy 10:12-17 calls a “circumcision of the heart.” It’s the same with signing a card or walking down an isle in more modern-day terms. Those outward signs are just that—outward signs—and unless they are accompanied by a changed heart, they are of no consequence in terms of eternity.
Study/Meditation: How does Paul’s point in these verses about circumcision correlate to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23?
*Father, thank You for changing my heart. Help me display my changed heart to the world. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 2:12-29
Romans 2:24 “For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’”
Paul is citing Isaiah 52:5 in this verse, comparing the state of Israel’s witness then to the time when they were in exile in Babylon. Their witness to God’s glory and majesty was replete in the eyes of non-believers both times, but this time it was because of their hypocrisy. This is still very true today with Christians. The single most prevalent impediment to evangelizing in the church today is not that the Bible hasn’t been translated into every known language. It’s not because of other religions or terrorism. The single largest reason that the growth of the church suffers is nominal Christianity, Christianity filled with people who profess with their lips that Christ is Lord but who have not made Him Lord of their lives. There is no witness in that. We should be as horrified at the prospect of our actions being the potential cause of blaspheming the name of God as the Jews were when Paul wrote this letter. The principle is more than “practice what you preach;” it’s “live who you say you are.”
Study/Meditation: How is it that nominal Christianity is so devastating to evangelizing today?
*Father, forgive me for the times when I have lived more as a hypocrite than as Your child. Give me opportunity to show the world how glorious You are in both my words and my deeds. Amen.