Romans Chapter 3
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Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? - Romans 3:1


Romans thus far has opened up much like a dialogue and it's as if Paul here is anticipating the questions the readers may have naturally come up with in lieu of the previous chapter (perhaps questions he himself asked during his training in Arabia, see Gal. 1:17). Paul having just argued that a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, arguing that Gentiles (Greeks, Rom. 2:10), though not having the law, if they do instinctively the things of the law, are a law unto themselves and therefore will be regarded (Rom. 2:26). Therefore it is not outward signs such as circumcision but that which is done inwardly "by the Spirit" regardless if a person is born into Jewish or Grecian lineage, for God shows no partiality (Rom. 2:11). Paul also made it clear that those under the law who have sinned will not only perish as those without the law but additionally they will be judged by the law (Rom. 2:12). So now the question Paul can hear the reader having, maybe more so the Jewish readers, "then what advantage has the Jew? and why the sign of outward circumcision if God only accounts for that which is on the inside?" and so the answer.


Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. - Romans 3:2


"Great in every respect" in other words, there are many advantages. "First of all" (or "chiefly" in the KJV), meaning this isn't the only but it is foremost. Paul revisits other benefits in 9:4-5. What advantage is there for the Jew? God trusted them with His word or "oracles" that would from them stem to the entire human race. Not only that, but since it was written in Hebrew (their native language) they could read God's word. Salvation through the gospel would be first presented to the Jews giving them opportunity to believe (Rom. 1:16, John 1:11). In a way the Jews knew this. They boasted about having the law and boasted in God (though they were not doers of the law, Rom. 2:13) and considered themselves a guide to those that didn't have, i.e. Gentiles (Rom. 2:18-20).


As Christians we are given advantages as well. We are given a hope in which we are in charge to give an account of to any that would ask (1 Peter 3:15). Furthermore, we have the privilege of studying the word of God which as Paul puts it:


16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16


So what advantage does that give us? As you read in the above verse it's as Paul put it, "great in every respect". It's been given to us to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11). We learn some basic things made known by God through His word that others not beholding His word are not privy too. Mysteries that many prophets and righteous men desired to know, see, and hear. (Matt. 13:17). Even so called smaller things are made known to us such as why there are 7 days in a week (instead of more or less) which are a mystery unless one understands it's origin from scripture on account of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:2). This advantage however is only that if you believe the word of God. This is what many of the Jews failed to do who continued in unbelief. Paul then poses his next question with his recipients in mind.


What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? - Romans 3:3


In other words, if man does not hold to the word of God will the word of God then have no effect? Last week we spoke on covenants and how they differ than contracts. In a contract if either party fails to do their part the entire contract is nullified. That is NOT what is going on here. God is faithful to His word regardless if man holds to it.


May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, - Romans 3:4a


"May it never be!" The words used here in the original Greek are of the strongest form of rebuke meaning "perish the thought" or "banish the thought", it's a phrase of outrage like us saying "ridiculous!" Man's unwillingness to cling to the truth doesn't alter the fact it is true. Man unwillingness to cling to God's word doesn't mean God doesn't come through on His word. Though men will deny God, God still will be blameless when He judges (Psalm 51:4). The unwillingness to accept the truth doesn't nullify the truth. Our inability or unwillingness to accept a fact doesn't nullify the fact. Let me elaborate.


When I worked at the police department, every time there was a car accident, because everyone now has a cell phone, there would be many 911 calls from people in the vicinity all reporting the same accident. Each from a different perspective and even different motives as to why there were telling me what they were telling me. Sometimes those involved would call in to report the accident but omit details that gave evidence to their guilt or they would flat out lie altogether. Even witnesses who weren't even involved in the accident themselves would still be found bias depending on their own filters. Those racist would favor one driver over another because of the color of their skin. Another who was sexist would blame a person because of their gender. You would be surprised how many accounts of the same accident would differ from one person to another, sometimes blatantly. Our job at the police department then was to get to the bottom of what actually happened using any available resource. We did so with the understanding that though there can be an unlimited amount of lies there can only one truth, one absolute truth of what actually happened and therefore we would pursue it. Paul here is imploring us to do the same.


For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)


Truth stands whether you believe it or not. If I tell you that 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4 you would (or at least should) say I'm being ridiculous. If you handed me two apples, and then two more apples and told me to add them up and that I would have 4 apples, if I stated "I don't believe it" would it mean that because I don't believe it than 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4? Absurd! It only proves that I'm a fool. Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 states "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." Does his belief mean there is no God? Absurd! Because I don't believe 2+2 = 4 wouldn't change the fact that I have 4 apples in my hands. Facts are facts, truth is truth, and as my dear friend Rob likes to say "it is what it is". An evil and adulterous generation (Matt. 12:39, 16:4) would inject here and try and argue even this basic apple math analogy. They, like Satan, would want you to question that which is good and sound truth. Satan started in with Adam and Eve with the words "indeed, has God said..." (Gen. 3:1), and again when he tempted Jesus he started with "If you are the Son of God..." (Matt. 4:3). An evil generation today would ask doubt provoking questions such as "how do we really know they are apples?"  or "are those apples really yours?" or the ever popular rebuttal "What is truth?". Paul is urging us here to understand the answer to the question "what is truth" is God's word which is God Himself (John 1:1).


17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. - John 17:17


Some of scientist's greatest mysteries are answered in the word of God. Gravity for example is still a large mystery to men in regards to how it works. We cling to the fact it's real, even label it a law, and though men have studied it since our existence we still can't explain it. Because men don't consider the word of God they are left dumbfounded at something as rudimentary as gravity, though I've seen several attempts from Einstein to Youtubers trying to explain how it works, the fact of the matter is, we don't know, that is, apart from the word of God. (Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3, Job 38:11). In older times, had men paid attention to God's word they would have known the earth is round (Isa. 40:22, Luke 17:34-36 night and day at the same time).


  as it is written,

That You may be justified in Your words,
And prevail when You are judged.” - Romans 3:4b


Men have often challenged what God has said. Specifically in regards to what God has said about sinners and the judgement of those who sin. Paul here is quoting Psalms 51:4. David having committed no small sin no longer questioned the judgement of sinners but David knew by the presence of his own sin that was ever before him that He was a transgressor of the law (Psa. 51:3) and that God was blameless when He judged him according to His words. We should always own up to our sin (1 John 1:9, 1 Pet. 5:6, Jam. 4:10). Remember the tax collector and the Pharisee? Which went home justified? (Luke 18:14). When bad things happen people tend to blame God. On insurance forms we see things like hurricanes and earthquakes listed under "acts of God". These particular "acts of God" didn't even exist prior to the flood, it was not part of God's intent but is the consequences of a world who rebels against God. People have a tendency, even since Genesis, to blame others and even God for our sin. "It's that woman YOU gave me" Adam said (Gen. 3:12). As with Adam God warned us, if by no other means as we discussed earlier in Romans, through our inherent morality (Rom. 2:15). If God says don't eat from that tree or you will die and then we eat from that tree and death sets in we cannot say to God "why am I enduring this punishment?" If I tell you not to touch the hot stove and then you touch it and burn yourself, can you blame me for your injury? Yet when calamity comes, we tend to blame God instead of ourselves. In Psalms 51 David is blaming himself, recognizing that he deserves wrath and does not fault God in His judgment of David's sin. Job, during his trials, sought an audience with God to vindicate himself (Job 13:18, 23:4). Then when God showed up and "prevailed" (Job ch: 38-42) Job put his hand over his mouth and determined to not speak again (Job 40:3-5, 42:6). Though God is scrutinized by man He will prevail even under such close examination. In other words, God is justified in what He has said. God, even under the most extensive level of scrutiny will be found justified and faithful to what He says because He is always true to His character (2 Tim 2:13).


11 It is a trustworthy statement:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. - 2 Timothy 2:11-13


Did you know that God, though omnipotent, because of His character is unable to lie? As we read above, man can lie (Rom. 3:3) but God by the sheer holiness of His own character cannot.


17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. - Hebrews 6:17-18


in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, - Titus 1:2


Therefore hold to God's word originating from Him who cannot lie rather than to man's word of which all have been found liars.


But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) - Romans 3:5


Paul continues his dialogue with the reader. "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God", in other words, light is most evident when there's the presence of darkness. God's righteousness is demonstrated in His punishment of wickedness. The presence of wickedness by contrast makes evident the presence of His righteousness. "what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)" Such men are arguing that God somehow needed them to or even caused them to do evil so that His righteousness could be enacted. In other words they are claiming that God, who said He would judge wickedness, needed wickedness in order for Him to prove He's true to His word. Some today have gone so far as to say God wanted us to sin and even baited us to sin, which is absolutely absurd! (Jam. 1:13) Such men argue, "God, by our evil we make you look good, so why are you condemning our actions?" "The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous is He?" they are reasoning if God is actually unjust in punishing them for their sin since they see it serving His purpose.


May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? - Romans 3:6


"May it never be!" Such an idea is outrageous and utterly horrible. The idea of darkness originating from God should be repulsive... always; and as we know this rebuke of such a wretched thought from earlier (Rom. 3:4) such a notion should be cleared from your mind and deleted from your memory banks! "How will God judge the world?" In other words, if someone is not just, how can they justly judge? Christ commanded us to take the log out of our own eye before we'd be able to see clearly to take the speck out of our brother's eye (Matt. 7:1-5). Never let this fact escape you. There is no evil nor darkness in God. God is always perfectly good all the time (1 John 1:5, Exo. 33:19).


But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? - Romans 3:7


In other words, if the word of God says "Everyone is a lair" (Psalm 116:11) and I lie, that just shows God was right when He said that, therefore why, if I prove the word of God am I still being judged a sinner. Furthermore, if even though I lie about keeping the law, if it still brings people to God, why am I being judged as doing wrong?


Question: If a Christian tells a fake story about God or about God's work in their life and it provokes a person to come to God and even accept Christ as their savior, should the actions of that Christian be condemned? Remember Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11). Did you know lying was the only repeat offense listed in the 7 things that are abominations to the Lord (Prov. 6:16-19).


The Jews may also feel they have other good causes to not be judged since in their sinning God's righteousness was made known. One example we have is that through their unbelief salvation was extended to the gentiles (Rom. 11:11, John 1:11, Matthew 15:27) as was God's plan from the beginning.


11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. - Romans 11:11


They argue that their disobedience commends the righteousness of God. Christians have to be careful not to have the same mindset as Paul will elaborate on in Romans 6 but here's a quick reference:


What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? - Romans 6:1-2


In other words, Gentiles, similar to the Jews, may argue that God wanted or needed them to sin so His characteristics of mercy, forgiveness, and grace could be demonstrated and that without such disobedience on their part God's goodness couldn't have been demonstrated. In the case of this context in Romans the Jews may be arguing that God said they would be led into captivity and that they would be punished for their disobedience and therefore by doing so they are proving God to be true to His word.


Keep in mind that while God in His grace causes all things to work out for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28) He does not need those things in order to fuel His goodness. While God can take something bad and make good on it (Gen. 50:20) He does not encourage nor need evil to carry out such purposes. On the contrary, God delights in lovingkindness, righteousness, and justice (Jer. 9:24).


And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. - Romans 3:8


It's glorious to see the grace of God extended to a person who's light and been completely extinguished by sin (Matt. 5:3) who's been deemed worthless by the worlds standards. A debt wiped clean to a person who then has been redeemed by Jesus Christ and thus imputed with His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) who is born again (John 3:3) and becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17) who is zealous for good works! (Tit. 2:14). To take someone who like Paul, whom we may consider to be the "chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:5) and make them an instrument for His glory; trophies of grace (2 Cor. 5:21). To see someone lifted from the pit who becomes a light of the world, a transformation that all of heaven rejoices over, even when it just happens to one person! (Luke 15:7). Does this mean we should go do evil and destroy our lives so that good may come? Absolutely not. Some people feel they should go do what the prodigal did so that the love which was shown him by the Father can be manifested in their life... this is the absurd reasoning that some people have. Yes where sin increases grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20) but to see that as licentiousness... well Jude warns that such people actually deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4). Paul warns that a person with such mentality better check themselves to see if they actually have the indwelling of Christ and therefore have died to sin and are freed from it (Rom. 6:2, 7). For those accusing Paul as preaching licentiousness, Paul writes of them "Their condemnation is just". To take so wonderful a gift of God's grace and pervert it in that way... could there be a worst perversion. To justify the sin as giving Christ an opportunity to redeem, utterly disgusting!


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What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,

There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:9-20


If you ever wondered if you were measuring up... you're not. Not at all. If you ever thought even a part of you earned God's favor or somehow you provoked Him to overlook your sin by the things you've done or by the things you've abstained from doing, you didn't (Rom. 9:16, James 2:10). Why? Because you have no bargaining chip before God (Rom. 11:35). If our study through Romans thus far didn't clear that up, let these verses tell you it very plainly as Paul intended it to be. God who delights in righteousness (Jer. 9:24) looked down and found none.


Paul thus far in Romans has walked us through scripture, facts, and sound reasoning in order to give us understanding, now tells us plainly to our face. Paul who first showed us that according to scripture, nature, logic, experience, and evidence that we are not right with God. Now, to those who may be left hanging onto the law;  Paul tells them very plainly from that very law, we are bankrupt (Matt. 5:3). We have nothing to offer God (Psalm 8:3-4, 144:3, Job 7:17) and you're clinging to a sinking ship. Think about it. What is God lacking that He needs from us or as Romans 11:35 puts it:


35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? - Romans 11:35


When you see the term sinner in the bible you are seeing a reference of those who are detestable to God.


13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they? - Habakkuk 1:13


As Christians, especially those of us who are legalists, we like to think we are "good" sinners. In the back of our minds we measure our merits according to a standard of our own, grasping for something to hold onto that will declare us an "okay person". In our own minds we victimize ourselves (to avoid blame) our change our standards (to avoid judgement). Paul here wants us to recognize that there is no such thing as an "upright thief" nor is there an "honest liar". If we rob a bank but in the process vow to not hurt anyone, we're still a robber. Oh but such declarations help us avoid guilt doesn't it. Let the Romans road which comes to a point in these verses sink in. The law has found you guilty of being a sinner. The law which was intended for our good, to show us the right way of living (Rom. 7:10), because of the weakness of our flesh (Matt. 26:41, Rom. 8:3), has only pointed out to us our shortcomings "for through the law comes the knowledge of sin" (v20).


Question: What's a sinner? Let me help you with this. There are only two categories of people. Saints and sinners. Perhaps it will help you understand what a sinner is if you first understand what a saint is. According to the bible a saint is NOT someone who has done mighty works or good deeds, nor is it someone who has been deemed a saint by a church or organization. The word translated "saint" in the new Testament, hagios, literally means "sacred, physically pure; morally blameless or religious; ceremonially consecrated; holy."


A sinner then is anyone who is not a saint. Let me ask you a follow up question then, which are you? If you've answered saint, then you are either grossly delusional or by grace you understand the depths of what is written in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.


If you've ever wondered if you're teetering on earning God's favor or earning God's wrath, know now without a doubt that you fall into the classification of sinner and therefore have earned the latter. Remember this when you feel entitled and take caution next time you ask God to give you what you deserve. Anyone who wants to measure up to God has to do so under the standards God has set (Matt. 5:18), i.e. the law. Verse 19 and 20 make it very clear that according to this standard no flesh will be justified in His sight as it's by this standard, revealed through the law, that our sin has become evident.


Paul has been hammering this point home for three chapters for a very good reason. It's CRUCIAL that you acknowledge the truth on these matters. Why? Because in acknowledging these things and agreeing with God you are taking a position of humility and are fulfilling the first beatitude in Matthew (v5:3). And we know that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Psa. 138:6, Pro. 3:34, 29:23, Luke 1:52, Jam. 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5) and that he who exalts himself will be humbled but he that humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).


And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” - Luke 18:9-14


Question: What is humility and what does it mean to humble ourselves? Humility is not self-abasement, that is, it is not belittling or humiliating oneself. No, even that is prideful. True humility is honestly acknowledging the truth of our circumstances. Paul, and ultimately God Himself (solely to His credit) I'm convinced out of love has thus far in Romans and with great effort and through any means (1 Cor. 9:19-22) tried to penetrate the ugliest pleasure seeker, the most arrogant judgementalist, and the most stubborn legalist, to break them. Not because He wants to destroy them but because He wants to exalt them! If they humble themselves before God, that is, like the tax collector, who threw himself on the mercy of God, God is then freed up to exalt them (2 Pet. 3:9, Isa. 30:18)! God would rather die than condemn a sinner (John 3:17).


James exhorts us this way:


Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. - James 4:9-10


Be broken. Be broken about your sin, be broken about your failings, and like the prodigal, come to your senses! (Luke 15:17). If you are, know this. There's something else hidden in these verses. While Paul is showing us we are all equally guilty, at the same time, he's showing us that we're all equal candidates for God's grace; God who shows no partiality (Rom. 2:11). Furthermore, these verses show us that we were at the bottom of the barrel. So keep in mind, if God reached down while you were at the bottom of the barrel and at your worst, then there is always hope for you.


But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8


If God showed up while we were at the bottom of the barrel, then know that His love for you will never waiver. Why? Because it didn't start out being contingent on our performance (if it had, you wouldn't have had a shot in the first place) and God is unchanging (Mal. 3:6, Jam. 1:17), His love endures forever (Psalm 136) in fact, His very nature is love (1 John 4:8). These verses make it very clear that we have not merited God's love, but the bible makes it very clear that we are loved by God apart from our performance (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10). With those two constants, God who loves us apart from works will not someday change and make His love contingent on works. In other words, we who did not earn God's love in the first place will not be expected to perform in order to maintain His love (Gal. 3:3, 5:4-6). Yes faith will product works ([James 2:18] after all, wouldn't so great a love provoke you and make you eager to tell others?) But works are not required to provoke God to love. Neither are they a disqualifier (Rom. 8:31-39). It didn't start that way and it's not maintained that way. This is where the Jews erred. Instead of trusting in God to make them right with God (Rom 4:3, Gen. 15:6) they erroneously held to the law as being their source for justification as if it were provoking God's favor. Paul is making it clear that righteousness does NOT come through the law, if it had, Christ died needlessly (Gal. 2:21). Christians make the same mistake as the Jews today with their own made up rules. "Read your bible, pray so much, go to church, greet one another, etc.". Feeling better before God or "in the right" as long as they maintain this new "law" or else feeling unjustified if they haven't. This merit based mindset is as much of an error today as it was then. God loves us not on the basis of what we've done or not done but on the basis of who He is, and as we covered previously, God is always true to His own character! God's character is love, therefore God loves (period).


38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39


This is the very love being demonstrated in Romans 5:8! Notice the word "demonstrates". It actually makes me think of Costco where on any given day I can go in and there are people giving demonstrations of a product in order to entice you to buy more. They hand you a cracker with cheese on it as a "demonstration" of what you would be getting if you bought from the boxes of the same cheese and crackers stacked behind them. Essentially they are putting on a show and telling me that what they've demonstrated to me is an exact representation of what I would be getting in those boxes. Demonstration is defined as "the action or process of showing the existence or truth of something by giving proof or evidence". Therefore, God has proven His love is not on the basis of merit as demonstrated on the cross. Because we have so great a demonstration, we can count on all the "boxes" of God's love thereafter are exactly the same.


God always intended the law to break us like the tax collector not puff us up like the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Not to compete with Christ thereby trusting in our own righteousness which proves us coming up short (Rom. 3:23) but to lead us to Christ Who loved us and give Himself up for us (Eph. 5:2)! It's okay to acknowledge your shortcomings knowing it's without risk of losing God's love which is given on the basis of grace not works. Actually when you realize His love isn't contingent on your performance you are freed up to acknowledge your weaknesses. In the book of John the writer at least three times referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7). One who holds to a system of merits (legalism) may think that was a statement of arrogance. Afterall, if the system is works provoke God's favor, John, in declaring such a high standing as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" may be considered to be bragging in the highest. If it were works based, then John is saying by working his butt off he's reached the highest standing! This notion is ridiculous! John, like Paul and the other disciples have learned merits have nothing to do with it (Rom. 3:24, 2 Cor. 11:16-33, Phil. 3:2-9). When he refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" he is actually exhibiting faith! He is trusting that God is true to His own character (1 John 4:8) and he's confident that Christ's work on the cross was sufficient for him (John 19:30) in covering all his sins. When I was more legalistic (of which I still struggle) I saw this statement as an arrogant one. Now I see it as a testimony of faith and trust in the finish work of Christ. When we measure our merits and come up short, we bow our head. When we look to the cross, and trust in Christ's finish work, we raise our head, not as the Pharisee, but confident that we've been redeemed. When you raise your head in faith, similar to taking communion, you are proclaiming the Lord's death as being satisfactory for you! (1 Cor. 11:26). Next time the enemy whispers "you're not worthy" or "you're useless" his real temptation is getting you focused back on merits, looking at the waves (Matt. 14:30-31). Whether you find yourself guilty or vindicated doesn't matter, the fact you are measuring your merits is a victory for him as it got your eyes off Jesus.


Can I exhort you for a moment to disregard merit entirely? Right now you may be feeling like you should be better, could do better, should have done better. You may be feeling the guilt of the world which is denoted by regret and therefore is NOT of God (2 Cor. 7:10). Can you, for a moment, declare to yourself that God's grace for you is sufficient! You are not being presumptuous in doing this but like David, you can take courage (2 Sam. 7:27) despite your feelings simply because God has said it! No other reason is needed! I say this on the authority of God's word (Acts 10:15, 2 Cor. 12:9, Rom. 3:31, 5:20, Matt. 5:17), at any given moment you can step out on your front porch and declare that you are "the saint whom Jesus loves!" (2 Cor. 5:17). Know another who's received Christ that may need to hear this? Declare to them on the basis of what Christ has done that they are "the saint whom Jesus loves!".


The next time the enemy whispers in your ear "you're a failure" reply with "I agree, but it's okay." Why is it okay? How is that possible? We'll get into the logistics of that starting next week and continuing through the book of Romans.


Question: Grace is the only way we are going to make it (John 15:4-5) and in humility God is freed to lavish it on us. So what are ways we can seek true humility?

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21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, - Romans 3:21


"But..." Paul, having just indisputably driven home that we are sinners, transgressors of the law and therefore not righteous before God; having made known to us that such people deserve condemnation now delivers this simple yet profound word.. "But". What should this mean to us? In the face of what Paul has made light of so far in Romans, we are sitting in the defendant's seat in court, God's the judge, the law is the jury, the angels are in the audience, and Satan is the prosecuting attorney (Rev. 12:10). Satan just got done presenting his case against us. He didn't need much effort, it was an airtight case leaving us with no ground for us to stand on. It was the fastest a jury has ever reached a verdict. The facts, the evidence, and even our own conscience all spoke in one accord, "guilty". The jury returns to the courtroom with their verdict, "We the law find the defendant guilty your Honor." Satan, knowing the heart of the Judge, hastily reaches into his briefcase to pull out the decree the judge handed out earlier in Romans 2:6 which demands the punishment be just according to the crime. This was in case the Judge, because of His compassion, might be hesitant. We can tell by Satan's smile that he's got grounds for the death penalty. After all, it doesn't take a lawyer to deduce that our offense deserves nothing less (Rom. 2:5). After the brief moment of noise from papers shuffling and people shifting in their chairs there remained nothing but a long eerie silence (Rev. 8:1). We see the long face on the Judge for as He reaches for the gavel. We, in a justified panic, knowing we were unable to endure what was coming (Gen. 4:13) cry out, and then, just then, sitting next to us is our Defense Attorney (Rom. 8:27, 34) who's been calm throughout the entire trial, He stands up and speaks with a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12 KJV) this one word that would resound in our hearts through all the ages... "But" He says. Such a short word yet we latch onto it; the jury latches onto it, Satan is thrown off by it, the angels rise quickly to their feet (Luke 15:10, 1 Pet. 1:12) in order to get a better look. The Judge, well the Judge's eyes start welling up with tears, He's actually smiling (Isa. 53:10). What could this be?!?!?! we ponder in desperation. "Butttt what!!!" Satan throws at our Attorney. "But Me Your Honor." Jesus replies.


Question to ponder: What makes, is making, has made you panic before the court of God? What is it that makes you feel that your panic is justified?


21 But God has a way to make people right, and it has nothing to do with the law. He has now shown us that new way, which the law and the prophets told us about. - Rom. 3:21 (ERV)


I imagine this is where Satan's jaw drops. His entire argument was on the basis of the law. Such a notion of righteousness apart from the law would undermine his entire case, (Heb. 2:14) after all, what power does an "accuser of the brethren" have (Rev. 12:10) if righteousness is imparted apart from the law? Not only that, but this plan has been in the making for a long time even being witnessed to by the old testament prophets and even the law itself. Now the big reveal!


22 God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. He does this for all who believe in Christ. Everyone is the same. - Rom. 3:22 (ERV)


God makes people right with Himself solely on the basis of faith in Jesus. This has always been God's intent (Rom. 4:3). While the news of how He accomplished it is new, being through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, (John 19:30) that is, the plan of righteousness which would come on the basis of faith is even true of old testament prophets like Abraham who "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3).


Christians have often struggled with feeling forgiven. Unfortunately this is solely because they are listening to Satan who's lying to them, to us. It's the lie that God's forgiveness is based on the law when God is making it clear here it has nothing to do with the law and it has everything to do with His free gift in Christ Jesus. As written on Romans 11:6, grace earned is no longer grace, forgiveness earned is no longer forgiveness. When we don't feel forgiven it's because to the same exact degree we fail to recognize this truth of God's character and that is His grace! God's grace has never, will never, ever, be given based on the works or lack there of (Rom. 11:6). God's forgiveness can never be earned, if it can be earned than it's no longer forgiveness but what is due. The answer to not feeling forgiven is not to mull over the feeling nor is it to do good deeds to some how "make up the difference", but rather it's coming to the realization of the truth that Christ really did suffer for us and died for us and no works or lack thereof will effect His finished work on the cross on our behalf in any way! Once we realize how big God's grace is we'll no longer concern ourselves with our failing to measure up (Rom. 5:20). Perfect love cast out all fear!


18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. - 1 John 4:18


If that isn't deflating enough to Satan, Paul even agrees with Satan in regards to this legal dispute.


23 All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness. - Rom. 3:23 (ERV)


Basically, it's like going up to the prosecuting attorney and saying "we agree with you and the law" this person is definitely not good enough to inherit the kingdom of God. But God's got a way to make them right that has nothing to do with that!


24 They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. - Rom. 3:24 (ERV)


So yes we haven't earned it, yes we don't deserve it, on that God, the law, the prophets, and Paul here agree (and we should too), but yes God is giving them the right for free, by His grace, through Jesus Christ. Know that God does not redeem apart from Jesus Christ. It is only through Him and in Him that we are justified (John 14:6). I like Chuck Smith's definition of justified. It's "just-as-if-I'd never sinned". Notice, and do not let it escape your notice the fact such status is freely given. Romans 6:23 sums this up nicely.


23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23


Wages are what's due, gifts are always undeserved. Gifts therefore are always free, if they are earned they are no longer a gift but become a wage. God is making it very clear that this gift of righteousness is not earned. If anyone wants what's earned then they are brought back under the old wineskins, (Mark 2:22,Gal. 5:4) and what they've earned is death. On the contrary, this gift of eternal life is solely by the grace of God and is only received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9). So then the big question is, how can God do this? How can God justify us the sinner and still remain just Himself. How can He justly justify the guilty? This is summed up in the next two verses.


 God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people’s sins through their faith in him. God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins. God gave Jesus to show that he always does what is right and fair. He was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And in our own time he still does what is right. God worked all this out in a way that allows him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus. - Romans 3:25-26 (ERV)


Yes we're guilty, and yes God punishes sin and the wages of sin is death. One only needs to look to the cross to see the severity in which God regards sin. But that's precisely why and how God can justly forgive us, because He's already dished out the punishment on Jesus, the death our sin earned has been paid up! On the cross is where Him who is just justified us who were not.  Max Lucado put it well in His book "In the Grip of Grace" when he writes, "Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn't condone our sin, nor does He compromise His standard. He doesn't ignore our rebellion, nor relax His demands. Rather than dismiss our sin, He assumes our sin and incredibly, sentences Himself. God's holiness is honored. Our sin is punished... and we are redeemed. God did what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream: perfect before God."


21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21


Question: What does the word imputed mean? It means to transfer ownership of something from one person to another. In the case of the above verse God imputed to Christ our sin, in other words, He transferred ownership of our sin to Jesus. He didn't merely go through a ritual or somehow just cover Jesus in our sin. No! It says He became sin. You see, in order for God to justly punish Jesus who did no wrong Jesus had to take ownership of our sin as if He did those wrongs, our record of sin actually became His record of sin. It wasn't a mere ritual as if He was still clean in His flesh, clothed in white underneath some outer garment of sin that we gave Jesus. God the Father who knows all things would have seen through that. Rather, Jesus was imputed with our sin in His flesh as if it were His and the Father justly judged Him in the flesh. God was actually mad at Jesus because of what we have done and therefore He rejected Him (Matt. 27:46).


If that's not enough, I mean, to escape the wrath of God, to have someone step forward and take our punishment is a BIG deal. To go about our way without the fear of judgement is a huge relief. But that's not all. Don't let the 2nd half of 2 Cor. 5:21 escape your notice. We know what Christ was imputed with (our sin) but look what we're imputed with? " that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!" Did you know you are a walking trophy of Christ's accomplishments. Inasmuch as Christ was imputed with our sin, we who receive Him are imputed with His righteousness (notice the word "might" in that verse, we'll revisit that). Inasmuch as God was wrathful on Jesus because of our wretchedness, God is delighted in us because of His wonderfulness. Jesus always did what pleased the Father (John 8:29) and now, for those in Christ, such a heavenly gift is credited to us on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9). When God looked from heaven and said of Jesus "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17) God now regards you with the same heart.


17 “The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. - Zephaniah 3:17


Paul continues as if to address potential questions manifesting in his recipients minds.


27 So do we have any reason to boast about ourselves? No reason at all. And why not? Because we are depending on the way of faith, not on what we have done in following the law. 28 I mean we are made right with God through faith, not through what we have done to follow the law. This is what we believe. - Romans 3:27-28 (ERV)


Boasting is excluded because we did not earn salvation. If we're discussing what was "earned" than we should remember, we've "earned" wrath. Therefore there is no room for us to boast as we have no valid reason to. We in no way merited such a wonderful gift of God. Rather than depending on what we have done, that is works, we are depending on what He has done, this is faith. To rely on Christ's accomplishment testifies of faith. Because righteousness is on the basis of faith apart from works, works then, our works, have no part in our redemption whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada. If they did, then we'd have reason to boast. But as it is, we have none. People like to view salvation as a handshake deal. That God somehow agrees to do one part as long as we do another, that however would give us reason to boast. Romans 11:6 makes it clear that works of any kind that aim to merit God's favor actually destroys grace since grace is a gift. As it were, like we discussed last week, we have nothing in which to contribute, we have nothing to offer God (Matt. 5:3).


29 God is not only the God of the Jews. He is also the God of those who are not Jews. 30 There is only one God. He will make Jews right with him by their faith, and he will also make non-Jews right with him through their faith. - Romans 3:29-30 (ERV)


So who is grace for? Everyone. The law was only of benefit to the Jews if they didn't fall short of obeying it but as it were, they did (v23). So they, like us, have but one option, to receive Christ by faith. Like we discussed and what's proven with Abraham (Gen. 15:6) this was God's plan from the beginning.


31 So do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? Not at all! In fact, faith causes us to be what the law actually wants. - Romans 3:31


I've heard people say that Christ takes "away" their sins. While I understand what they mean, my OCD would encourage them to rather say that Christ simply takes our sin. Not away. To take them away is true in a sense that He takes them from us, but He doesn't just put them in a dumpster as if to mock the law like it had no authority. Rather Christ assumes our sin, and we assume His righteousness. The law then is not destroyed on either account but rather it's established. On Christ who was imputed with our sin the law executed punishment thereby satisfying it's decree of judgement against sin. On us in Christ who are imputed with His righteousness the law means rewards. Remember what Romans 2 wrote.


who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. - Romans 2:6-8


It has been rendered to Christ according to our deeds and now it's being rendered to us according to His accomplishments. On both ends of the spectrum the law is not done away with but rather it's fulfilled. This is what's being spoken of in Matthew:


17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. - Matthew 5:17


Christ bore the "wrath and indignation" due us, and solely by the gift of His grace we are blessed with what only He earned. "glory (John 17:22, Rom. 8:16-17, Thess 2:14) and honor (1 Cor. 15:42-43) and immortality (John 8:51, 1 Cor. 15:53), eternal life (Rom. 6:23)". Boasting, as if we had a part in it, would actually be diminishing Christ's accomplishment on our behalf. It would be mocking the finished work of Christ on the cross as not being as great as it is!


Revisiting that word "might" in 2 Corinthians 5:21 above. Notice the word "might" only applies to us becoming the righteousness of God in Him but the word "might" is absent in regards to Him who knew no sin becoming sin. That part did happen. (period) No "might" about it.


All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. - Isaiah 53:6


This is why I can't stress enough that grace is for you! Whoever you are! Don't waste it! However God forces Himself on no man. Therefore the righteousness of God is not imputed whereas man doesn't want it.


36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” - John 3:36


24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. - John 5:24


But know this. God wants to impute it to you (Isa. 30:18, Luke 12:32, 2 Pet. 3:9). I was reluctant to highlight this "might" part as people will often make faith a work and it's not. On the contrary, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Therefore I would rather do like we've done thus far in the study and tell you about Jesus. I don't want you to get hung up, as I have, in focusing on faith. Rather focus on Christ, listen to His word, cling to Him and His accomplishments; in doing so faith is enacted. Satan's next tactic is getting a person to be self-focused instead of being Christ-focused. When we're Christ-focused we anchor into Him. When we make faith a work or a focus, than we anchor to ourselves. It's the object of our faith that sustains us, that is Christ. Not only does He impart salvation on the basis of grace but it's through faith we obtain those things, even the faith itself is a gift from Him (Heb. 12:2, Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 12:3). Since from Him come all great things (Jam. 1:17) I feel it's vital we keep our eyes on Him, cling to Him, rely on Him, this is the essence of faith. Yet our legalism may tempt us to make a "rule" to have faith... sneaky that legalism.


Question: How can you be confident that you are forgiven by God?


Answer: Because Christ very really paid the penalty for you. To the extent you realize that Christ was successful in being your propitiation (Rom. 3:25) is the same extent you realize you are forgiven. Struggle with feeling forgiven? Return to the cross and see! Like God said to Peter, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." (Acts 10:15). This means you!


In my back yard I have a cross, this time of year I have it lit up with white lights. In the shadow of that cross is an enormous boulder, just inches behind it. I neither built the cross nor put the rock beside it but the symbolism is not lost on me. That boulder is giant, that's my sin, day and night it just sits there. I'm free to roam about but my sin, well, wonderfully it always stays right there seated right at the foot of the cross. Some days though... some days I try and carry it with me, some days it's all I look at. Because of it's size it's ever before me and because of it's weight I cannot bear it. These are often dark days. Do I need it to be ever before me as some ritual penance before I'm allowed to put it at the cross? Hogwash. That's the VERY PURPOSE of the cross so I need not bear it any longer. Remember forgiveness earned is no longer forgiveness (Rom. 11:6). God WANTS you to leave it at the cross, it even pleases Him when you do so (Heb. 11:6). I'll end this week with one of my favorite excerpts from Colossians.


13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. - Colossians 2:13-15


What happened to our sins? Forgiven (v13). What happened to the law? Nailed to the cross (v14). What happened to the prosecuting attorney? Disarmed (v15). What happened to us? Made alive together with Christ! (v13). Knowing these truths what is there that remains to condemn us? Nothing! (Rom. 8:1, 8:34, John 3:17).


Question: In light of this, how then should we as Christians measure success?


Answer: Not on the basis of our merits, whether good or bad, that's irrelevant. A Christian's success is solely measured by the righteousness he was imputed with, since that's Christ's righteousness, we truly can rest in His finished work on the cross enjoying the success that Jesus Christ Himself accomplished!

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