A defense of God’s Judgment – Romans 3:1-8

In chapter two of Romans, we learn that God’s judgment for all people deals with ones heart and character. It is not about what we see on the outside, it is what God sees in the heart. However, even though all people are judged equally, God does make a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. In these verses of Romans chapter three Paul deals with these distinctions. The reason Paul deals with this issue is to show the Jewish people that they are guilty before God and that they need to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Douglas Moo writes, “In thus allowing the Roman Christians to ‘listen in’ on this dialogue, Paul warns his mainly Gentile audience that they should not interpret the leveling of distinctions between Jew and Gentile in terms of God’s judgment and salvation as the canceling of all the privileges of Israel.”[1] In this passage, we find four rhetorical questions that may have been in the Jewish mind.

If Jews and Gentiles are both guilty before God, what advantage then is it in being a Jew? Notice what the text says in verses 1-2, What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” [2] The Bible clearly shows us that there are advantages in being a circumcised Jew. There are several such advantages but Paul mentions one very important one here. He says that the Jews were given the ‘oracles of God.’ The oracles of God is the Old Testament or perhaps more specifically, the Mosaic Law. The special thing about this is the fact that the Mosaic Law was given by God. The Ten Commandments, for example, were written by the very finger of God on stone tablets. Those tablets were given specifically to the Jewish race. They had received a special revelation from God and were given the responsibility to proclaim that message. The law was a special treasure entrusted to their care. Even though both Jew and Gentile stand before God condemned, there is a special privilege and advantage to being a Jew. The same can be said of those who grow up in Christian nations and homes today. We are a very privileged people. We have been given the complete Word of God. We have the privilege of reading the Bible for ourselves and in our own language. We have a clear advantage. We should never take such a privilege lightly. We should be thankful for where we live and the advantages we do have and give God all the glory and praise for allowing us to be a part of a special group of people. Just as the Jews were entrusted with the law, we too have been entrusted with God’s Word. We are not to just take advantage of our privilege and pridefully keep it to ourselves. Instead, we must take seriously the responsibility to propagate the message of the Gospel to the lost world. It has been mentioned before that God has every right and is just in His judgment on sin. He has given every soul the inner knowledge of right and wrong and the existence of a creator. He has given every soul the capability of accepting the Gospel. However, He has entrusted the preaching of the Gospel into our care. It is our responsibility as believers in Christ to make sure that every soul around the world has the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Just as the law with the Jews, the Gospel has been entrusted into our care and we are responsible for sharing the Good News.

Will God forsake His promise to bless the nation of Israel since some of the Israelites proved unfaithful? Look at Romans 3:3-4, “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”[3] One of the biggest mistakes in Biblical interpretation is to discredit, confuse, or ignore God’s promises to the Jewish people as a nation. God will keep His promises to the nation of Israel. The question is being asked that if there are some Jews who do not follow God, does this mean that God will not keep His promises to the nation as a whole? John Stott gives an interesting paraphrase here; “If some to whom God’s promises were entrusted (episteuthesan, v. 2) did not respond to them in trust (epistesan, v. 3a), will their lack of trust (apistia) destroy God’s trustworthiness (pistis, v. 3b)? If God’s people are unfaithful, does that necessarily mean that he is?”[4] The answer given is that God will keep His promises. He never goes back on His Word. God will remain faithful. The same can be said of us today. Even though we may not be trustworthy, God is always trustworthy. For the Christian, though we are not always faithful to Christ, He is always faithful to us. Our salvation is based not on what we do but on our standing with Christ. Though we mess up and fail and find ourselves in the pig pen of life, God will never cease to be our Father and we will never cease to be His son. This is the good news of the Gospel. This is love. Not that we have loved Him, but that He loved us and gave His life for us!

Since the failure of the Jews gave opportunity for God’s righteousness, will God deal more graciously with the Jews? The question raised here is a very interesting one. The Gospel is given to the world because of the failure of the Jews. Since the Jews failed, opening the door for more to have a relationship with God, will God go easy on the Jews? After all, their failure ended up being for God’s glory. Notice what the text says in verses 5-6, “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?”[5]Paul asserts that he is speaking as a man. In other words, this is a hypothetical question. He is not saying that Jews could live anyway they please and avoid God’s judgment. Dr. Constable says, “God will not show favoritism to the Jews even though by their unfaithfulness they glorify the faithfulness of God.”[6] If God was partial toward the Jews, then He would cease to qualify to sit in judgment on mankind. Paul addresses this issue for the Christian later on in Romans by criticizing those who would say that we should continue in sin in order that grace may abound. The Russian monk, Gregory Rasputin, the evil genius of the Romanov family in its last years of power, taught the doctrine of salvation through repeated experiences of sin and repentance. In other words, he thought that we should indulge in and enjoy sin in order that we may experience more of God’s grace and forgiveness. This point of view, I am afraid, is more common than we may realize. We may not admit it, but often times we too are guilty of taking our sin too lightly by thinking that since we are already forgiven then it doesn’t matter anyways. When a Christian is tempted with sin, one of the greatest ploys of Satan is to remind the Christian that even if they do sin they are forgiven and their salvation is secure, so why not go ahead and enjoy the sin? The thing we need to remember is that God knows our hearts. He knows what we are thinking. If we sin willfully, there will be consequences for that sin. Though we may be saved from the ultimate penalty of sin, there are consequences for our sins in this life. The bottom line is that we cannot escape the righteous judgment of God. Even if you are a privileged Jew, part of God’s chosen people, you still stand before God condemned in your sin.

If my lying, for example, glorifies God by showing Him to be the only perfectly truthful person, why does God punish me for lying? Notices verses 7-8, “For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.”[7] This question is very similar to the one that we just discussed. Throughout scripture we see God using evil in order that good may come. We need to understand here, however; that God is not the author of evil. He never forces man to do evil. Man has a choice. Though God uses the evil of men to bring about the ultimate good, it was man’s own decision to do that which is evil. R.C. Sproul gives a good explanation on this point, “There is a clear teaching in Scripture that God has a remarkable ability to bring good out of our evil. For example, he brought the redemption of the world through the treacherous act of Judas. Can Judas stand at the judgment seat and say, ‘God, give to me a great reward because no one has ever done a greater kindness to the human race than I. I delivered Jesus to be crucified and if it wasn’t for me there would have been no atonement’? Paul concludes this brief section by simply saying: Their condemnation is deserved. Judas has no basis upon which to claim a reward from God. His act was altogether wicked. His condemnation at the hands of God is perfectly just, in spite of the fact that God was able to overcome his evil. It is an irrational distortion of truth to conclude that, because God’s righteousness is enhanced indirectly by our unrighteousness, we are to continue doing evil that good may come.”[8] Did Judas have to betray Jesus? No. He could have chosen not to. God knew in His foreknowledge that it would happen as it did, but God did not force Judas or create Judas for the purpose of betraying Jesus. Therefore, God is just in His condemnation. When we practice evil, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Thanks be to God that He is so loving and gracious that He will often times use our evil choices and turn the situation around for our ultimate good. However, this does not give us a license to sin. We should not sin in order to have more grace. He gives us more than enough grace anyways, so to say that sinning is good in order to experience more grace is a distortion of scripture. Someone who has such an attitude toward sin and God’s grace should examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith. Someone who is truly born again will not have such an attitude. Someone who is truly born again will have a continual desire to please God and to stay away from anything that would displease Him.

Paul answers any objections concerning the judgment of God. Some people assume that because God has blessed them that He will not condemn them. Some believe that the character of God prohibits Him from condemning them. Some think that even though they have sinned God will be merciful and not condemn them. Some feel that since everything we do glorifies God, in some way God would be unjust to condemn them. Many people sitting in churches across the nation will get angry and defensive when one preaches against their sin. Just as the Jews, many have objections to the idea that we stand before God condemned. We cannot hide from the truth. The truth is that God is perfectly just and righteous in His condemnation of sin. We must not take our sins lightly. We have a holy of God to whom we must give account. All people stand condemned. All are without excuse. Our only hope is Jesus. Our only hope is the Gospel.

[1] Moo, Douglas J. The epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1996

[2] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ro 3:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ro 3:3–4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, pp. 85–86). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ro 3:5–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Constable. p. 39

[7] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ro 3:7–8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (pp. 61–62). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.

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