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22. Romans 3: “A Darker Kind of Equality”
Salem County Correctional Facility in Woodstown, NJ – Men’s Evening Chapel Service on 9/23/2012
(edited November 2019)
We are truly EQUAL in God’s sight. We should all share the same rights and privileges before God and man, but we also share the same basic faults before the Lord. Let’s jump into Romans chapter 3, as the Apostle Paul speaks to the believers, Jew and Gentile, at Rome:
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
Jews in Paul’s day seemed to have a special “in” with the Lord. And there was some undeniable good that came from the Old Covenant between God and the Nation of Israel. But, they fell. The Jews could not keep the Law or the Old Covenant. That doesn’t mean the Gentiles kept the Law.
Paul is declaring that both the Jews and the Gentiles have equally failed to obey the Lord.
Verses 5-8: “ But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.”
So neither group (no one, actually) in their own strength, can please God. But that doesn’t excuse any of us from seeking to obey Him. We can’t just surrender to a life of sin. At least we shouldn’t!
Verses 9-10: “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:”
Next, he will present a whole series of Old Testament quotes about disobedience to God and evil living back in ancient times:
Verses 11-17: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known:
Paul’s point, I think, is that this also applies to ALL of us in the New Testament era. That isn’t a good thing. What could ever cause a person to stoop to this low-level living? It’s right here in the next verse:
Verse 18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Let’s drill down into one of these Old Testament quotes: “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” The context of the original verse is in Psalm 10:7-11 which goes like this:
“His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity. He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.”
The writer of the Psalm, David, knew something about the darker side of mankind. Beginning with Goliath, he saw the attitudes and actions of many men in times of war, and peace. And the depravity of his “friends” as well as his enemies. At times He even reveals the depravity of his own soul. See Psalm 51, for an instance of that.
But, again, long before we can condemn David or his contemporaries, we must look into the mirror of God’s Word and His Spirit at ourselves. Even if you can say you have refrained from overt violence, what about the exploitation of others? Aren’t we all guilty of that in one form or another before the Lord? Don’t even the general iniquities of our Health Care System, for instance, smear immorality onto many of us who may never have actually shed blood or even met “victims” personally. You may say, well, that’s very abstract, John. That’s a little too deep for me to really consider. But is it too deep for God to consider or monitor? Let’s go on:
Verses 19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
If sin is so pervasive within all of us, and if we are all LAW BREAKERS by God’s reckoning, then according to His law, no one in here tonight is any more INNOCENT than anyone else, be it you, me, the Chaplain, no one!
Can anyone be righteous, then? There is a way:
Verses 19-26: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
By faith in Christ, we can be justified before God regardless of our performance of the Law.
Verses 27-31: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
The message is not to ignore the commands of God. The message is that a faith relationship with God through Christ and a new heart can enable ANYONE to obey the Lord. Let’s pray:
“O Jesus, what a Savior You are. What a glorious expression of the Righteousness and the Grace of Almighty God.”