Week 8 9/27/20 Ern Baxter's Exposition on Romans by Dr. Bill Peters
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS NEEDED BY SINFUL MAN
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROVIDED BY GOD
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS RECEIVED THROUGH FAITH
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS EXPERIENCED IN LIFE
"He is a Jew who is one INWARDLY". The real Jew is the one who has given his heart to God and experiences inward cleansing from sin and enjoys inward communion with God. This is not new teaching, originating with Paul. Isaiah had taught concerning "the godly remnant", as being that part of the nation which had the INWARD life as opposed to the rest of the nation which depended on OUTWARD distinctions. Later Paul is to say,
"they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (9:6). Such real Jews are referred to in the New Testament, as in the case of Nathanael whom Jesus described
as "an Israelite INDEED, in whom there is no guile" (John 1 :47), and Zacharias and Elizabeth who "were both righteous BEFORE GOD, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1 :6). Jesus made clear that there was a difference between Abraham's natural seed and his spiritual seed (John 7:31-44).
The true circumcision is "of the heart" and is performed by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that enables heart purity and not an external profession of fleshly obedience to "the letter" of the law. Such a life receives the praise or "approval of God." The outward Jew is looking for the "approval of man". The real Jew, the real Israelite, the real Christian, is one who has
entered into a heart relationship with God resulting in all the proper OUT WARD indications as w hat he is INWARDLY.
THE FACT DEBATED (3:1-8)
Paul has just concluded a sweeping indictment of the whole human race, showing the gross sinner condemned in his wickedness and idolatry; the moralist sinner condemned in his self-righteous and untrue claims of superiority over the gross sinner; and finally, the religious sinner, in this case the Jew, condemned for his unholy life lived while in possession of the highest revelation of truth. · 11 is to be expected that the one to be most disturbed by such an indictment would be the religious sinner, the Jew; and such was the case.
These verses probably contain in essence the objections presented to Paul by the Jew. Some suggest they are "synagogue echoes", being a summary of the kind of thing Paul faced when preaching the Gospel to the Jews in the synagogues. It helps to understand the passage if it is seen as a dialogue, debate, or exchange be tween Paul and a Jewish objector. It consists of four questions put by the objector, and the answers as given by Pau I.
QUESTION ONE (vs. 1)
Vs. 1 - "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"
Paul has just stated that the rules of judgment were the same for both Jew and Gentile. Both would be judged according to their works in relation to their knowledge of the divine will. However, the Jew considered himself superior to the Gentile. Indeed, had not God made him a separate and singular person through circumcision and the distinctive revelation of Scripture? How then
could he be considered on the same level with the Gentile? There must certainly be an advantage in being a Jew, Paul agrees.
Vs. 2 - "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."
Later Paul will list other "advantages" (9:4,5). but for now he mentions the great "advantage" the Jews enjoyed in being the recipients of divine revelation. It was to the Jewish "Fathers" that God had "spoken" ( Heb. 1: 1), the result being the Old Testament as we know and love it. This certainly was an advantage which the Gentiles had not experienced.
In all that Paul had said up to this point, he did not question the advantage the Jew had over the Gentile. He did, however, point out that the advantage
carried with it also greater responsibility. The Gentile had violated the revelation of God in nature, moral consciousness, and conscience, and would be judged
by these lights. The Jew had disobeyed a higher and more illuminating revelation and would be judged by that. Instead of being humbled by so great an honor, the Jew became proud of his privilege and misinterpreted it as giving him permission to sin. Said a Jewish writer, "If a Jew commit all manner of sins, he is indeed of the number of sinning Israelites, and will be punished according to his sins; but he has, notwithstanding, a portion in eternal life." John the Baptist had warned them, "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father" (Matt. 3:9). When the Jews said to Jesus, "We be
Abraham's seed", He reproved their unwarranted confidence in salvation through natural descent from Abraham. It was not enough to be Abraham's natural
seed, they must be also of Abraham's faith. "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." And then to these men who boasted
that God was their national possession, He delivers a severe and awful judgment, "Ye are of your father the devil." In the midst of this exchange, Jesus laid down a principle, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin". God will save and deliver from sin, but there is no circumstance, Jewish or Christian, in which some people have special permission to sin. The Jew had much "advantage" over the Gentile, but that "advantage" was to make him holy, not haughty and hypocritical.
QUESTION TWO (vs. 3)
Vs. 3 - "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"
God had entered into covenant with Abraham, and had confirmed the covenant with Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's sons, the children of Israel. It was a great "ad vantage" to be born into this covenant line. The great danger, however, was to depend on the circumstance of natural birth as a guarantee of acceptance with God and fail to have a personal vital faith in the God of covenant. The historical fact was that "SOME did not believe". In fact "some" represented a great number, for the real believers in Israel were referred to as "a remnant".
Did this unbelief on the part of "some" "cancel the faithfulness of God"? (NEB). Later in the epistle Paul shows how the unbelief of the Jewish majority did not alter the purpose of God. There had always been a "remnant" and there was
"at this present time also a remnant" (11 :5) and the true "all Israel shall be saved" (11:26). No, unbelief did not "nullify the faithfulness of God" (RSV).
Vs. 4 - "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."
Paul does not stop here to deal with God's condemnation of the Jews in the light of the covenant promises. This he does in chapters 9-11. All he does here is clearly state that God is always true, even if the assertion of God's truth makes of every man a liar. This is strong language, but it is intended to under line the absolute integrity of God. He then quotes David's acknowledgment of the justice of God in condemning Him for his sin. David did not try to excuse himself or claim special privilege. God was right in what He did and stood vindicated in the courts of ultimate rightness.
QUESTION THREE (vs. 5)
Vs. 5 - "But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)."
Paul now shows how the human mind ("I speak as a man") warped by wicked" ness, can reach the point where it charges God with being unrighteous in His exercise of righteousness. Since human unrighteousness serves to advertise and glorify God's righteousness by contrast, then why should God judge the one who renders His righteousness conspicuous. Paul dismisses this with the words "God forbid". This kind of talk renders the whole matter of divine justice a farce. It destroys the very nature of law and penalty. This same argument is to appear again in a different context in Chapter 6. God's judgments are righteous and He is going to "judge the world".
QUESTION FOUR (vs. 7,8)
Vs. 7,8 - (NEB) - "Again, if the truth of God brings Him all the greater honor because of my falsehood, why should I any longer be condemned as a sinner? Why not indeed 'do evil that good may come', as some libelously report me as saying? To condemn such men as these is surely no injustice."
Paul takes the argument a step further. If "my falsehood" serves to make prominent "the truth of God" am I not doing God a service which certainly should not be condemned. Not only that, but wouldn't it follow that the more I "do evil" the more conspicuous is God's "good". Such talk is beneath con tempt and those who engage in it are justly condemned.
THE FACT DESCRIBED (3:9-20)
We have now arrived at the concluding verses of the first main section of the Epistle, which we entitled "RIGHTEOUSNESS NEEDED BY SINFUL MEN". Paul has shown how ALL MEN are "under sin". The Jews thought they were exempted from this indictment because they were of the "chosen race". Paul however, showed that "the advantage" which they had in being the recipients of "the oracles of God", as well as other divinely provided privileges, did not give them the right to sin without penalty. He condenses all that has been said up to this point in a summary pronouncement (vs. 9); followed by a· number of Old Testament references providing Scriptural proof of universal sinfulness (vs. 10-18); and concluding with a solemn verdict of guilt on the whole human race (vs. 19,20).
1. SUMMARY PRONOUNCEMENT (vs. 9)
Vs. 9 - "What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they a.-e all under sin."
JBP - "Are we Jews then a march ahead of other men? By no means. For I have shown above that all men from Jews to Greeks are under the condemnation of sin."
NEB - "What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all! For we have already formulated the charge that Jews and Greeks alike are all under the power of sin."
Paul sums up what has been said to this point. The Jews have "advantage" (3:1,2; 9:4,5), but in character are no better than the Gentiles. They have sinned against their superior light in the same manner as the Gentiles have sinned against their lesser light. The end result being "that they are ALL UNDER SIN".
This is the first of about 50 occurrences of the word "sin" in the Roman epistle. The word "under" means, "in the power of, under the authority of". We see the meaning of the word "under" in the case of the centurion who said "I have soldiers UNO ER me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it" (Matt. 8:9). All men who are not in a right relationship with God are under the command and control of sin, and powerless in themselves to break its authority over them.
SCRIPTURAL PROOF (vs. 10-18)
Paul now reaches into the "oracles" which had been given to the Jew to show that they teach the universal sinfulness of men. Verses 10-12 are from Psa. 14 and 53; verse 13 is from Psa. 5:9; verse 14 is from Psa. 10:7; verses 15-17 are from Isa. 59:7,8; and verse 18 is from Psa. 36:1.
Sin In Human Character (vs. 10-12)
Negative (vs. 10-12)
"There is r:ione righteous, no, not one." No man is capable of pro ducing a righteousness which is acceptable to God. This is universally true and admits of no exception!
"There is none that understandeth." Man, apart from the regenera ting life of God is incapable of a spiritual discernment of divine things (1 Car. 2:14). "As an animal cannot understand the things of of a man, so men cannot understand the things of God."
"There is none that seeketh after God." "i'Jot one who is searching
for God" (TCNT). Contrary to much that we hear, men do not seek God, God seeks men! Seeking God "includes all those exercises of desire, worship, and obedience, which are the result of having spiritual discernment". When Adam realized he had sinned, he and Eve "HID THEMSELVES from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 3:8). So Adam's race is hiding from, not hunting for God!
d) "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." In terms of divine righteousness, no man is capable of doing good. Such "goodness" as he claims to perform is a relative goodness which has to do with human standards.
Positive (vs. 12)
"They are all gone out of the way." "All have swerved from the right path" (Mon.). When men take any other path than "the path of righteousness", they have taken the wrong path. Man is either in "the way of the Lord" or "out of the way". "All we like sheep have
gone astray, we have turned everyone to HIS OWN WAY" (Isa. 53:6).
"They are together become unprofitable." "They have become utter ly useless" (Berk.). "This word translated "unprofitable" was used by the Greeks concerning rotten fruit, milk gone sour, or whatever was utterly, irrevocably bad, and therefore useless."
Sin In Human Conduct (vs. 13-18)
"Their throat is an open sepulchre." "Their talk is foul and filthy like the stench from an open grave" (Tay.). "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34). What comes out in human speech reveals the condition of the character. Whatever comes out of the unregenerate heart bears the stench of spiritual death.
"With their tongues they have used deceit." "They are treacherous with their tongues" (Moff.). Deceptive words mask the true intent of the heart so as to gain dishonest advantage.
"The poison of asps in under their lips." "Everything they say has in it the sting and poison of deadly snakes" (Tay.). "The fangs of a deadly serpent lie, ordinarily, folded back in its upper jaw, but when it throws up its head to strike, those hollow fangs drop down, and when the serpent bites, the fangs press a sack of deadly poison hidcien "under its lips" at the root, thus injecting the venom into the wou'nd. You and I were born with moral poison sacks like this." How descrip
tive of the pain and death that men inflict with their malignant speech.
"Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." Here the mouth is seen as a channel full of corruption pouring forth the contents of a wicked and bitter heart.
In Deed (vs. 15-18)
"Their feet are swift to shed blood." "They are quick to kill" (Tay.). "On the slightest provocation they commit murder. The life of their fellow-man is as nothing in their estimation, in comparison with the gratification of their pride or malice."
b) "Destruction and misery are in their ways." "Wherever they go they leave misery and trouble behind them" (Tay.). Such is the environment which sin creates.
"The way of peace have they not known." The "way of peace" is "the way that leads to peace". The strife, war, and turmoil which characterize the history of the human race underlines this divine description.
"There is no fear of God before their eyes." "They care nothing about God nor what He thinks of them" (Tay.). It is not uncommon to hear men speak disparagingly of God and boastfully declare their independence of His government and interests.
It is a terrible picture which the apostle has painted with the use of the inerrant Scriptures. One can hear the protests of some who say that it is too severe. It is true that all of these things may not be manifest in everyone, but atl of these things are in the unregenerate heart and capable of being expressed at any time. "Some, even the most of them, may remain latent in many men; but they all exist in germ in the selfishness and natural pride of the ego, and the least circumstance may cause them to pass into the active state, when the fear of God does not govern the heart."
Solemn Verdict (vs. 19,20)
The Jew would be inclined tu say that these awful things applied to the Gentiles only. Paul anticipates this and reminds the Jews that the things he had quoted were from their own "law". He uses the word "law" here in reference to the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jew claimed to be subject to these Scriptures, therefore such Scriptures spoke to them
"who are under the law". Now if this was true of faithless Jews it was certainly true of wicked Gentiles, the result being, that "EVERY MOUTH MAY BE STOPPED AND ALL THE WORLD MAY BECOME GUILTY BEFORE GOD".
Whatever men may think of themselves and their conduct in relation one another is one thing; what they are and do "BEFORE GOD" is something else. The divine verdict is "GUILTY". The evidence is all in and has been scrupulously considered by God. When presented by God "every mouth is stopped". So universal is man's violation of God's law that "no one may have anything to say in self-defence (NEB).
Since man has universally violated the law of God, "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight". If one is going to attempt to be right with God by obeying the law he must obey it completely and without fail. This no one can do. The Prefore, as a way of being
right with God, it holds out no hope to man. As we shall see later, there is a better way.