I’ve found a new (well, new to me) blog that’s doing a bible study “small group” on-line. Looks like they might have to “birth” a new group pretty soon if they’re going to keep the moniker small, but I want to give it a try. If you’d like to try, too, or if you’re part of the group and would like to go back there, click here.
The study text for this week is Romans 3:9-20, in which Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles.
Paul has just been talking about the advantages of being a Jew, and Paul is a Jew, so his question might also be put, “Are we Jews any better than the Greeks (or Gentiles)?” Paul’s point is that though Jews have had and have certain special advantages, Jews and Gentiles are both under sin. Without the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ, we are all alike condemned by our own sinfulness. Today we don’t have such a tension between Jews and Greeks as was evident in Paul’s day, but we do have different social beliefs, differing ethnic identities, various political affiliations. We are all in the same predicament without Christ, however, so we are none of us better or worse than anyone else.
Being a Jew (or an Evangelical or a Catholic or a Presbyterian, etc.) is of no advantage whatsoever when we fail to seek God. Without Him, none of us has any righteousness. We can’t make ourselves worthy to be called God’s people.
No one understands (on his own). No one seeks God (again, on his own). We don’t even have the goodness to seek God of our own volition. Jesus said, “No man can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44)
All have fallen away, both Jew and Greek, and become unprofitable (the word means spoiled or putrid). None do good. The word good or chrestotes denotes moral excellence. We all, whatever our religious affiliation, like to think of ourselves as morally excellent. The truth is that neither Christian nor heathen nor follower of any religion or no religion can lay claim to moral excellence. That is God’s alone to confer and that by His grace alone.
A sepulcher, opened, can stink so badly that it has been known, in enclosed places, to kill. Is that the odor of our words to God? Graves were considered unclean by Hebrews–even walking over one would make one ceremonially unclean. The unclean words we speak make our throats comparable to an open grave. Not just outright lies, but any intentional deceit make our words unclean and poisonous. But there are many poisonous, slanderous, unlovely things we can and too often do allow our mouths to speak. No doubt Paul was speaking of other sins in addition to those that can be committed with the lips, but it is interesting that he chooses to mention this one first. The tongue is “set on fire by Hell”. (James 3:6)
Another phrase necessary that we all take to heart. Is my mouth full of cursing and bitterness when, for example, someone cuts me off on the way to work? Or maybe when it rains and I had been planning to work outdoors? This isn’t Godly behavior and it does nothing for our mood or our witness. That’s not to say we need to always be meek and mild to everyone whatever the situation, by the way. Jesus wasn’t meek and mild no matter what the children’s poems say–not in the popular usage of the words, anyway. But we should always be just and merciful even when defending ourselves and others. I realize I kind of went beyond the text here, but I think that what I’ve said can be verified elsewhere–maybe one day I’ll take the time to do it. Meanwhile, if I’m wrong, definitely feel free to say so and why.
This may seem a bit of overkill with regard to today’s society in America (or North America anyway), but really, it isn’t. People are people wherever they may be and the current likelihood of being apprehended and made to pay for murder here in the USA doesn’t make it any less a crime of the heart though we may fear to carry it out physically. In addition, this is likely a symbolic mention intended to evoke any sort of violent crime. Abortion deserves a mention here, for it is not as uncommon in the church as we might suppose. This, too, is the shedding of blood.
Destruction and misery not only for the victims of the ungodly, but also for those they love, as well as for themselves. This way leads to misery and death. It will lead to the same place whether we are unsanctified “followers” of Christ or self-declared enemies of God. This is the default destination of all Adam’s children apart from God’s saving grace, so we have no room to boast.
God has called us to peace. Without Him, we would never find it, either for ourselves or for any others unfortunate enough either to cross us or be associated with us. Of course, the way of peace is to follow God. Again, we are incapable of this on our own. That’s why Jesus came.
Fear means reverential awe, affectionate respect and reverence, and yes, fear–which is the only reasonable response of a sinner in the presence of God. Throughout this passage, Paul speaks of unregenerate man, yet we need to remember these characteristics so we may guard against them in our own lives. Do we sometimes also forget to fear God? Do we take Him for granted and go to Him only when we have a need or not at all? God wants us to bring our needs to Him, even if we haven’t talked to Him for a long time (it’s one way of getting us to remember Him), but if we spent our lives conversing with Him, how much better it would be for us.
Paul has already talked about non-Jews being guilty by reason of ignoring the laws of nature and their own in-born consciousness of right and wrong. Now he has been addressing the Jews, showing them to be guilty under their own law, that given to them by God. Not he who has the law is justified, but he who does the things required by the law. So our excuses are mowed down, Jews as well as Gentiles. We are all guilty before God.
No one, Jew or Gentile, having the law, obeys or has obeyed it. Therefore no one is justified by the law of Moses or by following the law of nature, implanted in the hearts of all humanity. These versions of the law merely show us our sin.
All this Paul says to convince his readers of their need of Christ, of their personal inability to please God with their lives, and of the inadequacy of simply having the law and not obeying it. As he says later, Thank God for Jesus! (slight paraphrase there) We can never make it on our own. We may as well surrender in appropriate humility to the grace of God and glorify Him for it, as a child surrenders to the ministrations of his daddy, admitting he can’t do anything on his own. God wants us to look to Him when we fail, when we succeed, when we need and want, when we’re lonely or happy or scared or confident. He, the God of the Universe and more, wants to be our Daddy. Let the people praise Him! Let all the people praise Him. You praise Him–He is the LORD!
May God richly Bless You and Grant You Peace,