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Three Objections Answered

[If you have been following this study in Romans, the last time we left off at Chapter 2, Verse 16. We pick up here with Chapter 3, Verse 1. For a look at 2:17-2:29, please see “7 Things That Will Not Bring Salvation – Part 1” and “Part 2” which I wrote last Summer]

By the time that the Apostle Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, he was quite familiar in dealing with the objections of the Jewish religious leaders. He had experience in addressing their arguments and had doubtlessly been confronted with the very same questions repeatedly. Having just written some very direct charges against the orthodox rabbinical Jews, who rested on the Law of Moses and prided themselves in their belief that they were able to keep the same, Paul anticipates three common challenges which might be raised against these charges. Let’s look at them a little closer:

1.) If the Jew is just as guilty of sin in the eyes of God as the Gentile, then what benefit is there to being a Jew? (3:1)

The anticipated objection here is that if being born a Jew, knowing God’s will, knowing God’s Law, knowing God’s Word, teaching God’s Law and Word, and being circumcised do not make a person right with God, then is there any advantage at all to being a Jew? We know from the way that the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders dealt with Jesus that they liked to set little theological “traps” for those whom they saw as their doctrinal enemies (e.g., Matthew 12:10 and Luke 11:53-54). It is very likely that Paul had been asked such a question before during his ministry and he is quick to address it here. They would have had several Scriptures in mind when asking, and were hoping that Paul would misspeak and state that there was no advantage for the Jew, thus contradicting what God’s Word said (e.g., Deuteronomy 14:2). But Paul does not contradict God’s Word in addressing this anticipated objection:

“Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2)

The “much every way” will be further developed in Chapter 9, verses 4 and 5, but he states here that the entrustment of God’s Word is the primary advantage. What an awesome gift it is to have access to the holy written Word of God! Not only did the nation Israel have access to God’s Word, they were given the privilege of being the people through whom God’s Word would come to the whole world.

2.) Are you saying that, because some Jews have disobeyed God’s commandments, then God will not honor His promises? (3:3)

Here is the second trap that Paul anticipated they would try to snare him with. Again, Paul is quick to refute such a notion:

“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.” (Romans 3:4)

In other words, you can count on God’s Word being true. If every person on earth says one thing and God says differently, we know Who is correct. God is. Truth does not change in the face of popular opinion nor does consensus determine what is truly right and wrong. God made certain promises to the nation Israel that were unconditional. The question being posed here is whether or not God will honor these promises considering the lack of faithfulness on the part of some. Notice that Paul realizes that most will not admit that they themselves have blown it and come short of following God’s Law. Rather than asking an honest question, such as saying, “OK, you are right, we ALL have failed to keep God’s Law, how can we receive forgiveness?” they would rather try another trick question, “You aren’t suggesting that God is going to fail to keep His promises just because some OTHER PEOPLE haven’t obeyed, are you?” Oh, how they would have loved it if he would have played into their hands! But, again, he does not. Instead, he responds with a paraphrase of Psalm 51:4. Ironically, this Psalm is a complete outpouring from King David’s heart in repentance before God. It is one of the most pure and sincere prayers of heartfelt repentance found anywhere in the Bible and I do not believe it is a coincidence that Paul would choose to bring this particular passage to the remembrance of those readers whose attitude was so completely opposite of the words contained in it.

The important question is not whether or not God will honor His unconditional promises to the nation Israel, of course He will. The important question is whether or not God made any promises specifically to the individual Israelite where He would overlook his disobedience and lack of repentance, and of course He did not. There are no promises made to the individual Jew that they will be unconditionally saved from God’s judgment. Neither is any promise made that anyone will be justified based on the fact that they are Jewish.

Is God Finished With Israel?

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

This verse, obviously, has yet to be fulfilled. But it will be. God’s promises to the nation Israel that remain to be fulfilled will be fulfilled. God is certainly not finished with the nation Israel, nor has the Church replaced the nation Israel. Verses such as this one in Zechariah could not possibly be fulfilled by the Church, it can only apply to Israel. It is of the utmost importance that we see this because if God is not going to honor His promises made to the nation Israel, how can we be confident that He will honor His promises to the Body of Christ?

A Distinction Made

“Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Romans 9:6-7)

In addition to what we have just read in Romans 2:28-29, further clarification is made in Chapter 9 concerning who God considers a real Jew and a bona fide member of the nation Israel. The assumption being made in the second anticipated question addressed in Romans 3:3 is that the promises God has made to Israel as a nation will automatically be conferred upon every individual of Jewish descent. This is not the case.

                                                                                                                                                                    
3.) So, if man’s disobedience actually magnifies the goodness of God in comparison, thus bringing Him glory, then how can God judge the very sinfulness that brings Him glory? (3:5)

All right, so if God will honor His unconditional promises because of His own goodness and His own faithfulness regardless of the lack of faithfulness of the nation to whom the promises are made, then how can God judge the very sin that demonstrates man’s unrighteousness and emphasizes His own righteousness? Having failed to catch him in his own words, this third attack on the Gospel made against Paul attempts to take the Gospel to an illogical end. Rather than trying to create a supposed contradiction between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the clear teachings of the Old Testament, the effort now is to create a fallacious leap of logic in the very nature of sin and God’s judgment.

I must confess that it is beyond me how anyone could draw such conclusions and make such suggestions in light of the clear presentation of the Gospel. But, from what verse 8 tells us, this is no hypothetical objection. People had actually made such an argument. Maybe it seems logical to some people, but I admit, I sure do not understand the reasoning behind it. We see other examples of such philosophical arguments throughout the Bible and even in our own modern day. There has, in recent years, developed a lot of attention on the disciple Judas Iscariot in some theological circles as well as in popular books and T.V. documentaries. The basic argument is that, since Judas’ betrayal of Jesus caused the will of God to be fulfilled through the Crucifixion, then he was a participant in God’s will and, therefore, is a hero and not a villain. What a horrendous example of calling evil “good” and good “evil!”

Well, if this argument is true, then even the devil could not be judged because his actions have also contributed to fulfilling God’s will and bringing the Lord glory. Rather than being serious, meaningful questions asked in order to better understand the Gospel, objections such as these do little more than “muddy the waters” by perverting the straightforward Good News of Jesus Christ into a complex, philosophical conundrum. This is what is going on in the objection raised in Romans 3:5. Paul quickly brings the matter back to Earth in verse 7 by stating that, just because God’s righteousness is magnified in contrast to the sinner’s sinfulness, the sinner is still a sinner. Verse 8 makes it clear that judgment is in no way avoided by this supposition.

“The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.” (Matthew 26:24-25,)

Jesus Himself made it clear that, although the actions of Judas fulfilled prophecy concerning our Lord, he was in no way a hero for what he did and God will judge him for his sin.

It is astounding to consider that there would be those who would rather argue ad absurdum against the clearly presented evidence of the Universal sin-guilt of all mankind, but there were those who would. There still are. Rather than accept the Good News that Jesus Christ will forgive the sins of all who come to Him, many people want to dispute, argue, and object to the fact that they are sinners at all. They go to great lengths to create ridiculous philosophical conundrums in an effort to shift the focus of blame from themselves. They might feel that they are resting soundly on a supposed loophole, but we can be assured that no loopholes exist. To the Jewish legalists, those resting on the Law of Moses, Paul declared that the Law will never acquit any person; it will only serve to condemn them. Every mouth will be stopped and all will be found guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). Not only will such foolish challenges made against the righteous judgment of God not be accepted, they will not even be entertained. So many people are counting on their chance to defend themselves before God, to explain why they are not sinners. But no chance will ever come. Man is unable to justify himself before a Holy God. Job responded to his friend Zophar’s accusations that he was guilty of sin:

“Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.” (Job 13:3)

Yet when Job had his chance, he said: “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5). There will be nothing left to say when we stand before God. None of us will be afforded the opportunity to reason with God about our own sinfulness. Let us come to Christ now and confess what we are that He may cleanse us and give us life in Himself.

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8 responses

  1. So much effort in trying to get out of humbling oneself and coming to grips with our sinfulness and our need of Him. It reminds me of times where we read or see about a criminal who masterminds a theft or scam of some sort. All that brilliant thinking and reasoning and working out a plan . . .for wrong. Oh to harness it all for Jesus, and put it to use for Him and for the good of others. Things get made much harder than they have to be. So glad God had Paul there at that time, in that place, and equipped to answer those who questioned in hopes of trapping and tricking. :) And so glad God has you here at this time Loren, teaching and helping us to understand Him more! God bless you!
    p.s. Thank you also for making such a clear case about the church not replacing the nation of Israel. Having a Jewish friend in Jerusalem, who also believes in Jesus, I have found out about that train of thought, and how troublesome it can be as they try to urge the Body of Christ to pray for Israel.

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  2. Hi Loren,

    “Let us come to Christ now and confess what we are that He may cleanse us and give us life in Himself.”….. That says it all in a nutshell…. Thank you for setting this forth.

    Margaret

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  3. Loren, Another wonderfully thoughtful post! This line in particular resonated with me: “Truth does not change in the face of popular opinion nor does consensus determine what is truly right and wrong.” It seems even those in the church today want to determine what the Bible calls sin by popular vote and concensus, to rely on what we think instead of what God said.

    I also appreciate your discussion of Israel not being replaced by the Church. There are many Messianic Jews (like Deb’s friend in Israel) who have begun the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, who have looked on the one whom they pierced and mourned for Him. It will be a wonderful day when that prophecy is completely fulfilled. Peace, Linda

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  4. I heard a story about a con man in the 1960’s who used to dig through landfills and junk yards looking for old car tires. When he would find them, he would take them back home and painstakingly dress them up, iron out any bubbles with a hot iron, paint them, and do his best to make them look like new tires so that he could re-sell them. It was pointed out to him that he spent twice as much time and put in far greater effort in order to make a dishonest dollar than he would have holding down an honest job (making more money, no less!). But he never dreamed of working a regular job and actually prided himself on his criminal “ingenuity.”

    It is baffling how people have concluded that God has replaced Israel with the Church. This teaching has been used for centuries as an excuse for anti-Semitism and it seems to be making a comeback in our own day. It amazes me how so many who claim to be Christians are so hostile toward the Jews and their right to live in the land of Israel. The Bible in no way supports such a position and I hope to continue to demonstrate this as I come to different passages of Scripture (Chapters 9-11 of Romans, for instance, have a great deal to say about God’s dealings with Israel — past, present, and future).

    I was just listening to a Bible study a few days ago where the preacher mentioned a particular Bible commentary that categorized all of the blessings that God promised Israel as “Blessings For The Church.” Yet when you came to the passages where it mentioned God’s “curses” on the nation, the commentary read: “Curses For Israel.” A lot of Christians want to claim the blessings for the Church, but when it comes to the curses, they want no part of it. Interesting, indeed.

    “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)

    God bless you, Deb. Thanks for the wonderful feedback :)

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  5. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

    Such a simple yet beautiful invitation. I pray that more will answer it.

    Thanks, Margaret, I appreciate the encouragement :)

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  6. It is amazing the denominations that have gotten into the habit of dealing with issues by taking votes, holding conferences, and polling their members rather than seeing what God has to say about the matter. They change their position on controversial matters because of what popular opinion dictates, not the Bible. Sin is being tolerated and even celebrated more and more because churches are afraid that standing on the Word of God might chase a few members away. What an utterly tragic state of affairs!

    “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Rom. 10:1)

    Praise God for our brothers and sisters in Christ, the Messianic Jews, who are coming to the Savior!

    Thanks, Linda, for the kind words of encouragement. God bless you :)

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  7. Thanks Loren,

    “Rather than accept the Good News that Jesus Christ will forgive the sins of all who come to Him, many people want to dispute, argue, and object to the fact that they are sinners at all.”

    For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23 All have sinned. And for the sins of all He died…

    “In other words, you can count on God’s Word being true. If every person on earth says one thing and God says differently, we know Who is correct”
    If He says it’s sin, then sin it is. I’m happy to know I have redemption as an option :-) The statement “Your opinion can be wrong” doesn’t always go down because when we hold on to what we believe to be true, it’s not the easiest thing to let go of.

    Thanks for taking the time to prepare this detailed ‘answer’. It’s good to know that all have sinned and regardless of how we got there, we all have the opportunity to enter through the same Gate.

    Wondering if I feel this way because I’m not part of the ‘elite’ … ? (So thankful He has no favourites!!) In my best Joel Osteen voice ” This is the Word of the Lord,I am what it says I am!” :-)

    SIDEBAR
    I attended a conference/workshop event on the weekend. (It was hectic but great!). To see so many of God’s children from different races, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and denominations worshipping God as one made my heart dance. I imagine this is what it will be like when we all get together over there … it won’t matter if we’re Jew, Gentile or otherwise. The important thing is that we will all be with Him and we would have all gotten there through the same Way!

    Blessings and thanks
    ann

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  8. Hi Ann,

    Romans 3:23 is exactly the summation of this entire passage leading up to it. That’s just it. It blows me away every time I study through this how every door and window is shut, every straw that man might grasp at in order to justify himself is swept away. No wiggle room remains at all. Romans shows us how each and every one of us can be saved (like you mentioned :) ), but first it shows us how each and every one of us needs to be saved! What a truly extraordinary book of the Bible this is.

    Sounds like you had a great conference. It is always such a privilege to get into the presence of such a diverse group of God’s people; it sure helps us to appreciate how far and wide His mercy and grace are. That Christ has taken from many tribes, lands, and tongues a people unto Himself — His Church — is utterly astounding! And, like you said, how wondrous it is that we have all gotten there the same Way :)

    Thanks, Ann, for your awesome comments. I hope you are finding a chance to rest this week (I’m sure trying, but things seem to stay so busy :( )

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