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Only a small part of Romans 3 is included in the three-year Lectionary, which makes it suitable for Churchmouse Campanologist‘s Forbidden Bible Verses, those Essential Bible Verses.  Today’s passage is the first of two which will explore the bulk of this letter of St Paul’s.

Today’s reading comes from the New International Version (NIV).

Romans 3:1-8

God’s Faithfulness

1What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:
   “So that you may be proved right when you speak
      and prevail when you judge.”

5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

——————————————————————————–

In Romans 3, St Paul continues his discussion of justification by faith.  Who will be saved and who will not?  In verses 1 and 2, the apostle states that the Jews have the advantage in becoming Christians because Scripture and God’s covenant began with them.  

In verses 3 and 4, St Paul states the misguided and malign sentiments of unbelievers who say that God will not save anyone because some have sinned against Him.  God’s promise of salvation is a constant.  He will save those who believe in Him and follow His Word.  The Old Testament has many instances where sinners and unbelievers perished, yet the faithful lived.  Noah was saved from the flood by obeying God.  Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land when those whose faith in God faltered died along the way. 

Verse 5 recalls what Man has said from the beginning of his knowledge of God: when we are told what the penalty for our sins is, we say, ‘But that’s not fair!’  However, is God really being ‘unfair’ in judging our sins?  St Paul firmly answers, ‘No’ (verse 6).  As sinners, we are all to eager to bend God’s precepts to our own appetites.  We justify our sins to ourselves and make excuses for our iniquity — ‘It’s in our nature’ or ‘It’s part of our culture’.  Yet, God will judge us equally and do so on His terms, not our own.           

Verses 7 and 8 may seem difficult to understand.  How can we think that sin can produce goodness, especially if we cloak it in God’s name?  One example would be of clergy who embrace all sorts of error in order to attract greater attendance at church.  It is commonplace today for clergy to say, ‘Don’t worry about what the New Testament says.  We’ve moved on.  Go and enjoy yourselves.’  So, virtue and moderation fly out the window.  Our clergy seem to fear that if they actually preached the Gospel they would lose their congregations.  In reality, it seems they have lost them already because they haven’t preached the Word truthfully. 

Yet, this is a notion that affects many people, mystifying though it is. Matthew Henry says in his commentary that doing evil in Jesus’s name will not go unpunished:

Those who deliberately do evil that good may come of it will be so far from escaping, under the shelter of that excuse, that it will rather justify their damnation, and render them the more inexcusable; for sinning upon such a surmise, and in such a confidence, argues a great deal both of the wit and of the will in the sin — a wicked will deliberately to choose the evil, and a wicked wit to palliate it with the pretence of good arising from it. Therefore their damnation is just; and, whatever excuses of this kind they may now please themselves with, they will none of them stand good in the great day, but God will be justified in his proceedings, and all flesh, even the proud flesh that now lifts up itself against him, shall be silent before him.

Next week: Romans 3:9-20

For further reading:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Charles H Spurgeon’s ‘God Justified, Though Man Believes Not’

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