Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Humanity\'s Greatest Folly - God\'s Great Gift
There are three great faults in humanity?three great reasons why we have such a hard time as a race accepting the good news of Jesus Christ. Those reasons are that we are self sufficient, self justifying, and self focused. Self sufficient means we can do it ourselves, we can create goodness, we can sustain life. Self justifying means we provide the measure by which we judge ourselves. And self focused means it is all about us. At the heart of this is pride.
The first two chapters of Romans have talked about ways we keep from having to confront the three great faults. We try to ignore God, run from Him, of fool Him into thinking we are okay by ourselves with our ceremonies and heritage (we are really fooling ourselves).
Some deny there even is a God to whom we must give account. To them Paul says if you just look around there is ample evidence of the existence of a divine being ? and that denying God is willful disobedience to what we know in our hearts.
Some run away from God as if He doesn?t care or is unable to respond to evil. To them Paul says God helps them do what they want, but that doesn?t remove responsibility for their actions. ?There is no God ? so how I act doesn?t matter.?
Some say their morality makes them deserving of acceptance. To them Paul says that unless they live a completely perfect life, a life free from the tainting of evil from birth, they cannot stand before the holiness of God. We think we are so good, but unless your rightness goes beyond the Pharisees you are not really righteous (and they were much more holy than you). ?I?m not as bad as others so I as long as I?m better than you I?ll be all right.?
Some say that by the fact they are Jewish they are automatically accepted by God. To them Paul says that the same standard of righteousness will be applied to everyone, regardless of what group they belong to, how religious they are, or even what ceremonies have been applied to them like circumcision. ?I?m a religious person and should be accepted on that basis before God.?
What matters is how we are and what we?ve gone.
In chapter 3 things get a little blacker before the dawn. Paul has popped the bubble of Jews who think they can get in by the badge they wear instead of the reality of their hearts, and then he finally and for all time skewers anyone who thinks they can match God in rightness.
1 ? 2
The Jew might say, ?I may as well not even be a Jew if what you say is true.? In fact, being a Jew is a wonderful thing?as I?ve said, they were given the Word of God, the ability to demonstrate a relationship with the One True God, and be the womb for the Messiah. They blew it, not following God?s Word, not looking to the Messiah, not even wanting a real relationship with Yahweh, but their failure doesn?t mean God?s failure.
God?s covenant is one way. He performs it. Our unfaithfulness to Him does not mean He is unfaithful.
Every person in the whole world could disagree with God, and God would still be right. The Psalm Paul quotes from is where David confessed his sin with Bathsheba before God. David tried to deny his sin and hide from the reality, but he knew deep down, and so do we, that we have failed even to live up to our own moral code, not to say anything about the full goodness of God.
5 ? 6
If God?s faithfulness is not dependent on mine, then why worry about being faithful? If my sin makes God look good, why bother being good? Paul is so embarrassed by this thread of illogic that he says ?I speak in a human way.?
It?s like saying ?it?s not fair for You to judge us because we can?t live up to your standards?you?ve stacked the deck against us!?
God merely makes a decision (judgment, which results in wrath) based on His character?which is completely pure. The activity of God and man falls into four areas: creation, fall, redemption, and renovation. God will remake our universe without evil. Only that which is like God will make it there. As a wholly pure Being, God has every right to judge that which is not like Him.
Our problem is that we think we know better than God. God is simply observing reality. We think we are capable, but it?s sort of like asking a newborn infant to create a personal computer by himself, from scratch.
7 ? 8
Some people slip into the mindset that the more I sin, the more I show how holy God is?and since it?s God?s job to forgive (He is loving after all) that it doesn?t matter how bad I am, God can?t judge me. Paul will get into this in more detail in chapter 6, but suffice it to say that our philosophical and moral games we play with God don?t wash.
In plain and simple terms, God is holy, we are not, and nothing that is not holy can be with God. Right now He is being very patient with us because He has made a way for us to become holy?but only one way. So now Paul brings home that argument that we humans have no legs to stand on before God.
There are good things about being a Jew, but when it comes to justifying ourselves before a holy God you are no better off being Jewish than Gentile. And he makes that argument right from the Old Testament.
10 ? 20
Wow! What a diatribe against humanity. Paul pulls in verses from Psalm 14, 53, 10, 32, and 36. Also he uses Proverbs 1, and Isaiah 59.
????????? We are not good (none of us)
????????? We can?t figure God out
????????? We don?t seek Him
????????? We are worthless
????????? Even when we try we can?t do any real good
????????? When we speak we kill, deceive, and curse?and our speech is filled with bitterness
????????? When we do things our first inclination is to get what we want at the expense of others and end up making situations worse.
????????? We have no idea how to make peace with God because we have no idea how good He really is and how bad we really are!
????????? Even for the law abiding Jew?the law only does one thing, and that is to reveal to us just how much we have failed to live up to God?s goodness (Galatians 3:24 says the law is a tutor?to bring us to Christ).
All of Romans so far has led up to this point. We have no excuse. The person who denies God has no excuse. The moralist has no basis to defend themselves against the total holiness of God. Even the Jew is without evidence to support their rightness. The evidence is in, the Judge has pronounced the verdict and we, the defendant are guilty. This is the point of utter hopelessness. You say, ?Why would God put us here?? Ahh ? now He has us right where he wants us for the next step which is the absolutely most important piece of information you will ever need to know.
21 ? 22
?But now the righteous of God has been manifested.? We are not righteous, that much should be abundantly clear. So God brought His own righteousness and gave it to us. It doesn?t come by our obedience or even possession of the Law?even though the Law talks about righteousness?it comes this way:
?? ?through faith? ? faith is not just assent, but reliance and trust
?? ?in Jesus Christ? ? its not faith in us or faith in faith ? it is all about Jesus. He is the agent by which the righteousness of God is made our righteousness.
?? ?for all who believe.? ? believe is the same root as faith?but is a verb. Faith is the thing, believe is the action.
?? ?For there is no distinction? ? there are is no other way that God makes goodness available.
And then we have one of the most important verses in the Bible to sum this all up:
23 ? 24
Not some, not a few, not even most?but ALL. We fall (or are falling) short of God?s character, of His substance, His glory. It?s a present continuing action in the Greek. Thought we are far away, God justifies us by a free gift (present passive). How does that work?
25 ? 26
There?s a lot here?propitiation is a technical term that relates back to the Old Testament sacrificial system. It means ?a substitutionary sacrifice? God said the life was in the blood (Lev 17:11). In the OT an animal was substituted for human blood to make ?atonement? for sin, but it was only a symbol and only temporary?all pointing to not an animal but a human who?s shed blood not only covered but cleansed out evil.
Jesus stepped out in front of us as the Father pronounced a death sentence for our sin and took a bullet for us. But because He was perfect, death couldn?t hold Him and when He came back to life we were made new in His life.
In the OT days, all who had a relationship with Yahweh looked forward to the cross, even if they didn?t understand it all?through the worship of God in the sacrifices. In the NT days we look back to the cross and have the full revelation of what God intended. So OT or NT, all are judged by the same standard: what did you do about God?s substitutionary sacrifice, the Lamb of God?
God didn?t pull punches with Jesus. Jesus took the full brunt of God?s wrath and satisfied it completely. That?s why he is both ?just? and the ?justifier?. God died for your sins.
27 ? 31
Basically in the end of this section Paul is saying that we don?t get to claim credit for any of this. We can?t earn it, we can only accept (?faith?) it. And, by the way, that great separation between Jew and Gentile that led up to this point, is now done away with. But as an important conclusion, Paul says we don?t throw out the Old Testament Law, in fact this righteousness gift through the blood of Christ actually fulfills the Law.
Jesus said: Matthew 5:17-18 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.?
How did He do that? As a perfect person (unstained by evil) He perfectly followed the Law (the character of God) and then became a curse according to the Law (Dt 21:23, Gal 3:13) so that the curse against us would be done away with.
Sometimes a dose of reality is just the thing we need. I can avoid looking at my bank balance and pretend that there?s money in there. Picking up my stack of bills and really looking at how far short I am can be difficult to swallow. But to realize that, makes the free gift of taking away my debt so much better.
Much of the rest of the book (up through chapter 11 anyway) explains why what we have is so wonderful and what it really means to us in separating us from the flesh and connecting us to our Creator!
What stands in our way of accepting this? Pride. It?s the three ?S??s: self sufficiency, self-justification, and self-focus. The antidote is to simply admit the evil and let God clean us.
For us as believers, then, the beauty of understanding our state and God?s grace is that we no longer have to be self-sufficient, self-justifying, or self-focused. Instead we can live with God as filling our needs, God providing our goodness, and God being the focus of our lives?laying aside the pride that keeps us from seeking, serving, and loving Him.