12/29/2013 AM, Sharon OPC
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
In Romans 2:17-29, we saw that "All that glitters is not gold." Just because someone glitters like a Jew on the outside, that doesn’t mean he’s a Jew in
his heart. Just because someone is a member of the church and has the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that doesn’t mean he’ll be
saved or that he’s a true Christian in his heart.
Well if these things are true, then the Jews might wish to ask the question that Paul asks in Romans 3:1, "1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?"
We, as Christians, might ask the same thing: "What good, then are the signs of the covenant, if you can be lost anyway? Why should I join the church and be baptized? Why should I partake of the Lord’s Supper? If these things don’t
save us, then what good are they?"
Actually, there’s another question implied in that question. The Jews were really asking, "What good are the promises of God? What good is the
covenant of God with men? If a person can have the signs of God’s
promise (whether that be circumcision or baptism) – if he can have the signs and still be lost – what good are God’s promises?"
Perhaps God doesn’t always keep His promises? Perhaps God isn’t faithful to His covenant?
The Jews were thinking, "1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?"
So Paul answers their question, clearly and unmistakably, "Much in every way!"
Paul doesn’t go into detail here, just yet. He doesn’t list all the benefits of
being in covenant with God. But he does state the chief benefit, the first and highest benefit. He says, in v. 2, "First of all, they [that is, those in covenant with God] have been entrusted with the very words of God."
The chief benefit of being a Jew (and of being a Christian as well) is that we have the Scriptures. We have been entrusted with the very Words of God!
After all, that’s what the Scriptures are: the very Words of God.
Having God’s Words is a great privilege, but it’s also a great responsibility.
Let me illustrate: It’s a great privilege for a college student to be accepted into the finest college available, and to have a fully paid scholarship, and to have the finest textbooks available, and to have the finest professors in the land, and also to have the best possible equipment made available to him.
But even if he has all of these things, if he doesn’t study, he still won’t graduate!
In such a case, can we say that the college was unfaithful to this person?
In the same way, God can shower His privileges upon us, but if we aren’t faithful, then all these privileges will profit us nothing!
That’s Paul’s point in Romans 3:3-4, "3 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not 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.’"
God gave His Words to the Jews. He revealed to them the Messiah Who would save His people from their sins. But some of these Jews rejected that Messiah Who was revealed in these same Words of God.
Does that make God unfaithful? Even if every single Jew were to reject the truth, God’s Word is still true.
Paul shudders even at the possibility that God could be unfaithful! "Not at all!" he says. A similar expression would be, "God forbid!" or "Perish the thought!" Such thoughts are unworthy even of serious consideration!
Paul quotes part of Psalm 51, David’s confession of his sin with Bathsheba. There, David fully recognized his own sin, while at the same time realizing that his own sin only highlighted the righteousness of God. He says, "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge."
Paul is using this OT situation as proof that man’s unfaithfulness doesn’t, in any way, negate God’s faithfulness. In fact, man’s unfaithfulness only highlights God’s faithfulness by contrast.
But even as he says this, Paul knows that those slick Jews would come back with another argument to justify themselves. So Paul beats them to the punch. He states their argument for them, and then responds to it in vv.
5-8. He says, in v. 5, "5 But 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.)"
Paul wants to be absolutely sure that no one draws the wrong conclusion
from that passage of Scripture in Psalm 51. You see, it’s possible to believe in
Scripture, to quote Scripture, and yet to be dead wrong in ynour application
of Scripture. When we interpret and apply the Scriptures, we must not
contradict ourselves or contradict other passages of Scripture.
Look at the Jews’ argument for a minute: 1) Man is supposed to bring glory to
God. 2) Paul, himself, has just argued that man’s unfaithfulness doesn’t make God unfaithful. In fact, man’s sin only highlights God’s righteousness and justice. 3) Conclusions: a) Men should then sin because this brings glory
to God. b) God is really unfair, therefore, in condemning us sinners because God receives glory even through sinners!
Do you see the Jews’ reasoning? Sort of makes sense, doesn’t it?
"So, how are you going to get out of this one, Paul? We’ve got you
cornered now, don’t we? Got any nice logical arguments to answer that one? Isn’t God unjust or unfaithful in bringing His wrath on us
sinners, since we’re actually bringing Him glory by our sinfulness?"
I really like Paul’s answer to this argument. It’s so simple, so straightforward, so obvious.
First, he’s already said, in v. 5, "(I am using a human argument.)" In other words, this hypothetical argument that Paul just stated is really just a stupid, human argument. No one would even think of arguing in this manner unless
they were living on the level of human flesh, apart from the Spirit of God.
"Is God unjust?" That’s not a question that anybody in their right mind
should even ask!
"Certainly not!" says Paul. "Perish the thought!" "That’s preposterous!" "It’s
inconceivable!" "Only a warped, human mind could ask a question like
And then Paul states his simple, obvious answer to that stupid, human question. He says, in v. 6, "If that were so, how could God judge the
Paul knew that the Jews knew that God would one day judge the world. Even the Jews believed that God was right in condemning those "heathen Gentiles."
The Scriptures clearly speak of a final judgment where God would judge all mankind. That was all Paul needed in order to answer the Jews’ argument.
They asked, "Wouldn’t it be unjust for God to punish sinners, since sinners actually highlight God’s glory when they sin?"
And Paul answered, "Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?" In other words, "You all know and agree that God is going to judge
those heathen Gentiles out there in the world. And you all know and agree
that God is totally just in condemning those heathen Gentiles for their sin.
But if God would be unjust to condemn you for your sin, because your sin
somehow brings glory to God, then He can’t condemn the Gentiles for their
You see, Paul knew that these Jews would never argue that God should save those pagan, unclean Gentiles! It’s beautiful! He traps them by their own prejudice and pride!
Then he restates his case, in vv. 7-8, just to be sure that there’s no misunderstanding here: "7 Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood
enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still
condemned as a sinner?’ 8 Why 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."
Anyone who would seek to argue that we should do evil so that good might result deserves the condemnation he’s going to receive. To reason like that is simply too preposterous to deserve an answer. Just because God can bring good out of evil, that’s no excuse for us to do evil.
When it boils right down to it, who are we, as men, to question God’s justice in the first place? If God says He’s going to judge the world, it goes without saying that whatever He decides will be just. God is the standard of justice. God is the One Who determines what is right and wrong. Since He’s the standard of justice, it’s not possible for Him ever to do anything unjust!
Only a human, fleshly, warped mind could possibly even question God’s justice. God is faithful. And that means that God is not only faithful to His promises, He’s also faithful to His threats. The covenant carries with it promises of both blessing and cursing. Because God is faithful, He will punish sinners. So let no man argue that sin is all right. Just because God can bring glory to Himself, even out of man’s sin, that doesn’t make sin right.
God used the greatest sin of mankind, the crucifixion of His only begotten Son, to bring salvation to men and to bring glory to Himself. Does that mean the Jews and the Romans were right in crucifying the Messiah? Most
So what’s the bottom line of our text for today?
We, as Christians, have been given many great privileges in having the Word of God, and in having the signs of the covenant that God made with men. Baptism and church membership is a great privilege. The Lord’s Supper is a
great privilege. But these outward signs and seals of the covenant were
never intended, all by themselves, to make us righteous. They are simply the means that God uses to bring us to faith. Apart from faith, church
membership, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper mean nothing. Apart from true faith, these signs are not seals, guaranteeing God’s covenant promises. Instead, they’re seals of God’s curse upon us, unless
we repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
But never doubt the fact that these outward signs and seals of the covenant are of great value to a true Christian. Their value is "much in every way," says Paul. They seal to us the Word and the promises of God.
Without God’s promises, we have no sure hope of salvation. Without
baptism into church membership and without the sign and seal of the Lord’s
Supper, we have no promise of God to save us.
Paul reminds us that receiving the outward sign of baptism and joining ourselves into church membership and outwardly receiving the Lord’s
Supper cannot, by themselves, guarantee our salvation.
If a person has all of these signs but lacks true faith, these covenantal signs cannot save him and he is still lost.
Does that mean, then, that God is unfaithful to His covenant promises? Paul says, "Not at all!" We’re the unfaithful ones, not God. In fact, our sinfulness only proves and highlights the faithfulness and righteousness of God in
And we can’t argue that just because our sin further proves and highlights the faithfulness and righteousness of God, that we, somehow, have an excuse for our sin.
"Certainly not!" says Paul. "If that were so, how could God judge the world?"
So while we have been given great privileges in receiving the Word of God
and in receiving the signs and seals of God’s covenant, we must not trust in the signs and seals to save us. We must have faith in Jesus Christ, the One
Whom those signs and seals represent. We must look to Him and His
righteousness, which we receive from Him by faith, as our only righteousness
able to save us from the coming wrath of God.
God is going to judge the world. He’s going to judge all sinners, both Jews and Gentiles alike. How will He judge you on that final day? On the basis of the fact that you happen to be a member of the church, or that you’ve been baptized, or that you’ve partaken of the Lord’s Supper? Or will He judge that you also have true faith in Jesus Christ and are trusting in Him and His righteousness alone to