Romans 3 represents the last of the ground preparation for the beautiful gospel proclamation in 3:21-26.
The passage begins with Paul’s technique of asking questions and incorporating the technique of a type of Hebrew midrash. Paul anticipates the questions from seekers and opponents to this ‘salvation by grace through faith’.
The questions are good and valid:
Does this gospel oppose the Old Testament law and break its promises to Israel?
How do good works apply to this gospel of faith?
What was the whole Torah and Israelite history all about?
Who is in and who is out?
It is interesting that Paul only hints at answers in Chapters 1-8. He waits until Chapters 9-11 to develop his personal apologetic of answers. He does this by the way by means of his deep personal involvement of both law and grace- but we will hit that much later.
Chapter 3 is all about the final death nail: ALL ARE UNDER SIN (VS 9). The singular ‘sin’, not sins speaks of sin as a dominating power. We are under a severe bondage. It is not just doing things- our whole thought patterns, will, desire, are chained to a condition. Our sin nature is as natural as our skin. The power and dominion of sin produces sins- but we are all in it, all the time.
Paul then links together some Old Testament passages (the Holy Scriptures of Ch 1) to illustrate. Dr. Know Chamblin mentions that verses 10-12 have Gentile sins in view and verses 15-17 have Jewish sins in view.
I am most impressed by the linear pattern of this corrupted nature. Starting in verse 9 we see a scope and sequence of sin’s mastery over the human race.
All infected in verse 9
Understanding warped in verse 10
Attitude of rebellion and hiding in verse 12
Resistance in 12b
Words of deception and poison in verse 13/14
Actions of violence and destruction in verse 15
Consequences of misery in verse 16
See the human condition? Thoughts- attitude- rebellion- words-deeds- death.
The language suggests sin as having a compounding and intensifying effect.
Verse 19 shuts the tomb- “every mouth is silenced and the whole world is accountable”. The law is not for self righteousness, it is supposed to drive us to God in need of mercy.
The NIV translation of ‘conscious of sin’ in verse 20 does not capture the Greek work ‘epignosis’ very well. The law gives us a precise knowledge of where we have fallen short of God’s Holy Standard- we are undone.
This relates back to Chapter 2:12-16 where Paul uses the idea of conscience as proof that the gentiles are just as knowledgeable of their sinful state as those who know the law.
The Bible uses conscience as proof of God’s divine image on all humans. It means we are not animals- we are image bearers. But our consciences are fallen and sometimes seared beyond help. C.H. Dodd says that the conscience is not a different law on the heart of man, but it is less precise. Charles Hodge confirmed that the ‘ungodly’ have a strong sense of obligation and duty and an inner awareness of what is right. C.S. Lewis called this ‘oughtness’ and used it as proof of the existence of God.
Here’s the point:
Paul has taken 3 1/2 chapters to show us that we are under slavery to sin. We cannot stand up to the severe wrath of God. Do you really want to walk up to the heavenly altar with no covering or plan? God sees you and knows your secrets- do you think your righteousness will appease His unswerving, unrelenting, non-compromising holiness?
If you are overwhelmed right now in disgusting darkness and anguish- congratulations! You are ready for the incredible gospel.
Read Chapter 3;21-26 and cry Hallelujah! Amen! with tears of joy!
I can’t wait to write my next blog…. Life changing light of grace and peace….FREEDOM IS UPON US!