Romans Chapter 3
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
We are working through Paul’s epistle to the Romans. In Chapter 1, Paul showed the disobedience of Gentiles toward God. In Chapter 2 he shows the hypocrisy of the Jews (of which he was one, of course). By the time he gets done with the Jews, Paul has everyone guilty, either under the law that was written and delivered to them, or under that law that is written on their heart. This is the theme that he’ll pursue in Chapter 3.
Keep in mind that our chapter and verses are a fairly modern tool created for convenience in reference- what Paul wrote was a letter that moved in a smooth fashion from one point to another. Our chapter and verse references sometimes interrupt that flow or create division that aren’t really there. With that in mind, let’s see what Paul has to tell us today.
He starts off with this statement:
Romans 3:1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?
Recall that Paul spent our chapter 2 exposing the hypocrisy of the Jews who observe the letter of the law, but not the spirit. The last thing he said in chapter 2 was:
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; (29) but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
And so, continuing that thought, Paul now asks “what advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?” He’s asking the important question “Why are there Jews?” Or “Why did God set apart a nation for Himself if they’re spiritual failures just like the Gentiles?” This is a very good question, of course, and it has some far-reaching ramifications that deal directly with Christians. Paul answers his own question in verse 2:
Romans 3:2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
So, even though many Jews were Jews outwardly and not inwardly, the fact remains that to them were committed the words of God. The word “oracles” used here means, in the Greek, “utterances”. What Paul is saying here is that God’s very utterances have been committed to the Jews in the form of our Old Testament. The Jews are caretakers of God’s revealed word. This passage makes me immediately think of Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman in:
John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. (23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Paul and Jesus are saying the same thing here- salvation is of the Jews, and true worshippers worship in spirit and truth. False worshippers worship in the flesh, by works done in the flesh, and by attempting to achieve a righteousness of their own instead of trusting in God’s own righteousness. This is exactly what Paul was getting at when he said “…circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:29) Both Jesus and Paul are crediting the Jews with being the bearers of the good news and both are driving at a definition of true worship.
And so, what advantage is it to being a Jew? Well, as Paul says “Much, in every way!” Aside from the fact that the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, they are also living evidence that God can and will choose a people for Himself. They are evidence that God can and will build a nation for Himself even though the world seeks to destroy them. Furthermore, this nation did not choose God, but God chose them and built them for Himself. Let’s review a few passages on the origin of the Jews.
Moses is speaking here, reviewing the history of the people:
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (7) The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; (8) but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Note the use of the word “choose” and “chose” in Aspah’s Psalm:
Psalms 78:67-68 Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, (68) But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.
Watch what Isaiah says about “created” and “formed”:
Isaiah 43:1-4 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. (2) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. (3) For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. (4) Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.
From these passages, it should be clear that God Almighty has shown His power in the creation of the Jewish nation and in sustaining them throughout history. To be sure, He has chastised them when appropriate- directly destroying them, casting them into slavery, and sending enemies against them- but he has always kept a remnant of true believers for His glory.
The lesson this has for Christians is this; if God can create a physical nation for Himself, can he not do the same with a spiritual nation? In chapters 9 and 10 of Romans, Paul elaborates on this and says:
Romans 9:25-26 As He says also in Hosea: "I WILL CALL THEM MY PEOPLE, WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, AND HER BELOVED, WHO WAS NOT BELOVED." (26) "AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,' THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD."
Romans 10:19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: "I WILL PROVOKE YOU TO JEALOUSY BY THOSE WHO ARE NOT A NATION, I WILL MOVE YOU TO ANGER BY A FOOLISH NATION."
Both of these verses contain quotations from the Old Testament, from Hosea 2:23 and Deuteronomy 32:21, respectively, and both passages predict that God will build for Himself another nation, like the Jewish nation but spiritual and not fleshly.
The implication of this idea is that today’s Christians so often seem to think that it’s up to them to build Christianity and up to them to keep moving forward. It certainly is their responsibility to desire that and to move forward. Just like Joshua’s priests putting their foot in the Jordan before it parted, Christians must move their feet. But it is still God who actually parts the water. That’s the part we seem to have forgotten. It’s still God who does the actual miracle. Our responsibility is to be obedient and watch God work in building a nation of people in Christ.
The other lesson in today’s Romans passage is that God will sustain Christianity. Yes, the church will be attacked and Christians will be mocked, disdained, and even killed in the world, just like the Jews were and are, but God will sustain a remnant and this remnant will continue the Christian “nation”. Looking ahead to Romans 8, we find Paul writing this:
Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written: "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER." (37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
From these two opening verses in Romans chapter 3, we can open a window to a much larger view. In spite of their disobedience, there is an advantage to being a Jew and that is that the utterances of God have been entrusted to them, and that salvation is from the Jews. The creation, history, and existence of the Jewish nation is evidence that God Almighty can and will create a people for Himself, and that this people will- in spite of, or perhaps because of, their flaws, stubbornness, and stiff-necks- exist to glorify Him.
Salvation is of the Jews, but it does not stop with the Jews. As Paul is getting ready to demonstrate and as he’s already touched on in chapter 2, all people are guilty of transgression and disobedience toward God, Jew and Gentile alike. Salvation is of the Jews, but once that salvation has arrived, everyone must grasp it, Jew and Gentile alike. As Paul is recorded in Acts:
Acts 17:30-31 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (31) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
And the response to this statement was:
Acts 17:32-34 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." (33) So Paul departed from among them. (34) However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
What is your response to the message of Jesus Christ? Do you mock? Or will you hear again on this matter? Is the message of the cross foolishness, or is it the power of God?
Tune in again tomorrow to KLMX radio at 9:45 as we continue our examination of Romans chapter 3. May God shine the light that is Jesus Christ into your heart. Amen.
Forward to Part 2