Romans Chapter 3
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
This week on the Ministerial Alliance program, we’ve been looking at the 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. What Paul’s doing here in the first few chapters of Romans is showing the condemnation of all men- he’s already shown that the Jews have the law and do not follow it with their hearts, while Gentiles do not have the written law but violate their conscience. That leads us right to our first verse today which is:
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
Here Paul makes it clear- neither Jew nor Gentiles is better in God’s eyes than the other. Both are under sin. Paul demonstrates this by pulling together several verses from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes to make a composite picture of mankind:
Romans 3:10-18 As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; (11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. (12) THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE." (13) "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB; WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY HAVE PRACTICED DECEIT"; "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; (14) "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS." (15) "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD; (16) DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS; (17) AND THE WAY OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." (18) "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."
These are some powerful verses and I’ve turned to them time and time again in my various sermons. The words “there is none righteous, no not one” and “there is none who seeks after God” should answer many questions about the nature of natural man. How can we say that man chooses God, when we have the passage “there is none who seeks after God”? How can we say that man is basically good with a little bit of bad when we have the passage “there is none who does good, no, not one”? When Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” but Romans 3:18 says “there is no fear of God before their eyes”, this leaves natural man in a hard place.
No man seeks God, none does good worthy of righteousness, and there is no fear of God before their eyes. Therefore, left to his own devices, no man would find God, no man would be declared righteous on the basis of his works, and no man would achieve the beginning of wisdom and would remain, therefore, a fool. If this were the end of the story, natural man would be without hope. But, praise God, there is more to the story and we’ll see that as we continue to move forward through Romans.
For now, though, Paul turns his attention back to the law:
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (20) Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This is a pretty clear statement- the law speaks to those who are the law, namely, Jews and, as Paul says, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Paul will expand on this concept a little later in Romans and especially in Galatians, but you should see what he’s driving at here. The purpose of the law is not to make one righteous; rather, the purpose is to expose one’s unrighteousness. Let’s pull up a few other verses.
Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, (16) knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, (9) knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (10) for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, (11) according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
Now you might take the Timothy passage and say “Well, see! The law was made for the lawless and insubordinate. But I’m not one of those! I’m really a pretty good person.” I refer you back to the section in Romans that we just read- “there is none righteous, no, not one….there is none that does good.” Again, for those who seek to justify themselves, all your arguments have been answered already. You are unrighteous and the purpose of the law is to expose your unrighteousness.
How, then, can a person gain righteousness? How can they be justified in the eyes of God Almighty? Here’s what Paul says:
Romans 3:21-22 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
This is a critical passage and it is, in fact, the gospel message. Paul says “the righteousness of God…” and by that he is clear that it is not man’s righteousness, nor any works of man, but God’s own righteousness that is being revealed. This righteousness is apart from the law, that is, it is above, beyond, and separate from the law. The law, of course, was laid down by God, but God’s own righteousness is not defined by his rules, rather the rules are defined by His righteousness. For instance, I have written a book on falconry. I wrote everything in that book, but that book is not everything I know about falconry, nor is the book even close to a complete picture of me. I’m not bound by what the book says, the book is bound by what I say. The book didn’t create me, but I created the book. Therefore, when we are talking about the righteousness of God, we are talking about something beyond and above the law. In Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God above and beyond, apart from the law, is revealed.
This righteousness is witnessed to by the Law and Prophets. That means that we can go to the Old Testament- the Law and the Prophets- and find evidence of Jesus Christ. That, in fact, was the topic of my very first series here on KLMX and you can find that series on the church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org. Jesus himself refers back to this several times in his ministry. For instance:
Luke 24:44-47 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (45) And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (46) Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, (47) and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (40) But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
John 5:46-47 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. (47) But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
There are just three of the many places where Christ refers to himself as being present in the Old Testament, and Paul is saying the same thing here in Romans. Now, this sentence has several sub-clauses, but if we strip the sentence down, here’s what we have:
Romans 3:21-22 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed….through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
Here we see that the righteousness of God is revealed specifically through faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s the good news- that’s the gospel message. If it weren’t for this message, mankind would- as we’ve just seen- be left hopeless since no man seeks God, no man does good, and man has no righteousness of his own. With the gospel message, though, man has great hope.
Note carefully what Paul says about this faith in Jesus Christ when he says “…to all and ON all who believe.” The passage does not say merely “…the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…through faith in Jesus Christ to all… who believe.” If that’s all the passage said and if the righteousness of God is only revealed TO man, then it would remain for man to do something about the revelation. The key is the word “on”. The passage reads “…the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.” Now what we see is that the righteousness of God is not only TO those who believe but ON them. To put it simply, the righteousness of God is revealed ON those who believe- that means that they themselves have evidence of the righteousness of God. It does not mean that they themselves ARE righteous, only that God’s own righteousness is revealed through faith in Jesus Christ on them.
This is the ever important and so-called “double imputation” in which Christ’s own righteousness is laid to the account of a sinner, and that sinner’s sins are laid to the account of Christ. Because He has no sins of his own for which to account- that is, he has no debt of his own to pay- Christ is able to make payment for the sinner. All of the sinner’s sins are paid and he is given, in exchange, Christ’s righteousness. It’s a little like being poor and having an infinitely rich uncle who says “Whatever debts you ring up, I’ll pay for.” You’re still poor and he’s still rich, but his account is essentially yours. At the same though, you see and know that your uncle pays dearly for this ability- he works hard, sweats, and willingly takes much stress upon himself, and so on, for your benefit. Because of this, if you have half a heart, you’ll not willingly place debts on your uncle and you should be extremely grateful for the safety net he’s provided for you. The biggest difference between my little example and Christ, of course, is that a rich uncle is merely a convenience, while Christ is an absolute necessity.
Turning back to the real example of Jesus Christ, we can see that Christ, according to:
Philippians 2:7-8 …made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
According to John:
1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
That’s the significance of the “righteousness of God…on all who believe”- Jesus’ own righteousness laid to the account of believers. If you’re a believer in this, it should give you great hope and confidence. If you’re not, I urge you to accept the free gift of righteousness through faith offered by God and paid for by Jesus Christ.
I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines. Join us again tomorrow at 9:45 as we start wrapping up Romans Chapter 3.
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