We all want to feel secure, safe, free from risks, dangers, and loss. We want economic security, job security, relational security with our spouse, parents, and friends. But the stock market falls, banks fail, companies fold, and loved ones die and some dessert us. And beyond these temporal securities, deep down man wants security against the ultimate fear, danger, and loss: death and separation from God.
A good friend and especially our Good Father will tell us if we are putting our hope in what will let us down. So Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, delivers a knockout punch to the ignorant heathens, the self-righteous Jews, and to all of us, all mankind, as he closes his case (seen in Rom. 1:18-3:30) as a prosecuting attorney with these words: “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”(Romans 3:19-20)
1. First of all Paul deals with the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the Jews in 2:17- 24 who had a false security in their possession of, knowledge of, and teaching of the law: “But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written.” The Gentiles blasphemed God both as a weak God Who could not protect His people (the Jews) and as cruel God because the Jews suffered so greatly under God’s chastisement because to whom much is given much is required. (Luke 12:47-48) [“For the name of God is blasphemed”,…. The being and perfections of God, such as his holiness, omniscience, and omnipotence, are denied, or evil spoken of; and also the law of God, and the forms of worship instituted by him: “among the Gentiles through you”: through their iniquities, who when they observe them, conclude that the God of Israel is not omniscient, or he would know, and take notice of these things; and that he is not holy, or he could not bear them; nor omnipotent, or he would revenge them: http://biblehub.com/romans/2-24.htm
Paul is following what Jesus and John the Baptist said about the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the Jews: “But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:7-10) “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: ..3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; 6 They love the place of honor .. 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.16 “Woe to you, blind guides, 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (See all of Matthew 23) “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20)
2 Secondly Paul knocks out the false security of the Jews in their ritual of circumcision in vv. 25-29 – “For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 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 which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Rom. 2:25-29) Both in Deut. 10:16 and Jer. 4:4 God calls for the circumcision of the heart (inner heart change) not just the outward ritual. God condemns all external rituals if the heart is not right with Him. (See Isa. 1:10-18) Of course this is also true regarding outward signs today in the church: infant baptism, baptism without true saving faith, taking of Communion, confirmation, church membership; some people actually believed they are saved because their parents are church members, etc. This is also true of all false religions. These people are secure in their beliefs (yet false beliefs) that they will go to heaven. All false religions are works-based and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, all false religions reject Jesus Christ as Divine, as being God. (See John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
Atheists have a false security based on the false belief that there is no God and life ends at death; i.e., that there is no heaven or hell but all are annihilated.
Rom. 3:1-8 – The Jews thought salvation by faith alone would a license to sin with impunity and mocked it. (see v. 8) Paul anticipated this and asked and answered the question for them. [“God’s purposes and promises will be fulfilled, because He is faithful even though men fail. God’s promises for Israel are thus assured, whether the Jews obey Him or not. David’s words seem to go even further. They suggest that when men sin (as David did) God’s words are justified, and His judgment prevails. God comes out the Victor. God gains when men obey, and God gains when men disbelieve and disobey. I believe this premise is true. Due to His sovereignty, God is just as able to profit from man’s obstinateness as He is to gain from his obedience. Satan’s opposition will, in the end, further God’s program. (The Cross.) The same can be said of the actions of men. God can “use” the rebellion of a Jonah or the treachery of a Judas so that His purposes and promises are fulfilled. God has determined to use both.” https://bible.org/seriespage/4-condemning-questions-romans-31-8]
3. Thirdly, Paul delivers a knock-out punch to all mankind in Romans 3:1-20 – Man is born in sin and is indwelt with evil and only the life changing power of the gospel can save and change a man’s evil nature and destiny from hell to heaven). (See Rom. 1:16-17) This view of man is a very countercultural. Secular psychologist and liberal theologians tell us that man is basically good. Our problems they say are related to our environment, the fault of our parents, lack of education, etc. Sigmund Freud, Ann Landers and others tell us that there is no true moral guilt and that feeling guilty is bad for our self-esteem. (Read the attached document on the novel, The Lord of the Flies and also the article about Adolph Eichmann’s trial and the evil in every person. Here is a brief quote from the Eichmann trial from one of his holocaust victims: [“Rather, as Dinur explained to Mike Wallace (on 60 Minutes, aired February 6, 1983) all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike (meaning devil-like) army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” said Dinur. ” “I saw that I am capable to do this. I am exactly like he.” He summarized his feelings by saying, “Eichmann is in all of us.”] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehiel_De-Nur
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written.” – In verses 10-18 Paul quotes the ultimate authority, God himself through the Scriptures in the Old Testament to indict man of our evil character (inner – vv. 10-12; Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-4 ) evil conversation/the tongue (vv. 13-14; Psalm 5:9; 140:3;10:7) and our evil conduct/actions (vv. 15-17; Isaiah 59:7ff.). The evil cause of this is seen in v. 18; Psalm 36:1: ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The character of fallen man – “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; (This is the righteousness of God and of Christ; (Matt. 5:48) and the only righteousness acceptable to a perfectly righteous God. As it relates to being right with God man is either perfect or sinful. God does not grade on the curve. So this drives us to the gospel as seen beginning in Rom. 3:21 and following. (See 2 Cor. 5:21.)
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, (Man is spiritually ignorant of the ways of God – 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:18) THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; (God seeks us and draws us and we can respond in faith.) 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; (Useless to God and thus to people for God’s purposes in their lives.) THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD. THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” (Just to show there are no exceptions, the psalmists repeats this.)
The conversation (the tongue, words) of fallen man – 13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE (defiling others), WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” (like Satan, full of lies) “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; (hurtful words), 14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS” (profanity, cursing others, and bitterness instead of kindness and love.)
The conduct/actions of fallen man – 15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, (man loves violence thus it is a top seller for movies and TV.) 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” (Jesus calls us to be peacemakers but man is a peace breaker.)
The cause of evil in fallen man – 18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.” (Meaning no fear of accountability; no reverence and awe for our Creator, Judge and King, no desire to please Him and no grief when we fail to please the One who loves us perfectly and sacrificed His Only begotten Son.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. False beliefs lead to false security: What wrong beliefs do some of the people you know trust in to think they are right with God and heaven bound? What false beliefs did you have before you were saved?
2. The Jews were not practicing what they preached and were condemning others for the very sins they were committing. A holier than thou attitude and hypocrisy is probably the greatest reason given by the unchurched against Christians or church attendance. How can we walk the walk (obey the Lord), share the truth to expose false beliefs (all are sinners), and yet not come across in a condemning way?
3. What external acts, sacraments (baptism, Lord’s Supper/Mass), activities, do you think unsaved church people trust in the most for salvation and heaven? How can we discern their false security and help them see that the gospel only saves. Romans 3:23-26
4, Read Romans 3:9-20 and the addendum below, Self-Esteem/Adolph Eichmann document and discuss Yehiel De-Nur’s conclusion about the evil of man. How does this relate to this Scripture? “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15) People express hatred in different ways. Some people withdraw to hurt their enemy and some people attack but either is wrong if done in sinful anger and hatred. Can you see where hatred can lead?
5. What is the difference between the worldly promotion of self-esteem and the Biblical virtue of self-acceptance? (See the addendum on Self-Esteem and read first paragraph.)
SELF-ESTEEM VERSUS THE BIBLICAL VIRTUE OF SELF- ACCEPTANCE IN CHRIST
“To keep me/us from becoming conceited” – God sent/sends trials, etc. ….Self-esteem versus the biblical virtue of self- acceptance in Christ (See Eph. 1:6; 2 Cor. 3:4-6; John 15:5; 2 Cor. 12:7-10) [“It is not at all surprising to find lost sinners looking inward to find self-love and self-acceptance. But it is greatly puzzling to me how anyone who professes to have come to faith in Jesus Christ can deny the gospel by doing likewise. What is there about us that we should feel good about, if these words from the Psalms and Isaiah are true? (As quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-18.) What is there about ourselves that we should love? If God cannot accept us just as we are, why should we try to do so? If man’s condition required the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross as punishment, of what is there to boast? If God cannot accept us as we are, why are we trying to accept ourselves? It is God’s acceptance in Christ which we desperately need and in which we should boast. Let us cease looking inward for something about ourselves to love and about which to boast.” https://bible.org/seriespage/5-shutting-mouths-self-righteous-romans-39-20]
The Lord of the Flies: A Novel by Sir William Golding [“The overarching theme of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between the human impulse towards savagery and the rules of civilization which are designed to contain and minimize it. Throughout the novel, the conflict is dramatized by the clash between Ralph and Jack, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. The differing ideologies are expressed by each boy’s distinct attitudes towards authority. While Ralph uses his authority to establish rules, protect the good of the group, and enforce the moral and ethical codes of the English society the boys were raised in, Jack is interested in gaining power over the other boys to gratify his most primal impulses. When Jack assumes leadership of his own tribe, he demands the complete subservience of the other boys, who not only serve him but worship him as an idol. Jack’s hunger for power suggests that savagery does not resemble anarchy so much as a totalitarian system of exploitation and illicit power. Is evil innate within the human spirit, or is it an influence from an external source? What role do societal rules and institutions play in the existence of human evil? Does the capacity for evil vary from person to person, or does it depend on the circumstances each individual faces? These questions are at the heart of Lord of the Flies which, through detailed depictions of the boys’ different responses to their situation, presents a complex articulation of humanity’s potential for evil.”] http://www.gradesaver.com/lord-of-the-flies/study-guide/major-themes/
Adolph Eichmann – [‘Yehiel De-Nur, Dinoor or Dinur (16 May 1909 – 17 July 2001), was a Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, whose books were inspired by his time as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp. In an interview on “60 Minutes,” aired February 6, 1983, De-Nur recounted the incident of his fainting at the Eichmann trial. Mike Wallace, the host, posed a central question at the program’s outset: “How is it possible . . . for a man to act as Eichmann acted? Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying: was he normal?” The most startling answer to Wallace’s shocking question came in an interview with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor who testified against Eichmann at the Nuremberg trials. A film clip from Eichmann’s 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap on the floor as the presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom. Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories? No; it was none of these. Rather, as Dinur explained to Wallace, all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” said Dinur. “. . . I saw that I am capable to do this. I am . . . exactly like he.” He summarized his feelings by saying, “Eichmann is in all of us.”] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehiel_De-Nur
What does God say about evil in man? “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written (Paul quotes OT passages on the evil in man), “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” 13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “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 PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” 18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.” (Rom. 3:9-18)
“And He (Jesus) was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23)