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God’s Faithfulness December 15, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 3:1-8.

Summary: In this passage, Paul addresses several objections that the Jews would naturally raise to his teaching in the preceding passage. He begins by addressing the following questions: if the Jews were to be judged for their sins, were they really a “special people,” and did circumcision have any real value? Paul notes that since they, of all people, have received God’s special revelation, they are a “special people.” He then addresses the objection that the Jews cannot be judged for their unfaithfulness, since that would imply that God was being unfaithful to His covenant with them. Paul debunks this claim by appealing to Psalm 51:4, where even King David admits that God’s judgment does not detract from His faithfulness. Next, he addresses the objection that if the sins of the Jews make God’s righteousness “conspicuous,” they should not be judged for their sins, as their sinfulness highlights His righteousness and brings glory to Him. Paul debunks this claim by noting that anybody could take hold of it, and so God would not be able to judge anyone for their sins. He concludes by addressing a claim of his critics that he was inciting people to do evil and promising them that good would follow from their actions. He makes it quite clear that his critics will be punished for their lack of understanding.

Thoughts: Christianity has been targeted through the centuries, and its enemies have launched both physical attacks and intellectual sorties against it. Here, we can see that intellectual sorties were being launched against the early church. In this case, it is evident that the Jews making these sorties are not comprehending the consistency of the following assertions:

  • salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works
  • people are judged according to their deeds, and so those who live in sin will be punished.

The Jews interpret the first point as follows: “Christians believe that works do not save them, and so they have a license to sin, trusting that God will mercifully save them in spite of their sinful lifestyles.” They promoted this false view, knowing that it would be repugnant to any Jew who was considering a conversion to Christianity. As for the second point, they simply refused to accept it based on their claimed “special status” in God’s eyes. They trusted in external blessings such as the law and circumcision, and they could not see how these blessings would be rendered useless by sin.

One of the objections advanced by the Jews in this passage rests on the assertion that man’s sinfulness renders all of God’s attributes, especially his righteousness, more “conspicuous” (according to Hodge), and God is glorified as a result. Then, how could God punish sinful men, since the utter depth of their sin more clearly displays the heights of His righteousness? According to Hodge, Paul counters this assertion with a reductio ad absurdum, essentially contending that if the Jews’ objection held water, one of God’s fundamental attributes, namely, His justice, would be rendered null and void. Anybody could use the Jews’ argument, and so God would not be able to judge a single person. This is just one example of the gift that God had given Paul in terms of defending the Gospel; from perusing his epistles, it is clear that Paul was a masterful debater and was able to present his arguments with a healthy dose of logic and clarity.

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