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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 3

Verses 1-20

  1. Intro: The Sewer of Sinful Humanity!
    1. Story: Many are like the Hindu man who thought he had stored up for himself many good works, especially in that he was proud he never eats any animal substance. The missionary sharing w/him told him that is impossible because every time he drank water he was swallowing 1000’s of tiny living creatures.He did not believe it, so the missionary put a drop of water under a microscope for him. The man saw…and broke the microscope. This is how he dealt with the dilemma.
      1. Allow me this morning to place all of man’s goodness under the great microscope of the law of God.
      2. I just ask you to look & see that even 1 sinful thought, destroys one’s hope for salvation through your own personal goodness.
      3. Then you can choose to make things right with God Or, break the microscope!
    2. Last week: Paul was calling a Jew, a non-Jew, & non-Jews, Jews???
      1. A true Jew is a matter of the heart & not nationality or circumcision (or, religious affiliation)!
        1. We could liken it to many who have grown up in the church. Who hold their church membership or affiliation in one hand, & their baptismal certificate in the other!
      2. So, Paul heads off their most probable questions at the pass!
  2. THE SEWER! (1-8)
    1. ​​​​​​​I think one of the worst jobs might just be...Sewer Diving!
    2. In vs.1-8 Paul deals w/4 objections which were raised against the gospel. (Rhetorical questions)
    3. [1] JEWISH ADVANTAGE? (1,2)
    4. Being born Jewish didn’t give them a right standing before God; but being God’s Covenant People did indeed give them certain advantages!
    5. Much in every way – He mentions 1 here, but adds others later in 9:4.
      1. Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.
    6. The oracles of God – The very Word of God.
      1. The OT contains the inspired record of God’s faithfulness to His people.
      2. It sets forth the law (God’s holy standard for living).
      3. It records the prophecies & poetry that reveal God’s heart for His people.
      4. And it foreshadows & foretells Jesus Christ.
        1. They were the recipients & guardians of such treasure!
    7. We in Christian America have similar advantages, to the rest of the world:
      1. We have the bible (actually, many translations most likely);
        1. [6,900 languages in the world; 2,500 have some or all of the bible; Leaving 4,400 w/o Scripture portions available; representing 634 million people!]
      2. We’ve read what God is like;
      3. What know what He requires for salvation.
    8. [2] GOD’S FAITHFULNESS CALLED INTO QUESTION? (3,4)
    9. Who were these who didn’t believe? See 2:5.
      1. Remember last week(2:21-24) they proclaimed the law fervently to the Gentiles, but weren’t practicing it very well!
      2. The sinful actions of humans do not nullify the faithfulness of God!
        1. They weren’t faithful in regard to God’s covenant.
    10. (4) Certainly not – or, “let it not happen; by no means; God forbid; far from it; may it never be”.
    11. So, God gave the Jews a special promise & position, but some of them are under condemnation. Doesn’t that mean God broke His promise & thus shown Himself unfaithful?
      1. Certainly not! What it shows is there is no favoritism w/God.
      2. The best proof of His absolute justice is that He punishes sin wherever he sees it. (William Barclay, pg.52.)
    12. [3] IS GOD’S WRATH FAIR? (5,6)
    13. God’s justice is pulled into question. - “The moral governorship of the universe was at stake in such an absurd charge.” (Shepherds Notes, pg.24.)
    14. Slide#15 [4] WON’T MY SINFULNESS HELP TO CONTRAST GOD’S HOLINESS? (7,8)
    15. So wait, don’t my lies cause the truth of God to abound to His glory? - So, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?
      1. “God does not need our evil as a contrast to His goodness. Rather He wants our goodness as a reflection of His likeness!” (ibid, pg.24.)
    16. Paul simply responds…their condemnation is just/deserved.
    17. Summary thus far:
      1. The Jews are a privileged people because of God’s covenant w/them.
      2. The rejection of Him by a great number doesn’t nullify God’s promises.
      3. The sinfulness of humanity doesn’t diminish the character of God.
  3. THE GAVEL OF GUILT! (9-18)
    1. ​​​​​​​This isn’t Paul’s Pearl Necklace (like 1 Cor.13), but his Peril Necklace!
      1. He quotes from Ps.14:1-3(10-12); Ps.5:9; 140:3(13); Ps.10:7(14); Is.59:7,8(15-17); Ps.36:1(18).
      2. Here we lift the lid off: The Septic Tank of Sinful humanity! Or, the Toxic Tank of Transgressions.
    2. But, why do we have to study this? Because…
      1. How are we going to understand salvation, unless we understand what we have been saved from?
      2. Why will we ask for mercy, if we don’t believe we deserve judgment?
      3. How can we be thankful for the work of Christ, if we think we can work our way to God?
      4. How will we be amazed by God’s grace, if we are not appalled by our sin? (Adapted from Charles Swindoll, pg.55)
    3. Paul pronounces the verdict of Scripture upon man in his fallen human condition!
      1. Slide#17-20 So I picture judges here...ready to let the gavel fall!
      2. Are we(Jews) better than they(Gentiles)? – No, not better off, nor at a disadvantage.
      3. All under sin – “not sins”, but under the power of the dynamic of sin! (i.e. old nature)
        1. Paul is this a new concept? Nope! - See Gen.8:20,21
          1. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination (intent or thought) of man’s heart is evil from his youth;
    4. Here the gavel falls 3 times! [on Man’s: Character, Communication, Conduct]
      1. The Septic System of mankind is full, & we need to lift off the cover…“hold your breath, it’s going to stink!”
      2. Turgenev the Russian poet hit the mark when he said, “I don’t know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like… and it is terrible!”
    5. [1] MAN’S CHARACTER IS DEPRAVED! (10-12)
    6. (10) Are we sure Paul’s not talking about The FBI’s Most Wanted? or, one of Al-Qaeda’s Terrorists Camps?
      1. Nope! no not one! [Absolutely no one is righteous apart from Christ]
    7. (11,12) In our natural, sinful state...We can’t…truly understand the things of God. We can’t pursue a relationship w/Him (seek after) We can’t stay on the right road (turned aside)We can’t stay pure (the word unprofitable literally means, we’ve all turned sour like milk) We can’t do good!
      1. Do Good? – Not that the unsaved can’t perform acts of virtue. Paul is talking about good as God defines good.
        1. Jesus said to the rich man, Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
    8. [2] MAN’S COMMUNICATION IS DEPRAVED! (13,14)
    9. Now from universal, to personal!
      1. He shows no part of our person is unaffected by sin.
    10. Look how much emphasis he places on our speech.
      1. So, our lying, cursing, cussing, gossip, idle talk, & bad jokes, just reveals that…sin camps in our hearts!
    11. Their speech is like the odor of an open tomb! [talk about Gingivitis]
    12. [3] MAN’S CONDUCT IS DEPRAVED! (15-18)
    13. Sin also manifests itself in our actions.
      1. It causes man to murder, destroy the lives of others, live w/o peace, & reject God instead of fear Him. (Charles Swindoll, pg.53)
    14. TOTAL DEPRAVITY...THE RECAP! (19-20)
      1. ​​​​​​​Not, we are all as bad as we possibly can be; but, that we are sinful through & through!
        1. Addison Leitch said, “if the color of sin were blue, every aspect of us would be some shade of blue!”
    15. It deals w/extent more than degree!
      1. Even the most clean-living person is shot through w/sin.
      2. That’s our nature; that’s how we are born; we are morally ruined at our very root.
        1. Ps.51:5(NIV) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
        2. So, it means we are utterly incapable of taking one baby-step toward God, w/o His miraculous Grace!!!
    16. Prop (water bottle): This is pure drinking water. But if I take an eye-dropper & add a few drops of raw sewage, then shake well. Would you drink it now? (no way!)
      1. It might look pure. It might not be as dirty as it could be, but it is contaminated through & through. There is no part that is not polluted.
      2. And, there is no way it can purify itself…w/o undergoing some kind of outside purification process! [i.e. chlorine to shower water in Haiti]
    17. (18) Verses 10-17 lead up to the final culmination & condemnation of vs.18.
      1. The fear of God is completely left out of their thinking!
    18. This sounded like a Courtroom!
      1. The Accusation (9) All are under sin.
      2. The Evidence (10-18) No righteous, not even one.
      3. The Courtroom Setting (19) Every mouth silenced.
      4. The Verdict (20) Read whole verse.
    19. EVERY MOUTH STOPPED! (19,20)
    20. (19) Every mouth stopped…all the world guilty!
    21. (20) The law “reveals” sin, but doesn’t wash any away!
      1. Purpose of the law? To guide conduct, not to provide a method to stand before God in our own righteousness.
    22. We have to end here today…but it doesn’t end here, Praise God!
      1. For as it ends here as God as Judge it picks up next week as…He is also our Savior!
        1. He who shows us our sin through the Law…also removes our sin through Christ!
        2. He allows us to trade in our prison clothes for a shining robe of righteousness! (Swindoll)
    23. End: Ok, so your choice. Will it be…
      1. You’ll choose to make things right with God; Or, break the microscope!

Verses 21-31

  1. Intro:
    1. Now we find light at the end of the sin-tunnel! (Rom.3:10-18)
    2. The main Questions to answer this morning:
      1. How can a holy God forgive guilty people?
        1. If our judges in our courts did that, Wouldn’t they be removed from their office? Wouldn’t our society fall apart?
    3. So we learn about what Bengel called, “the supreme paradox of the gospel”.
      1. ​​​​​​​Webster defines a paradox, “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense & yet is perhaps true.”
      2. G.K.Chesterton gave the definition for a paradox as “truth standing on its head shouting for attention.”
      3. A paradox is a powerful vehicle for truth, because it makes people think.
        1. The Scriptures often use Paradox - We see, unseen things (2 Cor. 4:18); we conquer by yielding (Rom. 6:16-18); we find rest under a yoke (Mt. 11:28-30); we reign by serving (Mark 10:42-44); we are made great by becoming little (Luke 9:48); we are exalted by being humble (Mt. 23:12); we become wise by being fools for Christ's sake (1 Cor. 1:20, 21); we are made free by becoming His bond servants (Rom. 6:10); we wax strong by being weak (2 Cor. 12:10); we triumph by defeat (2 Cor. 12:7-9); we find victory by glorying in our infirmities (2 Cor. 12:5); and we live by dying (2 Cor. 4:10,11).
    4. Title: Supreme Paradox [How can a holy God forgive guilty people?]
    5. Outline: Three Metaphors & Three No’s.
    6. As a teaser...I will prove at the end, we can be saved by works!
  2. THREE METAPHORS! (21-26)
    1. ​​​​​​​3 Metaphors are given to describe what God has done for man’s sinful condition: A Courtroom; Slavery; Sacrifice.
    2. [1] A COURTROOM! (21-24a,26)
    3. We have the picture of a Condemned Man in a courtroom, as he hears the verdict of acquittal (not guilty).
    4. Justification – a legal declaration, an announcement of one’s status before God.
      1. It’s opposite is condemnation.
      2. It doesn’t mean we are instantly perfect & holy;
      3. It does mean we are instantly forgiven & loved by God.
      4. It does mean Christ’s righteousness is instantly credited to our account.
      5. It does mean God looks at us & sees the perfect obedience of His Son.
        1. The Old religion(Judaism) thought “a man can attain to a right relationship w/God by keeping meticulously all that the law lays down. If he fulfills all the works of the law, he will be right w/God.” (William Barclay, pg.53.)
          1. Yet we know that no man ever kept, or will ever keep, every commandment of the law. Simply because, man is an imperfect creature who can never render a perfect obedience.
        2. The Law…
          1. The Law helped man to become aware of his sin.
          2. The Law helped man to know what he ought to do, so he could realize that he is not doing it.
          3. The Law helped man to see that as he tries to satisfy the law, he will realize he will never satisfy it.
          4. The Law helps man to see the way to God is NOT by the law, but by Grace!
      6. Justification then is not to make someone something, but to account someone as something.
        1. Rom.4:5 God justifies the ungodly.
        2. But wait! - Prov.17:15 says, He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.; And, Ex.23:7 says, For I will not justify the wicked. Then he turns around & does it…How can He?
    5. Righteousness – He not only cancels our failures, Justifies us, but he also declares us Rt.
      1. Isn’t that the same? Nope!
        1. If a Teacher cancels out an F you got on an exam, it isn’t the same as declaring it an A!
        2. If a Bank were to forgive you the debts of your account, that wouldn’t be the same as declaring you rich!
          1. So also, canceling our sins, is not the same as declaring us righteous. (John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ, pg.39.)
    6. All have sinned (entire human race has plunged into sin w/Adam) and Fallen short (means to lack, or to be without. Present tense we “keep on falling short”)
      1. Fall short of what? His glory (i.e. His splendor or radiance)
        1. We fail to show the outward manifestation of what God is; We fail to be like Him, to be Christ like!
    7. Freely – (lit.) Without any cost!
      1. ​​​​​​​A wage is something you earn or work for.
      2. God’s grace however is a Gift to us. Exactly opposite of what we deserve. It comes only one way...through the blood of Jesus Christ.
    8. [2] SLAVERY! (24b)
    9. We have here the picture of an Enslaved Man, standing on his slave block, who hears he is redeemed from his bondage, & is set free.
    10. Redemption – means a ransoming, a liberating, a redeeming.
      1. It means man was in the power, the grip, the dominion of sin, & the ownership of Satan; And now, Jesus Christ’s blood purchased him & set him free.
        1. Yet, “Freedom is not the right to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought.”
    11. [1] SACRIFICE! (25)
    12. We now have the picture of a once Guilty Man at the Cross of Christ, as he hears that the wrath of God has been removed.
    13. Propitiation – fancy word that means satisfaction.
      1. Jesus’ death was necessary to satisfy God the Father’s need to judge sin.
        1. This is so important because it preserves God as a just judge of sin, even though we have been forgiven.
      2. Propitiation is a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God & thereby turns Gods wrath into favor. (Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg.510.)
        1. Because He passed over sins & not punished them in the past(OT), people could rightly accuse God of unrighteousness.
        2. The assumption...A God who does not punish sins...is not a righteous God.
        3. The cross showed He could still be righteous by storing up the punishment of all the OT saints, then gave that penalty to Jesus on the cross.
      3. By pouring out His wrath on His own Son, God rightly judged our sin
        1. Even those previously committed i.e. pre-cross.
    14. So, Q: How can a holy God forgive guilty people?
      1. A: God the Lawgiver & Judge obeyed His own law, died for us, & paid the penalty for our sins...The Judge is now our Savior.
  3. THREE NO’S! (27-31)
    1. ​​​​​​​3 NO’s are given to describe what God has done for man’s sinful condition: No Pride; No Prejudice; No Presumption.
    2. [1] NO PRIDE! (27,28)
    3. What’s our response to this? – “Look at the Gift I’ve Earned!” (Nope!)
    4. If the way to God is the way of faith & acceptance, then ALL boasting in human achievement is gone!
      1. Quit trying to keep a profit & loss statement w/God!
      2. Quit making an entry on the credit side of the page whenever you carry out one of the law’s requirements.
      3. You see, the Gift always glorifies the Giver not the Recipient! [So, no boasting!]
        1. Thus the Hymn writer says, “When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride!”
    5. The way of obedience to the Law is concerned with what a man can do for himself; The way of Grace is concerned with what God can do & has done for a man.
      1. Thus, the way to a right relationship with God lies not in a frenzied, desperate, doomed attempt to win acquittal by our performance; it lies in the humble, penitent acceptance of the love & the grace which God offers us in Jesus Christ. (William Barclay. Pg.56.)
    6. [2] NO PREJUDICE! (29,30)
    7. One of the Jews might have questioned, hey that’s great for the Gentiles who didn’t know the law, but what about us who did?
      1. Paul takes them to the basis of the Jewish creed, the very thing that every Synagogue service always begins with, even today…The Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”
        1. One – Not, one kind of God for the Gentiles & one kind for the Jews…The Lord is One!
        2. The way to Him is the same way for all!
    8. [3] NO PRESUMPTION! (31)
    9. The end of the law? No! - It strengthens it!
      1. The Law is not evil & the law should not be ignored.
      2. Up to this time, man tried to be a good man, tried to keep the commandments, tried to serve God, because he was afraid of God & terrified of the punishment that would come.
        1. But now we strive for goodness because we love God, not because we are afraid of Him!
        2. It is not the law of fear but the law of Love that keeps a man right!
          1. Many people do not care to be fined or even imprisoned, but often what keeps a man from shipwrecking his life is the eye of one who loves him.
            1. Remember the old films: The cops on the bullhorn trying to get the man holding hostages inside to give up, “no way coppers, never take me alive!” Then, “Johnny…this is your mother!” – “Ma?”
            2. It is not the law of fear but the law of Love that keeps a man right!
    10. Read what Paul says later in Rom.8:3,4...regarding what happens to the law now!
    11. Wrap up! – Christ’s righteousness is given to us as a gift.
      1. It is ours by faith, apart from the law, apart from works. All because of Christ! – That is the flip-side of sin!
      2. Did you know we can actually agree to the statement,“we are saved by works!” - As long as we qualify it with...His works not ours!
    12. Have you found Jesus?(see Him behind the curtains?)
      1. Actually, He was never lost...but we all have been lost?
      2. We are lost sheep in need of a Shepherd & He would love to be yours this morning.
    13. End: Water Bottle Illustration. [start with a water base - sodium Hydroxide]
      1. At Conception sin enters from the parents to the child [add red drops] [Turns red-Phenanthrene]
      2. At Justification we are set right w/God. He deposits His rt into our account. We are delivered from sin. [add acid/drops, clears up] [Acidic Acid, strong vinegar]
      3. At Sanctification we grow in holiness, [If I put more sin/drops in, nothing happens!] We are delivered from the power of sin. [no matter how many “red/sin” drops, wont turn red again]
      4. At Glorification, we are delivered from the presence of sin altogether. [set bottle aside]
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/romans-3.html. 2017.