Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Romans 3:3-4

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that You may be proved right when You speak and prevail when You judge" [Psalm 51:4].

The Jews come back after Paul's refutation of their first argument and hypothetically say, “So Paul, you’re saying that IT IS meaningful to be a Jew, and to receive the outward sign of circumcision, and to have been entrusted with the Scriptures, and to have been given the law, and to have been called by God to be lights to the darkened Gentile world. If that’s what you’re saying, then how is God still faithful to His promise if many of His chosen people have rejected Him? How is it that those who have received these blessings through the covenant promises of God are still being rejected by God?” The Jews still can’t see how being a Jew in name only prevents them from inheriting the covenant promises of God. So they conclude that God would have to be unfaithful to His promises to them in order to reject them. And Paul says in the KJV, “God forbid!” Our NIV is merely, “Not at all!” God is never unfaithful! The unfaithfulness of His chosen people cannot call into question God’s faithfulness to His promises. Even if every human was judged and sent to hell by God, God would still be true to His promises, the faithful and righteous One.

Paul says that it is impossible for God to be unfaithful. He quotes Psalm 51, King David’s confession after his adultery with Bathsheba. David said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge” (51:4). In other words, David says that God would be just to judge him. David’s sin against God makes God’s judgment of David righteous—it is true to God’s nature, it is true to His glory, and so this righteousness is faithfulness to His covenant. David himself, the hero of the Jews, said that God would be right to judge him. See, what these Jews forgot is that there are two ways for God to be faithful in response to the giving of the covenant sign to the covenant community. He can be faithful in blessing as we trust and obey, or He can be faithful in wrath if we reject those promises and live apart from His word and His law. God’s faithfulness should cause unbelievers to tremble, because He will judge in wrath. God’s faithfulness should cause believers great joy, because He will glorify us in eternal life. Either way, God is faithful. The question Paul could have asked the Jews is, “Are you?”

The covenant sign itself, though it entails privileges, also entails responsibilities. And when the covenant promise is rejected, neglected, or taken for granted, then God’s wrath is justly visited. And He is not being unfaithful. God is faithful in blessing or in judgment if the responsibilities that accompany the covenant are fulfilled or neglected.

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