Thursday, November 16, 2006

Romans 3:7-8

Someone might argue, "If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases His glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?" Why not say--as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say--"Let us do evil that good may result"? Their condemnation is deserved.

In order for God’s grace to increase, let us sin more. Here’s what the Jews say: “If my unfaithfulness highlights God’s truthfulness, then why should I not be more unfaithful? Why not do evil that good may come. Paul, your teaching leads us to the idea that we ought to do evil in order that good might come from it. Or Paul, your view of salvation means go ahead and sin to your heart’s content in order that grace may have its chance to do its work.” But once again here you see that a depraved heart will do anything rather than repent. It will call in to question doctrine; it will call in to question God’s fairness; it will call in to question God’s existence; anything, so long it does not have to repent. He considers the suggestion that we do evil so grace may increase as blasphemous. And he announces here the justice of the condemnation of those who would say it. The most stupendous blunder a man ever made was to think that he could gain anything by sinning.

We see again the repeated tendency to change the subject: Jesus ran into this kind of thing at the woman at the well. He’s talking with this woman about a sin that is very, very close to the center of her heart when he says to her, “Woman, go bring your husband.” She says, “Well, I have no husband.” And He says, “You’re right. The man that you’re living with is not your husband, and you’ve had five previously.” And immediately she becomes interested in having a theological discussion about worship. “Well, let’s talk about the theories of appropriate worship. It is here in Samaria or is it in Jerusalem?” Immediately she wants to talk about something else. Have you ever experienced this type of thing?

So the Jews have said, “God can’t judge those whose sin magnifies His righteousness when He judges them, and therefore, we may as well all just go on sinning.” Because Paul’s whole point is that their sin glorifies God’s righteousness in judgment, they tried to convince themselves that they were not really sinners but God-glorifiers, and therefore safe from His wrath. And Paul, to that kind of convoluted, weaseling use of language and theology, says, “Their condemnation is just.” On the one hand, God is faithful and righteous and true to His glory, and on the other hand, God judges His very own chosen people and condemns them along with the Gentile world: Two truths, for them irreconcilable. So they try to reject one of these truths. And the result is sophistry—tricky reasoning, word games. Today we might call it spinning. Ever watch O’Reilly and the No Spin Zone? Paul treats this ridiculous, yet prominent theological objection elsewhere in Romans, under different contexts, so we’ll look more at it then.

Conclusion: Paul in chapter 2 cut off the four legs of the stool of false assurance that the Jews were standing on, trying to deny their need for the gospel: (1) failing to see the purpose of the law, (2) misunderstanding their national election, (3) misusing their calling to serve God by revealing the light to the Gentiles, and (4) merely outwardly observing the outward sign of circumcision. And here in the beginnings of chapter 3, Paul refutes the four claims the Jews tried to use to deny the accuracy of Paul’s gospel: If what Paul said in chapter 2 was true, then (1) God and His chosen people and His established covenant signs were of no use, (2) that God would be unfaithful to condemn the Jews, (3) that God is unrighteous to judge the Jews, because His punishment of their sin glorifies Him, and (4) I should sin more often, so that His grace can flow more and ultimately to bring Him more glory.

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