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Friday, April 16, 2010

Romans 3

READ: Romans 3

DEVOTIONAL:
In this chapter, Paul leaves lofty theory and gets into a number of practical concerns. First, Israel is not superseded by the church. The nation of the Jews were blessed with the great honor of housing the prophets of God and building His temple. Just because not every Jew came to a saving faith does not void the unconditional promises of God; when God says "I will", it will be done exactly as He says. Paul's second point draws on this one by asking a question. If the unfaithfulness of the Jews reveals the devotion of the Lord, isn't it good for us to be unfaithful? Indeed, more generally, shouldn't we sin to show the world how safe we are in God's love? Paul tells us that some have slanderously reported that he taught the latter, a charge still pressed on the Lord's churches today. Of course, this is an utter lie. We ought to do good that good may come, and if our evil brings good, praise God's might while still repenting with a broken heart. Sin ought to disgust the child of God, and will if we are close in our walk with Him.
But we cannot pretend that doing good so good may come is grounds for pride. We are all sinners: every race, creed and religion.
The story is told (I don't know the veracity, but it seems like a parable) of a man who had many patches on his clothes. When asked, he could explain that each patch represented a sin one of his neighbors has committed, so they would not forget. Indeed, when asked about any patch he could tell the whole story. But when a small one on the middle of his back was pointed out, he laughed and said: "Oh, that is my own sin. I cannot see it. " Too often we fall into the same trap. We must see right and wrong so that we can realize our sin. When we truly realize our sin, we can become humble before God and inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). After two and a half chapters of bad news about mankind, Paul brings words of hope.
Truly, the Law and the Prophets pointed the way to Jesus Christ, but they were ultimately superseded by him (Matthew 17:1-8). The Law cannot save those who violate it - and that is every single one of us (v 23). But there is hope. Jesus Christ voluntarily faced separation from God (separation from Himself, if we can begin to imagine it) so that the debt of our sins might be paid in full, for any who accept it. No sin is too great (as Paul's own life shows) and no age is too young or old for the one who understands the gospel and their own sin to step into everlasting salvation.
There is a price to this justification, though. We can do nothing but take it or leave it. Our works do not get us into heaven, and we cannot take pride in our righteousness. We lay all of this misplaced boasting at the feet of the Holy One. Its harder than it sounds. But once we allow our circumcision to be of the heart - a circumcision blind to race - a change in the body is all but inevitable.

This salvation of faith is not a new way of doing things - God forbid we suggest salvation changes! Tomorrow, chapter 4 will teach us just how everlasting God's plan is.

QUESTIONS:
(1) Recalling the charge that we do evil so good may come, have you ever been guilty of falling into that fallacy? Sin is sin, no matter what results. Will you come to repentance and come to love God's righteousness for its own sake? Or is something holding you back?
(2) When you read vv 10-18, do you silently add "except me" to the end? Will you pray for God to make a new heart in you, one that is sensitive to your own sin?
(3) Read verse 31 again. Do you establish your code of conduct as a natural outlet of your faith? Or do you reduce it to stand-alone rules and regulations?
(4) Does the gospel message still excite you? Or have you left your first love?

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