Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE PROSECUTION MAN FACES”

Romans 3.1-8

 

When we last looked at Paul’s letter to the Romans, we considered Romans 2.17-29, at which time I suggested that you picture the apostle as a prosecutor facing off the prototypical Jewish man standing at the judgment bar of God. Though we cannot take the imagery too far, I would like you to continue in your imagination that courtroom scenario.

The Judge is the Lord Jesus Christ. The prosecutor, of course, is the Apostle Paul. The witnesses are the Law of Moses and truth and conscience. The imagined jury in consideration of Paul’s presentation is the reader, the Romans, and of course you and me. The person who is indicted? That would be the prototypical Jewish man. We previously observed the Apostle Paul establishing probable cause for which the accused should proceed to trial. There is reason to believe that the Jewish man has committed crimes against God. The precise nature of the crimes? Sins. Transgressions of the will of God. Assaults against His holy nature. Outrages against His righteousness. These are capital offenses. As the court is brought into session, the Apostle Paul anticipates the objections of the defense that seek to overthrow the prosecution’s case before it is even mounted by arguing that the charges against the defendant are not legitimate. It is a master stroke in Paul’s letter to the Romans because in an adversarial legal system one would anticipate a defense attorney doing his very best to prevent the prosecutor from ever presenting the case to the jury for deliberation.

How would a defense attorney try to derail the prosecution before the trial even begins? By voicing objections at the very beginning of the court session in the hopes that the case will be thrown out. Those objections are to be heard in the courtroom at this time. “Court is now in session. All rise.” Our text for this message from God’s Word is Romans 3.1-8. I invite you to read along silently while I read aloud: 

1  What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

3  For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4  God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

5  But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

6  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7  For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. 

Recognizing that we have just read objections that were actually anticipated by Paul, let’s look at the objections one at a time: 

OBJECTION #1 

Objection #1 is asserted in Romans 3.1: 

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” 

If what Paul said about inward circumcision in Romans 2.28-29 is true, that a Jew may not be a real Jew if he is only outwardly circumcised, then what is the advantage of being Jewish? What is the profit of being circumcised? In essence, this objection asks why a charge is even being leveled against the Jewish man for not being a good Jewish man. This is a carryover from Romans 2.17-29 and Paul’s observation that Jewish people thought that their special relationship with God somehow meant that God would not judge them, when what it meant was that God would judge them first.

Objection #1 is refuted in Romans 3.2: 

“Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” 

Notice the benefits the descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob enjoys: When he writes “much in every way,” Paul is pointing out that there are many benefits for the Jewish person based upon the covenant relationship he enjoys with God. He has been a recipient of the Law, and he has been exposed to the revelation of God’s truth for centuries. That said, Paul chooses at this point to list only the one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Jewish blessedness: 

“unto them were committed the oracles of God.” 

Are there other blessings Paul might have listed? Of course, but those blessings arise from the Jewish people’s custody of the oracles of God, meaning the Hebrew Scriptures. They had the revelation of the personality and nature of the one true and living God, the expression of His will revealed in His Word, the promises to them contained in His Word and His faithfulness to keep those promises, the lifestyles made possible by knowing God’s plan for each man, each woman, each child, for each marriage, for each family unit, for interpersonal relationships, etc. These are only a few of the many blessings accrued to the Jewish people, all of which are rooted in them possessing the oracles of God. Therefore, the objection that the Jewish man should not be held accountable to God by God because of some theory that being God’s covenant people should exclude them from judgment by God and that they enjoy no blessings from their covenant relationship with God is simply not true. 

OBJECTION #2 

Objection #2 is asserted in Romans 3.3: 

“For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” 

There are two certainties that were indisputable to the Jewish person of Paul’s day: First, it is not to be denied that the Jewish people embraced the Hebrew Scriptures as the Word of God. Second, it was not to be denied that the Jewish people were not always faithful to obey what they knew to be God’s Word. Jewish people readily admitted their historical failures to live up to God’s reasonable demands. The objection that arises here is how God can be faithful to His promises when His people have themselves been unfaithful to their God? This objection is based on the false premise that God can only be faithful to keep His promises through His covenant people’s faithfulness to Him. If Jewish people are judged for their unfaithfulness, does that not make God unfaithful to His promises? This raises the specter of hypocrisy with God for daring to judge His people when it was wrongly supposed that their unfaithfulness would make Him unfaithful to keep His promises. Is that a reasonable supposition?

Objection #2 is refuted in Romans 3.4: 

“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” 

No! The very opposite is true, Paul insists. This response, “God forbid,” is a very strong denial by the apostle. “Fourteen of the fifteen N. T. instances [of this specific form of denial] are in Paul’s writings, and in twelve of them it expresses the Apostles’ abhorrence of an inference which he fears may be falsely drawn from his argument.”[1] Do not misunderstand what this master communicator means to say. “Man’s failure can never dwarf God’s promises, purposes and plan.”[2] This was illustrated by David’s remark after his terrible sin of adultery with Bathsheba in his penitential Psalm written a thousand years earlier, Psalm 51.4: 

“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” 

Clearly, David recognized that there is no inconsistency involved when God judges the sins of a Jewish man who enjoys a covenant relationship with Him. On the contrary. Because God is true, He is also faithful, despite man’s failures. This is asserted in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 7.9-10: 

9  Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

10  And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 

This truth is also insisted upon in the New Testament, First Corinthians 1.9: 

“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

There is no conflict between God’s faithfulness and His obligations to deal justly with anyone’s sins. Therefore, it cannot be effectively challenged that man’s unfaithfulness, man’s lack of believing the Bible while believing the Bible is God’s Word, affects or in any way influences God’s fidelity to the truth and either His willingness or His ability to keep His promises. 

Psalm 33.10: “The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.” 

Do you think you will oppose God and win? Do you think you will turn His nature to your sinful advantage by somehow handcuffing Him so He cannot punish your wrongdoing? Don’t be a fool. He is God. 

OBJECTION #3 

Objection #3 is asserted in Romans 3.5: 

“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)” 

Consider the case of an unrighteous person whose unrighteousness showcases God’s righteousness. Clearly, God’s reputation and standing among His creatures is enhanced by a sinner’s comparative unrighteousness against the backdrop of God’s righteousness. The question is whether it is right for God to punish a sinner whose unrighteousness makes God look good. Is it right for God to punish someone whose conduct has seemingly benefited Him in some way? After all, Paul writes “I speak as a man.”

Objection #3 is refuted in Romans 3.6-8: 

6  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7  For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. 

Once more, Paul strongly rejects the notion that God Himself could be unrighteous for judging someone who is unrighteous. Understand that both Paul and his readers accepted as right and proper that God has the absolute right as sovereign Creator to judge the world He brought into existence and sustains. Therefore, to suggest even the possibility that God should not judge the world is a refutation of one of the most fundamental prerogatives of Deity. This is the first observation he makes showing that such convoluted logic as is reflected by this objection denies God’s authority to judge the world, verse 6: 

“for then how shall God judge the world?” 

The second observation showing the convoluted logic of this objection to be faulty comes next. Paul puts to rest the notion that supposes the vindication of God’s righteousness obligates Him to ignore sin, verse 7: 

“For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” 

This is the guy who finds principle incomprehensible and lives his life according to the misguided notion of “I will do something for you, and you will then do something for me.” The reality is that God doesn’t work that way at all. God is holy, righteous, and glorious, and is not beholding to anyone just because that sinner’s sinfulness shows God all the more holy, righteous, and glorious. Romans 3.8 shows us yet a third basis for refuting the third objection of verse 5. Let me read it to you and then provide a bit of explanation: 

“And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” 

Two things here: First, Paul reacts to the slander of some people who completely misunderstood what he meant by what he said when preaching and explaining the Gospel. Second, Paul decries the false notion that anyone can do good by doing wrong. An example of this philosophy is the person who thinks you can do some good by sometimes telling a white lie. No. Not only can you not do evil to do good, but anyone who claims that Paul espoused that approach is guilty of slander because it simply is not true. Can God turn an evil person’s misdeed to His good? Yes, but He is God. No sinner is justified by seeking to accomplish good by doing wrong. 

Do you see how perverse sinful man is? In the face of evidence the Apostle Paul is about to present to prove the guilt of the prototypical Jewish man, he anticipates the guilty man’s vain attempts to interfere with the process. What our text illustrates are two things: First, the lengths to which the guilty will go in an attempt to cast doubt on God to prevent consideration of their sinfulness. Therefore, if something bad happens, “Oh, God, how could you let this happen?” Never mind the foolishness that brought the trouble on in the first place. As well, how very much like a modern man who has been convicted of crimes who then seeks to manipulate the legal system to have a conviction overturned on a technicality. Only in our text, it is an attempt to thwart a prosecution from ever going forward by objecting to this, to that, and to the other thing, in part by calling into question God’s character so that the sinner’s character and conduct will not be weighed.

But it doesn’t work here, does it? You cannot cover sinfulness with a prosecutor like the Apostle Paul on the case. The trial will proceed. The judgment at God’s bar will take place. Paul has successfully refuted the objections on their lack of merit, and he now turns to the evidence for God’s righteous prosecution of the unrighteous.

__________

[1] William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, A Critical And Exegetical Commentary On The Epistle To The Romans - ICC, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Ltd, Fifth Edition, 1902), page 71.

[2] Rene A. Lopez, Romans Unlocked: Power To Deliver, (Springfield, MO: 21st Century Press, 2005), page 69.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org