What advantage, then is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. Romans 3:1-2I said in this last post from chapter 2 that in order to better put his words into our context, when he addresses the Jews (the spiritual people of the day), we can think "church-going Christians." He's still contrasting ritual with experience. So, I ask you, What value is there in having a Christian heritage, or a long personal history with God? Well, I agree with Paul when he says, "Much in every way!" We have God's word, which may have been planted in our hearts from early teaching such as learning to sing "Jesus Loves Me," knowing the story of the little boy with the loaves and the fishes which fed many, and having parents who prayed for you, or being a praying parent yourself.
But again, he will caution us not to personally rest on history, or privileged status:
As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. . . . Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law, we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:10-11, 20You know how those sign up sheets go around, asking for volunteers to prepare a meal for someone in need, or for donations for an event? My teacher at BSF reminded us that sin is not a volunteer activity. We don't opt in. There's no sign up sheet, because we are all guilty. I think it's really hard for most of us (for me, anyway), to believe that we are not capable of understanding or even seeking God on our own. I know that I have a few little "things I struggle with," but to call myself a Sinner with a capital S, well isn't that a bit harsh? It's sin. I need to face up to the fact that I am not keeping the whole law (or even one part of it completely at all times), and that apart from Jesus' death on my behalf, I have no righteousness at all.
There's no credit due to me, and there's none given. In fact, this is like a pass/fail class. It's all or none. All that God is going to examine is whether or not my heart was turned towards Him in belief and repentance. God is not only going to judge my heart, but my secrets as well (Romans 2:16). Even if I manage to adhere to most of the law on the outside, can any of us claim not to harbor any evil secrets in our hearts? It seems like a no-win situation, but if you get out from under the twinges of guilt you might be feeling, or even hopelessness in living up to the standards of perfection, you will see that God has provided a way for all to to be declared righteous. Righteous is right standing before God. God is holy and cannot have a relationship with those who are not, because He is also just, but because of His justice, He made a way for us all to be justified, which is the act of being declared righteous, or right with God (Romans 3:26).
But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. Romans 3:21-25God is righteous, we are not because we have all sinned. But if we have faith in Jesus Christ's sacrifice of atonement for us (the fact that he, a sinless man, died for all of our sins, in order to satisfy God's need for holiness), we are justified freely and redeemed. I love the word "freely" here. I think of it as free, with no cost to us, but the word also evokes a lavishness of giving us so much--love, mercy, forgiveness, direction. Jesus redeemed us, or bought us back, and redemption does have a price. The price was Jesus himself, but he paid it willingly.
The third verse of the hymn, "Jesus Paid it All," is perfect to describe this section. You can listen to the melody and read all the verses by clicking here.
For nothing good have I
whereby your grace to claim;
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary's Lamb.
Jesus paid it all,
all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
I'm lagging on these posts, simply because they take effort to think them through, but I'm going to try to post a couple in the next week. If I am losing you with any of this terminology, please let me know, because it's foundational to the rest of the study and our understanding of our salvation in general. Also, if it feels repetitive, it's only because it is foundational, so I want to be sure we are getting it. . . .
Index of Romans' posts