Week 3, Day 3
READ: Romans 3
BACKGROUND: This is a bit long because it’s a thick, deep, & sometimes confusing chapter, but it is one of the most important & awesome passages in the whole Bible. I’ll try to keep my thoughts relatively short, but please don’t hesitate to ask questions by posting comments if there is something that confuses you or something you’d like to discuss further!
1 – Continuing a discussion from Chapter 2
2 – “Oracles of God” refers to God’s commandments. “Entrusted” means that they were supposed to live them, not just write them down and pass them along.
4 – Quoting Psalm 51:4
5-8 – Paul is careful to note that this (blasphemous) argument isn’t his own, but he is addressing the idea that if our sin makes God’s holiness stand out in comparison then God should be thankful for our sins instead of judging them and we should commit them more often.
10-18 – This is a compilation of different Psalms cut & pasted together. This wasn’t an uncommon thing for Jews or early Christians to do and this compilation may have been Paul’s own or may have been one that was already put together. Among the verses sampled: Psalms 14:1-3, 53:1-3, 5:9, 140:3, 10:7, 36:1 & Isaiah 59:71.
20 – God’s Law cannot save us because nobody can keep it. We can’t keep it because we are messed up & sinful. So, what purpose does the Law serve? It helps us clearly see our sinfulness and how far from God and helpless we are.
22-24 – Every person who ever lived has sinned and broken their relationship with God, but through faith in Jesus every person can be reconciled to him.
3 Super-Important Theological Concepts:
22 – “Imputed Righteousness” – We aren’t righteous. Our faith doesn’t earn us righteousness. God imputes (ascribes to us, counts towards us) HIS righteousness to us because of what Jesus did on the cross
24 – “Justification by Faith” – By God’s gift of grace through faith, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us we and are counted as justified before God. This is a legal term (dikaioo) that means counted right/set right/declared righteous. This doesn’t mean “made righteous” like a change of character (that comes by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit as we live out our Christian lives) and it doesn’t correspond exactly with “forgiven.” Forgiveness occurs over and over again every time we sin. Justification is a once-for-always declaration by God that through faith in Jesus we are counted righteous.
25 – “Propitiatory Atonement” – A number of translations go with “sacrifice of atonement” here (which is a really helpful translation) but the actual Greek word is hilasterion which means propitiation. It is the same word used for the Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus is the new Mercy Seat. The word propitiation means that not only has God chosen to ignore our sins or to look the other way but he has truly counted them gone and his wrath has been absolved. Jesus death on the cross served as a penal substation for us. He paid the penalty the God’s righteousness demanded for our sin and, in doing that, absolved God’s wrath against us completely. That is why Paul says it was a “sacrifice of atonement” or a “propitiation.”
25 – The sins of all the people who lived before Christ were not washed away – they were not absolved or atoned & there was no propitiation for them – before the cross! Participating in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament didn’t earn them forgiveness or satisfy God’s wrath. Instead, they received expiation – God looking the other way and not counting their sins against them – until the cross. On the cross, Jesus accomplished forgiveness and propitiation for all sins of those who believed – in the past, the present, & the future.
27 – We’re all equal and nothing we did earned our salvation. So, nobody can be proud or boastful. Even faith isn’t something we did. Faith is just accepting God’s free gift.
THINK: One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty much the same thing over and over and over again. They drop pots in the water. They sail around for a little while. They fight horrible weather and stormy seas. They haul the pots off the ocean floor. They dump the crab out of the pots and into their holding tanks. They repeat the process. And yet, despite the repetition, I could watch hours of Deadliest Catch without ever getting bored. There is something fascinating about the fact that, because of the incredible unpredictability of the weather in the Bering Sea, their lives are on the line at every moment. The show’s title, Deadliest Catch, stems from the fact that being a crab fisherman is the deadliest job in America per capita. A higher percentage of crab fishermen die while doing their jobs than any other occupation.
What really fascinates me is how many more crab fishermen would die if it weren’t for the United States Coast Guard. Every year, Coast Guard rescue divers jump out of rescue helicopters and plunge into the frigid waters of the Bering Sea to save crab fishermen who have fallen overboard or whose boats have capsized. They put their own lives on the line – and sometimes lose their lives – to save others. And I think this is particularly noteworthy because the fishermen don’t always necessarily deserve to be rescued. Sometimes they fall overboard because they are acting foolishly. Sometimes their boats sink because they made really poor decisions and they ignored the weather reports. Sometimes the situations they’re in are entirely of their own making – because of their own bad decisions. And their lives aren’t inherently more valuable than the lives of the Coast Guard rescue divers who go out to save them. And yet, no matter how undeserving the fishermen may be, the rescue divers fly out into the perilous storms, plunge into the thrashing waves, and put their lives on the line to save them.
Rescue is the central message of the Bible. Even though we’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it, even though the situations we get into are often entirely of our own making, even though our separation from God is the result of our own rebellion and sinful choices, God stepped into human history to rescue us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven and free and reconciled to right relationship with him. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and there is not one of us who is righteous on our own. (Romans 3:23, 3:10-11, Psalm 14:1-3) But despite our failures and our sinfulness, God reaches out into our lives and responds to our cries for help. At the cross, he gave his life to rescue ours!
ASK: Have I ever felt like God can’t forgive me or the cross can’t save me because I’m too messed up and I don’t deserve it? Do I sometimes feel prideful about my faith – and about the way I follow God – as though I did something noteworthy or earned my salvation in any way? If rescue if God’s free gift through the cross, how should I respond?