Friday, August 07, 2009

Romans 3:1-8:
"Faithlessness and Faithfulness"

[Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

I am using Carl Palmer's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text is:

(NET) Romans 3:1 Therefore what advantage does the Jew have, or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Actually, there are many advantages.1 First of all,2 the Jews3 were entrusted with the oracles of God.4 3 What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 Absolutely not! Let God be proven true, and every human being5 shown up as a liar,6 just as it is written: “so that you will be justified7 in your words and will prevail when you are judged.”8 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates9 the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he?10 (I am speaking in human terms.)11 6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances12 his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil so that good may come of it”? – as some who slander us allege that we say.13 (Their14 condemnation is deserved!)

1 tn Grk “much in every way.”

2 tc ‡ Most witnesses (א A D2 33 M) have γάρ (gar) after μέν (men), though some significant Alexandrian and Western witnesses lack the conjunction (B D* G Ψ 81 365 1506 2464* pc latt). A few mss have γάρ, but not μέν (6 1739 1881). γάρ was frequently added by scribes as a clarifying conjunction, making it suspect here. NA27 has the γάρ in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

tn Grk “first indeed that.”

3 tn Grk “they were.”

4 tn The referent of λόγια (logia, “oracles”) has been variously understood: (1) BDAG 598 s.v. λόγιον takes the term to refer here to “God’s promises to the Jews”; (2) some have taken this to refer more narrowly to the national promises of messianic salvation given to Israel (so S. L. Johnson, Jr., “Studies in Romans: Part VII: The Jews and the Oracles of God,” BSac 130 [1973]: 245); (3) perhaps the most widespread interpretation sees the term as referring to the entire OT generally.

5 tn Grk “every man”; but ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) is used in a generic sense here to stress humanity rather than masculinity.

6 tn Grk “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” The words “proven” and “shown up” are supplied in the translation to clarify the meaning.

7 tn Grk “might be justified,” a subjunctive verb, but in this type of clause it carries the same sense as the future indicative verb in the latter part. “Will” is more idiomatic in contemporary English.

8 tn Or “prevail when you judge.” A quotation from
Ps 51:4.

9 tn Or “shows clearly.”

10 tn Grk “That God is not unjust to inflict wrath, is he?”

11 sn The same expression occurs in
Gal 3:15, and similar phrases in Rom 6:19 and 1 Cor 9:8.

12 tn Grk “abounded unto.”

13 tn Grk “(as we are slandered and some affirm that we say…).”

14 tn Grk “whose.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, this relative clause was rendered as a new sentence in the translation.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
From the Note Sheet: Going deeper in the word . . .
  1. Do we sometimes doubt how God could be perfectly fair and “just” in judging our sin and failure? What should we do?
  2. How does the cross of Jesus include both the “holy righteousness” of God to “judge” sin—and also the “faithful righteousness” of God to “save” sinners?
  3. Do you regard yourself as someone to whom God has “entrusted” with “the very words of God”? If so, what does that mean to you?
  4. Is it possible that we who follow Jesus could fail to live “faithfully” as “God’s messenger people”—to this generation?
  5. How can we grow in trusting God—when we do not understand Him and His ways?
My Comments: Carl organized this message around 4 questions that a Jew might ask in response to the Gospel message, and Paul's answers in the passage:

1. If belonging to God’s “chosen people” and having the sign of His covenant (circumcision) do not save from God’s wrath . . . Is there any advantage to being a Jew? Paul really doesn't answer this question until Romans 9:
4 . . . To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen.
Carl points out that God has given the Jews tremendous blessings. They were given the Law and the prophets so that they could have three great priviledges:
  • know reality…truth… relationship with God. (Encounter God)
  • experience the best way to live. (Embody God)
  • become “light” to the nations. (Extend God to others)
These three priviledges should be familiar to Christians now - these are what God desires for us today where we are. Indeed, this is what God has desired for His people throughout the ages.

2. But, if some of the Jews did not truly believe God, does that mean God has been unfaithful… or will forget His promises? This is where Carl introduces the title of the message - "Faithlessness and Faithfulness". Paul says that yes, people have been faithless to God - but God keeps His promises. The quantity of human compromise in the world does not affect God's faithfulness at all. Everyone could be unfaithful in the world - and God would still be faithful

3. If the “evil” of our sin has brought the “good” of the Gospel — why does God condemn us? If God’s righteousness is seen more clearly because of our unrighteousness — is God unjust to bring His wrath on us? After all, if - as you say Paul - everything up to know has proved that we all - Gentile and Jew, with or without the Law - are sinners, and this has brought the Good of Christ as part of the Sovereign plan of God - haven't we helped bring the Good of Christ? This is very close to fitting in with the whole "God created evil" logic of folks who say that we are not responsible, or God is not Good, because of the existence of evil. Therefore, God has no grounds to judge humans because he brought the evil on Himself. Paul's answer is, of course, that we are responsible, that God is not evil, and that therefore He has the position to judge us. [See this series]. Paul covers this topic more in Chapter 9 as well.

4. If my sin (“falsehood”) reveals God’s truthfulness and increases His glory — why would God condemn me as a sinner? Of course, very similiar to question #3 - except that is is about falsehood and truthfulness instead righteousness and unrighteousness.

Carl mentioned in an earlier message that Romans 1-3 are like the black cloth that jewelers use as a backdrop when they display diamonds. The dark background elevates the glory of the stone. Here the question is: if my dark background elevates the Glory of God and helps His purposes - why take it out on the "poor dark cloth"? Carl says, rightly, that his is ludicrous, stupid, [pick your adjective]. He says he has 3 sons, and it would be like him saying that he loves it when his sons do wrong, because it makes him (Carl) look good. No father thinks like that.

It also is connected to the idea that we are somehow puppets - doing right and wrong at God's Will; and therefore without blame when we do wrong because it is just part of God's overall plan. Indeed, Paul takes it to the extreme, and reports on folks who misread him as saying we should actually sin more so that God's Glory can increase. This nonsense will be covered in Chapter 6

All of the themes of the first three chapters are going to be explored in greater detail later in the letter. Carl compares it to the overture of a symphony - where the themes of the overall work are touched on and expanded on later.

Next: 3:9-20 -- "The Biggest Problem in the World"

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly