About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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God’s Faithfulness  (ch. 3:1-8)


In the previous verses Paul was pretty hard on the Jews.  He did not spare any words by telling them that they weren’t any better than the Gentile sinner.  They sinned just as much as the pagans.  So, in chapter 3 verse 1 he asks a very natural question that someone might ask him after his discourse about the Jewish people.  He asks, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?”  After what Paul has just said you might think the answer to this question is that there is no advantage in being a Jew.  Paul, however, does not say there is no advantage of being Jewish.  In verse 2 he says that there is a great advantage of being Jewish in every way. 


In verse 2 Paul begins to list the reasons why Jews have an advantage.  “First of all…”, he says, “they have been entrusted with the very words of God”.   The words  “first of all” should not be understood in terms of first of all, second of all, third of all, and so on.  The Greek simply means "chiefly", or, "most importantly.  That is to say what Paul says next is the main reason why the Jews have the advantage over the Gentile pagans.     


The chief reason why Jews have an advantage is because they have been entrusted with the very words of God.  It would be like getting a head start in a marathon.  Having God’s will laid out for you would surely help you in the development of being God’s people.  The words "have been entrusted" is a Greek aorist indicative verb.  This means that at one point of time the Jews in fact were given the Word of God to live by.


You might ask then did the Jews lose their God given choice to be entrusted with the Word of God?  Those who believe in Replacement Theology would certainly say they have lost this entrustment.  It's my opinion, that might be seen in this verse, although I do know that is debatable, that Paul believed the Jews as he was writing was still entrusted with God's Word.  Whether they were or not when Paul wrote these words, I do believe the day will come when they will once again be entrusted with the Word of God in fulfillment of prophecy.      


You might ask, "What are the Words of God"?  Well, they are every word that God spoke in Old Testament times.  God spoke to many individuals.  He spoke to prophets that passed God's words on to Israel .  Examples of this would be the personal things God talked to Adam about, to Abraham about, to Moses, and to many others.  God spoke to Abraham and promised him, his descendents, and his offspring, who I believe is Jesus, certain things.  God spoke through the prophets to Israel , words of encouragement, instruction, rebuke, and judgment.  Most of all, God spoke to Israel through the Law of Moses and this might be what Paul had in mind when he penned these words.  Israel had all these words at their disposal. 


Paul anticipates an argument, so in verse 3 he asks this question.  "What if some did not have faith?"  Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”   Paul states the clear and simple answer in verse 4 when he says, “Not at all”.  Just because Israel did not believe the words of God does not change God's Word or the promises He made.  He is faithful to His Word whether others we're faithful or not.   


At this point I should state my simple definition of the word "faith".  In Biblical terms, faith is trusting in God's trustworthiness".  If, for the most part, you substitute the word "trust" for the word "faith" in the Bible, you'll have a pretty good understanding of faith and how it is used in any particular passage.      


We know that God would not change His mind concerning these things because the Abrahamic Covenant that is confirmed many times in the Old Testament was a covenant that God made with Himself and not with Israel .  God said that He would do certain things with and for Israel .  He did not enter into covenant with Israel .  He entered into covenant with Himself.  He promised Himself to bless Israel , and that is what He will do in the end.  Besides that, the Abrahamic Covenant, as stated in many passages, is an eternal covenant.  It cannot be revoked.  


This passage is important for those who believe that the Jews have no more significance in the eyes of God, and that the church has replaced Israel as the only people of God.  Paul clearly says that Israel ’s unbelief did not nullify God’s promises to them.  Therefore, whatever God promised to Israel in Old Testament times, He will fulfill.  God promised Israel complete restoration, and that He will do at the end of this age.    


Genesis 15 gives us an understanding to why Israel 's unfaithfulness doesn’t discount God's faithfulness.  Genesis 15 recalls the covenant ceremony concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.  If you read the chapter closely, you will see that Abraham was asleep when the covenant was ratified.  This is why I say that God did not make a covenant with Abraham.  He made it with Himself.  God covenanted with Himself to do certain things, and the fulfillment of these things did not depend on Israel , but God alone.  This is seen in the fact that Abraham did not participate in the confirmation ceremony.       


This is what it means when Paul says in verse 4, "let God be true and every man a liar".  God promised Israel certain things.  Man may, and can, lie, but, God cannot lie.  He will do as He said.  In comparison to God, every man is a liar even if he doesn't lie. 


Paul supports what he has just said by quoting from Psalm 51:4.  Psalm 51 is all about David repenting of his sin.  He says that his sin is always before him.  Then he says that proves God is right in the way He thinks and just in the way He judges.  So, what Paul is saying here with the use of this quote is that man is sinful.  God is the only right and just one.  Because of this fact, what God promises cannot be revoked.


So, what Paul has been saying here is that man's unrighteousness actually shows forth God's righteousness more clearly.  He thus asks an important question in verse 5 that he admits is a purely human based question.  In simple terms, Paul asks if man's unrighteousness makes God's righteousness more visible, then isn't God being unjust in punishing us with His wrath?  The question implies that some might think that man's unrighteousness actually supports God's cause of showing that He is righteous.  That being the case, man should not be punished for his sin.  Although I think that such logic brought forth by Paul's opposition is a bit twisted, I can see why Paul would raise the question.              


In verse 6 Paul counters that argument by saying, "Certainly not".  Paul says that there is no logic in raising that question.  If that were so, how could God judge the world, he points out.  It's clear from this statement that Paul's opposition would believe that God will judge the world.  He in fact will judge the world because man is unrighteous and sinful.  Sin still needs to be accounted for and that will eventually take place at the White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20.


Of course, if Paul's opposition did not believe God will judge the world, then what Paul says here is useless.  That being said, Paul would not have made this point if he knew his opposition did not believe God will some day judge the world.      


In verse 7 Paul continues this train of thought.  He gives a specific example of unrighteousness.  He states that if his untruthfulness enhances the truth of God and shows God's glory, why does God still call him a sinner?   God should be happy that His glory is been clearly seen. Again, Paul is anticipating the argument posed by this opposition.         


In verse 8 Paul says that he has been slandered by some when they say that he is teaching people that they can do evil so good may come from their evil.  The good that would come is the clear distinction between God's righteousness and man's unrighteousness, thus showing God's glory to all.  You will see this come up again later in Romans.  When Paul gets into his argument that salvation is by faith alone, some got the idea that he was saying that the more we sin, the more we do wrong, the more God can have mercy on us.  The logical, although as I've said before, twisted conclusion, is for us to sin all we want so God can have mercy on us and His glory seen to all.  Paul was not saying any such thing, but sad to say, some were saying that of Paul.  Actually, some Christians today live as though Paul did say such a thing.  Paul says that those who believe this, live this, and say that he teaches this, deserve the condemnation they will receive from God. 


Many Christians today live a very sloppy life.  They sin, thinking that God will forgive every sin.  They fail to understand that true repentance plays a very important part in the forgiveness process.  There is no forgiveness without true repentance, so if you expect to sin, thinking God will forgive you, you better think again.    


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