Lesson 71: "There is No Fear of God Before Their Eyes." (Romans 3:18)
Welcome to lesson 71. In our last lesson we read down \ \ I through v. 11 of Romans Chapter 3 and briefly V V discussed those verses. If you have a bible with center references, there is a pretty good chance you found in your center reference in connection with the quote that begins in the middle of Romans 3:4 a reference to Psalm 51:4 and I even took the time to mention that reference near the end of our last lesson. That Psalm (51) was supposedly written by David concerning David's affair and sin with Bathsheba and David's repentance concerning the same. Now, we swiped by that so fast, you likely did not make that association. But, if I may take a moment here to say this; the book of Romans is much deeper than what meets the eye on first reading for us. You see, the Jews were great students of what we call the Old Testament, made up of the law, i.e. the first five books of the Old Testament and the Psalms and the Prophets, the way they spoke of it. You must realize that when the Jews at Rome read Paul's letter (we call it Romans); you better believe they made that connection with David (here) just wham bang. Thus, this letter was easier for them in that sense, than for us. But, there is also a saying in this old world that came from somebody which says that: familiarity breeds contempt. Have you heard that? And as much as I would like to encourage you to study and study hard; there is a great danger of falling into that trap; of familiarity breeding contempt. I believe the Jews were obsessed with that , I am talking about, during the time of Paul, as I perceive it from what little I know about the Bible. Now, the reason I say all that is this: I have to milk this book hard to just keep in sight of Paul and try to follow his thinking. But, what little that does sink-in and rubs-off on me, so to speak, give me real insight. Then, if you can carry it just one step further and superimpose Paul's principles and observations upon the world around us, today; you almost have a revelation. Now, if you can begin to focus-in on what I have said; you'll never ask the question: Why did the Holy Spirit preserve this book for us? Because, you'll have the answer already. Undoubtedly, 20 minutes on one of these lessons must seem like an hour to you as you listen to all my palaver; but, if you can ever get your plow down deep enough to get a taste of the subsoil, you'll want to drink it dry.
But, right now, if you'll tune your thinking back to the world that Paul was part of; we need first of all, to get a good clear portrait in our mind of the thinking of those people Paul was writing to; the Jews at Rome and, of course, Jews in general over the Roman empire, as Paul perceived their thinking, guided by the Hold Spirit. Now, I know this was written to Gentile Christians too. The Gentiles needed this perspective also to keep Christianity in its right context and to help overcome this problem. But, in these verses, Paul was really taking Jewish Christians over the coals for their arrogant and self-righteous attitude. It was not even justified under the law of Moses and now they were not under that law of Moses. This is the very attitude that crucified Jesus. Take just a moment to re-read that section back in Chapter 2 where Paul said: Behold, thou are called a Jew..." (that begins in 2:17)
It would seem to me that what Paul said in the next few verses there was Paul's mental image of what we might call Jewish arrogance. Read that close! And ass to that picture this: the Jews never seemed to understand the Old Testament in one sense. Oh, they read it every Sabbath day. We have already said they recognized any little dab-of-a-quote from the Old Testament. They had familiarity with it, YES! But, they never seem to understand that their system under the Mosaic code was temporary as we discussed back in Galatians 3:19 and as was prophesied in the Old Testament itself. The Jews thought of the Jewish nation and their religious system as a permanent order of things. They simply refused to shift gears. I'm talking about Jews who had been baptized and were taking the Lord's supper every first day of the week, i.e., Christian Jews, to say nothing of the non-Christian Jews. And, now add to that, a feeling that they would always be God's people, i.e., God's favored people.
This was sort-of ingrained into their thinking. But, if Paul could get them down to earth, here is this letter, long enough to realize that, that time was past; and that they were living in a fantasy world, that never really existed to start with; they would then, hopefully, begin to get the real significance of Christ's death on the cross, remission of sins and the righteousness that comes by faith in our Saviour.
In Romans 3:18, Paul used a quote from Psalm 36:1 to re-say it
one more time:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Now, if you will grab a little piece of that subsoil and sprinkle it around in the 20th Century; forget about the Jews, apply it to that big denominational world out there around us and even the Church of Christ, itself. Now, you'll have to take a little time to get a handle on this; but, work on it. Like I said, it's almost a revelation. It's about time the religious world in this old 20th Century began to get the significance of Christ's death on the cross, God's righteousness and remission of sins. Alright, lest I find myself sermonizing; let's read from Chapter 3, OK? Before we read, I should clarify, Paul was not necessarily charging members of the church at Rome with every evil mentioned here. It has spilled over into the church. Yes! But, a lot of this was attitudes that Jewish Christians as well as Gentile Christians had to deal with daily as they taught others and associate with others. For example, in V. 8 where Paul said some slanderously misrepresented his teaching; Paul has reference to outsiders, obviously. OK, we read V. 9 already; but, let's re-read V. 9 and continue down through V. 20. I'm talking about Romans Chapter 3. Got it? V. 9, here we go: What then? are we better than they? no, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full if cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to she blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. OK, back to V. 9. When Paul asked the questions, if the Jews were better than the Gentiles; be began to answer that rhetorical question, as was so often his style, by quoting from the Old Testament. As we have said already, it was a way of identifying with the Jewish mind and applying their own storehouse of knowledge to the subject at hand. Paul sort of pitter-pattered down the path of his answer by hopping from Old Testament scripture to Old Testament scripture that painted the picture Paul was trying to communicate. I'm not saying he used it out of context. What I'm saying is: Paul ripped the answer right out of their own minds. The quote in V. 10,
There is none righteous, no, not one...
comes from Psalm 14:1-3 and is replayed again in Psalm 53. Solomon had said in Ecclesiastes 7:20, There is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not
So, Paul got their attention on this one. You see, they were more inclined to listen to David and Solomon than Paul. Then in V. 13, Paul got his stinking open grave illustration from Psalm 5:9. The snake poison part came from Psalm 140:3 . Verse 14, here in Romans comes from Psalm 10:7, then verses 15-17 came from Isaiah 59:7-8. Then, as I said before,
There is no fear of God before their eyes came from Psalm 36:1. Now, the reason I emphasized all those scriptures, is to amplify and verity what I said earlier. A
knowledgeable Jew could follow this text much easier than one
of us. But, I trust you get the answer; Jews were not better than
Gentiles and (V.9) we are all under sin. It has already been
written (V. 10)
There is none righteous. i.e., no one is righteous of their own merit. Righteousness is imputed. Remember? Now, notice! All of Paul's quotes came
from where? What we call the Old Testament; but, this was all
comprehended in the word "law" in V. 19. What did the Old
Testament, here called the "law" say? Who did it speak to?
Well, just in case his readers didn't automatically think of that
question right up front, Paul gave the answer just in case (V.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith
to them who are under the law...
Now, why did it say that?
that every mouth be stopped, and all the world may become
guilty before God.
That was the purpose of the old law; that sin might be
understood. Take another look at that word "guilty", near the
end of the verse. Do you remember the definition of that big
word "righteousness?" It means to acquit or in other words to
remove guilt. How do we get "righteousness?"
Abraham believed God [Le. had faith], and it was imputed
unto him for righteousness. (James 2:23)
Check it out! Finally, in V. 20 the apostle reached his conclusion: THEREFORE! What does "therefore" mean? Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight [Le, God's sight]: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The law helps one fine and understand sin; but, in the law [i.e. the law of Moses], there is no remedy for sin. OK, let's read some more; are you ready? Beginning in V. 21; let's slice off the rest of the chapter. Romans 3:21, let's read. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and un- circumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Alright, BUT NOW! What do you mean when you say BUT NOW? In contrast to the way is was or has been. Back up in V. 20. Paul said:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there SHALL no flesh be justified in his sight When was that? At the time of Paul, "there shall.. .be [no flesh] justified." How much is that? No flesh means very simply - no body. BUT NOW (V. 21) "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested," [i.e. made known]. What's made known? "Righteousness of God without the law." How does this righteousness of God come? It is imputed by of for faith. Remember the theme of this book? It was written (prophesied). "The just shall live by faith." (1:17). No flesh shall be justified
by the law any longer (V. 20); BUT NOW, i.e., the time has arrived "But now... righteousness." "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" (V. 22). OK, WHO does that apply to? "unto all and upon all that believe" (V. 22).
Now, I want to ask you! How could this be witnessed by the law and prophets? That's what Paul said at the end of verse 21. The law and the prophets is another way of saying the Old Testament. How can the Old Testament be a witness? It was prophesied in the Old Testament; it was foretold in the Pentateuch by Moses; and it was foretold by the old prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others. Paul is talking about the very theme of this book (1:17). From Habbakkuk 2:4, remember? In Habbakkuk (one of the old prophets), the statement is "the just shall live by his faith." That is, those with no guilt shall attain to eternal life by this means. Now, does "shall live by his faith" mean without repentance, confession, baptism or living a faithful Christian life? Of course not! But, no one shall attain that life (eternal life) by keeping the law, i.e. the law of Moses. NO ONE!! (V. 20). Do you remember what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:17)? Jesus said:
Think not that I am come to destroy the
law, or the prophets: I am not come to
destroy, but to fulfill."
Even though that law has been replaced by the law of faith in
Jesus Christ; that old law, written in the Old Testament is still
a witness and will remain a witness to the new system. This
new "righteousness of God" [by faith] was foretold there.
That's what Paul said. Does this new "righteousness of God"
that comes through faith make the old law void? In V. 31, that
question is asked. And, in verse 31, the question is answered.
Paul said :we establish the law.
How is that old law established? It is established in the sense that Jesus fulfilled that law? How is a prophecy fulfilled? When the think prophesied comes to pass; then that prophecy is fulfilled; that prophecy is established. In Deuteronomy 18:22, Moses gave some criteria for identifying true prophecy. Thus, when the system foretold in the Old Testament came to pass; that was established which was said in that law.
Now, in verse 23"all have sinned..." but, verse 24, "all can be justified" (freed from guilt). THAT justification is free, "by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." God has set forth Jesus, "to be a propitiation ... for the remission of sins..." (Verse 25). What does that mean? "That he might be ... the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (end of verse 26). This justification does not come by us or anything we do. Our works and our deeds; regardless of how good, will not justify. (Verse 27). Thus, there can be no boasting of our own attainment; because, it is a gift, it is free (V. 24). Thus, Paul concluded in V. 28. What's your conclusion Paul? Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."
Now, Paul are you talking about Jews or Gentiles? Paul answered (V. 29), our God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles. It is one God, which shall justify both...
i.e., the circumcision and the un-circumcision (or that's another way of saying Jews and Gentiles). "God... shall justify" both, Jews and Gentiles. How? "By faith, and . . . through faith." Same thing. And THAT is Paul's gospel.