by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1 April 12, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(116)Thesis:In respect to "mechanisms", the greatest benefit that God has ever extended to man is His self-explanation.
Introduction:This evening we are beginning a study of Romans 3. This is not as big a "thing" as we might suppose because 3:1 is nothing more or less than a continuation of 2:29. A good argument could be made for the claim that 3:1 ought to be 2:30. But, for those of us who look to milestones, "finishing" Romans 2 was such a milestone. It took 19 weeks of study to get through chapter 2 (58 to get through both chapters 1 and 2). As we said, however, 3:1 is just a continuation of Paul's dealings with those who called themselves "Jews". This evening we are going to look into something the "Jews" almost completely missed: God's purpose for His dealings with them. It is clear from 2:17-29 that the "Jews" thought that God's purpose for His dealings with them was to provide them with that kind of "life" that rests upon being able to feel superior to others by reason of one's accomplishments. It is also clear from that same body of text that the "Jews" were completely off target. So, this evening we are going to begin a look into what God's real purpose was as we look at Paul's response to the question that was going to automatically arise from what he said in 2:17-29.
I. What Paul Did in 2:17-29.
A. In that text, Paul made the "Jews'" concept of "Jewishness" and "circumcision" not a benefit, but a hugeliability.
1. The liability consists of being in possession of the "manifest" forms of Truth in religion while simultaneously being accusable for violating those very forms at the true level of "the secrets".
2. Since the Day of Wrath is going to be focused upon "the secrets" in an unbending application of absolute justice without any "respect of persons", the liability is beyond huge in its significance for those who stand before Jesus the Christ on that day.
3. Instead of being "elevated" by the Judge on that day, those who called themselves "Jews", but were not, are going to be "most severely condemned".
B. By that, Paul automatically laid the groundwork for the question that he, himself, anticipates and addresses in 3:1-8.
II. The Automatic Question of 3:1-8.
A. If, in fact, "Jewishness" and "circumcision" are as big a liability as Paul makes them out to be, why in the world did God put them into play?
B. If, in fact, "Jewishness" and "circumcision" are as big a liability as Paul makes them out to be, are there any real "pluses" that justify their existence?
C. The question understood...
1. First, we must "understand" that Paul was not dealing with the true issues of "Jewishness" and "circumcision", but with the "Jews'" faulty grasp of those issues.
a. The Jews' faulty grasp of "Jewishness" and "circumcision" fundamentally consisted of those issues as primary instruments of self-exaltation as a primary instrument of "life".
1) The primary issue is, and always is, the experience of "life".
2) The secondary issue is, and always is, the instruments of that experience.
3) The "Jews" had made the fundamental instrument of "life" to be "the ability to be in the center of attention" by reason of the envy of others because of one's own achievements.
b. Paul, though totally rejecting that viewpoint, nonetheless did accommodate it for argument's sake.
c. Thus, Paul's "question" is a question regarding whether there is, in fact, any real benefit that comes from "manifest" Jewishness and "physical" circumcision.
2. Then, we must "understand" that Paul, though having already established the enormousliability of those issues, also wished to show that there was another side to the coin.
a. First, he asks if there is any "abundance" involved in "manifest Jewishness".
1) "Manifest Jewishness" is, in a nutshell, being a member of the nation of Israel.
2) Though the liability is very great, is there any off-setting "abundance" in being a member of the nation of Israel?
b. Second, he asks if there is any "gain" involved in "physical circumcision".
1) "Physical circumcision" was, in a nutshell, a requirement for remaining in the community of national Israel (Genesis 17:14).
2) Though the liability is very great, is there any off-setting "gain" in being a circumcised member of the national community?
c. Third, since both the "abundance" and the "gain" were tied to being within the national community, the question really boils down to this: If being a "Jew" was such a huge liability, what was the divine point in terms of blessedness?
III. The Answer.
A. Nomatterhow one looks at the issue of being able to remain a member of the national community, the advantages were very great.
B. But, the chiefest advantage of all consisted in this: it was to this community that the true God had "spoken".
1. This means that being outside of that community was to be without any hope of ever getting any true understanding of God...unless some member of that community came along to share his understanding that arose from the oracles of God.
2. This means that being inside of that community atleast made access to the true knowledge of God possible.
a. It did not guarantee it.
b. It did guarantee the possibility.
C. This advantage was a huge "methodological" advantage/gain.
1. "Life" consists in true, legitimate, understanding of God.
2. True, legitimate, understanding of God only arises, since the Fall, from detailed explication of the "generalities" which are known to all.
a. Since the irruption of Sin into this world, "confusion" regarding Truth has been rampant.
b. Confusion cannot be "handled" in generalities and platitudes.
c. The only solution to confusion is "particular understanding".
d. "Particular understanding" can only arise from clear verbal explanations.
1) There is only one "Law": Love God.
2) That "Law" is too general; so a second "Law" was added: Love your neighbor.
3) That "Law" is too general; so "Ten" additions were made.
4) Those "Ten" are too general; so "600+" additions were made.
5) Those "600+" are too general; so 66 books of divine revelation were created.
6) Those "66 books" are too general; so the Holy Spirit was given.
7) He is the answer to the confusion; but He does not work outside of the "66", the "600+", the "Ten", the "Two", the "One".
3. Thus, the huge methodological advantage is real; but, it is only "potential".
a. Being "in the community" does not automatically lead to the exposure that is necessary for the understanding.
b. Being "in the community" only means the instrument of life is available.
c. The availability is the advantage/gain.
d. If one turns his/her back on the availability, the advantage turns into liability.
e. If the advantage is turned into liability, the losses are enormous. Who is going to take up the lower rungs of Hell: Pope John Paul, or Hitler?