by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 May 10, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(124)Thesis:Man's bondage to Sin is revealed by his fundamental lack of the three qualities of godliness.
Introduction:We spent our time last week looking into Paul's thesis statement for Romans 1:18-3:18: man is in bondage to sin. We saw that he had developed this thesis in three major stages: 1:18-32, where he pointed out the flagrant rebellion of humanity in general; 2:1-16, where he pointed out the foolishness of the critic who dismissed his own behavior by lowering the boom on others; and 2:17-3:8, where he lowered the boom on those particularly adept at using the words of God to promote themselves as the morally superior humanity. We also saw that the issue of what Paul actually means by his thesis is contained in 3:9-18. That is where we turn our attention this evening. What we are going to see tonight is that man's bondage to Sin is profound because of what he lacks.
I. Man's Fundamental Lack.
A. Paul says there is "not one" righteous man.
1. His words are repetitively emphatic: There is not ... not even one.
2. His words simply must be kept in context.
a. He, clearly, is not denying the absolute perfection of the man, Christ Jesus.
b. He, just as clearly, is not denying the absolutely perfect righteousness of those whom Christ Jesus has reconciled to God by His Spirit and His Word.
1) He makes no bones about the reality that those who possess this perfect righteousness do not live up to it to any remarkable degree.
a) On the one hand, he does draw a "bottom line" that marks a person off as "not possessing this perfect righteousness": anyone who believes and/or promotes the doctrine of "the acquisition of this perfect righteousness as a consequence of their own abilities" regardless of what they "say" about Jesus Christ [this is the message of Galatians].
b) On the other hand, he freely admits that, because there is no other "bottom line" discernible for men, beyond apostasy on the cardinal doctrine of "how" one obtains a perfect righteousness in the eyes of God, it is basically impossible for men to "tell" who is a true believer and who is not [See 2 Timothy 2:19].
c) He does not, by this admission, undercut the decision-making efforts of the local church which must make every effort to keep the peace in its own boundaries. The local church is to determine "membership" on the basis of the willingness to repent when confronted by the entire church's final decision in matters of conflict. It is to treat the finally impenitent as "unbelievers" of a special sort: people with whom the Body of Christ is to have NO common fellowship.
2) But, this admission is no denial of the absolute righteousness of the "saved".
c. He, obviously, is addressing the condition of man when man is outside of the regenerated Body of Christ.
1) This means that he is dealing with all of fallen Adamic humanity.
2) This means that he is dealing with man left up to his own true "glory".
a) He is "under Sin".
b) He acts as the slave to Sin.
B. Paul means there is no one who shares the divine quality of Righteousness.
1. This puts man at odds with God in the particular realm of Justice.
2. This makes man essentially corrupt. Something very real and enduring occurred to man when Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
a. This is the likely rationale for the virgin birth.
b. This is the likely rationale for the "new creation"/"resurrection" terminology in the description of what God HAS to do in order to solve the problem.
II. Man's Secondary Lack.
A. He lacks what Paul calls "understanding".
1. This is an echo of 1:28.
2. This is a two-fold problem.
a. On the one hand, man does not understand.
1) This is significant in light of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 13.
2) Man's lack of "understanding" is tied by Matthew 13:13-15 to his lack of a clear "hearing".
3) The implication of Jesus' rationale for speaking in parables was to undercut the "clear hearing". There is no reason to do that if "hearing" does not lead to "understanding". Matthew 13:15 & 19 both indicate that the "understanding" occurs in the "heart" and is the root of conversion. That a "clear hearing" will lead to "understanding", which, in turn, will lead to conversion/forgiveness of sins, is the chief reason that the Jew's possession of the "oracles of God" was such a huge benefit.
b. On the other hand, man does not wish to understand.
1) This same Matthean context insists that the problem is a "heart" issue and Mark 8:17 directly declares that non-understanding arises from a "hardened heart".
2) Thus, the "problem" is not as much a matter of not "hearing", nor of not "understanding" as it is a lack of true interest in the issues.
B. He lacks what Paul calls "seeking The God".
1. This addresses the consequence of 1:23 and 1:25: the introduction into the situation of mass confusion in the form of multiple gods/religions.
2. This is, fundamentally, a motivation issue.
a. Man's only hope for obtaining such an essence before God as could be called "righteous" is dismissed by him as an insignificant endeavor unworthy of his effort.
1) This word "seek" is used in 7 contexts of the New Testament. It is used in places where the author wished to emphasize a "diligence in searching out the facts of a matter". In one of those contexts (Hebrews 11:6), it is pointedly said that no man can "please" God if he is unwilling to embrace the claim that God is a "Rewarder" (literally, a "wage-payer"). In that text, the focus is upon God's willingness to "pay wages" to those who "seek" Him, but the larger fact is that men must, by reason of Romans 2:6, 13, and 16, understand that God is a Wage-Payer...for man's good or ill. Paul is saying in this Romans 3 context that man's bondage to Sin precludes any interest by him in "seeking out a way to be reconciled to God".
2) Paul calls the "object" of the "seeking" The God. There is an implication that polytheism is on the horizon of Paul's thought and that implies he anticipates a major interest by his readers in the "problem" of the multiplication of "gods", or, to say it another way, a multiplication of "religious dogmas" that create a fog for any who live on this planet. The presence of multiplied dogmas is not the problem: the problem is man's lack of interest in seeking out The God, for The God has already declared "I will be found of you" (Jeremiah 29:14) if /when the "seeking" occurs.
b. Man's lack of motivation renders him inescapably enslaved.
c. The problem(s) are humanly insurmountable.
1) Paul's thesis is that man is "under sin". This is what he is "explaining" and "continuing to prove" in Romans 3:10-18. It is not his intent to set forth a "way" for man to escape this condition; it is his intention to set forth the fact that man has no escape that arises from himself.
2) Every man comes into the world as the offspring of a fallen man whose impact upon his offspring was "preemptive" and "inescapable" in so far as his "identity" as a "complete human being" is concerned.
3) Every man's participation in his "preemptive, inescapable, heritage" renders him both ignorant and uncaring. He not only does not understand, he can not; and he not only does not seek God, he will not. He enters his existence already over-committed to the impulses of sin within, and there is nothing in his existence that can effectively challenge that over-commitment except the Presence and Truth of God, from which he instinctively flees.
d. Over against this is Paul's commitment to "preach the Gospel" because It is the powerful instrument of divine action that "breaks the power of canceled sin" and "sets the prisoner free".