Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Shut Your Mouth (Romans 3:1-21)


Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standing and let's give our attention to Romans chapter three. This is Romans three, verses one through twenty one. First, Paul asks some rhetorical questions, some excuses and accusations that people often make towards God, and then he sums up much of what he's been saying since chapter one, verse eighteen, in the last few verses of this that I'll read this morning. So here's God's word from Romans Three, verses one through twenty one. Then, what advantage has the Jew or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means. Let God be true, though everyone were a liar, as it is written that you may be justified in your words and prevail when you are judged. But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say that God is unrighteous to Inflict Wrath on us? I speak in a human way. By no means, for then how could God judge the world? But if, through my lie, God's truth abounds to his glory. Why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come, as some people slanderously charge us with saying, their condemnation is just. And what, then, are we Jews any better off? No, not at all, for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin. As it is written, no one is righteous, no, not one. No one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become worthless. No one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave. They use their tongues to deceive. The Venom of ASPS is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. In their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God, for by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of Sin, but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it. May God bless his word. Please be seated. So, as Paul points out, he's been addressing both Jews and Greeks in these opening chapters, and to address these two groups in the audience that he's addressing them to, it's a way of saying he is addressing everyone in the world, Jews and Non Jews. Every one is included here, those who have received God's special revelation, his special law,...

...and those who have not, those who have received God's word and revelations in the scriptures, in those who have received God's word and revelations in nature. These two various ways that God has spoken in the in the scriptures and in nature are different, but there is one thing that is very much the same about them. Both they proclaim the law and because of that, there's not a single person in the entire world that's not accountable to God. As he says, they're in verse nineteen. It speaks to everyone that the whole world may be accountable to God. Having said this, he begins. This is what he's been saying in Chapter One and chapter two. When he gets to chapter three, he now addresses this particular objection, I mentioned it briefly last time, which is then what advantage has the Jew in other words, if the Jews are in the same boat as the Greeks, as both being under the law, then what's the point? What's the advantage? He then addresses in a second objection, which will speak about later, where he says well, if, if, if, God is being shown to be righteous through our unrighteousness. Well, is that really fair? Is God being unjust then and judging me for a bad thing which ultimately turns out to be good? These are the kinds of accusations that we throw a god, these are the kind of excuses that we make. He's been dealing with many of them and we want to think a little bit more in depth about those. But we want to start, but I want to start by just summing up what Paul has been addressing here, what Paul sums up here, and that's that our situation, apart from the righteousness of Christ, is very desperate. We are under the law, as he says, under sin. Now this might not be exactly a very lighthearted way to start your week, to start a sermon. But it's the truth. It's just the reality, the way things are, and sometimes it's good to remember this, that we too often approach these subjects so lightly when the fat, when the truth of the matter, is staring us in our face. Paul is been describing to us what it means to be under the law, and it means that God has spoken to you. It means that God commands your obedience. But being under the law is more than that. It's more than just having a list of rules, a posted on the wall that you need to obey. Well, Paul has been describing is that being under the law has to do with having a end of condition. It's not just knowing about some rules or having some things to do, but it's having a particular nature. Even you might think about the phrase parents use with their children sometimes when they say you're under my roof, you're under my roof if what do they mean by that? They don't just mean that you're not going to get wet by being in their house. They mean that you are, if you are, if you are the child, that you're under their protection, you're under their authority and you are therefore treated accordingly. You have a relationship by being under the roof of your parent, and it's like that with the law. Being under the law means we have this relationship, we have even a condition, a state, as we relate... God. When God speaks, we are put under the law, under his law. A relationship is formed between us and him, a relationship that requires obedience. But that relationship, as Paul has shown us, is complicated. It's complicated and messed up and broken by sin. You may remember that in Chapter One, Paul reminds us that all people, although people know God through the things that have been made, although they know the requirements of God, they're thinking gets all warped. Their priorities get all out of whack and they start worshiping the created things instead of the Creator, which in itself then leads to all kinds of wickedness. You know what Paul calls that kind of thinking? Do you remember? He calls it feudal, he calls it foolish. In terms of the heart, he says that the heart has been darkened. In terms of the will, he says these people do all kinds of evil and even give approval to those who do the same so given this, well, we might say that, hypothetically, to be under the law is not to be under sin. Christ is an example of this, who is under the law and yet not under the power of sin. For the rest of us, for all of us who are an atom, these things always go together, because we're fallen. We're fallen in Adam Sin. When sin enter to the world, if forever broke that relationship, and that means we don't just stand in a room with the laws on the wall. The laws bear down on us, they beat us, through us, knowledge of Sin comes out. It's why Paul calls being under the law a Ministry of Death, not because the law and itself is bad, that God has spoken unfairly or unrighteously, but because of the way our sin, our nature, reacts with that law, it all breaks apart. It only leads to our death. Paul addresses this point in later in Romans and in more depth, but for now just note what he's been saying here at the beginning, and saying very pointedly and memorably, that when sin enter the world, it breaks this relationship and it destroys all hope for true and perfect obedience in our sin and under the law. We turn aside from the law, we turn aside from walking with God and love, and that's why Paul says what he says here in Romans three, and that's why he says it's so strongly. None is righteous, not even one. No one understands, no one seeks after God. Our speech, our thoughts, our actions, Our paths, our feet, even he mentions everything. It's all ruined. And because it's our fault, our sins, our foolishness, what can we say? Our experience of coming face to face with the holiness of God is then, as therefore described perfectly in verse nineteen. When the law speaks, our mouths are shut,...

...he says in Verse Nineteen. Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped. That's the experience that you have when you've been caught. You think you're getting away with it, you think you have covered it, but when you're with when the law of God comes clearly and speaks clearly to your heart, you've been exposed. And what can you say? Nothing. Even Isaiah, the Great Prophet of God, experienced this. In Isaiah six, he describes a vision he had of God sitting upon His throne, high and lifted up, surrounded by awesome and Jelic creatures, both powerful and frightening. They're singing is in his ears. They're praising the glory of God. And you know what he says? He doesn't say holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts with the angels. He says woe is me, for I am lost. I'm a man of unclean lips living in a people of Unclean Lips. When Isaiah saw the weighty glory of God, He felt the weight of his sin crushing down upon him and considered himself a dead man. It was only after God cleansed him and promised that his sins were atoned for. That then Isaiah was ready to hear and obey what the Lord had for him to do. Now we haven't had this experience of being caught up into the heavenly places. Isaiah's particular commission and calling is very special and unique, but you don't have to have this experience to have the weight of the law come barreling down on your heart, because God's glory in is holiness, is made plain in every sunset you see and every kindness you experience in every plate of food that he sets before you. And as long as you are under the law and not under grace, then the glory of God can never fully be enjoyed, the commandments of God can never fully be obeyed. You are not righteous. You only know your sin and the terrors of the coming wrath of God. Now, what I've just said about sin and the law is, for some people, the easiest thing in the world to believe. They live their lives with their eyes wide open to the depths of their sin and they keep their mouths closed in shame of it. Their knowledge of their sins and the judgment of God clause at their hearts. Day and night. Feelings of despair are frequent and often the hopelessness and vanity of life is overwhelming. They see it all over the place, in themselves and in others. Have you ever looked sin in the face? Have you ever looked sin in the face? Have you ever finally seen it for what it is? Maybe it takes a terrorist strapping a bomb to his chest and blowing up innocent people.

Maybe it takes getting exposed. You getting exposed for a sin that you've already committed and being an exposed for maybe it's just a moments of consider a moment's consideration of the pointlessness of so much of life. And then you saw it. You saw sin for what it was, evil for what it is, and you hated it. And this is a good thing in a sense, because the Bible itself never shies away from naming things what they are, the good and the bad, the noble and the cowardly, the greatest hopes and the worst dead ends, all of them are. They are named properly by God in his word. And if you are to have any hope at all, then you have to begin by seeing the world as it is. But I tell you, often people don't look sin in the face, and I seen it done. I've done it. When you come face to face with evil and wickedness and in instead of seeing it for what it is, you blink, you rub your eyes, you try to believe that it's nothing more than a nightmare, you try to explain away these inner monsters. One way of doing this is bite to by pretending that the problems don't exist. You bury the feeling. Another way is by acting as though the problems have been taken care of by some other thing, like a good deed you once dead, or a good motivation you think you had, or belonging to a religion or any number of things. But when all that fails, often people turn and accuse God. If we can show God as being unfair, or God is being unreasonable, then perhaps the judge will turn away from his judgment, we foolishly think, and Paul gives two examples of this. See if you recognize them. First is the excuse of religion. It's a hypothetical question and it goes like this. If both Jews and Greeks are accountable to the law and both have sinned, what's the point of being a Jew? If the law of God, as it comes to us in the scriptures, doesn't have any special power to save, then God, why did you even give it in the first place? It's a question pose to God, is a way to accuse him of being ridiculous and unreasonable. Well then, what's the point of being a Jew if we're all under the law anyway? It's hard to say what the hoped outcome, hoped for outcome, of this kind of accusation might be. Does a person accusing God of giving the law to the Jews expect that God will back down. They he'll say, you know what, I never thought about it that way. I guess I was confused about what I did when I gave them my law. Or maybe he'll say, you know what, I see your point. I guess all, ease off a little bit. Let You keep on sinning. I'm sorry for not being softer on wickedness. Here's another foolish excuse. You might call it the excuse of God's goodness. This one goes like this, as Paul puts it. But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what should we say that God is unrighteous to inflict wrath upon us again? A similar idiotic question comes later in Roman six and also here. Should we knew eat?...

Should we do evil that good may come right? Makes sense perfectly, doesn't it? No wonder God is justified in condemning us and preparing us for wrath, because just because a good outcome is achieved by his powerful grace doesn't mean that God is then evil in condemning our sin in the first place. This would be like saying if I'm dying and a paramedic saves my life, which is a good thing, then my dying must have also been good and therefore the paramedic is wrong to judge me as one in need of saving. What these are the kinds of ridiculous things that we say. These are the ways that we come attacking God, accusing him. Why does that happen? Well, it's again all because of our sin. The law impresses its weight on us, the good law, the righteous law, God's Holy Law. But because of our sin, we don't just say, Oh, there are some rules on the wall, I think I'll try to obey those, try to be a good person. No, we don't obey them. We make excuses and we accuse the god of holiness and of grace. You can see what's going on here. These are not the well reasoned questions of a seeker. They are the worming it excuses of a sinner who wants to get out by any means necessary, to wriggle out from under the law and wrath of God. But let me ask you, why make excuses that will never excuse or, if you can see sin for what it is, why remain in a state of hopelessness and death if God himself has provided a way out? Because this is Paul's larger point here and throughout this whole passage. Notice what he says Verse Twenty. For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of Sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and prophets bear witness to it. This last phrase is a way of saying that the law of God from which we have in the scripture is also accompanied by the Gospel of God, that the law and the prophets, this way of summing up the old testaments, bears witness not only to the to the righteous requirements of the law and therefore the knowledge of sin that comes from that, but these things also tell us about another word, a gospel word, a good news word, a word that speaks grace and promises forgiveness, one that says there's a way out, not by working harder, not by accusing God, not by excuses, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the way out, this is the righteousness of God that has been manifested apart from the law. All that Paul has been saying here about sin and unrighteousness has been get been to get to this bigger point. Jesus is the son of God. He came into the world in all its futility, foolishness and evil, for the specific reason of saving people from...

...all of those things. He came to mend the rip in our relationship with God. He came to make us whole again so that then, by a spirit, we could do the works of the law as those who are no longer under it but who love it nevertheless. We know this. We know this good word because God has announced it from the very beginning in genesis to the very end in revelation. We know in Jesus's ministry throughout his life on Earth. He guaranteed as much when he rose from the dead and ascended into glory. He demonstrates his victory over sin and death in these things and in his sending out of the disciples to preach this gospel message throughout the world. I stand here as one also sent by the authority of Jesus, to declare to you that you don't have to live by your excuses, that you can't, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers to you the forgiveness of your sins complete, perfect and everlasting. He offers to you power over the curse, victory over evil. Jesus died a horrific death on the cursed cross, not so that you can make excuses for yourself, but so that you can be forgiven of your sins. How much better is that to not just wipe at them and smear them all over the place, but to have them cleansed, washed away, forgiven? The monsters of sin, guilt and shame are real. Your lack of righteousness is real and it lives and it thrives under the law. You can't pretend that away or accuse God and make it disappear. But Jesus, in the life he lived and in the death he lived, gave a perfect righteousness and gives a perfect righteousness to all who believe, because righteousness is like a vine, twists through the gardens of our souls and chokes out every sin that condemns us. And we receive that forgiveness, apart from the law and by grace, simply by trusting in him. So to some all this up because of our sins, our relationship with God is broken and our life under the law is marked by sin. It's therefore one hundred percent impossible to be justified by turning to the works of the law. You can try harder, you can make excuses, you can blame God, but you'll never escape. But in Jesus Christ, God has spoken another word, a word of grace, and through his sacrifice your sins are pardoned, your guilt is removed, your shame is a raced and an everlasting hope of eternal life is secured. This, in conclusion, this sweet word of the Gospel does something very different with our mouths then the law does. The law shuts them, it stops them up, it holds US accountable. But when God speaks the Gospel to us and when we believe and we...

...know ourselves as people who have been forgiven, our mouths aren't stopped up, they're opened to share that message with others, to praise the glorious God of Grace and to speak with confession and thankfulness and repentance all the days of our lives. This is the word for you today. Come out from the law, come under grace, for the salvation of God is here and in him. Let us pray.

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