Sunday, July 31, 2016

To See or Not to See

Scriptural Reading: Romans 3:21-31
Devotional Reading: Ephesians 2:1-7

We are in Unit II – “A World Gone Wrong” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a four-lesson study looking at Paul’s words to the church in Rome about the need to turn from ungodliness, wickedness, and corruption and to move toward the realization of the creation God intended: a loving, obedient relationship with God through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

In our last lesson we stated that too many people were in need for repentance toward God. I placed them in the status of the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”. Paul condemned their sin against God. In Rom 1:18-32, the Apostle condemned the unrighteousness of the Gentiles. Next he condemned the unrighteousness of the Jews at Rom 2:1-3:8. Last week he condemned the third blindness – the unrighteousness of all humankind. Everybody needs God’s righteousness. The Law will not save us, but it will show us our sins.

Today’s lesson is “To See or Not to See” the opportunity given us by our righteous God through Christ to have eternal life. I read a poem recently written by John M. Arribas entitled “To See Or Not To See”. The character in the poem was born blind and it was the decision of his parents, at his age 6, to drop him off at Saint Mary’s. He had lived there for years, was comfortable in his blindness, and loved everyone there. He had met and pretty much conquered his challenges. However, when he was nearly forty a radical new procedure was invented that could give him his sight. Should he see or should he not see? He was not completely ready for this challenge because he was comfortable in his blindness. The writer was exquisite in the emotions and pain the young man was facing in this challenge. This character was like those who refuse to believe that all are unrighteous and blind, needing God to see. It is by the grace of God through faith in Christ that we have the opportunity to see and have hope.

From Romans 1:17-3:20 Paul established how the entire human race is subject to sin – unrighteous. Now he gives the humankind hope instead of his doom and gloom. Verse 21 states, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) This means that a plan has been revealed by our righteous God to save our unrighteousness. It has been witnessed by the Law which required a sacrifice and blood for atonement and the Prophets (i.e. Is 51:5-6, 8; 56:1; Dan 9:24). Through this plan (way) of righteousness apart from the Law, both the Jews and the Gentiles can come to God on equal footing. The puzzle has come together and there is no mystery any longer. But will they see it? Will they take the opportunity given them?< br/>

From verse 21 above, we know that righteous Salvation does not come through the Law. So what is God’s plan (way) of righteousness? The Apostle expressed, with deep conviction, at Rom 3:22, “even the righteousness of God, through the faith of Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;” (NKJV) Faith is not a work by which man earns Salvation. It is a simple acceptance of the Salvation offered by God as a free gift. True faith will yield faithfulness which is living according to what one believes. That sounds like a good plan from our merciful God who is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) The pardon is for everyone, but it is only valid for those believers who accept it. Paul emphasizes there are no distinctions between Jew with the Law or Gentile without it. Everyone comes to God through faith in what God did in Christ Jesus. This was the plan (way) that we might have access to eternal life with Him again.< br/>

God is holy. He could not condone sin and must punish it. The punishment was death. His righteous Son was given to save the unrighteous sinners without compromising God’s righteousness. Paul writes at Romans 5:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (NKJV) Everybody has sinned from the time of Adam, except for Jesus Christ. When Adam brought sin into the world God did not condone it. He needed someone to redeem his unrighteous sinners who had been convicted to death. Without God’s grace, the situation for the sinners would be hopeless. Without Christ’s redemptive death, God’s grace would not be realized. With both of these¸ the plan (way) of Salvation works. We are justified. It’s like going to court, knowing you did wrong but the Judge says, “Mr. Defendant, the charges are dropped.” What would your reaction be?

In the last verse Paul calls it justified. In verse 25 the Apostle calls it propitiation. Each means that justice is satisfied. Not just any justice, but God’s justice is satisfied to counter His wrath. Romans 3:25-26 reads, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (NKJV) God’s wrath is averted and mercy can be shown on the basis of the acceptable sacrifice, once and for all times. Further, God knew this sacrifice would occur. His forbearance (delay) would not be a problem because He was in control. Old Testament believers of God were given the credit as saved under the blood of Jesus Christ even though they did not have the opportunity to know of Jesus, the cross, and the significance of Calvary.< br/>

The plan of Salvation is for God’s glory; for boasting is thus excluded. The Apostle Paul writes at Romans 3:27-28, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (NKJV) God will have the great work of the justification and salvation of sinners. It is His plan from first to last in such a way as to exclude boasting. No man may glory in His presence. 1 Corin 1:29-31 reads, “that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’” (NKJV) The boasts of the Jews were groundless, empty words. The works of the Law constitutes the very program by which the Jews have failed and the Gentiles have been excluded. No matter how often you look at it we fall short of God’s glory, but we are able to be justified by faith.< br/>

Paul has raised their curiosity regarding their God. He answers their questions quoted at Romans 3:29-30, “Or is the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (NKJV) We are all in the same boat and God is the God of the circumcised and the uncircumcised. A Gentile does not have to become a Jew, through circumcision, in order to receive the God of the Jews. He is the God of all nations through faith in Christ, not circumcision.< br/>

The Jews simply had to know whether all rules had now changed from the Law to the age of Grace. Paul addressed it in his concluding verse in chapter 3. Verse 31 reads, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (NKJV) The Law was not null and void. It must be upheld! We are not talking about that part of the Law which requires a sacrifice and circumcision. Faith in Christ took care of that. But the Law commands all believers to Love God and Love their Neighbors. (Matt 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31) It also demands perfect obedience. That must continue to be upheld. The gospel of Salvation by faith upholds the Law by insisting that its utmost demands must be and have been fully met.< br/>
Written by Deborah C. Davis

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