In chapter 2 Paul went to great lengths to prove that being physical descendants of Abraham did not give the Jews reason to boast. This was quite contrary to their way of thinking, so questions arose in the minds of the Jews. In verses 1-9 Paul asks these questions, and then answers them.
"Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" (v.1) The benefit of circumcision is limited to those who can keep the whole law, and this is beyond man's ability! Therefore its value for righteousness is lost. The Jews need to have faith for righteousness just like the Gentiles. Yet Paul said they had great advantage!
How could it be advantageous to them if it did not help them to achieve righteousness? This advantage had nothing to do with any achievement on their part, so they had no reason to boast. It was not due to their goodness or to any good deeds on their part. Their righteousness was not better than the righteousness of the Gentiles!
Their advantage had nothing to do with an easier or better way of receiving righteousness, but in being the first to receive the oracles of God, and being entrusted with them! (v.2) With the advantage came responsibility. In this they failed miserably. Time and again they failed to keep their part of the covenant. Instead of blessing the nations with the knowledge of God, the name of God was being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of how the Jews lived. (2:25) In spite of their unbelief and disobedience, God remained faithful. Their unbelief brought God's faithfulness into focus!
God's faithfulness cannot be nullified! Paul is very emphatic in his reply - "May it never be!" (v.4) Any disagreement with God comes out of believing the deceptions and lies that are in the carnal mind. God is always right! We can only prevail in judgment when we are in agreement with Him!
The value of circumcision lies in its symbolism; it has no value for righteousness! It teaches us that everything fleshly has to be cut off - and that includes our carnal thinking! All our natural thinking of spiritual realities has to be cut off! This can only take place in Christ - by receiving His mind and His consciousness!
"But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath, is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?" (vv.5-6) God is declared to be righteous! It would be impossible for Him to judge the world in righteousness if He weren't!
But if through our lies and unrighteousness, God is glorified, why shouldn't we keep on sinning? Let's do evil so good will result! That sounds logical to those who want to continue in sin - to those who do not want to change and only want an excuse to fulfill their evil desires. That desire originates in the natural man; it does not originate in the new creation man, nor can it exist in him!
Jesus said, "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (Jn. 3:20) Now that the Light has come into the world, there is no excuse to remain in darkness. The power of the gospel gets us out of our bondage to sin! God's grace is enough for every problem that comes our way! If we continue in sin after we have been justified, we dishonor God and use His name in vain. That is why Paul said that their condemnation is just! (v.8)
To emphasize the point that all humanity is under sin (and that includes both Jews and Greeks), Paul brings 13 charges against the human race. (vv.10-18) No one is excluded from the depravity that is in the natural man! This is not a pretty picture:
There is no one who is righteous - not even one.Why did Paul spend so much time and effort in telling us what a dirty lot we are? Unless we really understand and believe that we are beyond repair, we'll always try to improve ourselves; we'll think we can make ourselves like God by making right choices. Didn't the serpent tell Eve that she could become like God without obeying God?! This is the mindset of natural man. It continually indulges in self-justification! It excuses itself by blaming others, just like Adam and Eve did. Humanity does not know that it is dead in its trespasses and sins, so it thinks it is able to make right choices. It does not know that it really needs God. It wants to achieve its own righteousness; it does not want to be dependent on God!
There is no one who understands.
There is no one who seeks for God.
All have turned aside and have become useless.
There is no one who does good - not even one.
Everyone's throat is an open grave.
Everyone has a tongue that deceives.
Under everyone's lips is the poison of asps.
Everyone's mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Everyone's feet are swift to shed blood.
Everyone's path is strewn with destruction and misery.
No one knows the path of peace.
No one fears God!
"Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (vv.19-20)
The law was given to convince humanity of its need of God. It was given to bring the knowledge of sin - not the knowledge of God! It was to stop everyone from proclaiming his own virtues and from giving excuses for his wrong actions. Once we are convinced that we are unable to keep the law in its entirety, and that we are guilty before God, we will be willing to receive Christ! The knowledge of our depravity is to bring us to Christ!
"But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (vv.21-23)
This is the most wonderful news for a humanity that is in utter helplessness and despair, with no way of getting out of its darkness and ignorance, and no way of changing itself! The law for righteousness makes us knowledgeable of sin - it takes us out of our ignorance of sin, and brings us into the condemnation of the law. But it isn't helpful, for it only makes demands, but does not provide any help for keeping the law. Knowledge does not enable us to keep the law.
In spite of the light that the law of righteousness sheds on sin, man seeks to justify himself. If he will not receive the redemption that is in Christ, he has to justify his unbelief. Yet deep down he has to admit that there is a God. He can deny it, but deep within him he knows that he has to explain himself before somebody or something. This is true of those who don't believe God, as well as of those who are under the righteousness of the law. Although they say they don't believe in God and have no respect for Christianity, yet they expound their own religion by explaining how they handle their guilt.
Let's look at some of the ways people handle their guilt. Some try to atone for their sins by their dependence on self and its works. They try to balance their misdeeds with their good works. By choosing the good they think they will eventually become good. They do not realize that the good from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is also in the realm of disobedience - it originates in the tree of which they were not to eat.
Reincarnation expresses the idea that by living many lives we can eventually come into perfect blessedness. This is achieved by the extinction of self (this would eliminate self-centeredness) and by the absorption of the soul into the supreme spirit. This state is called nirvana. "Give me a thousand lifetimes, and I will accomplish my redemption!" This Eastern religion is rapidly being accepted in America today.
Psychiatrists tell their clients that they are not guilty - they only have feelings of guilt. They become the pastors to those who are ungodly and unrighteous by explaining away those feelings of guilt and condemnation.
Others seek to get rid of guilt feelings by blaming parents, genes, circumstances, teachers, peer pressures, etc. "You understand, don't you? It's not my fault, it is someone else's fault." They claim freedom from guilt! The arrogant won't even admit to hurting anyone; they were only exercising their rights.
Another way of dealing with guilt is by comparison. They say they are just as good or even better than Christians. We know that there is also a certain loyalty and kindness among gang members. Within a very wrong lifestyle they do some kind, loyal things. But that doesn't change the fact that they are unrepentant people. The good things they do cannot change who they are!
What about Christians? Instead of facing the fact that the natural man is anti Christ and anti God, and that sin does not belong to the new man, they say that God will overlook sin because He is love. That's a challenging one, because God is love! They need to understand, that because He is love, He is against sin! He loves us too much to leave us in our sinful condition! That is why He provided a way out of our dilemma! Many think that condemning themselves is being humble, and they land up in the mental institution. The fact is, that all excuses aimed at justifying ourselves, have no legal basis. They do not rest on truth.
Man's real problem is not the sins he commits; his problem is that he is a sinner. The natural, Adamic man is the problem. He is an anti Christ person! He does wrong, because he is wrong. That is why he cannot keep the law! The word law shows that something is required of man. "Thou shalt not" and "Thou shalt" mean that something is required of us. It's all do - it's our behavior. Some can do better than others. Some people love discipline - they would love the army! They just seem to be born for discipline. So there are differences in the degree that God's laws are obeyed. This gives rise to comparisons. "I'm better than you...You're better than I am." It brings out our Pharisaical nature.
The righteousness of the law is obtained by keeping the law. But this is an impossibility for us! Nevertheless, we try to stash up enough good works to tip the scales in our favor. We want more on our credit side than on our debit side. Righteousness by works is looking to the end of the course, hoping to impress God, thus earning our salvation. God says this is useless! Changing our behavior and trying to keep the ten commandments does not change us.
That is why we need Jesus Christ! That is why we need to be born again! We need to become new! Our new birth puts us into the second man, the new man! That is why we need more than forgiveness! Do you see this? Forgiveness is wonderful, but it does not change us. It just makes us forgiven sinners, but it doesn't make us righteous! God's plan includes so much more!
Verse 21. "But now..." I love these words in the Bible. Take note of them as you read your Bible. Just when it seems that we are in the pit of hell, it says, "But now" or "But GOD." After noting clearly all the depravity in natural man, God steps in! God has stepped into history and has done something very wonderful! Not only did He die and rise again, but He has sent His Spirit so we can be participators in His righteousness - a righteousness that has nothing to do with us trying to keep the law or the ten commandments!
God sent Jesus Christ to bring us the righteousness of God Himself! This is God's gift to us! Since it is a gift, we don't have to work for it, earn it, or deserve it. Anything we have to work for or merit, is not a gift! Righteousness comes to us by faith in Jesus Christ; His Spirit now teaches us truth! Faith is very different from the law of works!
Pride causes us to see things from a wrong perspective! The Pharisee's prayer to himself is a good example of this. He said, "I thank You that I am not as other people." (Luke 18:11) He is better than others - he prays longer, he gives more, he goes to church more often, he fasts oftener and longer, etc. This comparison among ourselves is foolishness. It may give us honor among people, but it is useless before God! God compares our own righteousness to filthy menstrual cloths. (Isaiah 64:6) It does not cancel out our sin; it doesn't even touch it!
The righteousness that is applauded before people, is useless before God! Customs and currency that work in one country don't work in another country. For example, the Chinese renminbi (people's money) is of no use in Canada. It cannot be exchanged for Canadian currency; it is only useful in China. Now suppose a rich Chinese would go to the Bay with bags of Chinese currency - their highest denomination used to be $10.00 - wanting to buy some furniture. Suddenly he would find that he was a pauper! His Chinese wealth was useless in his new country!
Similarly, all the good works that are acclaimed by the world and were stored up for righteousness, are useless before God! It's like trying to buy a washing machine at the Bay with Chinese currency! It doesn't work! In fact, it works against us, because we are wasting our time and effort on something that doesn't work!
Paul counted all his religious zeal as rubbish. (Phil.3:4-8) "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." (v.7) The Greek word used here gives the idea of a miser, sitting over his stash of gold, counting out his money, drooling because he's got more than anybody else. The things Paul used to value, he now counted a loss! Not only did they have no value, but piling up all those good works kept him from getting the real thing! They were an active loss in his life. Our works for righteousness actually keep us from knowing God!
There is a difference between works for righteousness, and works that flow out of righteousness - the good works that are initiated by God and flow out of the life we have in Christ! These are not works that are done to obtain righteousness; they are works that are done because we are righteous! The righteousness from God is a gift - and we can't earn a gift! It's God's gift to those who know their helplessness and unrighteousness, and whose faith is in Christ!
"For there is no distinction, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This applies to everyone! The glory of man can never reach the glory of God! It is impossible! There is no use trying to match it! We may as well recognize our helplessness and receive His free gift! The recognition of our depravity and sinful state makes us candidates for receiving His grace and gift of righteousness by faith!
"Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (vv. 24-26)
Our righteousness from God pronounces us righteous at the very beginning of the race. We are now free to enjoy the hilarity of walking in the will of God! We don't have to work for acceptance! Our righteousness does not depend on anything we have done; it depends upon what God has done for us in Jesus Christ! God has declared us righteous! This brings us into peace! What a contrast to being under the law, under the pressure of accumulating brownie points yet always fearing and experiencing failure! Trying so hard, and then being told that it is not enough! Never experiencing peace!
It is very sad that so many Christians live in agony and doubt, and wonder whether they are really accepted before God! This is because they do not understand the difference between the natural man and the new creation spiritual man. They falsely think that God is remodeling the natural Adamic man, and the remodeling is running into problems. God is not working on remodeling us; He has made a new creation!
Let's remember that in Genesis 1 God created man in His image. Then in Genesis 2 God formed man out of existing materials. This man was not yet in God's image. The process of being made into God's image comes in the New Testament, and takes place in the new creation man. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are made righteous. This does not depend on man's doing, but on God's doing! He has justified us! We have been justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus!
Does God justify sinners? How can a righteous and just God declare us not guilty? If a judge would declare a murderer to be innocent and just, we would be angry and indignant because that would be an unjust verdict. It certainly is not just to declare an innocent person guilty, and the guilty person righteous! Yet many Christians accuse God of doing just that. God has to remain just in His justification!
To be justified means to be just; to be freed or absolved from blame or guilt. Punishment or lack of it, has nothing to do with making someone guilty or innocent. Guilt is the result of having committed an unlawful act. Forgiveness frees us from having to atone for our sins, but it does not change us into righteous persons. When an innocent man stands before the judge, and the judge determines his innocence and acquits him, he is justified.
So how can God be just and still declare us righteous? Only God could think of a way of doing that! Jesus said, "You must be born again." Our new birth takes us out of the Adam man in whom all die, and puts us into Christ, the new man, in whom all live! We are born into a new realm. In Christ there is no unrighteousness. We are baptized into His death to sin, and are members of His body! This is not our work - it is the work of God in Christ!
It's like a butterfly that has emerged out of its cocoon. It has left its worm body, and is now a new creature. The old does not belong to it. The old body comes from the earth and is bound to the earth; the new creature comes from heaven and can soar in the heavenlies! God created nature in such a way that it would show us His divine nature and wisdom, and thus help us to understand spiritual realities. God does not declare the Adam man righteous; He declares the new creation man righteous!
We need to recognize that the justice of God is not against the sinner, demanding a penalty, but for him, insuring his salvation. Christ did not die to save us from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself! He did not die as our substitute, but as our companion and associate; not instead of us, but with us and for us. His salvation consists of taking us out of the Adamic man, the man of sin, and placing us into Christ, the new man of righteousness! This man is free from condemnation, and can truly be pronounced righteous. So God is just in proclaiming us righteous!
This is the gospel - the glad news! This is what God has done! The work of God has made us righteous! We need to believe that we are a new creation. If we do not believe that, we will identify with the old man instead of the new man. If I am declared righteous, when in actuality I am not righteous, then God is lying. God declares us righteous because we are righteous. He wants us to identify with the new man because that is who we are!
The Adamic man is the man of sin. He is the one who does the sinning. After we have been placed into Christ, we are no longer in the Adamic man! 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us that old things have passed away. All things have become new! That is how He justifies us!
At the moment we were born again we were made right with God. Because God did it, it's perfect! We are as right with God as any saint in heaven is, RIGHT NOW! We can't add anything to it. Once God has declared us righteous, it is so perfect that it admits no growth. We will never be more right with God than we are right now - not even in heaven! That's a wonderful relief, isn't it?
We can't grow in our justification, but we can grow in Christ. Our minds need to be renewed! This takes place as we receive Christ's sense of being! Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches." What a beautiful illustration of our life in Christ! We have His life flowing through us and working in us to produce fruit! His life in us is perfect! We cannot improve on that life because there is no corruption in it. God has given us His life, and as we abide in Him, fruit will emerge! This fruit contains the very same kind of seed that produced the vine!
God can truly say that He does not remember our sins and iniquities, because they no longer belong to us! It is not that He is forgetful! He does not recall them because Jesus took that body of sin and it was crucified with Him! The wonder and greatness of the redemption we have in Christ is beyond human understanding! The righteousness by the works of the law could never, never achieve this!
Verse 24: "Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." The word redemption has in it the connotation of the redemption of a slave. Everything a slave does, whether good or bad, is within the confines of slavery. He can do absolutely nothing to get himself out of slavery. Another must come and pay redemption money to get him out of slavery. Only in this way can he be set free.
Before we were redeemed, we were slaves to our carnal nature. In Christ Jesus we are freed from that nature! He has freed us from the subjection to our carnal nature by giving us His nature. This was accomplished by pouring His Holy Spirit into our hearts!
The Hebrew word GOEL means kinsman redeemer, or relative redeemer. There is no English equivalent for this Hebrew word. According to Hebrew custom and law it was the family's responsibility to get a family member out of debt. If the father had died, the oldest brother was in charge. That is why he would receive a greater portion of the inheritance. If his younger brother got into debt and was sold into slavery because of it, his oldest brother was responsible for bailing him out. He was his kinsman redeemer.
In the Old Testament God said that He is our redeemer. The marvel of marvels is that God entered our humanity in Christ Jesus and Christ became the first-born among many brethren! He became our relative, our elder brother, and as such He redeemed us from our slavery to corruption! We have been fathered by God and are now His children. We received His life when we were born again, for we were born of His Spirit! Christ is now our elder brother.
Verse 25: "Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith..." The Greek words HILASTERION (an adjective) and HILASKOMAI (verb), were used among the Greeks to signify that they had received the goodwill of their gods because they had earned it. In the scriptures, the Hebrew equivalent is used in regard to the mercy seat in the holy of holies. The mercy seat covered the ark of the covenant. It was a box made of acacia wood, covered with gold, inside and out. Its cover was a solid slab of gold and on it were two cherubim.
Once a year, on the day of atonement, the high priest would take a bull and offer it for himself and his family, and sprinkle the blood with his finger on the mercy seat. Then he would take two goats. Lots would be drawn for the goat that was to be offered to the Lord. The goat of sin-offering was sacrificed after the high priest had sacrificed for his personal sins. The sacrificial knife was used to cut the jugular vein, and the blood was caught in a basin. The blood was not sprinkled on the brazen altar as at other times. Instead, it was carried into the holy of holies behind the veil. There the high priest would stand before the ark of the covenant and sprinkle it on the mercy seat.
Next, he had to take some of the blood of the bull and of the goat, and sprinkle it on the horns of the brazen altar on all sides, and with his finger sprinkle some blood on it seven times. When he had finished atoning for the sins of the people, he offered the live goat! He laid both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and by confessing all the sins and transgressions of the people, they were symbolically conferred upon the scapegoat. Then it was sent out into the wilderness, symbolizing that one day Jesus would carry away all our sin. (Lev. 16)
These instructions were given to the people so that they could live! This atonement had to be made yearly. Jesus, our High Priest, has made atonement for us, once for all time. With Him, in His crucifixion, the Adamic man was also crucified. Now we too can live! This brings us satisfaction and it also brings satisfaction to God!
In verse 25 we see that the propitiation is in "Christ's blood" and we receive it through faith. Notice that we were not trying to propitiate God. Vines says this word is never used of any act whereby man tries to bring God into a favorable attitude. This is not necessary because God always loves us - He has never quit loving us. His wrath is against ungodliness and unrighteousness! But we falsely thought He was against us! In Christ we are shown the love of God, and through faith we are brought into a favorable attitude toward God! This produces a love relationship between us and God!
This propitiation is in Christ's blood - not in any other blood! The correct translation of Lev. 17:11 says that the "soul of the flesh is in the blood". The soul is in the blood, not the life - as the popular translation has it! The soul is our sense of being! When we receive the soul of Christ, namely, His sense of being, we are satisfied! We no longer feel that God does not love us; we have no sense of wrong-doing and there is no condemnation; we learn that God is our Father, our provision! Not only are we satisfied, but God is also satisfied that His redemption more than does away with Adam's fall! Christ's obedience is more than Adam's disobedience! Through faith we receive the soul of Christ! His sense of being becomes ours through faith!
Jesus Christ is the complete fulfillment of the day of atonement! By crucifying the Adamic man, He wiped out sin! The blood of animals could only cover sin; Christ's blood wiped it out! Through His sacrifice, He becomes the high priest of a new and better covenant! He could not be a priest of the law covenant because He did not have the right ancestry!
The blood of animals had to be taken into the holy of holies, for that part of the temple represented the presence of God. Jesus took His blood and presented it to the Father. In so doing, He did not scoop up His blood that had been poured onto the earth, and present it to the Father. No, He presented His soul, His sense of being to God! God accepted it, for He was completely satisfied that the work of reconciliation was complete! Now He pours it out into our hearts in the Holy Spirit!
After Jesus rose from the dead, Mary wanted to cling to Jesus. She had lost Him once, and she didn't want to lose Him again! But Jesus said, "Don't cling to Me Mary. I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father." Jesus did not want her to cling to Him as someone in the seen realm. After He had ascended to the Father, He would be poured out in the Holy Spirit! Then He would abide in her and she could cling to Him! A new covenant was in the process of coming into being, and everything that pertained to the old had to be done away with! All our dependence on that which is in the seen realm has to go!
Notice that there were no seats in the tabernacle except the mercy seat - and that was not for the priests. It was God's mercy seat! The priests always had to stand because their work was not complete. The law is a slave driver; it always requires more works! Only the new covenant is able to bring us into rest! In the new covenant we rest from our works, even as God rested from His! His Son has perfectly accomplished our redemption! We can fully rely upon His work! God has been just in the way He has worked out our redemption; He has not left any loophole for doubt!
Verse 27: "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith." The law of works gave rise to competition and boasting - "Ha, ha, I've done more than you, I'll have a better mansion, I'll even have a water slide, and I'll have more stars in my crown!" The law condemned man, but it didn't stop him from saying he would do better next time.
In the new covenant we are given Christ! He becomes our sanctification, our righteousness, our wisdom, etc.! Therefore all boasting has to disappear because it is all the work of God in Christ! We are His workmanship! We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, finisher and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2) Only His work counts! We can't add a single thing to that work. Believing this brings us into rest!
We can confidently agree with our Father! He says His work in Christ is enough, and we say, "Amen. Thank you!" If God is satisfied, I am satisfied. If we argue with Him, and add to what He says, we slander His name, because He says it is finished! Righteousness by works is one of the most common sins committed within the context of the church. It falsely says we know better than God. God says He did it all, but we say we have to add to what He did. What great deception lurks in the carnal mind!
The faith God gives us is our response to what God has done in Christ! Our rest in God is the negation of works. The two can't go together. Jews and Gentiles have the same God. God does not have two standards, namely that the Jews are justified by keeping the law, but the Gentiles are justified by faith. God has the same standard for everyone! All are justified by faith.
"Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! on the contrary, we establish the Law." (v.31) Since faith establishes the law, the law is not done away with. Then why do we still need it? Without it we would not be able to recognize our sin and our need of Christ! The law showed us our guilt and put an end to our boasting. It brings condemnation and death. All we can do is to turn helplessly to God! So the law is to be applauded. When it brings us to Christ, it has achieved its purpose! Since Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly, when we have Christ within us, we have the fulfillment of the law within us! In Christ we are made new creations! We are freed from our body of sin!
Furthermore, we are now related to Christ, because we have become God's children! We have the same Father! Our place in Him is secure! We are children of God, and just as right with God today as the apostle Peter is! We have come into a place of rest!
All these pluses do not give us an authorization to keep on sinning, so that God can keep on forgiving us. There is no sin in Christ - so walking in Him, in the newness of life, will keep us from sinning! God's justification in Christ brings us into life! We have been delivered from sin, depression and despair! What glorious news! Let's walk in the joy of our great salvation! Amen.