Category Archives: God’s Glory

The Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God!

Text: Romans 3.1-8

Introduction: What do you do when you encounter two truths in the bible that seem to be contradictory? Surely you’ve crossed some. Surely throughout the time you’ve been reading Scripture, either you’ve encountered it or someone one brought it to your attention – maybe in a dialogue or a debate about something: two immutable truths that contradict each other…at least as far as you can see.

That’s what we have today: something that looks like two irreconcilable truths about God. The question for us this morning is: what do we do when that happens? Here is my answer and the direction I’ll be headed all morning: Your confusion should lead you to the Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God.

In the text today, Paul will introduce an imaginary person to debate with him. I say imaginary. He may have been a very real person from one of Paul’s discussions with the Jews at one time or another. Or maybe these are different arguments raised by various people at different times.

Scripture Reading: Let’s read this short text. Read: 3.1-8

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 every one 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.

Boy, let that last sentence resonate in the air: Their condemnation is just.

If you’re confused here, join the crowd. This is a tough passage. Tom Schreiner, professor of NT at Southern Baptist Seminary, says in his commentary on Romans that this is the toughest passage in Romans. I hope to make it not so tough by the time we’re through.

To start out, I don’t want you to focus on the relative pronoun their. Typically, I think one would ask such questions as who, what, when, where, why, But let’s take this differently. I want you to focus in on what. What is happening here or what is going to happen?

Someone is being condemned for their behavior, for their actions and God, who does the condemning, is just in this action.

And don’t forget v6 which says God will judge the world. This is where the text is headed: condemnation. That is really where Paul has been headed all along. That’s why he so desperately wanted to preach the gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles. It is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, but for the Gentile also.

But back to the beginning of this text, he’s just been declaring in 2.25-29 (the passage we looked at last week) that God will regard uncircumcised Gentiles who keep the law as circumcised Jews. And, to add insult to injury, circumcised Jews who do not keep the letter of the law (which is impossible) will be judged by those Gentiles. If that is so, Paul’s imaginary friend asks, then what advantage is there to being Jewish? Which is what we see there in verse 1.

 

Objection #1: what advantage has the Jew?

Paul, you’re wrong. If what you’re saying is true, then there is no advantage in being Jewish. It would appear that Paul is being trip upped here. You’d expect him to say that there isn’t any advantage, but he doesn’t. Instead, he begins a list of the advantages the Jews have. rd v 2; It sounds like he is starting a list here. And, he really is, it just that he only mentions the first item on this list at this time. Turn to chapter 9 in this book where he continues this list. We pick up in v 4: They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Now you know where the list is… let’s get back to our text. 1st off, Paul says, the Jews have the oracles of God (lit.: τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ). So, they have God’s Word and in that Scripture, they have His promises to them.

That is huge! No one else has recorded what God has said. It was given to them. All of his promises and predictions. Their heritage, his love, his intercession.

Transition: Well then, speaking of his oracles, his sayings…with that in mind – if the promises of God are true and Salvation is of the Jews, then what if some of the Jews are unfaithful? What if they never turn to him through the Messiah? He said he would save the Jews – He said the Messiah would come and save them… what if they never do respond? What if they are unfaithful… as the overwhelming majority of them appear to be? Rd v 3;

 

Objection #2: What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

This sounds like a pretty good question. If the advantage is theirs in every way, then what if some Jews are unfaithful? If 1) salvation is of the Jews, and 2) you can only be saved by coming to Christ, then will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? Yeah, Paul! If indeed the advantage is theirs, then can they jack all of this up by not following God? Does that mess up what God is doing?

Paul, answers quickly in v 4: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Let God be true though every one were a liar! Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter what anyone does – God is faithful, that’s his nature. He can’t be unfaithful. His promises will stand and it doesn’t depend on humans. At All!

Then, to clarify and put an exclamation point on his declaration, Paul quotes from David to back up his statement. His quote comes from Psalm 51. Let’s go there. Rd Psalm 51.1-4 …so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. David is saying that his sin is what God uses to magnify his own glory. David sinned and God now uses that sin to show his own perfection. He alone can judge that sin. He alone can condemn that sin. Do you catch that? He says: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Wow! This is some pretty deep theology here. I act according to the will of God. And God, then, is justified and blameless in his judgment against me.

Here’s the conversation: Paul says the unbelieving, circumcised Jews will be judged by the believing, uncircumcised Gentiles. These Gentiles will get into heaven and the Jews will not. “So, Paul, let me ask you a question then: if that’s true, then what advantage is there in being Jewish?” They expect the answer to be none which they know is wrong. But Paul says what they know to be true. Every advantage! I mean, they have the very oracles of God! The Jews know the oracles of God promise salvation to Israel. They then offer a very real possibility: What if some Jews are unfaithful? Won’t their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? You can’t have it both ways! Paul says: No! It isn’t just if some Jews are unfaithful, but even if every single man who ever lived were found to be a liar, God is still righteous and true and faithful!

Here is what Paul is saying: God doesn’t need man to do anything to vindicate Him. He is vindicated in himself. He is perfectly sufficient in himself.

David, a hero to the Jews, says that God uses this sin of David’s to glorify Himself. David, a man after God’s own heart! God is just to judge his sin of murdering Uriah. He is just and blameless to judge his adultery with Bathsheba.

So, let us sum up what Paul has said to this point:

  • Yes, Jews have advantages, like having the very Word of God entrusted to them.
  • However, that doesn’t bring entitlement. If they are unbelieving, then they will be judged for their unbelief.
  • This action by God does not call into question God’s faithfulness (his truth or his righteousness). Let every man be found a liar and God will still be found faithful!
  • Instead of God being found unfaithful, the sin of those God judges vindicates God in his judgment. David teaches us this truth in his colossal failure. The sin of Israel is the very thing that magnifies God’s righteousness in judgment. God is justified and blameless in his judgment.

Transition: Ok… You’re saying that when we Jews who are the elect of God and have all of God’s promises and covenants, when we sin, God is justified in his action against us.

Contradiction: If God is vindicated in his judgment against our sin and our sin brings glory to God, then what right has God to judge us for our sin? You said it yourself, Paul: we’re glorifying God and you can’t judge God Glorifiers!

This is their third objection. We see it in v 5:

 

Objection #3: But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?

Paul adds this little parenthetical statement: I speak in a human way. It is his subtle way of saying that the Fear of God fills him just to utter these words – to speak against God in this manner. What person in their right mind would make such an objection!?! But these Jews who debate him utter such words. They say: Paul, if you’re saying that our sin glorifies God, then isn’t God wrong to judge us for the very thing that brings him glory? Paul screams out: μὴ γένοιτο. May it never be! Rd v 6; If that were the case, then God couldn’t even judge the Gentiles (which, of course, the Jews are fine with).

I think some would consider v 7 another objection, but it appears to me to be a repeat of the previous arguments, only pushed further. Rd v 7;

This can be seen in two ways:

  1. This is Paul’s defense against their accusation. Paul is saying, if you truly believe this, then why do you accuse me of being a liar, and condemn me as a sinner? Why don’t you call me a God Glorifyer? You, are the one talking out of both sides of your mouth. I don’t think this is what he’s doing. I don’t take v 7 this way. Here’s how I see it:
  2. This is a repeated argument of v4, which is their objection and pushed to the extreme. My sin, my unfaithfulness, my lie glorifies God, huh? Then, why am I condemned as a sinner? And v 8 clarifies. Rd v 8; And, if that is the case, then why not sin all the more to bring God even more glory?

Paul’s answer is in today’s jargon: Really?

You see, these are not new objections being raised at all. These are the same arguments, only pushed to the extreme with the hopes of making Paul’s thesis look lame.

Here is their problem:

  1. They think too highly of themselves.

a.They think they’re entitled because God chose them to be his people. And this comes in spite of the fact that they’ve been told that it has nothing to do with them. Deuteronomy teaches us that it wasn’t because they were larger than other people groups. Indeed they were smaller. It wasn’t because they were already successful and independent. They were slaves! They had forgotten from whence they came. They had forgotten the rock from which they were hewn.

b. They think they’ll avoid the judgment of God because they have his law, ceremony and the temple. But this is what that means: They began to love the things of God and not God. They began to love his laws and use them by which to measure his love. They loved their ceremonies – because they were festive and fun and traditional. They loved their rituals, because they were memorized and they followed them so closely. And it all became about them. They thought too highly of themselves!

2. They don’t think highly enough of God. I think it is so easy to replace God with God things. And this is something they were guilty of, too. We have to be very careful… watchful, even, that we don’t begin to love the things of God more than we love Him.

Application: Paul is showing us how great God is, but these people just don’t see it. This is all about God and how Great He is.

  1. God is Good. He has been so good to the Jews to choose them as his own. He gave them an inheritance. He made them into a people, a nation. He gave them his word and his promises. He has, likewise, been so good to us in much the same manner.
  2. God is faithful. Though all humans through all of human history fail God and prove themselves to be liars, their actions would not nullify the faithfulness of God. You can bank on that today. What he has said, he will accomplish. God is faithful and true!
  3. God is righteous. He is righteous in all of his deeds. He is righteous in his judgment. He is righteous in his punishment. He is perfectly righteous in all His ways.
  4. God is sufficient in Himself. God doesn’t need us to do anything to get done what he wants. Sure he uses us to accomplish what he desires, but he doesn’t have to. He isn’t lonely. He didn’t create us because he was alone. Paul will get here in chapter 11. We don’t have any counsel he needs. We don’t have any gifts or talents to bring that makes him say, ‘Oh, thank you, I needed that.’ God is totally sufficient in Himself.

Can I ask you this morning some questions:

  1. Do you think more highly of yourself than you ought? Is it too rude of me to say: Get over yourself! God chose you, but not because there is anything particularly good in you. You don’t have anything to bring him, except this filthy bag of bones and flesh.
  2. Have you replaced your love for him with God things? Is Christian music your devotional material? Do you listen to preachers on the radio listening for sermons that make you feel good about yourself? Motivational Preachers? Or is your first love God and do you run to his word to hear from Him?
  3. Do you see God for the Great God He is? Are you awed by His majesty? Overwhelmed by his mercy? Overcome by his goodness? Swept away by His glory? Don’t let the things you don’t understand push you away from God. Instead, let the things you don’t understand demonstrate your weakness and his profound greatness.

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The Unyielding Glory of God

Text: Romans 2.17-24

Introduction: This morning I’m in two texts: Isaiah and Romans. Turn to Isaiah 50 and mark your place there. Then, turn to Romans 2, beginning in v 17.

Last week we looked the first part of Romans where Paul pulled the ole’ bait and switch. He took a page from Amos and got the Jews riled up and excited against the Gentiles. In Chapter one of Romans, Paul confronts the Gentiles for their gross immorality and their vile idolatry. And the Jews are just lovin’ it. They think they’re safe because they’re Jews. They’re God’s people. They have the law and they have circumcision. They have the Temple of God.

After Paul has pulled them in and got them acting all Pentecostal with Praise the Lord and Amen and Hallelujah! Paul then turns on them and says, Hold on, now, you’re not any different. And then, Paul unloads on them. And yes, he’s pretty harsh.

 

A Word of Caution:

I think this would be a good time for us to talk about anti-Semitism. These passages and others like them have often times throughout history led people to act hatefully toward the Jewish people. That isn’t Paul’s point. That isn’t his goal.

You’re probably most familiar with the holocaust, but there have many times throughout history where God’s chosen people were targeted and attacked with the attempts to wipe them off the face of the earth. We hear that cry coming from Iran and other Muslim groups today.

But Paul is Jewish. He himself says later on in this letter: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus is Jewish – our Messiah! So, don’t misinterpret what Paul is doing here.

So, what is Paul doing here? Where is he going? At the moment, Paul’s point is that even though the Jews have the Law of God and the Ceremony of Circumcision, they are not exempt from needing the Gospel. He’s already made the point that the Gentiles need the gospel, but so do the Jews. Paul is pointing out the fact that we all need the gospel. And, yes, he’s being harsh, but that is the goal – a shock, effect if you will.

 

The Goal: The Unyielding Glory of God!  

So the one point of this passage is the honor and the glory of God. And the way we see God dishonored and not glorified is through the bad behavior of our lives.

If you go back to Romans 1.21, you’ll see that Gentiles dishonor God through their behavior; rd 1.24, 26; And last week we looked at this Chiasm presented in 2.7-10, those who honor and glorify God and those who don’t. Paul’s referring to the Jews, who here in 2.23, dishonor God through their behavior. Rd 2.23; 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God. It does not glorify him. And we’re so quick to amen the 1st section about those who through idolatry and immorality dishonor God. We hear about the homosexual, the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender persons in chapter one and we stand behind Paul and shout, Amen!

But he gets our attention when he says such things as, God’s Righteous Judgment is:

  1. Unexpected for those who think their religion makes them exceptional.
  2. Rendered according to each one’s works.
  3. Perfectly impartial.

Application: Bringing it home

For me, this passage hits closer to home than the previous passages. I say closer to home because I’m standing behind Paul eggin’ him on, shoutin’ “amen’s” and “praise the Lord’s”. The offense of chapter one is blatant and in your face. Many today don’t care if their immorality offends. Gay marriage, Cohabitation, Adultery, Fornication…all of these are flaunted today and even encouraged in our society. But for most of us here this morning, we don’t struggle with these very public sins. I didn’t say all of us, but rather, most of us. In reality, we would be classified more in this 2nd group, the Jews (even though most of us here this morning are not Jewish) because it is the principle that is applied.

So Paul has unloaded on the Jews. Let’s read that text together: 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

I’m going to take this passage out of context – for just a moment. I want you to see this like they see it. I want you to read this like they read it. Maybe even to feel a little bit like they’re possibly feeling. See what happens if I read it this way (I’m going to put it up on the screen, follow me in 2.17ff):

17 But if you call yourself a Christian and rely on the bible and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the bible; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the bible the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the bible dishonor God by breaking its teaching.

Paul’s message is relevant for the Church today. We’re being bombarded by messages of moral relativism. The cry is for tolerance – that is we should be tolerating the sinful behavior of people. And, we should tolerate it in our lives, too. And the one argument the world has against us is precisely what Paul accuses the Jews of here: You talk a good game about the Bible, but you don’t live it!

As the Church, we’re doing a pitiful job of preaching the Bible and living it out what we’re preaching. Countless pastors caught in sin; The Catholic Church and the story of its priests and their abuse of children; Pentecostals and their abuse of finances and/or women. Our purpose is to live out the honor and glory of God before a lost and dying world. But that is precisely Paul’s point. This will lead us in turn, as we see is Paul’s goal in chapter three, to rely on the righteousness that comes from Grace.

Yes, Grace is so important, but so is the behavior of those who live in God’s Grace. Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God.

And Paul drives this home with a quote from the Old Testament. The quote comes from Isaiah 52.5. Understanding this verse in the context of it’s original use will allow us to understand more of what Paul is trying to drive home for us.

23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Context: to gain context for this verse, we have to that portion of Scripture in Isaiah. The people of Israel were not in exile, yet. But Isaiah is talking to them of future events as if they were currently taking place…in the present tense of future events (i.e.: like it has already happened). He speaks to them this way because he sees it that way. And, they do eventually go into exile. And of course, his prophecy of them comes to pass. In Isaiah 50, 51, and 52, Isaiah has been telling them of their salvation. It sounds in the present tense, but that is to say for them what will be has already happened. For them, they are experiencing the wrath of God as a cup being poured out on them. But, one day – on that day – salvation would come to them. The wrath would end and salvation would be eternal, salvation would be everlasting. That is the hope they have for the exile they will endure. But that isn’t the way it is in that moment of exile.

Rd Isaiah 52.3-6:  3 For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their exile displeases God. He doesn’t like at all. Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “and continually all the day my name is despised.

God is displeased because the Gentiles hold God with no regard. There is no honor. There is no glory. The actions and behaviors of the Jews have sent them into exile. God has kept his promise to do so if they rejected and rebelled against him. They did and so God did exactly what he has always told them he would do: vomit them out of the land! This isn’t God’s fault – No! It is the fault of the Jews who have lived their lives worshipping idols and committing immorality (which if you remember, is the very thing Paul has been accusing the Gentiles of in Romans 1). And it breaks God’s heart that his people are in this position: that their behavior has caused the Gentiles to dishonor Him.

Looking at the Jews in their pitiful state, who would want to worship their God? He can’t take care of them. He can’t protect them. He can’t provide for them. And so God’s Name is despised. God’s Name is blasphemed by the Gentiles.

And really, the Jews are to blame. Their behavior, their actions have resulted in all of this. That’s Paul’s point – and quoting from this passage, Paul brings it all home. Not only have the Gentiles exchanged the glory of God for idolatry and immorality, but so have the Jews. They are no different in their behavior and action. And Paul will conclude in 3.10 – none is righteous, no not one. And in 3.23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God exchanging it for idols and immorality.

 

God’s Unyielding Glory!

Isaiah 42.8: 8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. God isn’t going to share his glory with anyone or anything. Period.

The context of Isaiah 52.5 is so fitting because Isaiah is telling the Jews how bad it is going to be, but there is hope because they have salvation eternal. But, how – how is this possible? How in the world will God get them there? Turn with me back to Isaiah.

How is this possible? Isaiah 52.13-53.12;

Here’s the thing: where you and I have failed, Christ has been victorious. You and I have reflected the image of God poorly. You and I are sinners and our sin plagues us. But Christ, however, reflects the image of God perfectly. He has restored honor and glory to the Father.

As Paul works his way through this letter entitle Romans, listen to his conclusion in this matter: (Begin Reading in v 4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15.For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Christ came to restore God’s glory and honor among the Jews and the Gentiles because that is what He is most interested in: His Glory.

Application – take-a-ways:

  1. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. That’s a bold statement, but I believe it is accurate. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. And my guess would be that no one here puts God’s glory on the same level of importance that God does. So, let me ask you a question that might help you be honest with yourself: Am I glorifying God with my life and my actions? Let me ask it another way: Do the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart honor and glorify God?
  2. If you’re like me, then you’ll answer no to that question. At some point you recognize your utter failure to glorify God and honor him as you should. Do you know why? Romans 3.23 tells us: Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ came! Remember Romans 15.8? Romans 5.8 tells us that Christ died for us – the ungodly. Isaiah said in our passage this morning: we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Do you understand that is why Christ came? God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us – so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.
  3. Invitation –

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