Romans Bible Guide – Day Eight
February 22, 2016
Previously, in Romans: In an age of enormous division based on status and culture, Paul has broken down the value of these divisions and says that our external markers of status and identity and worth are not impressive to God.
3 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words,
and prevail in your judging.”
5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!
Points of Interest:
- ‘Then what advantage has the Jew?’ – We’re still in Paul’s diatribe, his debate with his imaginary interrogator. Paul writes these series of questions (vs. 1, 3, 5, and 7) that he imagines the Jewish members of the Roman communities will have.Reading Paul devaluing the importance of being Jewish throughout chapter 2, perhaps someone imagined he thought being Jewish was worthless. Or that he was suffering from some ethnic self-hatred and joining the Roman authorities in their anti-Semitism. So Paul circles back and says that it’s wonderful to be Jewish and that Jews have had a central role in God’s work on earth. He’ll come back to this theme in greater detail later in the letter.
- ‘Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true’ – The behavior of people who claim to be close to God does not necessarily say anything about God. People might wonder if God should be judged on the basis of the people God trusts. Paul says no. God can be faithful to God’s promises, even if the people on the other end don’t hold up their end of the deal. This reminds me of parents who are determined to love their kid into successful adulthood, even when their child goes through a period of rebellion. It’s not necessarily the parents’ fault, and their plans can still come to pass.
- ‘So that you may be justified in your words’ – Paul makes a quick allusion to a case study on this point. Here is a quotation from Psalm 51, which is King David (mentioned in 1:3) writing about how much he screwed up when he took a woman named Bathsheba as his lover and then arranged for her husband to be killed. Talk about being unfaithful! David tells God that God will be in the right to judge him and have him face consequence for this. The record of Israel’s kings says that David does face difficulties from these awful choices. Yet God is still able to be faithful to his promises to David and David’s legacy, almost despite David’s foolishness.
- ‘For then how could God judge the world’ – Paul has established that it’s hard for people to derail God’s plans, even when they screw up. But what happens when this makes God look good? Should people be off the hook for our foolishness when God finds a way to make it all work out for good? Paul says no by appealing to a core conviction most people who believe in a god have had about that god – that God has a responsibility to judge the world: to establish a sense of justice and of right and wrong, and to ensure that there are consequences for injustice.
- ‘as some people slander us’ – Paul apparently believes that his reputation has preceded him, that some people are saying he is so committed to God’s message of love and grace and kindness that people should do evil just so that they can be forgiven by God. Paul thinks this reasoning is so ridiculous that he doesn’t even entertain it.
Taking It Home:
For you – Has it ever felt like God’s plans for your life might be derailed, either because of circumstances, or because of your own or others’ bad behavior? What does it mean to you that people’s faithlessness cannot “nullify the faithfulness of God”?
For your 6 – Perhaps some of your 6 were born with particular advantages. Ask God they would experience these with gratitude, and that God’s good hopes for each of their lives would come to be as well.