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3-9 Silent Before God 1-30-05

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MBC – 1/30/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson

“Silent Before God”

Romans 3:9-20

After almost 2 mos. Away from Romans, we are returning to our study. Romans presents the Gospel—the Good News from God. And next week, we will finally come to this Good News, beginning in 3:21, the light finally breaks, and Paul brings us to the cross where there is salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, heaven, and peace with God!

To me, Romans is like the Himalayas of the Bible, and Rom.3:21ff is the peak of Mt. Everest. And at that peak, we find the cross. Paul has been bringing us to the cross for 3 ½ chs., but if you are looking at the altimeter, the needle has been going down instead of up! It looks like we are hiking down to the floor of Death Valley, because the only way to get to the cross for salvation and eternal life, is by way of coming to grips with your sinfulness before God. This morning is the final descent--

Ø      ROM 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

Ø      ROM 3:10 as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one;

Ø      ROM 3:11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;

Ø      ROM 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. "

Ø      ROM 3:13 "Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving," "The poison of asps is under their lips";

Ø      ROM 3:14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness";

Ø      ROM 3:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood,

Ø      ROM 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,

Ø      ROM 3:17 And the path of peace have they not known. "

Ø      ROM 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Ø      ROM 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God;

Ø      ROM 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Intro: What keeps people from the cross?

Before we get to the good news, we have to hear the bad news. The good news is that there is complete forgiveness, salvation from the judgment of God, and eternal life in heaven for everyone who will trust in Christ.

The bad news is, we all need it, because we are sinful—full of sin, offensive to God, and deserve hell. The Bible tells us that apart from God’s grace, we are under His wrath!

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but by nature, we aren’t willing to admit that we are sinners who deserve hell. That is offensive to us!

This is what keeps people from the cross. Do you see how ironic the situation is: The cross is where grace is! It’s where peace, love, and joy are! It’s where new life in Christ is, but people stay away in droves and perish in hell rather than to admit that they are sinners who need a Savior. They put their hands over their ears. They don’t want to hear it.

Ø      Sometimes presenting the gospel to a person is like trying to help a hurt animal: You try to get close, you are speaking in your kindest, most loving voice, and it’s eyes on fire. That animal is convinced that you are trying to hurt it rather than help it. You have the medicine it needs, and it’s running away from you as fast as it can.

Ø      It’s like going up to a person and saying, “I have incredible news for you, this is literally going to change your life!” The person, says, “Tell me, tell me, what is the good news?” And you say, “I know a doctor who has a 100% success rate in fixing the faces of hopelessly ugly people!”

This is why people stay away from the cross. It is the antidote for the poison that is killing them, but they will not admit that they are dying.

The universal belief of unbelievers is that they are basically good. Not perfect, maybe flawed, but basically good, and where they have gone wrong, it’s because they are victims of their circumstances or society, or their genes, or their parents, or some sexual trauma, or some addiction. They refuse to believe they are hopeless sinners, and they excuse what sins they will admit.

But the gospel doesn’t tell us we’re victims, it tells us we’re criminals. Dr. Phil won’t tell you that. Dr. Laura won’t, Oprah certainly won’t. Even Michael Savage won’t say that.

But that’s what the gospel says, and it says that you can’t get to the cross until you lay down your excuses, your explanations, and your rationalizations, and confess that you are a helpless, hopeless sinner who desperately needs a Savior.  

Beloved, this is revelation from God! No human would make this up.

I. The Prosecution’s closing argument.

A. An opening objection.

He’s asking, “Are we Jews better than the Gentiles?” Let’s review what Paul has covered in this letter so far that leads him to pose this question:

In 1:1-17: Paul was telling the church at Rome that his whole life revolves around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel means good news, and in 1:17, he says that it’s good news about “the rtnss. of God:” Sinful men and women can have God’s own righteousness credited to them, as a gift of His grace, through simply believing in Jesus Christ.

But in the very next verse, he launches into 63 verses describing why every man, woman, and child desperately needs the righteousness of God. It’s because every man, woman and child is under God’s wrath because of their sins, and on their way to eternal punishment apart from it.

So Paul begins by describing those who are without God’s Word, Gentiles, pagans. They reject the natural revelation God has given them, they indulge their flesh, they worship idols. They rightfully deserve punishment from God.

No argument from the Jews on this point! But in ch.2, Paul turns his guns on the Jews: the stewards of God’s Word, His chosen people, the nation from which the Messiah came. Even though they maintained a righteous façade, they not only did the same things as the Gentiles, they were worse because they were hypocrites about it! They were the great preachers of morality and family values, they told the Gentiles how they should be living, but they were no better themselves. Jesus said they were like whitewashed tombs, pretty on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones on the inside.

When we come to ch.3, an imaginary Jewish objector speaks up: “Well Paul, if what you are saying is true that Jews and Gentiles are on the same level before God, what happened to the promises God made to the Jews? Is God unfaithful? Is there any advantage to even being a Jew? Paul answers this question in depth in chs.9-11, but he says here, “Yes, It’s a great advantage to be a Jew, to be brought up with the Scriptures that speak of the coming Christ, in a home that honors God. But that spiritual advantage doesn’t automatically grant spiritual status--Privilege doesn’t equal possession! It never guaranteed salvation apart from personal faith.

So then, in light of what he has just said about the privilege of the Jews, Paul anticipates the pendulum swinging back too far the other way, and some Jewish person saying, “Oh, good, so we are better than the Gentiles!”

What is his answer? “Not at all! “For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Paul’s whole point is that there are no exceptions, as he says in 3:23, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Everyone stands condemned before God, no one is excused or exempt, all need the righteousness of God, or they will perish.

So vv.9-20 is the final closing argument from the prosecution. Everyone, Jew, Gentile, Irish, Italian, Eskimo, you and I—apart from the grace of God--are universally evil, spiritually ignorant, rebellious, wayward, spiritually useless, and morally corrupt.

Notice two things about this list of accusations:

1.) This isn’t Paul’s personal criticism or evaluation—he is citing the OT Scriptures (at least 6 different passages—and it’s the longest OT citation in any of his letters. He says, “as it is written.” =  perfect tense; it stands forever, written. God’s verdict on mankind’s sinfulness has abiding permanence and relevance. It was true when the OT writers wrote it, true when Paul quoted it, true today, and if Jesus doesn’t return for another 2,000 years, it will still be true. The nature of unredeemed mankind will never change. There is no expiration date on what he says.

2.) What he says is universal, it’s true of all of mankind—except for Jesus Christ. “There are none righteous” Paul says “none” or “not even one” 6X in this passage. There are no exceptions to what he is charging against the human race. Not one. Let that sink in: Not your sweetest grandma or aunt, or you or I—there are none righteous—all are sinful.

But this is just unbelievers, right? Well, it’s all men, even Christians, as they are before God, apart from His saving grace—

Ø      Father Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it to him as rtnss. (Gen.15:6). But that rtnss. wasn’t Abe’s own rtnss. was it? No! It was the rtnss. of God imputed to him—written down on his spiritual account, superimposed, as it were, over his own imperfect rtnss. Abe was a liar, a rotten husband—he was a sinner! His perfect, righteous standing before God was a gift of God’s grace that he received through faith!

Ø      David was a man after God’s own heart, he was a forgiven man, he was talking about himself when he said in Ps.32:2: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, how blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity—i.e., the man whose sin God no longer takes account of!”

But David, as a believer, committed the sin of coveting, adultery, murder, bearing false witness, etc. His sins were covered—he was given a rtnss. that was not his own, and which he did not deserve, but apart from God’s grace, he was just like the person described in Romans 3--

Ø      And so are you. And so am I. Don’t hear this and say, “Well, I’m a Christian, so this passage doesn’t apply to me.” It does! And not just your past, I mean your present condition—this is what His righteousness is covering! You say, “But since I’ve become a Christian, I’ve changed, by God’s sanctifying grace, I am a different person.” Praise God, that’s true, but you still aren’t good enough! You might have come a million miles since you became a Christian, maybe your old friends wouldn’t even recognize you now. But if the robe of Christ’s rtnss. was suddenly ripped off, would you be able to stand before God in your new, improved condition? Absolutely not! You would be just as lost. Just as condemned.

If you are a Christian here this morning, you should hear the prosecutor’s searing, horrible words, and say, “I confess, it’s all true! But thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord—that all my sins were nailed to the cross, thank You for Your righteousness to cover my unrighteousness—thank You!”

* * * *

            B, The horrible evidence.

 

v.10 None are righteous – We lack the perfect, positive rtnss. that God requires to get into heaven:

Ø      1PE 1:15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

Ø      1PE 1:16 because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

How good do you have to be to get into heaven? How high is the bar? The Hubble telescope can’t see it, because the bar is in heaven: you have to be as perfect and as holy as God Himself. In every way:

Ø      Most people are willing to admit that they are not perfect, because they can’t imagine that God’s standard is perfection, but it is. “God can’t possibly require perfection to get into heaven.” But He does. No exceptions. He won’t grade on the curve, or bring the bar any lower. Absolute sinless perfection is the immovable entrance requirement for getting into heaven. So how many will be in heaven? Actually, a vast multitude which no man can number! What? Millions of people from all over the face of the earth have the perfection necessary to get into heaven? Yes, but it’s not their own! It’s the rtnss. of God, given as a gift to those who believe! But none of us have it on our own. Not one.

v. 11 None who understands:

This isn’t talking about intelligence, it’s talking about spiritual perception: as we come from the womb, none of us grasp the truth about God. Remember what Paul said to the Greek Corinthians who prized philosophy? “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” He goes on to say that the gospel is the pinnacle of God’s wisdom—but to the human mind it’s moronic—that’s how messed up we are:

Ø      EPH 4:18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

Ø      ROM 1:21,22 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Ø      1CO 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. [Apart from God’s grace no one gets it. An unbeliever is like a lamp that’s unplugged from the wall: he has all the parts, but he isn’t connected to the power source, so the lights are out. Only God can turn on the lights.]

v.11 None who seeks for God:

What did Adam do immediately after he sinned? He hid from God, and mankind has been hiding from God ever since. It was God who found Adam: “Adam, where are you?” God is omniscient, he knew where Adam was, but He wanted Adam to see what he was doing—before he sinned, he walked with God, he had communion with God, God was Adam’s Creator and his friend. But after sin came in, Adam couldn’t face Him, so he hid. That’s what sin has done to our relationship with God; it turned it from love to fear. Mankind is running and hiding from God because of its sin.

From a human perspective, we are tempted to disagree with Paul. “Paul, there are churches and temples and places of worship everywhere in the world! How can you say that people are running from God? They are seeking Him!” Paul would say, “Not the true God. They have exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Yes, man worships—but that is how he hides from God. According to Scripture, false religion is not evidence of man seeking God, it’s evidence of man hiding from God!

Think with me: If you aren’t seeking, you won’t find, right? So if mankind does not, and cannot seek God (and couldn’t understand Him if they found Him), then how can we be saved? Only if God finds us—just like He found Adam. We won’t come to God--Jesus said, “No one can come to me - - - unless the Father who sent Me, draws him.”

Praise God that He takes all the initiative in our salvation—

Ø      ISA 65:1 "I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here am I, here am I,' to a nation which did not call on My name.

v.12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless—means all have departed from the right way—no one is on the narrow path that leads to eternal life apart from God’s grace. Jesus is the way, but “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”

The word useless is the word for milk that has turned sour and has to be thrown out, or a fruitless branch that is cut off and burned. In relation to God the human race is useless as it is.

v.12 There is none who does good, there is not even one!  

This is an amazing statement! First, let me say what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that human beings can’t do things that are helpful, generous, sacrificial, etc. When a bunch of pagan Hollywood stars raise money to help the victims of some tragedy, that’s a good thing—that’s sinful mankind at it’s best, and it’s only because they still bear the tarnished, image of God.

But it doesn’t even register on heaven’s scale. It won’t count one bit for getting a person into heaven.

Why not? Because nothing that an unbeliever does is done with the right motive, which is the glory of God. And it’s all done with a heart of rebellion toward God—why should He accept anything from a person like that?

A heart of rebellion? Really? Now this all might sound really weird to you: “I have a friend who is an atheist, and she is the nicest person you would ever meet, and I have another friend who is a Mormon, and he is constantly in his church, and helping people. How can you say that these people are bad people, that they never do anything good, that they are in rebellion against God?”

Good question, I understand what you’re saying. The problem is, you are looking at your friends from your perspective, not God’s. God is their Creator, and they know enough about Him, according to Romans 1, that they should be worshiping Him according to His truth, and they aren’t. More than that, your friends have heard about Jesus Christ, that He is God’s Son, that He is to be worshiped and served and trusted alone for salvation—and they don’t. Until they come to God on His terms and trust in His Son according to the Scriptures, not the bogus Book of Mormon—God rejects their good deeds, and the more they offer to Him, the angrier He gets!

Ø      It’s like this: Imagine that I have one child, my only son, and you come over, and right before my eyes, you tie up my son, and stuff him in the trunk of your car. The next day you come over with a big smile and a plate of cookies for me. You wonder why I don’t want your cookies, why I am offended that you baked them for me. Later you come over with your lawnmower to mow my lawn—you really want to be friends. You wonder why I am even angrier. Finally, that evening, you come over with a check for $10,000, and you wonder why I tear it into pieces. Why? Because you have my son! Nothing you do pleases me until I get my son back, as a matter of fact, the more you do for me until then, the more it offends and enrages me!

Do you see why Scripture can say that people who reject God’s only begotten Son can do nothing to please God? They are under His wrath, and as Rom.2:5 says, with each passing day that they continue to reject His Son, they are stockpiling wrath upon wrath for the day of judgment.

And if your atheist or Mormon friend would be offended by this scenario, then share the gospel with them, offer them eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. And when they get red in the face, or try to run you over with their 10-speed, you might tell them not to wonder why God rejects any good things they do, and will send them to hell if they don’t repent: They have scorned and rejected His own beloved Son!

Finally, in vv.13-18, Paul finishes off his closing argument with a rapid fire list:

Ø      ROM 3:13 "Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving," "The poison of asps is under their lips";

Ø      ROM 3:14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness";

Ø      ROM 3:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood,

Ø      ROM 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,

Ø      ROM 3:17 And the path of peace have they not known. "

Ø      ROM 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

The commentary on this is in your Sunday paper. It’s on the 6:00 news. Can you remember any time in your life when the news wasn’t filled with stories of hatred, gross immorality, lies, deceit, and murder—any time?

If you know anything about the history of the world, you know that since the Fall, this world has been in a state of continual violence and war, with a few brief periods of peace. Immorality and shameless sexual promiscuity didn’t begin in Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s, we find it in Genesis—and in Revelation.

Ø      And yet people persist in proclaiming the innate goodness of man. With just more education, tolerance, and money from the govt., we will finally see an end to violence, poverty, ignorance and hate. Let’s all join hands and sing, “We are the world.”

Ø      JOB 15:14  "What is man, that he should be pure, Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

Ø      JER 17:9  "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Ø      ECC 9:3 the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.

Ø      MAR 7:21,22  "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,

Ø      deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.

C. The purpose of the Law.

Let me explain briefly what Paul is saying in vv.19,20—

Ø      ROM 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God;

After this long indictment, some Jews might have thought, “Well yeah, but all of those passages are describing the Gentiles!” Paul says, “Those passages all come from God’s Law—His Word, so they certainly apply to those under the Law—the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

“But Paul, we are the ones who were given the Law by Moses, and we work so hard to keep the Law. . . at least as far as men can see. . . “

Paul responds:

Ø      ROM 3:20 by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Next week we will cover this in depth, but his point is this: God’s Law, His commandments, can’t save anyone because in order to be saved by keeping the Law, you would have to keep the Law perfectly, and no one has (well, there was One—more next week), and that was never the purpose of the Law!

You mean, God didn’t give the 10 Commandments as a way to be saved? That’s right. So what was the purpose of the 10 Commandments? To give the knowledge of sin, to show the need for God’s mercy:

Ø      The Law is like a mirror that shows us how far we fall short—but it doesn’t fix the problem.

Ø      When you take your car to get it smogged, they hook it up to those big machines that Steve Marrujo fixes. After your engine runs for a few minutes, it diagnoses the condition of your engine and exhaust system and spits out a long sheet with the diagnosis.

Does it fix your smog problem? No, it just gives the knowledge of the problem. The purpose of God’s Law isn’t to save us, it is to show us that we need to be saved. It’s purpose is to convict us, to shame us, to overwhelm us with guilt—we puny creatures have offended our Creator. He gave us life and more good things than we could ever count, and we have mocked Him and ignored Him and violated His holiness.

If the Law has done it’s work in your heart, your mouth is closed, you are silent before God. You have heard the charges against you. The prosecution rests. And so does the defense, because you have no defense.

II. Have you come to the cross?

I said in the beginning that Paul has been bringing us to the cross, where there is mercy, and forgiveness, and peace and eternal life—and this is what finally brings us to the cross: complete acknowledgement of your sinfulness before God. No excuses, no rationalizations; no explanations or finger-pointing. No self-justification. Just silence before God.

Have you come to the cross? If you are still talking in your mind, still arguing, still laying out your case, still defending yourself, you’re not there, and you won’t be able to get there until you shut your mouth. God forgives sin, but He doesn’t forgive excuses. One day, when God brings the nations before Him in judgment, Isa.52 says that even the kings will shut their mouths on account of Him. But then it will be too late to come to the cross for salvation.

I urge you to hear what God has said to you this morning:

All are under sin and condemnation. Give up all your excuses and rationalizations, lay down your puny, insufficient good deeds—admit that they are all filthy rags, call yourself what Scripture calls you: poor, miserable, blind, naked; helpless, godless—hang your head and say what that poor tax-collector in the temple said, “Lord be merciful to me—the sinner!”

And then open your eyes and look up, and you will find that you are at the foot of the cross! You are there; where there is complete forgiveness for any sinner and for any sins because the Man from heaven, Jesus Christ, was crucified there in the place of any and all who will come to that cross. None who come there will be turned away. . .

Pass Me Not . . .

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