Sunday, September 27, 2009

God's Righteousness and Mankind's Sinfulness

I've been filling in as Sunday School teacher for the 10-12th grade at our church. We're studying the epistle to the Romans assisted by John Witmer's commentary.* In that commentary, we are finishing up the author's first main point of the outline: God's righteousness revealed in condemnation (1:18-3:20). The basic idea is that all humanity deserves God's condemnation because none of us live up to God's righteous demands for holiness. In last week's lesson, we covered the condemnation against pagan humanity (1:18-32) and the condemnation according to divine standards (2:1-16). Today we will cover two more points: the condemnation against unfaithful Jews (2:17-3:8) and condemnation against all human beings (3:9-20).

The idea in the first main point is that none of us, whether Jew or Gentile, meet God's standard for holiness. As Paul writes, it is clear that all of humanity falls under the judgment of God regardless of culture, family, religion, rite, or any other characteristic that one might rest upon.

There is none righteous, no not, one.
there is none who understands;
there is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside,
they have together become unprofitable.

This is what most religious people miss. We like to think that we earn God's approval by the things we do. "Haven't I attended church, temple, mosque, etc? Haven't I been circumcised, confirmed, baptized, etc.?" No matter the religious background you come from or the religious rites you have taken part of, none of that removes your condemnation in God's eyes. From His perspective (the one that matters in the end) all of us are sinners who deserve God's judgment for the things we have done against Him and His holy laws. It's a terrible predicament that all of us face.

What a place to end! That's where the section ends, but thankfully, it's not where the book ends. Paul's next point is expressed well by the commentary's author: God's righteousness revealed in justification (3:21-5:21). Read that section and you will find how our holy God can be just and also pardon sinners for their sins apart from any things that they have done. I hope you will read ahead and find the answer.

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*John Witmer, "Romans," in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (USA: SP Publications, 1983), 435-503.

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