The previous section of Romans clearly declares that all mankind is under God’s just wrath, for the light God provided through nature and scripture was obscured by lies, the pinnacle of which is the great exchange of the Creators glory for the creatures. So Paul begins this section of text with a question:
“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.”
These verses follow Paul’s explanation of what true circumcision is—that which the Spirit produces, which the Law of Moses was never intended to do, namely, give the believer a heart of flesh where obeying God is a delight rather than a list of to do’s (2:28-29).
The benefit of the Jew unlike the Gentile is that they have been given the “oracles of God”. This refers to both spoken and written Scripture for the community of followers. Unlike general revelation (i.e., God’s revelation of Himself through nature/creation), particular revelation (i.e., God’s revelation of His will through the Bible) explains to us how to have a redemptive relationship with God (i.e., where He’s our friend, not our foe). That is, the Bible reveals to us our origins, our sin problem, and God’s remedy for it. That’s a supreme advantage. But both Jew and Gentile are under God’s wrath because they suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness.
When the knowledge of God is suppressed (e.g., through a Darwinian paradigm), for the Jew it’s a “double-whammy” because they have “Both Books” if you will and are absolutely without excuse. Paul now asks a question that seems to set-up the remainder of his point: mainly that God is true and every man is a liar:
“3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.”
Unbelief can’t nullify, or do away with God’s faithfulness which here I take to mean His revelation in creation and scripture. That is, Jewish advantage is removed when instead of placing their trust in the Creators’ word; it’s placed in the creatures’ word. When this occurs God is shown to be true and man a liar. Only one word can always be trusted and that’s God’s word, not mans’. The reason is because this word flows from His holy character which is incapable of lies, thus, when God judges, its spot on, never tainted, it’s always in accord with His truth and will.
Thus far, the Jewish advantage of possessing the word is nullified when it’s discarded and disobeyed (I.e., not trusted). This however does not change God’s truthfulness when liars deny His truth. So Paul asks:
“5 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.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?”
How does my unrighteousness show God’s righteousness? I think we compare them (i.e., my ways vs. God’s ways). God reveals the truth of who He is and what He has created; I suppress that truth and replace it with my lie. By doing this, I deny God’s design for all of life and make up my own. We live in a culture that’s rife with this decease where the creature is the measure of all things and thus “creates” their own reality.
Again, there’s the comparison of my unrighteousness with Gods’ righteousness, or my wickedness compared to His holiness. He is seen to be true, and I am exposed as a liar. Why then would someone think God to be unjust by pouring out wrath since He “needs” our sins to show how glorious He is? This seems to be what Paul is arguing. In other words, the creature is God’s dual opposite (e.g., evil vs. good). But that doesn’t work because He’s the self-existent Creator and we are contingent, needy creatures. God doesn’t need us for any “benefits” but we need Him for every grace. Paul is stating that the grounds on which God can and does judge is his righteousness.
Thus we are rightly judged as sinners and condemned by God while simultaneously our lie abounded to God’s glory (v.7) as has already been declared (Vv.8-18). Paul hates it when the truth of God is twisted and anticipates such acts when he states, “Let us do evil that good may come?” Their condemnation is just” (V.8). Does God need our sin to show forth His holiness, or our lie to demonstrate His truth, or our unrighteousness to reveal his righteousness? The answer is no because first, God is ontologically holy, true and righteous. As the self-existent One, He already possesses the properties or attributes mentioned. Secondly, within the Trinitarian Godhead, these attributes are shared and demonstrated between the Father, Son and Spirit. Thus the creature is not needed for these qualities to be expressed by the divine being.
After describing the just wrath of God upon rebellious mankind, Paul declares: “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Vv.10-11); “All have turned aside, together they have become useless” (vv.12-17); “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (V.18). This is a weighty indictment that before the holy, true, righteous God, we are all guilty. Paul is still dealing with the benefit of the Jew which is nullified through the disobedience of the law and continues:
“19 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; 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.”
The Jew is under the law which is the yardstick God uses to justly keep them accountable. The purpose of the law is to shut men’s mouths to answer for their misdeeds. And all have sinned, thus all are in trouble. The reason for this is because law keeping can’t justify anyone before God. That was never its purpose. Instead, the purpose of the law was and is to give us the knowledge of sin. How? It puts forth Gods’ holy requirements for living that we can’t accomplish on our own power.
That’s a bleak reality. Jew and Gentile are rightly condemned. Both are found to be liars, useless and with no fear of God. And what seems to benefit the Jew is nullified by their lack of trust in the word of truth. Everyone then is guilty before the Holy Creator. (SDG)