What might make you uncomfortable:Paul examines the justice of God by posting dangerous and nearly blasphemous rhetorical questions about the nature of Israel.
Readers are reminded of the truth that God can handle our questions, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel to ask them.
Today's Devotional:In yesterday's devotional, "No Cultural Christians," we discussed how cultural religion cannot bring salvation to people. This truth begs the question, "What is the purpose of Israel?" If Israel is doomed without Christ, why would God go at such length to establish this holy nation?
Paul anticipates the offense of Jewish readers to Romans 2 and seeks to answer their objections to the Gospel. Using four rhetorical questions, Paul clarifies the New Testament view on Israel for readers. Let's explore these four questions below:
Question 1: What is the advantage to being a Jew, since Jews are guilty before God?
Paul writes, "what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?" (3:1-2). Paul swiftly answers this objection by stating one of the primary purposes of Israel, to be entrusted with the oracles of God. Israel was entrusted with passing down the stories of God's creation and the prophecies concerning Jesus to the next generation. This awesome stewardship was a privilege and part of God's special purpose for Israel.
Question 2: Are all of God's promises to Israel void because some were unfaithful?
The next rhetorical question is found in verse 3: "What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?" Paul wants to answer the Jewish concern that all of God's promises for Israel would expire after the ministry of Jesus.
When God establishes a covenant, He keeps His end of the bargain. Paul states God's promise to remain "true" to His words (3:4). His word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). He will keep His promises to Israel.
Question 3: Could God be unjust for punishing the Israel?
Paul asks, is "God unjust for bringing His wrath upon us?" (3:5). He acknowledges that this is a worldly argument when he states that he is speaking in "human" terms.
The answer? "Certainly not!" (3:6). If God showed special favoritism to the Jews and ignored their need for judgment, God would not be impartial. This favoritism would prohibit God from being an impartial judge to all of mankind.
Since God is by nature a judge, He will judge all equally.
Question 4: If our unrighteousness shows God's holiness, is it fair to punish us?
3:7 contains the last rhetorical question, "If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?"
This question exposes the heart behind many of our questions regarding God's "fairness." We would rather do what we want and let God work it out for good rather than being held accountable for our actions. We are independent and lazy. We question God under a theological veneer of sophistication, but in the end would rather go our own way.
The ends does not justify the means. It is not righteous to "do evil that good may result" (3:8). Paul attacks this question head-on, saying that those who choose to live this way receive a just condemnation for their actions.
In summary, Paul does not shy way from the dangerous questions of his readers, but addresses them head-on. This form of dialogue way make readers uncomfortable, but notice its effectiveness. We find again that we are without excuse before God for our sin.
Truly, God is just.