Failing to Take Advantage of Advantage (Romans 3:1-8)

Winning a huge lottery payout is a good thing, right? It makes for a wonderful opportunity for a person to do and enjoy pretty much everything imaginable, correct?

Apparently not! A simple search of articles on large lottery winners reveals that a sizeable majority end up with lives that are more miserable, if not completely ruined. An amazing number end up losing everything. Poor choices abound. Most are completely unequipped to manage their new situation in a positive way.

At the same time, a minority of winners report of the great blessing that it was for them. They speak of hiring professional accountants and investment advisors, being disciplined to use their newfound wealth in wise and productive ways.

From this we can say that it was not the mere fact of wealth that ruined peoples’ lives, it was the lack of faithful and disciplined execution of attention to the details that made for a mess.

We have read in recent paragraphs in Romans chapters 1 and 2 of the Jewish people who were condemned by God for their sinful lives. If being given the “blessings” of status as God’s Chosen People resulted in so many of them ending up in judgment, what good therefore was such a “blessing?”  And Paul says that there indeed was great blessing and advantage. It was not a matter that God’s goodness set them up for failure; they simply failed to be faithful with the riches to which they were entrusted, particularly having the very words of God given to them.

So there is no way that God should be blamed for their bad situation and God’s necessary judgment. He was good; they messed up all by themselves.

The argumentative objections (of which there were many) raised by Paul’s adversaries (of which there were many) as seen in verses 5-8 are admittedly a bit crazy. But arguments against God’s goodness are exactly that. Illogical is another word. Let’s add senseless to the mix.

God is good. People fail. All have sinned, Chosen People or not. That God thereby is required by His holy character to necessarily judge them is not a mark against Him.

But talk about people with great advantage! Has there ever been those with a better advantage to be people of faith than we are in our day? I suppose it could be argued that to be a first century follower who happened to be among the hundreds who saw the post-resurrection Jesus would make faith easier. Even so, I’m not sure I’d trade for that. For one thing, we possess the completed record of Scripture. Think of all the resources we have in our day to stand on the shoulders of two millennia of Christians who have gone before us. Consider the resources literally at our fingertips electronically. By any standard, we are uniquely blessed. We are people of advantage.

3:1 – What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

One thought on “Failing to Take Advantage of Advantage (Romans 3:1-8)

  1. Good thoughts.

    You quoted the scripture, “3:1 – What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.”

    As you suggested, it is really amazing that we can access scripture so quickly with our own Bibles in book form (due in part to the invention of the printing press) and we have also have the scriptures available electronically. It makes searches for verses so much easier!

    Now for the scriptures you posted. The question of hypocrisy then arises as covered in verses 3 and 4. Some who claim to be Christian don’t live as he instructed. So we too should be able to understand how those verses even apply to the church today.

    Verse 6 addresses the question of how God can judge us since everything works for God somehow. Then in verse 8 we can learn that Paul had people misrepresenting what he taught and them perhaps ridiculed Paul by tearing apart this false characterization of what Paul believed. The old “strawman argument” was used back then too.

    Now since verse 6 addresses how God can justly judge … it might be helpful to also note Paul addressed a somewhat similar questioning of God’s prerogatives in Romans 9:19ff

    19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?”
    20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”
    21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
    22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath– prepared for destruction?
    23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–
    24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

    Explaining the answer is well-beyond our human capacity to easily understand. One radio Bible teacher many years ago started to address this question making reference to “space-time continuum” and the caller who asked him was just perplexed saying something like “What?”.

    We are in space and time and we can’t readily think outside of it. Science fiction often ventures into these topics but we all know it is just fiction.

    Paul was probably wise to just answer a question with a question. “Who are you… to talk back to God?” in Romans 9:20.

    Apparently when Paul quoted, “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge” it prompted him to remember that some people question God’s judgment in judging. Romans 3:5-7 has Paul fighting back against an attack on God’s justice when he judges.

    The book of Job also deals with Job questioning God’s judgment and rulership and justice.
    God did not explain to Job the answers to his questions, he just asked Job a bunch of questions in order to drive home the point that the answer was beyond Job’s comprehension. Though the story of the book of Job does reveal Satan in some type of conflict with God it doesn’t get too deep into it. Yet we have the same adversary today. We can’t much understand what is going on in the heavenly realms and so many humans are still left with questions about why God does this or that.

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