Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fincherville

Striving to become the church of choice for this generation.

Romans Chapter 4

Romans 4:1-4

Facing Up to Faith

Scripture Outline

  1. The Father of Faith (Rom_4:1-4)
  2. The Forgiveness of Faith (Rom_4:5-8)
  3. The Family of Faith (Rom_4:9-16)
  4. The Factors of Faith (Rom_4:17-25)

There is a surprising resistance to the message of "justification by faith." Not infrequently I have been challenged by people who have said, "Do you mean to tell me that if a murderer-rapist repents and believes at the last minute before he dies he will be justified by God because of Christ, but a decent, honest, moral person who doesn't believe will not be justified?" There is nothing new about this difficulty as can be seen from Paul's introduction of God the Father of faith in verse Rom_4:1 of Romans 4.

The Father of Faith

Opponents of Paul's message, particularly those who came from a traditional Jewish background would phrase the question slightly differently. "Are you saying that God will forgive Gentile reprobates who happen to believe in Jesus while our father Abraham who lived a superb life without knowing Christ will not be accepted?" There was, of course, no doubt about the caliber of Abraham's life—in fact, God called him, "my friend" (Isa_41:8) and said, "Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen_26:5). It was clear that Abraham had not lived his superb life because of his intimate knowledge of the risen Christ. He could not, therefore, be said to have been justified other than by his works because he had not so much as heard of Christ. Therefore, Paul's gospel was palpably false.

Abraham, having received such an endorsement from God, could presumably be well satisfied with his success and indulge in a little boasting about his accomplishments and God's unstinting praise. Paul, however, remarks that Abraham might be able to boast, "but not before God" (Rom_4:2). In other words, the argument sounds great and is certainly most convincing except where it really matters, and that is "before God."

In verse Rom_4:3, Paul is quoting Genesis 15 which records the dramatic conversation between the Lord and His servant. Speaking to Abraham in the quietness of his innermost being, the Lord reminded him that He was his "exceedingly great reward." Abraham's response was a startled, "How can you say that when I am constantly denied the one treasure I desire more than any other—a son who will perpetuate my name?" In a most remarkable reply, the Lord said, "Abraham, you will have your son—a real son, not an adopted son—and through him you will become the father of such a host of people that they will resemble the stars of the sky." Despite all the obvious difficulties bound up in such a promise Abraham believed God implicitly. With complete abandon he trusted himself and his most cherished ambitions to his God and what his God was committed to do, and it was "counted to him for righteousness."

Paul is able to show quite clearly from the Old Testament that Abraham's acceptance with God came through his faith, not his works, although his works were exemplary. Far from being the cause of his acceptance with God, Abraham's lifestyle was the result of his acceptance. God did not declare him righteous because he was so good, but rather Abraham lived a good life because God had freely justified him by faith.

The logic of all this is sometimes hard for Western minds to follow, so it is encouraging to discover that the Greek word for "counted" is logizomai which, besides having obvious connections with the English word "logic," means "to place to someone's account." God, out of grace, determines to make righteousness available to those who will humbly accept it by faith.

Shortly before I married his daughter, my father-in-law said to me, "Stuart, if you drive over to Austria and go to the little border town of Feldkirk, at a certain address you will find a person who has some funds which I have placed in your name. Go and collect them and you will have more than enough for three weeks vacation on the continent of Europe." I believed him, traveled over, met the person, in faith claimed what he had promised, and found that my father-in-law, in sheer grace, had actually placed the funds to my account.

For me to have traveled around Europe bragging about my newfound wealth and pretending that it was the product of my work would have been as insulting to my father-in-law as it would have been removed from the truth. If any boasting was permissible at all, it was limited to boasting about the generosity of another on my behalf. In the same way Abraham, the recipient of grace through faith, had nothing to boast about.

Romans 4:5-8

The Forgiveness of Faith

Paul was not satisfied with proving his point from the experience of the great patriarch alone but also called in another Old Testament heavyweight—none other than King David—to further substantiate his argument. Quoting from Psalm 32, he showed that God imputes (the same word as "counted," noted above) "righteousness apart from the law," and this introduced those so enriched into a state of "blessedness" where sins are "covered," "forgiven," and "not imputed."

"Blessedness" is a word which, when used by ancient Greek writers, usually referred to the state of the gods. For instance, Homer, in his Odyssey, has Minerva rebuke the council of gods because apparently they are totally unconcerned about the desperate plight of Ulysses while living in makarios—eternal blessedness—themselves. In New Testament usage, the word has to do with the sense of spiritual joy and ecstasy that comes from participation in the gracious activity of God in human affairs.

As we have already seen, God's imputing has a positive side in that He counts righteousness to the ungodly, but the negative aspect of His imputing ministry is no less exciting for He also declines to impute sin to those who have broken His law when they come to Him in faith. A bookkeeper would look at it as if a generous donor was placing vast credits to our account and also refusing to debit the withdrawals but rather was placing them against his own account.

When Paul wrote to Philemon about Onesimus, the runaway slave whom Paul had met far from home, he asked Onesimus to receive him back again and promised to accept all responsibility for anything that Onesimus might owe his master. "If he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account" (Philem. Phm_1:18). Onesimus must surely have experienced the makarios of the slave released from obligation in much the same way that people from Abraham through David and Paul down to our own day have rejoiced in the blessedness of the justified.

Human sinfulness is expressed in such a variety of ways that biblical authors in both Hebrew and Greek found it necessary to employ a variety of words to express their understanding of sin. Both David in Psalm 32 and Paul in his quotation of the Psalm in Romans 4 are good examples of this, and the expressions they used are full of significance. Delitzsch defined the Hebrew words for "lawless deeds" as "a breaking loose or tearing away from God"; "sins" as "deviation from that which is well-pleasing to God," and "iniquity" as "a perversion, distortion, misdeed." Forgiveness has as many facets as the sin it seeks to dispel, and Delitzsch describes it as "a lifting up and taking away… a covering so that it becomes invisible to God, the Holy One, and is as though it had never taken place." 

As we have seen, man's superficial attitude to sin and forgiveness can only be countered by an adequate understanding of the immensity and seriousness of the human problem. Those who find sin relatively unimportant find little difficulty in expecting that human effort, however half-hearted, may well merit forgiveness, but those who know what sin is also know that only divine action can deal with it. In the same way, those who regard "forgiveness" as a type of "forgetting" coupled with a shrug of the divine shoulders see no necessity for man to take his sin with anything more than a grain of salt. But those who realize that forgiveness entails "a taking away" and a "covering so that it becomes invisible to God" as well as the willingness of God to accept accountability for human sin while relieving man of responsibility, also know that this requires more than human activity—in fact, nothing less than divine intervention. Only the grace of God can initiate such an act of mercy and only the open hand of faith can receive such blessedness. Such is the forgiveness that comes through faith.

Romans 4:9-16

The Family of Faith

When God called Abram from Ur, told him of the Promised Land, and outlined His covenant, He clearly illustrated that, once more, He was taking the initiative and moving graciously into the affairs of man. Through this man He intended to move into the affairs of a family which, by His description, was going to be very large and far-reaching. Jewish people have, quite rightly, traced their roots to Abraham with great pride, but so also have the Arabs—the former, through Isaac, the latter through Ishmael. When Paul speaks of Abraham as "the father of us all," the family of which Abraham is father is neither the Jewish nor the Arab family but something that transcends both and incorporates far more. It is the family of all those who believe, the family of faith.

The somewhat tedious nature of this part of the epistle has led some people to avoid it. This is unfortunate because great and powerful truths are to be found in it. Continuing to use Abraham as an illustration of God's dealings with man, the apostle points to the chronology of events in this part of the divine human drama. When God had made His promise to Abraham, it had been believed with the result that justification by faith was experienced. Fourteen years later the Lord introduced the concept of circumcision. Paul's inescapable conclusion is that as Abraham was declared justified fourteen years before he was circumcised, he was quite obviously not justified because he was circumcised. Therefore God is not interested in a man's circumcision but in whether or not he is a man of faith. There are, in the divine way of looking at things, uncircumcised believers and circumcised unbelievers. The former are justified; the latter are not justified. In a similar passage in Galatians, Paul stated that the law was given to Moses 430 years after Abraham had been justified by faith, and therefore neither Abraham nor anybody else would ever be justified by keeping the law but only by believing unto righteousness. In fact Paul says bluntly, "The promise… was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righ-teousness of faith." He adds that "the law brings about wrath."

These truths, when applied, lead to the discovery that there is one thing God is looking for in the confused and convoluted world of human religion, tradition, and culture. Is that man in the midst of all the accumulated weight of the Jewish tradition a humble believer in the God who justified the ungodly? Is that Muslim who professes to pray five times a day, to give to the poor, to visit Mecca, to observe Ramadan trusting in his ritual or in the God who justifies freely by His grace? Is the Buddhist who in his quest for enlightenment endeavors to practice right views, right desires, right speech, right conduct, right mode of living, right effort, right awareness, and right meditation really trusting in the eightfold path or in a God who through the blood of Christ freely forgives our straying from His path? The same can be said for Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, all denominations… what are they looking to for salvation?

The British Commonwealth is a remarkable phenomenon not least because it survived the demise of the British Empire and found a unique identity of its own. Comprised of nations which differ in political ideology, religious persuasion, cultural identity, economic status, and geographical location, it still hangs together. At times its member nations have squared off against each other, misunderstandings have abounded, and all manner of political maneuvering which has taxed even British diplomacy has characterized the scene. What makes it work? Some say "allegiance to the Crown," others more skeptical say "economic and diplomatic expedience," but, whatever it is, the Commonwealth manages to hold together what would in practically all other circumstances fall apart.

There is another phenomenon which defies all human explanation. It is known as the Christian church or the family of faith. I have traveled round the world many times, meeting with people whose backgrounds are so diverse and whose traditions are so opposed that it would appear that nothing, not even the Commonwealth, would ever get them together. And yet they are together—the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the agnostic, the Marxist. I've met them all, but these are not their prime characteristics. They preserve their national differences, they revere their cultural differences, but they place all these things in a subordinate position to their relationship to the justifying God and His Son. In so doing they allow other fragmenting factors to become irrelevancies in the light of their family status. They understand that the promise of God's forgiveness is to "all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, the father of us all." What a family!

Romans 4:17-25
The Factors of Faith

With everything hinging on faith, it is no surprise that Paul analyzes the faith of Abraham so that there would be no confusion in peoples' minds as to what constitutes faith. First we must note that his faith was confidence in a person: "… in the pres-ence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Rom_4:17).
When it comes to the subject of faith it is amazing how vague people become. To have a "lot of faith" is applauded, and the need for "more faith" is often expressed. People of "strong faith" are revered, those of "another faith" are distrusted. In all these common expressions of contemporary understanding of faith there is one major misunderstanding. The object of faith is that which really matters more than anything else. Some people who had strong faith in thin ice never lived to tell the tale but died by faith. Others who had weak faith in thick ice were as safe as if they stood on concrete. Abraham's faith is not exemplary because of its strength or lack of it, but because its object was God. Through the years, people of faith in their own abilities have perished; men and women who believed implicitly that God was dead found out they were wrong. Their faith was sincere, but sincerely wrong, as was the case when my mother believed the bottle of medication contained something beneficial but when applied to my brother it proved to be acid! But she believed sincerely to the contrary. This is not to suggest that faith should be unintelligent.
Abraham's faith was clearly related to his knowledge of its object. In the same way that the man on thick ice knows about its thickness before he exercises faith in it, so Abraham knew two things about his God whom he trusted: "… he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations …" (Rom_4:17-18). He was the God who specializes in breathing life into deadness and speaking the creative word which brings into existence things which previously were nonexistent. The magnitude of these concepts of God is so vast that they should not be overlooked because it is possible that some believers believe in a God who is far removed from the One revealed in Scripture. J. B. Phillips expressed this in the title of his book, Your God Is Too Small!
People all round Abraham believed in something, probably as fervently as he believed in his superlative God. But, of course, their experience was limited, not because of their faith, but because of the limitations of that which they believed. Belief sometimes is nothing more than empty superstition, but intelligent faith knows intimately that which it believes. We should also note that Abraham's faith was expressed by a hope which believed "contrary to hope." When we talk about hope we often convey a sense of hopelessness and desperation. We "hope" someone will show up or something will happen, but we have no real grounds for such hope. Abraham, naturally speaking, had no basis for believing that he would, in his old age, become the father of many nations. Frankly, it was a hopeless situation. Nevertheless he believed in hope. His "hope" was rooted in God and His word and, therefore, had a ring of confidence rather than a touch of desperation. His faith was confidence in a person.
Second, in Rom_4:19 we read that his faith, far from ignoring the practical realities of the situation and closing its eyes to the facts of life which surrounded him, was a faith that was conversant with the problems. It must be admitted that there are some textual problems in the manuscripts of this passage of the epistle which appear to say opposite things. Some would give the impression that he carefully avoided thinking about the facts of his own old age and his wife's infertility. Other manuscripts present Abraham as carefully considering both these factors, refusing to be intimidated by his circumstances but rather demonstrating the faith for which he was famous. I believe the latter interpretation is to be preferred.
Nothing is to be gained in terms of virile faith by ignoring those factors which militate against faith. On the contrary, strong faith triumphs over the difficulties it fully understands. Abraham was able to grapple adequately with the deadness of his own body precisely because he believed in a God "who gives life to the dead" (Rom_4:17). His inadequacy, therefore, became the arena in which God's power was to be shown instead of the place where his faith would sink without a trace. The fact of Sarah's incapability to bear a son even in her youth was matched in Abraham's mind with the fact that God "calls the things that are not as being in existence." The nonexistent capacity of Sarah's womb was the very place to prove God's ability to make the barren womb capable of reproduction. Abraham showed that faith links its knowledge of the person (God) with the difficulties that stand in faith's way and throws in its lot with the reality of God in the situation.
The third aspect of Abraham's faith was that it was consistent in its progress, as Paul tells us in Rom_4:20. My father used to tell me that he was continually surprised that the same sun that hardens clay also melts wax. Obviously there is something about the composition of the two substances that produces the opposite results when exposed to identical conditions. Some people, when faced with delay and discouragement, "waver" in their faith, while others are strengthened by the delay. Diakrithenai ("to doubt or to waver") is a graphic word which means, literally, "to have two minds or opinions" and, therefore, to stagger and waver. When he considered his circumstances on the one hand, Abraham must have been tempted to sink into despair; yet when he considered the promise of God as it related to his circumstances he must have been euphoric. The tendency would have been to vacillate between the two extremes. This he refused to do, preferring instead patiently to trust God to work through interminable delays and disappointments. In so doing he quietly "gave glory to God." The more opportunities he was given to praise God in faith and be reminded of the promise of God irrespective of circumstances, the more he was led into a stronger trust in God. People who nervously board airplanes tend to settle down halfway across the Atlantic, not because God gives them more faith, but because the longer they sit on the plane and it stays up, the more they learn it is worthy of trust, and, accordingly, they trust it more. They are strengthened in their faith through the ongoing experience of the faithfulness of faith's object.
In the fourth place Abraham's faith was convinced of the promises (Rom_4:21). When I was a young traveling evangelist I neglected my family, and my patient wife carried my burden in addition to her own. She occasionally suggested that I ought to take a family vacation, but, having agreed with her, I promptly forgot about it. One day I said facetiously, "Okay, if you want a family vacation, I'll take you all to Majorca in the Mediterranean for a couple of weeks." Her response was simply, "Stuart, that's not funny." Shortly after this conversation, I received a phone call from a friend who told me that he had made reservations for Jill, the children, and me to go to Majorca for a two-week vacation. To make sure that we would go he proposed coming with us. When I told Jill, her response was completely different. "Fantastic, wonderful, how exciting!" This response was elicited because when I said it she knew I did not mean it. Even if I did I could not afford it, and if I could have afforded it, I probably would not have spent the money! So why take that kind of statement seriously? When I said that Norman had promised, however, the situation was different because he meant it, could afford it, and had demonstrated his generosity to us previously. She, like Abraham, was fully convinced that what he had promised he was able also to perform.
It was this kind of faith that led to Abraham's justification, as Paul reminds us in Rom_4:23-25. When we read about the great heroes of the faith such as Abraham there is a tendency for us to feel that they had a special corner on God and thus it was easier for them to believe; if we had similar opportunities we would probably believe in similar fashion. Paul introduces a thought that explodes this idea completely. He reminds us that while Abraham believed in a God who could raise the dead, we have a record of an event which showed that God can raise the dead and that He has raised His Son from the grave. The object of the believer's faith is not only the God of Abraham but also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's statement concerning the death and Resurrection of Christ shows that it was not the death of Christ alone which provides the basis upon which God justifies the believer, for if Christ had stayed dead, He would never have been regarded as anything other than another unfortunate martyr to a lost cause. But through His Resurrection, He was shown to be the "Son of God with power" and, accordingly, the divine answer to the human problem.

Romans Chapter 3

Romans 3:1-2

Privilege Without Perception

There is always a danger that when we try to make a point we do so by emphasizing one aspect of the truth at the expense of another. Democrats and Republicans are superb exponents of this art form, particularly in election year! That Paul was sensitive to this possibility is apparent by his question in Rom_3:1.

Having shown clearly the dangers of an unbalanced approach to privilege, he was most anxious that the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water. Anyone listening to his arguments concerning the law, the name, and the rite would expect his answer to his own question to be, "Forget the whole business. There are no advantages; the things we thought important are totally irrelevant." But surprisingly, Paul says exactly the opposite. From every viewpoint the Jews have advantages but "chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God" (Rom_3:2). Whatever their failings, the Jews were God's special people, the law He gave them was His unique word, and the rite of the covenant was His chosen sign; therefore, they all had deep significance despite the fact that the Jews had to a great extent misread them.

Privilege, to be rightly handled, must be correctly perceived. When Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, celebrated her eightieth birthday, the British, who have not been reticent to criticize members of the royal family at times, expressed so much affection for the Queen Mother that they took most people by surprise. Many commentators endeavoring to analyze the reasons for this public reaction pointed to the Queen Mother's attitude to her privileged position. She perceived her position as a platform for service, and her commitment could be measured by the fact that she had not missed a single engagement through illness for over twenty-five years.

Religious people must always wrestle with the possibility that they might misunderstand or misapply their privileges, either by disregarding the importance of the privilege or by exaggerating their own importance.


Romans 3:3-8

Objections Without Objectivity

In his long and arduous ministry, Paul had made repeated overtures to his own people, with mixed results. Sometimes they had come to repentant faith in Messiah, but more often they had reacted unfavorably to him and his message, even to the point of violence. This is understandable because, when deeply held views are challenged, reactions are predictably strong. Think of the events surrounding early attempts at school integration. Remember the outrage at the flag burners of the Vietnam era, and observe the impassioned debate both for and against the Equal Rights Amendment. The stronger the position is held, the deeper the passions will flow. Unfortunately, the deeper the passions flow, the further the arguments stray from objectivity. Paul had heard all the arguments against his position and had observed the lack of objectivity firsthand. He used both in this diatribe.

This is not one of the easiest passages to understand, but it will help if we regard it as a typical discussion that had often taken place between Paul and irate opponents of his message:

"How can you possibly say in one breath that the Jews have failed so completely in their God-given role and then turn around and insist that they are still the privileged people? If they are as bad as you say they are, they cannot possibly be part of God's covenant, and if they have been removed, then God has broken His promise—He is unfaithful."

"On the contrary—the fact that God has exposed their sin and condemned it shows His justice in that He has treated everyone alike, even His chosen people. Far from showing Him to be unfaithful, He is seen to be strictly reliable and just. You remember when David wrote Psalm 51 he was concerned that God might be seen as the dispenser of justice and that His integrity would shine through every critical attack of man. This is exactly what has happened."

"Are you trying to tell me that God's condemnation of His people illustrates His justice? That means that He is using people to His advantage, and if He does that, He can hardly judge those He has used. Taken to its logical conclusion, what you are saying is an incentive to sin! If being bad makes God look good, let's be worse so he looks better! Is that what you're teaching?"

Except to respond that that kind of talk was slanderous, Paul did not pursue this argument further because he had demonstrated the total lack of objectivity in the objections. In fact, the arguments used against him served only to prove the point he was making—that his kinsmen were far removed from an understanding of the law delivered to them. With chilling brevity, he concluded his exposure of the Jewish position by stating that those who adopted such positions would have to accept their condemnation as just.

It is easy to forget the thread of Paul's argument in the weaving of his epistle, but we must remember that his brutal exposure of Jewish, or religious, sin, following his equally straightforward treatment of pagan degeneracy, was to show the guilt of the race before God and introduce them to the only answer to human guilt—the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Pagan and pietist alike must come to Christ.


Romans 3:9-18

All Together Now

Scripture Outline

1. All Under Sin (Rom_3:9-18)

2. All Under Law (Rom_3:19)

3. All Under Pressure (Rom_3:20)

The Christmas spirit is a strange phenomenon. Every year for a brief period of time people seem to be overcome with a sense of cooperation not in evidence for the rest of the year. Hostilities are terminated for a set period, feuds are put on ice and conflicts placed on hold, and for a few days or hours an almost surrealistic air of "togetherness" prevails.

This was particularly true in Christmas 1968. Millions of people around the world, glued to their television sets, were waiting with bated breath and crossed fingers for the latest word from Apollo 8, the frail, intricate spacecraft in which the first manned lunar orbit was being attempted. They were amply rewarded not only because they watched history being made but also because they witnessed breathtaking pictures of earth, the tiny planet which the human race inhabits suspended in black space. For the first time, as man was made aware that the sum total of his differences is lived out on a fragile fraction of the universe, "togetherness" of a totally new kind was experienced. Born of a sense of awe and nurtured through a sense of necessity, Christmas 1968 produced a oneness on earth never known before. Unfortunately, the familiarity which constant exposure brings quickly eroded the sense of wonder. The global togetherness disappeared almost as quickly as the annual Christmas spirit, and the human race got back to the business of fragmentation. Hopes that new insights into our minuteness would bring the race together were dashed, and many people began to wonder if there is such a thing as a unifying factor. Scripture insists that such a factor exists. Its components are fourfold.

All Under Sin

Having shown at some length the obvious differences between Jew and Greek (or Gentile) and having compared their relative advantages and disadvantages, Paul asks if there really are any material differences. He answers his own question with a resounding "no." Overriding all differences of class, creed, and culture is the somber fact that all are "under sin." This statement is presented as a "charge," that is, a legal accusation presumably made in the name of God against His own created beings. The awful togetherness of the human race that takes precedence over every other similarity or dissimilarity is that before God we are all exposed in our sinfulness.

The force of the expression "under sin" should be carefully noted. Paul described the relationship between a schoolboy and his teacher in Gal_3:25 as being "under a schoolmaster." In 1Ti_6:1 he said slaves were "under the yoke." In all these instances to be "under" means "to be dominated by or under the authority of."

There is a major difference between "sin" and "sins," so we must be careful not to confuse "doing things that are not right" with the fact that we are dominated by a fundamentally evil dynamic. The difference is not unlike that which exists between the symptoms of a disease and the disease itself. When this is understood it becomes obvious that the human predicament is not so much that we have done things wrongly but that we are "in the Christless state under the command, under the authority, under the control of sin and helpless to escape from it." Accordingly, any solution to the human problem that fails to deal with the root cause of "sin" is no more a solution than cold compresses on a fevered brow are a cure for the infection causing the fever.

Paul's all-embracing "charge" requires substantiation, which he wastes no time in presenting. Drawing freely from a variety of Old Testament sources he writes a scathing denunciation in Rom_3:10-18.

As we saw in our discussion of Rom_1:17, "the righteousness of God" is the central theme of the Epistle. We pointed out that God's righteousness has to do with His always being in the right and, therefore, always doing that which is right because He, Himself, is the only criterion of rightness. In the same way that there is and can be only one magnetic North and that all other points of the compass find their identity in relationship to North, so righteousness is found solely in the character of God, and all other standards of righteousness must be determined with reference to Him.

It is against this definition of righteousness that the charge "there is none righteous" (Rom_3:10) is made and can be readily justified. The charge is not a figment of Paul's fertile imagination nor is it a product of his disenchantment with the human race, as he clearly demonstrates by substantiating his position with quotations from Psalms and Isaiah. It is as old as God's dealings with mankind, and man's resentment and resistance to the charge are equally as ancient.

Those people who have no interest in God and those who blatantly live in opposition to God are, if we may press the analogy so far, heading south from God's north and are clearly at odds with Him. Other people stray from the north in as many directions as there are points on the compass. But sometimes the people most resistant to the charge of universal, no-exception unrighteousness are those heading conscientiously NNW or NNE. They may be close and they are definitely closer than most, but they are not heading north where the righteousness is to be found. To the world in general Paul proclaims, "There is none righteous," adding for the benefit of those who think they are close, "no, not one."

The dominating effect of sin can also be seen in the confusion of both individuals and society. "There is none who understands" means that without exception the thought processes of men and women are so affected by sin that there will always be some degree of deficiency in their grasp of the truth as it is to be found only in the knowledge of God. This naturally leads to confusion in everything else because all things have their meaning in Him. The politician who is confused about God will be confused about God's world, which leads inevitably to a confused world view and inadequate political solutions. The sociologist who does not adequately understand God cannot thoroughly understand God's masterpiece—man—so he will be in error at some point in his sociology. The same kind of thing must be said about all areas of human endeavor which are based on a warped or withered understanding of God.

That the mind of man is not so depraved that it is totally incapable of any activity is obvious. But the extent of the depravity is such that even though it cannot understand God of itself, it can still recognize its own deficiencies and may even be capable of identifying the deficiency as basically spiritual. This does not mean, however, that man has a natural inclination to go looking for God to fill the void. On the contrary Paul insists, "There is none who seeks after God." I have often engaged people in conversations who profess to have a desire to know God but who, after careful thought, have agreed that their search is more for a good argument than for a living God. The Lord Jesus made it clear that those who "seek will find" but Moses said to God's chosen people "… you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all thy soul" (Deu_4:29). It is this kind of "seeking" that man does not naturally engage in, as is evident from the word Paul used, which Wuest said means a "determined search after something." Sin has left man with a warped will as well as a confused mind.

The inevitable consequence of the foregoing is that "they have all gone out of the way" (Rom_3:12). In the same way that an automobile with a twisted axle will have wheels out of alignment giving it a tendency to go off line, so man with his sin-dominated mind and will has a natural tendency to move from the path of God's choosing. Without exception, the human race has a bent to evil and a bias to disobedience.

Like a symphony in which the various themes are interwoven, with more and more instruments adding their special contribution to the volume and the tempo accelerating until the tension becomes practically intolerable, so God's case against human fallenness builds to a crashing climax.

To state that the race has become "unprofitable," as in Rom_3:12, is to make a most damning indictment. The Hebrew word used in the Psalm Paul quotes stresses the thought of corruption or "turning sour," while the Greek equivalent used by the apostle in Romans emphasizes the idea of "uselessness." As wineskins that rot become useless because they cannot hold wine, so fallen man through the corrupting power of sin in the totality of his being cannot function as intended. As meat that perishes and cannot be used for anything and as salt that "loses its savor" has lost its raison d'être, so mankind is pitiful in its deteriorated and disintegrated uselessness.

Inevitably this depraved condition leads to the conclusion that is so starkly set forth—"There is none who does good." This thought is violently rejected by many people who see no way that it can be true in the light of innumerable acts of courage, boundless evidences of sacrificial love, countless works of creative genius, and millions of ordinary everyday actions that demonstrate compassion and concern by the masses. Two things need to be stressed, however. First, the expression "does good" would be better translated if the word "habitually" were included, and, second, the concept of goodness is defined with reference to God Himself. This is the goodness that is the essence of His nature rather than the product of human activity however enlightened or noble.

Paul, in effect, says that without a single exception there is not a human being of any shape, size, or form from any culture, environment, or age who has habitually produced a life characterized by undeviating commitment to righteousness and unadulterated goodness. No, not one!

The rabbis had a teaching method called "charaz" which means "stringing pearls" where they would take verses from a variety of sources and develop an argument from them. This Paul proceeds to do as he turns from broad generalities about the human condition and deals with specific human activities. In the same way that James in his epistle stressed the immense power of the tongue to express all manner of evil and produce all types of chaos, Paul chooses to concentrate on the activities of the human voice to illustrate human sinfulness. "Their throat is an open tomb" (Rom_3:13) is a striking, even disgusting, metaphor. Yet a moment's thought will show how the naked obscenity and depraved vocabulary used by so many allows the unfortunate hearers to catch a glimpse of the barren deadness of the speaker's experience from which the sentiments flow. An "open tomb" is an apt description of the inner realities of human experience where little remains but the rotting bones and corrupting flesh of once-noble bodies of opinion.

In total contrast, Paul's second pearl on the string is, "With their tongues they have practiced deceit" (Rom_3:13). Far from being disgusting and obscene, the speech of some is sweet and smooth. Sugar-coated statements and well-buttered platitudes expressed in cultured, modulated perfection are no less demonstrations of human perversity because they are designed for deception. David, whose Psalm Paul quotes at this point, knew from bitter experience with King Saul how devastating hostility could be cloaked in smooth civility.

One day the King said to the young man, "Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord." For Saul said to himself, "I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!" (1Sa_18:17, NIV). Saul, while talking piously about the Lord's battles and touching the young man's heart at the vulnerable point of his love for a girl, was actually plotting David's destruction with a tongue which for a long time had "practiced deceit."

The asp, or Egyptian cobra, has a small sac of deadly poison in its mouth which can have a devastating, paralyzing effect on the victim of its bite. Paul's use of the phrase "The poison of asps is under their lips" (Rom_3:13) describes in a chilling and graphic way the far-reaching destructive capabilities of words spoken from a sinful heart. Sometimes it is the frontal venomous attack of an irate enemy couched in violent, vitriolic verbiage which is so debilitating; at other times it is the sudden sharp sting of the unexpectedly bitten heel that produces an even more devastating result. James, expressing similar strong sentiments, said, "But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (Jas_3:8).

When man's throat is as ugly as an open tomb, it may indicate a deep self-loathing. If his tongue practices deceit it would indicate a commitment to self-advancement at the expense of integrity and honor. Ups that spit poison betray a heart bent on personal triumph, regardless of the destruction caused. But when man's "mouth is full of cursing and bitterness," (Rom_3:14) it shows the lengths to which man will go to remove from his path all obstacles that threaten the advancement of his own designs and the selfish development of his own person. The "curse" in New Testament times was not so much a "swear word" as we would think of it. It meant the use of words which of themselves held the power to bring about the desired effect of their malediction. Springing from a bitter root, this practice was prevalent enough to strike fear in the hearts of all, even to the point of death in some. Peter recognized that Simon the Sorcerer's interest in the Holy Spirit was not at all related to spiritual growth but a desire to possess the "power" of the Spirit so that he might gain even more control of people's fate through imprecation and curse. Accordingly he was bluntly told: "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Act_8:22-23). The wicked human heart will employ its physical capabilities in an alarming variety of ways to further its own ends while at the same time exposing its own depravity.

Having dealt thoroughly with the four organs associated with speech, Paul turns his attention to "feet" and "eyes." The theme is the same; only the ways in which it is expressed differ: "Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom_3:15-18).

The enthusiasm with which men's feet run to violence and the sad resultant trail of oppression and misery are not only clearly stated in Scripture; every day they are graphically illustrated through national and international events so that further comment is probably not necessary. The link between this behavior and the spiritual vacuum from which it springs may not be so obvious. Ignorance of "the way of peace" and absence of "the fear of God" are the factors which Paul insists must be recognized. The dynamic of sin is responsible not only for the presence of malevolent forces but also for the absence of benevolent forces. Sin has imparted the ability to do evil and has robbed man of the power to do good. Therefore, his insights are marred. This can be seen in his inability to grasp the real meaning of peace, his uncertainty as to where it can be found, and the resultant confusion in his efforts to discover it and live in the good of it. Every man's best and most noble efforts at peacemaking result so often in increased hostility. It is sad that it is not uncommon for the peace he proudly proclaims to be little more than a cessation of overt acts of hostility without any real solution having been found. As the prophet reminds us: "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked" (Isa_57:21, NASB).

The dying thief was incredulous that his crucified partner in crime was still blaspheming even on the threshold of death. "Do you not fear God," he said, "seeing you are under the same condemna-tion?" (Luk_23:40). He was on the cross at that moment because he had never feared God! To fear God and to keep that fear before the eyes means to respect God for who He is and to constantly keep that knowledge of Him before you in all activities of life. Failure to keep the majesty, grace, and judgment of God in mind leads people into all kinds of wrong objectives and false perspectives. Human beings who do not respect God as their Creator can never adequately understand the mystery of their own being. Those who fail to respect Him as Judge will never approach moral concerns with the seriousness they deserve, while those who do not know Him as Savior can never be motivated to love as those whose hearts have been overwhelmed with the love of God shown in Christ. Lack of respect for God produces an alarming vacuum in man.

Recently, in the Caribbean, I observed expert scuba divers at work. I was impressed by their sober assessment of the dangers related to their diving and the ways in which they made responsible procedural precautions to obviate the danger. This led to a very high degree of safety and a resulting high standard of efficiency and enjoyment. Others less knowledgeable tend to take terrible risks through lack of respect and finish up in dire danger and not infrequently suffer serious consequences. The more you know God and respect Him, the more conscious you are of the dangers inherent in ignoring who He is. But little knowledge leads to no respect, and that is the road to disaster.

It should be stated that the apostle does not mean to convey that all the characteristics of sin listed above are in evidence in every life. Godet has wisely written, "Some, even most of them, may remain latent in many men: but they all exist in germ in the selfishness and natural pride of the ego, and the least circumstance may cause them to pass into the active state."

Romans 3:19
                                                                                All Under Law

Having completed the long "string of pearls" to substantiate his contention that all are "under sin" Paul adds:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Rom_3:19)
The Jews are the ones specifically "under the law" whether this refers to the law as given to Moses or the whole Old Testament. In the light of Paul's quotation of David and Isaiah instead of Moses, it would appear that the latter approach is what he had in mind. In either case, it is important to remember that the apostle's objective was to show both Jew and Gentile "under sin," and he concludes that those "under the law" are those who belong to "all the world" which is guilty and "every mouth" which is stopped. This would mean that the Gentiles without having the advantage of the law as given to the Jews were still guilty of the things outlined in the law and come under the same condemnation. The solidarity of the human race is to be seen not only in its common bondage to sin but its common guilt before the law of God.

Romans 3:20
                                                                           All Under Pressure

Without going into any detail, Paul introduces two important pieces of information concerning the law in the statement:
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom_3:20)
First, Paul shows the impossibility of people being "justified" (a technical word which we will study more fully later) by fulfilling the demands of the law for the obvious reason that, as he has shown conclusively, they have already failed in this regard. Second, he announces that the law serves as a means of showing to sinful mankind the reality of sin. Here he uses one of his favorite words, epignosis, meaning "full knowledge," to describe the ministry the law has in revealing to men and women the true nature of their sinfulness. Through the law which we do not fulfill we really begin to understand fully the meaning of sin. This knowledge and the discovery that efforts to please God through self-effort are bound to fail put the race under immense pressure to discover the means whereby man might be reconciled to God. In this desperate sense of need and search, there is yet another evidence of human solidarity. It is ironic that in its search for common ground the human race appears to have overlooked the fact that we are totally united in our subjection to sin, condemnation by God, and necessity for salvation.
                      Romans 3:21-26
                                                                   The Genius of God
Scripture Outline
1. The Divine Dilemma (Rom_3:21-26)
2. The Universal Solution (Rom_3:21-26)
3. The Eternal Benefits (Rom_3:21-26)
4. The Common Denominator (Rom_3:27-31)

When I was a young man aspiring to be a preacher I was told by a veteran expositor to look out for the word "but." "It's a key word, Stuart," he said. "Always introduces a new thought, usually in marked contrast to what has gone before." This has proved to be good advice, and I rarely read the word "but" in my Bible without looking for the new thought it introduces.
There is no better illustration of this than the statement Paul makes after he has outlined the depth of the human condition and the inability of man to extricate himself. Having started his exposition of the Good News by showing the badness of the Bad News, he introduces the divine answer by one of the biggest "buts" in world literature.
The Divine Dilemma
One memorable day the Lord Jesus was confronted by a group of highly indignant religious leaders who interrupted Him as He was teaching in the temple. Thrusting an embarrassed woman into the center of the group, "they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?'" (Joh_8:4-5).
It was apparent that they had scant regard for the feelings of the woman and even less for the Lord. Deeply offended by her attitude to sexual morality, they were also incensed by their perception that the Lord's approach to the Law was considerably more liberal than theirs. Ever since He had healed a paralytic on the Sabbath, an act which they considered a blatant contravention of the Law's prohibition of work on the day of rest, they had been most anxious to expose Him as a law-breaker. Numerous other incidents had added fuel to the flames of their hostility, and they had brought the woman to Him before the crowds in an effort to force a showdown. If, as they suspected, He would decline to endorse the stoning of the adulteress, they felt they would have conclusive proof of His disdain for the sacred Law.
From the Lord's point of view, however, the matter of the woman's well-being had to be considered along with the integrity of the Law. To Him the woman's sin was a horrendous thing, her contravention of the divine law of grave importance, but He would not allow her to become a pawn in a religious-political power play or a meaningless nonentity in a cold impersonal struggle to prove a point. The terror in her eyes, the uncontrolled shaking of her body, the tremors in her voice spoke deeply to His heart, for she was more than a cipher—she was a person. Her sin was manifest and could not be disregarded, but her need was equally obvious and must not be ignored. The dilemma He was facing was that He had an obligation to honor the Law and a commitment to uphold it, but at the same time He was deeply drawn to the sinner and was intent on redeeming her. But in the eyes of His adversaries if He took steps to redeem the woman He would desecrate the Law, while His own convictions insisted that if He followed through on the letter of the Law He would be denied the opportunity to redeem her shattered life.
This incident in the life of the Lord illustrates in a specific sense the dilemma that confronts the Father on a divine scale. As we have seen, there is no question about human sin and guilt and equally no doubt about divine judgment and condemnation, but there is also unequivocal evidence of the Father's love for sinners and His clear commitment to their redemption. Paul states the Father's intention to be "just and the justifier." As this brief expression is so crucial, we must be clear in our understanding of the words used. There is a very definite link between "righteousness," a key word in the Epistle to the Romans, and the group of words clustered around "just and justification." This can be seen in the way Paul uses them in Romans 3. "Righteousness" (Rom_3:21) is dikaiosune, "just" (Rom_3:26) and "righteous" (Rom_3:10) are dikaios and "justifier" (Rom_3:26) is dikaiou. The root word from which all these others come is dike, the name of the Greek goddess of justice.
When Paul was bitten by a viper after his shipwreck on the beach at Malta, the superstitious islanders said, "No doubt this man is a murderer whom, having been brought safely through out of the reach of the sea, the goddess of justice did not permit to continue living." When, to their amazement, he survived the snakebite, they promptly assumed that he must be a god whose powers exceeded those of Dike. His survival was conclusive evidence to them that his magic powers were of divine origin.
The relationship between justice (that which is right) and righteousness (being and doing right) is clear, and from this basic understanding we can move to a position where we see justification as a divine declaration that before God we are "right." When this declaration of justification is made by God He is revealed as "the justifier." For God to be "just" and "the justifier," He must be in a position to declare righteous those who have clearly broken His law and at the same time in a position to maintain His own integrity and preserve His own righteousness. This kind of dilemma appears to be far beyond human solution, but God's handling of the situation is a superb illustration of the genius of God, which He has revealed in the gospel of Christ.
The Universal Solution
Considerable time has been spent showing Paul's contention that the whole world is under sin and divine condemnation. But Paul further underlines his conviction with the words, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom_3:23). He employs two athletically oriented terms to make his point: the verb for "sinned" (hamartano) is related to the idea of an archer's arrow falling short of the target while the expression "fall short" (hus-tereo) means to fall behind in a race. The objective which humanity fails to achieve, whether expressed as lagging in a race or missing the bull's eye, is "the glory of God." Throughout human history, man has shown himself remarkably adept at adopting goals, lofty or otherwise, whether it be the goal of survival, personal freedom, world peace, or making a million before age thirty-five. However noble man's goals have been, they all pale beside the God-given goal, which is to reflect something of the glory of God in life and after life "to glorify Him forever." Having failed totally to achieve this goal, man's greatest need is to find a remedy before God for the responsibility and guilt of his failure and also to discover the means whereby the goal might become realistic in terms of human capability.
In theory, at least, there are two options open to the person who wishes to be reconciled to God. Either he can set about living a life that will be so pleasing to God that he will be rewarded by reconciliation, or he may decide that is hopeless and trust God to give him a chance, although he neither earned it nor deserved it. Theologically speaking, the first option is called "justification by works" and comes in many and varied forms. Paul himself had been an ardent advocate of this method for many years and had been proud of his achievements in fulfilling the demands of the law upon which his religion and lifestyle were based. He came eventually to the point of discovering that if he was to earn God's approval through keeping the law he would need to keep all of it, all the time, in spirit as well as letter. The more he pondered this the more he realized that he had failed, and he knew that all his contemporaries had failed in their efforts to be justified by their works. Finally, he stated his position boldly: "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…" (Rom_3:20).
Paul, along with many of the people who lived and studied with him in the schools of the rabbis, was deeply in earnest in his desire to fulfill the dictates of the law, as have been countless thousands of peoples in religions around the world through the ages. Even people who have no particular love for religion, when asked what they feel about meeting God, will usually answer that they expect things will work out all right because what they have done has been pretty good and they estimate it will be good enough to make the grade with God. This is simply another approach to justification by works, and Paul is desperately trying to show that it just doesn't work—it simply isn't a viable option.
This leaves only one option, and the big question is, "What are the chances that God will grant justification to people who have not earned it and do not deserve it?" The answer comes loud and clear, that God has made His righteousness available "apart from the law" and that He has carefully shown this to be the case in His long dealings with His people through the law and the prophets. Further on in the epistle, Paul draws from the ancient writings of the Old Testament to show instances where God has consistently shown that human effort will never be satisfactory and that only humble faith will suffice.
When I was in training as a Marine, I remember one particularly grueling exercise where we were deposited in the center of Dartmoor, one of the bleakest parts of England, and told to make our way on foot to a certain point on the map more than fifty rugged miles away. As we had done a similar journey the previous day, slept out on the hard ground for a number of nights, and been brought slowly to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, we knew that it was going to be a long day. What we didn't know was that my partner's feet, which had a tendency to blister, would become so badly worn after a few miles that they would become like pieces of raw meat. When I realized he was in pain, I took his equipment and added it to mine. Later I supported him on my shoulder as he hobbled along, but it became increasingly plain to me and to the colleagues who caught up with us that he wasn't going to make it. But he was made of stern stuff and he insisted that he would keep going, that we should go on and stop worrying about him. After many more excruciating miles, however, he came to the point of admitting he was through, and then I was able to pick him up, put him across my shoulders, and carry him the rest of the way. He had no option but to trust himself to me to do for him what he was incapable of doing for himself. It was hard for him to be so humiliated, but it was his sole recourse, and it is hard for proud people like Paul and other earnest people to admit that there is no way of justification through self-effort, but only through "faith in Jesus Christ."
So far in the epistle we have been introduced to God as the God of wrath and righteousness and judgment, but now Paul introduces us to the God of grace. Behind the decision of God to provide the means of redemption for man through Christ lies a deep, beautiful facet of the character of God. It is because He is a God of grace that there is a gospel to proclaim and a Savior to extol. Far from tiring of His tiresome children, the Father chooses to deal graciously with them. While perfectly free to leave His errant creation to self-destruct, the Creator decides to offer forgiveness and reconciliation with no strings attached. Seated on His magisterial throne, the Judge of all the earth has all the evidence necessary justly to banish a guilty race from His holy presence. But instead He elects to grant a pardon, and this He does "freely by His grace." Mankind has for so long been so enamored of its considerable achievements and so confident of its own capabilities that it has a residual feeling it has some moral pull with God that makes it impossible for Him to be anything but gracious to us. After all, we have done a truly remarkable job with His creation—developing it, organizing it, exploring it, and generally harnessing it—and in all fairness we feel that God should at least acknowledge that He does owe us something. To think like this, even subconsciously, is to be out of touch with biblical reality but, more important, out of tune with the nature and character of God. He didn't have to do a single thing. We had no hold on Him whatsoever. He acted "freely" out of sheer grace.
"Grace" and its related words such as graceful and gracious all have warm positive connotations. That which is graceful, whether it be an athlete on the playing field, a bride walking down the aisle, or an eagle lighting on an eyrie, evokes admiration and appreciation. Gracious people tend to shine serenely in the midst of uncouth behavior; they silence the unrestrained and invest mediocrity with a degree of significance, and people are grateful. So it is with the graceful, gracious act of God in tempering justice with mercy, mixing holy wrath with divine restraint and blending condemnation with forgiveness. When men adequately understand grace, they no longer resist and resent God but long to draw near to Him. Confronted with inevitable wrath, they look desperately for the mountains to fall on them. But grace sends them with happy feet to the mountains to publish glad tidings.
On my first trip to the United States as a young and inexperienced preacher, I was taken into a men's store by a new friend who promptly disappeared after introducing me to the storekeeper. To my utter amazement and embarrassment, he started to take down my measurements. Looking around for my friend, who was nowhere to be seen, I stammered, "I think there must be some mistake. I just came in with my friend and I have no idea where he has disappeared." The storekeeper just smiled and went on merrily measuring, and then said, "You obviously haven't known Jim very long. He loves to bring preachers in here so we can fit them out with a new wardrobe." When Jim eventually returned and I tried to explain my embarrassment, he was highly amused and said to me, "I'm doing this for you because I want to." To me, a preacher of grace, that was a striking example of grace. Unmerited generosity for no other reason than the desire of the gracious one to be gracious. All I had to do was swallow my pride and graciously accept and then get busy expressing my gratitude!
If the grace motivation, from which our salvation flows, leaves us in a state of wondering gratitude, the means whereby the salvation becomes a reality is likely to render us speechless. It is through "… the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood…" (Rom_3:24-25). This quotation includes three words which we need to examine closely. The first, "redemption," is vaguely familiar because it is used in financial dealings; the second, "propitiation," is totally unfamiliar outside theological circles; and the third, "blood," is troublesome because it seems incongruous to modern-day people.
In New Testament times the infamous slave market was a common sight. Hapless individuals were callously displayed before potential buyers who would examine them and, if satisfied that they had a bargain, would purchase the slave by paying a lutron—a ransom price. Fortunately, those days are long gone, but, sadly, we are living in days where similarly reprehensible tactics are employed for a variety of ends. We are all too familiar with hijackings, kidnappings, and hostage-taking, which so often are resolved only when innocent people pay exorbitant ransoms to release equally innocent captives. The word "redemption" in the Greek is apolutrosis, which means "to deliver by paying the lutron or ransom." Paul sees the human race which he describes as being "under sin" in a situation not unlike that of a slave or hostage held against his will under bondage and incapable of delivering himself. But Christ is portrayed as the One who, coming into the place of our bondage and observing our hostage status, freely offered to deliver us by paying the ransom Himself.
We must not forget that an adequate redemption must deliver people from the practicalities of living "under sin" and also be sufficient to deal with the just and holy wrath of an offended Deity. A lutron of such proportions must, of necessity, be phenomenal—and indeed it is. Paul says that Christ's ransom price is "His blood."
Modern man is often uncomfortable with the emphasis on "blood sacrifices" in the Old Testament and the frequent references to "the blood of Christ" in the New Testament and understandably has poured scorn on hymns which ask such questions as:
Are your garments spotless, 
Are they white as snow, 
Are they washed in the blood 
of the Lamb?
Theologians have been quick to denounce what they have called "the gospel of gore," and congregations have voted to ban hymns which extol the virtues of "the blood." It should be pointed out, however, that while the expression may sound strange to the modern ear, the meaning of the expression is imperative for the modern heart. So while we must insist that the term be translated into understandable phraseology, under no circumstances may we move from an acceptance of the meaning of "the blood." When the Bible uses expressions related to "the blood" it is employing readily understandable figures of speech for "a life being laid down." The price of human redemption is nothing less than the voluntary surrender by Christ of His life on the Cross.
The necessity for this stupendous act is explained in the word "propitiation" (Greek, hilastērion). Considerable theological debate has raged around the different understandings of hilastērion. When used in secular Greek, it referred to the sacrifices offered to pagan deities as a means of appeasing their displeasure and averting their anger. Some theologians have simply transferred this concept to the New Testament and seen Christ's sacrifice as a means of placating an angry God. Others have objected to this interpretation on the grounds that it demeans the character of God and demotes Him to the level of a petty pagan deity. A different view emphasizes the fact that hilastērion is used in the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament—to translate the "mercy seat." In Hebrew ritual, the High Priest appeared before the ark of the covenant which contained the stone tablets of the law and sprinkled blood from a sacrifice on the gold lid of the ark which was called the mercy seat (hilastērion). The symbolism richly portrayed the fact that a broken law stood between a holy God and His children, but through the shedding of blood the place of judgment and estrangement became the place of mercy and reconciliation. Christ's death is therefore seen as the means whereby the legitimate demands of God for justice against a sinful race are fully met, leaving Him free to be merciful to those who formerly merited only judgment.
The Eternal Benefits
People often ask about the status of those who lived before Christ. If Christ's death is the only means of reconciliation and propitiation, what hope is there for those who through no fault of their own predeceased Christ? Paul answers this question by showing that the death of Christ was as meritorious for those who died before Him as for those who live after Him. He states that it appears that nothing was done about those who sinned prior to Christ and it could, accordingly, be argued that God overlooked their sin while judging the sin of others. If this were true then God's justice and righteousness would be open to question. The apostle insists that God's integrity is unimpaired because the sins were not disregarded, but were related to an event which would take place at a later date, that is the Cross. There is a sense, however, in which this is not strictly true, because in God's way of looking at things, events do not happen in sequence as they do in time but rather they exist in a state of the ever-now because they exist in eternity. This means that in God's mind those who sinned a thousand years prior to Christ were no different in their sinning or in their justification than those who sinned today because the Cross of Christ, while it is an event of time and space, is more importantly an eternal event which is ever-relevant and efficacious. When men and women are finally translated from their time-capsule earth and liberated into eternal blessedness they will find to their intense delight that the Cross of Christ is an eternal reality, ever blessing and constantly the theme of praise and worship.

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Bible Study Conference Call

Welcome, to the Oak Grove Baptist Church Weekly Bible Study Conference Call.

You can join the conference by dialing: (404) 891-6338 after prompted enter the conference ID# (which is the church telephone number) (770)775-4749. When prompted give your name and remain on the line for the conference to begin. The conference will begin when the host joins the conference and when two or more participants are online, please be patient while listening to the music.

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OGBC Highlights


  • The Hormel Food Ham Hock Cook off August 17-20, 2010 was a huged sucess. Thanks, to everyone who pariscipated in this event.
  • Our annual Women's Day Celebration on August 15, 2010 was a huged sucess. Sis Pamela Benjamin was outstanding. Thanks to the women of Oak Grove for a wonderful program.
  • Come and go with us to Villa Rica, Ga. Friday night August 20, 2010, 7:30 PM. Oak Grove will be closing out Revival at Bethsadia Baptist Church Pastured by Reverend Kenneth Bryant.


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