Romans 3: 1-4
Historic Pericope, Second Series.
Trinity 5, 2023
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”
Can God be trusted? Things go wrong in our life and we begin to think that God is not good on His promise and His word. We lose a loved one. We encounter serious financial problems. We undergo an illness that doesn’t seem to go away. It seems at times that God has forgotten us and the promises He made in Scripture.
Now, you might wonder why this question comes from a Pastor. After all, I try to teach you to trust in God just as the First Commandment says, “We should fear and love and trust in God above all things.” But, as Luther pointed out, we all have a little atheistic streak in us. That is finally the topic St. Paul touches today with our lesson.
Paul has just finished asking and answering the question, “Who is a real Jew?” The Jews had based their standing with the Lord God on the basis of circumcision and all the laws and regulations attached to that circumcision. Indeed, they were boasting in the Law and how well they looked before men. They trusted in themselves and their “Jewishness,” not in God. So Paul takes the time to smash utterly and completely the idea that one can hold a favorable status before God on the basis of an outward circumcision or ethnic relationship.
So he tells the Jewish Romans, “Rather, a real Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, and a real circumcision is a circumcision of the heart. It consists of an inward, not just an outward change. A real Jew is one who is praised by God not by men.” By this Paul means that a “real Jew” must trust God and not himself in order to be accepted by Him. If one is to trust God, God must first be absolutely trustworthy. So this morning we consider:
LET GOD BE TRUE
After Paul deflates the air out of the boasting of the Jews and their circumcision, he comes back to say, “What is the advantage then of being a Jew?” His answer is interesting, “Much in every way.” This is significant in light of what Paul has just said. In chapter 9, Paul describes the advantages. “They are the people of Israel. They were made God’s children. They have the glory, the covenants, the Law, the worship, the promises. They have the ancestors, and from them, according to His human nature, came Christ, who is God over everything.” But in the text for today, Paul says one thing stands out from all the rest, “God entrusted His word to the Jews.” This was their real glory. This set them apart from all the other nations.
There was nothing inherently more holy about the Jews or something more lovable about them. They were sinners. Biblical history is replete with a rap sheet of rebellion against God. God should have destroyed them and chosen a different people. As time when on, they forgot the purpose for which God chose them!
Instead, they boasted in their circumcision and looked down on other people and nations. In doing so, they finally did not believe the promises God made with them through the Savior. Indeed, they placed the very Savior of Holy Scripture on the Cross. Their unbelief would be their undoing, not the lack of circumcision.
Now, apparently there were those in the congregation suggesting that if God did not honor circumcision and bring these Jews to belief and finally to eternal life, God must not be true to His word. Indeed, God must be a liar!
So Paul asks, “What if some were unbelieving? Will their unbelief make God untrustworthy or unfaithful?” In what constitutes the strongest negative used by Paul in any situation, he says, “NEVER.” Paul says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” In other words, while humans are capable and tend to lies, God cannot lie.
How important is this? Dear Christian, it strikes at the very heart of your salvation. Paul then quotes from God’s Word, “That you may be declared right when you speak and win the case when You are in court.” You see, it is not God, but we who are faithless. When it comes to our relationship with God, you and I cannot be trusted. We have taken His Law and misused it as one who is entrusted with money or property and misuses it.
Dear Christian, when we misuse God’s Law, in effect, we call God a liar. “How so,” you ask. Every sin is an indictment that God has lied. What was Satan’s strategy in the Garden of Eden? In light of the command of God, “You shall not eat of the Tree in the midst of the Garden,” it was this, “Did God really say?” Is that not the same as saying, “Can God really be trusted?”
Does God really mean it when He says, “You shall not steal, or commit adultery, or slander, or covet, or hate, or quarrel or bicker.” Have we not sunk our teeth deeply into the fruit which God commanded that we not eat: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” We still flirt with sin and lust. We let our minds wander into forbidden areas. We let discontent and greed put their foot into the door of our mind. We argue and bicker with our husbands and wives.
But let’s add something else. If we took God at His every word, and held tenaciously to the First Commandment, we would never have a moment of doubt. But when things go wrong, we wonder if God lied to us and no longer loves us. But where did God say that we, His people, would have an easy life? Did not the epistle for this day say, “But even if you suffer for doing righteous, you would be blessed.” Peter says it is to this that we are called. Does not Paul say, “Through much tribulation we enter into the kingdom of God.”
Many people forget this today, even those who are His children. Some would tell us that if you believe God strongly enough you will recover from every illness. But where has God said that He will cure every illness that comes into your life? Others would tell us, if we believe strongly enough, we will be successful in business. Still others would tell us that if we believe strongly enough, you will get rich. But where has God said all this? What God has promised is that we will surely die.
You see, one of the promises Jesus has made with us is that when we follow Him, we will bear His cross, that is, His suffering, persecution and rejection. No, we may not have to die on a cross, but we cannot expect a life that will not bring opposition from the world, our flesh and we are not immune from the sin that has affected this fallen world.
But inherent in this promise is the verdict of forgiveness for all our sins. God is faithful. God can be trusted here because Jesus who stayed on that cross for you is the proof of that faithfulness. While we have God’s absolute promise that we will surely die a physical death, and no one has yet opted out of death, He has also made a promise that we will rise to live with Him forever with our blessed Savior in heaven.
So, can God be trusted? This is not an elitist theological question for academics. This question touches the very depth of our soul. If you came here today with a troubled conscience or with the desire to be reassured that your sins will never be held against you, Paul is telling you that God will not and cannot lie to you. Even if you have trouble believing that Jesus died and rose again to acquit you because of the depth of your sin, the truth of God’s faithfulness is not annulled. The absolute truth of God is your eternal acquittal.
Please understand that you have already been in the courtroom of God. You have already stood before the Judge of all Creation. On the cross, God passed the verdict against all sinners, “It is finished.” There you were tried and convicted. How is this possible? Paul tells you that you were baptized into the death of Jesus. Paul even says you were buried with Jesus. Jesus arose triumphant from the grave having conquered sin, death and hell itself.
So once tried and convicted, we cannot be tried and convicted again. That is the verdict God has pronounced for every sinner. That is the truth our faithful God wants you to know, indeed, wants you the faithless sinner to believe and from which to gain eternal comfort. Our faithful God, who cannot lie has told us, “I would have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
You see, God does not judge you on the basis of your goodness or lack thereof. He has already judged you on the basis of the perfect life of Jesus and His death where Jesus was your substitute. So can God really be trusted? Can He be trusted with my soul? That is the question of all eternity. The Jews of Paul’s day trusted in their circumcision and their Jewish heritage.
Our God and Savior doesn’t care about your earthly heritage. Our heritage is that of Adam and Eve, a heritage soaked in sin. Our God and Savior bids us to look at the cross and the eternal heritage He has won for us. The Cross of Jesus remains His eternal vow with you in the midst of all your sins. God is faithful for He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Come again to His Holy table this day so you can hear your Savior reassure you: “Your sins are forgiven.” Come, and Let God be true. Go in peace. A-men.
Soli Deo Gloria