Quotes from Romans 3:5-18
Romans 3:5-18 NLTse “But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) (6) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? (7) “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” (8) And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. (9) Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. (10) As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous– not even one. (11) No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. (12) All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” (13) “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.” (14) “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” (15) “They rush to commit murder. (16) Destruction and misery always follow them. (17) They don’t know where to find peace.” (18) “They have no fear of God at all.”
This is getting into Paul’s part of the letter people love to debate. So I thought this would be a good place to begin another chapter. I did that to illustrate a simple point. This is how people prefer to debate, or can I go as far as say, study Paul’s letters. Let’s take a look at the usual, main stream views of Paul’s letter. Then we will look at where Paul directed us.
Normally people will take one little part of Paul’s letter, like one sentence out of Romans 3 verses 5 to 9, that seems to align with their views on God’s law. Some people say, the law is gone or nailed to the cross. Other people insist it is all gone, except for the Ten Commandments. Other people think every law is still in force. And there are all types of combinations in between. Who is right? There is one thing many people have in common. They actually call it Bible Study. They have an opinion, find a stating point, then create their own personal chain reference with a collection of texts that support their opinion. Is that a proper way to study the Bible?
I refer to context a lot. Context is a collection of all the sentences around a particular statement. That is the easy definition. To get a little deeper into the context of a statement in scripture, we have to take a look at the entire chapter looking for road signs, other verses that are designed to point us in one particular direction. They could point us to the Concordance to look up the definition of a particular word, or group of words. They could point us back to the beginning of the story, or to the end to see how a decision turned out. Or they could point us to a particular story in the Bible.
No one is going to argue the point, Paul was an inspired writer. That goes without saying. This is where I’ve learned to measure people, by the way they study, or decided to present scripture. At the very beginning of his letter, Paul identified where he got his information from. Jesus Christ. This should conjure up images or memories of Paul’s life recorded in the the previous book, Acts. That is the Spirit talking to you, establishing a direct link to Romans and the previous book, Acts. Give the Spirit credit for putting the Bible together the way it should be read.
Since Paul is an inspired writer, why don’t more people look at what he wrote, how he wrote it, and where he pointed readers?
The first thing we notice is, Paul listed a few human concepts or ideas. He uses the words, “some might say, this is merely a human point of view, someone might still argue,” and other statements telling us, those are opinions from people, not a message from God, or any of God’s commands. But some people want to treat statements made by people as direct commands from God. “After all, if it is in the Bible, it must be true.” That is one problem I often see.
The next problem is the personal links to other text people make. How do we really know those other texts are related to the subject at hand? When people make up their own references, do their personal references really parallel the thoughts, or can we call them the directions the inspired author was given by God? Now we are entering a sort of fork in the road when it comes to Bible Study. I’ve debated with dozens of people holding actual degrees in Bible Study as well as people who are self taught. They seem to have quite a few things in common. For one thing, they don’t seem to see anything wrong with picking and choosing their own path during a Bible Study. Ask them how their next proof text is related to the subject at hand and what kind of answer do you normally hear? The usual response is to make you feel foolish for asking. A little change of the subject to belittle you, whittle you down, make you feel dumb for asking. Or something like the usual, “it just is,” or the ever faithful, “everyone knows that.” But no direct answer explaining how one piece of scripture is related to another. They make it sound like everyone in the world was born with that wisdom, and you must have been absent when God passed it out. In other words they are trying to say, “don’t ever question me.”
Now lets get onto what I refer to as living proof within the Bible. The most reliable method of study I have found. It never ceases to amaze me. I think of this simple method as living proof the Bible was written by God. It is the standard all books in the Bible should be measured by, at least the New Testament. For this study method all you need is a Bible with a good chain reference. Of course you will need time, patients, and a direct connection with the Spirit The best and only reliable Teacher in the world. A serious student of the Bible will see the links Paul placed in his letters and use those. They will look them up, read, and compare Paul’s references. That is relying on inspired scripture, as opposed to relying on yourself, or some third party.
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous– not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” When Paul begins a statement with, “As the Scriptures say,” shouldn’t we pay attention? How much clearer could Paul have been? Where is Paul, the inspired writer pointing us?
Psalms 53:1-6 NLTse Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! (2) God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. (3) But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! (4) Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to God. (5) Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them. (6) Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When God restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.
We can admit, Paul didn’t quote David word for word, or in the proper order, but he did get the main thought across. Most people do not quote the Bible word for word, or in the proper order, but they do quote enough to get the main point across.
To get off the subject just a little, I’d like to point out something I learned. When you look at the KJV, you can miss some of the sections of the Old Testament Paul quoted. Modern versions like the NLT I use paid attention to quotes, and included a set of quotation marks at the beginning and end of each quote, or Old Testament text New Testament writers quoted. You can see the quotation marks much easier when you look at verses one line at a time.
Romans 3:10-18 NLTse
(10) As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous– not even one.
(11) No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.
(12) All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
(13) “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.”
(14) “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
(15) “They rush to commit murder.
(16) Destruction and misery always follow them.
(17) They don’t know where to find peace.”
(18) “They have no fear of God at all.”
Now you can see how Paul quoted from five different places in the Old Testament, and the only chance we have of knowing what Paul is talking about is to look up and read each story. First we will look at Paul’s first quote.
What does Psalms 53 have to do with what Paul was writing about? We see Paul used a rather loose interpretation of Psalms 53, using just enough of the key words for people to find the entire chapter. Because Psalms 53 is rather short, I copied the entire chapter.
Notice how David repeated a few choice terms, “Only fools, the entire human race, anyone, all, and those.” David covered a rather large range pf people, and Paul wanted the Romans to see that. The group David wrote about included all of them, do everyone would see all of the opinions Paul’s listed in verses 5-8. That group included Jews and Gentiles. Jews may know the laws, but Gentiles have them written in their hearts. God looked down and didn’t see anyone who understood those laws, or didn’t see anyone seeking Him. Just an observation here. Was God seeking people who understood His plan of salvation?
God saw groups of people getting into their own thoughts and ideas about God without ever meeting Him, praying to Him, or listening to Him. People look at what was recorded and try to figure it out by themselves, see a little bit of what they consider truth or wisdom, then go out teaching other people using their thoughts and ideas. God’s real personality is left out of everything they teach. People fell for that sort of teaching in David’s day, and still fall for it today. When we look at what David wrote, wasn’t David really referring to Bible Study? That’s what people were doing, taking a tiny part of scripture, looking at it like this is all you need to know about God, then going into the world with their ideas and concepts. They weren’t leading people to God, the scriptures, or to God’s Spirit. Teachers were leading people to themselves. David pointed that out as a major version of evil.
David pointed out, there is something far better on the horizon than what is being taught. People can’t see it, but it was coming. God has a plan, but like Sara, and Rebekah, people can’t wait to initiate their own plans, personal plans take the place of God’s plan. What was the result of Sara’s plan? Ismael is still a problem today. A lesson we should learn something from. Look what happened when a few people forgot how to wait on God and His plan, in His time frame. People are too busy pointing fingers at the problems to take time, look at how the problem originated, then ask God if He has a solution to the problem. They need a good, long look in the mirror to see the mistakes they make and what is holding them back from understanding major points about God’s plan. There has to be a reason for God to have a plan, and His chosen nation missed every detail of that plan. All the details were given by the prophets. All the details were in the Tabernacle. Which of course was replaced by a larger, more appealing structure. The sad part is, most of the original items from the Tabernacle were left out in a field, and forgotten. Other man made concepts took over, and of course, the entire vision was lost. Somehow we have to get back far enough to see one mistake, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes people have been making for generations.
Next Paul quoted Psalms chapter 5. Since that is a rather short chapter, we will take a look at the entire chapter.
O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked. Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil. You will destroy those who tell lies. The LORD detests murderers and deceivers. Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house; I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe. Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow. My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love. (Psalms 5:1-12 NLTse).
The introduction teaches a lesson, we need to pray and seek God like David did. That ties in with Psalms 53 perfectly. No one seeks God, so we have to learn how to seek God. Does that make sense? See how the inspired writer ties together the perfect combination of scripture? Sure there is a problem, so how do we solve that problem? Anyone can tell people what they do wrong. It takes God to correct those situations. The solutions begin with prayer, that connection to God.
David pointed out, there are conditions to stand in God’s presence and learn from Him. Do you really think you can stand in front of God with the attitude, you know everything? I’ve heard people pray like that. “Oh God, show so and so they are wrong and I am right.” People pray like that. What are they telling God? “I have the solution figured out. All I need is you to set everything in motion.” Is that any way to address the Creator of the Universe? The first thing to do is admit you are a sinner. We all sin. We all fall short. That doesn’t stop God from listening to our prayers and offering advise.
We can see the type of battle David was facing at the time. He didn’t mention anything about a sword, shield, any weapons, or army he was afraid of, or wanted God to battle. The weapons David wrote about were words. It was the spiritual war of words David was talking to God about. How many of us try to fight that war on our own? Now we are beginning to see exactly what Paul’s was sending us back to read and learn.
Paul used more than one Psalm to express his thoughts on the subject. Why? There is a long explanation to the subject, does sin serve a purpose? Is sin good or bad, and how do we deal with it? How does God look at sin, and how does God deal with it? Paul raised a number of questions, and there are a number of ways of explaining the answers. Paul listed a few human ideas, then listed a few references to study. Psalms 10 is the next reference point.
At times God seems far away. Paul wants to follow up with as many examples he can list at this point in his letter. Some people know how to seek God, and some people look at God as a distant Creator who left this world on their own.
You immediately notice, David looked at some rather negative aspects. David wrote about evil people, what they do, and what is in store for them. That is what is known as a contrast. Why did Paul reference a contrast? When we look at any of Paul’s letters, they are filled with contrasts. The Holy Spirit looked down through history to see, one day people are going to take some of Paul’s contrasts and use them to create a few new doctrines. So the Bible was written with a few safety features. Follow one simple rule. Look up the text Paul quoted, and you see another set of contrasts. That should tell you something. Look back on Paul’s letter and see if he is using a contrast, or introducing some new law. Next Paul quoted from one of the most respected prophets, Isaiah.
Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever falls into their webs will die, and there’s danger even in getting near them. Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive. All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark. Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace. So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us. For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us. Yes, we know what sinners we are. (Isaiah 59:1-12 NLTse).
This is one reason we have to read the entire chapter or story. You can see how Paul quoted only one little part of Isaiah’s message. Paul quoted one little part about the problem. We find the solution in the first few verses of the chapter. God is never too far away to listen and help. That is why I find it so frustrating when theologians argue about this method of Bible Study and try to discredit it. Some people claim, “the Bible is easy to understand.” The Bible is easy to study when we follow a few simple guidelines, and paths marked out in scripture. Paths placed there by the Holy Spirit. But where is the Spirit in a study when people look at Paul’s reference, then insist, they know the answer. Sure people claim to be led by the Spirit when they make up their own explanations. But do their explanations agree with the prophet’s explanations Paul’s directed us to? The question I have is, why do so few people give this method of study a chance? What are they afraid of?
Isaiah said, “your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Does that sum up the popular study method people use when they rely on their personal knowledge and feelings to explain Paul’s letters? This is a serious issue. Isaiah tied in lies with murder. When people spread around false or misleading information, they are spreading around lies. Isaiah compared that to murder. Why? When people are lead away from God, are they in danger of loosing their lives? When God’s plan of salvation is hidden from them, can they ever be effective teachers?
Once people are taken of the road leading to God’s throne, they are lost. They may not know it. But who knows the path? Who is able to show other people the way to God’s throne? You either know the path, or you are lost. Isaiah introduced the symbols, light and darkness. He also used metaphors like blind. Something Paul went through and could explain on the spiritual level. Paul learned the path to God’s throne and was able to explain it. But explaining that path to people on their own road is not as easy as it sounds. Try it some time, and get ready for some heavy duty rejection. This world is filled with a thousand counterfeits for every word of truth.
Isaiah expanded into a prophecy about Jesus. One of the many prophecies the Jews and everyone missed before Jesus was executed. Paul was a part of that pack that judged Jesus before He set foot inside a courtroom. Paul had to struggle with guilt for a time. Education was the only relief. Everyone in Paul’s time was guilty. Was ignorance of the facts suitable evidence in any courtroom? Was ignorance ever enough evidence to convict and sentence a person to death? There was a reason why Jesus was condemned by ignorance. Don’t we repeat that sin whenever we attempt to represent God, His personality, laws, plan of salvation, the path to His throne, or any other subject in the Bible based on personal opinions? I don’t want to scare anyone off, so let’s take a look at what the Bible said about witnesses in a trial.
“Never sacrifice sick or defective cattle, sheep, or goats to the LORD your God, for he detests such gifts. “When you begin living in the towns the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the LORD your God and violate the covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars–the forces of heaven–which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 17:1-7 NLTse).
Of course we are going to look at more than a single sentence of proof text. Notice how that death sentence was linked to religious issues. There was a link between a proper trial and religious issues. On the spiritual side, who is qualified to call those witnesses? In the case of Paul’s letters, is Paul, the inspired writer qualified to pick and choose his own witnesses, or is a theologian allowed to ignore Paul’s witnesses, and replace them with his own line up? When Paul calls authors and prophets like David and Isaiah as witnesses, shouldn’t we have enough respect to look at those witnesses, before they are replaced with a new set of witnesses, or proof text? What kid of trial are we conducting when we control the words of any witness? Look at Isaiah, and how he tied lies with murder. Then look at how Moses linked religion with the death penalty. This is a serious issue and I have no idea why some theologians create arguments to silence the witnesses Paul’s chose to represent himself. Paul chose one more reference. Paul went back to David, who summed up the entire picture.
Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil. Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again. (Psalms 36:1-12 NLTse).
Talk about a contrast. David presented us with a choice. We can either follow sinful people who care only about themselves, or we can choose to follow a God so full of love. It is difficult to explain. David presented the closing argument at a trial. Who is on trial? Is God on trial, or are sinners on trial? It seems to be both. In this particular case, it seems like you are the judge. You have to make a choice. Which is where compromises and other forms of tradition come into play. We find ourselves right back at the beginning of Paul’s argument when he made a of list of excuses people us to avoid a decision. People want to avoid a decision. They want to choose the world. Or want to choose the world for a time, then change their minds. What they don’t want to admit is, they don’t want to choose God. They want to pick and choose what parts of God to accept, which parts to use, when to use them, and which parts to reject. Another form of human tradition.
When we look at Paul’s letter to the Romans the way it was written, we see how Paul presented a series of human arguments and excuses. Finally it was time for Paul to present his side of the issue. Paul didn’t offer his own ideas, concepts, thoughts, or conjectures. Paul didn’t rely on the human reasoning he learned in the institutional form of religion he was once a prisoner of. Paul called upon the prophets he identified as having the answers, and presented a series of testimonies from those prophets. Paul’s was telling the Jews, “if you’re supposed to know this, then look up these stories and see what they had to say about the subject.” When we rely on our own standards to present God, and in this case, the new view of the Messiah, we fall short. When the Spirit guides us to evidence recorded long before Jesus came to this world, we see a little bit of information on the plan of Salvation. And a little more of God’s personality Jesus came to explain to this world, in the proper light.