Romans 3:3-8 By a person’s fruit, we shall know if his understanding of the truth is of God

Romans 3:3-8 By a person’s fruit, we shall know if his understanding of the truth is of God.

What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,
“That You may be justified in Your words and prevail when You are judged.” But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? ( I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.

Background

Paul asserts that God’s name and nature cannot be distorted by errant men. It has been taught among the Jews that God because of His covenant with Abraham has immunised them from all judgement. Paul establishes the unchanging principle that the wicked will be punished and the righteous rewarded regardless of their religious affiliation or lineage for God is impartial (see Romans 2:9-11). In the light of God’s covenant with Israel, is it righteous of God to judge them? Should God continue to bless Israel despite their continual rebellion and unbelief? Paul confronts the Jewish belief that  salvation is based on an outward conformance to the Law. This section highlights some of the insidious and unsound teachings that have permeated Jewish beliefs system that is also prevalent in today’s churches. Because of such erroneous teachings, God is perceived as One whose grace is cheap, who requires the partnership of unrighteous men to accentuate His righteousness. No matter what men may say, God’s truth cannot be distorted. Today’s devotion teaches: By a person’s fruit, we shall know if his understanding of the truth is of God.

Observation

What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?

As the Jews have been entrusted with the scriptures (through the oracles of God) to teach it,… The question arises: if the entire generation of Jews went astray and mischaracterised scripture… will it change the way God judges? Put it another way, is the majority always right in determining what is true or false. Will God’s faithfulness to what is righteous be swayed by the opinion of errant men?

May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,
”That You may be justified in Your words
 and prevail when You are judged.”

Paul responds emphatically, “May it never be!” Even though the Jews is considered the de facto authority over the interpretation of scripture at that time, they have strayed from the truth. Indeed, God’s righteous judgement can never be altered. Paul makes his point by quoting Psalm 51:4, “That You may be justified…” Here, the king of Israel, David submitted himself before God’s judgement. King David had set himself above the law when he murdered his general and stole his wife. And God judged him by taking the life of his firstborn son. Indeed, no human authority or public opinion can sway God’s faithfulness towards His righteous judgement!

Therefore, every believer has the responsibility to study the word, to examine himself to ascertain if his understanding is of God. No one can accuse God for judging sinners who in ignorance accept teachings just because they are widely accepted! Moreover, there are ministers whom God has raised to warn them of their error.

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?

Here, Paul exposes the root of the Jewish falsehood: The unrighteousness of man demonstrates (or accentuates) the righteousness of God. They assert that God’s righteousness (His divine love) is revealed whenever He lets unrighteous men go scot free. If that be the case, in order to uphold God’s righteous and gracious nature, should He continue to forgive impenitent sinners? If God inflicts His wrath on impenitent Jews who had the Abrahamic covenant, can we say that God is unrighteous? (The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?) Note: the original text not unrighteous simply means ” extremely unrighteous” – a double negative in Greek denotes an emphatic negative. Paul responds to this argument with an emphatic No!… “May it never be!”  This would have obliterated the rule of law making it impossible to hold anyone accountable for their wrongdoings. Indeed, the Jew’s unrighteousness does not accentuate God’s righteousness. In fact, they dishonour God among the unbelievers.

But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.

Here is another Jewish falsehood: If a man’s lie becomes a means to accentuate God’s righteous and gracious nature (as one who pardons sinners), then he should not be penalised. In other words, if man’s incessant unrighteousness translates into God’s benefit, then it will be inappropriate for God to judge him. Some have even blatantly said, “Let us do evil that good may come?” Paul considers this a serious deception that must be condemned. To say that man’s unrighteousness is complicit in bringing about God’s righteousness is tantamount to blasphemy.

Truth

By a person’s fruit, we shall know if his understanding of the truth is of God.

During the time of Jesus and Paul, the majority of Christendom comprises Jews. And they were found to be erroneous in their beliefs along with the bad fruit they bear. Paul, in his letter summarily accused the Jews for dishonouring God,

But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, … and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,… You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? … For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” – Romans 2:17-24

In the same breath, Paul drew attention to the Jew’s falsehood concerning circumcision and righteousness,

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision… For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. – Romans 2:25-29

Therefore, it is dangerous to indiscriminately accept what the majority considered as truth. Paul wrote the book of Romans to counter Jewish doctrine which was considered mainstream during that time. If the Jews from whom the scriptures come could stray from truth, we who are recipients of the scripture should all the more be careful lest we stray.

Then there was the rise of Roman Catholicism which became mainstream. The early church had begun to supplement their beliefs with traditions that have nothing to do with scripture. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was rife with corruption and sin. For several years there were three popes anathematizing and excommunicating one another. A system of indulgences was imposed upon the public as a way to keep up the luxurious lifestyles of the pope, bishops and clergy who lived more like princes than humble servants of God. An indulgence is a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins committed. Thus, with this system, a very wicked person could “buy his way out of hell” by paying the priests to say the right prayers for his soul. Hence, the reformation of the church led by Martin Luther 500 years ago. He made clear that the Bible is God’s only book in which He provided His revelations to the people which allows them to enter in communion with Him.

Therefore, believers must pay close attention to the fruit their leaders bear. False doctrines arise when wicked men in high places try to justify their evil intentions by distorting the word of God. We can test the authenticity of any teaching with the following criterion:

  • Do the teachings draw me closer to Christ to know Him intimately?
  • Do the teachings enable me to connect and converse with Christ?
  • Do the teachings enable me to live out the virtues, wisdom and authority of Christ?
  • Do the teachings encourage me to carry the cross and walk in Christ’s footsteps?

Regardless of what the majority of Christendom says, the fruit of the church is indicative of the authenticity of its teachings. By paying close attention to what our leaders teach and how they live their lives, we prevent the spirit of anti-Christ from infiltrating the church.

We are forgiven so that we may glorify God through our fruit of righteousness.

God is glorified when believers bear the fruit of Christ’s righteousness in their lives. On the contrary, when believers live in an unrighteous manner, God’s name is dishonoured (see Romans 2:23-24). Jesus glorifies God by showing the world who the Father is. Jesus said,

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” – John 14:9.

Likewise, believers can glorify the Father when the world see our good works that mirror Christ’s virtues, wisdom and power. Jesus said,

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” – John 15:8

And again Jesus said,

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

The apostle Paul said,

“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” – 2 Corinthians 2:15

However, many in the churches today sing praises to glorify God for His forgiveness. But they continue to revel unashamedly in sensuality, adultery and worldliness. These are the ones who suppose by their lie the truth of God may abound to His glory. But little do they know that God’s name is dishonoured before unbelievers who seem to be more righteous than they are. Concerning such, apostle Peter said,

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. – 2 Peter 2:20-21

Therefore, believers must endeavour to glorify God by living out the fragrance of Christ: to walk in integrity, to forgive those who hurt them, to put the interests of the community first and to establish Christ’s rule over the nations.

The goal of the New Covenant is Christ-likeness, not forgiveness.

Forgiveness brings us to the foot of the cross so that we may repent by making a covenant with God. We are forgiven so that we may put on the image of Christ. The covenant involves making Christ the Lord and to do His work. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of the New Covenant,

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34

Notice, it is only in regenerating the heart (I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it) can man escape the wrath of God (for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more). In other words, anyone who makes a New Covenant with God will not make a practice of sinning.

How does the New Covenant relate to salvation?

New Covenant and salvation. This is the New Covenant, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, to obey His instructions and we will be saved. The apostle Paul says,

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

To acknowledge Jesus as the resurrected Lord is to make a commitment to obey His directives. If one makes a covenant to make Jesus his Lord, God makes a covenant to save him. That said, acknowledging Jesus as Lord does not immediately make us perfect. It requires believers to journey towards perfection. Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. 

What happen when believers commit sin?

When we happen to commit sin, we do not need to condemn and beat ourselves into a pulp. God sees our genuine commitment to godliness, and will forgive our sins. Hence, we simply ask ourselves the following question:

  • Do I support what I am doing?
  • What hidden attitudes do I possess that cause me to yield to temptations?
  • What do I do from now to prevent a reoccurrence?

The New Covenant entails living a life of love and charity towards the poor.

The New Covenant commitment is to love as Jesus loves. The apostle John teaches concerning the life of love,

God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment. 1 John 4:16-17

When believers abide in God by living a life of love, they will not fear the day of judgment. The apostle John describes one who is perfected in love as having demonstrated the lifestyle of love:

a.  He helps those in need (1 John 3:17).
b.  He forgives those who hurt him (1 John 4:20).
c.  He rejects worldliness, pride and lust (1 John 2:15-16).
d.  He purifies himself while looking forward to Christ’s coming (1 John 3:2-3)

However, there are those who lack the opportunity to hear the gospel, but are looking for God and seeking the way of righteousness. For such, Jesus actively seeks them out. And when they hear His voice and acknowledge Him as Lord, Jesus will recognise them as His sheep.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish.” John 10:27-28

However, there are many who confess Jesus as Lord, but amidst the competing demands and pleasures of life, they have yet to commit their lives to Him. There is a mark difference between one who has resolved to follow Christ and one who is vacillating between the broad and the narrow path. When Christ judges the secrets of our hearts, He will know those who are His. Is Jesus the Lord of your life?

How does the New Covenant relate to reward?

New Covenant and reward. This relates to the believer’s reward in heaven. As salvation comes from one’s desire to make Christ Lord, reward is the result of one’s works done out of love. Works done out of love and gratitude contributes to the believer’s eternal reward and glory. Jesus at the close of His earthly ministry prays to the Father,

“I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:4

If Jesus did not accomplish the work the Father has given Him to do, He will not have obtained the glory that is due Him. Hence, there are varying degrees of glory and reward given to believers in heaven. At Christ’s judgement, all will rejoice as each receives their just reward according to the works they have done in their lifetime.

There are definite consequences when we make a practice of sinning.

When one succumbs to temptations continually, he risks subjecting himself to bondage and stray from his calling. He is also subject to earthly laws that require a recompense. A true believer may be tempted and at times succumbs to the lust of the flesh and pride of life. Although his heart and mouth confess Christ as Lord, but his body struggles against the desires of the flesh. No doubt, his name is already written in heaven. However, the evil that he does will subject him to bondages that will hinder him from progressing towards eternal life. The issue at hand is not about salvation but about possibly limiting his works on earth and reward in heaven.

Application

Are you caught in the thick of bondage (of greed, lust and hatred) while striving to appear holy before people? Humble yourself knowing that your biblical knowledge and your social status have no bearing before God. Resolve to cut yourself off from the things of darkness for there is no darkness with God. Seek to be perfect because God is perfect and have nothing to do with worldly suggestions that contribute nothing towards Christ-likeness. Seek out mature believers who walk in the likeness of Christ, who is able to deliver you from your bondages.

Dear Lord, the more I experience your grace and blessings, the more I love your law and endeavour to do your will. In every circumstance, I seek to honour you as Lord by being perfected in love. Deliver me from my bondages and sanctify me with your truth and grace. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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