This is one of those verses that is often quoted by Christians as evidence of the sinful nature of man and showing that all mankind are sinners. The verse says,
In bondage to the chains of sin
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
And it is true. All of mankind has sinned and all of mankind has fallen short of the glory of God.
Ever since Adam and Eve fell from God's grace in the garden of Eden, man has been under the power of sin and it has brought death to all men.
But do we have to stay that way? Do we have to stay under the power of sin? Is there a way of escape by which we can once again be reconciled to God and be restored to the glory of God? And if so how does it work?
Well the answer is YES we can escape sin and be restored for God has established the process. So let us today look at how we overcome sin and come back to a relationship with God.
The righteousness of God does not depend upon, nor is it based upon works of the law. As I showed in my last post, the law served to show what sin is and to give man the knowledge of sin. The law is NOT sin but it showed sin up for what it is and through the breaking of the law sin became even more sinful.
But the righteousness of God is not based upon the law as these two verses now show us, for they say,
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
The righteousness of God in the New Covenant has been given to man and made manifest to all mankind, not by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. This is where the righteousness of God is to be found…in faith. And those who seek God’s righteousness, his favour, his grace and all the other things God gives to us need to seek them through faith in Jesus Christ.
These two verses hold some very interesting and important information, not the least of which is the question that is the title of this post. What is sin? The verses read as follows:
What is sin?
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
As I read these two verses it was the last few words that struck me and raised this question as to what sin is.
There are many different opinions about what sin is, and I have held a few opinions over the years myself. But I see that there is a lot more to this question than I had previously imagined, and also a lot more to the antidote for sin, which is grace. So I will look at what I have seen over the past week or so as I examined this matter, and I would be interested in your thoughts also.
The opening verse of this section poses both a question and it's answer as Paul writes in verse 9,
None are righteous
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
Every person born into this world has been born under the condemnation that comes from the power of sin. All of mankind is doomed to die because of sin within each and every person. And there is no escaping it in this world.
But when a person looks to God and seeks Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then that is an entirely different matter. We DO have the power to escape sin, condemnation and eternal death, but only through Jesus Christ and only by the grace of God the Father.
But before a person comes to Christ, they are no different to anyone else in the world. They are under the power of sin and are sinners. That is why Paul asks the question, are the Jews any better off than the Gentiles. And then says, “No, not at all.”
So let us look at this section of scripture a little more and see what else it is saying.
God is just. His justice is perfect and not susceptible to the weaknesses and failings of mans justice. God sees all things and knows all things and so when He judges, it is a just judgement based upon all truth and all evidence.
God is Just
When man judges he does not always have all the evidence and knowledge of a matter. That is why man often judges wrongly. But God is not like man and no man can hide anything from God for He will reveal every matter of a mans heart and so judge a man accordingly.
There is a standard by which God will judge the world. It is the standard of right and wrong according to the way God sees it. He set the standards for what is righteousness and what is unrighteousness and it is by those standards that every person on earth will be judged.
Knowing this to be true makes the way many people of this earth think and behave something of a puzzle, for man uses the same processes for judgement, albeit they are imperfect, as God does.
There is a saying that has been doing the rounds for a while that goes something like this.
It doesn't matter what you think, it's what God thinks that counts.
“Atheists don't believe in God, but God doesn't believe in atheists.”
The essence of this saying is basically what this section of Romans 3 is all about. It doesn't matter what you or I or anyone else thinks, it's what God thinks that matters.
In the end on the day of judgement it is what God thinks and says that will determine the fate of each and every one of us.
Circumcision was the sign given to Abraham as an outward recognition of the faith that he had in the promises that God had given to him. It was a sign that sealed the covenant of faith between God, Abraham and his descendants.
The heart of the matter
But what is important to note in this is that it was not the physical act of circumcision that was the point of this whole process, but the faith that the recipients of the circumcision held. The Jews had a law that every male child born had to be circumcised on the eighth day after being born, but what was then the important part of this process was that the child grew up to hold the faith that Abraham had before God. Circumcision was to be a sign as a reminder of that faith.
In this section of scripture Paul discusses these distinctions and as we learn what he had to say we can see that there are many applications of this same principle. We also see how deceit can lead people astray to believe that the the act is more important than the faith, that is, that circumcision is more important than believing the promises of God.
What is the worst thing that people hate in other people? Hypocrisy! And it is alo one of the things that God despises too, as Jesus showed again and again especially when He spoke to the Pharisees.
Two faced hypocrisy will be condemned
Nobody likes a person who says one thing but does the opposite. The hypocrite is a person who cannot be trusted, cannot be depended upon and is a two faced liar.
Furthermore a hypocrite is someone who is proud and arrogant. They preach a high moral standard and the nee do be seen to be good, right and true, but then they go out and do the very things they condemn in their words. And that is arrogance and pride. That is why hypocrisy is condemned both by God and men.
If there is one thing that defines what civilisation is, it is the rule and structure of law. The establishment of a society based upon a set of agreed and accepted laws is what enabled societies to build, grow and prosper.
It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous but the doers of the law
And even today the rule of law is seen to be a great and marvellous thing. Our societies hold up the law and those who practice and pursue the law as something marvellous. Our TV shows and movies often depict the law as something to be esteemed and as being the ultimate arbiter between good and evil.
People also turn to governments to resolve all manner of issues and conflicts, problems and breakdowns, as they expect the lawmakers to be able to solve their problems for them. There is an expectation that the governments can and should be able to resolve all the difficulties and problems faced by society through the establishment of laws that will bring about a greater good.
But they are wrong. And there is a very simple reason why people have made the mistake of believing the law is or can be a panacea for all the ills of humanity, and the reason is contained in these few words of scripture.
People talk about the two great inevitabilities being death and taxes. However neither of those is inevitable as we can be set free from death in Jesus Christ and if you know how you can legally avoid taxes.
God shows no partiality. You will be judged by what you do.
But there is one thing that truly is an inevitability, and that is the God shows no partiality. He does not care whether a person is rich or poor, nor does He care about the types of things that divide people like race, creed, religion and colour of the skin. None of these are important in His sight.
What The Lord God is concerned about is whether a person does what is right or wrong, and depending on what a person does will determine how they are treated and what they receive from God.