There is a lot of sin in the world but there are many people trying to be the best person they can be. There are countless people all trying to be good people. When we look around and compare ourselves to one another we can say, “I’m pretty good. I’m way better than Hitler. I’m not as good as Mother Teresa. But then who is?” We use the law, either the Law given to Moses or the instinctive law God put on our hearts to help us understand the difference between right and wrong. The problem is being good, regardless of how good we are, cannot justify us. Good deeds do not eradicate bad ones. God is not keeping score. There is no balance to be tipped one way or the other. We cannot be good enough to earn Heaven.
So why did God give Israel His Law? What good was it? What good is there in knowing and understanding God’s law? Verses 1-8 read,
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.”
5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
What does all that mean? What is Paul saying? Basically this says that being entrusted with understanding the law is a big deal. Yes we are unfaithful, just as many of the Jews who received the law before us were. Our faithlessness did not make God faithless. He remains Faithful and Righteous regardless of our sin and inconstancy. Our inability to keep the law only shows how truly loving, faithful, and true The Lord is. But that does not excuse sin. In fact, it gives us all the more reason to be obedient to God because of His grace. Romans 6:12-18 in The Message reads,
That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.
15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
There is no one capable of being good enough on their own. No person can claim that. We are born with a nature, a disposition toward self-satisfaction and sin. We can’t do anything about it. Even if the only wrong thing someone ever did was have a bad thought when she was seven years old, she still had to understand that it was wrong because she came to understand that there is right and wrong in the world. She might be as good as a person can be, but she can’t be good enough, she cannot earn her way to Heaven. Verses 9-20 say it like this,
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, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
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.
So is it hopeless? I mean seriously, if we can’t be good enough to ever deserve salvation, what is the point? We can’t earn it. We cannot be righteous on our own. But God loves us desperately. He made a way to eradicate all the bad stuff, to change our nature, justify us, and make us righteous. Verses 21-26 explain it.
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. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The law shows us the unattainable righteousness of God. Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God manifested or demonstrated apart from the law and puts it within our reach. All we have to do is believe. That belief is not a shallow belief that says, “Jesus sure is cool and I know He was a great teacher.” No it is a belief that Jesus is God our Savior, The Lord of the universe. It is a submission in faith that He is the Christ and we can trust Him to take charge of our lives, souls, and spirits. He is the propitiation for our sin. What does that mean? Propitiation is the atonement, the compensation, appeasement and penance for our sin. Sin has a price and that price is blood and death. God said it in Genesis 2:16-17 when he told Adam that an understanding of good and evil would mean death. He said it when He gave Israel the laws in Leviticus that sacrifices and blood were required to atone for their sins. And He said it though Paul in Romans 6:23.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Only Jesus Christ can save us, only He can justify us and make us righteous. Believer, you and I have no right to think we’re any better than the people we accuse and judge as sinners. They are lost, they don’t know the truth and love of Christ. We don’t have anything to do with our own goodness because we are not and cannot be good on our own. Verses 27-31 read,
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Trusting God for our salvation and transformation doesn’t mean the law means nothing, it has meaning and purpose. The only way to keep God’s law is through Jesus Christ. So allowing Him to be our Savior doesn’t mean tossing the law to the side, it means we keep it now, because through Christ we can. Don’t be confused, we don’t sacrifice bulls, ostracize lepers, or concern ourselves with the myriad of 613 commandments. Those laws were fulfilled, they were met in Jesus Christ. We keep the law by obeying Christ. He said it this way,
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Later He said it this way,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
He explained a little about the way He loved us and what that looks like in John 15:12-17.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Reader, you cannot be good enough, no matter how good you may be. You need Jesus who loves you so much He laid His life down for you so you could be His friend. Believer, you have nothing to boast about except Jesus. You are no better than anyone else on this earth. If God compared you to the worst of the worst on your own merit, you would look the same. Are you loving people enough to tell them about Jesus? Are you loving them enough to show them how good Jesus is? Are you loving them enough to love them as Jesus loves you?