It's one thing to justify sin which our culture is constantly in the habit of doing but it's another thing to justify sin in the name of God. Many people today rationalize their sin by saying things like, 'Well, God made me this way,' and in effect put the responsibility for their actions on God. But Stephen reminds us in this message that when the Day of Judgment comes, God won't be standing on trial . . . we will.
Sins In The Name of God
Haddon Robinson wrote in Focal Point about the worlds most complicated clock which stands in the town hall in Copenhagen. It took forty years to build at a cost of more than a million dollars. The clock has ten faces, fifteen thousand parts. The clock computes the time of day, the days of the week, the months and years, and the movements of the planets for 2500 years. Some parts of that clock will not move until the 25th century. The intriguing thing, Robinson wrote, was that the clock is still not accurate. It loses two-fifths of a second every three hundred years. Like all clocks, made by human hands, this timepiece in Copenhagen must be regulated by the most precise clock known to mankind – the universe itself. The astronomical clock made by the hands of God with its billions of moving parts, from atoms to stars keeps the most precise time and has never lost even 1/5th of a second. So reliable are the movements of the universe, that all time on earth can be measured against it.
Haddon Robinson, Quoted in Leadership Magazine, Summer Quarter, p. 49
God’s created world is the standard of time. Likewise, God’s inspired word is the standard for all of life. Right and wrong can be measured, in any century, with the standard of God’s holy word. Life itself can be measured by the canon – the measuring rod – of Holy Scripture.
The Apostle Paul has declared to the Jewish nation in Romans chapter 3 verses 1 and 2 that their highest privilege has been to be the recipient of the Holy words of God.
However, Paul has explained in previous verses, even though the nation of Jews received the words of God, they were not exempt from having to obey and follow them. Even though they were sons of Abraham, they were not exempt from the penalty of the law.
I like the way one commentator illustrated this very point. He told the story of a 21 year old son of a European ambassador to the United States. The young man was in repeated trouble with the law. On one occasion he struck and killed a woman with his car. He as charged with vehicular homicide, but when he claimed diplomatic immunity, and proved who his father was, the charges were dropped. He was arrested four more times in the space of 2 years, but each time, he claimed diplomatic immunity and was released. Because the young man’s father was an ambassador, he could not be brought to judgment in the United States for his offenses.
Paul has been delivering the verdict of guilty to people who assumed that, in the end, they were protected by virtue of who their father was. . .Abraham. They were sons of Abraham, sons and daughters of the covenant, therefore, even if guilty of sin, they could claim spiritual immunity, and the charges would be dropped.
Adapted from, David Jeremiah, Romans, Volume One (Walk Through The Bible Publishers, 1999); p. 100.
The Apostle Paul delivers the stunning, shocking news that the moral man, the immoral man, the religious man – best revealed in the life of the faithful Jew, were all alike in their guilt. It didn’t matter who their father was. It was a personal matter of the heart – and everyone has a guilty heart.
And Paul will eventually summarize his verdict by declaring, “For all have sinned and [all] fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
But Paul isn’t quite there yet – and neither are we.
Now, in the next few verses, the Apostle anticipates, and voices three more rather interesting objections to the gospel and puts them in the form of questions. The first question was this (let me state it first and then will look at the text: the question was . . .
Question #1: If God is going to judge the Jews, does that mean He isn’t keeping His covenant with them and, therefore, breaking His word?
Now notice Romans chapter 3 and verse 3. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
You could expand your translation within this context to read this way, “What are you saying then? If some Jews are unfaithful in their unbelief, is their unfaithfulness going to wipe out the covenant of God with the Jewish people?
In other words, if God judges us, then He is unfaithful to His promises. He must have been lying when He said, “We were His people – He would never cast us away!”
This is a good question. Did God erase His covenant with Israel because of they didn’t believe in Christ as Messiah?
Will he restore the throne of David and the land to the Jew and set up His kingdom on earth as he promised through His prophets?
Will the promise come true of Zechariah 12:10 where Zechariah prophesied that God will one day, “pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced.” This hasn’t happened yet, and it can’t happen to the church either. We’re not the house of David and we’re not living in Jerusalem.
So the Jew is asking Paul, “Listen, if we’re going to be judged by God, then God must not be keeping his word – what about the promise of Zechariah and others – what about God’s covenant to us?”
Let me pause long enough to say a few words here. We’ll deal with this extensively in Romans chapter 11 where Paul opens with the question, “Has God rejected [cast off, abandoned] His people? Absolutely not,” Paul answers.
You might wonder – are all Jews individually saved, for all time? Does the Jewish man or woman need to be saved through faith in Christ today? Or does his special covenant with God override his need of faith in Christ?
That was the confusion revealed in Romans 3:3. Paul earlier said in chapter 2 that the Jew wasn’t getting into heaven merely by being the offspring of Abraham.
Heritage on earth had nothing to do with a home in heaven.
So the question remained, “If the Jew today could be sent to hell along with the Gentile, then is God discarding His future promise to restore Israel?”
Let me answer that by saying first of all that you need to understand the difference between the future national salvation of the Jewish people and present salvation of the Jewish person.
The national salvation of Israel in the future is different than the present salvation of the Jewish person. While God in another period of time will restore Israel’s land, throne and kingdom, personal salvation for every Jew in this period of time, or what we could call a dispensation, requires faith in the One who was pierced.
The Jew must be saved today just as the Gentile has to be saved – and that is by faith in Christ. That’s Paul’s point in verse 9 ofRomans chapter 3.
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all: for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.
Look over at verse 21-24. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22. even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction (what does he mean, there is no distinction? He means there is not one plan of salvation for the Jew today and another plan of salvation for the Gentile. There is no distinction – notice verse 23. for all (Jew and Gentile alike) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24. [all must be] justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
While God has temporarily set aside the restoration of Israel and the literal fulfillment of His covenant to David – He will reestablish that throne in the future, beginning in the tribulation period as Israel is revived and restored as a nation, according to the Book of Revelation.
Now follow me here - even though the covenant with David is set aside and there is no throne in Jerusalem, the covenant has not been abandoned – the promise of Zechariah and others will literally be fulfilled just as God promised.
Why the big deal, Stephen. Who cares about whether or not some covenant with David about a throne in Jerusalem comes true – that stuff is centuries old . . . give me some current news – I want to know stuff about the Christian life in the here and now. I wish you’d preach sermons on practical things like how to make more money or how to get my husband to take out the trash.
This is a big deal. You see, my friends, if Paul gets stumped here and says, “My goodness, that’s a tough question – maybe God won’t keep His promise to Israel.”
My friend, if God doesn’t keep His covenant with Israel what assurance do you have that He will not discard His covenant with you, through Jesus Christ? That’s why this is a big deal!
How do you know that God, one day, won’t say, “Okay, you guys, I’ve had enough of you. . .I’m changing all the rules . . . I’m tired of you . . . I’m starting a new game and you’re not in it!”
Have you ever played a game as a kid or maybe recently and somebody you played with made up some new rules and then decided to change them later on and you complained and they said, “Hey, I made up the rules . . . so I can change the rules.” How many of you think your husbands do that? How many of you think your wives do that? (a few men raised their hands and they’re just now realizing they shouldn’t have)
Is that what God did? The Jew in the 1st century wanted to know – did God change the rules? And I want to know, in the 21stcentury if God is gonna change the rules on us!
Did you know that one of the ways you can know that God won’t discard you in the end, is because He will not discard Israel in the end.
One of the greatest passages on eternal security that you’ll find in the Bible is in the Old Testament. How can it be in the Old testament. Because eternal security in the Old and New Testaments entirely depend upon God keeping His word.
Look at Psalm 89
David is writing in anguish beginning in verse 38 about the fact that the throne was desolate, the crown dashed to pieces, the city of Jerusalem destroyed . . . the covenant spurned by God . . . he says in verse 46, “How long, O Lord” Wilt Thou hide Thyself forever? Will Thy wrath burn like fire?”
In spite of God’s temporary judgment, notice verse 30. “If his sons forsake
My law and do not walk in My judgments, 31. If they violate My
statutes and do not keep My commandments, 32. Then I will punish
their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. 33. “But
I will not break off My loving kindness from him, nor deal falsely in My
faithfulness. 34. “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the
utterance of My lips. 35. “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not
lie to David. 36. “His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as
the sun before Me. 37. “It shall be established forever like the moon,
and the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.
In other words, just as the movements of the planets in the sky – the sun
and the moon, so precise in their movements that you can set your clocks
by them, so the promise of God is so unchangeable and steadfast that you can
mark your life by it and trust your eternal destiny to it.
Even when you fail Him . . . even when you sin against Him – if you’ve received His Son as your Lord and Savior – there is nothing you can do, good or bad, to keep Him from fulfilling His promises to you.
Will God break His word? Notice Paul’s answer in Romans 3 verse 4. May it never be! (You could translate that: No way! Not a chance! That’s impossible!) Your translation may read, “God forbid.” This double negative appears 15 times in the New Testament, 10 of them in the Book of Romans. It simply means, “That will never happen.”
Now notice what Paul says next, 4b “Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, ‘ThatYou may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.’”
In other words, if all of humanity got together and decided that God was lying, they in fact would only reveal that all of humanity is lying – for God cannot contradict His holiness – He cannot tell a lie.
Here’s the point to their first question and Paul’s first answer – The faithlessness of Jew and Gentile alike demonstrates the faithfulness of God.
Do you know what your faithlessness reveals about God?
That He is faithful to you.
Do you know what your inconsistency in love and passion for God reveals about God.
That He is consistent in His love for you?
Do you know what your sinfulness toward God reveals about God?
That He is sinless and holy toward all things.
Do you know what your unrighteousness reveals about God? That He is righteous!
That leads us to the very next objection that Paul anticipates – verse 5. But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?
In other words, if the disobedience of the Jews reveals the faithfulness of God, why would He judge those who reveal His faithfulness?
Paul goes on to say, I am speaking in human terms – that is, I’m speaking from the vantage point of your own argument - as plainly as I possibly can) 6. May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?
Every Jew believed that God would judge the world. Paul says, “If you say that since sin reveals the perfection of God, then the Jew should go free, then God would have to let every sinner – the whole world – go free, right?
But since God wouldn’t do that with the world, and the Jews knew He wouldn’t – the Jew can not hide behind that escape clause either.
Paul then encounters another argument – one that is truly evil in it’s thought.
Notice verse 7. But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?
In other words, since sinning makes the glory of God more wonderfully apparent, why not sin all the more?
If sin highlights the grace of God, let’s live in sin. If sinning give God a chance to reveal His glory and grace in forgiving us, let’s give Him every opportunity we can!
Paul was actually accused to teaching this, as people misunderstood his message of God’s grace and salvation by faith independent of good works.
Notice verse 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”?
In other words, if God is able to take our sin and bring good out of evil, then let’s give Him all the evil we can so He can display sovereign purposes.
Wouldn’t it be foolish to do something evil and wicked, just so you could experience something good? Imagine your wife says to you when you get home from work, “What did you do today?” You say to her, “Well, I did something really terrible. I killed my boss . . . but on the way home I asked forgiveness and, oh, it feels so great to know that God has forgiven me.”
Let me illustrate this logic in an even sillier way . . .
Could you imagine someone sitting down and eating and eating and eating – just stuffing themselves with food. Finally, you go over and ask, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” Oh, they say, because I love the relief I feel with Alka-Seltzer. I just love the relief it gives me.
Could you imagine voluntarily getting the flu – headaches and fever – why? Because, you say, “That medicine is so wonderful, I want to get sick again just so I can experience the cure.”
You never do something bad in order for something good to come of it.
You’ve heard the story of how wicked John Newton was. He was the captain of a ship, so despised by his crew for his evil character and his drunken fits that one day in his stupor he fell overboard. They threw a whaling harpoon at him - it caught him in the hip and went right through it – they pulled him up on deck like a whale. He later came to faith in Christ – and eventually wrote hymns for the church, including his most famous one – Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Can you imagine me getting next to one of my sons one night and encouraging him to go into the navy and drink it up – to live a vile and wicked life – because one day I want him to experience the wonderful grace of God and then become a hymn writer.
I’ve used some rather silly illustrations, but why don’t we move closer to reality.
This kind of logic, by the way, is what we call situation ethics – the end justifies the means. It’s right to do something wrong, as long as it turns out right.
This argument is used today to promote gambling and casinos – how many politicians and educators have sold their soul on the altar of situation ethics by saying, “Gambling will bring money in to our state and we can use it to build new schools and give our children better education.” Who will argue against better education.
Humanity wants to research and use embryonic stem cells; they want to harvest and sell the bodies of developed aborted babies and use their tissue for medical purposes; their argument is to consider the medical cures that will come from it. This will cure diseases. This will make it possible for others to live. Who would argue that killing is bad if it allows someone else to live?
And why the rush to clone human beings? Could it be because humans beings don’t want to die. And to have the potential to have available genetically identical organs – eyes, limbs, heart, kidneys and liver – life could be prolonged.
My friend, even if it is possible, it’s never right to do wrong, even if something right comes out of it.
A few years ago I read of a man in Europe who was dying of kidney failure. They artificially inseminated his sixteen year old daughter, with the help of her physician. Seven months into her pregnancy, the child was taken by C-section. It’s kidneys were removed and transplanted into the father and the infant was left to die of ureic poisoning.
Would you notice that this is the one argument that Paul doesn’t even take time to answer – he simply writes, there at the end of verse 8, Their condemnation is just.
Let me draw some observations for you from this paragraph. I believe this passage teaches several things about the nature of man – and it’s not a pretty sight.
First, the mind of man creatively justifies his sin rather than admit his guilt.
I recently heard a female rock star asked about the way she dressed – and how it may be affecting the young girls who idolize her. She responded by saying, “My mother taught me that God gave me my body and that I’m not to be ashamed of it.”
Clever, but wicked. Doubly wicked because she has attached the name of God to her sensuality.
Another observation from this paragraph is this: the heart of man develops reasons to sin, rather than reasons not to.
In other words, man not only comes up with ingenious excuses for sinning, he develops reasons to sin even more.
Read the newspaper – and just look at what lengths mankind goes to in order to justify sin, rather than repent of it.
Third, the verdict of man would find God guilty of sin, rather then acknowledge his own guilty heart.
If we’re going to blame somebody about even our sin, we’ll find it to be God’s fault.
Ever heard anybody say, “That’s the way God made me!”
I listened to one actress one time saying in an interview, “It was so cruel for God to create something so beautiful as sexual intimacy between two people who love each other, but then created diseases to accompany it.”
That’s the logic of the world – they won’t admit they’re sinners and what they are doing is sinful; and then when they admit they might be sinners after all, they find someone else to blame for the consequences of their sin, even if it means they blame God.
What can the believer glean from this paragraph? Is there anything for us in these verses who believe in Christ?
Let me give you three warnings that I have gleaned from my observations:
Be careful not to use God’s grace to justify your lack of conviction and holy living.
Just because you became a Christian doesn’t mean you lost the urge to sin and then find excuses for it!
How many times have you heard a believer, or perhaps your own self say, “That’s the way God made made me . . . I’m Irish, you know.”
In the Book of Jude, the writer says that the believers were caught up in, what theologians called, Antinomianism – the belief that sin reveals God’s glory, so sin all you want and God will be glorified.
Jude verse 4 reads, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly people who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness.”
Licentiousness is the opposite of legalism. Legalism on the one hand has it’s long list of do’s and don’ts. Licentiousness on the other hand has thrown the list away. They take pride in the fact that they have no list of preferences of convictions.
Paul is addressing the licentious crowd in Romans 3:8. They have nothing to offer the world because they are like the world.
And the more like the world you are, my friend, the less you will impact it for Jesus Christ.
How many Christians would never do the big 3 or the dirty dozen, but will live on the edge with non-distinctive, compromising lives, and if they are ever held accountable or questioned will immediately say, “We’re under grace.”
How many Christians will watch ungodly movies and television; they will surf the wrong places on the internet; how many Christian men will drink and smoke with the crowd; how many women will dress immodestly in a way they know will attract attention when they go to school or work, or even when they come to church; how many Christians will swear and laugh at dirty jokes along with the rest of the crowd; how many will spend all their money on themselves and live for their next possession; and how many of you, when confronted about it, as I am doing now, will say in your heart – “What is he, a legalist? Don’t tell not to do something, and don’t tell me to do something – man, I’m under grace.”
You might just be ungodly! And this is your favorite excuse for unholy living.
Don’t use God’s grace to justify your lack of conviction and holy living.
Be careful not to use God’s patience as an excuse for stubborn disobedience.
My friend, are you living for Jesus Christ? Is there something you should be doing, or saying that you know He wants you to do it or say it? You know God wants you to do it, to say it, to change it, to begin it.
You say, “But, I’m just so glad God is patient with me!” He is, praise God, He is – but don’t use His patience as an excuse for your disobedience.
Finally, be careful not to use God’s forgiveness as a reason to overlook sin.
My friend, how often have you been tempted to sin – maybe just a little sin at that, if there were such a thing – and the thought crossed your mind – well, I know God will forgive me later.
All you’re doing is sinning in the name of God. And to attach God’s name to your sin, your rebellion, your stubbornness, your immodesty, your lack of character and conviction, is to muddy the Holy name of God and discredit His church.
Don’t drag God’s name into it!”
Don’t use God’s forgiveness as a reason to overlook sin.
I was talking to a couple the other night in their home. They have both come to Christ in recent months. She was expressing how sensitive she has become to even the small sins. The other day, the phone rang, she was getting ready to get into the shower, her husband called out, “Honey, the phone is for you.” What do I do? She thought, I can’t tell my husband to tell them I’m in the shower because I’m not – do I get in and then tell him, or take the call?
I praise God for the dilemma in her life – it is evidence that she is growing up in Christ. Sensitive to anything that would not be a reflection of the holiness and purity and honesty and righteousness of Christ.
Peter wrote, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people belonging to Him, that you might proclaim the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into a marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)
Did you notice Peter didn’t say, “You are a special people; therefore you can do whatever you like.” No, he wrote, “You are a special people, now . . . reflect the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light of redemption.”
Share it . . . live it . . . walk it!
The One whose perfectly ordered universe helps us tell time and keep our clocks synchronized with the heavens, so much more so desires that we synchronize our lives to the holy purposes of heaven.
Don’t sin in the name of God, but serve, live, honor, uphold the wonderful, righteous name of God. That, my friends, is your high and holy calling.