There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).
Paul Defends With Four Questions
This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.
It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:
- What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
- Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
- Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
- Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.
The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.
We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.