I Object! (Part 3)

Romans 3:1-8

Tom Pennington  •  August 30, 2015
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The theme of Paul's letter to the Romans is introduced in the very first verse of this letter, it is the gospel of God, the good news that finds its source in God Himself. The Greek word for gospel is, as you know, euaggelion. It's the word from which we get our English word evangel or evangelist. It simply means good news. The gospel is the good news of what God has done in order to reconcile us to Him, our Creator. How we can be right with God, that's the good news.

The Old Testament bore witness to this gospel, as Paul will argue in chapter 3, later in chapter 3, in verse 21 and beyond. The Lord Jesus Christ first brought this message of the gospel in its clarity during His earthly ministry, and then, of course, His apostles, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit in the rest of the New Testament, fully explained that good news.

What Paul wants us to understand here in the book of Romans, and he's taking a long time to make it obvious, is that the good news includes the bad news. An essential part of the good news is the bad news that you and I are sinners before God, a holy, just God, we deserve His punishment, and we can do nothing to help ourselves. That's the bad news. Instead, we need God to rescue us. We need God to take the initiative to rescue us from the person we've become, to rescue us from what our sins deserve from Him, and to make us His own. Only He can do that. That's the bad news that comes along with the good news.

Now, how do most people respond when they are told that they are sinners who need the gospel and they can contribute nothing to their own rescue? Well, there are two primary responses. Keep your finger here in Romans, but turn with me to Acts 2. Let me show you the first response. Acts 2, this is, of course, Peter's sermon to the Jewish crowd there on the day of Pentecost. And after explaining who Christ is and all that's involved with Christ, he brings it to their own consciences in verse 36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah - this Jesus whom you crucified." He says, listen, you needed the Messiah to come to deal with sin, and you are sinners, and your sin reached its high point when you killed your Messiah. No greater expression of your rebellion against God could be evidence than that. That's the bad news.

How did they respond to that bad news? Verse 37, "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'" How can we make this right? How can we undo this horrible thing we've done? This is the first response to the bad news that's part of the good news and that is, brokenness and repentance.

Notice verse 41, "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls," to the church. You say, how does somebody respond to the gospel like that? Well, look down in verse 47, "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." You see, the response of brokenness and repentance to the gospel is only as a result of the work of grace performed by the Holy Spirit in the heart, but it's not the normal response. Ordinarily, when people are told that they are sinners, that they are not capable of doing anything that pleases God, and that they cannot make themselves right with God, that they can contribute nothing, they have to throw themselves on the mercy of God, ordinarily they respond with anger and rejection.

Turn over to chapter 7 of Acts. Here is Stephen's sermon, of course; he becomes the first martyr of the Christian church. He preaches this sermon in the synagogue there, the synagogue of the Freedmen, and notice when he gets to the punch line, verse 51 of Acts 7, "'You men who are stiff-necked,'" you are stubborn against God, "'you are uncircumcised in heart and ears,'" in other words, you're no better than pagan Gentiles, "'you're always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.'" And what they did was persecute the prophets. And "'they killed those who announced the coming of the Messiah.'" And you have now become His "'betrayers and murderers.'" Oh, and by the way, verse 53, "'you received the law, but you did not keep it.'" You are sinners who needed the Messiah to come to rescue you.

How did they respond? Verse 54, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him." They're so angry they're grinding their teeth. They can't imagine being told that they are in this desperate condition. Verse 57,

they cried out with a loud voice, covered their ears [at what he was saying], rushed at Stephen with one impulse and when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him.

This is the ordinary response to the gospel, because the gospel says you are a sinner who can do nothing to save yourself, you must throw yourself on God's mercy. And so the ordinary human response is anger and to put forward all kinds of objections and all kinds of arguments against the gospel and, of course, ultimately to reject it. In Romans 3 Paul tells us about the objections he encountered as he shared the gospel with Jews and how he responded to those objections. So turn back with me now to Romans 3.

Now, let me just remind you that so far in our study of this great letter we have examined the opening of the letter, sort of, the introduction, chapter 1 verses 1 to 17, where you have all those introductory matters, including Paul introducing the theme of the letter at the end of that in verses 16 and 17. But the first major section of Paul's letter to the Romans begins in chapter 1 verse 18 and runs all the way through chapter 4, it is the gospel explained. And the heart of the gospel is justification by faith alone. That is, God declaring sinners to be right before Him based on the work of Christ and because they receive the work of Christ by faith.

Now, he begins this section of explaining the gospel with the bad news by presenting the universal need for justification by faith. It's universally necessary. Chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 3 verse 20, he paints this need. You see, only those who know they are sinners and need the gospel will respond to the gospel, so he starts with this bad news. The reason we need God's righteousness, a gift of a right standing before God, is because we utterly lack all personal righteousness. That's the need that we have.

Now, he begins presenting the evidence and proving our need of the gospel, with the pagan Gentile, in chapter 1 verse 18 through verse 32 of chapter 1, so the second half of chapter 1. The key to unlocking this portion is in verse 23 of chapter 1. Paul is talking about those here who "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for images," for idols in the form of man and birds and animals and all kinds of things in creation. So this section is about pagan Gentiles who worship idols.

Now, the second indictment that Paul brings comes in chapter 2 verse 1 and runs through chapter 3 verse 8. Having dealt with the Gentile pagan, he now comes to the Jews. This section describes the Jews and every moral religious person who claims to worship the true God of the Bible. Now we're not talking about idolaters, we're talking about people who've attached, in some way, to the true God. It includes Jews. It includes Gentile proselytes to Judaism. It includes, now, professing Christians who don't really know God. So, all moral religious people attached to the true God.

The key to understanding this section is chapter 2 verse 17, where he says, "But if you bear the name 'Jew' and rely upon the Law and boast in God." Here his target is specifically the Jews, but broader than that, all moral religious people attached to the true God. These are very religious people. These are people who talk a lot about the Bible and knowing the Bible, and they delight in the Bible, and they think of themselves as basically good moral people. And Paul says, you're not good moral people.

He says, in fact, you better worry because your morality is not going to help you at the judgment. God doesn't grade on a curve. He's not going to say, well, if you're mostly good. First of all, you're not mostly good, but even if that were true, that's not enough; that's not the standard. He goes on to say, your knowledge of Scripture isn't going to help you. The Jews prided themselves on having the Scripture, knowing the Scripture. Knowing the Scripture isn't going to help you at the judgment, he says. Sitting in a Bible church, hearing the Bible taught, attending classes, not going to help you at the judgment.

He goes on to say, claiming to know God, professing faith in God, and even performing religious rituals, are not going to help you at the judgment. You see, Paul's point in chapter 2 is that moral religious people attached to the true God need the gospel as much as a pagan idolater does, that's Paul's indictment; it's chapter 2.

Now, it's not a surprise then, at the beginning of chapter 3, the Jews speak up in their own defense. This is kind of a courtroom scene and Paul is the prosecuting attorney, and it's as if in the first eight verses of chapter 3 the Jews stand up and say, wait a minute your honor, we object, we object to what Paul is saying here. Paul anticipated these objections. In fact, I'm sure they were objections he had heard many times in the Jewish synagogues as he shared the gospel. In fact, they're likely objections Paul himself had before the Damascus road. But he condenses all of the Jewish objections to the gospel he had heard to the four most common objections. These are the objections that all religious people have when they hear about their own sinfulness and their need of salvation by grace alone.

Let's read the paragraph again, Romans 3:1-8:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 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'm speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 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.

Now, as I read that passage, if you struggle to, sort of, follow the Apostle Paul's reasoning and logic, you're not alone. Commentators argue that this may very well be the most difficult paragraph in the entire letter. We're working our way through it. I want to make it clear to you, there are, in this passage, four Jewish objections to the gospel that Paul answers here in these verses. It's composed essentially in two verse couplets and in each two verse couplet, the first verse is the Jewish objection and the second verse is Paul's answer, except for a slight variation in verses 7 and 8, as I'll show you this morning. And also, I want you to remember that Paul's answers to these objections here, they're very brief because he intends to come back and explain these matters more thoroughly in the sections of the book that follow.

Now, we've already examined the first three objections, but let me briefly review them, and then we'll look at the fourth this morning. Objection number one, the Jews said, Paul, we can't believe your gospel because your gospel undermines God's integrity. This is in verses 1 and 2. Notice the objection in verse 1, "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" Paul just said, at the end of chapter 2, that not all Jews are God's chosen people, that most of the Jews are going to Hell. There are only some of them that are true Jews, that are true Jews inwardly, that really belong to God.

And so the immediate Jewish objection is, Paul, if that's true, then what is the advantage of being Jewish.? If my Jewishness, if the rituals I perform, if those don't guarantee my salvation then there's no spiritual benefit to being Jewish. But Paul, you've got a problem, because the Old Testament makes it very clear that God says being Jewish is a huge advantage. So Paul, if your gospel is true and my Jewishness doesn't guarantee my salvation, then you've undermined God's very integrity because He said being Jewish had a great advantage and you're saying it has no advantage. How do you answer that Paul?

His answer comes in verse 2. He says, although being Jewish contributes nothing to your salvation, there are still huge advantages to being Jewish. Notice verse 2, "Great advantage in every respect. Chief of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God," with the very words of God. What greater privilege could there be than to be a part of the nation, a part of the people group to whom God entrusted His very words, "the crystallized speech of God."

By the way, that's why we do what we do here. That's why I don't stand up here and do a song and dance. First of all, it would not be pretty if I did, you wouldn't really want to see it. But it's because I'm a human being with nothing worthwhile to say. You shouldn't come to listen to me. That isn't the point. The point is, we have the very words of God, "the crystallized speech of God." And so my mission in my job is to read the Bible and explain the Bible, read the Bible, explain the Bible, because these are the words of God. He says, you have a great advantage.

Objection number two comes in verses 3 and 4, they say, we can't believe the gospel you preach, Paul, because it undermines God's faithfulness. Look at the objection in verse 3. "What then? If some did not believe," we could even say, because Paul will, later in Romans, "if most Jews did not believe, but only a remnant, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?"

You see, the essence of their objection was this, if Paul's gospel is true, and there are ethnic descendants of Abraham who are sinners and who will be sent to Hell, then God has been unfaithful to His promise to Abraham, which was to make them His children. How do you answer that Paul? Verse 4, "May it never be!" Never in a million years could God be unfaithful to His word. "Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." God will always be trustworthy in what He says, if He stands alone against every human being. He always keeps His word.

And then notice what Paul does, he quotes from Psalm 51, "as it is written, 'That You may be justified, God, in Your words, And that You, God, prevail when You are judged.'" What is going on here? David was saying, in that Psalm of confession, God, whatever You do to me, when people sit in judgment on how You respond to my sin, You will be vindicated in what You say and what You do. Now why would Paul quote that? His point is this, God demonstrates His faithfulness, His keeping of His promises, as much in keeping His promises of judgment as in keeping His promises of blessing. God is faithful either way, whether He brings judgment or whether He brings blessing, He's still true to His Word and what He said He would do.

Now, objection number three comes in verses 5 and 6. They said, Paul, we can't believe your gospel because it undermines God's justice. Verse 5 is the objection, "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?" I noted for you that the background here is divine election. Whenever people asked Paul why God had chosen some Jewish people for salvation, but not all Jewish people for salvation, his response was predictable. It's a response we will see in detail in chapter 9 of Romans. Paul said, God decided to leave some sinners in their rebellion and He did it to put His character on display.

Now, people don't like that. I mean, that sort of grates against our humanity. We don't want God to be God. God has no right to do that. God has every right to do whatever God wants to do. And Paul says, listen, what if God, this is Romans 9, what if God, as the potter, wanted to demonstrate His grace and mercy? He had every right to do that. And so, if that's true, the Jews said, if our unbelief manifests God's character, verse 5, "what should we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous is He?"

Here's the Jewish objection. If, as Paul teaches, God benefits from the sin of unbelieving Jews, it would be unfair of God to judge them, to inflict His wrath on them. Paul, your gospel undermines God's justice, because how can God judge those He didn't choose? Paul's answer, verse 6, "May it never be!" Never in a million years could God be unjust. "For otherwise how will God judge the world?" Paul here uses their own theology against them. He says, listen, if you're going to say it's unjust of God to judge you because your sin demonstrates His righteousness, He gets some benefit from it, then you're going to have to say God can't judge anybody, because the Gentiles could say the same thing, and I know you don't believe that, Paul says, you believe God will judge the world. So, this is just universally true.

Now, today we come to the fourth and final common objection to the gospel that Paul heard from the Jews. Objection number four, it's found in verses 7 and 8. This is new territory for us. This was their objection. Paul, your gospel undermines God's holiness, it undermines God's holiness. Now, before I look at verses 7 and 8 with you, we first have to back up and make sure that to understand this final objection we remind ourselves of the gospel of grace that Paul taught, because it's against the backdrop of divine grace that this objection comes.

So let me remind you, and I'll just give you four basic points about the gospel of grace Paul taught. Okay? Number one, God decided to allow human sin in order to exalt His glorious grace. God decided to create all things, to create human beings. God made a decision to allow us to fall into sin. Why did God do that? The answer, the best we can find, is found in chapter 9 of Romans. We looked at it two weeks ago so I won't look at it again with you, but basically it was to exalt His glorious grace, to put His grace on display.

A second point in the gospel of grace Paul taught is, because God then allowed human sin into the world, He didn't cause sin, He allowed it, He decreed to allow it to happen. Human sin then produces moral guilt before God and total spiritual inability. Look at chapter 3 verse 9. Lord willing, in a month's time, when we come back to Romans, we will look at this text. Paul begins to give a summary of his indictment of all humanity. Verse 9, "What then? Are we Jews better than the Gentiles? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin." And then you'll notice in your Bible, in your English translation, that the verses that follow are in all caps. That's because these are quotations from the Old Testament. Paul puts together a string of quotations from the Old Testament to prove his point.

Notice verse 10, "as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one.'" There's not one human being who measures up to God's standard, of course, except for our Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody else. "'There is none who understands.'" They don't understand God. They don't understand His ways. They don't understand His will. They don't understand themselves. "'There is none who understands.'" "'There is none who seeks for God.'" Not one, not one person on the planet left to himself would seek for God. You say, well, what about all those religious people in the religions of the world? Well, we're going to discover that Paul actually says they're not seeking God, they're running from the true God. "'There is none who seeks for God.'"

"'All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good. There is not even one.'" Folks, that is God's view of me and you. There's not one of us who does good. That's the indictment. You see in that passage, moral inability, you see the inability to do anything that's right before God. You see the guilt that we have; we've all sinned against God. Keep your finger here, turn over to chapter 8. Chapter 8 and verse 7, here he's explaining what it's like to be a person who hasn't been changed by God, who hasn't been regenerated, "the mind set on the flesh," that's every unbeliever, every person who's not been changed, "is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, it is not even able to do so." "Those who are in the flesh," that's all unbelievers, "cannot please God." It's impossible for them to please God in any respect. That's total inability.

Now, the third part of the gospel of grace Paul taught, and I know this, for those of you who take notes this is going to drive you nuts, but it's important to include all of this, the depth of human sinfulness requires (yeah, I knew you, yeah, I know, it's important though, every word here) the depth of human sinfulness requires God to rescue sinners from His wrath and forgive them by an act of grace alone, through the work of Christ alone, received by faith alone. This is the gospel. This is why it's so necessary.

Look at chapter 3 verse 23, "for all have sinned." Every human being, as we've just seen, has sinned against God, has rebelled against God their Creator. Your conscience tells you that. How many times has your conscience cried out against some decision you've made, some action you've performed? The Word of God tells you that. "And fall short of the glory of God." That is, we don't measure up to God's standard. Nobody measures up to the standard. And so our only hope, verse 24, is "being justified." That's a legal word which means to declare right before the law. We are declared right with God as a gift by His Grace.

How can God do that? Well, it's through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. God can only declare us right with Him as a gift because of what Jesus did. Verse 25, "God publicly displayed Jesus," that's the cross, "as a propitiation," as the satisfaction through His death, and that satisfaction is received by each of us "through faith" in Jesus Christ. That's the gospel. This is what has to happen. Our only hope is through grace alone, through the work of Christ alone, received by faith alone.

Now, there's one other part of the gospel Paul preached. Number four, salvation by grace alone brings glory to God alone. Salvation by grace alone, without any contribution on my part, brings glory to God alone. And God designed the plan of salvation, of our rescue, with this in mind. Look at chapter 3 verse 26, or 27 rather, "Where then is boasting?" He says, "it's excluded." There's no boasting. If I contribute nothing to my salvation, if it's all grace, then I have absolutely nothing to boast about. It's completely destroyed. And God designed it this way so that I couldn't stand at Heaven and say I got here by some contribution of my own. God wanted to do it in such a way that it destroyed all human boasting. It's by grace alone.

Now go back to chapter 3. That's the backdrop, that's the gospel of grace Paul preached. The fourth Jewish objection in verses 7 and 8 is to that very idea, the idea that we are saved without any contribution of our own, but by grace alone, because that means we contribute nothing to our own rescue. There's nothing good in us. It means every part of my being has been infected by sin. That's what theologians call total depravity. It doesn't mean I'm as bad as I could be, it means every part of me has been influenced and infected by sin. And it also means that I am unable to do anything which truly pleases God or makes me acceptable to Him, as we saw in Romans 8. It is impossible for an unbelieving person to please God. That's total inability, as theologians call it. The core of this fourth objection is to this whole idea that I can't contribute anything to my salvation, but that it's all of grace.

Now, let me show you the objection. It comes in two parts. First of all, we could put it this way. Here was their objection. If your gospel of grace alone is true, Paul, then God has no right to judge me. If your gospel of grace alone is true, God has no right to judge me. Look at verse 7, "But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also being judged as a sinner?" They argued, if my lie, that is, if my unbelief, if my rebellion, if my sin, brings glory to God, as you claim, if it puts His grace on display, then God has no right to judge me as a sinner. It's simply unfair because I can't help myself. That's what you're saying Paul. So therefore, it's unjust of God to judge me. It's like Romans 9:19, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'"

Tom Schreiner, one of the commentators on Romans, puts it this way, "This is reasonable. It's reasonable to ask how God could be righteous in condemning the Jews if they are frail creatures who have no ability to choose righteousness and their only hope is God's grace." In other words, what they're saying is, Paul, if I can do nothing then God can't blame me for doing nothing, because I can't do anything; it's God's fault.

Now, the second part of this objection is this, if your gospel of grace alone is true, it encourages sin and violates God's holiness. Look at 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'?" They took Paul's idea of "where sin abounded, grace abounded more," and they misconstrued it. They misinterpreted it to have Paul saying let's sin some more, because the more we sin, the more grace God shows.

And you can understand their thinking here. They're saying look if I don't contribute to my own salvation, if it's nothing I do, and you tell people, it's nothing you do that contributes, it's all grace, then what you're really telling them is, oh, you don't have to worry about how you live, just live however you want, it's grace. It's cheap grace, Paul, it's antinomianism. Your gospel allows a person to have God's forgiveness, but continue living in sin. Paul, your gospel encourages and promotes sin. In other words, it's a direct attack on God's holiness, who said "be holy, for I am holy."

Sadly, there was a legitimate foundation to this concern, because in the first century, not Paul, but in the first century there were false teachers who had attached themselves to the Christian faith who taught exactly what Paul's critics here accused him of teaching. Turn to Jude 4. The half brother of our Lord explains that there were false teachers like this. Verse 4 of Jude, "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed," into the church, "those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation." They, you know, they pass themselves off as pious people, as holy people, but Paul says, or excuse me, Jude says, they are "ungodly persons" and here's their theology, "they turned the grace of our God into licentiousness," into sensuality. In other words, they use grace as a cover for sin. Well, God is gracious, so it doesn't really matter how I live. This is what they were teaching.

Tragically, there are similar abuses of grace in our day just as there were in the first century. There are modern distortions of the gospel that claim to be the gospel and yet permit people to live in their sin. Let me just name a couple of them. One of them we could call "easy believe-ism," maybe you've heard that expression. "Easy believe-ism" is simply the flawed view of salvation that says, all you need to do is pray a prayer, walk an aisle, sign a card, and you're in. You don't have to worry about all that repentance stuff, you don't have to get into changing anything, you don't have to have a willingness to change, you just pray a prayer and you're in. This is ubiquitous in American culture. Jesus won't have any part of it. He says, in Luke 13:3, "unless you repent, you will perish."

The other modern iteration of this, sort of, cheap grace, is the "no lordship" view that for many teaches that a person can receive Jesus Christ as Savior and yet continue living the way they want and not really follow Him as Lord, not bow their will to His will. Again, Jesus will have nothing to do with it. He says, in Luke 6:46, "'Why do you call Me, "Lord Lord" and not do the things which I say?'" It doesn't make any sense. Don't call me your Lord if you're not obeying me.

Sadly, cheap grace distortions of the gospel have always been around, but in Paul's answer to this objection, he makes it clear that he never taught cheap grace. He never taught antinomianism. Look at Paul's answer. It also has two parts. The first part is this. He says, the God and gospel I proclaim are being slandered by even hinting that I would promote sin. Notice verse 8, "(as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come'?" Paul says, that is not what I teach, I'm being slandered and the God I represent is being slandered.

What did Paul teach? Look at Romans 5. Romans 5:20, he's going to explain this in more detail here, but he says, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase." In other words, God gave the Law to make sin clear and that increased my guilt, "but where sin, increased grace abounds all the more." Verse 1 of chapter 6, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" This is what his accusers said that he believed. He says, "May it never be!" Never in a million years is that acceptable. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" He says, you've been radically changed, your slavery to sin has been broken, how can you continue to live in sin? It's not going to happen. Paul says, this isn't what I teach. The true gospel never treats sin lightly. It never justifies sin. It never uses grace as a cover for sin. Free from the law, oh happy condition! Sin all I want, with easy remission. That's not what the gospel teaches.

There's a second part of Paul's answer here. God will justly condemn those who accuse him of encouraging sin through the gospel he preaches. Notice what he says in verse 8, "Their condemnation is just." He says, God will pronounce a guilty verdict on those who sinfully accuse me of promoting sin. You know what the real issue was? These opponents of Paul, they didn't like grace alone because they wanted to contribute to their own salvation. That's what this is all about. And Paul says, they're going to be condemned as well.

Let me ask you, Paul teaches gospel grace. He teaches that we are saved by grace alone. Let me ask you, do you agree with Paul or do you agree with his opponents? Let me ask you a series of questions. Do you agree that there's nothing good in you? Do you agree with Paul and God that every part of you has been infected by sin and that you are completely incapable of doing anything that pleases God or making you acceptable to Him? Do you agree that to receive His forgiveness and to be made right with God, you have to abandon all hope in anything you are, or anything you have done? Have you put your hope for spiritual rescue in God's grace alone, in the work of Jesus Christ alone, and received by faith alone? Is that your hope? That's the gospel. And if you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, that is the only way for you to know Him, for you to abandon all self righteousness and put your hope in the work of Jesus Christ, to receive the gift of grace in Christ.

But for most of us here, we're already Christians, what do we do with this very difficult paragraph? There are some lessons. Very briefly, let me give them to you, some lessons from Romans 3:1-8. Number one, unbelievers often have objections to the gospel. That's normal. Don't be surprised by that. Don't be scared by that. When you share the gospel they're not going to say to you, oh, thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me. I have been waiting for someone to tell me this my whole life, that I am a sinner and can do nothing to contribute to my salvation. Thank you. Not to say that never happens, it does happen on occasion, but that's not the common response. The common response is the same response Paul got, objections. So don't be scared off by that. Don't think something unusual has happened.

And that brings us to number two, be prepared to answer common objections to the gospel with reasoned biblical responses. Show respect to their objections and answer them. Listen, the Christian faith stands to reason. It's not a leap of faith. I was talking to a young man just recently and showing him that the Christian faith has far more reason supporting it than the alternatives. Don't be afraid to answer the objections that people raise.

But number three, we should keep our response to objections brief and return quickly to the gospel, even as Paul does here. He gets back to the message of the gospel. Don't let them distract you. You're talking with someone, answer their questions, but don't spend the next three hours talking about how Cain got his wife. That doesn't matter. Come back to the key issues. What are the two key issues? What is the ultimate source of their authority and yours? And secondly, on what basis is a man made right with God? Those are the two key questions. Keep it centered in what matters.

Number four, unbelievers especially object to total depravity and salvation by grace alone. You know, most unbelievers will admit they're sinners. Occasionally you'll run into somebody who says, I'm not a sinner, and they're just not being honest, but most of the time they'll say, yeah, I'm a sinner, but you know, I'm not that bad a person. And what Paul says is, that person can never be saved until they realize they are, in fact, a bad person who deserves God's wrath, who can contribute nothing to their salvation, and need what Christ did, rather than anything they've done.

Let me encourage you, don't give up, because these objections were objections the Apostle Paul had and he's writing the letter to the Romans to teach us the gospel that he once rejected and that he came to believe. The gospel is, as Spurgeon reminded us, like the word of God, it's a lion, you don't need to defend a lion, just open the cage and let it out and it will take care of itself. "It is the power of God unto salvation," so don't quit sharing the gospel. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your timeless, eternal word. Thank You for the gospel. Thank You for how You used it. Lord, how You brought us to see it, to understand it. You drew us to Yourself through the truth of Your Son.

I pray for those here this morning who have not humbled themselves before You and acknowledged their own sinfulness and their desperate need for You to change them from the inside out, to forgive them, to make them new in Christ. Lord, may this be the day that happens.

And Father, I pray for us who are in Christ, make us evangelists. Lord, open our mouths, don't let us be scared off by objections, but to be aware those are going to be part of sharing the gospel, and to just keep sharing it, because we have here the perfect example in the Apostle Paul, the very one writing this letter, of someone who objected and objected and objected and then by the power of Your Spirit came to believe. Lord, make us faithful until our Lord comes. We pray in His name, amen.