Justice: Privilege Is Irrelevant

[Romans 3:9-20 ESV] 9 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.

The purpose of Romans 3:1-20 is to present a biblical indictment of the Jew. In 2:17-29 he has bluntly indicted the Jews with sinful inconsistency and foolish trust in the mere possession of law and the covenant of circumcision. 3:1-8, Paul explains that although God blessed the Jews he can still condemn the Jews for their sinfulness–that does not mean God is behaving unjustly or unrighteously. 3:9-20, Paul explains that the Jews are condemned for sin along with the Gentiles and he uses their own scriptures to prove it. Two facts are true at once: the Jews are God’s blessed people and the Jews are accountable to God. Paul makes it clear that their unique blessings are not a factor in God’s judgment of their actions. 

  • Judgment: Blessings (read: privileges) Are Irrelevant

This is an important point of this text: no people are excused from God’s judgment. If not even the Hebrew people are excused from God’s judgment then no one is. God did not spare his people that he lived with through the Temple. God did not excuse the behavior of the people he called his own. God held accountable the people he promised to bless.

God did not excuse the Gentiles from judgment even though they lacked the Old Covenant. Even though the Gentiles did not get God’s law, the prophets, or scripture, God did not excuse them from being accountable. There was a lack of equity here, the Jews had advantages the Gentiles did not: the Old Covenant, the sign of circumcision, the promise of blessings, the prophets’ guidance, the scriptures, etc. The Jews were light-years ahead of the Gentiles in recognizing the true God. The Jews were highly privileged with blessings that others did not have. The Gentiles were under-privileged without said blessings. This lack of equity, however, did not factor into judgment. 

Even though the Jews were privileged they were accountable to God. Even though the Gentiles were not privileged they were accountable to God. 

The Gentiles were without excuse before God. They could not cry ignorant before God’s judgment. Though they lacked all the privileged blessings of the Jews they were still found guilty before their Maker. And the Jews, too, were found guilty despite their privileged blessings. 

When it comes to God’s justice, he does not care about who you are, what ethnicity or race you are, what advantages you have, what disadvantages you have. God’s justice is only concerned with your actions. In God’s judgment, no race or group is excused. 

If God’s justice does not care about advantages or disadvantages, then neither should we. God’s justice is true justice. If our justice is impartial then it is not true justice. If we excuse a person’s actions because of their advantages or disadvantages, then that is not justice. If we factor in race, ethnicity, or ancestry, then it is not justice. God is no respecter of persons–neither should we be. He is impartial–so should we be. The world needs to hear this. 

“Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them–to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. They bigot is an unreasoning hater–one who hates blindly , fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen –people he’s never known–with equal intensity–with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race–to despise an entire nation–to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL–His children. Pax et Justitia,” Stan Lee. 

  • The Gospel

And this is what makes the Gospel so special. All of us humans failed to live free of sin and disobedience to God, but Jesus was able to (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15). Jesus did what we failed to do. He kept the Law of Moses perfectly and was able to resist every form of sin in his life. 

For us sinners, Jesus offered his life to rescue us from the law which condemned us. The condemnation we deserved for our sins, Jesus accepted that penalty in our place (2 Cor. 5:21). It was impossible for us to be saved by our works and so Jesus saves us by our faith. 

In Romans, Paul has been establishing this point that all people sin and all sinners are condemned, so that he could explain that Jesus is the way to escape condemnation. We have been labeled “under sin,” a verdict of guilty–Jesus is the only way to change that verdict to innocent and label us “righteous.” Paul says both Jews and Greeks are “under sin” (Rom. 3:9).

Then Paul says the same thing in verse 23 with an additional part of hope–the Gospel. 

[Rom. 3:23-25 ESV] 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. …

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