Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 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." 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.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come? - as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
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.(ESV)
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Belonging to the Word of God
17 February 2015
How gracious our God is to us, that He has placed into our hands His divine oracles. Holy Scripture conveys His mercy to us in speech not subject to human will, "but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2Pt 1:21). What a huge gift this is to us. We, who have never at any time seen God, have His will placed in our hands through the writing of the apostles and prophets. This leaves us without excuse. Who could claim ignorance of God's gracious care for poor sinners in the person of His Son, when he has in his hands the very expression of that gracious care? God is not just telling us about His care but, because of the power of His Word to do what it says, He is also giving that care to us through the pronouncement of holy absolution.
The Jews presumed on the divine Word. They thought they had it under their control. They thought they had God in a box. They captured the Word of God in the temple, which they thought would never fall. Then God let it fall into the hands of the Babylonians. They boxed God into the fulfilling of the law, so that they presumed to obey the 613 separate commands which they identified in the Torah. If one man would keep the Torah perfectly for just one day, the Messiah would have to come. Or so they thought. Of course, God was far more gracious than this.
The Lutheran Church is a church of the Word of God. Lutherans claim to proclaim it, study it, learn it and inwardly digest it, but the claim must have some basis in reality. Just because the Lord has placed the Word among us, does not mean that we have used it rightly, by studying it, listening to it, sharing it, and reveling in its content.
Having the Word of God does not mean that it is the church's possession to be hoarded or kept in a vault, secreted away and hidden from view. Yet, sometimes we act as though it is a relic, the sign of a long dead faith, like the skull of John the Baptizer to be touched when convenient like a talisman. The Word of God, if it is to be ours, must be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested, as the collect intones. If the Word is to be our possession, it must be given away generously, joyously, and with seed-sowing abandon. If the Word of God is to belong to us, we will belong to the Word of God. If we are to possess the Word, it must possess us.
"Jewish unbelief does not leave grounds for complaint against God, but even shows His honor and love of humans to be the greater, because He is seen to have bestowed honor upon those who would dishonor Him (Rm 3:3-4). Paul has called them out as guilty of transgression by means of what they gloried in. The honor with which God treated them was so great, that even when He saw what would come of it, He did not withhold His goodwill toward them! Yet they made the honors bestowed on them a means of insulting Him who honored them! Next, since he said, 'What if some were unfaithful?' (Rm 3:3), lest by speaking here too as the history allowed him, he should seem to be a severe accuser of them like an enemy, he puts that, which really took place, in the method of reasoning and syllogism, saying as follows: 'Yes, let God be true though every one were a liar' (Rm 3:4). What he says is something of this sort: 'I mean that some did not believe, but if you will, suppose that all were unbelieving, well, in this way God is the more justified.' He set aside what really happened, to agree with his opponent, that he might seem overbearing or unbalanced.
What does the word justified mean (Rm 3:4)? That, if there could be a trial and an examination of the things He had done for the Jews, and of what had been done by them to Him, the verdict would be with God, and all the right on His side. And after showing this clearly from what was said before, he next introduces the Psalmist also as giving his approval to these things: 'That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged' (Ps 51:4). He then for His part did everything, but they were nothing the better even for this.
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 6
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For those who are preparing for the Lenten disciplines, that they might be led to the holy cross
For the family of Don Gray, whom the Lord took to Himself, that they might mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
For faithful pastors who quietly go about the care of the flock, that Jesus, the chief Shepherd, would uphold them in their labors
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015