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"The Closing of Every Mouth"
Wednesday PM Home Bible Study
June 25, 2003
Almost everyone enjoys a good 'courtroom drama' - unless, of course,
they're the defendant. You can imagine this evenings passage as a courtroom
drama; but this time, it's you and I who stand trial.
The charge has been brought against us that we - along with every other
human being born of Adam - have sinned against God and now stand guilty
before Him as condemned sinners. In this passage, Paul - the prosecuting
attorney - systematically rips our every defense away and leaves us without
any plea. But he doesn't do this to simply leave us condemned, but to then
present us with the only hope we have - God's free and gracious declaration
that we can be justified by faith in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. God
proves our guilt, so that He might pour out His grace on us.
This is Paul's closing arguments in a very important and tightly argued
section of Romans - that section in which He proves our need for the great
theme of his letter, which is "justification by faith". He first introduced
this theme in 1:16-17, and he finally declares it in 3:21-31. This passage
brings us to the brink of that great and wonderful declaration. It puts the
final touch on Paul's presentation of the "bad news" about our sin that
makes the "Good News" of God's grace so wonderfully good!
The court is in session. A series of witnesses against the defense have
already been brought forth. First, "Creation" has borne witness against us;
declaring that it has revealed the truth about God, but that we have
suppressed that truth in unrighteousness (1:18-23). Second, "Conscience"
has borne witness against us; declaring that it has testified to God's law
within our hearts, but that though we've known what is right, we haven't
done it (2:1-16). Third, "Commandments" have borne witness against us;
declaring that God has clearly entrusted His written moral code to the
Jewish people, but that not even they have kept it (2:17-24). And finally,
"Circumcision" has presented its witness against us; declaring that we seek
only to conform to religion on the outside, but failing to keep it from the
heart on the inside (2:25-29). The combined witnesses of Creation,
Conscience, Commandments and Circumcision is that "all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
Paul presents his case as if against the Jew - and in doing so, he is
presenting his case against everyone else; because no one could make a
better case for acceptance by God through works than the Jew. (3:9 shows us
that Paul is really talking about all of us.) And now, you and I - as
defendants - must take the stand ...
I. THE DEFENSE MAKES A PATHETIC PLEA OF INNOCENCE (vv. 1-8).
A. "But I'm a Jew! Doesn't that count for something?" Yes; it does. The
great advantage is that you have been entrusted with the written law - the
"oracles of God". Yet, all that does is compound your guilt because you
have not kept that law (vv. 1-2).
B. "But God made promises to the Jews! So what if I didn't believe! That
doesn't affect God's faithfulness, does it?" God forbid that our failures
should make God's faithfulness of no effect! But this too compounds your
guilt; for let God be true, and every man be proven a liar - just as it says
in such passages as Psalm 51:4 and 62:9 (vv. 3-4).
C. "Alright then. But if it's true that my unfaithfulness has caused God's
faithfulness to shine even brighter - I mean, if He ends up getting glory
because of my sin - then isn't He being unjust to pour out His anger on me?
Didn't my sin benefit Him?" Enough!! How dare you insinuate that God is
unjust in judging your sin!! (vv. 5-6a). This is wrong for two reasons:
1. First, if God is unrighteous for judging sin, then how could He judge
the world? If He is wrong to judge you for your sin; then how could He be
right to judge anyone? (v. 6b).
2. Second, if the truth of God has increased through your lie to His glory,
then what would keep you from making the argument that you should 'sin up a
storm to the glory of God'? People who have made similar rationalizations
for their sins are condemned - and justly so! (vv. 7-8).
II. THE INDICTMENT AGAINST THE DEFENSE IS READ (vv. 9-18).
A. Your Honor, the prosecution concludes that the defendant - even if he
were to be a Jew - stands no more innocent than any other sinner. We have
previously charged that both Jews (2:17-29) and Greeks (1:18-2:16), are all
equally under the guilt of sin (v. 9).
B. The prosecution therefore brings the following charges against the
1. Six counts against him for his complete corruption of character (vv.
10-12; see also Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccl. 7:20).
a. He is unrighteous before You, for "There is none righteous, no,not one
b. He is corrupt in his thinking about You, for "There is none who
c. He is irreverent toward You, for "There is none who seeks after God ..."
d. He is resistant toward You, for "They have all turned aside ...
f. He does among those who do evil before You, for "There is none who does
good, no, not one."
2. Four counts against him for his unrighteous speech - which is corrupt
completely in throat, tongue, lips and mouth (vv. 13-14; see also Psalm 5:9;
a. His speech is death, for "Their throat is an open tomb ..."
b. His speech is characterized by habitual lies, for "With their tongues
they have practiced deceit ..."
c. His speech hurts others, for "The poison of asps is under their lips
..." (see also James 3:8).
d. His speech is vile, for he is among those "Whose mouth is full of
cursing and bitterness."
3. Three counts against him for how he relates to his fellow man (vv.
15-17; see also Prov. 1:16; Isa. 59:7-8).
a. He is murderous to others, for "Their feet are swift to shed blood ..."
b. He is dangerous toward others, for "Destruction and misery are in their
c. He is hostile toward others, "And the way of peace they have not known
4. One count against him for how he relates to God (the most serious count
of all - v. 18; see also Psalm 36:1). He is wrong from the very start
(1:18-21), for "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
III. THE DEFENSE MUST NOW REST ITS CASE (v. 19).
A. These indictments charge all with guilt before God - those under the
law, and thereby everyone else who is without the law.
B. As a consequence, the defense must close its mouth against these charges
and admit guilt.
IV. THE VERDICT: GUILTY AS CHARGED (v. 20).
A. His efforts to make his standing good before God on the basis of his
deeds has failed. He is not justified before God (Isa. 64:6).
B. Instead, all that his efforts have done is condemn him under the law.
He deserves the righteous wrath of God. The sentence, therefore - which
must be fully executed - is death (Rom. 6:23a).
Before we close our look at the bad news about our sin, however; just
remember: It's because of this final verdict that Paul - the prosecuting
attorney - now leaps for joy and declares to us that God, the righteous
Judge, has provided His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins! Paul
expresses this wonderful news for us in 3:21-31! Praise God!! God
righteously condemns us to death; but then graciously provides a Substitute
who willingly pays the death penalty for us!
God does not simply ignore His holy law in order to save us; but rather sees
to it that His law is fulfilled while at the same time declaring us sinners
"righteous" - all through Another stepping in to pay the penalty for us.
God thus proves Himself to be both "just" and "the justifier of the one
who has faith in Jesus" 3:26)! Praise Him for His amazing grace!!