Romans 3:19


Monday, 11 March 2013

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19

Paul sums up his argumentation in this verse and will draw his final conclusion in the next. “Now we know” is his way of saying – “See, the evidence is clear, it is concise, it is fully substantiated, and it is irrefutable.” And so we know “that whatever the law says” is given to mean whichever law applies to the addressee. To the Jew, it is the Law of Moses and to the gentile it is natural law clearly revealed to us and which Paul carefully explained in Romans 1.

These laws are the facts to be presented in a judicial proceeding. Whatever the law says, “it says to those who are under the law.” Whichever law applies – be it to Jew or gentile – it is spoken to that group. In the case of the Jew, it is actually both laws because despite having the Law of Moses, they also have the natural law. They are accountable in both cases, but by whichever law, the evidence is clear; the charges have been presented and so “every mouth may be stopped.”

This phrase is alluded to in the Old Testament such as in Job 5:16 –

“So the poor have hope,
And injustice shuts her mouth.”

Every mouth being stopped means that the evidence is so overwhelming that no valid reply can be made in response to it. At the judgment, nobody will be able to say, “but I didn’t know.” We have received enough of God’s revelation to condemn us. For the gentile it is conscience mixed with reason – “We exist; we didn’t create ourselves; and therefore, we were created by another who has shown Himself through the rest of His creative works.” For the Jew the argument was drawn directly from the authority they claim as the basis for their culture – Scripture. Paul has demonstrated from the source of what establishes them as a people that they are guilty.

A clear example for us to understand this is to simply change “Jew” to “Christian” and include the New Testament. You who claim to be a Christian, have you met the requirements of being a Christian? There is one source for such a claim – the Bible which tells of Jesus. It is the basis of our faith. If it can be demonstrated from this source that we haven’t met the requirements of the title, then we are found as false Christians.

Paul has shown that no gentile can be saved by natural revelation and no Jew can meet the demands of the law perfectly and therefore “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The term “become guilty” is the Greek word hupodikos. This is its only use in the New Testament. It means to be “liable to the judgment of.”

The sum of Paul’s thoughts to this point then is that when the judgment comes – for both Jew and gentile – the verdict is to be “guilty” and there can be no appeal. God’s revelation of Himself condemns us. If this were the end of the story, it would be a sad story indeed. What value would it be to go on? What purpose would there be in doing any good at all? For what then did God create – just to destroy His creatures? The story would make no sense at all.

The next verse will conclude this line of Paul’s thoughts and will show the utter futility of existence without Jesus Christ. But verse 20 will open a new page for the condemned soul.

Life application: If we somehow feel that we are pleasing to God in and of ourselves, then we have made an immense error. God has given us His law and we have broken that same law. Thank God that the story doesn’t end there. Take time today to reflect on the glory of Jesus Christ. Without Him, there would be no purpose to our existence, but in Him life again has meaning.

Heavenly Father, thank You that the story didn’t end with the giving of the law. Thank you that grace and mercy have been found in Jesus Christ. I fear the law, and rightly so, because it shows my own fallen state. But yet I rejoice in the law as it was fulfilled in Jesus. And so through Him I pour out my praises to You. Amen.

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