I. God’s Fairness in Punishment (vv. 25-26)
A. Is it right for God to punish sinners? Questions to consider.
1. According to the Bible, the punishment of hell is eternal. Is it just to require someone to burn forever for sins committed within only a lifetime? Should the one who has only lived say 12 years pay for her sin for eternity?
2. Is it not better to see God as a grandfatherly type who may threaten but will in the end overlook and forgive?
3. Will our good deeds not be taken into consideration and weighed against our evil actions?
4. What about those who have not clearly heard the gospel?
B. Paul’s discussion of former and present times as it relates to God’s punishment and grace.
1. According to Paul, God was just in not punishing those who live before Christ (former times) (v. 25)
2. Now how are we to interpret this? Didn’t God punish sinners before Christ? Didn’t those who died without Christ before Christ died on the cross go to hell?
3. Paul will later declare that the wages of sin is death. (6:23)
4. In the present time, he is declaring sinners righteous because they believe in Christ.
5. Questions to consider: What happened to those who lived before Christ when they died? Was it fair for God to condemn them since Christ had not come yet? If God saved people before that time, why did Christ need to come?
C. The cross is the focal point in salvation history.
1. Salvation was not by one avenue before the cross and a different one afterwards.
2. Salvation has always been by faith, whether before or after the cross.
3. Those who lived before Christ were made right with God by faith (and it was actually faith in the cross even if they did not understand God’s plan or had even heard the name of Jesus). The promise of the cross was veiled in what theologians term the Protoevangelium. (Genesis 3:15)
4. Two examples are Noah and Abraham.
5. Noah was declared right with God by his faith, and his faith was proven by his resulting action of trusting God by building the Ark.
6. Abraham is known as the father of the faithful and also proved his faith by leaving his homeland and trusting God to guide him to his designated new home. (Hebrews 11:8)
7. People on this side of the cross are saved in the same way with the difference being we now have past knowledge of what Jesus has done.
D. God’s fairness in salvation is just whether before or after the cross.
1. Paul mentions that God did not punish those who sinned before the cross.
2. This does not mean God did not punish temporally or even eternally. Scripture is filled with stories of how God punished those who ignored him, and we can be sure their eternal destiny was hell, so what does Paul mean?
3. Remember God told Adam and Eve they would die if they ate fruit from the forbidden tree.
4. When they disobeyed, they did not immediately die physically. Scholars debate whether they would have lived forever had they not eaten, but since they did, God had to remove them so they could not eat of the tree of life and live forever in their fallen state.
5. Regardless of one’s conclusion about this, death did come: spiritually and eventually physically.
6. Nevertheless, God did not immediately wipe them off the earth when they disobeyed, and this is what Paul has in mind.
7. God could have immediately wiped out each human the moment they consciously chose to sin. He still could, but the cross has made the difference no matter whether the person lived before or after.
8. Thus God always saves on the basis of the cross. He was simply able to look ahead and see the completed work long before it actually took place. God is not consigned to time though he is free to enter it at any moment since he created it. Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.
E. Good Deeds and Boasting are both eliminated as the means of salvation. (vv. 27-28)
1. Paul refutes this same type of theology in Ephesians 2:8-10.
2. It is by grace through faith, and this eliminates any ground for boasting.
3. Based on his conclusions in the previous verses, Paul states we cannot boast of anything we have done that has led to God’s acceptance. Our acquittal is based on faith. It has nothing to do with good deeds or obeying the Law.
4. The story of Morris Shenker, CEO of the famed Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
a. In 1978 Dick Furman was on his way to Kenya with his family to volunteer his medical services.
b. Having missed his original international connection in New York, he boarded a different flight that put him on the plane with Mr. Shenker.
c. Two to three hours into the flight, the silence of the night was interrupted by an announcement stating that a doctor was needed in the first class section. A man was having a heart attack.
d. Dr. Furman stayed with Mr. Shenker, administering oxygen and nitroglycerine tablets until they could make the closest landing and get him to a hospital.
e. Mr. Shenker, not a Christian, kept up with Dr. Furman.
f. Mr. Shenker finally accepted his repeated invitations to come to Vegas when Billy Graham was conducting a crusade there. The condition was that he would attend the crusade.
g. Finally, on one occasion, Dr. Furman pointedly shared the gospel with the man he had saved, only to receive the following response, “I’m okay. I’ve given money to the revival (what he repeatedly called the crusade). I send food to the needy. I’m a good person. God won’t let me go to hell.”
5. Sadly this is the attitude of many people in America and beyond. Most religions require their followers to perform good deeds that will result in them being accepted by the god or gods they worship.
6. Though Christianity teaches the opposite of this philosophy, there is still that tendency even among Christians to think we need or can add something to our faith to impress God or place him under obligation to us.
7. This leads to a further question: Why is faith the only way?
a. It is the way God designed, and since he is God it is up to him.
b. It eliminates all boasting, placing total responsibility with God for our salvation.
c. When boasting is eliminated so is pride.
d. It puts the spotlight on God as the originator and executioner of our salvation.
e. Faith also acknowledges our inability to live up to God’s standards.
F. Faith and Law (vv. 29-31)
1. Paul’s conclusion once again addresses the prevalent misunderstanding between some Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome.
2. If faith was the way, what does this do to Judaism as a way of life? Did it make their customs and the Scriptures null and void? And what about God’s special mission for them in the world? But neither does the way of faith cancel out our obligation to obey God’s moral law.
3. In reality, understanding faith helps understand the Jewish religion better. It helps us understand why Abraham was chosen and why the law was later given.
4. What has happened under the New Covenant of grace through Christ helps us understand what God was doing under the Old Covenant.
5. While the focus was on the Jewish people, Gentiles were always included in his plan, seen in the promise made to Abraham that all people would be blessed through him. (Genesis 12:3)
A. The cross is the divine vindication of the righteousness of God as to how he must treat sin.
B. The cross also demonstrates God’s willingness to go to the uttermost limit to secure the removal of sin.