Are You Willing to Embrace Being Justified By Faith Alone?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. More specifically today’s passage is found in the third chapter of this New Testament epistle. “What advantage then hath the Jew? OR what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteousness who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just” (Romans 3:1-8).

 

            “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seekth after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace they have not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:  that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).

 

            “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then. Make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul continuing the words and language he used to present the Jews and the Gentiles alike as being without excuse in the sight of the living God concerning His righteousness and holiness. In the first and opening chapter of this New Testament book you will encounter the apostle Paul emphatically declaring how the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness and how man was without excuse in His sight and presence. The apostle Paul boldly declared that the invisible things of God—even His eternal power and Godhead—were made manifest and visible in those things which are seen and which have been created. In essence that which the apostle Paul sought to do in the opening chapter was present the truth that all men were without excuse as it pertains to the knowledge of God for that which can be known of God is manifest and evident in the midst of the earth and everything that was created. The apostle Paul sought to bring his readers and audience to the place where they recognized the tremendous truth they were without excuse before a just and holy God in their knowledge of Him for anything and everything that can be known of Him is evident in all that was made in both the heavens and the earth. The apostle Paul would spend a considerable amount of time in the latter portion of the first chapter of this epistle calling and drawing men’s attention to the tremendous wickedness and rebellion that was present in the midst of the earth and would even describe how men exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped the creature rather than the Creator.

 

            It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the apostle Paul describing the tremendous wickedness and iniquity that was found within the world. The words the apostle Paul used in the opening chapter seek to provide the reader and audience with the tremendous truth that they are without excuse their knowledge and understanding of the living God for that which can be known of God has indeed and has in fact been made manifest in everything the living God has created in the midst of the earth. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for in the opening chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul declaring how man was without excuse as it pertained to the knowledge of the living God for everything that can be known about Him is evidenced in His creation. In essence that which the apostle Paul is seeking to declare unto His audience is that it is possible to recognize the divine power and the eternal Godhead in the midst of that which was created in the midst of the earth. One needs only look at and examine the works of the hands of the living God in creation to encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth concerning the eternal power and Godhead. It’s almost as if all creation provides a powerful witness and testimony in the midst of the earth concerning the living and eternal God for that which can be known of Him and about Him is evidenced and witnessed in the midst of the creation—both in that which is in the heavens above and that which is in the earth below.

 

            As you continue reading the words found in the epistle written unto the Roman saints you will come to the second chapter and find the apostle Paul beginning this chapter with the powerful declaration how that man is inexcusable who judges another and yet does the very same thing they are judging another for. In the second chapter of this New Testament epistle you will be brought face to face with the tremendous and powerful truth surrounding those who would seek to judge others for the wickedness and iniquity within their lives and yet completely and utterly disregard and ignore the truth that they themselves do the very same things they are accusing and judging another for. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful and powerful truth that men who seek to judge others for the wickedness and iniquity within their own lives and yet themselves do the very same thing which they are judging others for. I have previously written how this is what is so intriguing and captivating about the narrative of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought from that act for she was not only brought to the court of the Temple but was also brought into the presence of the Lord Jesus. This particular woman was caught in the act of adultery and was accused of wrongdoing in the sight and presence of the Lord Jesus in the very Temple and house of the Lord.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that this chapter is one that contains a powerful picture and imagery of those who would not only seek to accuse another of their wrongdoing but those who would also seek to judge her according to the Law of Moses whilst completely and utterly ignoring the iniquity, transgression, rebellion and wickedness that was present within their own hearts and lives. If there is one thing I so absolutely love about the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that in this passage we find Jesus stooping down to the ground and writing therein unresponsive to the accusations and judgment of the scribes and Pharisees as though He didn’t hear them. When the scribes and Pharisees continued to press their accusations against this woman and called for her judgment the Lord Jesus would finally stand from the place He had bent down and would invite those who were without sin to cast the first stone. What the apostle John writes next is truly remarkable and astonishing when you consider it for he goes on to write how all those who were present were convicted in their heart by their own conscience and beginning with the oldest and continuing to the youngest departed from the Temple and from their accusing and seeking to judge this woman. The apostle John writes and records how one by one this woman’s accusers—and not only her accusers but also those who would seek to execute the judgment of the Law of Moses—departed being convicted in their own hearts by their conscience.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for within it we are brought face to face with the tremendous reality of this woman’s accusers and those who would seek to judge her each departing one by one having been convicted in their own conscience. Scripture is entirely unclear what Jesus wrote in the ground and the only words He spoke unto those who sought to accuse this woman and judge her according to the Law of Moses was an invitation given unto those who were without sin to cast the first stone. I have to admit there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Jesus might not have at the very least written the names of each and every one of this woman’s accusers in the dirt there in the court of the Temple. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder if Jesus also went on to write the commandments which were found in the Law of Moses making it clearly visible to those who would seek to accuse this woman. What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if in the dirt there in the court of the Temple Jesus directly connected each name He might have written with the iniquity and wickedness which was present within their own heart and life. We know that one by one beginning with the oldest those who sought to accuse this woman departed from the court of the Temple thus leaving this woman alone in the presence of the Lord Jesus.

 

            I have to admit that I am absolutely fascinated with the words found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for the words we find here in this passage bring us face to face with those who would seek to accuse another whilst themselves standing guilty before and in the sight of the living God. Within this chapter we find those who would seek to cast judgment against and upon this woman who was caught in the act of adultery according to the Law of Moses and yet before the day was over those who sought to accuse and judge this woman according to the Law of Moses would depart from the Temple one by one having been convicted in their own hearts by their conscience. Perhaps the greatest truth that is found within this portion of Scripture is the powerful reality of this woman being left alone in the court of the Temple and alone in the presence of Jesus without a single accuser being present before or around her. When it was just Jesus and the woman there in the midst of the Temple Jesus would ask this woman where her accusers were and if there was none who would accuser her. The woman would respond unto Jesus by declaring how there was not a single one who stood to accuse her to which Jesus would respond unto her by declaring unto her that He did not condemn her. Oh pause for a moment and consider the tremendous amount of grace and mercy that was displayed on this particular occasion as Jesus not only delivered this woman out of the hands of her accusers but also how Jesus did not and would not condemn her. Even though Jesus who was the embodiment of the holiness and righteousness of the eternal God could have condemned this woman—even condemning her according to the Law of Moses—He chose not to condemn this woman and instead sent her way in peace with the instruction to sin no more.

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are found here are a powerful picture of what was present in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. We must needs recognize and understand the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the words which are contained in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for they bring us face to face with what it looks like when men seek to accuse and judge others according to the Law of Moses when they themselves are found guilty in His sight and presence. It is absolutely and utterly fascinating when reading the words found in this particular chapter for although those in the Temple would seek to condemn this woman they would themselves be convicted by their own conscience and would depart from the Temple convicted. WHEN CONDEMNATION IS ITSELF CONVICTED! WHEN CONDEMNATION TURNS TO CONVICTION! It is absolutely and utterly fascinating to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are presented here bring us face to face with the powerful reality of condemnation being transformed into conviction in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Those who would seek to condemn and judge this woman—even condemn and judge her according to the Law of Moses—would themselves be convicted in the presence of Jesus and would depart from the Temple one by one. Oh how powerful it is to consider how those who would have stood to accuse and condemn this woman would themselves depart from the Temple having been convicted in their own conscience by the words which Jesus spoke.

 

            As you come to the second chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome you will find the apostle Paul declaring unto his readers and audience how they were without excuse who sought to accuse and judge others of the very same things which they themselves were guilty of. The apostle Paul would begin the second chapter with the words “Thou art inexcusable” and it would be the second time in as many chapters the apostle Paul would bring men and women to the place where they would recognize they were without excuse. It would be in the first chapter the apostle Paul would present his readers and audience with the knowledge and truth they were without excuse in the sight and presence of the living God in their knowledge of God for that which was made visible and known of the eternal Godhead and His power was made visible in those things which were made. There is something which we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented her bring us face to face with those who would seek to judge others and yet themselves are not only judged but also guilty of the very same things they seek to judge others for. This is something we must needs understand for I have previously written how there are two different types and forms of judgment—judgment from a place of legalism and self-righteousness in the sight of God and judgment from a place of hypocrisy. There is a judgment against another individuals which emerges and appears from a place of legalism and self-righteousness which is most readily seen in the parable Jesus spoke of the Pharisee and the publican and how even in the prayer the Pharisee prayed he accused and judged the publican of being a sinner. Moreover there is a judgment against other individuals which emerges from a place of hypocrisy which is found and best expressed in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in this chapter where we encounter and come face to face with the strong and powerful truth concerning the scribes and Pharisees who sat in the seat of Moses and yet were themselves hypocrites.

 

            What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the second chapter is they help serve as the foundation and background for what we find in the third chapter. In the second chapter we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that as many who have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law while as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. The apostle Paul would also go on to declare that it is not the hearers of the Law which are justified in the sight and presence of the living God but the doers of the Law. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to speak of the Gentiles which do not have the law and yet do by nature the things contained in the law being a law unto themselves. These Gentiles who do not have the law and yet do those things which are contained within the law show the work of the law written in their hearts and their consciences bear witness in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to the gospel. Oh it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which are found in the this particular passage of Scripture for not only do we understand that God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ but in the third chapter of this epistle we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Oh it is important that we come face to face with this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding those who believe themselves to be followers of righteousness and even teachers and instructors of righteousness and yet are themselves found to be guilty in the sight and presence of the living God. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter beginning with the seventeenth verse:

 

            “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preaches a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (Romans 2:17-24).

 

            With this in mind I also invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle which was written by James the half-brother of Jesus and one of the leaders in the early Church:

 

            “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons, For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors, for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not k ill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed not mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).

 

            What we must needs recognize and understand is how provocative the words the apostle Paul wrote in this epistle truly are and would have been to those who read them. We must realize that these words would not have been ready solely by Gentiles but would have also been ready by Jews as well. If there is one thing we must understand upon reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the apostle Paul wrote these words to both Jews and Gentiles alike. What’s more is that with these words it almost appears as though the apostle Paul is bring the Jews face to face with the tremendous fact that even they who have the Law of Moses and even they who have the rite of circumcision can find themselves guilty in the sight and presence of the living God. Even more than this one gets the strong sense the apostle Paul was declaring unto the Jews how although they had the Law and although they had circumcision they could still stand guilty before and in the sight of the living God. This reality would be all the more true and certain under the New Covenant when men and women are justified by faith in Jesus Christ in the sight of God according to the word and gospel which was preached among men. Under the New Covenant men and women were no longer justified by works of the Law nor were they justified by circumcision but were justified by faith and faith alone. The apostle Paul would teach and preach this reality in the different cities and places whereunto he traveled and journeyed and he would preach these words in both the hearing of the Jews and Gentiles. Oh imagine what it must have been like for the Jews to hear the apostle Paul preach in the synagogues and/or in the streets of the city declaring that the Law of Moses and circumcision avails absolutely nothing. The apostle Paul taught and preached in the synagogues unto both Jews and Gentiles alike how the just shall live by faith and how it is faith alone in the Lord Jesus that one experiences salvation and justification in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Romans and I can’t help but think about how provocative the words contained therein truly would have been for those who heard them. Imagine being a Jew and having devoted your entire life to not only knowing the Law but also keeping the Law and now being taught and instructed by the apostle Paul who declared unto you that one is not justified by and according to the Law. Imagine being a Jewish male who was in fact circumcised—even circumcised on the eighth day—and learning how that circumcision in the flesh avails absolutely nothing in the sight of the living God. I would dare say this is precisely what angered, enraged and utterly infuriated the unbelieving Jews in the various cities whereunto the apostle journeyed and preached. It is in the New Testament book of Acts you will find example after example of unbelieving Jews not only opposing themselves but also blaspheming in the sight of the living God. Moreover those unbelieving Jews would seek to incite the mob and crowd of people against the apostle Paul and against the gospel he preached unto and among them. Time and time again within the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul teaching and preaching in the synagogues of the Jews and how when the unbelieving Jews heard the words the apostle preached they grew mad with rage, envy, anger and malice in their hearts toward and against the apostle Paul. As a direct result of this they would reject and despise the gospel which had been preached by the apostle and would seek to dissuade others from believing that gospel.

 

            If there is one thing I so absolutely love about coming to the epistles which were written by the apostle Paul it’s that when you come to these thirteen letters you will not only find the words of instruction the apostle Paul sought to present unto the various churches. These epistles do not merely present us with a picture of the encouragement and correction the apostle Paul sought to deliver unto the various churches whereunto he journeyed and preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus. What we find within these epistles is a powerful picture of the gospel which the apostle Paul preached and which was revealed unto him. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the epistle written unto the Roman saints—and not only this epistle but the other twelve epistles which were written by the apostle Paul—it’s that the words and language contained therein bring us face to face with t he doctrine and gospel the apostle Paul preached unto both the Jews and Gentiles alike. What’s more is I would dare say that what we find here in this epistle was not and would not have been the first time the Jews and Gentiles heard or were made aware of such realities. With this being said it’s interesting and worth noting that the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome was in fact the longest of the apostle Paul’s thirteen epistles. This epistle is not only the longest of those written by the apostle Paul but it almost seems to contain within it the very foundation of the gospel which he preached unto the Jews and Gentiles. We know from the opening verses of the first chapter the apostle Paul had not yet come unto and visited the saints which were at Rome—this despite the fact that he so eagerly and earnestly desired to come unto them. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that he had not yet come unto the saints which were at Rome and how it was the desire of his heart to come unto them that he might preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus among them that there might be fruit borne among them.

 

            The words and language found here in this particular epistle serves as the very foundation for the gospel which the apostle Paul had taught and preached unto both Jews and Gentiles in every city whereunto he journeyed and traveled. I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that this epistle is as long as it is and contains within it the language it does for within it the apostle Paul was seeking to teach the saints which were at Rome concerning the gospel of the Lord Jesus. We must needs recognize that the apostle Paul hadn’t yet come unto the city of Rome and hadn’t yet visited the saints which were present in the midst of the city. The apostle Paul hadn’t yet taught in the synagogue(s) of the Jews there in the city of Rome and hadn’t taught and preached to the Gentiles and Jews alike. As such the apostle Paul would write this epistle to call and draw the attention of the saints which were at Rome to the very gospel he preached in various other cities. With this being said it is absolutely necessary for us to call and draw our attention to the undeniable truth surrounding the words and language contained in this epistle for these words would have undoubtedly been provocative for the Jews who heard and read them. I would dare say there might very well have been certain Jews who heard the words which were written in this epistle and were angered, outraged and offended at the words which the apostle Paul had written. I am certain there were Jews who heard the apostle Paul declare how man was not justified in the sight and presence of the living God by works of the Law nor by circumcision but was justified by faith in the Lord Jesus. I would imagine there were certain Jews who heard the words which were written in this epistle and were confronted with the reality of their own “righteousness” which they believed themselves to have possessed in the sight of the living God.

 

 

            The more I read the words contained in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome the more I am brought face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul would write unto these dear saints the same words and gospel he preached unto the Jews and Gentiles in the synagogues in the various cities whereunto he traveled. That which is found and contained in this epistle is a powerful picture of the same gospel the apostle Paul preached unto the Jews and Gentiles in the various cities he journeyed—a gospel that angered, offended and outraged countless unbelieving Jews. Oh I still can’t help but think about and consider what it would have been like for a Jew to read the words found in this epistle and not only hear the apostle Paul declare that man is not justified by the works of the Law but also how circumcision avails nothing in the sight and presence of the living God. Imagine being a Jew and having spent your entire life devoted to the study and memorization of the Law of Moses thinking that in it was salvation and justification only to find one like the apostle Paul declaring unto you that the Law is absolutely powerless to bring justification in the sight of the living God. I can’t help but think about what it would have been like for Jews who heard these words to have spent their entire lives reading and studying the Law of Moses seeking to adhere to and follow it only to be met with the word and gospel of the apostle Paul which emphatically declared that man was not justified by the works of the Law and that circumcision avails nothing in the sight of the Lord. Oh I won’t say that what the Jews were taught and believed their whole lives was a sham but I will say that many of them were completely and utterly shocked to discover that although they might have spent their entire lives devoted to the reading and studying of the Law and seeking to adhere to it man was not justified according to the Law of Moses.

 

            In the New Testament book of Acts we are brought face to face with the apostolic journeys of the apostle Paul and how he journeyed from city to city teaching in the synagogues the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. While there are small glimpses found in the book of Acts concerning the word and gospel the apostle Paul preached we are largely left to wonder and speculate that which he actually taught and preached unto and among them. It isn’t until we come to the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the various churches and saints during those days we begin to catch a glimpse of the word and gospel the apostle Paul preached. In fact I would dare say that the epistle written unto the saints at Rome—this epistle which is not only the longest of the apostle Paul’s thirteen epistles but also the theological framework for the gospel he preached—is a powerful picture of the gospel the apostle Paul believed as well as preached in the sight and presence of both Jews and Gentiles alike. The words and language found and contained within this epistle brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s gospel which he preached unto both Jews and Gentiles alike in the various cities and regions he journeyed. What’s more is that what we find here in this gospel is a powerful picture of just how provocative and evocative the gospel the apostle Paul would have preached during those days—first to the Jews and perhaps even unto the Gentiles. The apostle Paul would indeed declare that man was not justified by the Law of Moses and that circumcision availed nothing but he would also declare that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is within this epistle a powerful picture of both Jew and Gentile being guilty in the sight of the living God and in need of a Savior who can offer them salvation and justification.

 

            In the final verses of the second chapter of this epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome we find the apostle Paul declaring how circumcision only profits if one keeps the law. If, however, one breaks the law their circumcision is made uncircumcision. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to declare how if the uncircumcision (the Gentiles) keep the righteousness of the law shall not their circumcision be counted for circumcision. The apostle Paul would go on to write how uncircumcision which is by nature if it fulfils the law judges those who by the letter and circumcision do transgress the Law. The apostle Paul would indeed drop the gauntlet when he went on to declare that one is not a Jew who was one outwardly in the flesh but one was a Jew which is one inwardly. Moreover the apostle Paul would declare that circumcision is not a matter of the flesh and the outward appearance but circumcision was of the heart in the spirit and not in the letter. Pause for a moment and consider how incredibly provocative these words truly were unto those who would have read them—particularly and especially those who placed a great deal of value and stock in their being a Jew by birth as well as their being circumcised  and knowing the Law of Moses. Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which was sent unto the saints which were at Philippi for the apostle Paul would not only call their attention to the tremendous truth of his heritage and lineage but he would also emphatically declare unto them how he counted it all as loss for the sake of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to truly understand how provocative these words which were written by the apostle Paul truly are it is necessary for us to consider the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints:

 

            “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. FI any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even t his unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).

 

            We must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it the apostle Paul speaks of confidence in the flesh—and not only of confidence in the flesh but also how he himself had confidence in the flesh and reason to boast. The apostle Paul spoke of the reasons and means of his confidence and boasting in the flesh for he was circumcised the eighth day, was of the stock of Israel, was of the tribe of Benjamin and was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Moreover the apostle Paul would also declare how touching the Law he was a Pharisee and touching zeal he persecuted the church. The apostle Paul would also go on to declare how concerning the righteousness which is in the law he was indeed blameless. Please do not miss and lose sight of the words and language found within this portion of Scripture for not only does the apostle Paul speak of circumcision but the apostle Paul also speaks of the law and a certain righteousness that is found in the Law. If there is one thing I can’t help but consider when I think about this rite of circumcision it’s that for most Jewish males they were not circumcised as adults as though it was a decision they themselves made. Most Jewish males were circumcised on the eighth day after their birth as an act which their parents brought about within their lives. Oh it is quite remarkable and astonishing to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider the tremendous truth that many Jews placed a great deal of emphasis on circumcision and yet circumcision was in all reality a work which was performed in their lives before they even had a knowledge of good versus evil. The apostle Paul wrote and spoke of himself as being circumcised the eighth day and of being of the stock of Israel and of the tribe of Benjamin thus indicating means whereby he might boast.

 

            With all of this being said I can’t help but think about how provocative the words the apostle Paul wrote in his epistles—and not only the words which were written in the epistles but also the words which he taught and preached in the various cities whereunto he journeyed—particularly and especially for the Jews who would have heard and read his words. I still cannot get over the tremendous truth that the Jews which heard the words which the apostle Paul preached were faced with two incredibly powerful decisions upon hearing and reading the words of the apostle Paul. They could continue in their unbelief and thinking they could be justified by and according to the works of the Law and that their circumcision availed much in the sight of the living God or they could accept and believe the words which the apostle Paul preached and recognize how one is justified according to faith in the Lord Jesus according to the free gift of God. To be a Jew during these days and hearing the words which the apostle Paul preached and spoke would have been an incredibly intriguing matter for they would be forced into a place of choosing to potentially shift their entire manner of thinking as they would believe the word and gospel the apostle Paul preached. The apostle Paul emphatically taught and preached how circumcision did in fact avail nothing and how one was not a Jew who was one outwardly as well as the fact that one is not justified according to the works of the Law. Neither the Law nor circumcision possessed any power to justify men according to the free gift of God found in the person of the Lord Jesus for those who confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from death to life are and will be saved. The apostle Paul declared that one is justified by and through faith in the Lord Jesus and how faith it the ultimate key that unlocks salvation both for the Jew as well as unto the Gentile alike.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are presented in this passage is that although the apostle Paul would emphatically declare that neither circumcision nor the works of the Law availed anything in the sight of the living God he would pronounce both Jew and Gentile alike as guilty in the sight of the living God. Just because the Gentiles did not have the Law of Moses and just because the Gentiles did not have the rite of circumcision did not mean they were not guilty in the sight of the living God. If you read the words which are found in the first chapter of this epistle you will find a powerful list of the offenses and wickedness men have committed and can commit within the earth. It is in the first chapter of this epistle we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul drawing and calling the attention of men and women unto the tremendous truth that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Regardless of whether or not you were circumcised and regardless of whether or not you were a Gentile all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the living God. The apostle Paul would emphatically declare in the final verses of the second chapter that one is not a Jew who is one outwardly but inwardly and that circumcision is not one that is of the flesh but one that is of the heart in the spirit not according to the letter. It is this particular truth which we must needs recognize and understand when coming to the third chapter for the apostle Paul sought to bring the Jews to the tremendous place of recognizing that their heritage as Jews in the earth was indeed of value for they would still be the chosen people, seed and race in the midst of the earth. The apostle Paul would declare that there was indeed profit in being a Jew for unto them were committed the oracles of the living God. This reality would later be expressed in the ninth chapter of this epistle as well as in the epistle written unto the Hebrews when the author of that epistle speaks of the covenant, the promises, the commandments, and the like which was given unto the Jews as the chosen people of God.

 

            As you continue reading in the third chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul seeking to draw his readers and audience into the place where they recognize they are completely and utterly powerless and helpless to bring salvation unto themselves. For the Jews they firmly believed that their being circumcised and works of the Law placed them in good standing in the sight of the holy, just and righteous God and yet the apostle Paul emphatically declares there is absolutely nothing we can do to justify ourselves in the sight of the living God. To truly be justified in the sight and presence of the living God requires a complete and utter abandonment of everything we know and think we know and a full casting of ourselves upon the altar of faith. That which the apostle Paul seeks to do in this portion of Scripture is bring us face to face with our sheer and utter helplessness and powerlessness to do anything to justify ourselves in the sight of the living God. Moreover it’s as if the apostle Paul is inviting us to cast off all confidence in the flesh, all confidence in the Law and all confidence in those things which we thought and believed would and could justify ourselves in the sight of the living God. What’s more is this concept of circumcision availing nothing is actually quite remarkable when you truly take the time to consider it for circumcision is by its very nature an act of the flesh performed in the flesh. If circumcision did in fact avail anything in the sight of the living God then not only would the act itself be accounted as righteousness but we would also be able to place confidence in our flesh. Oh I absolutely love the words which are found in this particular epistle for the words contained therein call and draw our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that there is absolutely nothing we have in the flesh nor anything we can do in the flesh to bring about our justification in the sight and presence of the living God. There would have been those who placed confidence in their flesh for means of justification in the sight of the living God and yet the apostle Paul firmly debunks this false reality and ideology in the hearts and minds of the Jews.

 

            It would be very easy to read these words and consider the apostle Paul simply speaking unto and addressing the Jews concerning the Law, works of the Law and even circumcision. There would be those who would think and consider that the apostle Paul was simply speaking to and addressing Jews within this epistle and yet the truth of the matter is that when you come to the third chapter you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring how all men stand guilty in the sight of the living God. It would be in the third chapter of this epistle we find the words of the apostle Paul and how he declared all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the living God. Within this epistle the apostle Paul leaves both Jews and Gentiles as standing guilty in the sight and presence of the eternal God and in need of something greater than themselves. For the Jews their trust and confidence could no longer be in the Law of Moses nor even in the rite and act of circumcision. Moreover the Jews could not place any stock or worth in their heritage and lineage as Jews and being the chosen race and seed in the earth. It was possible for both Jews and Gentiles alike to stand guilty in the sight and presence of the living God and in tremendous need of the free gift of salvation. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and how absolutely critical it is for our relationship to and our relationship with the living God. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand that there is absolutely no confidence we can place in and of ourselves or anything we think we possess in this life or in our natural flesh that can bring about our justification in the sight of a just and holy God. What’s more is if not even circumcision nor works of the Law availed anything for the Jews then what hope would there be for Gentiles who neither had the Law nor circumcision? Pause for a moment and think about how truly incredible this is and how provocative it would have been for the Jews to hear these words concerning the Law and circumcision.

 

            In all reality I have to admit the tremendous amount of freedom and liberty that would have been found for the Jews who had spent their entire lives devoting themselves to fulfilling the Law of Moses and even being circumcised thinking and believing that such would allow them to stand justified in the sight of a just and holy God. What’s more is I can’t help but think about the tremendous freedom the Gentiles would have found in this same truth—particularly when there would be those Jews who would try to cause them to believe they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. This is precisely what is found in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts when in Antioch there were certain Jews who entered in among the brethren and taught that unless men were circumcised they could not be saved or find justification in the sight of the living God. When the apostle Paul and Barnabas came unto Jerusalem there were some of the Pharisees which believed who also dared argue that unless Gentiles were circumcised they could not be saved. What you find in these two chapters is the apostle Paul and Barnabas in Antioch and the apostle Peter and James in Jerusalem declaring that the gift of the Holy Spirit and the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus was and had been made available unto the Gentiles without and apart from the Law. What makes this truly astonishing is when you consider how the Gentiles could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit not having the Law of Moses nor circumcision. The very fact the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit was all the proof and demonstration that was needed to reveal how neither circumcision nor the Law availed anything under the New Covenant.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering how absolutely incredible this truly is for it brings us face to face with the striking reality that the Gentiles could not only receive the gift of the Spirit but could also be justified in the sight and presence of the living God apart from and without the Law of Moses and circumcision. Ask the centurion Cornelius and his entire household, or the Philippian jailor and his household and even the disciples in Ephesus how they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and you will find them all agreeing how they received the gift of the Holy Spirit absent the Law and circumcision. Oh it is necessary for us to recognize and understand this for it calls and draws us into the place where we recognize and realize that salvation is a free gift given from God and is accessed by and through faith alone. The gift of salvation is completely and entirely free and is obtained absent and without the Law and without circumcision. What’s more is that even the gift of the Holy Spirit is received absent and apart from the Law of Moses and apart from circumcision for those Gentiles who had neither found themselves receiving the gift of the Spirit after being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Oh that we would recognize and understand this for this is precisely what the apostle Paul would write in his epistle unto the churches in Galatia when he asked them if they received the gift of the Spirit by works of the Law or according to the promise of God. Moreover I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthians when he wrote how where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Not only this but in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find Jesus Himself declaring that he whom the Son sets free is free indeed and that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth of the apostle Paul placing all as being guilty in the sight of the living God. It is beginning with the tenth verse of this chapter where the apostle Paul quotes the words which David wrote in the book of the Psalms concerning there being none righteous, no not one. The apostle Paul would further quote the words of David when he would go on to declare how there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God and how all are gone out of the way, all are become unprofitable and there is none that does good, no not one. What’s more is when you come to the nineteenth verse of this chapter you will find the apostle Paul going on to declare how what things soever the law says it says to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be guilty before God. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that perhaps the single greatest manifestation of the Law given unto Moses was to pronounce all the world as being guilty before the living God and in need of salvation, righteousness, holiness and justification. Not only this but when you come to the twentieth verse of this same chapter you will find the apostle Paul going on to declare that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God for by the law is knowledge of sin. This then opens the apostle up to go on to expound how the righteousness of God without the law is manifested being witnessed by the law and the prophets—even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe. The apostle Paul makes this righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ available unto all—both Jews and Gentiles like—which is why the apostle Paul would go on to declare how all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

 

            When we think about the concept of all having sinned and falling short of the glory of God we must needs acknowledge the context in which the apostle Paul wrote this for by making such a statement what he was actually declaring was that both Jews and Gentiles alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Those who had the Law and circumcision as well as those who did not have the law and circumcision have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Just as salvation is a free gift of God to them who believe—both for the Jew and for the Gentile—so also is the knowledge that both Jew and Gentile alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is an old adage that speaks of innocent until proven guilty and yet when we think about Christendom and salvation we must needs adapt this and recognize that we are guilty until made innocent. In all reality being justified by faith in the Lord Jesus according to the free gift of God according to the Spirit means that we were guilty and were made innocent as though we had never sinned or trespassed. Perhaps the single greatest reality of this is found in the four New Testament gospels when he who was guilty was released as though he was innocent while He who was innocent and knew no sin was condemned and sentenced to death. In the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus we find two different individuals—both of which were guilty according to the law—and yet how one would find freedom in the natural sense as they were permitted to go free and another would hear the Lord Jesus declare how on that day they would be with Him in paradise. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for within the narrative of the suffering of the Lord Jesus we discover two men who were guilty and yet how one would be released and set free while another would be sentenced to death and how another would find grace and mercy from the Lord Jesus and hear how he would be with Him in paradise.

 

There is something absolutely and incredibly powerful about this particular truth of both Jew and Gentile alike having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and how it made no difference whether you had the Law of Moses and/or circumcision or not. The apostle Paul—and even David himself—declared how all had sinned and all stood guilty before the living and eternal God. With this being said we must needs recognize that what is so incredibly powerful about justification is that it takes those who were guilty and those who are guilty and pronounces them innocent. What’s more is justification transforms those who were once guilty in the sight of the living God into such who had never sinned in the sight of the living God. Because He who knew no sin became sin and took upon sin for us we who were guilty and who knew sin could in fact experience the justification and righteousness of God found in the person of Jesus Christ. Oh that we would be men and women who truly recognize and understand just how critical and vital faith in the Lord Jesus is and how we are justified and can only be justified according to faith in the Lord Jesus. It will be those who confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with their heart that God raised Him from the dead and those who call upon the name of the Lord who will be saved. Perhaps one of the greatest realities present within our hearts and lives is that we must needs recognize that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the living God and how the living and eternal God has indeed and has in fact made us beloved in Christ according to the free gift of God found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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