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The Hundred-Seventy-Sixth (Romans Part 5)

Another week in the record books, huh?  And I don't know about you, but for us it was a doozy!  It seems like we've been going non-stop for weeks now, and this past week was the culmination of all that work.  After five years of living in Northern Virginia, our family now resides in sunny Florida!  On to a new adventure that we are looking forward to...even if it's been a bit of a rough start!

We've got some more of the book of Romans to dig into this week.  We left last week talking about why the law is still important today and how it's what comes from our heart that matters, not what we look like on the outside, when YHWH judges who we are and what we did in this life.  We're moving on to the beginning of chapter 3 this week, and Paul continues his discussion on being a Jew after just finishing his rebuke of those that claim to be better than others just for knowing the law rather than living it.  

He starts in this chapter by pointing out that there is a reason being a Jew matters, and it's not to say you're better than anyone else.  It's because the Jewish people, as one of the tribes of Israel, are the only identifiable group today that were originally given the spoken word of YHWH to carry through the ages so that we are able to read and study them today (Romans 3:1-2); the very law and prophets Yeshua told us would not be abolished until everything is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).  

Paul uses a particular word here when talking about the words of YHWH: logion.  This comes from the word logos, and means spoken word, meaning the Jewish people were one of the 12 groups of people that were given the opportunity to preserve the spoken word of YHWH so that in this day and age, and with Yeshua's death on the cross, the whole world has the opportunity to enter into eternal life.  In fact, this is the same word John used when he wrote that the word of YHWH became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), speaking of our Savior Yeshua of course.  When you look at it another way, not only were they given His word in the form of scripture, since Yeshua is the embodiment of His word and He came to the Jewish people first they were also entrusted with the physical form of His word, including the opportunity to participate in spreading that word to the world.

Paul continues by pointing out that just because some of the Jews did not have faith in the Messiah, or in YHWH's word in general (as shown by them not following it), does not mean YHWH wasn't, or isn't, faithful to us (Romans 3:3-4).  We certainly should trust YHWH and His word over a man's word or action (Jeremiah 17:5).  

Paul quoted Psalm 51 (verse 4) when talking about this, which is a Psalm of David where he is asking for YHWH to cleanse him of his iniquities.  David points out that he only sinned against YHWH, so YHWH would be right and blameless when He judges.  This may seem a little confusing or weird, but to me, it means David was trying to do his best to keep YHWH's name blameless among men and ensure the judgment given to him was clearly deserved, rather than YHWH being seen as a fickle God that randomly and unnecessarily inflicted pain and suffering on people.

Paul echoes this as he continues his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 3:5-8).  He points out that while our flaws of unrighteousness and falsehoods emphasize and accentuate YHWH's righteousness and truthfulness, showing that YHWH is the only one that is worthy and capable of judging the world just as David said, we also can't lean into this fact and go be unrighteous and untruthful every chance we get.  We can't say that because all our sinfulness shows how righteous YHWH is, we should sin as much as we can so YHWH's righteousness can be shown as much as it can (verse 8).  The showing of YHWH's righteousness is the "good" Paul is talking about in that verse that the slanderous people were claiming.

Paul transitions at this point back to the church and compares them to the people of the world he was just talking about that were slandering the church (Romans 3:9-18).  This is an important point to note because when Paul says "we" here, he is making a distinction between a few groups of people.  First, and most obviously, he is identifying the church as separate from the world.  Also, because he was previously talking about Jews and their "advantage," including those hypocritical and faithless ones, he is saying that the church is not considered Jewish, either.  In the next verse, he also makes the distinction that the church, while it is made up of both Jews and non-Jews (he uses the word Helleni here for Greeks, which is written as Gentiles in some translations), it is not considered to be either of those groups of people.  Being a part of the church makes you a part of a unique people.

His point is that no matter who you are, the church, a Jew, a Greek, a Gentile (meaning the world), you are under sin and unrighteous.  He quotes quite a few scriptures here when making this point, all of them being from Psalms except for one which is from Isaiah.  With him putting these all together it seems like they would all be from one book or chapter of the Old Testament, but those reading this letter would have been well versed in these and understood where each of them came from.  He combined them to point out how man has strayed away from YHWH, into sinfulness, and that we are incapable of being righteous on our own.   

Paul then brings it back to the law and again emphasizes that the law tells us what sin is (Romans 3:19-20).  He says a couple things here that, when taken out of context, makes it sound like the law is obsolete to us, the church.  However, in context all he's saying is that the law will never make anyone righteous.  It shows what sin is, and therefore holds us accountable to YHWH for our wrongdoings, giving us no room to argue otherwise.  Some translations add the word "merely" or "simply" in verse 20 where Paul says the law shows us what sin is, but this is adding something to his writing that is incorrectly minimizing the law, which Paul certainly did not do in any of his writing.

To close this chapter, Paul reminds, or better yet, emphasizes, how we actually become righteous since the law won't do it.  This portion of the chapter is actually pretty key to not only Paul's whole point for the past couple chapters but to our fundamental beliefs as Yeshua's church, so we'll go more in depth to it next week.  Some of it can be a bit confusing and at times seem to be contradicting, but when you take it all in context and look at it through the right lens, you find that it all makes sense.  

So, this week we saw that Paul is setting the stage for a culminating fundamental Christian belief by continuing his explanation of how no one can claim to be better than anyone else.  He pointed out that while everyone is sinful and unrighteous, and that our sinfulness and unrighteousness shows how righteous YHWH is, that does not mean that we do whatever sinful things we want just because the more we do that the more people see YHWH as righteous.  He also emphasized, just as we saw last week, that the law is how we know what is sinful or not.  While we still try our best not to do those things that are sinful, our attempts to not be sinful is not what will make us righteous.  Next week, Paul will tell us what will make us righteous, so look forward to that!

Have a great week!  Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you! 

-Rob and Sara Gene

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