Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5
July 5, 2005
Lincolnton, N.C.

<138> Thesis: God had Jesus Christ proclaimed to be the Foundation of Mercy so that people might understand His righteousness. Introduction: In our studies of Romans, we have been subjected to a meticulous presentation of our sinfulness as human beings. It is a cumulative piling on of evidence that we have absolutely nothing within ourselves to recommend ourselves as virtuous people. This piling on tends to have a grinding impact upon our souls and our spirits that can as easily erupt in bitterness and anger as it can hopelessness and despair. These are the "options of impenitence". But, without a clear-eyed understanding of our total bankruptcy as those "bereft" of the glory of God, it is impossible to really grasp the significance of the Gospel's claim that God has made a way of salvation for us. But, there is another stumbling block to the understanding of the way of salvation God has made for us. This stumbling block has to do with a faulty theology of God. One of the problems of being put under the gun by someone is our tendency to lash back at them for criticizing us, and in our attempt to lash back we seek to justify our reaction by pointing out their own faults in the form of "How dare he criticize me when his own behavior is so inconsistent?" Man's problems in reacting in this manner are twofold: first, he mistakenly thinks that if he can find a flaw in the critic, he doesn't really have a problem he needs to deal with (criticizing one who has criticized you doesn't negate the reality of the sins for which you have been criticized); and second, he mistakenly takes his attack beyond his critic to his Critic. It is this second issue that Paul is addressing in Romans 3:25-26. Paul knows that men under the gun tend to seek flaws in the one who has put them under the gun so they can excuse themselves for their own failures. And he knows that they do this to God as the primary Critic of their ungodliness. And he knows exactly how both Jew and Gentile have done this with God as their target. Both have developed a flawed theology of the righteousness of God. The Gentiles have dismissed the Jewish God as "unrighteous" because of His favoritism for the Jews in spite of their own personal wickedness (Romans 2:24), and the Jews have dismissed the "righteousness" of God as a real issue because of His favoritism for them in spite of their own serious unrighteousness. For the Gentiles, God is a hypocrite; and, for the Jews, God is a sugar-daddy for the self-righteous. In both cases, His righteousness is under fire by those whose own righteousness is non-existent. What caused this? Mercy. Because God did not, and does not, immediately hammer those who sin, His "righteousness" becomes suspect. How can God be "righteous" if He allows "unrighteousness" to occur? And, even if He can be "righteous" and let it occur, how can He let it go unpunished and still be "righteous"? The answer remains: God is also Merciful. How can God be merciful if He immediately hammers everyone who commits sin? But how can He be righteous if He does not? It is to these questions that Paul turns his attention in Romans 3:25-26.