No. 15. >> If I'm raising a new subject too soon, please forgive me. But I have a question about what Paul says about the function of the law in Romans 2:1 through 16. For instance, in Romans 2:7 and 2:13 Paul seems to indicate that those who obey the law will be justified, declared righteous, on the basis of obeying the law. Yet later in Romans in Chapter 7 I think Paul seems to make clear that the only function of the law is to reveal sin. Is Paul contradicting himself here? It seems like someone could take it that way. And did God have more than one reason for giving the law to man in the first place? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: Well, David, you're asking a very tough question here. And actually this is one of those questions I would rather kind of avoid because it is kind of a difficult -- there's a little bit of difficulty in trying to understand what Paul is saying here. However at the same time I believe when you put everything in context, it is very clear what Paul is saying both here in Romans 2 and then later in Romans 7. Well, let's first look at what's at stake here. You cited from Romans 2 a few verses. Romans 2 Verse 7. Actually let's go back to Verse 6 where it says: He, that's God, will render to each one according to his works. To those by patience and well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil. The Jew first and also the Greek. But glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good. The Jew first and also the Greek. And then Romans 2 Verse 13: For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but the doers of the law will be justified. And so looking at these verses in the context of Romans 2, it might appear as if what Paul is saying suddenly here is -- well, what he seems to be saying that if you live according to the law, God will declare you righteous on the basis of your works. Again, it's not the hearers of the law but the doers of the law who'll be justified, who'll be declared righteous. Now, if that was all Paul said, then we would have to take that he was basically arguing that we are justified by what we do. However, let's look again at Romans 3 Verse 20. Here Paul says: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his, in God's, sight. Since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Okay. So already it might seem that Paul is contradicting himself. In other words, it's not the hearers of the law but the doers who'll be justified. But now he's clearly saying by works of the law no human being will be justified in God's sight but through the law comes knowledge of sin. And then you cited Romans Chapter 7. And if we look at Romans 7 Verse 7 Paul writes there: What then shall we say? That the law is sin. By no means. Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said: You shall not covet. So it seems that in Romans 7 Verse 7 and Romans 3 Verse 20, Paul is saying that the function of the law is to reveal our sin. And in Romans 3:20 he seems to clearly say: No one will be justified in God's sight on basis of works of the law. However, as you pointed out in Romans 2, Paul seems to say almost the opposite. That the doers of the law will be justified. Okay. So what's going on? Well, there are a couple of options again that I could present. And the first option, which is one that I reject but nevertheless some people say this is that Paul is contradicting himself. Now, a lot of us would balk at this, especially those of us who have a high view of Scripture because we believe that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul could -- if Paul is contradicting himself, does that mean the Holy Spirit is contradicting himself? Can Paul contradict himself like this? Well, if Paul is contradicting himself then it might show that he's not as clear a thinker as we might have thought that he was. But some people would argue that not only does Paul contradict himself here but that he contradicts himself all over the place. There's a Pauline scholar whose name is E.P. Sanders who believes this about Paul. Is that one presupposition he has when he reads Paul is that when Paul seemed to contradict himself, Paul is contradicting himself. Sanders is another scholar who is associated with the new perspective, that kind of anti-Lutheran reading of Paul. And Sanders has this presupposition that Paul was certainly capable of contradicting himself. That he does it all the time. Sanders might point out that any of us writing something may contradict ourselves. That never are we completely of one mind in what we think. So he would point out here that Paul at the same time believes one, that no one will be justified before God on the basis of works of the law. And two, that those who do the law will be justified. Those are contradictory thoughts. And Paul already in Romans 2 and 3 so close together contradicts himself. Well, I reject this option. Because I believe that Paul actually has a unified thought here in his argumentation. And I believe that this is inspired Scripture. And I don't think that God can contradict himself like that. And so Option 2 would be that in one of these two places Paul is speaking hypothetically. And in the other places he is speaking about reality. What is. In other words, it could be this in Romans 2 when Paul says the doers of the law will be justified, that Paul is speaking hypothetically. But in Romans 3 Verse 20 when he very clearly says: No one will be justified in God's sight on the basis of works of the law, he is speaking about what really is. Or it could be that in Romans 2 Paul is speaking about the way things really work, that we are justified by doing the law. And in Romans 3:20 he's speaking hypothetically. And so you choose one or the other of the options. But I think it's pretty clear that the one that we would go with is that in Romans 2, Paul is actually speaking theoretically. He's speaking hypothetically. He's not really speaking about what is. But he is speaking about what would be if there were indeed such people. In other words, this would be the case, this is what Paul would be saying: Paul is talking about the Jews who possess the torah and think that by their possession of the law of Moses, they are somehow more righteous than the Gentiles who were never given the torah. Now, what Paul is arguing is it's not having the law that makes you just. It's not hearing the law that makes you just. It's doing the law that makes you just. So Paul makes the case that the Gentiles themselves show that the law is written in their hearts when they do good and bad. And so if there were Gentiles who on the basis of that natural law in their conscience were to live according to God's law, they would be declared righteous on the basis of those works. And the same thing, it if there are Jews who obey the law, they would be declared righteous on the basis of those works. So Paul makes the case that Gentiles who are set apart from the law will be judged apart from the law. Jews who break the law will be judged on the basis of the law. Now, notice Paul isn't actually saying that there are people out there who have done this. All he's saying is that theoretically, hypothetically that this would be the case. That it is possible that there could be Gentiles who never receive the law of Moses who nevertheless because of the natural law in their hearts live according to it and would earn God's favor. And God would have to declare them righteous because they have lived a just and perfect life. The only problem is this: Are there actually any such people out there? We would have to keep reading. Remember that Romans 1:18 through Romans 3:20 is one unified argument that Paul is making. And that Romans 2 comes in the middle of this argument where Paul is trying to establish the case that the Jews are just as sinful as the Gentiles. And when he says those things he's speaking hypothetically. This is the truth: Hypothetically if you live according to God's perfectly, God would declare you righteous on the basis of your works. Hypothetically that is true. Next question. Have you done it? No. Well then that hypothetical truth doesn't relate to you. And Paul is going to make the case it actually doesn't relate to anybody. Paul closes this section in a section where he quotes Old Testament Scriptures beginning at Verse 9. And as I read this, you have to ask yourself the question. Are there any of these people in real life, any of these Jews or Gentiles who could be justified on the basis of their works? Well, what do you think when Paul -- I'm going to pick up in Romans 3 Verse 9. What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin. So in other words, Romans 2, Paul is speaking hypothetically. Hypothetically there could be people who have lived according to God's law who would be declared righteous on the basis of their works. Hypothetically. But in reality, there are no such people. Paul goes on: As it is written, none is righteous, no not one. No one understands. No one seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become worthless. No one does good. Not even one. Their throat is an open grave. They use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouths are full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. In their paths are ruin and misery. And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. In other words, Paul is making a blow, blow, blow. No one is righteous. All have sinned. And that's the conclusion he finally makes in Verses 19 and 20. Now we know that whatever the law speaks, it speaks to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin. It's very clear that in this section of Romans, 1:18 through 3:20, Paul is making the case that every human being is under sin and liable for the wrath and condemnation of God. This is the reality. There is no one who, by virtue of works of the law, will be justified in God's sight. That is reality. And so what he says in if Chapter 2 is simply a hypothetical argument given to those self righteous Jews to show that their mere knowledge of the law is not going to save them because they in fact, too, have not kept the law. And I think this is the best way to understand this. Paul is not contradicting himself. In Romans 2 he gives a hypothetical argument about what would be if there ever was anybody who kept the law. But then the full argument is to say but however, there are no such people in reality. In reality no one has kept the law and everybody is under sin. And this is how I think we can understand Paul's seemingly contradictory statements in Romans 2 compared with what he says in Romans 3. And then later in Romans 7. By the way, David, you had one other question. You asked if God had more than one reason for giving the law. And this gives me a chance to talk about a classic Lutheran distinction concerning the three uses of the law. The first use of the law is the use that we call the curb. In other words, God gave the law as a curb to keep sin within bounds and to prevent gross outbursts of sin. And for this reason God instituted human government as one means through which he works to keep human sin within bounds. To punish gross outbursts of sin, open crime, to punish criminals. And Paul actually discusses this use of the law in that classic section of his exhortation, Romans 13:1 and following where he exhorts the believer to live in the proper role of respect with the governing authorities. Because God has given the governing authorities to execute his wrath upon the evil doers. And so we as Christians should watch out that we are never worthy of the government coming down upon us. This would be the first use of the law, the curb. The second use of the law is the use that we call the mirror. And now, David, this is the use that you saw evident in Romans 7. And which I also referenced in Romans 3:20. That through the law comes knowledge of sin. So the law is a mirror. It shows us what we are truly before God. It shows us our sin. And this was the use of the law that impacted Luther when he thought that the righteousness of God was a goal that he had to attain through good works. It was the law that was showing them that he in fact could not do that. That he was a sinner. We call this the theological use of the law. And of the three uses, it is the second use that we as Lutherans focus upon when we talk about salvation. In other words, this is the chief use of the law in the life of sinful humankind is that it shows us our sin and thus, reveals our need for God to intervene in our lives, which he has done by sending his Son Jesus to be our Savior. So the second use reveals why we need the righteousness of God as the act of God declaring us righteous through faith for the sake of what Jesus Christ has done. Not for the sake of our own works. Because the law tells us based on our own works, we are nothing but sinners. And then finally there is a third use. This use is often called the rule or the guide. And this use of the law only applies to the believer. To those who have been baptized and who have been saved. Who have been declared righteous. The law now to us is a rule. If we want to know what we as believers, as God's children, can do to lead a God pleasing life, we can look to the Ten Commandments and they give us a rule. This use is a guide. It shows us how to live a God pleasing life. And again, this only applies to the Christian. Because only those who have been declared righteous and who have had their consciences set free from the fear of God's wrath for their sins, only they then could look at the law and see it is a gift now in the believer's life as a rule and a guide for how to live a God pleasing life. And very interestingly, not only does Paul have the first use of the law in Romans, Romans 13, and the second use, chiefly in Romans 3:20 and in Romans 7, but Paul also has the third use in the exhortation section back in Romans Chapter 13. If we look at Verse 8 Paul writes: Owe no one anything except to love each other. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments you shall not commit adultery, you shall murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet and any other commandment are summed up in this word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Now, when Paul is discussing the fulfilling of the law here in Romans 13, he presupposes that the people reading this are the believers who have been justified, who have been redeemed, who have been atoned. Who have died with Christ and have been brought back to life with Christ. And so he's not using the law here to reveal sin and to point out all of their faults. But now he's using the law in the third use. Here the law provides a rule. It provides a guide. When a Christian is exhorted to walk faithfully, to walk with the Spirit, the law is a guideline for how we would live this life. And so is there more than one reason for giving the law? Yes. Three uses of the law. The law is a curb to keep sinful conduct within bounds. For this reason God instituted the human government to punish criminals. The second use, the law is a mirror revealing our sin. And thus, revealing our need for God to intervene through Jesus Christ. And then the third use, the Christian use, the law is a rule and guide for the believer in showing them how to lead a God pleasing life. Now that they have been declared righteous. And have received the Holy Spirit as a gift.