Is God Fair?

Romans 3:1-9

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2 ESV)

The question, “What advantage has the Jew?” comes from the preceding discussion in Romans chapter two.  The author has made the case that being a Jew, having the Law and being circumcised does not make a person right with God.

"What advantage has the Jew?" The answer is straightforward. The advantage of the Jew is that they have been entrusted with the very words of God, the oracles of God. They were given something that no one else in the world had. They were given a great gift.

However, the ancient people of Israel serve to illustrate the problem Romans is addressing, namely “How can a person be right with God?”  We have come to a point in Romans where the question is asked, “Is God fair?”  The exact words of the text are:
But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) (Romans 3:5 ESV)

In other words, the text is asking, “Is God fair?”

I want to take you to a period in Israel’s history, before they had a king, when the people promised they would follow the Lord God.  After Moses led the people to the Promised Land, Joshua led the people in the conquest of the land.  When he was old and knew that his time on earth was drawing to a close, Joshua called all Israel together and gave an impressive speech.  When you have time, you should read it.  The speech is found in Joshua 23 and 24.  It is at this time that Joshua made this famous statement:
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 ESV)

At this time, the people promised to serve the Lord.  This is the exchange according to the book of Joshua:
Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God." But Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good."

Then Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him." And they said, "We are witnesses." He said, "Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey." So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God." (Joshua 24:16-20, 22-27 ESV)

Do you see how Joshua warned them that they were not able? Do you see how strong the people were in their promise and determination?  Well, that determination died with that generation.  In the book of Judges, we find a pattern.  Here is how the book of Judges describes the circumstances:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. (Judges 2:11-19 ESV)

Do you see how the people treated God?  Do you see how unfaithful they were?  The promise of God did not fail.  It happened just as God said it would.

As we go back to Romans 3, we see the statement:
What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar... (Romans 3:3-4 ESV)

As Romans 3:2 states, the Jews had the very great advantage of having the word of God. They had the truth. God had reached out to them and blessed them out of all the people on earth, but they were unfaithful.  But their accusation was that God was unfair.  This is the accusation or objection that is brought out by Romans 3:5.
But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) (Romans 3:5 ESV)

This objection comes out in a different way in our modern world.  One of the most common arguments against the existence of God is, “If there is a God, how can there be so much evil in the world?”  I have heard variations on this argument from those who say they believe in God and Jesus but they cannot believe in a god that would send anybody to hell.

First, let's consider briefly the question of evil in the world.  How do we know what evil is? In his book, "Mere Christianity," C. S. Lewis said:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?

The chief problem with arguments against God based on evil in the world is that it assumes a standard of righteousness.  It is akin to calling God unfair, and it assumes that the person is more just than God.  When Job complained about God being unfair, God answered:
“Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?" (Job 40:8 NLT)

Second, let's consider briefly the question of a God who would send a person to hell.  The Bible is clear:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

In another place, it says God is not willing that any should perish. So, why does the Bible warn us about hell?  John 3:18 says:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18 ESV)

God has done everything to keep people from hell, and He pleads with us to come and be right with Him.  The two questions I have brought up cancel each other out.  One accuses God of not dealing with evil while the other complains that God is too harsh in dealing with evil.  Both questions assume that the questioner is more just than God. 

This assumption of superior justice is what God addressed with Job and it is this assumption that is addressed in Romans 3:4 when it says:
By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." (Romans 3:4 ESV)

Apparently, God knows that we will judge Him.  Because we do not want to take responsibility for our own sin, we blame God.  We accuse Him of unfairness.

Romans 3:9 brings us to the conclusion:
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... (Romans 3:9 ESV)

The Bible teaches that every person is a sinner.  No one is perfect.  Morality, law and effort will not make a person right with God.  It is no use saying, "Well that is just not fair." Salvation is and always has been a matter of the heart.  This is why Romans 1:17 says:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17 ESV)

Along the same lines, Romans 2:29 says:
But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:29 ESV)

God is not unfair or unfaithful.  His promises have not failed.  However, God knows that a person can outwardly keep the letter of the law but have a heart that is far from Him.  The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart.  God looks at the heart. He knows.  And He promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV)  He knows our weakness and He is not unfair. He has made being right with Him the simplest thing any of us will ever have to do.  Romans 10:9 sums it up when it says:
...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)

Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, or are you accusing God of being unfair?


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