Preaching and teaching the Word of God is hard work. There is the studying. You spend time reading and rereading a passage of the Bible, asking God to open up the text to your mind and let its truths get down into your soul. You also spend time reading what other students of the Bible, great scholars and preachers from the past, have learned about the text. Then there is the preparation for the audience. You spend time thinking about your different listeners. You think about where they are in life and in their relationships with God and others. You pray for God to show you their spiritual needs and the practical challenges they will face in trying to apply the Bible passage to their lives as you are trying to do to your own life. The preacher asks God for His Spirit to reach the hearts of the audience with His Word and give them faith to believe it and do what it says. Every time before I preach in chapel or at church, teach my homeroom the morning devotion, teach the children on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, and lead lunchtime discipleship, I ask God for my message to have three things: conviction, clarity, and compassion. I want my listeners to know that I really believe what I am asking them to believe, I want them to clearly understand what the Word of God is saying to them, and I want them to know that I love and care about them and their walks with the Lord.
But the hardest part of preaching and teaching God’s Word is not the preparation or the delivery. The hardest part is knowing the aftermath. The hardest part is knowing that even if you preach lights out, even if you hit a grand slam and know that God was in the message with great power, not everyone will believe and obey the Word of God. Some and sadly sometimes many students, children, or adults will walk away totally unchanged by the sermon or lesson. That really hurts. You want so bad to see people put their trust in God, do what He says, and enjoy the blessings of eternal life with Christ. But a lot of them don’t. They go right back to life as usual, living as slaves to sin and unbelief. Does that mean that the preacher or teacher has failed? Does that mean that God’s Word has failed? Does it mean that God Himself has failed? Paul tackles that question in the beginning of Romans 3 and will revisit it in Romans 9-11. The short answer is – “NO! By all means, no!”
You see, Paul was a Jew by birth and he had a burning desire to see his fellow Jewish countrymen come to faith in Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah and Savior. But most of them had not believed. They wanted to keep trusting in their religious rituals like circumcision and their heritage as physical descendants of Abraham. He says that those things are great blessings, especially the fact that the Jews had received the “oracles” or revelation of God through the Old Testament of the Bible (Romans 3:1-2). But the reality was that “some” or in truth most of the Jews had not believed their own prophecies and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But their lack of faith did not mean that God had failed to be faithful and true (Romans 3:3-4). God had never promised to save all of Israel, but only those who believed and trusted in Him. Today, God does not promise to save every student who attends a Christian school or every adult or child who goes to church. God saves those who want it and are willing to pay the price of following His Son. God’s Word has always been able to spiritually save and protect and prosper everyone who hears it and responds to it with obedient faith. But to those who refuse to believe and obey, God is totally justified in letting them perish in their sins, both in this life and the next (Romans 3:5-6). We must never blame God for man’s sin and unbelief. God is not the author of sin. Though He loves to show mercy and grace to repentant sinners, He never encourages people to sin so that He can forgive them. As Paul says, such an argument is absurd and shows no understanding of the character of the God of the Bible (Romans 3:7-8).
The bottom line is that even if many people are faithless, God remains faithful and true no matter what. People love their sins and they love their idols, and they don’t give them up easily. Many people take the easy road in life and are too spiritually lazy to put in the hard work of following Christ. But even if every single person ignored every sermon and Bible lesson they ever heard and took the wide path to hell, God would still be just and faithful and true. The fault would not be His. Fortunately, not everyone ignores God’s Word. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower, some people hear the Word of God and really believe it. When they hear sermons and Bible lessons, they are listening. They receive messages in faith and let the Word take root in their souls. Their lives are being changed and shaped by the Word, and they bear spiritual fruit for God. They experience God’s joy, love, and peace as they trust and obey Him. May you be that kind of faithful hearer of God’s Word. And don’t lose heart if people you care about aren’t listening right now. God specializes in the impossible. Keep praying for them – God may yet open their hearts to listen. But even if He doesn’t, never forget that our God is always faithful and true. His Word says it, so let’s believe it.
The Text (Romans 3:1-8)
1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:
“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
Questions to Think About
- When did you first begin to listen and believe during sermons and Bible lessons? Are you still listening to God right now?
- Have you ever felt disheartened by other people’s lack of faith and unwillingness to obey God’s Word? How does today’s passage help you deal with that emotion?