Religion on Trial

Back in the mid 90s I was completely obsessed with watching the OJ trials. I had never really seen the inner workings of a courtroom, apart from what one sees on TV shows like Perry Mason, where somebody finally cracks and gives a confession at the end of the episode. In the world of ancient Rome, civil trials were major source of entertainment. Most people in Rome would have been very familiar with trials argued by two skilled orators, also known as lawyers, that would play out before crowds cheering people. That’s very much like what Paul is setting up in the section that will be reading this Sunday in the book of Romans, as we read chapter 3 verses 1-20. In this scenario, Paul is putting religion on trial. The entire section goes down like a courtroom proceeding in ancient Rome. Paul will play the role of prosecutor, defense and judge as he provides his point, counterpoint and verdict.

In verses 1-8, Paul talks about the advantage that the Jewish people enjoyed as stewards of the revelation of God. What does that mean to you? When you think about trust funds in our modern world – who is the money in the trust for?  What would you think of someone who mishandled that trust? In what ways would that have related to Israel in the time that Jesus had arrived?

Verses 9-18 provides Paul’s conclusion to his story of the broken world, told in two parts. His conclusion is that no one has escaped the brokenness and bondage to sin and death. Why would he be driving that point home so emphatically?

In conclusion to the section that began in chapter 1, v19-20 announces the verdict. Paul reveals the actual nature of the law. What does Paul say the only function of the law or external religious codes is? If you sneak a peek ahead to the next several verses, what is the only means Paul sees leading to real heart transformation and righteousness?

Hope to see you this Sunday!

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