The Word for today:
Through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20)
Paul asks this question in Romans 3:1:
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? (Romans 3:1)
Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:2)
We might ask the same question:
What advantage is there in reading the Bible and going to church?
And the answer is still the same:
Much in every way!
The only thing that will redeem any man in the eyes of God is faith in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, God said,
“When I see the blood I will pass over.” (Exodus 12:13)
That blood in Exodus is a prefigurement of the blood of the cross. If God sees that we have placed our trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, he will forgive us.
His forgiveness is granted on the sole basis of Jesus’ blood. He will not ask us if we belonged to a church, or got baptized, or read the Bible, or went to Sunday school. So if those things don’t save us, is there any value in them?
Let me say it again: Much in every way!
When we read the Bible, or go to a church where the Word of God is preached and taught, it can make all the difference.
None of these things in themselves can make us right before God. But the Bible will point out our need for God, and then point the way to the blood of His cross.
So the advantage of our interaction with God’s Word is summed up in Romans 3:20:
Through the law we become conscious of sin.
The advantage of having God’s Word is also summed up in a well-known story called “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” by Hans Christian Anderson:
A certain emperor was fond of appearances. So when some clever swindlers (posing as philosophers) offered to weave him a rare and costly garment, he was receptive to their offer. He was especially intrigued by their promise that the garment would be invisible to all but the wise and pure of heart. So the emperor commissioned the new clothes at great expense, and the con men sat before empty looms, pretending to be weaving.
Soon the emperor’s curiosity was such that he sent his chief counselor to see how things were progressing. Seeing no cloth on the busy looms, and not wanting to be thought unwise or impure of heart, the official returned with a report of the fabulous beauty of the cloth. When the weavers asked for even more money, the emperor sent his second most important counselor, who returned with another glowing report. Next the emperor himself went. Seeing nothing, but not wanting to appear unwise, he too proclaimed the clothing magnificent and gave the weavers medals!
When the day of the grand parade arrived, the con men dressed the emperor in his nakedness and then skipped town. As the emperor paraded before his people in the altogether, the entire populace joined in praise of his beautiful clothes–lest they be thought of as stupid and impure. Thus the absurd parade continued, until in a moment of quietness a child was heard to say, “The emperor has no clothes!”
At once everyone knew the truth, including the emperor. An honest remark by a child who did not know enough to keep his mouth shut stripped away the pretense of an entire nation.
Without God’s Word, we hear only the word of the world, which conspires to tell us that our “garment” will suffice. The word of the world is a lie, an echo of Eden, which seeks to pull God down to our level, or push us up to his. If that word is all we hear, we remain naked without knowing it:
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
But God’s Word tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags (1), and that only those clothed in the righteousness purchased at the cross of Christ can live forever with God:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:18)
If there is no open Bible in your life–in your hand, in your home and, yes, in your church–then you live, as it were, in a city without the one clear voice which told the emperor he had no clothes.
(1) Isaiah 64:6