Theme: Man’s Ruin in Sin: The Moral Dimension
From this week’s lessons we learn that Romans 3 can be considered the heart of the Bible because of the clear and comprehensive way it shows us the depth of our sin, and what the Lord Jesus Christ has done to save us from it.
Scripture: Romans 3
Verses 10 and 11 capsulize Paul’s whole theology on this subject when he writes, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” When Paul says there is no one righteous, he is talking about the moral dimensions of our being. When he says there is no one who understands, he is talking about the intellectual dimension of our being. When he says there is no one who seeks God, he is talking about the volitional dimension of our being. Together these mean that things are so desperate that our state is actually hopeless unless God intervenes to do what needs to be done.
The problem with the moral dimension is not how good or bad we may look in the eyes of other people but how bad we look in the eyes of God. In His eyes there is no one righteous, not even one. I have often used an illustration for this, imagining that in the last war there were American soldiers who were captured and placed in a prisoner-of-war camp. At some point in their imprisonment somebody sends them a care package, and in the care package there is a game of Monopoly. They are not interested in the game, but they are very interested in the money. If they divide up the money, it gives them a currency by which they can buy or sell the few luxuries they possess. When they want to acquire a package of cigarettes or extra food from another prisoner, they now have a means of doing it. They use the Monopoly money.
In any group of Americans there is always a born capitalist—maybe more than one. And in this particular group of soldiers there is one such individual. He knows how to buy low and sell high, and he does this over a period of months. At length he acquires all the Monopoly money. He can get just about anything he wants. Just when he has made his fortune, there is an exchange of prisoners. A helicopter is flown in, and within an hour he finds himself in Da Nang. Within a few more hours he is in Hawaii. Then he is back on the west coast of the United States. On the first day he is free on his own he goes to downtown San Francisco to the First National Bank and starts to open up an account. He tells the teller, “I’ve just returned from Viet Nam. I’d like to open an account.”
She says, “That’s great! We like to help returning servicemen. How much would you like to deposit?”
“Nine hundred thirty-eight thousand, three hundred forty-two dollars.”
“Wow!” she exclaims. “Where did you get all that money?”
“In Viet Nam,” he answers. Then he begins to push his Monopoly money across the counter. The teller pushes her little button, thinking, “This soldier’s been away too long!”
Monopoly money might be very good in the prisoner-of-war camp, but it is no good in the United States. Here you need dollars.
That is precisely the situation that prevails when we talk about human goodness and God’s goodness. On the human level, there is value to being pretty good, and we ought to strive for that kind of goodness. But when we talk about the kind of righteousness that pleases God, righteousness that reflects His own character and is characterized by a holiness which is utterly without sin of any kind, it is like playing with Monopoly money in the real world. God says you have to forget about the fact that the whole world operates on the basis of a play currency and come to grips with the fact that there is no one righteous, as God measures righteousness.
What is the moral dimension as the Bible defines it? How does this view differ from people’s understanding of morality today?
Based on the culture’s beliefs about morality, what do they reveal about our society’s views of God and their relationship to him?
Application: In our study Dr. Boice likened relying on human goodness to please God with trying to use Monopoly money in the real world. What examples of “Monopoly money” do people use today in an effort to have a right relationship with God.