Theme: Man’s Ruin in Sin: The Intellectual and Volitional Dimensions
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
The intellectual dimension involves understanding, and the same principles apply. If we are thinking humanly, there are differences of understanding between people. Some understand a good bit, others not so much. Some can even understand a good bit about theological subjects. There are unbelievers who write theological textbooks. Some of the great studies of the Old and New Testaments are by men who, I would say, are not true believers in Jesus Christ. They have understanding at the human level, but Paul is talking about the kind of understanding that allows us to see ourselves as we really are before God and which turns us to Christ. On that level we have no understanding at all unless God provides it.
Finally Paul says that there is “no one who seeks God.” This is the volitional dimension. We do not seek God. As a matter of fact, we do precisely the opposite, as the text goes on to say: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (v. 12).
We need to see how desperate our situation is, because it is only when we see this that we can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the grace of God. So long as we think that at the worst we only have a few flaws, we believe that insofar as salvation is concerned all we need is for God to make up the deficit, plug the hole in the dike, or rub off the rough edges. But that is not the situation. What we need to understand—and only the Holy Spirit can provide that understanding—is that things are so desperate that we are actually dead in our sins, spiritually speaking. We need a resurrection.
At this point Paul begins to talk about the gospel. Earlier he said he was going to write about the revelation of God’s righteousness in the gospel, but instead he said, “The wrath of God is being revealed” (Rom. 1:18). For the remainder of chapter 1, and all of chapter 2 and chapter 3, up to the point to which we have just come, he has been talking about God’s wrath. Yet now, having shown how bad things really are, he gets back to what he said he was going to talk about at the beginning, namely, the righteousness of God which is revealed from heaven in the gospel:
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known,
to which the Law and the Prophets testify. [That is, the gospel was prophesied
in the Old Testament, and it has now come.] This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and, are justified freely
by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented
Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to
demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins
committed beforehand unpunished—He did it to demonstrate His justice at the
present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in
Jesus (Rom. 3:21-26).
In these few verses Paul explains the gospel in a magnificent way. He uses great terms. He talks about “a sacrifice of atonement.” The word is actually propitiation, a difficult term but a good one. He talks about justification and redemption. Those three terms explain what Jesus Christ and God the Father did to achieve our salvation.
What is the biblical meaning of the intellectual component?
What is meant by the volitional dimension? Why do people, even Christians, sometimes struggle to understand this?
Key Point: We need to see how desperate our situation is, because it is only when we see this that we can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the grace of God.
Application: Pray for opportunities this week to share the gospel with someone you know needs to learn the truth of the depth of his or her sin, and the need for God’s grace in Christ.