Reflections on Romans 3
John D. Telgren


Do you know the story of the Tar Baby? I remember reading it a long time ago. The basic gist of the story is that someone wanted to get at Brer Rabbit. So he constructed a baby made of tar. Brer Rabbit comes by and tries to have a conversation with the tar baby, thinking it to be a real person.

When the tar baby didnít respond after the rabbitís repeated attempts to have a conversation with him, the rabbit decides that this person is stuck up and disrespectful by ignoring him. So Brer Rabbit threatens to hit the tar baby if he doesnít at least acknowledge him. Well, his hand gets stuck in the tar. He yells at the tar baby to let go, threatening to hit him with his other hand it he doesnít let go. After hitting him with his other hand, then kicking him with his right, then left foot, then hitting him with his head, Brer Rabbit is completely stuck. There is no way for him to get out of this fix.

That is one of Paulís points in this morningís text. This is the human predicament. We do not have the strength or the ability to free ourselves from sin. It is like flypaper. Once it has us, we are stuck. The only way to be free is for someone to free us. God will do this for us, not because we deserve it, but because he promised he would. So this text is telling is that God is faithful to us even if we are unfaithful.

However, his faithfulness does not negate our responsibility. God did not extend his grace to us in order for us to walk all over it. He extended it to us in order to reconcile us to him so we can be his people and in turn serve him. The Gospel is not merely a gift, but also a responsibility. God calls us to responsibility, not just privilege.

But our responsibility in following his rules will not itself save us. In the end, we are ultimately saved because of Godís faithfulness (Rom 3:20).

Questions: 1) Is there anything other than Jesus I am tempted to rely on as the basis of my justification before God? 2) Does my service to God stem from a full-heart-felt loyal love, or a minimalist, rule-keeping, doing ďjust enough to get byĒ in order to earn what is due me? 3) What excuses do I use to explain away continuing sinful behavior in my life? 4) What step or action can I take this week to keep me from taking God's grace for granted and therefore enable me to be faithful to him? 5) In what area(s) of my life do I need to be more faithful to God?