Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19)
In Romans 3:19 Paul spoke a hard word to his Jewish brothers and sisters who relied upon the Law for justification. In the previous section (Romans 3:1-18) Paul presented an extensive description of their failings from within scripture itself. The scene is a law court and God has presented his case. The people of God have failed to live up to the covenant demands. Now the inevitable verdict awaits. Israel stood in a situation common to humanity. When we encounter God, all our weak attempts at self-justification forsake us. We know the truth and our silence confesses the sins we dare not name.
Lent is an opportunity to return to that silence and rid ourselves of the excuses that do not convince us much less our creator. It is an occasion to recognize that, even after our conversion, we fall into habits of self deceit that convince us we are pursuing God when the kingdom we are building is our own.
Why come to Jesus and receive freedom from sin only to live as slaves? That is like the stories of th millionaires who because of some defect of mind or body live in squalor while their riches sit locked away in a vault. We have received the glories of the kingdom; yet we flee the fruits of the Spirit and the joy of obedience.
If we are silent long enough we can hear God proclaim the words he spoke at our conversion:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:23–25).
We failed, but God has another word that takes us beyond that failure. This is the word of the cross, God’s gift that gives us hope for a honest and genuine life before God. A life before him that neither condemns nor denies our failings but through power of the Spirit gives us hope to transcend them. We are neither our best nor worst imagining of ourselves. We are who God called us to be in his Son the Messiah. He still speaks; we simply have to listen.