We come, tonight, to the third chapter of Romans again, and we're looking at verses 25 through 31 of this great, great chapter. And I confess to you, at this point, that there's somewhat of a frustration in my mind, my heart, as I endeavor to deal with this section. Because, perhaps as much as any passage in all of the Scripture, this one has been dissected, expanded and applied by theologians through the years since it was written. It is the very heart and soul of the Christian faith. It is the doctrine of justification by faith; that is, that man is made right with God through faith. It is a doctrine through the history of the church that has been lost and found again, lost again and found again, lost again and found again. It has been misrepresented, misunderstood. It has been hedged on. It has been understated, overstated. It has been confused as well as having been taught properly.
Whenever the church fully understands the doctrine of the justification by faith, it understands the reality of its gospel. When it does not, it misses the gospel message. And that's right at the very heart of the church because if we are wrong about the gospel, souls are damned and may not know it. It is an essential doctrine.
Now, there is so much here and I can't really unfold it all. Time is one factor, but beyond that, I don't have the capacity as have some far greater than I in the past. And I feel much like a little boy trying to explain something that ought to be explained by an old man, with many years of wisdom and understanding. And yet, in spite of all of that, there's a profound simplicity in this text.
Let me read again verses 25 to 31 and we really, perhaps, ought to begin in verse 21. Let's do that, and then you'll get the whole thrust.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a satisfaction through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law.”
I realize, as I mentioned to you some weeks ago, that in just the initial reading of that text, it leaves us somewhat baffled because of its intricacy. And that is precisely why it has demanded such close scrutiny and attention through the years. It is not complicated, it is simple, but it's profound. Once you understand the doctrine, it becomes all the more profound because the ramifications are so sweeping.
Now, in the book of Romans we have the beginning of the book set forth as an indictment against sinners. From chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 3 verse 20, there is a terrifying picture of sin and its inevitable judgment. The sinner is indicted, then, in the first part of the book, and now beginning in verse 21, the sinner is offered redemption. And you have the statement of redemption in verses 21 to 31, and then you have the illustration of it in chapter 4 and further expansion in chapter 5. But we are in the section now that deals with our justification by faith, our being made right with God through faith.
Now, as we've learned, the key to all of this is found there in verse 24 and 25. We are justified, that is we are made right with God, by God's grace through the redemption accomplished in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth, or manifested, to be a satisfaction through faith in His blood.
Now, the word "blood" really keys the thing. God manifests Christ, sets Him forth as a satisfaction through His blood. And that takes us, of course, to the cross. And so the cross becomes the focal point in the matter of justification or being made right with God. The key to everything is the death of Jesus Christ. It provides man's only hope for deliverance from the penalty and the power and ultimately even the presence of sin.
Now, because of this the cross of Christ is central to us. It is the theme of our hymns. It is the theme of our songs. It is the theme of our testimonies. It is the theme of our worship. It is the central focus of our Communion at the Lord's Table. It is the central picture in even the baptismal service, where an individual is depicted as dying to rise again. The death of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of our faith. Now His death had sweeping impact. Let me just remind you.
First of all, it had a tremendous effect on us. The death of Jesus Christ saves us from sin, and consequently from death and eternal hell. The death of Christ is the source of our salvation. And that's why it says in 1 Thessalonians that we have been delivered from the wrath to come by Jesus Himself. It tells us in Romans chapter 5 verse 8 that “God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And then in verse 10...verse 9 rather, it says we have been made right by His blood, and we are saved from wrath through Him. And we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. We are saved by the death of Jesus Christ. That is repeated over and over and over in the pages of the New Testament.
It tells us in first...rather 2 Corinthians 5 verse 18, "All things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." It is through Christ and His death on the cross that we are saved. There is no other source. In Titus 2:14 it says that our God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us. So, the cross has a tremendous impact on us.
Secondly, the cross has a tremendous impact on Satan and his dominion because it is at the cross where the serpent's head was bruised. In Hebrews chapter 2, this is clearly stated for us in verse 14. It says that Christ partook of flesh and blood that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. When Jesus died on the cross, He destroyed Satan. Why? Because Satan's great weapon is death, and when Jesus died He rose again, thus conquering Satan's only weapon. And in so doing, He gained the power, as it says in Colossians 1, to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. And by the victory won on the cross, someday Christ will take Satan and cast him into the lake of fire where he will burn forever and ever.
So the cross affects us and it was a great victory, as well, over Satan. Look for just a moment at the fourteenth chapter of John's gospel and I would like to point out to you something that maybe you've never thought of, and that is the cross also had a profound effect on Jesus Himself. We have seen that the cross affected men, the cross affects angels; now we find the cross affecting the Lord Himself. And this we rarely consider: What did Jesus' death mean to Him? Well, verse 28 of John 14 says: "You have heard how I said unto you; I go away and come again unto you, if you love Me you would rejoice because I said I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I."
Now, that's the first thing that Jesus says His death means to Him. When He dies, He will be able to go to whom? To the Father. And that is a satisfying thing for Him as indicated by the end of verse 28, for He says My Father is greater than I. What does He mean by that? He means that now in the incarnation for the present moment, I am in submission to My Father. He has a place of authority over Me. But I long to get back to the place where I'm not under Him but face to face with Him. And if you really thought about My death in unselfish terms, you would think about what My death means to Me instead of, as the disciples were wont to do, telling Jesus not to go to the cross. They should have encouraged Him in the sense that He would therefore, having accomplished His work, be restored to a face-to-face relationship with the Father, His servitude, His humiliation coming to an end.
Then in verse 29 He says: "Now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass you might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you, for the prince of this world comes and hath nothing in Me."
He says, you should be glad about the cross because when I go to the cross, verse 29 says, My word will be verified. Everything I told you is going to come to pass. You will see the fulfillment of all the promises. There's not going to be much talk anymore, there's just going to be some action. My word will be verified. Further, He said, My enemy will be defeated, for the prince of this world comes but he has nothing on Me. He will come but his attack will be unsuccessful because there's no — watch this word — vulnerability.
Nowhere could Satan strike, for Christ was the perfect Son of God. And then verse 31, "But that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do, arise, let us go from here." He says there's a fourth reason you ought to rejoice in My death for what it means to Me; it demonstrates to the world that I love the Father. How so? Why, He willingly accepted the Father's will and died, didn't He? And He did it, not only to redeem us, but to give us a pattern for our own obedience. And so, Jesus says, why don't you, instead of thinking about yourself, think about what this means to Me. It allows Me to be glorified, it verifies My promises, it defeats My enemy, it demonstrates My love. So, the cross you can take as the focal point of all of history and you can say that it has profound impact on men, it saves men; it has profound impact on demons, it damns them; it has profound impact on Jesus Christ as His work is finished and He returns to the glory of the Father.
And most importantly, and now back to our text in Romans, we need to understand that Paul is saying in Romans chapter 3 that the death of Christ has great impact on God, not only men and angels and Christ, but God Himself. And that's really the key question that I want you to focus on as we look at this passage again. Now we have learned, if we've learned anything through the years at Grace Church, that everything ultimately culminates in God's glory. Everything ultimately resolves itself in God's majestic glory, and the death of Christ is no different. While it has a saving impact on men, a damning impact on demons and the ungodly as well, and while it has a fulfilling effect on Christ, it has a glorifying impact on God Himself.
Now, what we're doing is sharing with you four ways the cross glorifies God, four ways the cross glorifies God. You know, it's so very important, I think, for us not to see everything from our perspective, but to get in on the divine glory, and that's why we perceive it this way. Now remember last time, the first thing that we said is the cross of Christ reveals God's righteousness. Now we've already gone through verses 21 through 25 and into 26 as well. So let me just kind of remind you very briefly, and I don't want to take much time because I do want to move on, we'll not get finished with this passage even tonight. But I want you to remember that the cross of Christ reveals God's righteousness. Verse 24 says that we have redemption in Christ. Verse 25 tells us why: "God set Him forth to be a satisfaction for the purpose of declaring God's righteousness."
Now remember that the criticism that I suggested to you was that men would say that God was not a righteous God. Why? Verse 25: Because He passed by sin in the past. He was tolerant of sin in the past. He seemed to be so merciful and so gracious and so kind and so generous and so loving that He just passed by sin. And so, the critic says He's just as capricious, He's just as whimsical, He's just as inequitable, as unjust, as unrighteous, as inconsistent as all the rest of the deities that belong to the pagan world because He can just pass by sin; and if He were truly a holy, righteous, just God, He couldn't do that. He would have to exact the penalty that the crime deserved. If He were a just, holy, righteous God, He could not overlook sin like that. And so the critic would pose the question: How could a righteous God forgive sinners, pass by their sin, and eliminate the penalty? And the answer is He couldn't do that. They're right, He couldn't do that.
Now, anyone who knows the Bible could make such an accusation because God Himself claims to be holy. God Himself claims to be unable to pass by sin. He says Himself in the Old Testament, as we saw last time, "I will not pass by their iniquity." He says, "I am of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity." "I will by no means pardon the guilty." He said that. Sin has to be punished. It is impossible for sin to be excused. It cannot just fade away. It just can't be put aside. Sin hangs in there, it hangs on wreaking its deadly havoc in judgment. It has to be paid. No amount of optimism, no amount of love, no amount of grace, no amount of mercy can put sin aside.
Now, the Bible makes it very clear that the wages of sin is what? Death. Now sin demands death and a holy God could never eliminate that penalty. And so what happens at the cross, as we saw last time, is God vindicates His righteousness by putting to death His Son as a substitute. And in a divine miracle, He gathers up all the sin of all the ages in terms of its guilt and its deserved penalty, He puts it on Christ and Christ becomes the sacrifice paying the price for all that sin so that God is a just God. He will not pass by sin without its penalty being met.
Now you say, "Well, if God was just a just and holy God and that's what He wanted to do, why didn't He just slaughter everybody and send them all to hell?" Because He's also a merciful God, isn't He? And He had to find that absolute balance between His love and His justice. And the balance was found in the full execution of the penalty, but on a substitute so that those who believe in Him can go free but the penalty was paid. Listen, every sin I have ever committed, every sin I ever will commit has been paid for by Christ because I believe in Him. And when I believe in Him, His sacrifice is applied on my behalf and God writes across the list of my transgressions, "Paid for in full!'' And that maintains God as a just, righteous God. That's the heart of what He's teaching here.
You see, in Romans 1:18 it says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, against all unrighteousness." How so? You say to yourself, "Well, I know some ungodliness over here and I know some unrighteousness over here and I didn't see God's wrath." Then you better look at the cross because it was all there. It was all there. You say, "Well, what about as a Christian when I am punished and chastened by the Lord?" That's not atonement for your sin; that's remedial instruction so you won't do it again. That's different. Your sins have been paid for in full if you know and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, God at the cross declares His righteous nature, God is righteous.
You know, one of the great truths of the Old Testament is this truth. And I don't want to spend a lot of time on it but I just feel the need to reinforce this in your mind. In Deuteronomy 32:4 in the wonderful praise song of Moses, just listen to what it says. He speaks of God and he says: "He is the rock, His work is perfect," listen to this, "for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He." He'll always do what is just. He'll always do what is right. And that's why sin had to be paid for.
In Psalm 89, this is marvelous, verse 14: "Righteousness and justice are the habitation of Thy throne." They are intrinsic to God. In Exodus 23:7, God said, "I will not justify the wicked." I won't, not without an adequate penalty. And the adequate penalty was death. And so it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made right with God." That's the heart and soul of the Christian message.
You know, there's a phrase used several times in the New Testament. I counted about half-a-dozen times. And this is the phrase, something like this, "The Son of Man must suffer." Remember that phrase? "The Son of Man must, capital letters, underlined, must suffer." Why? To preserve the integrity of God's character as a righteous God. You say, "What about the Old Testament sacrifices? Didn't they do it?" Not at all. Not at all. They were simply symbols. And you remember Hebrews 10:4, it says: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." A bull can't die for you; a goat can't die for you. You want to know something? A man couldn't even die for you. Only the God-Man who could go into the grave, conquer death and come out the other side.
Now, look back at Romans 3 and notice verse 25 and that key word. It might be in your Bible "propitiation." It's a Greek word, hilastērion. It basically means "to be satisfied.” And when Jesus died on the cross, this is the wonderful thought, God was what? Satisfied; what a great truth. God was propitiated, or satisfied. How do we know that? Well, Hebrews 1 tells us that when Jesus finished...well, Hebrews 10 tells us really the same thing, but when Jesus finished His work on the cross...Philippians 2 also tells us the same thing, after He got done, the Father did what? Exalted Him to His right hand. It says in Hebrews 1:3 that, "When He had purged our sins He took His seat on the right hand of the Majesty on High." He did what no man could do.
Psalm 49:7 and 8 says this: "None of them can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is costly." The psalmist is saying no man could do that, the price is too high. Only Christ, only Christ the sinless, spotless lamb of God incarnate, God in human flesh. He was a special, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens sacrifice. He took our place.
Now, in verse 26 then, we find that all this was to declare at this time in history, the time when Christ came, the righteousness of God, that God had not just passed over sin. And it also allowed God to be just, on the one hand; and on the other hand, to be the justifier of sinners. That's the wonder of the cross.
Now, notice that little phrase at the end of verse 26, very important phrase: "He's the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." Now here you have the appropriation, beloved. And all of this means nothing, absolutely nothing if you don't believe in Jesus, appropriate, true faith. We're going to talk about that before our time is through. Now, let's go to the second of the four major points.
The cross of Christ not only reveals God's righteousness, but it exalts God's grace. Did you get that? It exalts God's grace. Verse 27, what does it say? "Where is boasting then?" It's nowhere, it's excluded. Why? Because what did you do in this? Nothing. God, to vindicate His own righteousness, revealed His Son, put Him on a cross to bear your sins and my sins, offers us the free gift and says just believe. Where's boasting? There's no place for self-congratulation. There's no place for self-satisfaction. There's no place for saying, “Look at me." In fact, if you look at 1 Corinthians 1:26 it says, you know your calling, and you're not very special, "not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish and the weak and the base and the despised things." Why? I love this, verse 29: "In order that no flesh should glory before God." There's nothing to glory in. "But of Him are you in Christ Jesus." It's all the work of God. "That according as it is written, He that glories let him (What?) glory in the Lord." If you're going to glory, glory in the Lord. You didn't deserve anything. You didn't earn anything.
Look at Romans 4:2. If Abraham was justified by works, he had something of which to glory. Was he justified by works? No. Nobody in this wide world has ever been saved by anything they did as a work, as an effort, as a religious activity. In Ephesians 2 it says, "By grace are you saved through faith. It is the (What?) gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." And if salvation was by works, we'd all be going around telling how we did it. Well, how did you get in? These are the things I did. See. And then the glory is ours, not God's, very simple point. God designed a salvation that would reveal His righteous character and exalt His great grace. Salvation is all of Him. You say, "Well, wait a minute, I believed." Sure, and even that was from Him. That's right. "For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, that is a gift from God." All of grace.
So, verse 27, then where is boasting? It's nowhere. Now watch this next statement: "By what law?" And there we would be better to translate the word "law" “principle,” or “method.” It's used in a general sense. By what principle that excludes boasting? Works? Well, let me ask you. If we were saved by works, would that exclude boasting? No. If we were saved by works, that would invite boasting, wouldn't it? Sure. So, he says, look, by what principle is boasting excluded? Works? No, but by the principle of faith. You see, if salvation is an act of simply believing, and redemption comes by your believing, believing what God has done, not holding up what you've done, then what have you got to boast about? Nothing, nothing, and that's why you have Luke 18. Two men in the temple, went into the temple to pray and one man goes in and says, "I thank Thee that I'm not as other men, even as this wretched sinner, publican over here in the corner, but I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess." And he was patting himself on the back and he was telling God how marvelous he was. He was a Pharisee that had done all the works. The other guy's in the corner lying down on the ground. He won't lift his eyes up to look at heaven. He pounds on his chest and says, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." And Jesus said, "That man went home justified, not the other one." You could retitle that, "The good man that went to hell, and the bad man that went to heaven." Because that's exactly what salvation's all about; it's all about believing, not about trying to earn your way in.
Look at verse 5 of Romans 4. You know, what staggers me is how people have missed this and monumentally has the Roman Catholic system missed this through the centuries and bound its people in the horrific and eternally consequential deceitfulness of a system of works. But in Romans 4:5, "To him that works not..." Wow! “But believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." It's not to the one that works, but to the one that believes on the God who can make the ungodly right. He's the one who receives that righteousness. Verse 1 of chapter 5, "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Chapter 8 verse 3, it just goes like this on and on, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." What he means by that is the law couldn't do it. We couldn't live up to the standards. We couldn't do sufficient works. We couldn't be saved by works.
In Galatians 2:16, it says that a man is not made right with God by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. Even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be made right by the faith in Christ and not the works of the law. How in heaven's name people can miss this I don't know, but it is the biggest lie of false religion across the earth, that men are justified by their works. The cults, they all teach justification by works. The Roman Catholic Church, Herbert W. Armstrong, and all the rest of the cults that come down the road, propagate the lie that you're saved by your own works. And you know what's wrong with that? It takes the glory from whom? From God. And it gives it to us, and that's not how it is in the universe, see? That isn't how it is.
Galatians, as long as you're there you might as well get the full dose, 3:8, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham." Verse 11, "No man is made right (That's what justified means, “made right.”) by the law in the sight of God." That's evident. Why? Because the Bible says the just shall live by what? Faith. Now you know this, but so many people have been led astray so tragically in this doctrine. We are saved by faith.
In Romans 10:9 and 10 it says: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be (What?)saved." Saved by faith.
And you see what the apostle does. You go back to Romans 3 now. What the apostle does is he cuts the ground underneath the feet of one who says, "Well, I always do the best I can, you know. I certainly live a decent life, and if there's a good God up there, why He couldn't possibly send me to hell." He just cuts the ground right underneath the feet of those kind of people because you're made right with God through faith.
And so, verse 28, "Therefore we conclude that a man is made right with God by faith apart from anything that he does to try to live up to the law." You can't earn your way in.
Listen, a works salvation system is a blast at the glory of God. And man becomes a usurper who stands to boast because he's earned his way to God. That violates the whole intent of salvation. Romans 3 teaches that salvation is for God's sake. Jesus died for the sake of God, that God's righteousness might be revealed, God's grace might be exalted. And the hymn writer was right, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name." First Corinthians 15:10, Paul says, "I am what I am by the grace of God."
I don't know how that hits you, but it certainly makes me thankful. Over the last three weeks I've been studying the doctrine of hell in the Bible. And I'm getting ready to preach on it a few weeks on Sunday morning. And it's really doing a kind of a wrenching work in my heart. And while it has opened my thinking again to the horror of eternity without Christ, the absolute utter agony that's involved in that place, the other side of it is it has created within me a profound sense of thanksgiving that I have been redeemed, not on the basis of anything that I have done or that I deserve, but purely by the grace of God. Staggering thought, it fills my heart with thanksgiving.
Now, I want to digress at this point, and I may never come back, but I think it's important. We're saved by faith; it says that in verse 28. We're saved by believing in Jesus; it says that in verse 26. We're saved by faith; it says that in verse 25. We're saved by faith; it says that in verse 22. You get the picture? It just keeps saying it over and over. Now it would then seem to me rather important to understand what this faith is, wouldn't it to you? What is saving faith? A lot of people say they believe in Jesus, right? And there's a rather continual discussion about what...what kind of faith is saving faith. How much of it do you have to have?
And in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13, there were many who initially sort of latched on but they eventually died out. Whatever it was it wasn't saving faith ‘cause there was no fruit. So, I thought about how we might develop a way to look at faith to see if we can discern saving faith from non-saving faith.
Now, I know there are many people who would identify with Christianity and if you asked them, "Oh, I believe in Christ." But how do we know whether they're really saved? Here comes the test. First, and you might want to write these things down because I think you'll want to use them. I want to give you a list of things that neither prove nor disprove saving faith. That's where we want to start. These are the things that don't prove or disprove saving faith. If you look at somebody's life and you see these things, you can't know. You say, "Why are you going to tell us these?" Because I think you're going to be shocked at what they are.
Here are the things that neither prove nor disprove saving faith. Number one, visible morality, visible morality; just because a person is outwardly moral does not necessarily mean they have saving faith. Now let's assume something, backing up a step. All of the people we're talking about would say they believe in Jesus. And here's somebody who comes along and says, "I believe all of that." Verbally they say that. And you look at their life and there's a visible outward morality. They look like a good...I mean, they're so moral they actually look like a Mormon. They're really moral on the outside.
You know what that proves? Nothing, necessarily; the Pharisees were moral on the outside, weren't they? Jesus said, "On the outside, you're white, you're clean. It's on the inside you're full of dead men's bones and stink, but on the outside-you look good." The young man in Matthew 19 that came to Jesus, comes to mind. I think it's verse 16 where it starts. "Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" What kind of system was he in? Works. What other good thing do I need to do? I've done so many good things. Is there yet one I haven't done? And the Lord says, "Why are you calling Me good? There's none good but one, that's God." By the way, He says, are you calling Me God? I just want to establish that at the beginning. Jesus said, "Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; honor thy father and thy mother; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." And the young man said to Him, "All these things have I kept from my youth." It's an amazing guy. And Jesus didn't say he lied. Yeah, visible morality didn't mean anything, nothing at all. What do I lack? Jesus said, "Well, why don't you go sell everything you have and give it to the poor?" You say, "Do you get saved by doing that?" No, but you get a big barrier out of the way and that was what was standing between this man and the Lord. The young man heard that and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions, didn't want to part with his money. His visible morality meant absolutely nothing, nothing. Morality is a mark of a Christian if it comes from a proper internal motive, not from an external one.
Let me give you a second mark that doesn't prove or disprove saving faith, intellectual knowledge. Or you could call it biblical knowledge. That doesn't prove anything either. Sometimes you'll meet someone who knows the Bible and they can rattle off Bible verses here and there and they can even interpret some of them. They're quite amazing with their ability to understand the truth. May I remind you of Romans 1:21 which says, "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God”? It's possible to know all about God and have no personal relationship to Him, right? So, just because somebody knows the Bible doesn't necessarily mean they're really saved. The classic illustration comes in chapter 2 of Romans and verse 17 where he talks to the Jews and he says, "You make your boast of God." Verse 18, "You know His will, you approve the things that are excellent. You're instructed out of the law. You're sure that you're a guide to the blind, a light to the people in dark (in the dark), you're an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the babes. You have a form of knowledge." And he says, "Because of you the name of God is blasphemed."
They had a form of knowledge. In fact, do you know that in the gospels, when the Jews were given the full knowledge of the Messiah, they rejected Him?