In chapter 1, Paul pointed out how the Gentiles were sinful and lost. In Chapter 2, Paul writes more than twice as much explaining how the Jews are also sinful. Just because they were chosen by God, were circumcised, and had the Law of Moses, those things alone did not make them righteous because one must be obedient to the Law of God.
In the first 8 verses of chapter 3, Paul deals with some of the possible objections the Jews might bring up regarding Paulís teaching that both Jew and Gentile are under sin. The first objection has to do with Godís covenant with the Jews.
Romans 3:1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? †2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
If you were Jew and had read what Paul had written in the first two chapters, I think you might ask this question as well because the Jews were chosen by God long ago to be His people, and they were to keep themselves from being part of these other nations. So, if what Paul is saying is true, then what possible advantage is there for being a Jew or being circumcised? Why would God bring the Jews to the new covenant to be equal with the Gentiles?
Paul could have answered this question in a number of ways, but he chose to point out the advantage the Jews had over the Gentiles under the Old Testament system. They were given the privilege to have the oracles of God committed to them, which is referring to the Old Testament. They had clear guidance from Godís Word, and they had prophets to help guide them, but the Gentiles did not have any of that. It would be like two different people who are outside. One has a flashlight, the other does not. Obviously, the one with a flashlight has the advantage, yet the Jews took their advantage for granted and even invented their own doctrine and held it as high and sometimes higher than Godís Word. Jesus points this out in:
Matthew 15:1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, †2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." †3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? †4 "For God commanded, saying,`Honor your father and your mother'; and,`He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' †5 "But you say,`Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"-- †6 `then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. †7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: †8 `These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. †9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
How sad it is for these Jews to be entrusted with the Word of God, which pointed to Christ, yet they blew it. They did not use their advantage as they should. Many times, people think that the one with the advantage will always win, but that simply is not true. For example, someone might think a well-educated person will always make more money and be more successful than an uneducated one, but we all know that there have been man uneducated men and women who had great ideas and were willing to work hard and this caused them to be very successful in life. Sometimes, those who are well-educated canít find a good job relative to their education and find themselves working at a minimum wage job.
I am sure no Jew dreamed of the new covenant being started by a bunch of uneducated fishermen and other despised occupations, yet God did great things through those who seemed to be at a disadvantage.
As Christians, we need to realize that we have been given a great advantage in this life. We have Godís completed Word, we have salvation through Christ, and we have the hope of heaven. So, I hope we donít take our advantage for granted, and I hope that we use it in the proper way so that we might be that shining light to this dark world.
The second objection Paul brings up and answers is found in:
Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? †4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged."
Paul anticipates that the Jews would want to know if Paul is saying that the covenant that God made with Abraham along with the promises attached to it would be made nullified because of the unbelief of the Jews. In other words, would the unbelief of the Jews cause God to not keep His promises.
Paul responds with the strongest negation found in the Greek language by saying, ďCertainly not!Ē It doesnít matter how much man lies, God does not ever lie nor does He change His ways. We can put all our trust in God and His Word and realize that He will be there for us. Now, we can certainly turn our backs on Him and disobey His will and find ourselves lost, but for those who are willing to follow Him and remain committed, they will get to enjoy the promises of God.
The last part of verse 4 is a quote from Psalm 51:4. This Psalm is where David makes his confession to God because of his horrible sin he committed with Bathsheba. Basically, David was saying:
ďI am confessing my sin so that You may be justified in Your words, and prevail, when you are judged.Ē (P. 200 Truth for Today Ė Romans).
A lot of people like to judge God for many things, but in the end, Paul is saying that Godís way is always the right way. His judgment is always right no matter how much we might say otherwise. So, we must never forget to submit to God.
Our third objection is about whether Godís righteousness is being underestimated.
Romans 3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) †6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
Verse 5 might sound a bit confusing, but the argument being made is from the perspective of a Jew who is saying that their unrighteousness shows the righteousness of God. Basically, they are making a comparison. For example, we could hold up two towels, a new one and a dirty one. We could use the dirty one to demonstrate how clean the new one is. Basically, they are saying that their sins make God look righteous.
Paul writes, ďwhat shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath?Ē
So, the Jew would say to Paul, ďSince you have pointed out how the Jews will suffer the same wrath as the Gentiles, then that would make Him break His promise to us as His people, thus making Him unrighteous. We all know that God is not unrighteous. Therefore, He will not unleash His wrath on us like He will on the Gentiles.Ē
Then Paul says (I speak as a man.) Paul was speaking as a man to show how ridicules man can be to justify their sins. The Jews has this idea that even if they messed up, that in the end, they would be ok because they were Abrahamís seed, were circumcised, and were entrusted the Law of Moses.
There are many today who
have this same mentality because they think as long as they are a good person,
and they talk highly of Jesus, they will be saved. People are really good at
trying to justify their sins. Paul answers this argument by saying:
6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
about this, if God could not judge the Jews because their unrighteousness made
God look good, and the Jews would quickly tell you that the Gentiles were more
unrighteous than them, then it would follow that God cannot judge or release His
wrath on the Gentiles either if their argument were true because the Gentilesí
unrighteousness would make God seem even more righteous. So, this would mean
that God could never judge the world or release His wrath on anyone. Then there
would be no reason for any of us to fear the judgment day because it would
never come. Yet, the Jews had no problem knowing that God will judge the world,
they just want to exclude themselves from that judgment, but that will not work.
This is certainly a ridicules argument, but I am sure we have all heard equally ridiculous arguments from others who want to justify their sinful behavior. Paul continues making his argument.
†Romans 3:7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?
These Jews considered what Paul was teaching about Jesus to be a lie, and they considered him a sinner. So, based on their argument that unrighteousness makes God look good, then how can they call him a sinner even if he is lying since his lying would bring more honor to God? He continues in verse:
†8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come "?-- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
He is saying, you might as well follow the logic of your argument to its bitter end and start practicing evil so good may come. No one in their right mind would make such an argument, yet this exactly what the Jewís argument for themselves will come to.
There are many people today who come up with various arguments to support their false doctrines. However, one of the most effective ways you can show that their argument is false is the same way that Paul showed the fallacy of the Jewís argument. Use their logic against them. I can promise you that if their doctrine is false, they have used false logic to get there. So, you can take their logic and show where it can go when taken to its bitter end. I use this method all the time.
Let me give you a quick example. Some will argue that you should be able to use musical instruments in your worship to God because the New Testament does not specifically say you canít. Of course, you could point out that it does command us to sing, which eliminates the use of musical instruments because we simply give God what He asked for. However, you can also begin to point out many things that the N.T. does not specifically mention and then ask if it would be ok for us to do those things they know that are not right. In doing so, you would show how their logic is flawed. Just to give you one example, which works well is the Lordís Supper. The Bible does not specifically say that we cannot add other items to the Lordís Supper, nor does it specifically say we cannot substitute the unleavened bread or the fruit vine with something else. There are many examples you could use, but the Lordís Supper is one of those topics most people agree that you should only use the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread. So, once you use that example and show that the same principle applies to only singing, then they can begin to see the difference between their flawed logic and real logic.
Paul says that they have been falsely accused of teaching this nonsense, of
letís do evil so that good may come, he could be referring to them twisting
what he said in:
Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
Paul explains exactly what he meant in Romans 6:1-2, but we will study that when we get to it. The point is, Paul didnít teach such nonsense. He concludes by saying that their condemnation is just. In other words, God condemnation of the Jews is not unfair or unrighteous, it is just. No matter how much the Jews want to feel justified in whatever sin they do, it will never change the fact that they are sinners, and they will face the wrath of God.
In verse 9 Ė 20, Paul is going to continue to point out how Jews and Gentiles are under sin and why they desperately need God.
Romans 3:9 †What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. †10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; †11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. †12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." †
Verse 9 is similar to the question found in verse 1. In verse 1, Paul pointed out how the Jews had an advantage of the Gentiles because they had the Word of God, but they didnít take advantage of it. The question in verse 9 is if the Jews are better than the Gentiles, and the answer is ďnot at all.Ē Paul points back to Romans 1 and 2 where he showed that both Jews and Greeks are under sin. It doesnít matter who you are, if you are under sin, you are lost.
10-12 are a quote from Psalm 14:1-3 in which David was talking about his
people. So, Paul is making the point again that the Jews and Gentiles are under
sin. None of us are righteous. In other words, none of us who are at the age of
accountability can claim that we have never sinned. That is the whole principle
behind what Paul is saying. If we donít look at the verses from that
perspective, then it will be very confusing because we know of many examples of
O.T. people who did good things and were pleasing to God, and we know plenty of
them who had a good understanding of Godís Word, but Paul is pointing out that
none have a perfect understanding of everything, and there are none who have
sought after God perfectly without fault. No one under the Law of Moses could
keep the law perfectly. If they could, we wouldnít need Jesus.
James explains it this way:
James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
The only person who was righteous in every way and had perfect understand of Godís Word was Jesus. Everyone else is under sin and is lost without Godís grace and mercy. Next, Paul points out three sins involving the tongue that the Jews are guilty of as well.
Romans 3:13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; †14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."
These are all quotes from the Book of Psalm (Psalm 5:9; 140:3; 10:7). The three sins he points out about the tongue are practicing deceit, cursing, which means praying that something bad will happen to someone, and bitterness, which means extreme wickedness or biter hatred. No one can say that he has never had a problem with his tongue (James 3:2-12). At some point in our lives, we have all said things that we should not have, which points out how we have all sinned at some point in our lives.
Romans 3:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; †16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; †17 And the way of peace they have not known."
Again, Paul quotes the O.T. (Isaiah 59:7-8; Prov. 1:16). The Jews were guilty of this in the past, and they had no problem running toward sin and killing people as Jesus points out in Mt. 23:29-36; Acts 7:52). Though these Jews were trying to say they wouldnít have killed the prophets like their fathers, yet honor them with these monuments. Jesus lets them know that they are not any different than their fathers because they are going to be putting Jesus to death very soon and will be putting others to death that have followed Him. Many today have no problem killing innocent people such as they do through abortion.
Romans 3:18 †"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Paul concludes his quotations from the O.T. in this last verse from Psalm 36:1. To fear God means to respect Him and His ways. Obviously, those who are not seeking out God and are doing all these sinful things have no respect for Him. Otherwise, they would not do the things He says not to. There are many people like this today. They might acknowledge God, but they do their own thing with little or no concern of what Godís Word says. This is why we have so many people who say they are spiritual people and itís why we have over 30,000 denominations in this world. We need to follow what Solomon understood.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. †14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. ††
Just as side note, some use verses 9 Ė 18 to teach that babies are born with the guilt of Adamís sin, but there is nothing is these verses to support this false doctrine.
First, babies are born pure, and they cannot be charged with sin. Regarding young children Jesus said this:
Matthew 18:3 Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
each person is responsible for his own sins, and we donít inherit anyoneís
Ezekiel 18:20 †"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.
Next Paul writes:
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Paul wants the Jews to understand that all those quotes he just made were part of the Law that the Jews were under. Since those passages pointed out the sin of the Jews, it should shut their mouths and make them realize they, along with the Gentiles, are under sin and will receive the just punishment that God gives. Paul has one more statement on this topic.
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The Jews thought if they had the law and simply followed the law through works, they would be justified, but they were wrong. The law certainly brought to light sin because without law, there is no sin, but no one can be justified by just being a keeper of the law. Now, please understand that we must keep the law, and we will keep the law if we love God (1 John 5:3), but no matter how perfectly we keep the law of God, we cannot merit or earn salvation through works of the law or be justified by the law alone.
Paul is going to explain how we can become justified and have our sins forgiven. He will be talking about this starting in verse 21 through chapter 5:21.
Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
The little word ďbutĒ tells us that Paul is talking about something different now. You will see him use the word Ďrighteousnessí a lot in the next few verses. The righteousness of God refers to His nature and how it has been revealed apart from the Law of Moses, yet at the same time, the law and prophets certainly spoke about Godís righteousness and His ultimate plan to save man (Jeremiah 31:31-34). I think itís important that we read what Paul said earlier:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. †17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Perfect law keeping cannot save you by itself. The only way we can be saved and justified is through God and what He did for us and by us having an obedient faith. Paul continues:
Romans 3:22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; †23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, †24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, †
So, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith, that
is an obedient faith in Jesus. All those who believe in Jesus and what He did
for us and obey the gospel, they will be made justified because of Jesus and
the system of faith. Since every person is under sin without God, every person
is treated the same way by God. He does not show partiality (Romans 2:11). Man
has always struggled with sin and will continue to struggle with sin, but Jesus
has redeemed us by paying the ultimate ransom with His life.
We need to understand that the gift of grace is free in that God offers it to us all even though we donít deserve it. Some like to twist this into meaning that we are all saved by what Jesus did or that there is no action on our part, but that is not true. While the gift of grace is a gift to all, we have to accept it. The Bible makes it clear that this only happens through an obedient faith. Many passages can be given to support this, but I will just mention this one:
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. †9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. So, salvation
comes through Jesus and through obedience to the will of the Father (Mt. 7:21).
If it were the case that we are simply saved by Godís grace alone, then we
wouldnít need the Bible, and we could do whatever we want and still be saved. In
fact, it would be impossible for anyone to be lost. We all know that this isnít
true, and James certainly make this point clear when he says:
James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, †26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
We are not that familiar with the term Ďpropitiationí because we donít use that word under normal circumstances, but it is an appropriate word because it means that Jesusí sacrifice on the cross was the only thing that would appease God and turn away His wrath. We need to realize that God already knew He was going to have Jesus come to the earth, live the perfect life, and be that sacrifice because He knew that man could never do what Jesus did.
God passed over the sins of those before the cross because He knew that true forgiveness of those sins would not happen until Jesus died on the cross. Now they did have animal sacrifices under the O.T. that were for the forgiveness of sins, but all of this was looking forward to the time of Christ because those animal sacrifices never actually took care of the problem of sin as the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 10:3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. †4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. †††
So, when Jesus died, the power of His blood went backwards (Heb. 9:15) and forwards and it still has the power to forgive us of our sins today.
Paul said that God is just and a justifier (26). God is just in that He still passes judgment on those who choose to live in sin, and He is also a justifier in that He allows us to have our sins forgiven through Christ. This is why our God is so great. He is just and He is full of grace and mercy. We should be thankful for that because itís more than we deserve.
Paul will finish out this chapter by going back to a question answer format like he did at the beginning of the chapter.
Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. †28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
The Jews believed that if they simple kept the law they would be justified, and they loved to boast about what they did. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes many times for their boastful behavior, especially in Matthew 23, but none them had a right to boast in their deeds because none of them ever kept the law of Moses perfectly. Though we are under the law of faith today, which was made possible through Jesus, we cannot boast about the salvation and justification that has been given to us through Jesus and His gospel because He is the one who made the sacrifice. Without Him and the great work He did, we could never be justified. I have already established that we must have an obedient faith and that we must do the will of God in order to make it to heaven (Mt. 7:21), but we cannot ever earn our salvation, but we can accept our gift of grace and show God that we love Him and want to be with Him by keeping the law of faith to the best of our ability.
Next, Paul writes:
Romans 3:29 †Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, †30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Even the Jews would agree that God created us all and that there is only one God. So, Paul uses this fact to point out that God is the God of the Gentiles as well. Since He is, doesnít it make sense that God would include the circumcised and the uncircumcised in His plan of redemption through Christ and His gospel? Of course, it does. Jesus solved the problem that separated Jew and Gentile.
Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, †15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, †16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
We are all one in Christ Jesus:
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. †28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. †29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In verse 30, it says that the uncircumcised will be justified by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Some will say that the phrases Ďby faithí and Ďthrough faithí have no special meaning. However, I like what Howard Denham said about this phrase from the Greek.
Ek with the genitive properly means "out of faith" and alludes to the fact that the Gospel (note the article in the second use of pisteos) and subsequently salvation came initially from the Jews and is viewed then by the use of dia with the genitive as working through that same Gospel unto the salvation of the Gentiles. The use of the prepositions is spatial here expressing transference and progress of action similar to the thought in Rom. 1:16 -- "to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
Dia with the genitive often denotes the conduit of an action, while ek with the genitive denotes an ablative marker.
The whole point is that salvation is available through an obedient faith to everyone and not just the Jews even though the gospel was preached to them first.
†Finally, Paul writes:
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.†
Paul is talking about the Law of Moses. The law of faith and what Jesus did for us did not make the Law of Moses useless, instead it established the law because Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. Paul tells us:
Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. †25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. †26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
The point is, the Law of Moses was never designed to be permanent and it was for the Jews. However, the Law and the prophets all pointed to the time of Jesus when He would come and create a new covenant. However, the Law of Moses still remains an important part of every Christiansí life. As Paul said:
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. †
Since Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, we know that we are no longer under the authority of it because it was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). In doing this, Jesus established the Law of Moses and everything it was supposed to accomplish. So, Paul is in no way saying that the Law of Moses is still binding on Jews today or for anyone because we are under a new covenant also called the law of Christ. So, while we cannot be justified by simply doing the works of the law, we still must do them as works of obedience. ††††††
In conclusion, Paul has shown that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin and the only way anyone can become justified in the eyes of God is by taking care of their sin problem through Jesus by obeying His gospel. We must have an obedient faith, and thankfully we serve a God who is not only just, but is also full of grace and mercy.