Romans 3 (ESV)
God’s Righteousness Upheld
3 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,and prevail when you are judged.”
5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
No One Is Righteous
“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.20 For by works of the law no human being[c] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
The Righteousness of God Through Faith
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Last week we looked at Paul’s treatment of the claims of righteousness that the Jews often pointed to as the reason that they were safe from judgment.He basically tore down the three most important facets of Judaism; lineage of Abraham, the giving of the Law, and the symbol of circumcision. If Paul’s letter ended on these paragraphs, there would have been no hope, either for the Jew or the Gentile; however, Paul was not finished, just laying the foundations for what we are going to see today.
The Surety of God’s Righteousness: (3:1-8)
Paul begins by anticipating the conclusions that might be drawn by his audience after the close of chapter 2, and heads them off. He emphatically states that being a Jew does have an advantage; they were entrusted with the prophecies, the oracles, of God. Paul explains that just because some of the Jewish people were unfaithful, it did not nullify the promises of God, as Paul so eloquently states, ‘Let God be true though every one were a liar’. Paul cites Psalm 51:4 here as his proof text for this statement.
“5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?”
Paul predicts that his previous statements may cause a stumbling block, if our unfaithfulness is a platform for displaying God’s great faithfulness, then how can God still hold our unfaithfulness against us, is it unfair e.g. unrighteous for Him to do so? Paul continues this thought in verse 7, and then in verse 8 rebuffs a terrible conclusion; that we should be rewarded for our sin since it revealed more of God’s glory. This is an ‘ends justify the means’ argument, and Paul finds it utterly reprehensible as evidenced by his harsh language at the beginning of verse 6.
No One Is Righteous: (3:9-20)
After arguing that there was value to be Jewish, Paul then makes sure that his audience remembers that he has already established that both Jews and gentiles are under the penalty of sin. He then quotes from Psalm 14 as a proof text for man’s natural sinful state. The Law applies equally to everyone subjected to the Law, and no one has even been justified in God’s sight by the Law, since knowledge of sin comes through the Law!
The Righteousness of God Through Faith: (3:21-31)
Now we come to the turning point of Paul’s exposition of man’s sinful nature, before proceeding I would like to recap the case that Paul has been building since Chapter 1:
- Man’s chief sin was failing to worship God as God, and failing to be thankful to God for the blessings He had given to man.
- This led to futile thoughts, and unnatural lusts.
- God gave man over to those lusts which led to all the sin that we see in the world around us in this present age.
- The Jews were not any more righteous in God’s sight than the Gentile’s.
- The things that the Jews counted on for righteousness in God’s sight (Lineage of Abraham, the Law, Circumcision) were not sufficient to cover their sins.
- The Jews were blessed with the oracles of God (Old Testament)
- No man has ever been made righteous before God through the Law, since the through the Law sin is made know.
Okay, so Paul has built a death penalty case against both Jew and Gentile, and again, if he had ended his letter here then there would be no hope for us; however, he did not end it here, and Paul is about to expound on the righteousness that has been made available to both Jew and Gentile through Christ Jesus in verses 21-31.
“21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—”
The Law was never the intended vehicle of righteousness for men, it was intended to point out our unrighteousness, and to drive us to the Messiah that had been promised to mankind back in Genesis 3:15. All of the Law and the Prophets pointed to the coming Messiah, and Jesus Himself stated that He had come not to overthrow the Law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). There are no boundaries to salvation through Christ, it is not limited to Jews, or to Americans, or to only the intelligent, but it is sufficient for all who come to Christ. One of the Romans’ Road passages is found in this block of text, verse 23:
“23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Paul goes on to state that all are justified by God’s grace as a gift, for those who are in Christ Jesus. He said that Jesus was put forth as a propitiation (an atoning sacrifice – Merriam-Websters) for our sins through His shed blood, to be received by faith. As a quick aside, let us recall Numbers 21 – where Moses lifted up the bronze serpent and all who looked upon it were saved from the venom of the deadly snakes; and John 3:14 where Jesus says just as Moses lifted up the serpent so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Men, by faith, who turn their eyes to Jesus will be spared the eternal destruction of the venom of sin.
God’s requirement for justice was satisfied through Christ’s death, which now shows how He was able to pass over former sins without violating His nature. God is both just and the justifier of those who are in Christ Jesus. A common illustration of this would be the judge who sits on the bench during his own son’s trial. The son is found guilty of violating the law, and the father pronounces a sentence commensurate with the crime- justice has been fulfilled. Now, if the father were to step down from the bench and take the punishment upon himself, his son would now be justified in the eyes of the law without having taken the penalty himself- he’s justified according to the law.
So, if righteousness in God’s sight is a free gift of God through the propitiation of Christ’s blood for all who have faith in Christ for salvation, is there anything for man to boast about in himself? The man did nothing but receive the gift of God so how could the man boast!
“28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
We are saved only by our faith in Christ Jesus, there are no works that one can do that can bring about salvation. No amount of penance, self-denial, Bible-study, social outreach, clean living, etc… can save a man from his natural state of enmity with God, only Christ, and only by faith! The Jew first and then the Gentile are both equally justified through faith in Christ. Paul then concludes this chapter by begging the question, do we nullify the Law with our faith, he answers with an emphatic ‘By No Means!’, stating that we instead fulfill the Law through Christ.
Related Scriptures: (the following scriptures should be read alongside this chapter in Romans as cross-references)
“And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”
“Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?”
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good”
“According to mahalath. A maskil
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”
“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.”
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths.
Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.'”
Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.
“When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin–and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near;
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–
The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Doctrines Being Taught / Developed:
Sola Fide – Paul clearly states that it is not works that makes one righteous before God, but faith in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther found verses like v.28 to be so contradictory to the theology being taught by the Roman Church that he was compelled to action and nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, an action which propelled the emergence of the protestant movement.
Doctrine of Propitiation – This is the doctrine that holds that God loved us so much that He gave His only Son as a blood sacrifice to remove the wrath of His justice from us.
Doctrine of Justification – Romans 3:24 – Freely (to us) declared righteous (despite being unrighteous) in God’s sight through the atoning sacrifice (taking the wrath of God / Justice for us) of Jesus Christ.