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. 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." 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? 7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 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.

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.
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.
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.
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

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. 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. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 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, 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.

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. 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.

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

COMMENTS

General:

  • Paul has been arguing that the Jews have fallen short of the grace of God. This might call into question whether their entire 1500-year experience was in vain.
    • To this Paul utters a resounding no. God revealed his will to and through the Jewish people, after all (v.2) -- as well as to the patriarchs before Judaism officially began at Sinai, c.1446 BC.
    • Paul challenges the twisted reasoning that rationalizes sin by insisting it highlights God's righteousness (vv.3-8).
  • In verse 9 Paul identifies himself with the Romans, most of whom would have come from a Gentile background. Lest the Gentiles be tempted to look down on the old covenant people of God, Paul reminds them that both groups -- Jews and Gentiles -- have failed to satisfy the requirements of God's holy law.
  • Paul illustrates from a concatenation of O.T. passages that mankind is thoroughly sinful (vv.11-18).
  • Although the law reveals God's righteous standards and makes us aware of sin, it cannot itself justify us (v.20).
    • God's law is borne witness to in the Torah and in the prophets.
    • All have sinned -- Jews and Gentiles alike (v.23).
    • Similarly, all are justified through Jesus Christ -- Jews and Gentiles alike (v.24).
    • Paul does not say that we do not have to be obedient in order to be saved (quite the opposite -- 1:5). Not being justified by law does not mean we follow our whims and God is pleased with us! For more on this, click here.
  • Since all have sinned, there is no grounds for pride in religion (v.27).
  • Through all of this, Paul insists (v.31) that the law is good.
    • See also 7:12, 16, 21; 1 Timothy 1:8.
    • This is in contrast to the claims of many teachers, who equate the law with legalism, denigrating the Old Testament.
    • The law is good, but all of us have fallen short of its righteous standards.

Advanced:

  • As Paul reminds us, there were advantages in being a Jew.
    • Theirs was a long and rich heritage, full of knowledge of God and vital lessons for his people (see 15:4).
    • Even today, Christians converted from a Bible-centered background often have a huge head-start over those converted "straight from the world."
  • Obviously the description of sinful man (vv.10-18) is a generalization, not completely true in every case.
    • Otherwise no one could ever find God, and no one (even Paul) would understand the truth about God (v.11)! And not even Jesus would have been saved!
    • We have to read with literary sensitivity. Is the passage prosaic, or poetic? Are there figures of speech in the passage?
  • The thrust of 3:23-24 is two-sided:
    • Bad news: all fall short of God's glory.
    • Good news: all can be saved through Christ.
    • As we teach outsiders about sin, we must be careful to emphasize both! Some dwell too much on sin, discouraging seekers and reinforcing a negative concept of God. Others emphasize the good news too much, lightlly skipping over the call to follow and obey.
  • Propitiation is an unusual word in the Bible. To learn about its meaning, click here. For more on the meaing of "passing over of sins," click here.
  • "By what law" (v.27) can also be translated "by what principle." Greek nomos can mean both.

Thought questions:

  • Do I take pride in my own religiosity, failing to remember that I, like the unbelievers, have fallen woefully short of God's holy standard?
  • Jesus Christ preached repentance and forgiveness, the "bad news" and the "good news." In my evangelism, do I soft-peddle sin? Or do I dwell on it inordinately?