Here are my study notes with a video on Romans chapter 3. Enjoy!
Now Paul has shown that the gentiles are guilty before God, the Jews are guilty before God, and in this chapter shows that ALL people are guilty before God, THEREFORE the only hope for any of us is to believe! That’s the big point in these first few three chapters and really all of Romans has the major theme of salvation by faith alone.
Like I’ve said before, it can be really beneficial to read Romans or other books of the Bible without the chapter and verse designations. It’s easier that way to see the flow of arguments and the clear intent of the message.
So heading into verse 1, here in chapter 3, Paul just got done explaining the guilt and hypocrisy of the Jews, so to calm them he asks and answers logical questions. And that’s a great way to look at these first few verses, as a dialogue of objections and their answers.
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
The Jew had a big advantage because through Israel were the writings of God, and the prophets! Also see Romans 9:4
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
However, Paul continues, since many Jews rejected God does their unbelief nullify the promises of God? Just like an objection could be raised today asking if a Christian’s moral failure means that God is not true or perfectly faithful. Paul answers:
4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
“God forbid” isn’t a literal translation but it captures the meaning well of, “may it never be” or “no way”. God is perfectly faithful, and the meaning here is that God is righteous in His judgment of sin. Verse 4 here quotes Psalm 51:4, and it’s saying that God has victory (νικησης) over accusations against His righteousness.
Spurgeon said, “If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false. God speaks the truth, and cannot lie. God cannot change; his word, like himself, is immutable. We are to believe God’s truth if nobody else believes it. The general consensus of opinion is nothing to a Christian. He believes God’s word, and he thinks more of that than of the universal opinion of men.”
5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament notes that “our unrighteousness” in this verse corresponds to “their unbelief” in verse 3, and “the righteousness of God” here corresponds to the “faith of God” in verse 3.
Let’s read this verse again for perhaps some helpful clarity with the NASB translation which says, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)”
So a sinner might have—and they do—the objection that God isn’t righteous to judge wickedness because wickedness of mankind makes the glory of God shine more brightly. The Believer’s Bible Commentary puts it this way: “If our unrighteousness causes the righteousness of God to shine more gloriously, how can it be that God shows His wrath?”
6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
Paul interrupts his own question to say absolutely not. It was a GIVEN that God will judge the world; Paul didn’t have to argue for this fact. This hasn’t happened yet in finality, but it will in the near future.
7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? 8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
Thomas Coke on this verse says, “But the whole eighth verse is the Apostle's answer, the true sense of which seems to be this: Says the Jew, "If the faithfulness of God in keeping his promise is, through our wickedness, made far more glorious than otherwise it would have been, why should we Jews be blamed and condemned as sinners, for that which redounds [has an advantageous result] to the honour of God?"
These verses makes me think of Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Look at Paul’s answer here in Romans 3:8, he doesn’t even give an answer except to say that people who would suggest such a thing have a just damnation! Same absurd accusation exists today. God’s Word is timeless.
9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
Proved in the previous two chapters that are all under sin, and to even further drive this point home he quotes from Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, leading up to the grand conclusion that “Apart from God’s gracious initiative in bringing His Son, the Holy Spirit, and the inspired gospel appeal, no one can merit salvation or consistently seek to obey God in a way that will attain his own righteousness.”
In verses 10-20 it is proved that nobody can attain righteousness through their own works or keeping the law. In verse 21 it is revealed that “righteousness that can be obtained by means of grace through faith in Christ.”
10 as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Calvinists love to misunderstand these verses and take them out of context, which I’ll clarify more on that later but let’s first go to Psalm 14 and read the context of this quote. Look at verse 1 for who this is describing: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” And then later in that same chapter it contrasts the fool, or atheists/unbelievers, with believers: Verse 5 “There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.” Context kills Calvinism every time.
When it says “there is none that seeketh after God,” it means there is no fool/atheist/unbeliever who seeks after God. Because throughout the entire Bible God is telling people to seek Him! I’ll read just one example then list a few others. Acts 17:26-27 “and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” We are commanded to seek the Lord and held responsible if we don’t.
Also see: Isaiah 55:6-7; Zephaniah 2:3; Luke 12:30-31, Psalm 9:10 and so many others. Hopefully that’s clear.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used 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 have they not known:
18 there is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Now Paul wraps it up and says…
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
So if you read verses 10-19 and come to a different conclusion try again because we’re told specifically that Psalm 14 & 53 were quoted in order to demonstrate that “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The law was never supposed to impart righteousness, only to give the knowledge of sin.
Galatians 3:24-26 further explains this point, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s the point being made here in Romans.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
This “righteousness of God” here is not in this case describing an attribute of God but is an ACT of God where He declares a sinner righteous. The law and the prophets all pointed us to Christ and to salvation by Faith.
22 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: 23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
The Bible is crystal clear here that salvation is a free gift. You can’t earn it, you don’t need to do anything to maintain it. We have all sinned, we all WILL sin, and no work we can do can make up for that and attain righteousness on our own.
25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
The Believer’s Bible Commentary puts this very well and says, “Because God is Holy, He cannot condone sin or overlook it or wink at it. He must punish it. And the punishment for sin is death. Yet God loves the sinner and wants to save him; there is the dilemma. God’s righteousness demands the sinner’s death, but His love desires the sinner’s eternal happiness. The gospel reveals how God can save sinners without compromising His righteousness.”
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
The “Law of Faith” is God’s terms of salvation. John 6:28-29 says this, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
In the next verse, one of many times in the New Testament, it is very explicitly stated that salvation is by faith alone.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
What does THIS mean? The doctrine of faith, the gospel, discloses sin as to make the atonement necessary. People don’t realize they need a Savior until they realize they’re a sinner! The gospel fulfills the law. Jesus Christ met the demands of the law, and so our faith is in the One who did that and paid the penalty of the law on our behalf!
Let me conclude with a quote from Daniel Whedon who died in 1885. Talking about verses 21-31 that we just read he says, “This is the CENTRAL PARAGRAPH of the Epistle. The paragraph is the solution of all that has preceded, and the theme of all that follows. It embraces the core and substance of positive and perfect Christianity, against which rationalizing yet irrational unbelief rebels, whether Judaistic, semi-Christian, or infidel, yet forever rebels in vain.”