Romans 3 Commentary
All people are sinful, justified freely by faith
Romans 3. All people are sinful, justified freely through faith. Do the Jews have any advantage? Yes, they were entrusted with the Scriptures. Their failure to believe God does not nullify God’s promises to them nor does it lessen God’s righteousness when he condemns them. Jews and Gentiles—all mankind—are under sin and are guilty before God. God’s righteousness has been made known through Jesus Christ, as the law and the prophets revealed. Though all people are under sin, God’s righteousness is shown to anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ. This righteousness is a gift by grace taken by faith for both Jew and Gentile. Everlasting life is only by grace through believing in Jesus Christ, not by keeping the law, not by being Jewish, not by circumcision.
Outline Chapter 3
All people are sinful, justified freely Through faith
- Romans 3:1-8. Jewish people who fail to understand the meaning and correct application of the Law fail God and miss his purpose for them. Those Gentiles who believe God experience God’s blessings. Paul asks rhetorical questions: What advantage does the Jew have? Paul’s answer is that God gave the Scripture to the world through the Jew. Even if they do not believe the Scripture, the Scripture promises to the Jew are still true. Does the Jews’ unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness to his word? No, it does not. Then, if our unrighteousness clearly demonstrates God’s righteousness and glorifies him, is God unfair to judge us? The answer is no. Finally, should we do evil since by our sin God’s righteousness and glory come into focus? Again, Paul says that is a wrong understanding.
- Romans 3:9-20.The Jews are not naturally better than Gentiles; all people are sinful in comparison to God. Because God entrusted the Jews with the Scripture, one might think they are under less judgment than Gentiles. Paul then lists proofs for all people being guilty. He begins by saying that no one is righteous. He documents the charge that all are under sin by giving a general picture of humanity. Furthermore, if the Jews are guilty, and they are more privileged than the rest of the world by receiving God’s Law, then it follows that the less privileged (Gentiles) are also guilty, “and all the world may become accountable to God." The Law taught about sin but it cannot justify the Jew or Gentile before God.
- Romans 3:21-31. God credits His own righteousness to unrighteous people through their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul has now demonstrated that all people are sinful and under God’s judgment. We all need God’s righteousness because all have sinned and all fall short of God’s glory, which is his holy perfection. Attempting to keep the Law is not the solution. Jesus was the one sacrificed and he satisfied God righteousness and justice. God is the God of all people—Jew and Gentile. Faith in God’s substitute sacrifice, Jesus, is the only way to be justified for Jew and Gentile. The Law has done its job by showing that mankind is sinful.
- Romans 3.1-8. Jewish people who fail to understand the meaning and correct application of the Law fail God and miss his purpose for them. Those Gentiles who believe God experience God’s blessings. Paul asks a rhetorical question: then, what advantage does the Jew have and what value is circumcision? Paul’s answer is that God gave the Scripture to the world through the Jew. Even if they do not believe the Scripture, the Scripture promises to the Jew are still true (3.1-8).
- Romans 3.1. After Paul comments in Romans 2.17-29 about the Jews’ self righteousness, pride, lack of understanding of the Law, and lack of application of the Law he then says that the Hebrew people are greatly blessed by God in many ways:
- they are God’s priest nation for the world;
- God made Abraham their patriarch;
- God sent Joseph to Egypt to become their guardian;
- God gave them Moses;
- God formed them into a nation;
- God delivered them out of Egypt;
- God spoke to them and God worked for them and they could hear and see both;
- God gave them the prophets;
- God loves them;
- God has disciplined them as a father would his son;
- God has restored them to their land;
- God promised them their kingdom on earth;
- now God has disciplined them again as a father would;
- God sent the long expected Messiah to them and identified him by 1. prophetic notes, 2. Jesus’ word, 3. Works, 4. Resurrection, 5. Appearances, 6. Ascension;
- God promised that Jesus would return to earth.
- Romans 3.2. Along with all this blessing God revealed Himself and His plan to them in the Scripture and gave the Scripture to them and through the Hebrew people.
- Romans 3.3-8. Paul now refers to three questions that people claim. He answers each.
- Romans 3.3-4. The first, does the Jews’ unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness to his word? No, it does not.
- Romans 3.5-7. The second, if our unrighteousness clearly demonstrates God’s righteousness and glorifies him, is God unfair to judge us? The answer is no.
- Romans 3.8. The third, should we do evil since by our sin God’s righteousness and glory come into focus? Again, Paul says that is a wrong understanding.
- Romans 3.9-20. The Jews are not naturally better than Gentiles; all people are sinful in comparison to God. Note that this section does not say that mankind is unable to seek God; it says mankind does not want to seek God.
- Romans 3:9. Because God entrusted the Jews with the Scripture, one might think they are under less judgment than Gentiles. Paul’s answer is no. All people are under sin—Jews and Greeks. The word “Greeks” refers to Gentiles.
- Romans 3:10-18. Paul then lists proofs for all being guilty. He begins by saying that no one is righteous. He documents the charge that all are under sin by giving a general picture of humanity. Paul mentions understanding, will, lack of good works, speech, trouble-making and violence, conflicts, and that mankind does not fear God. Everyone may not be grossly guilty of each sin area, but the whole of mankind fall into this condemnation. See Psalm 14.13; 53.1-3.
- Romans 3:19. Paul refers back to the Jews since that is how this section began. If the Jews are guilty, and they are more privileged than the rest of the world by receiving God’s Law, then it follows that the less privileged (Gentiles) are also guilty, “and all the world may become accountable to God.” See Psalm 5.9.
- Romans 3.20 drives home the truth that the Jews are indeed guilty. The Law taught about sin but it cannot justify the Jew or anyone before God. Neither Jew nor Gentile can do anything to have God’s righteousness credited to them and to be justified. What is the solution? The Law is not the solution.
- Romans 3.21-31. God credits His own righteousness to unrighteous people through their faith in Jesus Christ. Add more complete summary
- Romans 3.21. Paul has now demonstrated that all people are sinful and under God’s judgment. But God’s righteousness has already been manifested (φανεροω phaneroo̅ perfect passive indicative, made known, visible) in the past and now in the present. The Old Testament witnesses (μαρτυρεω martureo present passive participle, attendant circumstance to righteousness, to confirm or attest to something, also refers to a martyr. 76/72) to God’s righteousness. We now know more fully about God’s righteousness, especially that he is righteous when he accepts sinners, because Jesus was judged in mankind’s place.
- Romans 3:22 clearly says that God’s righteousness is credited to everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ.
- Romans 3:23. The need for God’s righteousness is because all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory which is his perfection. All sinned in Adam and now all do fall short of God’s glory.
- Romans 3:24. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are justified referring back to “all the ones believing” in Romans 3:22. This justification is free and comes about through redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ redeemed mankind. See 1 John 5.13.
- who will believe in Jesus Christ (dia pisteo̅s Ie̅sou Christou eis pantas tous pisteuontas, δια πιστεως Ιησου χριστου εις παντας τους πιστευοντας)
- sinned (hamartano̅,`αμαρτανω aorist active indicative, probably in Adam) and fall short of God’s glory which is his perfection.
- fall short (husterano̅ ,`υστερανω to lack, to be without, present passive indicative with the genitive of thing [God’s glory])
- justified (δικαιοω dikaioo̅, present passive participle attendant circumstance) to give a favorable verdict, release from a claim, pronounce righteous.
- Romans 3.24. Redemption (απολυτρωσις apolutro̅sis, originally to buy back a slave or captive by paying the ransom).
- Romans 3:25, God the Father displayed Jesus as the one who propitiated all sins. Propitiation (`ιλαστηριον hilaste̅pion the place or means of propitiation). In the Old Testament it was the Greek word for the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. This was the place where the blood from the sacrifice satisfied God’s righteousness and justice. Jesus was the one sacrificed and he satisfied God righteousness and justice. See Hebrews 9.5.
- The LXX uses this word for the mercy seat or cover of the ark in Exodus 25:17 and Leviticus 16:2. God saw the blood and accepted the sacrifice.
- Jesus Christ was the sacrifice on the cross and God accepted his sacrifice for all sin. At the cross all sins from the past and future were judged. The full payment for sins by Jesus Christ demonstrated that God was righteous in temporarily passing over people’s sins before Christ’s death. The animal sacrifices showed that sin required death, that God temporarily accepted the animal’s death for sin until Jesus the Christ came and died and once and for all provided the permanent sacrifice for sin. See Hebrews 7.11-28, Hebrews 9.11-14, and Hebrews 10.1-18.
- Romans 3:26. Now God is just (δικαιος dikaios) himself and the one who justifies (δικαιοω dikaioo̅ present active participle, accusative masculine singular predicate accusative to “he”) one who believes in Jesus.
- Romans 3:27-28 further stress that mankind can do nothing for justification. No boasting at all. The Law is not involved either. Justification is only by faith.
- Romans 3:29-31 make clear that this applies to both Jew and Gentile. Faith (πιστις pistis,) is the only way to be justified. The Law pointed out sin and that no one could completely keep the Law. Justification by faith alone pointed out the function of the Law and that the Law could not justify anyone.
Doctrines and Applications
- Select doctrines in chapter 3.
- Israel (Romans 3:1)
- Circumcision (Romans 3:1)
- God’s attributes (Romans 3:3, 4)
- Judgment (Romans 3:6, 8, 19)
- Sin (Romans 3:7, 9)
- God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21, 22, 25)
- Faith (Romans 3:22, 25, 26, 30-31)
- Salvation words—God removed the sin barrier (Romans 3.24-25 Reconciliation).
- Just as Israel could not be saved because of her heritage and religious duties, neither can anyone else be saved by heritage or religion. Do not try.
- The Old Testament Law and any law sets up rules. The one who breaks the rules is guilty. We know that we break right rules and so we are guilty.
- Since all people are guilty before God and all gain God’s forgiveness and imputed righteousness only by faith in Jesus Christ, we all must believe in Jesus Christ as our savior.