Romans chapter 3

Show Notes for Romans 3:1-31

Study Notes

4.1  Romans 3:1-8
4.2  Romans 3:9-20
4.3  Romans 3:21-31


4.1    God Remains Faithful  (3:1-8)


3:1  From the Heart
3:1, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?” NKJV

I.  True “Jewishness” is a matter of the heart

II.  Paul begins to connect the gospel’s roots to it’s New Covenant reality


3:2  Jewish Benefits
3:2, “Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.” NIV

I.  There are benefits to being a Jew
“Much, in every way… The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” NRSV

i.     They were entrusted with God’s laws.

ii.    They were the race through whom the Messiah came to earth

iii.    They were the beneficiaries of covenants with God himself (Paul will explain this further as we move through the text)

II.  The benefits find their meaning as part of God’s total plan


3:3  God’s Faithfulness
3:3, “Some did not have faith… Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” NIV

Definition: “God’s faithfulness”
God promised that He would be Israel’s God, remain with and protect His people, and send the Saviour of the world through them.  He also promised to punish His people if they disobeyed Him, so that they would learn to obey.  These promises remain valid, even though many Jews have rebelled against God and rejected His way of righteousness.  God has kept His covenant; it is people who have faltered.

I. Israel’s unfaithfulness did not change God’s faithfulness

II.  God’s faithfulness is already established, making it impossible to be changed by our response [ie, our faith and obedience, or rejection and disobedience]


3:4  Truth
3:4, “Certainly not!  Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” NKJV

Definition: “So that you may be proved right…”
God’s judgment upon our faithlessness (disloyalty, lying, sin) proves God’s faithfulness to His righteous character and covenant promises.

I.  God is always true [even if the entire world thinks He’s not]


3:5  God’s Accountability
3:5, “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)” NIV

Definition: “But if…”
Romans 3:4 leads to a second objection that either a Jew or a Gentile might raise: If humanity’s faithlessness, falsehood, and sin contrast and enhance God’s faithfulness, truth, and righteousness, then humanity’s sin glorifies God.  Therefore, the wrath of 1:18 and 2:8 is unjust, and sinners shouldn’t be punished.  Paul scarcely bothers to refute this nonsense.  God is the Creator of earth and humanity, the Inventor of our consciences, and the Definer of right and wrong.  If He doesn’t have the right to judge, then no one does and morality is meaningless.

I.  This question reflects how people will rationalize instead of repent
“Our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness” NIV

II.  God does not accept rationalization – He accepts repentance
“Using a human term”

III.  God judges according to God’s character/fairness, and is not accountable to anything external to Himself


3:6  The Just Judge
3:6, “Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?” NIV

I.  Because He is a perfect judge, He doesn’t make exceptions


3:7  Total Equality
3:7, “Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?””

I.  The root of the problem is not recognizing our equality before God: we are all equally sinful and stand together as we equally receive wrath or equally receive forgiveness


3:8  Lawlessness vs Grace
3:8, “Why not say–as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say–“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.”

Definition: “Let us do evil…”
Some people believed that Paul’s doctrine of justification by grace would lead people to sin, so that God would give more of His grace to mankind.  Paul refutes this distortion thoroughly in chapter 6; here he merely rejects it as absurd.

I.  Paul is not teaching that lawlessness leads to salvation

II.  Grace is not a license to sin



    We are truly connected to God if we are connected from the heart.  Symbols and heritage do not impress God without true heartfelt faith.  However, that’s not to say that the Jews had been rejected by God for reasons of heritage and symbols.  God honours a legacy of faithfulness, and there are benefits for being Jewish.  But, the benefits do not negate judgment and the need of repentance and faith in Jesus.  We are all equally in need of repentance, and no one is exempt from God’s judgment.  If God were to make exceptions He would be flawing his own character and disqualifying Himself as judge.  So, each of us need to submit ourselves to God’s grace, and then live repentant lives never thinking that we will ever be above judgment.


4.2    All People are Sinners  (3:9-20)


3:9  No Better
3:9, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.”

I.  No one person is better then another person
“Are we better then they?  Not at all.” NKJV

3:10  All Are In Need
3:10, “As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one;” NIV

I.  There are no advantages in life that take away our need of salvation [particularly applied to the Jews here, and universally true]

II.  A note on the quote


3:11  Trained On God
3:11, “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” NIV

I.  Generally speaking, people do not desire to discipline themselves to please God in all aspects in life


3:12  Worthless Pursuits
3:12, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” NIV

I.  Every pursuit is worthless, and ultimately leads to destruction, unless it is connected to us seeking God


3:13  Collateral Damage
3:13, “”Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”” NIV

I.  Our sinfulness corrupts our relationships with other people
“They use their tongues to deceive” NRSV


3:14  Vocabulary
3:14, “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” NIV

I.  Our words and attitude are reflections of our spiritual condition


3:15-17  True Peace
3:15-17, “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” NIV

I.  There is no peace in the absence of God


3:18  High and Low Opinions
3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” NIV

I.  People generally hold themselves in high regard, have a low opinion of God, and reject submitting to Him


3:19  Helpless
3:19, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”

Definition: “Law”
The whole Old Testament.  In 3:10-18, Paul quotes from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah, not the books of Moses.  Paul uses the word “law” flexibly in Romans, so we have to interpret him according to the context.  For example, in 3:27 NIV and RSB sometimes render the word “law” as “principle.”  NASB and KJV have the literal “law of faith.”

I.  All people are condemned [especially those under the Law]
“Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law” NKJV

II.  All people have no excuse and no defence
“Every mouth may be silenced” NRSV

III.  All people are accountable to their Creator and Judge
“The whole world may be held accountable to God” NRSV


3:20  The Problem
3:20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” NIV

I.  The Law has exposed our sin
“No one will be declared righteous”

II.  We need to be righteous according to God’s judgment of us
“In his sight” NIV

III.  We are not able to be righteous according to God’s judgment because of our sin
“By observing the Law” NIV

IV.  We are at the mercy of God’s grace
“Through the law we become conscious of sin” NIV



    Again Paul tells us that one person is never better then another in God’s sight.  We are all equally in need of repentance, and God’s grace.  The human condition is bleak.  Generally speaking, it can be said that we are not concerned about seeking God in all aspects of our life, we pursue meaningless things that lead to our own destruction, we hurt those around us, and we see ourselves as better then God.  There is no excuse or defense for our actions, and there is no hiding our guilt.  The Law has clearly identified us as sinners, incapable of meeting God’s standard of righteousness.  We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.


4.3    Christ Took Our Punishment  (3:21-31)


3:21  God Provides Righteousness
3:21, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” NIV

Definition:  “The Law and the Prophets”
The whole Old Testament.  Genesis 15:6, Psalm 32:1-2, and Habakkuk 2:4 all testify to this truth.

I.  Paul transitions his topic to a discussion of the gospel
“But now”

II.  The righteousness that God had promised through the Old Testament has now been made available to us through Jesus
“Righteousness from God…has been made known” NIV

i.      God provided us the righteousness we needed (He had to, there was no other way)

ii.      This righteousness was a part of God’s plan all along

III.  God has provided the means to close the distance between Himself and people by fulfilling what the Law and the Prophets were pointing to
“Apart from the law… to which the Law and the Prophets testify” NIV

i.      This means of righteousness closes the gap between God’s standard and our inability to live up to that standard

ii.     Although righteousness does not come from the Law, the Law has pointed to the fulfillment of it in the gospel


3:22  The Process of Salvation
3:22, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,” NIV

I.  There is a process involved in order to receive God’s salvation
“Righteousness from God comes” NIV

II.  The necessary process for receiving salvation: we need to put our faith in Jesus
“Through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” NRSV

III.  Faith in Jesus is the only requirement in the process of receiving salvation
“No difference” NIV

IV.  Faith in Jesus is not perfect knowledge of Jesus, it’s perfect trust in His complete work of salvation


3:23  Separated
3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Definition: “Glory of God”
What God intended humanity to be.  The glory that humanity had before the fall. (Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8:5-6, Ephesians 4:24).

I.  Everyone has sinned
“For all have sinned” NIV

II. We cannot fix our separation from God by our own efforts
“Fall short” NIV

III. We are incomplete and lacking, and cannot make ourselves whole
“Glory of God”

IV.  We are cut off from God because of our sin, and we need a Saviour to fix this separation


3:24  Declaration
3:24, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Definition: “Justified”
Declared righteous, not guilty.  The guilty person’s sins are declared to be paid in full, so he has a clear record before God.

Definition: “Grace”
God’s unmerited favor and gifts to humanity.

Definition: “Redemption”
Release by payment of a ransom.  The image is of someone freeing a slave by buying him from his master, or someone paying a criminal’s fine to release him from jail.

I.  God declares us “not guilty”
“Justified freely by His grace” NKJV

i.      We are dependent on God for that declaration

ii.      God assures us of that declaration based on His character [His grace]

II.  We are freed from our slavery to sin when we put our faith in Jesus
“Through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” NIV


3:25  Timeless Substitution
3:25, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–“

Definition: “Sacrifice of Atonement”
“Propitiation” in KJV, NASB.  “Expiation” in RSV.  The penalty for sin (rebellion against God’s will) is death (Romans 6:23), but God does not want sinners to die.  The Old Testament sacrificial system was designed to illuminate both God’s just hatred of sin and His merciful desire not to punish.  God allowed people to kill animals in place of themselves.  These sacrifices “atoned for” (covered) sin, “expiated” (removed) humanity’s guilt, and “propitiated” (satisfied, appeased) God’s justice.  See Leviticus 16:11, 15-16, 20-22.
Romans 3:25b-26 explains that those Old Testament sacrifices were not sufficient payment for sin in themselves, but they were sufficient in that they represented what Christ was going to do.  By putting faith in the sacrifices commanded to cleanse sin, the Israelites were putting faith in God’s way of righteousness which is fully revealed in Christ.  Thus, the sacrificial law testifies to God’s way of righteousness by faith apart form works (3:21).  Now, however, the sacrificial system is ended because the act it foreshadowed has occurred.

Definition: “His blood”
The sacrificial animal’s shed blood signified the life that was being given up for the person’s sin.  Likewise, Christ’s blood signifies the life He poured out for our sin and the death He accepted in our place.

Note:  Justification is a concept from the law courts.  Redemption is from the slave market.  Atonement is from the Temple.

I.  Jesus was a substitutionary sacrifice, His life offered in place of ours, to remove the punishment of sin from us
“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement” NIV

II. The blood of Jesus indicates the finality of the substitution – Christ has indeed given His life
“Through faith in his blood” NIV

III. Jesus death has a timeless application: it works through all time
“Demonstrate his justice… left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” NIV


3:26  Fully Paid
3:26, “he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

I.  God has provided full payment for the full justice due for our sin
“To demonstrate at the present time his righteousness” NKJV

II. Faith in Jesus is the only way to have God’s full payment applied to us
“To be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” NIV


3:27  By Faith
3:27, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.”

I.  We are saved by faith, with nothing at all to do with personal accomplishment
“Boasting … is excluded”

II.  There is a deeper Law required now – the Law of Faith

    i. Faith eliminates the pride of human effort

    ii. Faith exalts what God has done, not what people do

    iii. Faith admits that we can’t keep the Law or measure up to God’s standards – we need help

    iv. Faith is based on our relationship with God, not our performance for God


3:28  Not By Works
3:28, “A person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” NRSV

I.  We cannot earn eternal life, as if we could do enough good things to cover over our guilt – we are saved by trusting Jesus


3:29  All Inclusive
3:29, “Is God the God of Jews only?” NRSV

I.  Salvation comes to everyone who has faith in Jesus, and is not restricted to one group of people


3:30  Entirely Exclusive
3:30, “since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” NIV

I.  Justification comes exclusively through faith
“There is only one God”


3:31  Faith Gives Context
3:31, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”

I.  We understand God’s dealings with the Jewish people, and we place the Law in its proper place through faith



    Because God does not want to judge us, and because we are incapable of providing the righteousness required by God, God has provided the righteousness we need.  This righteousness is not obtained by human effort (ie, it’s not by works) – which is very good for us, since the only way to pay for sin is through death.  God has established a process in which the transaction of His righteousness is applied to us.  Simply stated, and perhaps to simple a process for many people to accept and trust, we need to have faith in Jesus.  We have all sinned and have been cut off from God, we are all completely lacking what it takes to reconnect with God, we need a Saviour to do something that we cannot do.  Therefore, Jesus has substituted Himself, and has died in our place to pay the penalty for sin – the judgment we all deserve.  The sacrifice of Jesus’ life (evidenced in Jesus’ blood) has given us our life back.  We are now saved from the penalty of sin (ie, death) exclusively through faith in Jesus.  This salvation is equally available to everyone, and equally needed by everyone.