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Bible Commentaries
Romans 3

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. The Jewish Advantage: 3:1-2

II. The Objection against the God of Paul's gospel: 3:3-8

A. Do unblessed Jews prove God faithless? 3:3

B. Is God right to be angry if the "sin" fulfills His will? 3:5

C. If sin gets God glory shouldn't people sin more? 3:7-8

III. The Jew indicted as a sinner by his own Scriptures: 3:9-20

A. Despite advantages the Jew is under sin. 3:9

B. The Biblical Proof of it. 3:10-18

C. The Application and Conclusion. 3:19-20

IV. Statement and Case for Righteousness (Right Standing with God/Justification) by Faith in Christ: 3:21-31

A. It is a 'manifested' righteousness-3:21

B. It is an 'of God' righteousness-3:21/28

C. It is a 'witnessed by the law and the prophets' righteousness-3:21

D. It is an 'apart from the law' righteousness-3:21/28

E. It is a 'by faith' righteousness-3:22,25,26,28,30

F. It is an 'unto all' righteousness-3:22/30

G. It is a 'free' righteousness-3:24

H. It is a 'purchased' righteousness-3:24

I. It is a 'just' righteousness-3:24-25

J. It is a 'boasting excluding' righteousness-3:27

K. It is a 'law establishing' righteousness-3:31

Verse 1

Rom_3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision?

'Advantage' -lit., surplus (Vincent p. 31); lit., what then is the overplus of the Jew? What does the Jew have over and above the Gentile?

'Profit' -5622. opheleia o-fel'-i-ah; from a derivative of the base of 5624; usefulness, i.e. benefit: -advantage, profit.

'What value was there in circumcision' (Knox)

'Here Paul imagines someone breaking into his argument and saying: "Well then, if it is being a Jew inwardly that counts, if it is the 'circumcision' of the heart that matters, is there any advantage in belonging to the Jewish nation, or in being physically circumcised?" We might have expected Paul to answer this supposed question quite categorically: "None at all!" But, rather to our surprise, he replies: "Much every way". Of course it is an advantage to belong to the Jewish nation. Think of all the privileges granted by God to that nation--privileges in which other nations had no part.'

Verse 2

Rom_3:2 Much every way: first of all, that they were intrusted with the oracles of God.

'Much every way' -'A great deal, from every point of view' (Gspd). A more detailed list of advantages is given in Rom_9:4 ff.

'First of all' -Paul considers as first importance, the fact that the Jewish nation was chosen to be the custodian of the 'utterances of God'.

'To have the revelation of God's will and purpose committed to them was a high honor indeed. But if it was a high honor, it carried with it a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. If they proved unfaithful to such a trust, their case was worse than that of the Gentiles.' ( Act_7:53 'you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it').

'Oracles' -3051. logion log'-ee-on; neuter of 3052; an utterance (of God): -oracle.

A strong case is presented for the 'inspiration' of the O.T. For what 'advantage' would the Jew of had if the O.T. was merely a collection of myths, fables and camp-fire stories?

The Jew always wanted to talk about 'advantages', how God had set them apart, but he forgot that such advantages brought a great responsibility to obey God. The same is true with Christians! ( Heb_2:1-3 ). For every generation of Christians is 'entrusted' with the truth ( 1Ti_1:11 ; 1Ti_6:20 'O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you ...').

Verse 3

Rom_3:3 For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God?

'Some' -i.e. some of the Jewish people. The fact was that many Jews had not proved faithful, many rejected the very Messiah foretold in the utterances they possessed.

'make of none effect the faithfulness of God?' -'nullify' (NASV)

The utterances of God which had been entrusted to the Jewish people contained many promises to bless them. But when Paul wrote, many Jews still stood in an unblessed condition. Was this God's fault? Certainly not! The very word 'some' infers that other Jews are 'faithful' and are receiving God's promised blessing. God has kept 'faith', it is man who hasn't.

Verse 4

Rom_3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy words, And mightest prevail when thou comest into judgment.

'God forbid' -'Of course not!' (Phi); 'O may it never be' (NASV); 'away with the thought of any reflection upon Him!' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 603)

'Let God be found true' -'When the case is stated between God and man there can only be one conclusion: let God come out true, and every man a liar .' (Gr. Ex. p. 603)

'Let' implies that 'let this always be our conclusion when any difference is found between human thinking and God's view'. Let the ways of God always be seen as right and just, and let all human critics be viewed as liars. 'Let God turn out to be or be found to be by His creatures' (Vincent p. 33).

Modern Application: Who is seen to be in the "right" on the subjects of adultery, homosexuality, etc.. Can we swallow the fact that anytime we encounter a 'hard saying', and start to balk at it, that we are the 'liar'?

'Every man' -guess who is right in every debate and disagreement that people have with God?

'As it is written' - Psa_51:4

'Paul quotes Psa_51:4 . David has just confessed the terribleness of his sin. A sin that was pleasant! Sin with a beautiful woman! His attitude was, that God would deal justly with him. Whatever decision God would make would be a righteous one . And when people examine his treatment and VIEW OF DAVID'S ACTIONS they would all see that God had indeed been equitable with David.'

After committing adultery with a beautiful, willing woman, David ADMITS THAT GOD IS RIGHT (in the right to call such wonderful passion-from the human point of view-SIN). Have we learned this lesson.

Verse 5

Rom_3:5 But if our unrighteousness commendeth the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who visiteth with wrath? (I speak after the manner of men.)

'Commendeth' -'demonstrates' (NASV); 'serves to magnify' (Nor).

'Someone may say: "If my faithLESSness sets God's faithfulness in bolder relief...why should He find fault with Me? He is really the gainer by my sin, why should He exact retribution for it?'

'It is fair, then, for Him to punish us when our sins are helping Him' (Tay)

'I speak after the manner of men' -the objection seems so foolish to Paul that he apologizes for mentioning it. "When I ask the question, 'Is God unjust who inflicteth wrath?' I am deeply conscious that I am using language which is intrinsically improper when applied to God.'

Verse 6

Rom_3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

'How shall God judge the world' -The Jew has in essence just claimed that his sin became an occasion for God's praise. But Paul points out, that is true of every man's sin. God has turned man's evil to his glory. The Jewish objector would use God's ability to turn sin to his glory as a shield from wrath. But if the Jewish objector could do it so could EVERY OTHER PERSON! When judgement arrived every man in creation could approach the judgement seat claiming exemption from wrath on the grounds that "my sin helped God". That kind of reasoning would do away with the judgement of the world by God!

Verse 7

Rom_3:7 But if the truth of God through my lie abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?

'The supposed objector is persistent..'If my falsehood makes God's truth shine more brightly by contrast (like a diamond on a background of black velvet)..why then does He insist on condemning me as a sinner? The end--God's glory is good; why then is the means--my sin--counted wrong?'

Verse 8

Rom_3:8 and why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? whose condemnation is just.

'and why not' -Paul says, 'In fact, some say the Gospel that I preach simply amounts to such, i.e. the more we sin, the more God is glorified and is seen as just.'

'do evil, that good may come' -a clear condemnation of the 'end justifies the means' type of argumentation.

'Whose condemnation is just' -'to condemn such men as these is surely no injustice' (NEB); 'such arguments are rightly condemned' (Mon). Paul will more fully show in 6:1-8:17 that such is not the logical end of the gospel that he preaches.

Verse 9

Rom_3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin;

'What then' -Paul returns to the thought presented in 3:1-2. Do such advantages make us any better than the Gentiles?

'Better' -privileges or no privileges, the Jew stood before God just as the Gentile, a sinner! A point that Paul has already established in the first two chapters.

Verse 10

Rom_3:10 as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;

'As it is written' -'The scriptures endorse this fact plainly enough' (Phi). Here Paul cites six O.T. passages which prove his point. These were from the utterances entrusted to the Jewish nation. Someone might argue that such passages were referring to wicked Gentiles, in verse 19 Paul will answer that argument, by pointing out that the 'Law', spoke to those under it, i.e. these passages were talking about Jews!

'There is none righteous' - Psa_14:1 .

'Not one' -but someone might say, but didn't the O.T. contain 'righteous' people? Like Noah, Abraham, Moses, the prophets? I think we realize that such men were not perfect keepers of the law, that ultimately their 'righteous' condition was tied to the future sacrifice of Christ. ( Heb_9:15 ; Heb_11:40 ; Heb_12:23 ) Note: The atheists in Psa_14:1 are not philosophic atheists. They are pragmatic atheists (14:2). They are "acting" as if God doesn't exist, and hence no punishment will come upon their evil deeds. A lot more of these kind of atheists exist, even in the church.

Verse 12

Rom_3:12 They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one:

'Unprofitable' -'useless' (NASV). The Hebrew word means to go bad, become sour like milk A life lived apart from God is a 'useless' life, a life that is 'wasted'.

Notice the accusations against the proud Jewish race. Despite their access to the word of God and their devotion to study, God says they 'lack understanding' (3:11). Despite having in their possession the word of God, they didn't use it to 'seek' Him (3:11)

Verse 13

Rom_3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips:

Quotation from Psa_5:9 , 'poison of asps is under their lips'- Psa_140:3 .

Verse 14

Rom_3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: - Psa_10:7

Verse 15

Rom_3:15 - Isa_59:7 ff

Verse 18

Rom_3:18 - Psa_36:1

'All their functions are contaminated with sin. Their throats, tongues, eyes, feet, lips and hands are declared as the instruments of sin. ..the whole Jewish nation is guilty and they are thoroughly guilty!'

Verse 19

Rom_3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God:

No reasonable Jew would deny the fact that these passages speak of him. Paul wishes for the Jew to face up to the fact that in his own Bible there lies written the explicit indictment of the nation of Israel. The purpose of all these quotations was the 'close the mouth' of the Jewish objectors.

Verse 20

Rom_3:20 because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.

'Because' -the reason why the Jew found himself in sin.

'Through the law cometh..' -a law given against a certain thing makes you aware that that thing is forbidden. In this respect it brings 'knowledge' of sin or what is sinful. But the law only made sin clear, it offered NO REMEDY! 'For it is the law that shows what sin is' (TCNT)

'Knowledge' -1922. epignosis ep-ig'-no-sis; from 1921; recognition, i.e. (by implication) full discernment, acknowledgement: -(ac-)knowledge(-ing, -ment). ( Rom_7:7 )****

-Clear and exact knowledge. (Vincent p. 40) This verse indicts those that say that the Bible isn't clear enough. Even the Law of Moses CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED RIGHT FROM WRONG!

Verse 21


The first three chapters demonstrated the great "need" for a way to make man right with God. For both Jew and Gentile found themselves in sin. All previous religious systems Jewish and non-Jewish have failed to achieve 'rightness' with God. The verses that follow PRESENT GOD'S REMEDY FOR THIS UNIVERSAL CONDITION OF CONDEMNATION.

Rom_3:21 But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

'apart from the law' -'not by the Law, but by another way' (Con).

The only way that one could be accounted righteous under a system of 'law-righteousness', was if one perfectly kept the law. But both Jews and Gentiles failed to live up to the laws they were under. God makes men righteous apart from perfect-law keeping, another system exists.

'Manifested' -'brought to light', i.e. revealed in the Gospel Message (1:16-17)

'Being witnessed by the law and the prophets' -it is important for Paul to point out that the way in which God makes men righteous, as revealed in the gospel isn't new or novel. The prophets bore witness to the truth that men will be declared 'right with God' by a faith that obeys. ( Hab_2:4 ; Psa_32:1 ; Gen_15:6 ; 2Ti_3:15 . In chapter 4 Paul will give two examples (David and Abraham), one lived before the law and one during it, and yet both were justified by their faith in God.

'Yet this is no new-fangled way, thought up by ourselves; it has ample witness borne to it in advance in the O.T. writings.'

Verse 22

Rom_3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction;

'Faith in Jesus Christ' -for faith to result in a right standing with God, it must be 'faith IN' Jesus Christ. Faith by itself ('faith in faith'), or faith in any other doesn't result in salvation.

'Unto all them that believe' -since all fall short, all NEED this.

Verse 23

Rom_3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

'For' -the reason why it is to 'all that believe'.

'Fall short of the glory of God' -'and all fall short of God's glorious ideal' (TCNT)

Verse 24

Rom_3:24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

'Justified' -1344. dikaioo dik-ah-yo'-o; from 1342; to render (i.e. show or regard as) just or innocent: -free, justify(-ier), be righteous.

'Freely' -'free gift'. To receive the benefits of Christ's death is conditional (faith-3:22); but the 'basis' of our redemption, the reason WHY Christ died for us, contained no conditions. ( Rom_5:8 )

'Grace' -Favor bestowed on the unworthy by a God who is tender and kind.."the idea of grace is a gift, given out of the sheer generosity of the giver's heart, a gift which the receiver could never have earned and could never have deserved by any efforts of his own".

'Redemption' -629. apolutrosis ap-ol-oo'-tro-sis; from a compound of 575 and 3083; (the act) ransom in full, i.e. (figuratively) riddance, or (specially) Christian salvation: -deliverance, redemption.

-a 'ransoming from', a price paid for the deliverance of that which is delivered. 'Lutron'-is common in the papyri as the purchase-money in freeing slaves. (Robertson p. 347)

This 'buying back' wasn't accomplished with silver or gold ( 1Pe_1:18-19 ), nor was it achieved with brains and brawn. 'It wasn't by culture or social standing. Deliverance doesn't lie in working our way out, or inventing our way out or subverting our way out, or carousing our way out, or thinking our way out, or warring our way out, but by admitting that CHRIST IS THE WAY OUT!'

'in Christ Jesus' -( 2Ti_1:9 ; Eph_1:3-4 ; Eph_1:7 ). And how does one get 'in Christ Jesus'? ( Gal_3:26-27 )

Verse 25

Rom_3:25 whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God;

'Set forth' -publicly, openly.

'Propitiation' -satisfaction, appeasement, having a placating or expiating force. To propitiate is to appease, to render favorable.

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (LXX), this is the word used to describe the 'mercy seat', where atonement was made in the O.T. In contrast, the true "means" of appeasing the penalty that sin demands, wasn't veiled or hidden, but publicly shown to all, i.e. Christ died in full public view.

'through faith' -such appeasement for sin does have conditions.

'in his blood' -again, not just faith 'in' anything.

'to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime'

'to show' -to demonstrate. God cannot just let sin slip by. If sin in the past was left unpunished was it because God was ignoring it? Did he think it wasn't very important? This phrase teaches the truth, that if patience was shown to sinful men and sins in the past, it was IN VIEW OF THE COMING SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. God's justifying us, MUST OF ITSELF BE JUST. God cannot deliver us by an unrighteous method. ( Act_17:30 ) Here we encounter another passage that teaches that the benefits of the blood of Christ flow both ways ( Heb_9:15 )

'That is, to demonstrate that God was not unrighteous when He passed over (left unpunished) sins committed in earlier days, in the period of His forbearance.'

Verse 26

Rom_3:26 for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.

'For the showing' -what God did in Christ not only spoke in relation to the sins that were gone, but it demonstrates 'at the present season' that God is just to declare the sinner, who demonstrates faith in Jesus, to be innocent and right with Him. Without the sacrifice of Christ, any acquittal of the sinner IS UNJUST!

Modern Application: This is a truth that many people miss. Many claim that God will save (declare righteous) those that don't place their faith in Jesus. But such teaching labels God as 'unjust'. Many are under the impression that GOD CAN FORGIVE SIN ANYWAY HE WANTS TO. Such is not the case. A holy and righteous God cannot VIOLATE the demands of justice. Christ was needed to appease such demands (sin must be punished).

Verse 27

Rom_3:27 Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith.

'Glorying' -'boasting' (NASV); 'then what becomes of our boasting' (Mof).

Why were sins left unpunished? The Jew would say, that was because I was good! The Gentile would say, that was because I wasn't like the rank and file decadent. GOD SAYS NO! That's not why the sins where left unpunished. The acquittal of sin revealed in the gospel contains nothing that man can 'boast about'.

'It is excluded' -'It has been shut out' (Con); 'It is ruled out absolutely' (Mof)

'By what manner of law' -'On what principle' (Mof). If one could perfectly keep the law, then one could 'boast'. But since salvation is based on the innocent dying for the guilty, and is only obtained by humble submission, all boasting has been ruled out. This obedient faith or humble submission, Paul calls the 'law of faith'. "Depending on the innocent to justify the guilty is what Paul calls the law of faith".

Verse 28

Rom_3:28 We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

'Reckon' -'conclude'; 'for we maintain' (NASV).

'Works of the law' -perfect law-keeping, trying to maintain a right standing with God on the basis of flawlessly keeping the law, has been shown to be a system that cannot justify anyone.

Note: In this verse Paul is not contrasting 'faith and obedience', but rather 'a faith that trusts in Christ' and 'flawless law-keeping'.

Verse 29

Rom_3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also:

'Since no one has the record on which he can boast and since faith is possible in everyone , Jew and Gentile, then Gentile as well as Jew can be justified.'

Here is another verse that teaches the truth, that only One God exists and all men are accountable to Him.

Verse 30

Rom_3:30 if so be that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.

Both need justification! And the conditions for salvation for both are the same! ( Mar_16:16 ; Act_2:38 )

Verse 31

Rom_3:31 Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law.

'Do we then make the law of none effect' -'Does that mean that we are using faith to rob the law of its force' (Knox)

-'Does justification by law undermine law'? Paul responds, 'not at all'.

'Establish' -certainly not in the sense of making law binding, or 'in force'. 'We uphold the law' (Mof)

1. If the law of Moses is under primary consideration in this verse, then teaching justification by faith simply upholds what the law and the prophets had predicted. (3:21)

2. If the 'law' under consideration is 'the law all are under today': The person who seeks to be right with God on the basis of obedient trust/humble submission, is the individual that will be always be ready to conform to God's commands, and quickly repent (demonstrating respect for law) when they violate them.

3. By contrast, all that claim they can be right with God on the basis of perfect law-keeping, violate and show disrespect for the law of God, for such people refuse to see where they violate the law. ( 1Jn_1:10 )

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/romans-3.html. 1999-2014.
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