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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Romans 3

Verses 1-8

The Advantage of the Jews: God’s Oracles In Romans 3:1-8 Paul explains the advantage of being a Jew, which is the fact that to them God delivered the oracles of God. These oracles would include the Mosaic Law as well as the many times God spoke to Israel through the prophets.

Romans 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

Romans 3:1 “What advantage then hath the Jews” Comments - The advantage of being a Jew is that they had a covenant with God and hope of redemption. In contrast, the Gentiles were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.

Ephesians 2:12, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

Romans 3:1 “or what profit is there of circumcision” - Comments - Romans 3:1 shows a typical Hebrew construction, where the second phrase in essence restates the first phrase. The phrase “what profit is there of circumcision” is a paraphrase that describes a Jew. Circumcision was one of a Jew’s most distinctive characteristics.

Romans 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

Romans 3:2 “Much every way” Comments - The NIV reads, “Much in every way.” This phrase lacks a descriptive noun that explains in what way man is advantaged. However, the context of this passage of Scripture is discussing the way of man’s redemption and justification before God. Thus, there was an advantage in being a Jew regarding every aspect of God’s plan of redemption. Paul will list some of the advantages in the following verses. For example, the Jews were given an advantage in every area of their lives through God’s oracles to them because God’s Word dealt with every area of our human lives. Through their covenant with the God of their father Abraham, they had an advantage over other nations in that they had clear guidelines through the Mosaic Law on how to prosper. The Law addressed their spiritual, mental and emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. If the Jew would follow the teachings of the Old Testament, they were destined to a life of peace and prosperity, while all other nations around them walked in darkness, fear and poverty. In contrast, one would be hard pressed to find an advantage of being born as a Gentile, whose culture is either steeped in idolatry, witchcraft, paganism or some vain form of religion.

“chiefly” - Comments - The most important single aspect of being a Jew is the fact that God gave unto them His Laws and spoke to them through the prophets.

“because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” Comments - The most obvious advantage to being a Jew is the fact that God delivered unto them the divine oracles and laws, which reveal God’s plan of redemption to mankind. God entered into a covenant with the Jews and entrusted the Jews with His Word, just like God entrusted Paul with the Gospel to the Gentiles, who are called the uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7).

Galatians 2:7, “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.”

Psalms 147:19-20 states the same truth as Romans 3:2:

Psalms 147:19-20, “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.”

Paul will refer to these advantages again in Romans 9:4, where he will briefly list other advantages.

Romans 9:4, “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises”

Comments - The classical writers reveal that the concept of sacred mysteries being utters as divine oracles was practiced in the ancient world. Regarding the use of oracles, the ancient Greeks regarded divine oracles as a form of worship until the time of the Persian war (490-479 B.C.). [153] The temple of Apollo located at Delphi was famous in the ancient world for delivering oracles to men by those in a trance, or they interpreted dreams or patterns in nature. [154] The Greek historians Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) [155] and Plutarch (A.D. 46-100) [156] mention this place of oracles in their writings. While the Romans as a nation did not regard oracles as a religious practice, this custom continued within the Empire, but not without the contempt of the Romans. [157] This practice was later outlawed under the Roman emperor Theodosius (A.D. 379-385). [158] King Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor shows its popularity among ancient eastern cultures (1 Samuel 28:7-25). The damsel who prophesied over Paul and Barnabas in Philippi is an example of the proliferation of divination in the New Testament times (Acts 16:16-24). The Sibylline Oracles, [159] a collection of Greek oracles compiled by Jews and Christians in the early centuries before and after Christ, reflect the widespread popularity that the Sibyl prophetesses held in ancient Greek and Roman history. Regarding the concept of “mysteries” ( μυστη ́ ριον ) revealed through oracles, Plutarch, writing about the Pythian priestesses who prophesied at Delphi, speaks of “interpreters of the sacred mysteries.” [160] Thus, when Paul refers to the mysteries hidden from the ages being revealed to the Church (Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9), or when Luke, Paul, and Peter speak of the “oracles” ( λόγιον ) (G3051) of God (Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:11), they are speaking in a cultural language that the Greeks and Romans understood, where pagans frequently sought oracles through divine utterance at the temples to reveal hidden mysteries for their lives.

[153] C. H. Prichard, “Oracle,” in A Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901), 629.

[154] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Oracle.”

[155] Herodotus writes, “…and he [Dorieus] asked the Spartans for a company of folks, whom he took away as colonists; he neither enquired of the oracle at Delphi in what land he should plant his settlement, nor did aught else that was customary…” ( Histories 5.42) See Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1938), 46-47.

[156] Plutarch tells us that the Sibylline prophetesses of Delphi used poetic verses with their prophecies, saying, “…for when we drew near that part of the rock which joins to the senate-house, which by common fame was the seat of the first Sibyl that came to Delphi from Helicon, where she was bred by eh Muses…Serapio made mention of certain verses of hers, wherein she had extolled herself as one that should never cease to prophesy even after her death…” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 9) He later writes, “…but I am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell me the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures…and also the temple of Tellus, to which the oracle appertained, and where the answers were delivered in verses and song.” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 17) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch’s Essays and Miscellanies, vol. 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 77, 86-87.

[157] The Roman poet Lucan (A.D. 39-65) reflects the contempt for such oracles by the Romans when he writes, “They had now come to the Temple, the only one which among the Libyan nations the uncivilized Garamantes possess. There stands Jupiter, the foreteller of destiny, as they relate; but not either brandishing the lightnings or like to ours, but Ammon with crooked horns.” ( Pharsalia 9.593-598) See H. T. Riley, The Pharsalia of Lucan (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 359.

[158] C. H. Prichard, “Oracle,” In A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (), 629.

[159] The Sibylline Oracles, trans. H. C. O. Lanchester, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English With Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books, vol. 2, ed. R. H. Charles (electronic edition), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

[160] Plutarch writes, “The interpreters of the sacred mysteries acted without any regard to us, who desired them to contract their relation into as few words as might be, and to pass by the most part of the inscriptions.” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 2) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch’s Essays and Miscellanies, vol. 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 70.

Romans 16:25, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,”

1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”

Ephesians 1:9, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:”

Ephesians 3:3-4, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”

Ephesians 3:9, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”

Ephesians 6:19, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”

Colossians 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:”

Colossians 2:2, “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;”

Colossians 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:”

1 Timothy 3:9, “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”

Acts 7:38, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:”

Romans 3:2, “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”

Hebrews 5:12, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.”

1 Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The reference to pillars and foundations of the Church in 1 Timothy 3:15 suggests that Paul had in mind the ancient Greek and Roman temples with their practice of divination, and that he compares this pagan scene of worship to the New Testament Church and the Holy Scriptures, which serve as its pillars and foundation.

Romans 3:3 “For what if some did not believe?” Comments - That is, “if some of the Jews did not believe.”

Romans 3:3 “shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Comments - That is, “Does the Jews’ failure to believe in these divine oracles nullify the “faith of God,” which refers to God’s plan of redemption for the Jews (and Gentiles)?”

Romans 3:3 Comments - The same Greek word translated in Romans 3:2 as “committed” is translated here in Romans 3:3 as “believe.” Therefore, if God believed in this nation to fulfill His plan of salvation by entrusting them with His oracles, then the unbelief of a few Jews does not nullify God’s willingness to continue to use the Jewish people in His redemptive plan. Paul is careful here to avoid saying that the entire nation of Israel has fallen into unbelief, because there were Jews who did believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Many Jews believed were God’s children and qualified to receive God’s blessings because of their Jewish birth (Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, John 3:8). They trusted in the Law to justify them before God (Romans 2:17).

Matthew 3:9, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

Luke 3:8, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

John 8:39, “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.”

Romans 2:17, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,”

God made a covenant with the Jews and He gave them His Words. Romans 3:3 says that if some of these Jews did not remain faithful to the covenant, would this void the entire covenant between God and the Jewish nation? Of course it would not. Romans 3:3 teaches us that God is still committed to working in and through the nation of Israel. Just because some of the Jews were unfaithful to God’s Word, it does it mean that God is going to be unfaithful to His Word and to His part of His covenant to the nation of Israel. If God were not faithful to fulfill His part of the covenant, then the Jews would not stand condemned as sinners. However, God has been faithful to His Word. Therefore, the unbelieving Jews stand condemned for not fulfilling their part of the divine covenant.

Illustration - If two men agree to do something for each other, and one backs out of the deal and does not do his part, does this void the agreement. No, it does not. It just shows that one man had broken his end of the deal.

Illustration - A man at church asked Jack Emerson if he would cut a tree down for a cost of $300. Jack said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So, Jack agreed to cut the tree down for $300. This was the first covenant that was made. Jack asks for some help and several men agree to help him. They enter into this covenant. When the work began, these helpers find the job too difficult. They did not realize what they had gotten themselves into. So, some who agreed to help Jack backed out and went home. Jack said to the man who wanted the tree cut down, “I cannot cut it down now without help.” The man held Jack to his word. This illustrates that a covenant is not nullified just because some people were unfaithful to keep their word. Jack did not know that other tree surgeons had tried also but failed to do this job. So, Jack asked the man to raise the pay to $500. The man agreed and the job was completed.

God is always faithful to fulfill His Word and His promises, even when man is not faithful. He will never deny His Word when we trust Him in it. We can note two truths in 2 Timothy 2:13. First, God is always faithful. Second, man can be unfaithful. So, the problem is not ever with God, but always with man. God will never deny what He said He would do. He will never change and deny a promise He made to you. As a growing believer, I had to shoulder up to my responsibility that the problem is with me, not God, when things did not work out.

2 Timothy 2:13, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

Romans 3:4 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.

Romans 3:4 Comments - Romans 3:4 is a quote from Psalms 51:4. David is saying that man’s sin is against God, so that God is just when He sentences mankind. God is blameless when He judges sinners, since every person has sinned against God, who is a righteous Judge (Psalms 51:4). God is always true, as well as His oracles, and man is systemically depraved, whether Jew or Gentile.

Psalms 51:4, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”

Romans 3:5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

Romans 3:5 “I speak a man” - Comments - Paul says that if he were speaking from a natural man's point of view on man’s sinfulness and God’s righteousness, then the natural man would ask the question, “Is it right for God to take vengeance out on us?”

Illustration - Someone once asked me, “Do you believe that God made Adam and Eve and put them in the garden, knowing that they would fall in sin by temptation, then curse them?” This person was trying to say that it does not seem fair that God would make a man knowing he will sin, then turn around and curse and condemn the man. I responded to him and said, “Who are we to answer against the Almighty God. We are like a piece of clay, and God is the potter. He does as He pleases. We are just mortal human beings.”

Romans 3:5 Comments - The Gospel demonstrates God’s righteousness by declaring the sinfulness of mankind (Romans 1:17).

Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

Romans 3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

Romans 3:6 Comments - If God were unrighteous to bring judgment upon sinful man, then God could not judge the world. Since God is going to judge the world, this means that He is righteous!

Romans 3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

Romans 3:7 “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory” Comments - In Romans 3:7 Paul says his lie would abound unto God’s glory. Note that Romans 3:4 has just called all men liars, “saying Let God be true, but every man a liar.” Thus, the same line of thought is being followed in Romans 3:7 that began in Romans 3:4.

Romans 3:7 “why yet am I also judged as a sinner” Comments - The oracles of God, the Old Testament, show man’s sinful nature in contrast to God’s holiness. Our sins show God’s righteousness, but does this mean we are encouraged to abound in sin in order to do this? This will not do anything but declare us more sinful.

Romans 3:7 Comments - In Romans 3:7 Paul restates what he said in Romans 3:5, “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?” Paul’s opponents were asking, “Why does God judge us as sinners, since through our lies (our sins) God is acknowledged as a God worth of glory? So why not continue is sin so good can result, such as giving God glory?” Paul counters these accusations against him.

Romans 3:7 can be paraphrased, “If by our lies and our sins, God’s truth and righteous standards bring Him glory, why is mankind still considered a sinner,” and he is not, therefore, able to conclude, “let us do evil, for good to come.” The AmpBible reads, “ But [you say] if through my falsehood God's integrity is magnified and advertised and abounds to His glory, why am I still being judged as a sinner?” (Romans 3:7)

God is shown to be righteous because our sins show His truth to be righteous, and it continues to show man as a sinner. Since our sins show God’s truth and righteousness, and through this truth man continues to be judged as a sinner, there is no way that a man can truly reason that by doing evil, any good can come. Sin just proves us to be ever so much a sinner and in judgment of a righteous God.

Romans 3:8 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.

Romans 3:8 Comments - Many people were slandering Paul’s teachings (2 Peter 3:18). Opponents were “wresting,” or distorting, Paul’s teachings.

2 Peter 3:16, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures , unto their own destruction.”

Paul faced much Jewish opposition (Acts 21:12).

Acts 21:21, “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”

Verses 1-20

God’s Call through the Mosaic Law: Testimony to Man’s Actions In Romans 1:18-32 Paul reveals man’s depravity and rejection of God. He then broadens his definition of depravity in Romans 2:1-16 by addressing those who condemn evil and consider themselves moral and good by showing their sinful nature. Now in Romans 2:17 to Romans 3:20 Paul further broadens his definition of man’s depravity to include the Jew. Throughout this lengthy passage of Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20 Paul is attempting to explain how man’s sinful nature serves as a testimony of God’s righteousness in inflicting His wrath upon mankind from heaven (Romans 1:18), which is the underlying theme of this passage of Scripture.

In Romans 2:17 to Romans 3:20 Paul turns to the Jews who justify themselves in the Law, which reveals man’s actions. Paul offers a more lengthy discussion about the depravity of the Jew than the Gentiles because they had been given the oracles of God and had been used under the old covenant to reveal God’s standard of justification to the world.The Jews, who observe the disgusting behavior of the heathen take comfort in their traditions and conservative lifestyles. Yet, they too are condemned by the very Law they serve. Paul first rehearses the multitude of boasts that the Jews make in their religious heritage (Romans 1:17-20). He then reveals that all such boasting is in vain as he exposes their hearts (Romans 2:21-24). He explains that true circumcision is that of the heart, and not of the flesh (Romans 2:25-29). He next explains to them the advantages of being a Jew (Romans 3:1-8). Paul then quotes from the Law (primarily Psalms and Isaiah) to reveal how God’s wrath has been placed upon them also. Paul uses the Law to reveal how everyone is in a state of sin, even the Jew. He directly addresses the Jews as he uses the Law to convict them of their sins (1 Timothy 1:8).

1 Timothy 1:8, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;”

Although the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-8), these oracles only declare that all have sinned (Romans 3:9-20). He explains that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin (Romans 3:9). They have a wicked heart (Romans 3:10-12), and speak wicked words from their minds (Romans 3:13-14), and commit deeds of wickedness with their bodies (Romans 3:15-17), because they have no fear of God in their hearts (Romans 3:18). The Law has simply served to reveal man’s sinful nature rather than justify him (Romans 3:19-20).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Jew Makes His Boast in God Romans 2:17-20

2. The Jew as a Sinner Romans 2:21-24

3. True Circumcision Romans 2:25-29

4. The Advantage of the Jews: God’s Oracles Romans 3:1-8

5. The Law has Declared Both Jews and Gentiles as Sinner Romans 3:9-20

A Summary of Paul’s Experience in Debating with the Jews - Romans 2:17 is a key verse to chapters 2 and 3 of Romans in that Paul presents argument of his Jewish opponents in a rhetorical manner and answers them. Paul had spent years in the Jewish synagogues debating with them on these points. It explains that the Jews were trusting in the Law and boasting in God. Paul's conclusion to this attitude of the Jews is found in Romans 2:29. Paul says that being a Jew is of the heart and not in the circumcision of the flesh.

Romans 2:17, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,”

Romans 2:29, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

Verses 1-20

God’s Call through the Mosaic Law: Testimony to Man’s Actions In Romans 1:18-32 Paul reveals man’s depravity and rejection of God. He then broadens his definition of depravity in Romans 2:1-16 by addressing those who condemn evil and consider themselves moral and good by showing their sinful nature. Now in Romans 2:17 to Romans 3:20 Paul further broadens his definition of man’s depravity to include the Jew. Throughout this lengthy passage of Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20 Paul is attempting to explain how man’s sinful nature serves as a testimony of God’s righteousness in inflicting His wrath upon mankind from heaven (Romans 1:18), which is the underlying theme of this passage of Scripture.

In Romans 2:17 to Romans 3:20 Paul turns to the Jews who justify themselves in the Law, which reveals man’s actions. Paul offers a more lengthy discussion about the depravity of the Jew than the Gentiles because they had been given the oracles of God and had been used under the old covenant to reveal God’s standard of justification to the world.The Jews, who observe the disgusting behavior of the heathen take comfort in their traditions and conservative lifestyles. Yet, they too are condemned by the very Law they serve. Paul first rehearses the multitude of boasts that the Jews make in their religious heritage (Romans 1:17-20). He then reveals that all such boasting is in vain as he exposes their hearts (Romans 2:21-24). He explains that true circumcision is that of the heart, and not of the flesh (Romans 2:25-29). He next explains to them the advantages of being a Jew (Romans 3:1-8). Paul then quotes from the Law (primarily Psalms and Isaiah) to reveal how God’s wrath has been placed upon them also. Paul uses the Law to reveal how everyone is in a state of sin, even the Jew. He directly addresses the Jews as he uses the Law to convict them of their sins (1 Timothy 1:8).

1 Timothy 1:8, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;”

Although the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-8), these oracles only declare that all have sinned (Romans 3:9-20). He explains that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin (Romans 3:9). They have a wicked heart (Romans 3:10-12), and speak wicked words from their minds (Romans 3:13-14), and commit deeds of wickedness with their bodies (Romans 3:15-17), because they have no fear of God in their hearts (Romans 3:18). The Law has simply served to reveal man’s sinful nature rather than justify him (Romans 3:19-20).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Jew Makes His Boast in God Romans 2:17-20

2. The Jew as a Sinner Romans 2:21-24

3. True Circumcision Romans 2:25-29

4. The Advantage of the Jews: God’s Oracles Romans 3:1-8

5. The Law has Declared Both Jews and Gentiles as Sinner Romans 3:9-20

A Summary of Paul’s Experience in Debating with the Jews - Romans 2:17 is a key verse to chapters 2 and 3 of Romans in that Paul presents argument of his Jewish opponents in a rhetorical manner and answers them. Paul had spent years in the Jewish synagogues debating with them on these points. It explains that the Jews were trusting in the Law and boasting in God. Paul's conclusion to this attitude of the Jews is found in Romans 2:29. Paul says that being a Jew is of the heart and not in the circumcision of the flesh.

Romans 2:17, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,”

Romans 2:29, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

Verses 1-31

Doctrinal Message: The Doctrine of Justification (An Exposition of The Gospel of Jesus Christ) In Romans 1:8 to Romans 11:36 Paul the apostle gives an exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; but it is presented from the perspective of the office and ministry of God the Father as He makes a way of justifying mankind and bringing him into his eternal glory in Heaven. Thus, we can describe Romans 1:8 to Romans 11:36 as an exposition of the doctrine of justification through faith in Jesus Christ. The body of the epistle of Romans discusses God the Father’s method of justification for mankind (Romans 3:21 to Romans 8:16), while His predestination is emphasized in the introduction (Romans 1:1-7), His divine calling introduces this section of doctrine (Romans 1:8 to Romans 3:20), and His plan of glorification for the Church (Romans 8:17-28) and for Israel are given (Romans 9:1 to Romans 11:36) are given last.

In this grand exposition of the doctrine of justification through faith in Jesus Christ Paul uses a number of examples to explain God’s way of justifying mankind. For example, Abraham’s faith is used to explain how we also put our faith in Christ to be justified before God. The analogy of Adam being a type and figure of Christ is used to explain how divine grace takes effect in the life of the believer. He uses the example of the laws of slavery and freedmen to explain our need to walk in our new lives, no longer under the bondages of sin. The illustration of marriage and widowhood is used to explain how we are now free from the Law and bound to Christ. It is very likely that the Lord quickened these examples and analogies to Paul while he sought to understand and explain this doctrine of justification in the synagogues and to the Gentiles during his years of evangelism and church planting. So, when he sat down to write out an exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul drew upon many of the examples that he had used over the years under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Calling of Gentiles Romans 1:8 to Romans 3:20

2. God’s Righteousness Revealed In Christ Romans 3:21 to Romans 8:16

3. Glorification by Divine Election: Glorification Romans 8:17-28

4. Summary of God’s Divine Plan of Redemption Romans 8:29-39

Verses 9-20

The Law has Declared Both Jews and Gentiles as Sinner Although the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-8), these oracles only declare that all have sinned (Romans 3:9-20). He explains that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin (Romans 3:9). They have a wicked heart (Romans 3:10-12), and speak wicked words from their minds (Romans 3:13-14), and commit deeds of wickedness with their bodies (Romans 3:15-17), because they have no fear of God in their hearts (Romans 3:18). The Law has simply served to reveal man’s sinful nature rather than justify him (Romans 3:19-20).

Romans 3:9 Word Study on “better” We may translate the word “better” as “any better off” ( BDAG, RSV, TEV).

Romans 3:9 “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise” - Comments - Romans 3:9 is asking if the Jews were any better off than the Gentiles. It can be paraphrased, “Are we Jews trying to hold ourselves above the Gentiles with reference to man's human nature? Are we Jews thinking that we are superior human beings?” That is, are the Jews better than the Gentiles, having the advantage of hope in God’s covenant (Romans 3:1-2)? The answer is, “No!”

Illustration - We know how the Nazi regime before and during World War II considered themselves a superior race of humans. [161] So, even though the Jews had an advantage (Romans 3:2) by having God’s covenant, they were still not superior human beings.

[161] Joseph R. Widney, Race Life of the Aryan Peoples (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1907).

“for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” - Comments The Old Testament has proven beforehand that every man is sinful in God’s eyes. Paul follows this statement with citations in Romans 3:10-18 from a number of Old Testament passges: Psalms 14:1-3 or Psalms 53:1-3, Isaiah 59:7-8, and Psalms 36:1.

Romans 3:12 “They are all gone out of the way” Scripture References - Note:

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life , and few there be that find it.”

John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way , the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Romans 3:10-12 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Note that the Old Testament quotes in Romans 3:10-12 are not verbatim, but they are instead paraphrased. They are a quote from Psalms 14:1-3 or Psalms 53:1-3:

Psalms 14:1-3, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one .”

Psalms 53:1-3, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one .”

Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Romans 3:13 “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit” - Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This is a quote from Psalms 5:9, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue .”

Romans 3:13 “the poison of asps is under their lips” - Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This is a quote from Psalms 140:3, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips . Selah.”

Romans 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Romans 3:14 Comments - The word “cursing” means to speak evil upon someone and about someone, or to slander.

Romans 3:14 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This is a quote from Psalms 10:7, “ His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud : under his tongue is mischief and vanity.”

Romans 3:15-17 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Romans 3:15-17 are a quote from Isaiah 59:7-8:

Isaiah 59:7-8, “ Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood : their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not ; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.”

Note that Romans 3:15 is also similar to Proverbs 1:16:

Proverbs 1:16, “For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.”

Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Romans 3:18 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Romans 3:18 is a quote from Psalms 36:1:

Psalms 36:1, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes .”

Romans 3:19 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.

Romans 3:19 Comments - When God’s Word is spoken, it shows that man has sinned. This is stated in verses 4, 5 and 7. Verse 19 simply adds that the Word, or the Law, of God applies to the Jews also, who are under the law, because they have all sinned (Romans 3:10-18).

Romans 3:20 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.

Romans 3:20 Comments - The purpose of the Law is to show that man is sinful by nature. The “knowledge of sin” refers to the “realization of sin.” So, all have to be justified by faith in God (Romans 7:7, Galatians 3:19-22).

Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Galatians 3:19-22, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

By the law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). Paul is about to explain how apart from the Law is the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21).

Verses 21-31

God’s Righteousness (or Justification) Revealed Through The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Justified by Faith in Christ - Having established the fact that all are under sin and subject to God’s eternal wrath (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), Paul then presents the answer of how man finds a right standing with God, which has been revealed since the Old Testament patriarchs (Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:25). Righteousness has always come by faith in God apart from works, and today it comes by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-31). Paul then supports this statement by looking at the example of Abraham’s faith (Romans 4:1-25). His justification with God did not come by works (Romans 4:1-8), nor by circumcision and the Law (Romans 4:9-12), but by faith in the promises of God (Romans 4:13-25).

1. Righteousness by Faith in Christ Alone Romans 3:21-31

2. Righteousness Imputed Under the Old Covenant Romans 4:1-25

Sections Breaks in the Greek Text - The section break at Roman Romans 3:21 was chosen against another popular section break of Romans 3:19 because of the differences in the Greek text. While Romans 3:19 begins with the weaker conjunction δὲ , the stronger conjunction νυνὶ δὲ begins Romans 3:21.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Romans 3". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/romans-3.html. 2013.