Bible Commentaries

Gary H. 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."

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

Psalm 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" ( μυστή 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) (G 3051) 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 21c [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 542) 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 9593-598) 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 21c [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 of Solomon, 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 Hebrews, 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 Isaiah, "if some of the Jews did not believe."

Romans 3:3 — "shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" - Comments- That Isaiah, "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 3:3Comments- 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." Song of Solomon, 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. Song of Solomon, 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. Song of Solomon, 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. Song of Solomon, 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 3:4Comments- Romans 3:4 is a quote from Psalm 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 ( Psalm 51:4). God is always true, as well as His oracles, and man is systemically depraved, whether Jew or Gentile.

Psalm 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 3:5Comments- 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 3:6Comments- If God were unrighteous to bring judgment upon sinful Prayer of Manasseh, 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 3:7Comments- 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 3:8Comments- 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 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 3:9Word 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 Isaiah, are the Jews better than the Gentiles, having the advantage of hope in God's covenant ( Romans 3:1-2)? The answer Isaiah, "No!"

Illustration- We know how the Nazi regime before and during World War II considered themselves a superior race of humans. 161] Song of Solomon, 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: Psalm 14:1-3 or Psalm 53:1-3, Isaiah 59:7-8, and Psalm 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 3:10-12Old 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 Psalm 14:1-3 or Psalm 53:1-3 :

Psalm 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."

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

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

Romans 3:15-17Old 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 Psalm 36:1 :

Psalm 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 3:19Comments- When God's Word is spoken, it shows that man has sinned. This is stated in verses 4, 5,7. 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 3:20Comments- The purpose of the Law is to show that man is sinful by nature. The "knowledge of sin" refers to the "realization of sin." Song of Solomon, 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 21-25

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.

Verses 21-31

Righteousness Is by Faith Alone - In Romans 3:21-31 Paul explains that righteousness is by faith in God alone apart from works.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Romans 3:21 — "But now" - Comments- The Greek text reads " νυνὶ δὲ," a phrase reflects back on the previous statements which say because man is sinful and depraved ( Romans 1:18-23) and has been given over to his passions and lusts ( Romans 1:24-32), and been made subject to divine judgment according to his own works ( Romans 2:1-16), the Jew not being justified by the works of the Law ( Romans 2:17-29), for all have sinned ( Romans 3:1-20), now this is how God has ordained a universal way of righteousness.

John Lange discusses several views of interpreting the phrase νυνὶ δὲ. One view understands this phrase as an adverb of time (see BDAG on " νυνὶ") so that it refers to this new era of the "gospel dispensation." This view is supported by the phrase ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ used in Romans 1:26. A second view eliminates the idea of time and interprets it simply as a change of circumstances, which phrase, according to BDAG, is used in this sense in Romans 7:17, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." This means that while God's actions were previously dependent upon the Law ( διὰ νόμου), He is now working independent of the Law ( χωρὶς νόμου). 162]

162] J. P. Lange and R. F. Fay, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, trans. J. F. Hurst, in Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. Philip Schaff (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1869), 129.

Romans 3:21 — "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested" - Comments - The righteousness of God is revealed "outside of the Law." That Isaiah, there is a right standing with God that we can find outside the Mosaic Law. This right standing comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:21 — "being witnessed by the law and the prophets" - Comments - Paul's mention in Romans 3:21 of the Law and the prophets essentially refers to the Old Testament Scriptures that show God's way of justifying mankind through faith in Him. The Jews divided the Old Testament Scriptures into three parts, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings ( Luke 24:44).

Luke 24:44, "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalm, concerning me."

However, the entire Old Testament was sometimes referred to as the Law. For example, Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6 by calling it the Law in John 10:34, "Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?"

The Old Testament was delivered through the office and ministry of the Prophet. 163] This is why Acts 3:24 refers to "all the prophets from Samuel," which includes the division of Old Testament Scriptures called the Writings.

163] The prophets of the Old Testament were the inspiration for the Jews' sacred books. They carefully collected these holy prophecies and taught them to their people. There came a time that the prophets ceased to prophesy, and at that point in Jewish history the Old Testament canon was closed. This is confirmed by Josephus, who says, "It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time." (Against Apion 18) In addition, the opening verse of the book of Hebrews states that the Old Testament was delivered to us by His prophets ( Hebrews 1:1-2), thus revealing the fact that the Old Testament prophets were the ones who kept the canon open.

Acts 3:24, "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days."

Therefore, Paul emphasizes the office of the prophet in Romans 3:21.

Paul had diligently studied the Old Testament Scriptures for years, and in light of his own conversion and revelation of God's plan of redemption for mankind, he had found many Scriptures to support man's justification through faith apart from works. Paul lists a few of these Scriptures in this section of Romans as he argues his point of righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus. However, he will focus his argument upon the greatest Old Testament witness of God's justification by discussing the faith of Abraham ( Romans 4:1-25).

The Law - There are a number of passages in the Law, or the Pentateuch, that refers to God's standard of righteous, which Paul alludes to in Romans 3:21.

Genesis 15:6, "And he believed in the LORD and he counted it to him for righteousness."

Exodus 34:6-7, "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children"s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."

Deuteronomy 9:4-6, "Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people."

We can easily identify one passage out of the Pentateuch that refers to the coming of Christ.

Deuteronomy 18:15, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;"

Acts 3:22-23, "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people."

Acts 7:37, "This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear."

The Prophets- There are also a number of passages in the Prophets that refers to God's standard of righteous, which Paul alludes to in Romans 3:21.

Isaiah 45:24-25, "Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

Isaiah 46:13, "I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory."

Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."

Micah 7:18-20, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old."

Zechariah 13:1, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."

Hebrews 2:4, "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?"

Hebrews 11:1-40

Paul will later say in Romans 10:3-4 that those who are sinful go about to establish their own righteousness:

Romans 10:3-4, "For they being ignorant of God"s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Romans 3:21Comments - In Romans 3:21 Paul uses the word "law" ( νό μος) twice. The first time the word is used without an article, and refers to the particular laws and statues that Moses gave the children of Israel. The second use of the word "law" has the article "the" preceding it, and is best translated "the Law," as it refers specifically to the Pentateuch as a body of writings. Thus, Romans 3:21 reads, "Apart from the Mosaic rules and statutes, God's (rules that establish) righteousness has been revealed…" We then ask the question of how God's standard of righteousness has been revealed. Romans 3:21 continues by answering this question, "…being revealed by the Law and the Prophets (and the Writings), that Isaiah, the Old Testament Scriptures.

Paul will develop his statement that "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" in the verses that follow. He will show from the Old Testament Pentateuch, which the Jews refer to as "the Law," how these Scriptures testify of God's way of justifying man. He will use primarily the example of Abraham, who met God's standard of justification apart from the Law.

Romans 3:22 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:

Romans 3:22 — "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" - Comments - The phrase "even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" amplifies the phrase from the previous verse, "the righteousness of God." God has declared His plan to justify mankind, which is now revealed in Christ Jesus, the Saviour of mankind.

After demonstrating that all mankind are sinners ( Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), this next passage of Scripture turns to the only hope, which is righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Romans 3:22 answers the question of how God has revealed His way of justifying mankind. This plan of redemption was revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures, especially in the Law and the Prophets ( Romans 3:21), testified that righteousness will be through faith in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Does not Jesus say in John 5:39 when referring to the testimony of the Old Testament, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." Thus, Paul will take the time to mention some of these Old Testament passages that testify of God's way of righteousness, especially relying upon the testimony of Abraham, the father of our faith in God.

Romans 3:22 — "unto all and upon all them that believe" - Comments - This way of being made righteous before God through faith in Christ is available to anyone and everyone. The only requirement is that they believe.

Romans 3:22 — "for there is no difference" - Comments - That Isaiah, within the context of this passage, God makes no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile regarding His way of justification for individuals. In fact, God makes no distinction in race, age, gender or any other difference between mankind when it comes to a means of being justified before Him. Paul learned this truth early in his ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles, perhaps coming to this understanding before the other apostles in Jerusalem fully understood the broad application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, there is certainly a distinction between the Jews and Gentiles in respect to God's election of Israel as a part of His overall plan of salvation for mankind. This redemptive distinction is discussed at length in Romans 9-11. Paul will later say in this same epistle, "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; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." ( Romans 9:4-5) Paul will mention Israel's redemptive distinctions to the Ephesians, "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:" ( Ephesians 2:12)

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23 — "For all have sinned" - Comments - Paul established the fact that all have sinned in the previous passage of Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20. A number of Old Testament passages also say that all men have sinned ( 1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Proverbs 20:9).

1 Kings 8:46, "If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;"

2 Chronicles 6:36, "If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near;"

Proverbs 20:9, "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"

Romans 3:23 — "and come short of the glory of God" - Comments - The phase "come short of the glory of God" follows the phrase "for all have sinned." It is generally understood to mean that mankind has failed to obtain God's approval, or praise, which in this context means failure to be justified in God's eyes. The phase "glory of God" not only refers to God's praise and approval, but often refers to God's manifest presence, which sometimes comes upon those whom the Lord approves. For example, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus Christ in the form of a dove at His water baptism as a testimony to others that He was approved before God. In addition, Jesus is the revelation of God"s holy arm, of His salvation and His glory ( Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 40:5, John 1:14, Hebrews 1:3).

Isaiah 52:10, "The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."

Isaiah 40:5, "And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

John 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

Hebrews 1:3, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"

Romans 3:23Comments- The Greek verb ἁμαρτάνω (sinned) is used in the aorist tense, which defines a completed event that took place in the past, while the Greek verb ὑστερέω (have fallen short) is used in the present tense, which defines an event taking place in the present. This combination of verbs can be equivalent to the perfect tense, which defines an event that took place in the past, whose effects continue to linger into the present. Romans 3:23 can be interpreted to mean that because we have sinned in the past, we now continue in the condition of failure before God in meeting His standard of righteousness.

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24Comments - We were justified (declared not guilty) because Jesus redeemed us. A price had to be paid for us to freely partake of justification. Jesus paid the penalty for us.

Illustration- For example, in the early 1980's Steve Everett, my brother, and I stopped to put gas in our car. We met Al Schukose, our friend from church, at the gas station. He finished fueling his car and went to the booth to pay ahead of us. When Steve and I came up to pay, Al had already paid the debt for us. We did not owe anything. Because of Al's grace towards us, we freely partook of something that required a payment.

Romans 3:25 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;

Romans 3:25 — "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" - Comments - The blood of Jesus Christ is what God accepted as payment for our sins ( Hebrews 9:12, 1 John 2:2). In the phrase "through faith in his blood," Paul now substitutes Christ's name for the word "blood" because he is now emphasizing His work of redemption that paid for our sins. Thus, we need to understand what it means to put our faith in Christ; for we are actually putting our faith in His work of redemption of Calvary, where Jesus shed His precious blood for mankind.

Hebrews 9:12, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."

1 John 2:2, "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Romans 3:25 — "to declare his righteousness" - Comments - Romans 3:25 says that God set Christ forth…as His way of declaring His way of righteousness. One sign, or proof, that God is a just God is the fact that the blood of Jesus paid for sins already committed. That Isaiah, sin has to be paid for. Men will either pay the penalty of sin themselves in eternal hell, or they will accept the payment offered by the blood of Jesus. Hence, even Noah proclaimed God's righteousness and His judgment ( 2 Peter 2:5).

2 Peter 2:5, "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;"

Romans 3:25 — "for the remission of sins that are past" - Word Study on "that are past" - Strong says the Greek word προγί νομαι (G 4266) means, "to be ready, to have previously transpired." The Enhanced Strong says this word is used one time in the KJV, being translated, "be past 1." Note other modern translations of this word:

ASV, "because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime"

NIV, "because…he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished"

RSV, "because… he had passed over former sins"

YLT, "because of the passing over of the bygone sins"

Romans 3:25 — "through the forbearance of God" - Word Study on "forbearance" - Strong says the Greek word "forbearance" "paresis" ( πά ρεσις) (G 3929) means, "toleration." The Enhanced Strong says this word is used one time in the KJV, being translated, "remission 1."

Comments- The idea of passing over reminds us of the passing over of Israelite's houses that were marked with blood by the death angel the night of their Exodus.

Romans 3:25Comments - Although God in His longsuffering towards man had passed over the sins of mankind committed under the Law through the blood sacrifice of animals. He publically set forth His Son before men as He hung on the Cross, pouring forth His wrath upon Jesus before all so that men would understand that the penalty of sin was death and damnation. There was no other means of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple only offered a temporary covering of man's sins until the day Jesus Christ paid for these sins through His shed blood. The atonement of Jesus Christ paid for all the sins of mankind, past, present, and future.

Romans 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:26 — "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness" - Comments- Jesus' blood atonement is the sign, or proof, of God's righteousness. God's standard of righteousness is far above what mankind can achieve on his own merit. God's righteousness is infinitely beyond man's efforts, as demonstrated by the need for His Son to pay the penalty for sin.

Romans 3:26"that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" - Comments- God executes the law He has established. The law of faith says if we confess our sins, we are forgiven through the atonement Jesus Christ ( 1 John 1:9).

1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Romans 3:27 — "It is excluded" - Comments- The word "excluded" can mean, "it has ceased."

Romans 3:31Comments- Paul will now use the example of Abraham to reveal how the Old Testament Scriptures prove that God has always justified men through their faith in His promises apart from the Mosaic Law.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Romans 3". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.