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Bible Commentaries
Romans 3

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Do the Jews have any advantage? Paul’s conclusions in chapter 2 are contrary to what the Jews believed. We can imagine them asking: “If our advantages will be no help at Judgment, and Gentiles can also be accepted, what good is all this?”

Verse 2


In the first place. The advantage of the Jew is explained in Romans 9:4-5 and notes. Paul here mentions first: the message of God which is the Old Testament. Next to Christ and the New Testament, the Old Testament was God’s greatest gift to mankind. It pointed forward to the Messiah, and gave a description of him so that he could be identified.

Verse 3


What if some? “Would not the unfaithfulness of some Jews invalidate God’s promise?” The Jewish argument runs: “If some of the chosen people are lost through their unfaithfulness, doesn’t this mean that God has not been faithful himself, since he promised to be a God to Abraham’s descendants forever?”

Verse 4


Certainly not! [God forbid is not in the Greek.] God’s promise was conditional (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and required faith and obedience. “God is true to his promise even though every Jew were unfaithful and proved to be a liar by breaking the promise.” The quotation is from Psalms 51:4 in the Septuagint.

Verse 5


But what if our doing wrong? Israel is under judgment for rejecting Christ. The Jewish argument is: “If our sin in crucifying Christ blessed the whole world, and if our unbelief makes the faithfulness of God stand out; how can God punish us for this good work?See also Romans 6:1-2. (I speak here as men do.) That is, Paul is saying this is the human reasoning about this question.

Verse 6


By no means! God could not judge at all if he were unjust. Because he does judge, he cannot be unjust, even when he judges men whose sin may have helped fulfill the Plan.

Verse 7


But what if my untruth? It is plain that a charge of untruth was often made against Paul (compare Galatians 1:20; Romans 9:1). No unbelieving Jew questioned the fact that Paul would come into judgment, in spite of the fact that his “faithlessness in becoming a Christian” had made the faithfulness of God to Israel stand out. Paul takes their idea that he is to be judged as a sinner and turns it on them. They believe he lied, but that some good came from it. Yet they condemn him as a sinner. This shows they already understand that even though good may come from sin, the sin is still not excused. [Scholars cannot agree on Romans 3:7-8.]

Verse 8


Why not say, then? If judgment could be escaped by sinning to the glory of God, then we ought to do evil to produce good. The unbelieving Jews were telling people that Paul taught such a thing. They will be condemned. God’s judgment on those who pervert the truth in such ways as this, is just! God does not permit sin (1 Peter 1:13-16).

Verse 9


In any better condition? The Jew was surprised to see his advantages disappear. “Surely we Jews are in better condition, than the Gentiles because of our devoutness!” Not at all! Paul makes this strong, because he has shown that both Jews and Gentiles are all under the power of sin. Not just simply sinful: all mankind are both guilty and unable to escape from that condition by themselves.

Verse 10


As the Scriptures say. Paul shows them from the Old Testament that no one is righteous before God (by themselves). He quotes language from Psalms 14:1-3; Psalms 53:1-3; Psalms 5:9; Psalms 140:3; etc., all from the Septuagint. There Is no one who is righteous. If “righteous” means completely free from sin, then this is true of all mankind (see 1 John 1:8-10). Only Jesus lived without sin. See Hebrews 4:15.

Verses 11-18


These verses are a general statement of the condition of mankind. Wherever man goes, he leaves a trail of destruction and misery behind him. Human wickedness continually inflicts injury on others. Even when they are clearly shown the “path of Peace,” they make themselves blind to it. Nor have they learned to fear God. This both sums up and explains why man is under the power of sin. When God is not feared [respected, worshiped], nothing else is; and with the final barrier down, sin comes in like a flood! Paul has proved from the Scriptures that no man is righteous!

Verse 19


Now we know. The things which Paul has just quoted are part of the Law, and apply to Jews. To stop all human excuses. Every excuse of the Jew has been demolished by the Law. And bring the whole world. Jews believed the Gentiles were already under God’s judgment. Now they find that they themselves are also under God’s judgment.

Verse 20


Because. Since Paul is speaking to Jews, he speaks of the Law, but this also can apply to law in general. In the present state of human nature, perfect obedience to law is impossible. What the Law does. The Law is a standard of measurement which makes man aware that he is a sinner, but does not offer him any hope of a way to escape from guilt.

Verse 21


But now God’s way. The Law and God’s promise were two different things. See what Paul says in Galatians 3:17-18. The Law and the prophets told that God would provide a righteousness that did not originate in law. See Hebrews 8:7-13 and notes.

Verse 22


Through their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is the condition. In this sense it is faith alone which saves, but the faith which saves cannot be alone. See note on James 2:19. Faith is not a condition of merit, but of mercy. There is no difference at all. Both Jew and Gentile stand condemned by sin. Both must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved.

Verse 23


All men have sinned. Beza points out the symbolism in the Greek is of one whose strength fails him, and who falls behind in a race. The Jew was as far away from God’s saving presence as was the Gentile.

Verse 24


But by the free gift. God acted in history through Jesus Christ to set men free from their sin. This is a free gift, because we did nothing to earn it! God had it all done before we found out about it! Compare 1 Corinthians 2:7-10.

Verse 25


God offered him. Blood is often the symbol of death, and it is by the death of Christ—the totality of his sacrifice—that he is the means [propitiation = means] by which sins are forgiven. Christ died so that we could live (see 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 2:20). What God has given to the world in Christ, infinitely great and absolutely free, is literally nothing unless it is taken. We must reach out through faith to seize the sacrifice of Christ and make ourselves part of it! God did this. The Jew despised God’s patience with sinners (see Romans 2:4 and note). But Hebrews 9:15 shows it was on the basis of what Jesus would do that God was patient.

Verse 26


But now. In the past God overlooked men’s sins and did not punish them immediately. But now, since the Cross and until time ends, God deals with men’s sins. God’s righteousness is demonstrated in the Cross, and we see that sin and salvation are not “make-believe!” At the same time, God accepts as righteous (PUTS RIGHT WITH HIMSELF) those who reach out through faith to make themselves part of Christ on the Cross and identify with his death (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-6).

Verse 27


What, then, can we boast about? Every law which requires HUMAN MERIT as a condition of salvation permits boasting and pride. The salvation which comes as a free gift through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, which we seize through faith, gives us nothing to boast about.

Verse 28


For we conclude. He has proved that we are put right with God [justified] only through faith (which includes the obedience of faith). A clear line is drawn between faith and the works of the Law, as these represent two distinctly different religious systems, and this shows us that faith (and the obedience of faith) must not itself be interpreted as a work of law.

Verse 29


Or is God only? The only way to escape the conclusion of Romans 3:28 would be to say that God is a God of the Jews only. Both Jew and Gentile can only be justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Verse 30


God is one. Paul points to Zechariah 14:8-9 to prove that in the new age of Good News, God will gather all peoples together, and all will be put right with him through the one rule of faith (which includes the obedience of faith).

Verse 31


Does this mean? The Law = the whole Jewish religion. Does salvation by faith make the Law useless? The answer is no, not at all! The Law is upheld for the first time (Romans 8:4 and note). See what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, and compare the note there. To be put right with God is to be pronounced innocent or guiltless. Since no man could obey the Law perfectly (see James 2:10 and note), no man could be put right with God through the works of the Law. As we reach out in faith to seize Christ, and make ourselves part of his sacrifice, his merit is RITUALLY CREDITED [imputed] to us and the Law cannot condemn us.

Three uses of law. 1. A Fence. Law serves the purpose of restraining sin and promoting righteousness. Considered from this point of view, law presupposes sin and is necessary on account of sin. It serves the purpose of God’s common grace in the world at large. This means that, from this point of view, law cannot be regarded as a means of grace in the technical sense of the word. 2. A Teacher. In this capacity law serves the purpose of bringing man under conviction of sin, and of making him conscious of his inability to meet the demands of law. In that way law becomes his teacher to lead him UNTO Christ, and so becomes an assistant to God’s gracious purpose of setting men free from sin. 3. A Role. This is the so-called third use of law. The law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21) is a rule of life for believers, reminding them of their duties and leading them in the way of life and salvation. The “obedience of faith” is not a thing of merit, but the living sacrifice of Romans 12:1-2; James 1:26-27; James 2:14-17; etc. This third use of law is denied by the Antinomians.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 3". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/romans-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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