Romans 3

The sins of all men and the righteousness of God.

Romans 3:1-8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,

and prevail when you are judged.”

5But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

If the heads of the Jews were shaking in agreement at the beginning of chapter 2, the Gentile’s heads were shaking approvingly at the beginning of chapter 3.  However, the question that Paul brings forward is, “What advantage has the Jew?” (Romans 3:1).  His response: “Much in every way.” (3:2).  He asserts, “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2).  Note: “the oracles of God” = “the word of God” (see Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; I Peter 4:11; Psalm 147:19-20 and Deuteronomy 5:1ff).  It is important to realize that the oracles of God were God’s commandments to live by, not a license to do whatever they wanted.


Some (but not all Jews) were unfaithful (Romans 3:3).  With that being the case, what effect does their faithlessness have on God’s faithfulness?  The effect was to show God’s faithfulness (Romans 3:3) and His righteousness (Romans 3:5).  The truth of God’s faithfulness is so sure that we need to realize that, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).  This gives Him the right to judge the world (Romans 3:6) and to inflict wrath (Romans 3:5).

Romans 3:9-20

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;

11no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

13″Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

14″Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

15″Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16in their paths are ruin and misery,

17and the way of peace they have not known.”

18″There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Paul’s point is simple:  All are in the same condition; they are all “under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9; cf. Matthew 8:9).   Read the description of man in Romans 3:10-18.  There is no place for anyone to be bragging about his/her righteousness because “the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19).  Since idols could not save the pagans and the Jews stood condemned under the law, all were powerless because of sin and man’s condition would be bleak indeed if it were not that a new righteousness was made manifest.  It is the “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and it is “for all who believe” (Romans 3:20).  This is a basic part of the gospel, that is, God is there for everyone who believes and that relationship is not based on some physical relationship such as being “children of Abraham.”  It is “for the Jew first and also the Greek.”

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The most important single sentence in the Bible appears in Romans 3:22-25.  It states that “There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.”  Look at the key words in this statement:

Why is there “no distinction?”  Because everyone is equally guilty before God (see Romans 3:10-18; I John 1:8 and Isaiah 59:1-2).

What does it mean to be “justified?”  The word “justified” may be defined as “acquitted” in a legal sense or “declared to be righteous.”  Using a play on words, someone has said, “It’s just-as-if-I’d-never sinned.”  When God justifies us it is just as if we had never sinned (see Romans 5:1; 5:9; I Corinthians 6:11; James 2:24 and Titus 3:7).

 If it is “by grace” what price did we pay for it?  Grace is an undeserved gift, as opposed to something one might earn.  Therefore, being justified was something God did for us; we paid no price for it.

What is the meaning of “redemption?” The term redemption is used to describe a situation where a price is paid for something.  An example of its use would be that of someone purchasing freedom for a slave.

If this is “in Christ Jesus,” explain how you get into him.  This phrase shows where the blessings of being justified, receiving God’s grace and redemption are located, that is in Christ Jesus.  The two scriptures that deal with how to get into Jesus both indicate that it is through baptism (see Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27).

What does it mean to be “a propitiation by his blood?”  The word that is translated propitiation or expiation means “to appease” or “to satisfy justice.”  In this case, we have Christ being put forward as a propitiation for our sins.  Once sin had separated between God and man, the only price that was sufficient was the blood of the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23; I John 2:2, 4:10, Colossians 1:21-22, and II Corinthians 5:18-21).  This is why Christ was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood” (Romans 3:25).

How is this propitiation received?  The scripture is clear: the way to receive the propitiation of Christ is “by faith” (Romans 3:25).

The beauty of this act of God is that it shows the righteousness of God at the present time.  This is the gospel or good news, that God has met justice and that he is the justifier (Romans 3:26). 

Romans 3:27-31

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

In the last section of this chapter, Romans 3:27-31, Paul puts to rest the thought that may be going through someone’s head, that is, “On what basis can we boast about our salvation then?”  His answer: “It is excluded” (Romans 3:27).  The point is that everyone gets to God in the same way: “He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:30).  The point is clear, God has done the work and we only reach justification through faith.

Review Questions:

  1. According to Romans 3:2, the Jews were entrusted with “the oracles of God.”  In your own words, describe what these oracles are.
  1. Romans 3:10-18 states that all are under the curse of sin.  Is there any exception to this rule? 
  1. There is the “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and it is “for all who believe” (Romans 3:20).  Why is it important that it is for all who believe and not just for one race or group?
  1. We have said that the most important single sentence in the Bible appears in Romans 3:22-25.  After you have studied each word found in this sentence, how would you describe why this sentence is so important?
  2. How is it that God is able to be both “just” and “the justifier” of the one who has faith in Jesus? (see Romans 3:26).

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