Romans 3 - Outline of Romans (Book Notes menu page)
3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew?
or what profit [is there] of circumcision?
{The verse above expresses one question, in two ways.}
3:2 Much every way {cp. Rom 9:3-6}: chiefly, because that
unto them were committed
{GK=pisteou, entrusted, to be trusted} the oracles of God.
What advantage then hath the Jew...?
God had established the difference between Jew & Gentile, but Paul's discussion (in ch. 2) seems to eliminate this distinction. If being a Jew did not, in itself, give righteousness, why did God make this distinction?
...unto them were committed the oracles {GK=logion, the utterances} of God.-
  1. God entrusted Israel with His written Word, the Scriptures.-
    • Just as God holds gentiles responsible to heed the revelation of Himself in creation (Rom 1:19,20), and the revelation of His Will in their consciences (2:15), so, He holds Israel responsible for the greater light they have received through the Law and the Prophets. cp. Deu 4:5-9
    • Just as participation in the rite of circumcision does not, in itself, make a man righteous (Rom 2:25), so, possession of the Scriptures, in itself, cannot save. However, the Scriptures speak of the Savior (illuminating both man's need for Him, and God's provision of Him). Joh 5:39
  2. God made specific Covenant promises to Israel in His Word, which include:
    • the coming of the Messiah, the Seed through whom all the world will be blessed.
    • the coming Kingdom of the Messiah, who will rule the world in righteousness from Jerusalem.
      (Paul will address Israel's unique position again in ch. 9-11.)
3:3 For what if some did not believe {GK=apisteo}?
shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
'The faith' {GK=pistis, the substance to be believed} is that which they received from God, by revelation (see the related word in v.2 above).
'The faith' includes doctrinal truth and Covenant promises.
Is 'the faith' any less true, when people fail to believe it?
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.
{Psa 51:4b}
What God says is true, whether men believe it or not.
Unbelief (v.3) is equivalent to lying (v.4) because it says that God's truth is unworthy of trust. cp. 1Joh 5:10
The context of the passage quoted, in v.4 (Psa 51), is David's confession of his own sinful nature.
He was saying: 'God's description of me is true. I am a sinner.'
Not until Israel, likewise, is brought to repentance will they realize their 'advantage' (cp. Acts 5:31).
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)
''This is, no doubt, a question actually encountered by Paul in debate with the Jews.'' [Stifler]
3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
Human reasoning forgets that God's judgment is (and must be) according to truth (Rom 2:2).
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?
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.
'If sin magnifies the glory of God, then: the more sin, the more glory.' [McGee]
This is an absurd argument. But some had accused Paul of teaching it.
Yet, Paul has been declaring that God must and will judge sin (1:18).
Those who put forth such arguments will not escape condemnation in the judgment.
my lie {GK=pseusma, falsehood} - cp. v.3,4
While my lie cannot enhance God's truth, it clearly demonstrates that the One, who is True, is just in my condemnation.
The man who 'breaks faith with God' is necessarily under judgment.
3:9 What then? are we better [than they]?
better {GK=proechomai, lit., 'to have before,' to surpass another in a matter}-
This word may imply either advantage or disadvantage. Possible meanings...
  1. Is our case preferred before theirs (in God's judgment, because of our privileges as Jews)?
    This is the sense of the KJV rendering (above).
  2. Is our case advanced beyond theirs (toward condemnation [v.8c] because we had the Law, but failed to keep it)?
    ie., ''Are we in worse case than they?'' [RV; This rendering is preferred according to Vine.]
  3. ''Is our case before theirs for either advantage or disadvantage?''
No, in no wise:
for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
{or, 'we have already made the charge [in ch. 1-2] that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.'}
Paul now presses the case from Scripture:
A. The Character of all men is corrupt.-
3:10 As it is written {v.10-12 paraphrase Psa 14:1-3},
There is none righteous, no, not one:
...none righteous...- No one is right with God.
No one is morally pure and completely free from corruption. Our condition is unacceptable before the holy God. cp. Lev 20:7; Mat 5:48; Rom 1:18
no, not one...- Yet, we like to think this applies to everyone except myself.
Surely Psalm 14 (see link above) applies these charges to atheists in their foolish denial of God, not to me. I have a true knowledge of God, from my heritage and from the scriptures. Yes, but even religious people, who profess to honor God and His Word, declare by their disobedient and self-serving motives that their relationship to God is of little consequence (Rom 2:21-24,28-29).
none... no, not one...- The repetition of the phrase is emphatic.
3:11 There is none that understandeth,
No one considers and acts upon the knowledge that he has concerning God. cp. Rom 1:21,28
there is none that seeketh after God.
It is not that God has concealed Himself (1:19,20; 3:1-3), but that man is hopelessly lost.
In his self-defined 'search' for God, man moves ever farther away from Him. cp. Isa 59:8-10
Yet, God openly tells man that he is a sinner, and offers him salvation. Acts 17:30,31
3:12 They are all gone out of the way,
they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
B. The Speech of mankind is corrupt.-
In v.13-20, various parts of the body illustrate our diseased spiritual condition.
"'The Great Physician's Spiritual Clinic' reports a grim diagnosis." [McGee]
3:13 Their throat [is] an open sepulchre;
with their tongues they have used deceit;
the poison of asps [is] under their lips:
3:14 Whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness:
{Psa 5:9; 10:7; 140:3}
Such speech arises from our inward corruption, as the stench of decaying flesh (Mat 12:34,35; 23:27,28). With our words, we spread abroad the poison of Satan's hatred and lies.
C. The Actions of mankind are corrupt.-
3:15 Their feet [are] swift to shed blood:
3:16 Destruction and misery [are] in their ways:
3:17 And the way of peace have they not known:
{Prov 1:16; Isa 59:7,8}
destruction {ie., brokenness, shattering}...-
Having departed from 'the way' of God (v.12), 'the ways' of men amount to senseless vandalism which can only tear down the good gifts that God has given, but cannot rebuild that which they have broken.
misery {ie., hardship, calamity}...-
Look at the war torn areas of our world. Activists think they will improve the lot of their people by destroying 'the powers that be.' But in the process, they lay their own cities waste, and bring untold suffering upon those they had thought to help. We need not look across the seas for destruction and misery. It is next door, or perhaps within our own homes, evidenced in broken marriages, battered women, brutalized children, and a lack of peace...
the way of peace have they not known...- Isa 59:7-15
D. The root Cause of mankind's corruption -
3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. {Psa 36:1}
This is the source of sin and 'the fountain of iniquity.' cp. Jer 2:13
Man is living as though God does not exist... as though man is self-sufficient.
Man defies God... effectively deifying himself by refusing to submit to the Deity.
Man prefers his own ways to God's way, which is the way of peace.
Therefore, he has no peace, and will never find it, on his own. Isa 57:19-21
(But God, in mercy, has provided the way of peace. Luk 1:78,79)
E. Summary of the argument: All men are Condemned.
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.
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.
the Law {the moral commandments of God, eg., as recorded by Moses}...
  1. speaks to those 'who are under the Law...' -
    The scriptures cited above declare the sinfulness of everyone who hears them.
    The standard of God's righteousness applies to both Jew and Gentile. Rom 2:12-15
  2. condemns 'all the world' as 'guilty' {GK=hupodikos, lit., under judicial sentence} before God.
    Under the Law, my guilt is 'without excuse' (2:1-f), and also without defense.
    I stand condemned, exposed in my unrighteousness. cp. 1:18; Eze 16:63; Mat 22:11-13
  3. justifies {makes righteous} no man.
    Under the Law, my guilt is without remedy, because I cannot fulfill its righteous demands.
    The Law condemns, but cannot cure my unrighteousness.
    What is your standing under the Law? Are you... (See Luk 18:10-14)-
    • the pharisee - with a false confidence in the Law?
    • the publican - under full conviction by the Law?
III. Righteousness Imputed - Justification, Salvation (3:21- 5:21)
3:21 But now the righteousness of God without {ie., apart from} the law is manifested,
being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
3:22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of
{ie., in} Jesus Christ
unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
but now... righteousness from God... has been revealed (cp. Rom 1:16,17)-
(In v.21,22, the GK text does not have a definite article before 'righteousness.')
Righteousness from God is now available for condemned sinners.
This righteousness is the remedy for our guilt before God (3:19). It is...
a righteousness...-
  • apart from the Law -
    This righteousness is not earned or acquired by obedience to the Law (v.20).
    Yet, it is not contrary to the Law (for it was foretold by the OT Law and the OT prophets).
  • from God - The source of this righteousness is God, not my works. Titus 3:5
  • by faith...- This righteousness is received by faith.
    For faith to be effective, it must by placed in the right object.
  • in Jesus Christ - Christ Himself is our righteousness (1Cor 1:30).
  • unto all and upon all... that believe -
    Christ's righteousness is applied to all who trust in Him.
    cp. 2Cor 5:21; Rom 10:4; Php 3:9
    Christ's righteousness is offered unto all, 'for there is no difference.'
    Jew and Gentile alike have no inherent righteousness in the sight of God.
    Everyone needs this righteousness which God bestows.
3:23 For all have sinned {GK=hamartano, erred, missed the mark (past tense)},
and come short
{GK=hustereo, are found lacking (present tense)}
of the glory
{GK=doxa, honor, praise} of God; {cp. Isa 6:1-5; 64:6}
Neither in the past, nor at present, do any of us measure up to who He is, or what He requires of us. We grossly under-estimate the height of His holiness, and the depth of our depravity. We have not, and do not honor Him with our lives. Before Him, whatever goodness we think we have is utterly corrupt. Every one of us should be 'cast into outer darkness.'
But now, righteousness from God is available, for those who will receive it.
3:24 Being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
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;
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.
How is this righteousness bestowed? A sinful man is made righteous by...
...being justified {GK=dikaioo, being declared righteous}...-
(ie., by order of the Judge, before whom we stand condemned)
  1. freely {GK=dorean, undeservedly, without a cause}...- cp. this word in Joh 15:25.
    Jesus did nothing to merit the hatred shown to Him. Likewise, the sinner has done nothing to merit God's kindness in offering righteousness as a free gift. cp. Isa 55:1; Rom 5:15-18
    Note that Paul's words ''all... being justified freely'' (v.23-24) do not mean that all sinners are justified, but rather that all who are justified are justified by the means described here.
  2. by His Grace...- Grace is undeserved favor bestowed upon those who merit His condemnation. cp. Eph 2:4,5
  3. through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.-
    The word used here for 'redemption' {GK=apolutrosis, a loosing away} emphasizes complete deliverance from the guilt and the power of sin. This word, as used in Eph 1:7 and Col 1:14, is equivalent to 'forgiveness' {GK=aphesis, a release from bondage, deliverance} of sin.
    Other NT words translated 'redeem' or 'redemption' include -
    • GK= exagorazo, to purchase out from the market. While we were slaves to sin (Rom 7:14), Christ purchased us with His blood, to remove us from slavery, to set us free to serve righteousness, never again to be returned to the slave market. (The emphasis is on the price paid, and its effectiveness. Gal 3:13)
    • GK=lutroo, to free, to loose. cp. Titus 2:14; 1Pet 1:18,19
By what means is there 'redemption... in Christ Jesus'?
God has set forth Christ... in His blood... as a propitiation... through faith (v.25).-
(The phrase 'in His blood' is properly joined to the verb 'set forth,' rather than to 'faith.' [Stifler] )
'God has set forth Christ...'- Redemption is entirely the work of God.
The price of redemption was not paid to appease a vengeful God. Rather, the God of love and mercy chose to take upon Himself that penalty which we justly deserved. He Himself (in the person of Jesus Christ) bore our sins away, to satisfy His own standard of righteousness in our behalf.
     Christ is the Lamb provided by God. Joh 1:29; cp. Gen 22:8
The sacrifice provided by God is sufficient to satisfy His standard of righteousness...
  1. [as] a propitiation... in His blood... through faith.-
    The word 'propitiation' {GK= hilasterion} refers to the 'Mercy Seat' (Heb 9:5) and to the atonement for sin provided there. (In Luk 18:13, this word is rendered 'be merciful.' In effect, the sin burdened man, turned to God, in humble faith, praying: 'Look upon me as you look upon the Mercy Seat.')
    • In the OT sacrificial system, the sinner symbolically placed his sin and guilt upon a substitute (a sacrificial animal). The substitute was slain (symbolically bearing the penalty of death for sin) and was consumed by fire on the altar (symbolically purging away the corruption of sin). Then, the blood of the sacrifice was presented at the Mercy Seat to make 'atonement,' by declaring that God's wrath against sin had been satisfied (symbolically, cp. Lev 16:15,16). The word 'atonement' {HB=kaphar} means 'a covering.' The Mercy Seat was the lid on top of the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tables of the Law. When the sin of God's people was acknowledged, and judged (symbolically, by the death of a substitute), their guilt (in breaking the Law) was temporarily 'covered' by the blood on the Mercy Seat, thus, allowing the LORD to bless and defend them, without violating His own holiness.
    • The OT sacrifices foreshadowed Christ's sacrifice.
      Our sin was placed upon Him. He died in our place. Isa 53:5,6
      The blood of Christ fulfilled the reality which the OT sacrifices pictured (Heb 10:1-18).
      By Christ's propitiation of sin, a sinner can truly be declared righteous before the Holy God, because his sin has truly been purged away (not merely 'covered'). cp. Joh 1:29; 2Cor 5:21
    • This Propitiation must be appropriated "through faith." cp. Acts 13:38,39
      Faith says, of Christ's sacrifice, exactly what God says:
           It is sufficient to take away my sin.
           It is the only way that I can be made righteous before God.
      Faith accepts and rests upon the righteousness provided by God in Christ.
  2. [as] a declaration of God's righteousness.-
         (This statement is emphasized by its repetition, in v.25,26)
    In GK, the word translated 'to declare' is in noun form: 'a declaration,' 'a showing forth.'
    The cross of Christ is 'a demonstration' of God's righteousness, in His role as Judge, regarding...
    1. the passing over of past sins -
      ''...for the remission {GK=paresis, passing over, disregarding} of sins 'that are past' {GK=proginomai, which happened previously, which were done formerly}, through the forbearance {cp. Rom 2:4} of God.''
      Under the OT system, God 'passed over' the sins of His people, even though their many sacrifices could not take sin away (Heb 10:4). Yet, He was not unjust to withhold judgment at that time, because those sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God whose blood would provide true and final propitiation of the sin, which those insufficient sacrifices covered symbolically (Heb 9:15).
    2. the justifying of present believers -
      'At this time,' the righteous Judge is just {ie., righteous} to justify {ie., declare righteous} the one who believes in Jesus, because in Him, sin has been fully propitiated.
Summarizing questions-
3:27 Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded.
By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
law {GK=nomos, that which is divided out, or established: a principle or custom}-
Paul uses the word 'law' with various meanings -
  1. the Mosaic Law. eg., Rom 3:19-21a, 28
  2. the Scriptures (in which the Mosaic Law is included). eg. Rom 3:21b
  3. a principle of operation. eg., Rom 3:27
  4. a force or influence compelling action. eg., Rom 7:21-23
Righteousness from God (through Christ's substitutionary sacrifice by which sin is purged away) is received, not on 'the law' {the principle} of a sinner's good works (for he has nothing good in himself), but on 'the law' {the principle} of faith.
By faith the sinner admits that...
  1. I am a guilty sinner, worthy of condemnation. v.9
  2. I am unable to earn acceptance before God (on the 'principle' of works, by the deeds of the Law, v.20). Nothing in myself, of which I might boast, elevates me in His sight (cf. Rom 2:17).
  3. I can be justified only by trusting in the redemption provided by God. cp. v.23-26; Eph 2:8,9
3:29 [Is he] the God of the Jews only? [is he] not also of the Gentiles?
Yes, of the Gentiles also:
3:30 Seeing [it is] one God,
which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
If there is only one God (as the Jews would affirm),
then there must be only one means of salvation.
The righteous Judge does not rule according to a double standard (cp. Rom 2:11). There cannot be two paths to righteousness: (1) a way of faith for gentiles and (2) a way of works for Jews.
Therefore, justification must be available exclusively by faith.
3:31 Do we then make void {ie., render inoperative} the law through faith?
God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
In this verse, 'Law' refers to the Mosaic Law and to the Scriptures, Mat 5:17,18}
Paul had claimed that 'justification by faith' is based on the Scriptures (v.21).
But to the Jewish mind, he was discarding the Mosaic Law, an essential part of Scripture.
Paul will demonstrate (in ch. 4 - 13) that 'justification by faith' is the consistent teaching of Scripture.
yea {rather}, we establish the law.-
In the teaching of justification by faith, the Law finds its intended purpose.
Paul will expand upon this theme in ch. 4 - 13.
Some aspects of 'the Law established' include:
  1. The Law confronts the sinner with his sin & guilt. Rom 3:19,20; 5:20; 7:12,13
  2. The Law is fulfilled for the believer, by Christ who met its demands. Rom 10:4
  3. The Law is fulfilled within the believer, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Rom 8:3-4
  4. The Law is fulfilled through the believer, in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22,23). Rom 13:8-10

Click here to continue the study in Romans 4:1-
Return to Romans - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.