Romans Chapter Three

In the previous chapter, (chapter 2), Paul wrote:

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark,… 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? (Romans 2:17-19;23).

Paul also wrote in Galatians 3 verse 10: All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

If, in having the Law, a Jew was to become proud and look down upon the Gentiles who had not been entrusted with the Law, then, as Paul pointed out in chapter 2, they should not presume to be righteous, for only those who obey the Law would be declared righteous.

If Israel were not able to obey the Law and instead came under the curse of the Law due to their disobedience, then one may ask, as Paul did in the first verse of chapter 3:

VERSE 1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?

After almost two-thousand years since the Lord made a new and better covenant with Israel, and since the church is the assembly of redeemed worshippers who worship the Lord in spirit and in truth…

And since the church has been established for nearly two thousand years, having developed in the knowledge of God, separately from the synagogue which still tries to hold to – and observe the old covenant, one may now ask, perhaps anticipating a qualified response slightly different to what Paul proposed in his letter to the church in Rome – that circumcision and Judaism has now come to represent a stubborn rejection of Jesus Christ and a rejection the circumcision of the heart which is done by him through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So what advantage is there now, in being a Jew, and what value is there now in circumcision?

When Paul answered his question posed in verse 1, he said quite emphatically in verse 2 that there was much advantage in every way!

First of all, (for the reason that), the Jews had been entrusted with the very words of God.

However, note what Paul wrote elsewhere (1 Corinthians 4:2): Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Jesus said that if the Jews had been faithful with the word of God entrusted to them, then they would also have believed in him, for Moses and the Prophets wrote concerning Jesus the Messiah (John 5:46; Luke 24:25;27)

– and the very Law of Moses which the Jews professed to obey, called them to the obedience to the Messiah which comes from faith – and of course, faith comes by hearing the word of God spoken in – and through – the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Romans 10:17).

It is naïve to presume that the Jews over the last two thousand years have proven themselves trustworthy with the word of God – in fact, for the most part Israel has always failed to heed the word of the LORD spoken through the prophets – which has brought them under the curse for disobedience.

Note the LORD’s rebuke through the prophet Jeremiah:

Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the LORD. 8 How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? 9 The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:7-9).

Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,…” (Matthew 23:37).

In verse 3 Paul acknowledged the general lack of faith of those who had been entrusted with the word of God:

VERSE 3 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?

And of course Paul again answers his own question quite emphatically:

VERSE 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you (LORD) may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

Note also what Paul wrote to Timothy concerning what had become a trustworthy saying: …if we are faithless, he will remain faithful,…(2 Timothy 2:13).

God’s faithfulness to his word is demonstrated in that he shows grace and mercy to the humble who repent of their sins and who pay careful attention to his word, which is according to his promise.

However, God’s faithfulness to his word is also demonstrated in that he rebukes and disciplines his people for their disobedience, and brings judgment upon them due to their disobedience especially when they have stubbornly refused to heed his warning to repent, – which is also according to what he promised in his word to do if people did not listen to him.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

What advantage then is there in having been entrusted with the word of God and having also become unfaithful to that word – still much in every way, because the calamities that befall Israel become a testimony of God’s faithfulness – and also a testimony that Israel has sinned and needs to repent and seek to be reconciled to God through faithfulness to his word.

Daniel was among the young men of Judah who were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon.

Daniel did not complain about the anti-Semitism of Babylon – and about the sin and hatred of the nations towards Israel, for he recognized that their exile and suffering was due to the unfaithfulness and also according to God’s righteous judgment and God’s faithfulness to his own word:

“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame–the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favour of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him” (Daniel 9:4-14).

However, it is worth also mentioning, that when we stand by faith, knowing that we have obeyed the word of Christ – then we endure hardship and suffering, and even persecution, which we then know is not punishment for our sins, but a testing and purifying of our faith –  which is of greater value than gold which is refined in the fire.

Paul goes on to pose another question, concerning Israel’s sin and unfaithfulness:

VERSE 5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)

And once again, Paul answers his own question quite emphatically:

VERSES 6-8 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say–as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

Before we continue with Paul’s line of argument, let us return again to verse 4:

Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you (LORD) may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, the Judges of Israel, who declared that he was, in their opinion by their assessment of the Law, a blasphemer, for Jesus told them that they would see him coming upon the clouds – which refers to him bringing judgment from the heavenly realm.

And as they reasoned, how could Jesus, who in their opinion was a mere, mortal man, be elevated to the heavenly realm from where he would bring judgment upon them?

Jesus had warned that their rejection of him would bring judgment upon that very generation to the extent that they would once again be exiled from the Land and the Temple completely destroyed so that not one stone would be left upon another.

They mocked Jesus and sentenced him to death, but he was proven to be right – and vindicated by God by being raised from the grave. He was also vindicated in that his word of judgment over them indeed came to pass exactly as he had prophesied.

Jesus was proven to be the Way the Truth and the Life – and those who had accused him and condemned him were proven to have been false in their judgment and that they brought judgment upon themselves instead.

Let God be true, and every man a liar.

The Church is now built upon the foundation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that his Word is the very Word of God through which we may receive eternal life.

The Jewish synagogue is now built on the sand and not on the Rock – and it insists upon a denial that Jesus is the Messiah and upon a rejection of his word and his authority.

Those who testify that Jesus is the Messiah, testify to the truth, which includes the testimony that God raised Jesus from the dead before his body experienced decay.

But the Jews who rejected him and who also survived the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, and who tried to preserve the old obsolete covenant, went out from Israel as a cut off branch, hoping in vain to eventually been vindicated by God for their having rejected Jesus, (who in their misguided opinion was not the true Messiah] – and so in their opinion a false Christ, –  but they have already brought about the fall of Jerusalem – they have already been proven false, they have already shown that the last hour had come upon the nation of Israel and that they were scattered due to their unfaithfulness –

…but even their unfaithfulness has much value in that it has become a testimony against them and has also vindicated Jesus as the true Messiah.

Let every man be a liar until they repent of their unbelief and testify to what God has done.

This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us–even eternal life (1 John 2:18-25).

Who is the liar? It is those who give false testimony about God – and who deny that Jesus is the Messiah and that God raised him from the dead.

Judas betrayed Jesus – which was according to prophecy. The Jewish leaders incited a mob and handed Jesus over to be crucified, which was according to prophecy – the stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone.

Wicked people intended it for evil, but by God’s providence and foreknowledge he intended it to be the very way to destroy the devil’s work and his hold over sinners through the corruption of their flesh – that through the death of Jesus we are set free from the old covenant which condemned sinners, and we are raised to new life by the Holy Spirit, according to the new covenant and faithful obedience to the Word of Christ.

The fact that God intended it for our good and for the salvation of all who believe, does not, however, excuse the behaviour of those who refuse to repent and put their trust in the risen Saviour-King.

In this manner, both Jew and gentile were condemned in their sinful, rebellious ways – and only through repentance and faith, will both be raised to new life and reconciled to God – Jew and gentile were found guilty of sin – and their debt is only paid through Jesus death on their behalf.

Under the old covenant – no flesh was, or ever would be declared righteous.

VERSES 9-10 What shall we conclude then? Are we [Jews] any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands,…

[Through the gospel message which appears as foolishness to the world, God has confounded the wisdom of the wise and no one can understand the gospel unless it is revealed to them by the Holy Spirit – and it is revealed only to the humble who acknowledge their sin and who fear the LORD.)

VERSE 11 one who seeks God.

[God cannot be found be human reasoning. He remains hidden from those who are wise by their own human understanding. Yet he reveals himself to the humble.]

[In chapter 10 of Romans, Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah, which is not a contradiction, in that sinners drifted away from God and the proud became self-confident in their own righteousness, so that God came to us in the person of Christ to seek and to save those who were lost – and who confessed that they were lost sinners:  And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me” (Romans 10:20).]

VERSES 12-18 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. 13 Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. 14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The Jews may have thought that they would be justified by their effort to obey the Law with which they had been entrusted.

Many thought that the gentiles, especially the enemies of Israel, would have been condemned at the coming of the Messiah, but, as Paul stated the case of the gospel, all, both Jew and gentile were proven unrighteous according to the requirements of the Law which testified against all sinners.

VERSES 19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Before the LORD would finally vindicate the faithful and destroy the rebellious sinners, he purposed that the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus the Messiah, would be proclaimed to the whole world, Jew and gentile alike –and that only through faith in Jesus, could all people possibly be reconciled to God and declared righteous in his sight.

VERSES 21-26 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:25 translated in the NIV as:  “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement” are translated in the KJV as: 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;

The word “propitiation” is also used by the KJV in 1 John 2:22 –

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

The NIV is translated as: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John2:22).

The word “propitiate”, according to the Oxford Dictionary means “to win or regain the favour of a person, god or spirit”.

The pagans made various sacrifices to their false gods in order to try to appease them and to have them turn their anger away from them.

Some teachers suggest that through the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s wrath was satisfied and his anger was turned away from sinners.

This is not entirely true. Let me explain why:

Jesus took upon himself flesh like that of fallen man and was tempted in very way, but found to be without sin:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus died on our behalf to remove tour fear of death – and so that through faith in him, we too are counted as having died and been crucified with him, we put to death the sinful nature and live a new life by the Spirit who also raised Jesus from the dead.

COL 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:…(Colossians 2:20).

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:2-10).

However, if people do not, through faith in Christ, put to death the sinful nature, then they still live as enemies of the cross – and the wrath of God will yet come upon them unless they repent.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible (Ephesians 5:6-14).

God’s wrath still remains on those who live according to the sinful nature because they refuse to put their trust in Jesus Christ:

…because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5).

But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger (Romans 2:8).

I would suggest to you that God’s wrath is not turned away from the sinful nature of wicked men who refuse to repent and to believe the truth, he requires that through faith in Jesus we put to death the sinful nature.

Jesus said: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).

I believe that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus actually removes sin – by also destroying the sinful nature of people and the work of Christ is made complete by also raising us to new life, which is eternal.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us (Romans 8:3-4).

The atoning sacrifice of Jesus does not simply appease God’s wrath, but when properly applied by faith, it removes both sin and the sinful nature against which God’s wrath still remains upon those who reject the word of Christ.

But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people;…(Hebrews 9:26-28).

Note from the above verse – Christ sacrifice was to take away the sins of many people, not to simply take away God’s wrath by appeasing him with a sacrifice.

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).

The book of Revelation speak of the day of God’s wrath which is yet to come upon those who have refused to repent and to be set free from sin and changed by the Holy Spirit: …the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand (Revelation 6:17).

VERSES 27-31 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

If we were to suggest that the Law simply no longer applies at all and for anyone at all, then we would be guilty of nullifying the Law.

However, we uphold the Law by showing that people who remain enslaved by the sinful nature because they reject the atoning sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirit who is able to impart to them new life, also still, therefore, remain under the condemnation of that Law – the Law which God intended would condemn all sinners.

The Law is not removed and nor is the death sentence for sinners. But as we shall see when we get to Romans chapter 7, through our being baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into his death, so we have died to the Law which once condemned us, and we are raised to new life free from the sinful nature and also from the Law.