Romans 3:1-20

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By 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.”

But 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.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

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, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now 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. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Observation

  • There is value in being a Jew.
  • There is value in circumcision.
  • Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
  • There is value in being entrusted with the oracles of God.
  • There a lot of value in being a Jew and circumcision.
  • Our unfaithfulness does not affect God’s faithfulness
  • Our unrighteousness shows the righteousness of God.
  • God is not unrighteous in inflicting wrath on us.
  • God’s truth brings Him glory even though our lie.
  • Our evil reveals God’s righteousness.
  • God will judge the world.
  • Some incorrectly had claimed Paul was teaching we should do evil so glory of God could be demonstrated.
  • Jews are no better off than Gentiles even though they had the oracles of God.
  • Both Jews and Greeks are under sin.
  • No one is righteous.
  • No one understands righteousness.
  • No one seeks for God.
  • Everyone has turned away from God.
  • We have all become worthless.
  • No one does good.
  • Our throat is like an open grave
  • We use our tongues to deceive.
  • Venom of snakes is on our lips.
  • Our mouth is full of curses.
  • Our mouth is full of bitterness.
  • We are quick to shed blood.
  • We leave in our wake ruin and misery.
  • We do not understand peace.
  • We have no fear of God.
  • The law shuts our mouths before God.
  • The whole world will be held accountable to God.
  • The works of the law does not justify anyone in the sight of God.
  • Knowledge of sin comes through knowledge of the law.

Interpretation

Paul has just finished saying that those who are not circumcised but keep the law are considered circumcised. In other words you do not need to be a Jew for salvation. So the obvious question then is, “What good is it to be a Jew?” This question appears even more important when later in this passage Paul says, “Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all.” So the question is what value is there in being a Jew?

Paul says there is a lot of value in being a Jew. Not that Jews are superior to all other mankind but rather, they have received a special grace from God. Not because of any merit but because of God’s mercy and grace. They have been the keepers of the oracles of God. By “oracles of God” Paul means the covenants of God which were revealed to Abraham and afterwards by the law and the Prophets. The Jews were first to receive the oracles of God then dispense them to the whole world. We are indebted to the Jews for this but even more so to God for giving and persevering His oracles.

Paul goes on to say, both we and the Jews have been unfaithful to the law of God. Does that mean the God’s plan failed? Do our sins, inconsistency and unfaithfulness frustrate the will of God? No! We do not frustrate the will of God. I once heard a preacher say God can only do what we allow Him to do. That is pure unadulterated poppycock. We cannot frustrate the will of God. Our unfaithfulness allows Him to demonstrate His sovereignty. Our unrighteousness highlights His righteousness.

Paul here anticipates the objection to this theology that we often hear today. That is, our salvation is based on our efforts. What we do or don’t do nullifies God’s grace. Paul says, “No way!” Our salvation is based on God alone. God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. All our sins serve to illustrate the glory of the Lord. Since He is especially glorified by His truth, it follows, that even the falsehood of men serves to confirm rather than subvert His truth.

Here is the objection. If God’s will is going to be done regardless of what I do. And if the more I sin the more my sin reveals Gods righteousness, then I should sin as much as I can. According to this thinking the more evil I do the more good results.

It is interesting how our minds work. We try to justify our sinfulness, rob God of His glory by claiming our own righteousness or claiming God is unjust.

How many time have you heard or perhaps even said yourself, God made me this way. It is not my fault that I am this way. Implying that God would be unjust for judging us for acting according to our nature, which of course is sinful.

Paul’s answers that sort of reasoning strongly and to the point. “Are you nuts!” How could God not judge us and be just? Paul reminds us that God will judge the world for its sinfulness. If God did not judge the world’s sinfulness He would be unjust. As slanderous as the line of reasoning is, that we should sin to allow God to show more grace, it appears that Paul was accused of preaching it. Those who preach the doctrines of grace are often accused of preaching this error.

The Jews have not obeyed the law any better than anyone else. Therefore they are no better off. Even though they were given the oracles of God they were still sinners. Both the gentile and the Jew are alike in that manner.

Paul speaks directly to a belief that is held by many today, namely, the beginning of faith is not a gift of God, but an act of our own free will. This was the teaching of Pelagius which was condemned at the Council of Carthage, The teaching of the semi-Pelagians who were condemned in the Council of Orange, and the teachings of James Arminius whose teaching was condemned in the Synod of Dordt. It appears it does not matter how many times this false teaching is condemned or by whom, it lives on. If the beginning of faith is our own free will then we must have some goodness hiding somewhere within us. But here Paul says that is not the case. There is no one who is righteous. No one does good. No one seeks for God. We are all sinners to our very core. We are worthless. Everything we say and everything we do is evil.

Application

We all want to believe that we are good. We want to believe God redeems us because there is something good for something we have done ourselves. We believed. We repented. We accepted. We want to believe that God looked down and saw something within us worthy of redemption. But Paul has just spent 2 ½ chapters showing that there is nothing good within us. We rebel against God. We even invent ways to do evil.

It is only God in His goodness that saves us. When we try to claim it is something within us, regardless how small, we claim for ourselves a righteousness which belongs to God. We blaspheme His name.

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