Romans 3:1-25

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 18, 1998


Paul has been carefully showing that both Jew and Gentile are under facing condemnation for their disobedience to God.

The Jew is responsible to God and will be judged by how he has kept the Law of God which has clearly been made known through Moses.

The Gentile is responsible to God for that part of the Law of God that has made it into his conscience. The conscience of a non-Christian isn’t a pure, perfect gauge of right and wrong, but the parts that are parallel to the Law of Moses will become the standard by which he will be judged.

The Jew has been rather proud of the sign of his relationship with God, his circumcision. To him, it was the proof of being right with God. But Paul has shown that circumcision doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t live in obedience to God.

(Rom 2:28-29 KJV) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

advantageperissos – exceeding some number or measure or rank or need; pre-eminence, superiority.

profitopheleia – usefulness, advantage, profit

Some people might look at how Paul has brought both Jew and Gentile down to the same level as common sinners and say, "Well what’s the big deal with being a Jew?". It is a big deal.

:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

To help understand the next two verses, we need to understand that the Greek word for "believe" or "trust" is found in four different forms here: "committed", "believe", "unbelief", and "faith".

committedpisteuo – to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in; to entrust a thing to one, i.e. his fidelity

oraclelogion (a small "logos", "word") – a brief utterance, a divine oracle

God thought enough of the Jews to entrust to them, to have faith in them, to give them His Law, His Words. That’s one of the "big deals" with being a Jew. It was the Jews who were chosen to receive God’s Word. Paul will deal with more of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9.

We owe a lot to the faithful Hebrew scribes who copied the Scriptures so accurately.

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest complete Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament was dated about A.D. 900. The Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll is dated about 200 B.C. When the Isaiah Scroll was translated, it was found to have no major changes from the text we already possessed.

:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

did not believeapisteo – to betray a trust, be unfaithful; to have no belief, disbelieve

unbeliefapistia – unfaithfulness, faithless; want of faith, unbelief

faithpistis – conviction of the truth of anything, belief; trust

What Paul is saying is this: God "en-trusted" His Word to the Jews. Just because some of the Jews were not "trust-worthy", does their lack of "trust" make God’s "trust" of them to be pointless?

:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar

Even though every person might be a liar, God is still true.


God’s truth doesn’t depend on you believing it to be true.

Suppose you go into a math class and the teacher writes on the board "2+2=4". "Wait a minute!" you exclaim. "I don’t believe it!". Does that mean that it isn’t true?


Trust God, not people.

People will disappoint you, they will let you down. Sometimes we get surprised when someone we are counting on or admire lets us down. In a way, we shouldn’t be too surprised. Every human is owner of a sin nature.

But God will never let you down.


A college man walked into a photography studio with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. This involved removing it from the frame. In doing this, the studio owner noticed the inscription on the back of the photograph: "My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity." It was signed "Diane," and it contained a P.S.: "If we ever break up, I want this picture back."

God isn’t like that one bit. There’s no "p.s." to His love letter. Though others might break up with us, He will never leave us.

:4 as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

mightest be justifieddikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be

sayingslogos – a word

mightest overcomenikao – to conquer; to carry off the victory, come off victorious

art judgedkrino – to separate; to approve; to judge

(Rom 3:4 NLT) Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say, "He will be proved right in what he says, and he will win his case in court."

This is a quote from Psalm 51:4.

:5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?

commendsunistao – to place together, to set in the same place; to show, prove, establish, exhibit

takethepiphero – to bring upon; to lay upon, to inflict

vengeanceorge – anger; wrath, indignation; anger exhibited in punishment

If my unrighteousness only shows God to be just in His Word, in declaring what’s right and wrong, then why does God take it out on us by punishing us?

:5 (I speak as a man)

This was a phrase that the rabbis used. Paul was trained as a rabbi. It’s like saying, "That is actually the way some people talk" or, "pardon me for this line of argument."

:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

It’s kind of circular reasoning. If God is telling us how sinful we are, how could he NOT then judge us?

: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?

If my lying shows God only to be more truthful and more glorious, then why should God want to judge me if I’m just making Him look good?

: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.

slanderouslyblasphemeo – to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, blaspheme

damnationkrima – a decree; judgment

justendikos – according to right, righteous, just

Apparently there were some that were saying that Paul was advocating lawless ungodly living so that God would be glorified in being gracious to these people. This would be a way that some might twist the message of salvation by grace through faith. But Paul is making clear that there’s nothing good about sin, even if it leads us to trust in Jesus for salvation.

:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

are we betterproechomai – to have before or in advance of another, to have pre-eminence over another, to excel, surpass

In one sense, as to being righteous, the Jew is no better than the Gentile.

before provedproaitiaomai – to bring a charge against previously (i.e. in what has previously been said)

He’s already shown the sinfulness of both Jew and Gentile.

:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Paul now begins to quote quite a lot of Scripture through verse 18:

(Psa 14:1-3 KJV) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. {2} The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. {3} They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

(Psa 5:9 KJV) For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

(Psa 10:7 KJV) His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.

(Psa 36:1 KJV) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.

(Psa 140:3 KJV) They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.

(Isa 59:7-8 KJV) Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. {8} The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.


Base your theology on the Word.

Too often we base our beliefs in God upon what others tell us, what the world seems to think is popular, or by "what makes sense to me".

Paul based his beliefs on what God had already revealed in His Word.

:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

understandethsuniemi – to set or bring together; to set or join together in the mind; i.e. to understand: the man of understanding

seeketh afterekzeteo – to seek out, search for; to seek out, i.e. investigate, scrutinize; to seek out for one's self, beg, crave

Other religions are seeking peace of mind, freedom from guilt. But if they were really seeking after God, they’d find Him.

:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

gone out of the wayekklino – to turn aside, deviate (from the right way and course)

become unprofitableachreioo – make useless, render unserviceable. The Hebrew word used in Psa. 14:3 means to go bad, become sour like milk (Lightfoot).

goodchrestotes – moral goodness, integrity; benignity, kindness

People can do a little bit of good some of the time, but not like what God requires (which is all of the time).

:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre

The stink of a newly opened grave.

:13 with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

The poison of the asp lies in a bag under the lips

:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

cursingara – a prayer, a supplication; an imprecation, curse, malediction

bitternesspikria – bitter gall; extreme wickedness; metaph. bitterness, bitter hatred

What a gruesome picture.

I think of some of those images in some of the Indiana Jones movies where they show these old decayed bodies covered with cobwebs and stuff. This is what our mouths are like, our language.


The mouth is a picture of the heart.

Mark 7:15-23 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. {16} If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. {17} And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. {18} And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; {19} Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? {20} And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. {21} For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, {22} Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: {23} All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

As horrible as the mouth is, it’s only an extension of the heart. You can tell a lot about a person by the kinds of words that consistently come from their mouths.

The solution to cursing is not to pay close attention to every word you say, it’s to clean up your heart.

Try injecting some of God’s word into the open grave:

Col 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. {17} And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

People are so quick to hurt each other. I see it often even in my own good, Christian little boys. They’re so quick to hurt each other.

:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

destructionsuntrimma – that which is broken or shattered, a fracture; calamity, ruin, destruction

miserytalaiporia – hardship, trouble, calamity, misery

:17 And the way of peace have they not known:

knownginosko – to learn to know; a knowledge grounded on personal experience


The unbeliever doesn’t know God’s peace.

I think we are surrounded by people that are described by these verses.

They need to know that there is hope. They need to know that there is a way out of their guilt and condemnation.

It’s Jesus.

:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

: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.

stoppedphrasso – to fence in, block up, stop up, close up; to put to silence

guiltyhupodikos – under judgment, one who lost his suit; of liable to punishment from God

: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 of Moses and the conscience of the Gentile that parallels Moses’ law weren’t given to make men right before God, they were given to show us our sinfulness.

(Gal 3:19 NLT) Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are. But this system of law was to last only until the coming of the child to whom God's promise was made. And there is this further difference. God gave his laws to angels to give to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.

:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

withoutchoris – separate, apart; without any

is manifestedphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown (perfect tense)

The law and the prophets have both testified that righteousness would come apart from the Law:

(Gen 15:6 KJV) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

(Psa 7:8-13 KJV) The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. {9} Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. {10} My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. {11} God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. {12} If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. {13} He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

(Isa 53:11 KJV) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

differencediastole – a distinction, difference

Our faith in Jesus Christ brings God’s righteousness to us and upon us.

:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

sinnedhamartano – to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin. In English, our word "sin" also carries the idea, to "sin" was to miss the target in an archery contest.

come shorthustereo – to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; to fail, be wanting

The glory of God is mankind’s target. We’ve missed the target.


Suppose we were to all meet out at the Balboa pier and have a contest to see who could jump to Catalina Island. Some might get closer than others, but nobody would even come close. It’s too far.

:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

justifieddikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be. Some have suggested that it’s "just-as-if-I’d never sinned".

freelydorean – freely, undeservedly

redemptionapolutrosis – a releasing effected by payment of ransom; redemption, deliverance. Used often of the purchase of slaves and giving them their freedom. We are slaves of sin, and Jesus has set us free by paying our ransom.

We have been made right before God because of His free, undeserving favor toward us in having Jesus pay the ransom price for our sin. Jesus came to pay our ransom.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,


Not just any old faith.

propitiationhilasterion – relating to an appeasing, having placating force, expiatory; a propitiation. The cover of the ark of the covenant, the "mercy seat" was known as a "propitiatory". Once a year the blood of an animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat as a way of covering the sins of the nation by the lifeblood of an animal.

Yet the Day of Atonement was only meant to be a picture for the real thing.

(Heb 10:11-14 KJV) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: {12} But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; {13} From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. {14} For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

The real cleansing would come with a single sacrifice, through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.

It’s as we place our faith in the blood of Jesus that our sins are taken care of. It’s our act of trusting that brings the payment for our sins to our account in heaven.


The great tightrope walker has stretched a cable across Niagra Falls. As the crowd begins to gather, he carefully makes his way from one side to the next. The crowd is asked if they think he can ride a bicycle across. They shout "Yes!" as he rides back across the falls. Next they are asked if they think he can push a wheelbarrow across. They all shout "Yes!". A man is singled out. "Will you get in the wheelbarrow?"

This is quite a parable of how we trust the Lord. The chasm across Niagra Falls is a picture of the separation that man faces from God because of his sins. There are different options before you in getting across the falls. There are several wheelbarrows and several different tightrope walkers in front of you. But only the one marked "the blood of Jesus" is the one that will get you across. It’s only in this wheelbarrow that you’ll make it across. The one marked "good works" won’t make it across. The one marked "religion" won’t make it. You can’t have the luxury of straddling several wheelbarrows. Only one will make it. Will you get in? Are you riding in that wheelbarrow?

This is the content of our faith. This is what our faith is aimed at.

When we talk about being saved by faith, we don’t mean that we’re saved by believing that Jesus existed and was a nice guy. Our salvation comes when we put our faith in the blood of Jesus to cover our sins.

:25 to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

to declareendeixis – demonstration, proof

remissionparesis – passing over, letting pass, neglecting, disregarding

forbearanceanoche – toleration, forbearance

We get all upset when we see someone who has obviously sinned and who obviously deserves punishment, gets off the hook. When a kid next door hits a homerun right through your patio sliding door, you might want to forgive him, but who’s going to pay for the door?

When you stand back in eternity and see why God has chosen to neglect or disregard my sins, you won’t think that God was being unfair. You’ll see that God Himself has paid the price by sending His own Son to die in my place.


Stop beating yourself up.

It’s not uncommon for people to be so weighed down with their guilt and shame that their whole life is lived to punish themselves for their sin.

You don’t need to. Jesus has paid the price.


A beggar stopped a lawyer on the street in a large southern city and asked him for a quarter. Taking a long, hard look into the man's unshaven face, the attorney asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" "You should," came the reply. "I'm your former classmate. Remember, second floor, old Main Hall?" "Why Sam, of course I know you!" Without further question the lawyer wrote a check for $100. "Here, take this and get a new start. I don't care what's happened in the past, it's the future that counts." And with that he hurried on.

Tears welled up in the man's eyes as he walked to a bank nearby. Stopping at the door, he saw through the glass well-dressed tellers and the spotlessly clean interior. Then he looked at his filthy rags. "They won't take this from me. They'll swear that I forged it," he muttered as he turned away.

The next day the two men met again. "Why Sam, what did you do with my check? Gamble it away? Drink it up?" "No," said the beggar as he pulled it out of his dirty shirt pocket and told why he hadn't cashed it. "Listen, friend," said the lawyer. "What makes that check good is not your clothes or appearance, but my signature. Go on, cash it!"

You may not feel worthy of the price that Jesus paid for you, but He’s paid it. Go ahead and receive it!