Romans 3:1-20

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 8, 2008


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

The Gentile is responsible to God because he has seen the evidence of God’s existence in Creation around him. When the Gentiles reject the knowledge of the Creator God, they end up slipping into sin.

The Jew is responsible to God because he has had the Law of God in front of his face and then breaks that very same law.

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.

:1-8 God’s judgment defended

:1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?

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

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. The Jew has a lot of things going for him.

:2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

oracleslogion – a brief utterance, a divine oracle (doubtless because oracles were generally brief); in the NT, the words or utterances of God; of the contents of the Mosaic law – from the word “logos”, or “word”

In the LXX, this is the word found several times in Psalm 119 to describe God’s Word:

Ps 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
Ps 119:103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, [Sweeter] than honey to my mouth!
Ps 119:148 My eyes are awake through the [night] watches, That I may meditate on Your word.
Ps 119:162 I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure.

committedpisteuo – to think to be true, to be persuaded of; here it’s passive – to entrust a thing to one; to be entrusted with a thing

This is the normal word we translate “believe”, but in the passive sense it carries the idea of “entrust”

This word will tie into three words in the next verse.

The Jews are a privileged people because they are the nation through whom God has given us His Word; God considered them trustworthy enough to give His Word to; God put His Word into their “trust”.

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.

Paul will deal with more of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9 (the “adoption”, the “glory”, the “service of God”, and most of all, the Messiah.

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

did not believeapisteo – to betray a trust, be unfaithful; to have no belief, disbelieve; this is the opposite of the word “committed” in verse 2).

unbeliefapistia – unfaithfulness, faithless; want of faith, unbelief; weakness of faith

faithfulnesspistis – faith, conviction of the truth of anything, belief; fidelity, faithfulness

It’s all about “trust”

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?

make … without effectkatargeo (“according to” + “idleness”) – to render idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative; to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power

Because there were some Jews who did not believe God and His Word, does that mean that God’s faith in them was worthless? Does that mean that God was wasting His time when He gave them His Word?

:4 Certainly not! Indeed, 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?
Suppose you work in a bank and a man comes up to your teller window, shoves a gun in your face and tells you to give him all your money.
If you say back to him, “I don’t believe in guns”, then will that bullet kill you when he pulls the trigger? Whether or not you believe doesn’t affect the truth of the gun.
Believing in God is vital for salvation. We are saved from the penalty of our sins when we start trusting in God. But the truth of man being judged one day by God, the truth of my sins carrying a penalty, the truth that Jesus died for my sins, the truth that God loves me so much that He gave His Son to die for me – these truths are real whether or not I believe them. My believing in them only affects how these truths affect me, not whether or not they are real.


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 You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged."

justifieddikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be; to show one to be righteous

overcomenikao – to conquer; when one is arraigned or goes to law, to win the case

(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.

(Psa 51:4 NKJV) Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight; That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Our own unfaithfulness, our own sin, only makes it clearer that God is right and we are wrong. If man tries to take God to court and sue Him for unjust judgment, man only loses every time.

:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath?

demonstratessunistao – to place together; to teach by combining and comparing; to prove, establish, exhibit

Paul is saying that the conclusion that some people might be making is:

“If our own badness simply shows that God is really, really good, then why should God be judging and punishing us sinners if we are only making it plain just how much greater He is. Why does God punish us for making Him look good?”

: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 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

This kind of silly reasoning would want to conclude that God would not be able to judge the world one day. But the truth is that God will one day judge this earth.

(1 Chr 16:33 NKJV) Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the LORD, For He is coming to judge the earth.

(Psa 96:13 NKJV) For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.

:7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?

Paul continues with the same idea.

Remember Paul’s phrase in verse 4 – “let God be true but every man a liar” – now he elaborates and says that some people are wondering why they are being judged by God if their lies only make God’s truth look that much better?

:8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?; as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

slanderously reportedblasphemeo (“blaspheme”; “injure” + “fame” or “injure” + “speaking”) – to speak reproachfully, revile, blaspheme; to be evil spoken of

Some people are claiming that Paul has been teaching people that they should go out and do bad things in order to make God look that much better by forgiving them.


Testimony problems

There is nothing good about being bad.
The problem with “testimonies” – sometimes we can get the wrong message from testimonies. We like to listen to people share their story of how horrible, raunchy, wicked, and sinful they are, and how they turn to Jesus. But sometimes we can get to thinking that the only good testimony is one where a person was really, really bad before coming to Christ.
I was one of those “good kids” growing up. I have to tell you that more than once I’ve wondered if I wouldn’t have been better off if I had done drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll. Then I would have had a “better” testimony. Right?
A good testimony is about any person who comes to Jesus. A good testimony is about what Jesus is really doing in your life. It doesn’t matter if you were a dope smoking, murdering, alcoholic heroin addict, or if you were a nice guy who got straight A’s in school. We all need Jesus.

:9-20 All Have Sinned

:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

In verses 1-2, Paul was making a point that the Jewish people have some great advantages. But that doesn’t mean that they are any better than the non-Jew, the Greek.

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

Back in Romans 1:18-32, Paul had made a case about how creation shows there is a God, and that when men reject the knowledge of God they fall further into sin – this was his condemnation of the Greeks.

In Romans 2, Paul dealt with the Jews, guilty of breaking their own laws.

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

:11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.

:12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

Paul now pulls a lot of Old Testament quotes together to show that God’s word speaks about all men being sinners.

Bits and pieces of verses 10-12 are being pulled from:

(Psa 14:1-3 NKJV) (The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God.") They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. {2} The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. {3} They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Without the help of God, without the drawing of the Holy Spirit, man doesn’t seek God, he walks away.


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.
Be open to tweaking your own theology of God as you are reading the Word.
“Theology” is simply the way I put my ideas of God together. Sometimes I’m not perfect in the things I think about God.
Don’t try and tweak the Scriptures to make them bend to your theology.
Be open to tweaking your theology to make it bend to God’s Word.
Fishnets and Christmas ornaments

I like to think of my “theology” as a large fishnet hung on the wall. My ideas about God are like Christmas tree ornaments that hang on various places on the fishnet. The more I read God’s Word, I ought to be open to moving where I place those shiny balls.

For example:

When I was in high school, I visited a Pentecostal-like prayer meeting. I ended up getting baptized in the Holy Spirit, even though I wasn’t looking for it, nor had I ever seen such a thing. I even was “slain in the Spirit”, though I had never seen such a thing. But it was very, very real to me. I spoke with tongues. A lot of things changed in my life from that point on. I shared my faith. I got real involved at church. I got involved in ministry.

After college, I went to seminary where I was taught that the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate today like He did in the early church. I was taught that the gift of tongues no longer exists. I was shown verses that seemed to indicate that this was so. I was confused and discouraged. I stopped speaking in tongues.

After seminary, I began to do my own studying on the subject of the Holy Spirit. I dug into the Bible on my own. I began to realize that the work of the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts wasn’t going to cease until Jesus came back.

I changed my theology based on the Word, not based on my experience, not based on what others say, but based on the Word.

:13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips";

This verse has two quotes in it:

(Psa 5:9 NKJV) (For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part is destruction;) Their throat is an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue.

(Psa 140:3 NKJV) (They sharpen their tongues like a serpent;) The poison of asps is under their lips. (Selah)

throat is an open tomb – talk about bad breath! This is the stink of a newly opened grave, a description of the kinds of things people say.

The poison of asps is under their lips – Supposedly the poison of the asp lies in a bag under the lips – a good picture of the poison of men’s words.

:14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."

(Psa 10:7 NKJV) His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; (Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.)

Listen to the things that people say in the world. Look at how much deceit, poison, cursing, and bitterness there is in the things people talk about.

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

bitternesspikria – bitter gall; extreme wickedness; a bitter root, and so producing a bitter fruit; 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 reveals the heart.

(Mat 12:34-37 NKJV) "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. {35} "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. {36} "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. {37} "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
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.
Sometimes all that comes out of our mouths are things that are critical of others…
An efficiency expert was delivering a seminar on time management for a company’s junior executives. He concluded the session with a disclaimer: “Don’t attempt these task-organizing tips at home,” he said. “Why not?” he was asked. “Well, I did a study of my wife’s routine of fixing breakfast,” he replied, a little embarrassed. “I noticed she made a lot of trips between the refrigerator and the stove, the table and the cabinets, each time carrying only one item. So I asked her, ‘Honey, I notice that you make a lot of trips back and forth carrying one item at a time. If you would try carrying several things at once you would be much more efficient.’” He paused. “Did that save time?” one of the executives asked. “Actually, yes,” the expert answered, “It used to take her twenty minutes to fix my breakfast. Now I get my own in seven minutes.”
Got “Sailor’s mouth”?
The solution to cursing is not to pay close attention to every word you say, it’s to clean up your heart. Clean up the heart and the language stops.
Listen to yourself.
What do your own words tell you about your heart? There are times when I become painfully aware that the majority of things that come from my mouth are complaints, criticism, and bitterness. What does that tell me about myself?
Adjust the pH.
We have a pool at home, and it takes a little bit of work to keep it in good shape. One of the things you have to do with a pool is keep testing the water – you test for chlorine to make sure the water stays clean and healthy. You also test the pH to make sure the pool doesn’t become too acidic or too bitter. Keeping the pH just right helps the chlorine to work better. Here are some chemical adjustments we can make to keep the water coming from our heart fresh and clean:

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

(Col 3:16-17 NKJV) 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 whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Add a little grace to your heart and let it come out your mouth:

(Col 4:6 NKJV) Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;

:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;

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

Quoting from parts of:

(Isa 59:7-8 NKJV) (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 have not known, (And there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace.)

swiftoxus – sharp; swift, quick

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

miserytalaiporia – hardship, trouble, calamity

These verses remind me of the video games the kids play.

Why is it that most successful movies have to contain sex and violence?

In the end, these things only bring destruction and misery, and not peace.

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

(Psa 36:1 NKJV) (An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:) There is no fear of God before his eyes.

The fool tries to tell himself that there is no God (Ps. 14:1). He does not want to have to be accountable to God. He pretends there is no judgment and so there is nothing to be afraid of.

:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

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

The Jew thought that certainly the Gentiles were guilty before God because they were obviously so sinful. The Jew was thinking that he had it made because he had the Law. What he didn’t realize was that the Law didn’t make him more righteous, it just showed him how sinful he was.

If a man jumps out of an airplane, what does he want to take with him? A parachute or a bag of cement? The grace of Christ is our parachute. The Law of Moses is a bag of cement.

The law’s purpose is to show us how guilty we are.

:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

There are some folks who are convinced that you must keep the Law in order to be saved. I wonder what they do with this verse?

The law won’t save you; it will only show you how sinful you are.

(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.

There are some folks who say you get saved by faith, but you keep your salvation by keeping the Law. The same thing applies, it can’t be done.

(Gal 3:3 NLT) Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

It’s all by faith in God’s grace. We are saved by trusting in God’s grace. We are able to follow Christ by trusting in God’s grace.

Up to this point in Romans 3, Paul has been showing us that man is a sinner. Starting in verse 21 (next week), Paul will begin to talk about the way out of judgment. The way out is putting your faith in Christ.