Romans 3 (NRSV)
“When any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means!
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.” 5But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
Paul was familiar with the line of thinking that says, “God is in control of everything. Even my evil will ultimately demonstrate His righteousness. Therefore God is unjust if He inflicts His wrath on me, because I’m just a pawn in His hand.”
In theory, the most dramatic example of someone who might ask this question is Judas. Can you hear Judas make his case? “Lord, I know that I betrayed Jesus, but You used it for good. In fact, if I hadn’t done what I did, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross at all. What I did even fulfilled the Scriptures. How can You judge me at all?” The answer to Judas might go like this: “Yes, God used your wickedness but it was still your wickedness. There was no good or pure motive in your heart at all. It is no credit to you that God brought good out of your evil. You stand guilty before God.”
6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!
None Is Righteous
Warren Wiersbe calls this passage “An X-ray study of the lost sinner, from head to foot.”
9What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13“Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery are in their paths, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
“There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.”
–Michel de Montaigne, “On the Art of Conversation”
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
I like J.B. Phillip’s paraphrase of this phrase: It is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.
Righteousness through Faith
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
Let’s look more carefully at these words.
justified — This is a legal word whereby God, the judge, declares the guilty sinner to be in the right with Him. How can God do this and remain just? He does it on the basis of Jesus’ death, which has fully paid our penalty and acquitted us.
redemption — This is a word from commerce. It is what Jesus’ death means to us — He buys us back for God, paying the perfect ransom price of His own perfect life.
sacrifice of atonement or propitiation — This is a religious word which explains what Jesus’ death means to God. Through His death, Jesus absorbs the wrath of God due to our sin so that we don’t have to take the punishment we deserve.
27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
But the devil, that master of a thousand tricks, lays traps for us with marvelous cleverness. He leads some astray by getting them involved in open sins. Others, who think themselves righteous, he brings to a stop, makes them lukewarm. A third group he seduces into superstitions and ascetic sects, so that, for example, they do not at all grow cold but feverishly engage in works, setting themselves apart from the others, whom they despise in their pride and disdain. A fourth class of people he urges on with ridiculous labor to the point where they try to be completely pure and holy, without any taint of sin.
He senses the weakness of each individual and attacks him in this area. And because these four classes of people are so fervent for righteousness, it is not easy to persuade them to the contrary. Thus he begins by helping them to achieve their goal, so that they become overanxious to rid themselves of every evil desire. When they cannot accomplish this, he causes them to become sad, dejected, wavering, hopeless, and unsettled in their consciences.
Then it only remains for us to stay in our sins and to cry in hope of the mercy of God that He would deliver us from them. Just as the patient who is too anxious to recover can surely have a serious relapse, we must also be healed gradually and for a while put up with certain weaknesses. For it is sufficient that our sin displeases us, even though we do not get entirely rid of it. For Christ carries all sins, if only they are displeasing to us, and thus they are no longer ours but His, and His righteousness in turn is ours.
–Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans
29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
The old gospel song “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross” done HERE by Neville Peter. Born on the island of St. Thomas in 1972, Neville went blind from glaucoma at age 12. He started playing piano at age 14 and moved to the USA to do his Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Music and Vocal Jazz at the University of Miami. He had a promising career going in the clubs, and Gladys Knight asked him to tour with her. But in 1998, God called him out of the world; from that time on, he has been full time in Christian music.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.