Romans Chapter 3: The Christian and the Law

Nov 6th, 2009 | By | Category: Romans, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Romans Chapter 3: The Christian and the Law

(1998 and 1979)

Rom. 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

“What advantage then hath the Jew?” Why did Paul start with this tone? He was quite severe with the Jewish Christians in the previous chapter, so now they needed some encouragement. He had accused them of being high-minded in their attitude and communication with the Gentile element in the ecclesia. He sensed their reaction, but they were not to take his strong words personally.

“Or what profit is there of circumcision?” Why did Paul phrase the question this way? He talked about circumcision in the previous chapter, saying that a true spiritual Israelite was circumcised inwardly, not outwardly. In addition, he said the ritual of outward circumcision was not that significant in itself, whereas the Jews were using it as a litmus test to show where 30

one stood in the truth. Many Christians down through the Gospel Age have used various tests to try to identify whether one is a heretic or a nonconformist from their view or standpoint.

Rom. 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

Jewish Christians had “much [advantage] every way,” chiefly because the oracles of God had been committed unto them. They had the Law and the testimony of the prophets, the prophetic writings, whereas the Gentiles had no understanding along that line. The problem was the attitude or frame of mind of those with this advantage. The Law is inherently good, but it is slanted a certain way, as will be discussed later.

Over the years, we have heard a few talks that present the Law as unprofitable and almost injurious for the Christian to study. Different Scriptures are used to try to negate the importance of the Law even from an informational standpoint, whereas a consideration of the Law is profitable for the Christian.

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

For one thing, the oracles of God and what Paul was teaching were the Word of God. “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief [the unbelief of the Judaizing element] make the faith of God without effect?” When the Judaizing element reached not only Rome but Corinth, Galatia, and other ecclesias, quarrels and contentions were the result.

Paul was drawing lessons from the past and giving them a current value in his day. His subsequent argument shows that the gospel of faith was preached even in the Old Testament, but because the minds of the Jews were blinded, they mentally discarded that teaching and kept thinking that one was justified by the Law. And even then, they felt their justification came more from the ceremonial aspects of the Law. Similarly, Roman Catholics think that going through the ceremony of praying to saints, paying for candles, attending Mass, and going to Confession will disannul their sins. But those rituals emphasize ceremonial works in contradistinction to faith and loving God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength, which is the First Commandment. All of the commandments of the Mosaic Law were moral precepts except for the ceremony of observing the sabbath. The so-called Christian correspondency for that commandment is going to church, and for the Jew, it is going to the synagogue on holy days. Much more than ritual is required, for example, obedience to the moral code.

Rom. 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

“God forbid” that the unbelief of some would make “the faith of God without effect” (verse 3). That would be an impossibility.

The very positive statement “Let God be true, but every man a liar” sounds like Joshua, who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). An example of positive  decision making is when the Levites took a stand and obeyed Moses by killing their brethren who participated in the worship of the golden calf (Exod. 32:26-28). God appreciates a positive stand for righteousness and truth, and such a decision goes a long way toward meeting His approval. Decision making starts primarily with the will. The heart is the seat of emotions, the head is the intellectual aspect, and the reins (the kidneys, the “second heart”) picture the will or purpose. Although sometimes frustrated or inhibited by the weaknesses of the flesh, the will is the underlying factor.

“As it is written [in the Psalms], That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” God can forgive transgressions if the proper steps are taken and if, in our heart, we hate the sins. Thus there is an arrangement in the gospel dispensation whereby our sins can be covered with Jesus’ righteousness.

Comment: Psalm 51:4 reads, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Justification and faith are primary themes of this epistle. If something that God permits to happen to us seems unjust, our thinking is wrong, for there is a lesson to be learned. Faith should say, “I do not understand, but I love the Lord and trust that what has occurred will ultimately be shown to be right.” God’s character and Word will be vindicated in due time. He is justified in His words and actions—whether or not we can fathom them.

Rom. 3:5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?” As consecrated Christians, most of us have been reading God’s Word for many years. As we get older and more mature in the truth, we begin to see a little more clearly that there is still a lot of work to be done in us as individuals. We were very enthusiastic in the beginning, and thinking we could lick the world, we went out and told everyone we knew how wonderful the truth is. But then we sobered up and realized that our characters needed work. We know that God’s Word is true, and as we try to obey the instructions contained therein to the best of our ability, our new-creature mind can see where we need improvement.

Paul said of his statement in verse 5, “I speak as a man.” In verse 10 of this same chapter, Paul said, “There is none righteous [according to the flesh], no, not one.” Many in the world, as well as in the nominal Church—and certainly in the true Church too—can see the inappropriateness of certain sins that are obviously heinous and repulsive. Some of those sins were mentioned in the first chapter, and Paul was still speaking on the same theme. He was saying in effect, “I speak as a man. God is not cruel or unjust when He visits judgments. There is a reason for the present condemnation of the human race.” While we can understand that all are guilty before God, even the natural man should understand that point. Many say that society is becoming degenerate. Some making this statement are not consecrated Christians but are people with noble ideas who recognize the degradation in advertising, the media, etc. Therefore, from man’s standpoint, everyone should stand and listen to what God is saying through the Apostle Paul on this subject matter.

If man in his fallen state can appreciate to some extent God’s goodness, is it any wonder He will take vengeance? His vengeance is just, for conscience and the light of nature make mankind culpable. God’s character will prevail in the judgment.

Rom. 3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

Rom. 3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

Rom. 3:8 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.

In hearing the gospel of forgiveness versus the concept of obeying God through the works of the Law, Paul’s enemies (the Judaizing element) thought of him as a libertine. They felt that he was much too far to the left in his thinking and that with such a gospel, a person could do anything he wanted and still be forgiven. By exaggerating the gospel of faith and giving this slant, they felt not only that Paul was dangerous but that he merited persecution. The thinking of such Jews, who felt they had the right concept and tried to enforce it, led to the persecution of Christians and even death. The accusation was that Paul was telling others they could do evil willfully and be forgiven. Certainly Paul’s writings and teachings were otherwise. Some erroneously use Scripture to say that love covers a “multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Although that statement is true, it has to be considered in light of many other Scriptures in order to get a rounded-out, correct understanding of the subject.

“For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also  judged as a sinner?” Paul’s gospel was purported to be a lie, but in effect, his ministry revealed the meaning of God’s Word. “By thy words thou shalt be justified” is the principle (Matt. 12:37).

Paul’s ministry opened the minds of others to see the truth about God, His purposes, what pleases Him, what displeases Him, etc. Paul revealed to both Jew and Gentile the meaning and purpose of Scripture.

When something is purported to be a lie, anyone with common sense would first compare the words with the thinking of the one who was doing the criticizing. Sometimes an incongruity is seen right away. Certainly those who were trying to subvert Paul’s ministry were not going into much detail about Jesus’ gospel. If Paul’s writings and preachings were honestly examined, the Jews should have noticed that in addition to teaching about Christ, he quoted a lot from the Old Testament and brought out things they had never seen before. A humble heart with an open, unprejudiced mind would perceive the distinction between one who is speaking truth and one who is speaking falsehood.

Paul was saying that everything he stated was based on the Word of God, both the Old and the New Testaments. Therefore, when he was criticized as being a liar, those who heard the criticism should have asked, “What did this accused liar say?” When they realized that from his lips came forth sweet, pure waters and good fruit, they would know the critics were lying. Paul was saying to the Romans, “In fairness, you should judge me by what I say, not by what you hear. Examine the content of my message to see whether or not it is sound.”

“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.” The affirmation of slander reminds us of the two false witnesses who accused Jesus at his trial. Paul was saying, “It is not just a general rumor but a specific slanderous accusation that is affirmed by others about my statements and the gospel I preach.” Many are prejudiced by their own little minds. Our attitude should be to wait and see if there is an explanation.

Paul brought in his own experience. The Jews were judging him. They found fault with his doctrine as well as with him personally. They accused him of teaching that one should do evil so that good would come. And they called him dangerous because he told sinners they would be forgiven. In short, they slandered Paul.

One criticism was that Paul was too merciful. The Jews felt that one had to become a Jew first, that is, before he could become a Christian. They did not understand how sinners could be saved by faith. Hence they claimed Paul was condoning evil and sin.

Rom. 3:9 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;

Rom. 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Paul was speaking in broad terms. The lesson is that it is critical to examine the source of a rumor or information and then measure the conduct that ensues. For all the Jews’ criticism of Paul, it could be seen that their deeds did not match their professions. Inherently, Paul was saying, “I am a mortal, a human being, just like everyone else.” Similarly, when the people of Lystra regarded Barnabas and Paul as gods, calling them Jupiter and Mercury, respectively, they reprimanded the people, saying, “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you” (Acts 14:11-18).

From that standpoint, Paul admitted he was not a supernatural being and said, “Consider the message I preach. No one, including me, is inherently righteous. I am not greater than you but am like you from the human standpoint. The gospel I preach of justification by faith is what is important. I am not high-minded. I am just preaching about Jesus Christ.” Incidentally, habit of thought is different from extraneous, intermittent, ephemeral thoughts. We must fight against wrong thoughts that start to linger.

Verses 10-18 are a strong condemnation of all mankind. Jews and Gentiles are condemned in sin unless they accept Christ. Hence, as new creatures, none can point a finger at another. In addition, Paul’s lesson to the Jewish Christians was that ceremonial works are superficial and do not lead to real faith.

Rom. 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Rom. 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Rom. 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Rom. 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Rom. 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

Rom. 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Rom. 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Rom. 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Now Paul was talking particularly about his opponents, the Judaizing element, although the comments are also true of mankind in general. Their throat is an “open sepulchre” for several reasons. (1) They speak deceit, hypocrisy, lies, and misrepresentations, saying one thing and meaning another, and thus leading astray the listener. (2) The poison of snakes is under their lips; they intend to wound and kill with their words. (3) Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Those who are led by such individuals, whose motive is destruction, get nothing but death. The mouth of the leaders is like a yawning grave.

Paul’s strong words remind us of Jesus’ calling the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” and “whited sepulchres” (Matt. 23:27). Prevailing conditions in society were corrupt for Paul to use such powerful language. Obviously, the conduct and character of this Judaizing element could be easily seen.

Paul, who claimed to be a minister of Jesus Christ, said that all stand condemned before God. As he would subsequently show, the gospel is the only hope of liberty, salvation, and life in the full sense. Everyone needs to be humble and to listen intently to the instruction of the Maker.

Comment: Verse 18 seems to be the crux of the matter. Because they did not fear God, they felt they could do all of these things.

Reply: Yes, mankind’s ways are destruction and misery because they do not fear God. Not only does this epistle reveal the condition of the unconsecrated, but the lesson to the consecrated is to root out the old leaven such as malice and envy.

Rom. 3:19 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.

Rom. 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in is sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Rom. 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

“But now the righteousness of God without [apart from] the law is manifested, being witnessed by [in] the law and the prophets.” Paul was saying, “In the Law, yet apart from the Law, is the prediction of this new message—that there is another way, a new way.” Paul would enlarge upon and develop the theme that the gospel was prophesied in the Law. Even at the time the Law was in effect, God dealt with certain individuals in a different manner than the general populace because they believed in Him, but generally speaking, no one is looking for God. In studying the Old Testament, we see that only a decided minority—the holy prophets, certain priests, and a few kings—searched out God. The books of Kings and Chronicles tell of only two or three good kings out of a whole list.

With the Law being given to the nation of Israel, a Jew in the proper heart condition should realize that mankind has fallen and that even the Jew is a sinner. Moreover, as the Gentile hears what God’s Word teaches, he, too, should realize he is a sinner. Thus the Law is a schoolmaster to bring all to Christ, to make all see their need of him. Jesus is the door, the hope for the sinner.

Rom. 3:22 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:

“The righteousness of God … is by [the] faith of Jesus Christ.” Upon all who believe, “there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile].” With regard to the Jews, the Law promised everlasting life for obedience, but since no one could obey perfectly, all went into the grave. Therefore, no Jew could boast from that standpoint. As for the Gentiles, they did not have anything, so they were apart from God, condemned by conscience and nature. In addition to conscience and nature, the Jews were doubly condemned by the Law.

A primary theme of this epistle, emphasized again and again, is faith. True justification comes by faith; the channel of hope and blessing is faith in Jesus. This doctrine of Christ was revealed in the Law and the prophets by means of prophecy. Hence what Paul taught was not new. The just shall live all their life by faith in God’s providences—in their trials and in every circumstance!

Rom. 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Paul now laid this statement as a basis of the need for a way out—for the Law did not justify anyone, and there was no other justification except by Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, the Jews looked upon Jesus as a false Messiah, and the Gentiles hoped for life after death but had no Savior.

Rom. 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Justification is a gift that we receive from God through Christ by faith. This gift comes by God’s grace; it is not earned. Because the gospel turned westward and not eastward, we live in a more Christian part of the world—not because we deserve to do so but because of God’s prerogative and providence.

One must accept Jesus and believe in him fully in order to receive justification. The Abrahamic  Covenant became unconditional when Abraham left the country from which he came. He had to exercise faith, and so does the Christian in his walk throughout life.

Imagine being a minstrel or a person traveling from place to place bringing news of this one called Jesus Christ and his miraculous message. Paul had not yet gone into the real nitty-gritty of the subject, but he was saying that something unusual had happened to solve the dilemma of all having sinned and come short of the glory of God; namely, he was bringing a message of hope to both Jew and Gentile. He was saying in effect, “I have come to preach about Jesus Christ and what he said. You have heard a lot in the past, but I will declare a message about  a new and living way. First, however, I wanted to show that we all stand condemned and come short of the glory of God in our own righteousness, which is as filthy rags.” Paul would now proceed to tell about the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Rom. 3:25 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;

God sent forth His Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. News of Jesus’ crucifixion was noised throughout the Jewish world. It was also known that Jesus had healed lepers, raised some from the dead, spoken wonderful words, etc., so the Jews had gotten the message that an innocent man had been unjustly crucified. However, they were not familiar with his message. Paul was saying, “It was that individual who died, and his death had a purpose, namely, to be a propitiation for the sins of mankind.”

Some heathen religions taught the propitiation of sin through the slaying of live animals, which  were supposed to appease the anger of the god they worshipped. Therefore, Paul would now speak in a logical way to appeal to reasoning minds about Jesus’ dying for the remission of sins. He would show that there was something to this message by declaring Jesus’ “righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”

Jesus is the channel for receiving justification; he is the propitiatory, the Mercy Seat. Under the Law, typical atonement was effected by blood being sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. Now Paul was saying that Jesus is the means of atonement—that faith in his blood brings justification and forgiveness. This thought helped the Jews who knew about the Tabernacle arrangement.

Rom. 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Paul would declare “his righteousness: that he [God] might be just, and [yet] the justifier” of those who believe “in[to] Jesus.” God was just because of the light of nature, man’s conscience, and the Law and the prophets, and now He was the Justifier by devising a way not to sacrifice justice yet to deal with sinners who come under the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

Rom. 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

In verse 27, Paul summarized what had just been said.

Chapters 1-3 are introductory. In chapter 4, Paul would begin to reason by telling what the Old Testament teaches. He would say in effect, “I did not write the Old Testament, for it has existed for hundreds of years. In what purports to be the Word of God is the message that Jesus brought and that I, as an apostle of Jesus, am preaching.” First, however, he wanted to get everyone in a humble frame of mind by putting them on a common level. He reasoned, “After all, who are we and what are we? We are nothing unless God somehow provides a way of escape, and that way of escape is Jesus, whom I will preach.”

Rom. 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom. 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

Rom. 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Rom. 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Verses 28-31 set forth the premise that Paul would now try to prove. In his subsequent remarks, he would establish that, indeed, the message is from God. “It is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and [the] uncircumcision through faith.” He wanted to bring Jews and Gentiles together by getting them to cease their hostility and prejudices against one another. First, he brought them down to a common level, and now he would show that there is a common gospel which is beneficial to both.

Comment: In verse 31, Paul was assuring the Jews, who were raised under the Law, that he was not making the Law void through faith but, rather, would establish it.

Reply: Yes, Paul was saying, “We will now present arguments to establish that what we are preaching does not conflict with the teachings of the Law in the Old Testament.” His message was that one can please God by having faith in Him. Paul would then go into the subject of what that faith was.

When Paul repeatedly used God’s name throughout his reasoning, he was saying in effect, “There is one God, the Creator, and His message is the real truth.” All other gods are figments of the imagination.” The Bible starts very specifically with Adam and Eve, whereas not only are other religions hazy and nebulous, but they begin much later. Paul would say, “All along God has had His Word, and the evidence is in front of us. Let us see and accept it.”

Comment: Verse 31 is a good text to show that although Christians are not under the Law, they should study it.

Reply: Yes. Of course the ceremonial features of the Law are not to be followed because the antitype has come, and the sacrifices represent Jesus and the Church. All down the Gospel Age, except in Paul’s day, Christians did not have the understanding of truth that is available today.

However, even with just fragments of Scripture, they had enough truth to make their calling and election sure. As intelligence, knowledge, and the availability of truth increase, the responsibility for the Christian to read God’s Word in its entirety also increases.

Comment: Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). And he also said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

In verse 28, Paul was saying, “We conclude, then, that man is justified by faith.” The Epistle to the Romans helped Martin Luther to understand the truth about justification. The slanderous report was that Paul was undermining faith in God, but that was not true. He upheld the Law of righteousness, for what he taught was in harmony with the Law in that it glorified God.

Jesus said he came to fulfill, or magnify, the Law, and in verse 31 Paul said he did not “make void” the Law. Jesus’ statements were utterly profound, but we need Paul’s writings because they enlarge on what Jesus said so concisely.

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