Paul’s primary purpose in writing Romans was to teach the great truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received apostolic instruction. Unlike with some of Paul’s other epistles, his purpose for writing Romans was not to correct detestable theology or rebuke ungodly living. The Roman church was doctrinally sound, but, like all churches, it was in need of the rich doctrinal and practical instruction this letter provides.
The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.
In this Session we finish our discussion the bad news that Paul delivers to the Romans that necessitated the God provided solution of Christ's sacrifice for mankind's sin.
Having shown God as a righteous and justified judge, now Paul shows the God of love, who reaches out with open arms to sinful people in the hope that they will come to Him and be saved. Righteousness and justification making a person right with God comes only by faith in response to His grace, never by works.
Click below to read my notes. For an audio recording of the entire Session click on the YouTube link at the end of the notes.
Everyone—Gentiles and Jews, indeed all of humankind—stands guilty before a holy God. Human nature is corrupt. Human thoughts and actions are vile. Human motives are impure. We are without excuse.
Paul Defends God's Judgment
Romans 3:1-8 NKJV What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 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.
He did believe the Jews to be in a special position in regard to God. Which is what they believed themselves. The difference was that Paul believed that their special position was one of special responsibility; the Jew believed it to be one of special privilege.
The oracles of God. God entrusted the Jews with commandments, not privileges. Here it means The Ten Commandments. Even with those advantages some Jews didn’t obey the covenant. They did not remain loyal to God. But God always does everything that he promises to do.
Romans 3:5-6 NKJV But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
Verses 5-6 If people did not sin, they might not appreciate God’s goodness. So people might argue that even their evil deeds give honour to God. And they might argue that God is not fair to punish people for such deeds. This idea may seem clever, but it is wrong. People who say such things are foolish. They are speaking as if God is a mere man. But God is perfect. He is never unfair. Paul was sorry even to mention such an idea. If God is true to his nature, he must judge human sin. ‘The judge of the entire world shall do what is right’.
Abraham asked God that same question when he was bargaining, he thought with God about the destruction of Sodom
Genesis 18:25 NKJV Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Romans 3:7-8 NKJV For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 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.
Paul emphasized that God’s promises are certain. God’s words are always true, even if every person tells lies.
Verses 7-8 Someone might argue like this. God ought to be grateful when people tell lies. Such lies show how truthful God is. The result is that his glory becomes even greater. So it would not be fair for God to describe these people as guilty. In fact, Paul’s enemies actually said that Paul taught such ideas. So Paul explained to the Christians in Rome that this report was untrue. Paul had many such enemies. But Paul did not need to prove what he was teaching. God knew the truth about Paul’s work. And that fact was enough to satisfy Paul (2 Corinthians 11:30-31)
All Have Sinned
Romans 3:9-20 NKJV 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. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; 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 says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:9 NKJV 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.
Remember that Paul said in verses 1&2 that Jews had advantages.
Romans 3:1-2 NKJV What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Now he said that they were not better than Gentiles. They did not realise that God’s judgement was on them too. God would not show his kindness to one group of people more than to another. Everybody was ‘Under the power of sin’. Sin was like a master who had complete control over his slave. Everybody – both Jews and Gentiles – is like a slave because of the power of sin.
We talked about that in a sermon series that I did earlier this year.
People can become slaves to sin without: realizing it. Sin can manifest itself in attitudes, actions, or ambitions. Sin not only enslaves; it also separates people from God, and other people. Jesus is the only one who can deliver a person from slavery to sin. All of us need pardon from past guilt and deliverance from the power and practice of evil.
One of the scriptures from that sermon series was from
Romans 6:16 NKJV Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
In verses 10 to 18 Paul uses Old Testament scripture to show how wicked people can be. He put the verses together in a way that Jewish teachers called ‘a string of precious stones’. He wanted to emphasise that sin controls everybody Jew and Gentile.
Romans 3:10-12 NKJV As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
are from Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Psalm 14:1-3.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 NKJV For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.
Psalms 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. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.
These verses explain the nature of sin. Sin is the result of actions against God. Nobody tries to discover what God is like. Nobody cares about what God wants. Everyone has turned away from the right way to live. And that is why people sin.
Romans 3:13-14 NKJV “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
These verses describe the sins of speech. In other words, these verses show how people sin by their words. Such sins are the result when people use the throat, mouth, tongue and lips in the wrong way.
Paul uses Psalms 5:9; 10:7 and 140:3.
Psalms 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.
Psalms 10:7 NKJV His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.
Psalms 140:3 NKJV They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. Selah
People tell lies. Their words are like poison that can destroy other people’s happiness and character. In his letter, James also compared the tongue with something poisonous.
James 3:8-10 NKJV But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Romans 3:15-17 NKJV “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.”
Evil actions are often the result of evil words.
James 3:5-6 NKJV Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
Isaiah 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. 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.
Romans 3:18 NKJV “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
This is the same thought that Paul had back in Paul repeats his verse 11.
Romans 3:11 NKJVThere is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
All sin is against God.
Psalm 36:1-4 speaks about a man who has no fear of God.
Psalms 36:1-4 NKJV An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil.
All sin comes from people’s lack of honour for God who created them.
Romans 3:19-20 NKJV 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. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Some Jews might have thought that these verses were only about wicked Gentiles. Gentiles did not have the law. But Paul explains that the law cannot make people righteous. We learned that in Galatians
The purpose of the law was to show the meaning of sin to people.
Galatians 3:24 NKJV Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The law reveals humanity’s utter sinfulness, inability to save themselves, and desperate need of a Savior—it was never intended to be the way of salvation.
The law proves that everyone is guilty. So the Jews could not become righteous by means of their Jewish ceremonies. And they had many such ceremonies, for example circumcision, the Sabbath, and the food laws. And nobody can become righteous by means of their own good works. Everybody has sinned. And sin controls everybody’s life.
The final verdict, then, is that unredeemed humankind has no defense whatsoever and is guilty of all charges.
Having shown God as judge and executioner, as it were, he next shows the God of love, who reaches out with open arms to sinful people in the hope that they will come to Him and be saved.
After conclusively proving the universal sinfulness of humanity and their desperate need for righteousness (1:18–3:20), Paul shifts gears and demonstrates that God alone can provide that righteousness.
To illustrate this truth, Paul devotes the entire fourth chapter to Abraham. This godly Old Testament saint is a shining example of the central biblical truth that a person can become right with God only by faith in response to His grace, never by works.
God’s Righteousness Through Faith
Romans 3:21-26 NKJV But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-22 NKJV But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
Verses 21-22 When Paul said “but now” he’s contrasting humanity’s depravity and inability to please God and God’s ability to fix the problem. The new age that had come with Jesus. The law and the prophets are the two main parts of the Jewish Old Testament. The Law and the prophets was centuries before Jesus was born. The Law was given directly by God to Moses and the prophets were led by the Holy Spirit.
I Peter 1:10-11 NKJV Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
The Holy Spirit showed them what Jesus would do and Jesus’ death is the only way for people to become righteous. This was God’s plan. And everyone who receives Jesus into their lives recives God’s gift of righteousness.
This gift of righteousness comes by faith. It is impossible for anyone to earn righteousness. But God offers it as a free gift to everyone who trusts him.
The greatest problem that mankind has is sin.
Romans 3:23-24 NKJV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Verses 23-24 Sin is the greatest problem that people have. Sin affects everyone, from every nation. It is a terrible problem, because sin ruins the relationship between people and God. Because of sin, people have lost their right to enter heaven. Sin is the reason why people suffer in this world. Sin controls the lives of everyone. It even controls the lives of the best people.
From the beginning of time people have tried to free themselves from the power of sin. But all their efforts have failed.
Good works cannot free anyone from the power of sin. Moral behaviour cannot free anyone from sin’s power. Even religion cannot succeed. People may be very sincere when they do such things. And it is better to be a good person than a bad person. But these methods still cannot make a person righteous. They cannot make a person perfect. And God’s standards are perfect. So even the best person’s efforts are hopeless.
But the wonderful news is that God himself is willing to free us from the power of sin. People have worked so hard to become righteous, and they have all failed. But God offers *righteousness as a free gift.
Nobody deserves this righteousness. But Jesus died in order to suffer the punishment for sin. People simply need to trust him. They should confess their sins to God. And they should invite him into their lives. Then God will forgive them. In other words, he will make them righteous. Nobody could earn righteousness. But it is God’s free and generous gift. And he offers it to everyone, from every nation.
Romans 3:25-26 NKJV whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Verses 25-26 Let’s first look at a definition of Propitiation; appeasement or satisfaction; Christ’s death satisfied the offended holiness of God.
Also when Paul said that in His forbearance God had passed over the sins of man he meant that this was a temporary withholding of judgment.
Now let’s look at these two verses.
Paul uses three descriptions to explain what God has done by means of Jesus.
1. In a court, a judge will free a person if he is not guilty. God is the judge of the whole world. All people are guilty in front of him. But Jesus showed how much God loves us. God forgives those people who trust in Jesus. They have become righteous because of faith in Christ. Faith is not a kind of work. It is to trust God because of what he has done by Jesus.
2. Someone could pay to free a slave. People are in the power of sin, as slaves were in the power of their masters. Jesus paid the price to set us free. He frees us from sin. So we can live as God wants. Jesus did this at the cost of his life. In other words, he died so that we can be free from sin.
3. People used to offer animals as sacrifices when they asked God to forgive their sins. The law told them to do this. But even at that time, people knew that the death of an animal was not sufficient to pay for their sin. (See Psalm 51:17; Micah 6:6-8.).
Psalms 51:17 NKJV The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
Micah 6:6-8 NKJV With what shall I come before the Lord , And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
So sincere people realised that they needed to have a humble attitude. And they knew that they needed to trust God. They knew that God would provide the perfect sacrifice. And this happened when Jesus died.
Hebrews 10:11-12 NKJV And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
God gave himself by means of Jesus to make people righteous. One translation says, “Jesus achieved this by the gift of his life” In the original language Greek, the translation is ‘the gift of his blood’. A person cannot live without blood. And one of the purposes of blood in the body is to remove anything impure (not pure). So Jesus gave his life and he makes us free from our sins. God shows by means of Jesus that he is a perfect judge. He punishes sin. But he himself suffered that punishment. So he is a perfect Saviour.
Isaiah 45:21 NKJV Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord ? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul said that by means of *Christ, God was ‘making the world at peace with himself’
2 Corinthians 5:18 NCV (New Century Version) All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him.
Romans 3:27-31 NKJV Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Romans 3:27-28 NKJV Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
Verses 27-28 Nobody can boast. Nobody deserves to be righteous. Nobody earns peace with God by means of that person’s own good actions. A person becomes righteous only when he accepts God’s gift by means of Jesus. Paul said that he would be proud of only one thing. Jesus had died on the cross for him
Galatians 6:14 NKJV But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Romans 3:29-31 NKJV Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Verses 29-30 Faith is the same for everyone. There is only one God.
Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJV You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
There is not one God for the Jews and another God for Gentiles there is no separate God. So since there is only one God the way of righteousness and justification is the same for everybody and that is by the same way of faith. ‘Without *faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6).
This does not mean that the Law has no value.
Romans 3:31 NKJV Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Verse 31 The law still has value. Paul imagines someone who would oppose him about faith. That person would say that Paul was telling people not to obey the law. But Paul was not saying that. Actually, Paul was teaching people that the law was very important. In fact, the law teaches us that we need faith. And we can only obey the law by means of faith. We talked extensively about that in our study of Galatians.
The law was our tutor or guardian.
The law is how God wants people to live. He wants people to show love and kindness. He wants people to be fair. He wants people to have a humble attitude and to respect him. The rules in the Old Testament exist in order to teach people about this. But these rules are less important than the law itself. Faith does not make the law weaker. Faith makes it possible for people to love God with their whole heart. Faith teaches people to live as God wants them to live. So faith makes the law stronger.