Romans Chapter 3

3:1       Then what (is) the (excessive) prerogative (perisson – the sense of significant benefit) of the Jew, or what (is) the profit (benefit) of the circumcision?

If the Jew did not enjoy special consideration with God on the basis of his national heritage, if the Jew was to be found just as guilty of his sins as the ‘uncircumcised Gentile’, being just as condemned and just as much bound for hell as the Gentile who had never received God’s Law or His covenants with Abraham, if there was really no difference between a Jew and a Gentile in the eyes of God as pertains righteousness, then what advantage is there to being a Jew? Why bother being circumcised, if it is only a sign of membership in a family with no unique significance in the eternal scheme? What benefit is there in being known as ‘the people of God’, or “God’s chosen nation” if that title and those markers make no difference to their ultimate destiny?

3:2       Much according to every manner! First indeed because they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

God had called a man – Abram – out of obscurity, out of idolatry, and into fellowship with Himself. When Abram responded by believing God, God promised to bring Abram to his own land, to make of him a great nation, and to bless the entire world through Abram’s offspring. He changed Abram’s name, meaning “exalted father”, to Abraham – father of multitudes – and he was instructed that all the males in his family should henceforth be circumcised as the symbol of his faith toward God and God’s promise to him. From that point forward, God spoke to Abraham and his descendants, revealing Himself to them, and declaring His purpose and plan for the world. In receiving God’s divine revelation, this people had the benefit and privilege of having first-hand communication from the Living God; they knew not only the content of God’s word, but its authority, and had no reason to doubt or question, no reason to falter and wonder what was right or what should be done. They were a people honoured through God’s communication, both among themselves and throughout the world of those who would listen and receive God’s word. While the circumcision accomplished nothing, it was the visible sign of God’s honour upon their forefather Abraham, of God’s particular promise to Abraham, and Abraham’s trust of God Who spoke. It served as an everlasting testimony to the Jew that God had indeed spoken, that the promise both of a people and a blessing had been given, and the everlasting character of the symbol was the symbol of the everlasting character of the promise – that through Abraham’s Seed, God would confer a blessing upon the entire world. Just as the circumcised foreskin was removed forever and could never be restored, God’s promise to Abraham was an unchanging promise that could never be changed or cancelled. While the non-Jew may or may not have heard of this promise, they may or may not have the assurance of its truth and the reliability of the God Who gave it, the Jew had all these things embodied in the very existence of the nation of Israel and the continuance of circumcision as its testimony up to the day Paul wrote. These served as the evidence of the historical event that set a people apart and inaugurated a new season in the history of God’s interaction with men Israel was thereby entrusted with the witness of the Living and True God among all nations. “They were entrusted with the oracles of God” – God gave them His proclamations and promises, with the expectation that they would live faithfully according to His words as a demonstration of His blessing upon them, and make known His mighty Name throughout the nations. (1 Chr. 16:8; Ps 105; 89; 145; Is 38:19)

3:3       For what if some disbelieved? Their unbelief shall not nullify the faith of God. (KJV renders last sentence as a question, but the Greek is worded as a statement, without emphasis. The second clause reads:

μη   η                       απιστια            αυτων       την    πιστιν                            του    θεου          καταργησει

me  he                     apistia             auton       ten    pistin                              tou   theou          katargesei

no the      unbelief/unfaith of them (theirs) the faith/belief (faithfulness?) of the God shall be nullifying

But not every child of Abraham trusted God as their forefather had done. Many turned their backs on God, preferring to follow their own ideas and plans. Paul declares that the unfaithfulness of any number of men has no bearing upon either the faithfulness of God, or on His purpose and intention to ensure the outcome of His purpose. Even if every man on earth were to reject God, God would remain true, because Truth is part of His essential nature. Man may be untrue, but in all things, God is perfectly just, perfectly righteous, and perfectly true at all times and under all circumstances. The fact that many Jews failed to trust God despite God’s abundant interaction with Israel, and the enduring testimony of the evidence of the Law and circumcision, has no bearing on whether God is, or is true, or is trustworthy. Moreover, the fact that anyone else disbelieves does in no way undermine the faith of those who do believe; it is impossible for the faithlessness of others to negate the faith of those who possess it, or destroy the promise that God made according to faith upon those who possess it. God’s word is not dependant upon man’s faith, but rather is dependant upon God Themselves, Who are entirely and fully faithful because They are the very source of Truth. As Paul explained earlier, men changed God’s truth into a lie, but their effort does not change the nature of God or His pronouncement; it only changes their interaction with God and what He has said. God is true, regardless of what any human thinks, and He will be shown to be entirely true and entirely just and right in everything He has said, when the day comes that all things are judged by His word. (Jn 12:48; Rev 19:11-16; Eph 4:6:17)

3:4       No! It may not be! Let God be true, yet every man liar, as it has been written: ‘So that always You may be justified in Your sayings and You should be conquering when You are judged.’

God shall never fail. Every word of God is true, pure, and therefore trustworthy. No matter what men may think or say, God does not change. (Num 23:19; Is 46:10; Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8) In the beginning, God told Adam and Eve that ‘dying, you shall surely die’ if they consumed the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam and Eve are dead. Immediately upon consuming that fruit, they were cut off from the tree (source) of life, and living 900 more years, they both died. Every one of their children since has died, except we who are presently here, and we can count on dying before 100 years of age, except Christ returns first. God told Abraham that he would be the father of many people and nations, that his seed would be ‘as the stars’ and the ‘sand upon the seashore’ for number. From Abraham’s lineage came many nations, with so many as to be uncountable. God has told us that we will all stand judgment for our sins, and everyone who receives Jesus Christ, naming Him Lord, shall be forgiven their sins and receive everlasting life. Since His earthly presence, billions have lived and died, and more shall do so before He returns. Every one will stand judgment, and every one of us who has received Jesus Christ shall be saved. That billions of people have gone to their graves disbelieving what God has said has no bearing on God’s truthfulness; rather they have confirmed what God has witnessed; that many will refuse Him, preferring their sin. God isn’t the one who was wrong. The instant every person passes from earthly life, he enters the presence of almighty God, to ‘receive what he has done in the flesh’. [1] At that instant, everyone who has passed judgment on God, or criticised His offer of redemption or His basis for judgment, will be confronted with the reality of both the absolute sovereignty of God, and the absolute righteousness of His judgment. They will know without question that God is, that what He said is true and that His judgments are completely just for every person. He will be proven to have not shown favouritism on any basis; the wicked Jew will not gain eternal life; the faithful non-Jew will not suffer eternal condemnation. His provision of salvation from condemnation through faith in the blood of Christ will be shown, not only to be fair, but to be the only truly just means by which any person may be freed from death, and to be equally available and equally applied to all persons irrespective of anything other than God’s offer of redemption.

3:5       yet if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God, what shall we say? God is not unjust Who brings wrath? (or “is God not…” “no unjust the God the one bringing/carrying on the indignation…”) I am speaking as human.

Our badness shows how good God is. We deserve punishment; He offers mercy and forgiveness, at His own and exclusive expense. He does not leave the debt unpaid and us bound to sin, but makes it possible for we who have lost everything, to have our debt covered so we may gain everything. How much better, more loving and gracious, is it possible to be? Clearly, not at all. Some people today consider God to be ‘unfair’ to execute judgment on individuals who do not repent and receive Christ.[2] The argument goes that a God who will send someone to hell “just because they don’t believe in Jesus” is not being fair; that the person who does not believe may be a better person than the one who does, yet the one who does “automatically” gets to go to heaven “just because he believes in Jesus”. This argument shows a lack of understanding of the significance of Christ’s death on the cross, for one part, and the lack of acknowledgement of the seriousness of rebellion against God on the second part. When we sin, we are wholly and wilfully wrong. God is wholly and intrinsically right. The fact that His goodness is highlighted by our wickedness, and that His mercy brings Him glory is not to our credit, so that He should somehow ignore our wrongs because by them His right-ness is shown to be what it is. When we are wrong, we are wrong to our own condemnation. When God is right, He is right to His own glory. In fact, in order for God to be right, He is obligated to execute justice and earned punishment must be meted out. Even if some positive or beneficial outcome may occur in relationship to something we may do wrong, what we have done is still wrong, we are still guilty, and God continues bound to the requirement of justice that allots the punishment for the crime. That is why it was imperative, if any man should be saved, that God Himself cover the penalty for men’s sins. Because the debt for sin is death, and all men sin, all men are condemned to death, making it impossible for anyone to pay their debt and to go free. Only by One over Whom death had no power, nor any claim, could the sentence be paid in such a manner as to permit anyone to be freed. If we have to die to pay our debt, we are dead and therefore lost. But Christ being the Eternal Creator, while His body was killed like that of any man, He Himself cannot die, and being wholly righteous, cannot be made subject to the penalty of unrighteousness. He is entirely free both of the cause which is sin, and the consequence, which is death. Therefore, He was able to subject His body to death to cover our penalty, yet rise again in His flesh so that we also may live.

3:6       It may not be! Else (since) how shall God judge the world?

In fact if God could be unjust, He would be unqualified to judge. Paul is emphatic that this thinking is wrong, and wicked in itself. In order for God to judge with righteousness and justice, He cannot excuse wickedness committed because of some perceived positive outcome. God’s grace is not greater because of man’s sin; rather His grace is absolute, and in the face of man’s rebellion and sin, it is revealed for what it is, not to man’s credit but to God’s. Anyone who thinks that God somehow owes him because some wayward action on that man’s part has supposedly highlighted God’s grace is a fool who does not understand the how desperately lost they are.

3:7       for if the truth of God through my lie abounds exceedingly to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?

We have all heard the phrase, “The end justifies the means.” Despite their unfaithfulness, the fact of God and His written record, were preserved and made known throughout the world by the Jews who received His testimonies, and wrote and guarded the writings. They had received and did possess the Law of Moses, they had received the promises, and through them the world did hear of the Living God. In spite of their unfaithfulness, the witness of the nation of Israel resulted in the spread of the knowledge of YHWH God throughout the world. Yet God still considered them sinners, because they lacked faith and failed to obey.

3:8       and not according as we are being blasphemed and according as some assert us to be saying, that we should be doing evil that good may come, whose condemnation is just.

From Paul’s comment we perceive the same misrepresentation that we sometimes hear now when some people twist the message of the gospel, suggesting that because we are given forgiveness and everlasting life on the basis of faith rather than on the performance of approved actions or the avoidance of wrong deeds, that we are claiming that we can ‘do anything’ and God will just forgive us. They object to God being willing to forgive the murderer or rapist of their heinous crimes for no other reason than they profess faith in Christ, because they consider those wrongs among those which God should not forgive because they are so bad. They then suggest that we are claiming that we can live our lives any way that we please, doing whatever wrong we wish, because God will simply ‘wash away our sin’ and we’ll get off scott-free. But this is not the gospel that Paul proclaimed, which requires each person to turn from sin, not continue in it, and receive Christ in humility and faith, receiving the Holy Spirit so we can and will live righteously in this world. Paul was very clear, as were the other New Testament writers, that the outcome of salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of any person is goodness. Jesus said that we could know a true follower by their ‘fruit’, and Paul told the Galatians what ‘fruit’ we might expect to see produced by the Holy Spirit in that life. If that fruit isn’t present, that individual does not know either what he was to be saved from or what he has been saved through. From the point of reference of a first-century Jew, the suggestion that following the Law of Moses was neither necessary nor effective in being found righteous with God because our righteousness is imputed based on our faith, was an equivalent statement to the misunderstanding we encounter today. Their perception would be that the apostles were saying to disobey the Law, and God would give grace and mercy, but this is not remotely what had been said by any of those who truly followed Christ. Rather, they affirmed that righteousness is not achieved through obedience to the Law, not because they were to disobey, but because even obedience didn’t provide the fullness of righteousness required.  But the righteousness which is given to him who trusts the Lord Jesus is perfect – complete – and will produce in the person who receives it the behavioural rightness that God requires along with a rightness of heart and mind.

3:9       What then? Are we better? Undoubtedly not; we previously charged both Jews and Greeks to all be under sin,

Paul takes his readers back to one of the earlier propositions that Jews considered themselves as morally and spiritually superior to the gentiles by virtue of their identity as children of Abraham, possessors of the Law, and ‘the people of God’. Asking if the Jews are better than the Gentiles, he has already shown, and his self-response repeats, that the Jews are as much under sin as the Gentiles. Regardless of their national background, every person is guilty and equally subject to God’s judgment. To reinforce his assertion from the Jewish Scriptures, Paul quotes successively from Psalms and the Prophets, in which their own prophets declare by the Holy Spirit, the wickedness of a nation that claimed to know God and the rebellion of those who deny that God exists:

3:10     according as it has been written that, ‘There is none righteous; not even one

Ps 14:1  «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.

Ps 53:1  «To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David.» The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

3:11     not one is understanding; not one seeks out God

Ps 14:2  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God

Ps 53:2  God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.

3:12     all turned aside; together (literally “simultaneously” hama) they are useless; not one does goodness, not even one.

Ps 14:3  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one

Ps 53:3  Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

3:13     Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they defraud; venom of asps [is] under their lips

Ps 5:9 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.

Ps 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips.

Ps 36:3  The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.

Ps 52:2  Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

Isa 59:3  For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

Jer 9:3  And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.

Jer 9:5  And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.

3:14     whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness

Ps 10:7  His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.

3:15     Swift (literally sharp) their feet to shed blood

Pr 1:16  For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

3:16     destruction (calamity, ruin, fracture) and misery (hardship, wretchedness) in their ways

Isa 59:7  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.

3:17     and way of peace they knew not.

Isa 59:8  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.

3:18     No fear of God is before their eyes.’

Ps 36:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD.» The transgression of the wicked is affirming within my heart, ‘No fear of God is before his eyes…”

3:19     Yet (but) we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those in the Law, that every mouth may be stopped and the entire world may be subjected to the judgment of God.

The Law spoke to those who were placed under it by God; it did not speak to those who were not. Only the Jews as a people were placed under Law. While Gentiles were invited to join Israel in observance of the Law as a demonstration of faith in the true and living God,[3] the Law had not been given to those other nations, and therefore was not speaking to them at all; it spoke only to the Jew. Here was the point of tension, which Paul sought to resolve: that the Law the Jews resorted to for their justification proclaimed them as guilty as it declared those non-Jews who rejected the God of that Law. To whom was the Law given? Exclusively to the nation of Israel. What were the terms of engagement with the Law? That the nation of Israel would ‘walk in all the ways which YHWH God had commanded [them] that they would live, that it be well with them, and they prolong their days in the land they would possess.” (Deut 5:33) But the Jews did not and could not keep that Law, because they did not truly trust the God Who had given it to them. But because God did give it to them, and they failed to keep it, it became their condemnation. So we see that those apart from Israel were idolatrous and wicked, and those of Israel were unfaithful and disobedient. The Law speaks to Israel, but Israel shut their ears, bringing themselves under the judgment of God just as the pagans were.

3:20     because that, out of deeds of Law not shall be justified all flesh in His sight, for through Law is recognition of sin.

The Law was not given to everyone; it was given only to the children of Jacob; it applied exclusively to them. But there’s the rub: the list of judgements, ordinances, and rituals given to Israel by God through Moses could not make them ‘good’. All it could do is show them how desperately far they were from attaining perfection, and how completely impossible it would be for them to ever succeed at attaining it. Rather than being their vehicle of redemption, it was a witness against them to their condemnation; it declared them to be just like their neighbours: unrighteous and guilty before God. When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, He gave them an invitation. “If they would obey His voice and keep His covenant”, they would be a special treasure to Him above all nations of the world, a holy nation with a direct and intimate relationship with YHWH the living and true God.[4] When they expressed their acceptance of His offer, He then invited them to meet with Him at Mount Sinai, where He would speak to them. [5] But when the people were gathered to meet with God, and YHWH spoke to them the words which we know as the Ten Commandments, they were afraid to hear His voice. In their unfaithfulness, they removed themselves from near the mountain, and declared their separation from the God Who had invited them into fellowship with Him. They told Moses that he could speak to them, and they would listen, but that God was not to speak to them directly ‘lest they die’.[6] They did not consider that God had invited them to Himself and He would certainly not destroy them for entering into His presence, but instead responded with fear and unbelief, preferring to remain at a distance rather than enjoy true fellowship with the Lord God Almighty. The list of rules that made up the Law, rather than making them righteous, was God’s response to their unfaithful rejection of His invitation to fellowship in His presence. Rather than their salvation, it was their condemnation. Paul drives his point home to both groups in his audience, by declaring, as the Scriptures assert, that both the members of that nation for whom knowledge of God was supposed to be the defining characteristic, and those for whom the lack of knowledge of God was their defining characteristic, have been and continued to be guilty before God of unfaithfulness and disobedience. The Jews who had the Law were just as guilty of sin against their God as the Gentiles who were outside the Law. Here was the point of tension, which Paul sought to resolve: that the Law the Jews resorted to for their justification proclaimed them as guilty as it declared those non-Jews who rejected the God of that Law. Telling them what to do can’t make them good; it can only show how bad they are.

3:21     yet now apart from Law, righteousness of God has been made to appear, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets

But, here Paul declares a righteousness that does not depend upon man’s observance of legal regulations or ritual practices. In fact, he declares that the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets bore witness to a righteousness not dependent upon the Law. The righteousness of God comes without the vehicle of the Law, while being evidenced by that Law. While neither Jew nor Gentile recognized God’s expectation of them, as evidenced by history through which the Jew tried to justify himself by his behaviour, and the Gentile tried to justify himself to a different god, also by his behaviour, God communicated His expectation that men must love and trust Him, and worship Him alone as god through every prophet whom He appointed. He did not leave them to figure it out on their own, but ensured that anyone who was willing to hear Him would know that God wanted a circumcised heart, a man who acknowledged Him as the only true and living God, and the trust and love of each person. He desired the ‘sacrifices of praise’, not bulls and calves; He desired righteousness in the inward man rather than religious adherence to a list of rules. He wanted true worship, not ritual. Despite the abundance of God’s communication, and the abundance of the record of His pleadings with man, somehow not only the Gentile failed to understand, but the Jew did not know what God desired of him. If Paul’s first words are true, the state of mankind is hopeless: if no one is righteous and all have gone astray, if all men are guilty before God, and cannot be justified by performing the works of the Law, then man is wholly lost and without hope. But, here Paul declares a righteousness that does not depend upon man’s observance of legal regulations or ritual practices. In fact, he declares that the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets bore witness to a righteousness not dependent upon the Law. The righteousness of God comes without the vehicle of the Law, and  Paul asserts that “now” made to appear, revealed to any who will see and hear.

3:22     yet righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ into all and on all the faithful, for [there] is no distinction T

he righteousness of God is through faith of Christ Jesus. Just as “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness”, God’s righteousness will be credited to us when we ‘believe God’ by faith in Jesus Christ. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.”[7] Faith in Christ results in the righteousness of God being imputed to our account. The righteousness of God; of He Who is all and completely right in every aspect of His being; righteousness that does not lack in any aspect – a righteousness to which we can never attain on our own, that we could never achieve by all the hard work we could ever perform – becomes ours by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Man’s righteousness is attitude and performance-based; each time we fail, we become increasingly less right. But God’s righteousness is full and complete because God never fails nor possesses any inadequacy whatever. It is this righteousness that is applied to us, which God makes available to us on the basis of our faith in Christ. The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ is to all (panta), not to a select few, not to an unique people, but to all who do, or have ever, or will live without qualification or limitation. Moreover, the righteousness of Christ is on all possessors of faith, again without distinction. All are equally guilty and all are equally freed and justified without cost through faith in Christ. God has graciously offered this freedom and justification without qualification to all, and bestows it upon all who have faith in Jesus Christ. Neither Jew nor Gentile has either special consideration or greater guilt. And if each of these people groups are both equally guilty and similarly redeemed, there is no difference between them; they are simply human beings with a common problem and in need of a common solution. The righteousness of God comes to everyone, Jew or Gentile, who has faith in Jesus Christ. This righteousness is awarded to ‘all who have sinned’, whether the Jew or the Gentile, based solely on their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as everyone, regardless of their socio/cultural membership, has sinned and ‘fallen short of the glory of God’, so also everyone, regardless of their socio/cultural background, is offered the same means and mechanism of justification before God. Hope is offered to everyone; redemption is available to all without distinction or partiality.

3:23     for all sinned and lack of the glory of God,

As Paul explained at the beginning, all people, regardless of any identifying characteristic, all sinned. There are no exceptions; everyone is guilty. God made man in His own image.[8]  God’s purpose for humanity was to reflect God’s image in God’s creation. The glory of God would be evidenced in His creation – both in this being called ‘man’ who was formed to reflect God, and to the rest of His creation through the glory of God reflected by man.[9] When someone sins against God, he tarnishes the image of God in himself. God is holy, perfect, righteous, just, loving, and loving of all that is good and right. The least deviance from what is good and right obscures the image of goodness in general, but far worse is the image of God that is now reflected by mankind. If man is the apparent reflection of the glory of God, but what man presents is something less than the goodness with which God created him, the image of God perceived by those observing humanity as God’s reflection, is an image of something less than good. Now, rather than God’s amazing power and excellence, we appear to represent a lesser “God”; one who is not perfect, not holy, not righteous, not just, not loving. Rather than showing a glorious God worthy of honour to those who look at man as His image-bearer, we show a false “God” that is unworthy of honour because He is lacking. Our lack becomes a false representation of a God Who appears to lack as man lacks, because man is the reference-point being created in God’s image. We have all sinned, and we now lack the glory imbued upon His creation by God, and lack in our failure to reflect the glory of the perfect, holy God.

3:24     being justified freely of His grace through the redemption (deliverance, ransom) that is in Christ Jesus

Being justified; “all” the faithful are declared righteous by God. His declaration is free – to us. God has extended to us an un-earned and un-paid benefit, without cost to ourselves, in assigning to our account the status of ‘reconciled’. The account has been paid; there is no more outstanding balance, and we are therefore cleared of our debt, and can be freed. Remembering the parable of the wicked servant, whom Christ described as being cast into prison until he could pay the last penny, we recognize that a man in prison earns no living. He has no means by which he can pay a debt while he is prevented from acquiring that means. Likewise, if our debt is not covered by Christ, we will be cast into an eternal prison, because we can never pay our own fine except by our life. So our justification is free – to us – because it has been purchased – we have been bought back from death – through Jesus Christ. Our redemption is in Christ; His cost has bought our freedom. As Paul writes elsewhere, “God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.”[10] The transaction is a trade in which our complete loss is exchanged by God for Christ’s full benefits.

3:25     Whom God purposed (placed beforehand) a propitiation through the faith in His blood, a display of His righteousness through the (remission) passing over of past sins

Perhaps the most remarkable fact of God’s provision for man’s sin is that, anticipating that Adam would bring sin into the world by rebelling against God’s rightful authority in the garden, God also made provision in advance of Adam’s sin for men to be redeemed from the penalty. Before ever Adam sinned, God determined His intention to atone for man’s sin by means of faith in the blood of Christ. Some have suggested that God was compelled to introduce a solution to the ‘sin problem’ into on-going history, but this is false. The Hebrew Scriptures abundantly prophesy of God forgiving sin, giving men new hearts, and putting His Spirit into men who would thereafter live faithfully toward God. Jesus and His atoning death were not an afterthought made necessary by man’s inconvenient failure to “get with the programme”; God knew in advance what was going to transpire, and He prepared a solution that would meet His purpose in creating while remaining consistent with His nature.

The modern emergent movement aggressively denies that Christ’s death on the cross was an atonement for men’s sin; some have been so bold as to refer to the concept of Christ’s death atoning for our sin as vulgar, or abusive by God the Father, were it true. But Paul is very clear that Christ’s death was a substitutionary death in place of sinful men. The Greek word hilasterion from the word hilaskomai, means to appease one’s self. A just judge must exercise justice at all times; he is obligated to dispense appropriate consequences to what is done. To simply disregard any offense committed is not just; rather it is a demonstration of partiality, or showing favouritism, the opposite of justice. In order to be just, God must exercise justice, which requires that the appropriate consequence to every action of every man must be meted out. But again, the point of tension is that, justice to men who rebel against the universal, eternal Sovereign requires an universal and eternal exile from His kingdom; man’s condition on our own is hopeless, as our service of our sentence is a one-way journey into everlasting condemnation. Only by our debt being covered by another, who did not already have his own debt to pay, could any of us ever hope to escape eternal death. It is in His death on the cross that Jesus Christ does exactly that. Our penalty is death. Christ suffered death in our place and on our behalf, so that we could have the possibility of escaping death which is our otherwise necessary sentence. Jesus had no reason of His own to die; as a man, He was without fault. He had earned no penalty. As God inhabiting flesh, He could not possess anything less that the fullness of perfection, holiness, righteousness, and purity that are the essence of what it means to be God. God not only does not have any reason to experience death, but can not have any reason why He should experience it. Whether as man or as God, Christ had no reason to die.

But indeed, Scripture prophesied that the Messiah would die for others, and for the sins of the world; that is what Christ did, and that is what atonement means. Christ died to appease the requirement of justice and the imperative of God to execute justice over all men. The wonder of this entire transaction is that in submitting Himself to this atoning death, Christ showed God to be the most righteous and gracious Being alive. In His complete rightness, God the Father was not only willing ,but planned and purposed to send God the Son to earth for this purpose. God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ, being wholly right in ensuring that the necessary justice was satisfied upon all sinful men, while making it possible through His own self-sacrifice for those sinful men to go free. Then in His full rightness, the Holy Spirit has joined with faithful men to be our care-taker and guide, to protect us from temptation too great for us and enable us to live in the righteousness and holiness that God requires. God passes over our sins, by taking our penalty to Himself as His personal debt, paying our ‘fine’ so that we can go free. God silences the voice of our accuser, and of His also. Remember in the garden, the serpent’s accusation was that God did not really ‘say’ what They said, and that God only restricted men because They knew men would become like God. But if God was merely being jealous and territorial, They would have prepared no mechanism to restore eternity to mankind, and they certainly would not have done so at Their own considerable expense. But Satan’s accusations against God lose a great deal of their power to persuade men against God and Their intentions, when God has demonstrated by Their intervention the immensity and sincerity of Their love for mankind through such self-sacrifice as Christ’s atonement.

3:26     in the forbearance of God for demonstration of His justice in the present season (era), that He be just and Justifier of the one with faith of Jesus.

Paul has said many things in vv 21 to 26, which form a summary paragraph of the nature and need and means of salvation. Because it is easy to focus on some points, and possibly miss others as people tend to read through a lens of presupposition, it is beneficial to recap what Paul has said in this short passage.

1.      There is no difference – the reference is to the ‘all’ to whom and upon whom, having believed upon Christ, the righteousness of God is accounted. There is no difference, whether they are of the Jews and born under the Law, or of the Gentiles, and born outside of the Law. Why is there no difference? As Paul has just previously explained, all have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile, whether under the Law or outside of it. All have sinned, all come to God soiled, corrupted, and condemned. We all come short of God’s glory, we all have been found guilty, we are all under the judgment of death.

2.      But there is also no difference in our redemption; for we are all justified freely by His grace, through His accounting of righteousness – His righteousness – to all and upon all who believe. As we all have stood and do stand before God guilty, we all have access to His justification for our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. This redemption was testified by the Law and the Prophets throughout history, and now it was revealed to mankind by and in Jesus Christ.

3.      All who believe are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. We are justified freely – it costs us nothing. We do not work, we pay no fine; we simply receive what God has offered when we received Jesus Christ in faith. We receive because He has bought us back. We were condemned to die, and He purchased our lives back from the grave. He has bought us back; Jesus Christ has paid for us, and we are set free because of His payment of our debt. Our account is cleared; there is nothing left for us to pay. Our freedom costs us nothing – nothing but acceptance of Him Who purchased it on our behalf.

4.      Justified freely by God’s grace. What is ‘grace’? Grace means the extension of benefit or favour to which the receiver has no entitlement at all. How can a criminal be justified? If we have all sinned, we are all unjust, and justice demands an equal and appropriate consequence to our rebellion. Rebellion against the authorities earns expulsion by the authorities. When the Authority is the God of all creation, the just recompense is death. But God has extended a means by which we may be made right with Him when what we deserve is to suffer the penalty of our sin. He has extended a benefit to us completely contrary to what we have earned through our sin.

5.      God sent Jesus Christ. God’s highest creation, man offended God, rebelled against God, refused to hear God, refused to trust God, refused to love Him. When man sins, he rebels against the universal Sovereign, interrupting the character of His creation and the outworking of His purpose for it. But God sent Christ Jesus. God made His plan, He executed His plan, and He initiated reconciliation. The offended Sovereign reached out to an humanity hopelessly bound by condemnation for their sin, with His gracious offer to allow men to return, to be reconciled to Him against Whom men initiated insurrection. God Whose right is vengeance, exercised grace – He extended to the guilty an offer of salvation for which the Anointed Saviour YHWH became the covering for our sin. Had God not provided, we would be without hope; we would remain lost and condemned for the sin of which ‘we all’ are guilty.

6.      God sent Jesus Christ to be a propitiation – ‘propitiation’ is a big word that makes people uncomfortable. It means the atonement or ‘covering’, or means of reconciling. Christ is the ‘covering’ for our sins, the only One through Whom lost sinners may be reconciled to God. Christ’s life was taken in place of ours. He was executed as a criminal by the highest authority in the land, as payment of the sins of every criminal against the Highest Authority in the Universe.

7.      The propitiation, or covering of our sin, is acquired through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. We receive His atonement only if we believe and trust in Him. We must accept that there is nothing we can do, no rules to follow, no rituals to observe, that can make us right with God, but only trust that, because God has declared our sins covered by Christ’s blood, it is true, and humble ourselves before Him in faith and love.

8.      In sending Christ to atone for our sins, God declared His own righteousness. Many people accuse God of being ‘unfair’, or of doing something wrong either in judging men’s sin or in forgiving the sin of men who are not perfect. But God has rebuked and refuted these accusations in His provision of Christ: A righteous judge must always judge rightly. God has judged sin and condemned it. A righteous judge must sentence rightly; we have already seen that the fair penalty for rebellion against the highest authority is banishment from the jurisdiction of that authority; rebellion against God necessarily requires the death penalty. Again, God is righteous in His sentencing. But as a God Who knows men’s makeup, and knows that our enemy seeks to lead us astray and cause us to fall, He has also made a way for us to have our sins remitted – removed from upon us – if we will submit ourselves willingly to His rightful sovereignty, while ensuring that the penalty for sins already committed has been paid. Christ covered our debt – justice has been served – and we can be set free. What grace! What mercy! What love!

9.      That He may be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus. Justice is the appropriate and proportionate consequence of an action – good for good, bad for bad. It would not be just for God to simply ‘write off’ the penalty of sins committed by someone who later turned from them; they would still have an outstanding debt. But without being made just, we could never go free, since the consequence of sin is death. But God in His wisdom executed justice when He took our debt upon Himself in the body of Jesus Christ Who died on the cross in our place. Now we who turn from sin to the Living God in faith and love may be made just, having our debt paid by the Lord Himself, and receiving the benefit of that grace by our being made ‘just’ – our criminal record is cancelled in heaven’s courts, never to be recounted against us for all eternity. God, both Just and the Justifier of those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

10.    He who is justified is he who has faith in Jesus. Faith – the state of being completely convinced of the trustworthiness of the object of our faith. What is involved in ‘having faith in Jesus’? We must believe that He is, we must believe Who He is, and we must believe what He says, and believing, we must respond consistently, by submitting our lives to Him in complete trust and love.

3:27     Where then is boasting? (literally: “Where then the boasting?”) It is barred (literally “locked out”). Through which law? Not of the works, but through law of faith.

Indeed, if all men are proven to be sinful, and every individual of us guilty before God of violating His righteous law, how does anyone have anything of which to boast? Indeed, anyone with a requirement for propitiation is excluded from boasting, for whatever ‘good’ he might claim to his credit is sullied by the wrong he has committed. So then, pitiful men must fall upon the grace and mercy of a loving God or suffer the recompense of justice for our own sins. If only by His grace do we escape wrath, what do we have to brag about? The Jews could not boast in their knowledge of the Law, if as Paul claimed, that Law proved their guilt. If they were equally dependant upon the mercy of God to apply Christ’s death to cover their sins, and those sins were confirmed by the Law they possessed, then their nationality and history was no particular benefit to them as it pertained to their condition before God. They were just as bad as everyone else; just as lost, and just as dependant upon Someone else to set them free. We know that, if God were to require our justification by the deeds of the law, we would all perish, for we are all guilty of all the law. The Jew cannot claim the Law for his salvation, for he knowingly violates its written precepts. The Gentile cannot hide from the Law for his justification; he is equally guilty and equally condemned. But praise be to God, who has justified sinful men, not by our deeds, but by faith in Him Who graciously offers mercy, upon the credit of Him Who knew no sin, Who presented Himself a ransom for us, whether Jew or Gentile.

3:28     We are reckoning then humans to be justified by faith apart from works of law.

After his careful explanation of everything, Paul’s summary statement is simple: people are justified by faith, apart from any performance of law. Just as lack of faith cost Adam his paradise home in full and open fellowship with the Living God, faith is the means by which man returns to God, and upon the basis of which God receives men back into fellowship. When, as Paul clearly stated, anyone has faith in Christ, he is ‘justified freely on the basis of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice; through faith in His blood, his sins are ‘remitted’ and he is purchased – redeemed – back from the grave.

3:29     Or is the God only of Jews, but not also of gentiles? (lit: nations: ethnon) Yes, also of Gentiles,

It’s easy to forget that other people do not truly have ‘other gods’, even when they think they do. There is one God, and God is God over the entire universe, including those who choose to reject Him as God (Rom 1) Notwithstanding any attitude or idea of any man or men, God is, and there is no other, and God is Lord and God over all. Because God is one, and God is entirely right, God must judge all men equally regardless of their material circumstances. Since the one God is God of all men, all men shall be treated the same as each other.

3:30     since it is that (or: “If it is that”) one is the God Who shall justify the circumcision out of faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

When the Jews acknowledged that the Gentiles had other ‘gods’, it became a tacit admission recognizing those idols as something substantive, something to be considered. What any person believes about God and idols has no effect on the truth that God is and idols are nothing: superstitions, fairytales, or demonic lies. YHWH, the Lord God Almighty, is the Creator of the universe, and the absolute sovereign over all men, regardless of whether they recognize Him, believe Him, or obey Him. There is one God; He therefore must be the God both of the Jews and the non-Jews. All men everywhere are creations of and subjects to the only Living and True God. The identity of the Jews was in the forms and bloodline of their forefathers, but as God established His purpose from the beginning of time to redeem a people to Himself, He established one means by which all men would be justified before Him.

3:31     We are then nullifying Law through faith? May it not be; but (but rather) we establish law.

When asked what was the greatest commandment in The Law, Jesus replied that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind and that the second commandment was to love one’s neighbour as oneself. He then said that all the Law and the prophets ‘hung upon’ these two commandments. It is not possible to love God without believing that He is, Who He is, and what He has said. If we know God, and trust Him because of Who He is, we cannot help but love Him. So if indeed we trust God, we have fulfilled the Spirit of the Law. Our faith is the goal and purpose of the Law, which was given to Israel to reveal how far they were from God.  The Law was a tool for conviction of sin; it reveals men’s true selves to themselves, showing how lost we truly are. Without mercy, all are bound to conviction as criminals, condemned to die as treasonous rebels against our Sovereign. When men rely exclusively on the mercy of God, Who has promised to redeem those who receive and trust Christ, we affirm ourselves to be as the Law confirms: guilty and without appeal to our own goodness, dependant upon Him Who has sole power and authority to judge, and upon His payment of our debt for our crimes.


[1] Hebrews 9:27 “It is appointed to man to die once, and then the judgment.”
[2] Ezekiel 18:25, 29; 22:18,20
[3] Ex 12:48; Num 9:14
[4] Exodus 19:5-6
[5] Exodus 19:7-14
[6] Exodus 19:18-20:21
[7] 2 Cor 5:21
[8] Gen 1:26-27
[9] 1 Cor 11:7; Psalm 8
[10] 1 Cor 5:21