May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,
“THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS,
AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.”
Justified. To be justified, is to be made right with God. See entry for Justification.
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)
The righteousness of God, can be contrasted with the righteousness of man (see entry for Matt. 6:33).
as it is written,
“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
(a) As it is written. Paul is quoting David the psalm-writer (see Ps. 14:1–3 and 53:1–3).
(b) None righteous. Some people see themselves as basically good and decent, but our standards of righteousness only blind us to our true state. In truth, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). As Jesus said, “There is none good but God” (Mark 10:18).
When we decide what is good and righteous, we are partaking of the fruit from the wrong tree. Only a good God can make us truly good. True righteousness comes from trusting in Jesus, the Righteous One (2 Cor. 5:21).
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
None who seeks for God. This is great poetry but it is not literally true. Paul is quoting David who said “I sought the Lord and he answered me” (Ps. 34:4). People like David have always sought the Lord.
In context, Paul is speaking about the Jews who sought to be made righteous through the law (see Rom. 2:17). He is saying that our righteousness falls short of the Lord’s righteousness (Rom. 3:21–23). Compared to God, “there is none righteous.” We all need the righteousness that comes through faith to those who believe (Rom. 3:22).
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
(a) The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8).
Further reading: “The Law in the Bible”
(b) Every mouth may be closed. The merciless law silences boasting mouths by revealing that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Those who take a high view of themselves, such as the self-righteous Pharisee, will be never be made right with God (Luke 18:14).
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
(a) By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Some believe that by keeping God’s law they can make themselves pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Paul shatters that misperception (Gal. 2:16, 3:11, 5:4). Although the law is holy, righteous and good (Rom. 7:12), it has no power to make you holy, righteous and good. No one was justified or made righteous through the law (Rom. 9:31, Gal. 2:16, 21, 3:11, 21). All of us fall short (Rom. 3:10).
(b) Knowledge of sin. The law is a mirror that gives you knowledge of sin revealing your need for a Savior (Gal. 3:24).
Further reading: “What is the purpose of the law?”
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
(a) Apart from the Law. There is the righteousness of man which is based on moral standards and rule keeping and then there is the righteousness of God that comes by faith alone (see entry for Rom. 4:11).
(b) The righteousness of God can be contrasted with manmade standards of righteousness (see entry for Matt. 6:33).
(c) Witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. The Old Testament law and prophets all point to Jesus who is our righteousness from God (1 Cor. 1:30).
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
(a) All have sinned. Both the Jews who had the law and the Gentiles who didn’t have the law failed to measure up to God’s glory.
Paul says all have sinned in the same way he says all have turned aside (Rom. 3:12). The scriptures consistently declare that all of us have gone astray (Heb. 3:10, 1 Pet. 2:25). “All have turned aside and become corrupt” (Ps. 14:3). “No one seeks the Lord” (Rom. 3:11). This is not proof of original sin but humanity’s utter lostness.
In context, Paul is comparing the Jews who have the law and the Gentiles who do not (Rom. 2:14). Although the Jews have some advantages over the Gentiles (Rom. 3:1), in the final analysis it makes little difference because all of us fall short of God’s glory. We all sin. We all go astray. We all need a Savior.
(b) And fall short. To sin is to fall short of “the glorious lives God wills for us” (to quote the Message Bible). And all of us fall short.
God has divine life; we do not. His life is whole, good, and perfect, but our lives are bruised and broken. Because we fall short, we miss the mark and don’t share in the kind of divine life that God wants for us. This shortfall is called sin. The remedy for sin is found in the next verse. See entry for Sin.
(c) The glory of God. It is not God’s standards we fall short of, but his glory. Just as a caterpillar is unable to soar on the same level as a butterfly, we fall short of the divine life of God.
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
(a) Being justified. The law condemns the best of us, but grace redeems the worst of us. We are not made right with God through our good behaviour or law-keeping (see entry for Rom. 3:20). Our justification is paid for with the blood of Jesus (Rom. 5:9).
(b) As a gift by His grace. Justification comes to us as a gift of grace (Tit. 3:7) that is received by faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 3:24).
(c) In Christ Jesus. We are born slaves to sin, but we are freely redeemed by God’s grace. Our redemption is secured by the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7).
whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
A propitiation in His blood. Propitiation means the sins of the world have been taken away (1 John 2:2, 3:5).
Propitiation literally means appeased or satisfied. Because of Jesus, the demands of justice have been fully satisfied. Prior to the cross, the world was under the condemnation of sin. But Jesus bore sin’s punishment and the sentence of death has been removed.
Propitiation is the new covenant alternative to old covenant atonement. In the old covenant, sins were atoned for or covered up. They weren’t forgiven or removed because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4). Those old covenant sacrifices were a shadow of a reality that was fulfilled in Jesus’ matchless sacrifice.
Since your sins were carried away at the cross, no further sacrifice is needed (Heb. 10:12). This means there is nothing you can do to add the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice. If God is satisfied with the Son, let us be satisfied too.
for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(a) His righteousness; see entry for Matt. 6:33.
(b) The justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The gospel reveals a righteousness which comes from God and is received by faith (see entry for Php. 3:9).
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
The law of faith says we are justified by faith without regard for our works (see next verse).
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
(a) Justified. To be justified is to be made right with God. To quote a line favored by preachers, justification makes it “just-as-I-had-never-sinned.” Because of Christ, you will never bear the wage of sin. But justification does more than return you to Adam’s state of innocence. Justification leaves you as righteous as Jesus. See also the entry for Justification.
(b) Justified by faith. Paul concludes the argument he has been making which is that no one was ever justified or made righteous through their good works or law-keeping (see entry for Rom. 3:20). Our justification was paid for with the blood of Jesus (Rom. 5:9) and comes to us as a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7) that is received by faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:21-22, 26, 4:13, 5:1, 9:30, Gal. 3:6, 24, Heb. 11:7).
(c) Faith is agreeing with God. Agreeing with God makes you right with God and pleases God (Heb. 11:6).
Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
Paul says again and again that we are to live by faith not law (Rom. 3:28, 4:14), but living by faith does not make one anti-law. On the contrary, it is by faith that we establish or uphold the law. How does this happen?
You do not establish the law by trying to keep it (you can’t) or by mixing it with grace (you’ll end up alienated from Christ). Nor do you uphold the law by posting it on your Sunday School wall (it’s a ministry that condemns) or by telling yourself “it’s part of our Christian heritage” (it never was). Rather, you uphold the law by putting your faith in the One who fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law on your behalf and who offers you his perfect righteousness as a gift (Rom 10:4).
Further reading: “How does faith establish the law?”
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- Romans 3:4
- Romans 3:5
- Romans 3:10
- Romans 3:11
- Romans 3:19
- Romans 3:20
- Romans 3:21
- Romans 3:23
- Romans 3:24
- Romans 3:25
- Romans 3:26
- Romans 3:27
- Romans 3:28
- Romans 3:31