Romans 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
After coming through Chapter Two, we should see clearly by now that all of the items that a Jew clung to out of his belief that it was those things that kept him in God’s favor, were rendered to be nothing better than what the Gentiles could muster. Whether circumcision or the law, a Jew could boast of none of these things as the means by which God blessed him. Paul then asks the obvious question – if all of those things didn’t matter, then what advantage was there to be a Jew? It was one simple reason – because unto the Jews were committed the Oracles of God.
Oracles are spoken words (not written). Some may hastily conclude that this is speaking of the commandments written in tables of stone, but the word choice is clear – these were oracles. There was information that God had spoken and Israel was to carry forth that message. They were given the first chance to hear and subsequently believe the message, but then the grand privilege of taking the message to the world.
The Oracles of God certainly include a great many things, but chiefly, it centered around the good news of God’s abundant provision, ultimately manifested in the Message of God Himself, Jesus Christ. This was the true benefit of being the Jew – Christ would come to them first; they would have the opportunity to believe Him first; then they would have the distinct honor to bear Him to the world.
And, in Luke 2, we see a fellow by the name of Simeon, who encounters the young Christ, make a very interesting statement:
Luke 2:30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 2:31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Understanding Israel’s role to bear the Oracles of God will be key when we get to Chapters 9, 10, and 11.
Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? 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. 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) 3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? 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? 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. 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;
Essentially, Paul is answering a potential objection – if God appointed the Jews to bear His Oracles, then what if some (of those Jews) didn’t believe? Shall these unbelievers dismiss the purpose of God? Certainly not, Paul concludes.
Paul goes on to demonstrate that the judgment of God is according to truth. Paul asks in verse 7 how it is that he could be judged a sinner, if what he was doing was for the purpose of God’s workings? The unbelieving Jew doesn’t set the tone for the truthfulness of God, nor do they impact His faithfulness to His Oracles.
In other words, just as circumcision and the law did not give the Jews any partiality, neither would the unbelieving Jew have any favor if they failed to bear His Oracles. To that end, Paul concludes that Jews, just as the Gentiles, were ALL under sin.
Remember in Chapter Two where Paul was showing how the Gentiles could demonstrate the workings of the law, written on their hearts. And, how the Gentiles’ uncircumcision could be counted as circumcision because they perform elements of a law that wasn’t given to them. In like manner, the Gentiles also share in the same reality of sin.
To sin is to ‘miss the mark’. There is a bulls-eye – God’s Righteousness – and every time we go awry of that bulls-eye, we are sinning.
Judges 20:16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
Interesting that the phrase, ‘not miss’, is from the Hebrew word for sin. These folks could sling a stone at an hair’s breadth and not sin (not miss the mark).
Paul goes on in the next verses to describe the essence of mankind missing the mark.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known: 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
If I’m under sin, can I just try to keep the law in order to gain favor with God? Is that the answer to all of this? Let’s keep reading…
Romans 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. 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The law’s purpose is to stop the mouths of those who might say that their law-keeping will gain them favor because the law simply declares “guilty”. Despite our best efforts to please God by our performance, the law is simply too formidable of a prosecutor. Therefore, Paul says, by the deeds of the law shall NO FLESH be justified in God’s sight because the law is not what produces the righteousness of God – it produces the knowledge of sin.
To be Justified is to be made righteous, and there is no righteousness to be found, in the sight of God, by keeping the law.
So, what’s the answer to all of this? If there is nothing between a Jew or Gentile that would merit God’s favor and if all are concluded under sin, then is there any hope of God’s favor? This is where the provision of His grace shines. This is where God’s faithfulness displays itself strong.
Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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: 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 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; 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.
The righteousness of God, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, is Jesus Christ Himself. And, that righteousness is granted unto all and upon all them that believe. It isn’t just a simple declaration of righteousness, but every believer is made the righteousness of God, in the Person of His Son. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Christ became sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2Corinthians 5:21)
All have sinned and are continually coming short of the glory of God, therefore there is no difference between Jew or Gentile – all are diagnosed with the same illness and all are in need of the same remedy.
For those who have accepted the remedy, it is true of them that they are justified (made righteous) freely by His grace, as made possible by the redemption that is in Christ. Being justified in the sight of God is not something that is an outgrown of religious works or commitments, but is a blessing of His grace, bestowed upon the believer at no charge.
God is able to do this because He established Christ to be the fully satisfying payment. God can freely justify the believer because the tab was covered at Calvary. Not only this, but Paul explains why God could forgive sin prior to Christ’s death. God had already determined that Christ would be the fully satisfying payment (propitiation) and it was God’s faith in the blood of Christ that allowed God to exhibit forbearance and remit sins in the past. In other words, God already knew He had the cash in the bank to cover the charges.
If we consider the opening of the chapter – what if some don’t believe, does that make the faith of God without effect? No, absolutely not – God’s faithfulness isn’t predicated upon ours. God is faithful because that defines the essence of His being.
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 3:23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
By the redemptive work of Christ, God is just (completely fair) to justify any individual because it isn’t by that individual’s relative performance, but by the eternal Standard, Jesus Christ. God is the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.
In light of this, what should we conclude about the law?
Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
If there is anything to boast of, it is not of your works – it is of His works, by faith.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Paul concludes that since God is not just the God of the Jews, then justifying people by the Jew’s law would be pointless. Just as it is One God, there is also One Method. God will justify the circumcision (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcision (Gentiles) through that very same faith. We do not make the law of no effect because of faith, but rather we establish the law for what it really is–which is not the means to make us favorable to God, but is the means to expose just how unfavorable we are and how any favor with God is only to be found by faith.