In our study Romans chapter three, we will look at God's faithfulness and the basis for our right relationship with Him. We will expose the lie that we have somehow replaced the Jews as "God's people".
"What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?" NIV translation
This verse asks questions based on the fact that salvation is by grace and not by family status or obedience to the Law which is what we saw at the end of chapter two.
"Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God." NIV translation
Paul immediately gives us the answer to the questions he asked. The simple answer is that the Jews are a people set aside by God and they were entrusted with the Law. They were also given special promises in the Old Testament and God always keeps His promises. There are those today that preach what is known as "replacement theology" but this doctrine is a lie from Satan. This "theology" says that Christians have replaced the Jews in being God's people but the simple fact is that we have not replaced them but have been united with them through the body of Christ. Paul understood this well as was demonstrated by the pattern of his ministry. (He always went into the synagogue first to share the gospel and then went out to the Gentiles.)
"What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.'" NIV translation
Paul is quoting King David from Psalm 51:4 where David is talking about how sin is against God but He shows mercy and cleanses from sin. Paul is saying that the lack of faith on the part of the Jews does not diminish God's faithfulness and He still keeps His promises even when we don't understand everything. Some Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah but God still does not abandon them and somehow He is going to bring them to trust in Jesus. They are still His people and have never been replaced by another group.
"But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?" NIV translation
This is a common question even today as many argue that the more we sin the more people can see God's grace and mercy. That is followed by "Why not go on sinning?" and the idea that it is not right for God to judge because our sins demonstrate His love. Here, Paul explains that he doesn't believe this nonsense.
"Someone might argue, 'If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?' Why not say-as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say-'Let us do evil that good may result'? Their condemnation is deserved." NIV translation
Paul continues with this question and it is still relevant to us today. The argument that he describes is based on a lack of understanding of God, salvation, and love. First, the idea that we, as people, "increases the glory" of God is a false idea. God's glory does not depend on us it is simply a characteristic of God. Our actions do not create the glory of God but are a reflection of His glory and that is a big difference. The second question about condemnation shows a lack of understanding of salvation and the freedom that comes with that. In Galatians chapter five, Paul warns us that we have freedom in Christ and to beware of people trying to cause us to be "burdened again by a yoke of slavery". The slavery that he is talking about is slavery to the Law but, when we accept the payment for our sins through Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the law but under grace. Therefore, we are free to do what we want but we don't continue to sin because of our love for Jesus. If you love someone, you do not continue to do things that make them unhappy and the same is true with us and Jesus.
"What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'" NIV translation
Paul reminds us that we are all in the same boat before we come to Christ. There is no one (Jew or Gentile) who has righteousness on our own. He quotes Psalms and Ecclesiastes to describe the condition of all men before God. I have heard people say that they have always known God and I say that is impossible and the reason is these passages from Scripture.
"'Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.' 'The poison of vipers is on their lips.' 'Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.'" NIV translation
Paul continues to quote the Psalms and lists some specific reasons why nobody is righteous on their own. This is the same thing that James was talking about in chapter three of his letter to the church. We all fail at one point or another at controlling the tongue and that alone is enough to make us unrighteous as God's standard is perfection.
"'Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.'" NIV translation
Paul quotes now from the prophet Isaiah and it reminds us that, without Christ, there is no peace. People that are following the ways of the flesh clash with others who are looking out for their own interests. The only way for there to be peace between people is through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
"'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'" NIV translation
Paul now quotes Psalm 36 and it seems that these words describe our society more today than ever before. This verse (and all of that Psalm) talks about the fact that people no longer see sin as sin and so they do not fear the judgment of God. The people have gotten away from God's standards (they are righteous in their own eyes) and so they do not see a need for a savior. Without seeing a need for a savior, we cannot see the provision of God's grace.
"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." NIV translation
Everyone is presented with a simple choice which is they can be under the law or under the grace of God. The whole purpose of the law was to make us aware of our need for a Savior that was provided by God's grace. When you accept that gift of grace, the law no longer applies to you! There are many "Christians" who want to continue to apply the law to other Christians but the simple answer is that it is not for God's children. The next time someone attempts to beat you down with the law, simply tell them: "I am under grace not the law because I am a child of God." and share this passage of scripture with them. (You can share this page with them as well.)
"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify." NIV translation
Paul continues to explain that this righteousness that we have is not some "Plan B" that God had to come up with when man messed up. He explains that the Law and the prophets were always a part of His plan of demonstrating this grace.
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." NIV translation
Paul continues by explaining that there is only one way to get this righteousness and that is faith in Jesus. All men have sinned and require His grace and when they accept that gift they are "justified freely". Justified is another way of saying that we are declared not guilty and it is just as if we had never sinned. That, my friends, is how God forgives us and when He forgives it is as if our sins never even happened.
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -" NIV translation
Jesus died for the sins of everyone who ever has lived, is living, or will live. This death (atonement) was necessary because the penalty for sins is death. All sin that ever has been or will be committed must be paid for because, if God let just one sin go unpunished, then He would not be right (just) in punishing the others.
"he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." NIV translation
God is the only one that is just and the only people that will be guilt free (justified) are those that "have faith in Jesus". There is an effort underway today to get along with some religions and not offend them with the name of Jesus but, as we see here, Jesus is the only way that we can be guilt free. That may offend some people but sometimes the truth hurts.
"Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." NIV translation
We were given this gift of salvation and all we have to do is accept it. That is grace and it doesn't take a great person to accept a gift so we have no reason to brag about what we have done. This is the same message that Paul shared with the Ephesians in chapter two.
"Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith." NIV translation
There is only one God and most of the world believes that but there is also only one way to a right relationship with that God. As we see here, it is by faith in Jesus Christ. In Jesus' own words, (John 14:6) He said "I am the way" and His words were confirmed in His resurrection from the dead. There is a movement today to make people feel good by telling them that there are many paths to God but that is simply a lie from Satan himself.
"Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." NIV translation
Paul closes this chapter by explaining that we do not cancel out the law with our faith. The simple fact is that you can either try to keep the law by yourself (you must do so perfectly) or, by faith, we can accept that Jesus fulfilled (kept) the law for us and we accept that gift.