- Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
This is the logical question of any Jewish listener at this point. If possessing the Law and
circumcision doesn't protect them from God's wrath and judgment, then what good is it?
- Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
Objection #1: Paul's teaching undermines God's covenant. Paul lists one advantage
here that he seemed to consider the greatest. They had the oracles, God's Word. This agrees
with what Moses and the prophets had said. (Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:19-20)
(He continues this list in 9:4-5: They have the adoption! The glory! The promises! The
worship!) (Look at what Moses tells them in Deuteronomy 4:7.)
So who could look at these things and count them as worthless? Only an unregenerate Jew.
What is God's Word, glory, and worship to them? All they want is their ticket to heaven
punched and they will be happy.
- What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
Objection #2: Paul's teaching nullifies (invalidates) God's faithfulness. Literally:
“If some to whom God's promises were entrusted did not respond to them in trust, will
their lack of trust destroy God's trustworthiness?” -Stott-
If God's people are unfaithful, does that necessarily mean that He is?
- By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
“So far is it from the truth that human unfaithfulness undermines God's faithfulness, that even
if every single human being were a liar, God would still be true, because He remains invariably
(always) Himself and true to Himself.” -Stott-
Even if every Jew were unfaithful to the Covenant, God would still be faithful.
“God is equally faithful when He judges His people's sins and when He fulfills His promises.”
-Moo- (Psalm 51:4)
- But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
- By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
Objection #3: Paul's teaching brings into question (impugns) God's justice.
“The more sinful we are, the more glorious the Gospel seems.”
“Our unrighteousness benefits God, because it displays His character all the more brightly.”
“Would it not be unfair of Him to punish them for something which is to His advantage?”
“If He were really unjust, how could God judge the world?” -Stott-
Paul knows that for the Jews it is a universal truth that God is both the supreme judge of the
earth and, as Abraham said, “the Judge of all the earth will do right.” (Genesis 18:25)
- But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?
- And why not do evil that good may come? - as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Objection #4: Paul's teaching falsely promotes God's glory.
First, why am I still condemned as a sinner if my sin is to God's advantage? How can God
condemn me for glorifying Him?
This time Paul does not answer the questions raised. They are self-evidently perverse. It is
enough to say of these objectors, “Their condemnation is just.”
- No good results can justify the encouragement of evil.
- Evil never promotes the glory of God.
Similarity of this verse and 6:1: 6:1 is the question of a Christian in light of the abundance of
God's grace; the objection here is posed by a Jew questioning whether his actions really have
any meaning in light of Paul's assertion that even sin leads to God's glory.
The Whole Human Race Guilty
- What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
“What then?” - What shall we conclude? Paul is summing up his argument: His case against
mankind. What is his conclusion? All are under sin! We are all guilty, and his about to
demonstrate this fact by quoting passage after passage from the Old Testament. But first we
must deal with two issues in this verse:
- All under sin – Paul appears here to personify sin as a cruel tyrant who holds the human race imprisoned in guilt and under judgment. The problem with people is not that they just commit sins, but they are enslaved to sin. (John 8:34; Romans 6:16-20; Titus 3:3; 2 Peter 2:19) What is needed is a new power to break in and free us from sin.
- In verse 1 Paul asks a similar question as here, “What advantage has the Jew?” The first time he that question he claims that there is an advantage to being a Jew, but now he says, “Not at all!” Is Paul so quickly contradicting himself? In verse 1 he is speaking of the Jews privilege and responsibility because of the revelation that God has entrusted to them, but here he is speaking of there being no favoritism for the Jew with God. Besides the already stated fact that the Jew is first in salvation and in judgment; God will not exempt the Jew from His judgment.
- As it is written:
Paul is now going to back up his claim of the universality of the sin of mankind by citing
numerous Old Testament passages: five from the Psalms and one from Isaiah. Most of the
quotations are especially against the wicked and unrighteous of Israel but can equally be
applied to Gentiles alike. The purpose of citing mainly texts against the Jews is to back up
his argument from 2:1 – 3:8 that even faithful Jews cannot claim righteousness.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
- no one understands; no one seeks for God.
- All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Notice first the universal nature of these first accusations: none, no one, all, together, not even
one. Paul is using these passages to hammer home the extent of sin's power over mankind. It
The essence of sin is godlessness. “Sin is the revolt of the self against God, the dethroning of
God, with a view to the enthroning of our self. Ultimately, sin is self-deification, the reckless
determination to occupy the throne which belongs to God.” -Stott-
13. “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is
under their lips.”
14. “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
(Psalm 5:9; 140:3; 10:7)
The focus on the universality of sin among men is now changed to a focus on the extent of the
effect of sin upon each man. The whole body is infected.
15. “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16. in their paths are ruin and misery,
17. and the way of peace they have not known.”
18. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Isaiah 59:7-8; Psalm 36:1)
“These bodily limbs and organs were created and given us so that through them we might serve
people and glorify God. Instead, they are used to harm people and in rebellion against God.”
19. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
Who is under the Law? (Psalm 147:18-20) No one is arguing that the Gentile world is subject to God's wrath, but
Paul is specifically targeting the Jews and their reliance on their covenantal privileges.
“every mouth may be stopped” - “brings up the image of a defendant who has no more to say
in response to the charges brought against them.” -Moo-
Without making themselves more accountable or incriminating the further.
“whole world” - if even the Jew, who has the Law, is unable to satisfy the demands of the Law,
but is found guilty by that Law, then by works righteousness none can be saved and all are
accountable before God.
“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ
might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:22
It is the whole Old Testament (Scripture) that condemns Israel. The law, here mentioned by
Paul, is really a synonym for Scripture.
This is so that every mouth may be stopped and all be brought accountable to God, so that
what was promised (righteousness apart from the Law) might be given. As long as we continue
to proclaim and hope in our own righteousness we will never see the need for Christ's
20. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the
law comes knowledge of sin.
“Nothing a person does, no good deed, whatever the object or whatever the motivation, can
bring them into favor with God.” -Moo-
“The purpose of the Law is to make men not better but worse; that is, it shows them their sin,
that by the knowledge of it they may be humbled, terrified, bruised, and broken, and by this
means may be driven to seek grace, and so come to Christ.” -Luther-
Justification and Righteousness of God
Paul is now prepared to explain how the righteousness of God empowers the Gospel to
mediate (intervene and bring) salvation to sinful human beings. This comes after he has
spent considerable time demonstrating the need for this righteousness.
1St – Paul states again the revelation of God righteousness (1:17) and relates it to the
Old Testament. (21)
2Nd – He focuses on the way in which all human beings, who are equal in their sin,
have equal access to God's righteousness through faith. (22-23)
3Rd – He shows that the source of God's righteousness is in the gracious provision of Christ
as an atoning sacrifice. (24-25a)
4th – Paul demonstrates how the atonement not only provides for the justification of sinners but
also defends the “just-ness” of God throughout the process. (25b-26)
21. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -
“But now” - Paul is shifting his focus. He has just concluded that all mankind (Jew and
Gentile) are under the dominion of sin. “But now” he is going to reveal God's remedy for
the situation. His rescue plan. A plan that enables Him to both justify sinners and remain
just Himself. Not only justifying all those who believe after the cross but before it also.
“righteousness of God” - the justifying activity of God. In 1:17 Paul said that this
“righteousness” is constantly revealed in the preaching of the Gospel; here he simply declares
it has been made known or manifested (referring to the cross and its consequences).
“apart from the law” - This righteousness has been “manifested apart from the law”. This
is not comparing a righteousness by the law/ apart from the law but instead announcing
the way in which it has been made known. The law was not given to produce righteousness
but to reveal sin. (Romans 3:20; 5:20; Galatians 3:19-25) Justification has always been by
faith, apart from the law.
“Law and the Prophets bear witness” - This was not an afterthought. God has been preparing
22. the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
“God's righteousness is available only through faith in Christ – but it is available to anyone
who has faith in Christ.” -Moo-
“there is no distinction” - in judgment or salvation!
Why is this righteousness available to all and why do all need it?
23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Paul has just spent the last 64 verses proving that point and backing it up with Scriptures.
All have sinned and are under its power!
“and fall short of the glory of God” - Because all have sinned, all are falling short of God's
glory. All people (because of our sinfulness) fail to exhibit that “being-like-God” for
which we were created.
24. and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Justification: legal term; means to be acquitted (cleared) by God from all charges that
could be brought against a person because of his or her sins. This is not merely forgiveness.
Pardon or forgiveness is the remission or lifting of punishment. Justification is a declaration
that no ground for the infliction of punishment exists.
Where does this justification come from? God and His grace. The saving initiative, from
beginning to end belongs to God the Father. We could not take the initiative. We were sinful,
guilty, condemned, and helpless. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
The initiative cannot be credited to Jesus, as if He did something which the Father was
reluctant of unwilling to do. Christ came voluntarily and gave Himself freely but in
submissive response to the Father's initiative. (Hebrews 10:7)
And it was gracious: it was His absolutely free and utterly undeserved favour. God's
justification is totally unmerited.
Redemption: commercial term; used of slaves who were purchased in order to be set free.
Jesus Christ redeemed us, bought us out of captivity, shedding His blood as the ransom price.
(Mark 10:45; John 10:15; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9)
It means liberation through payment of a price. Christ's death is a ransom, a payment that
takes the place of that penalty for sins owed by all people to God.
“in Christ Jesus” - This redemption is available only in Jesus and faith in Him and what He
has accomplished for us on the cross.
25. whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Propitiation: means to placate someone's anger. Paul is describing God's solution to man's
predicament, which is not only sin but God's wrath upon sin. (1:18) Where there is divine
wrath, there is the need to avert it.
“God's own great love propitiated His own holy wrath through the gift of His own dear Son,
who took our place, bore our sin, and died our death. God Himself gave Himself to save us
from Himself.” -Stott-
Consider this comparison between Christian propitiation and pagan propitiation:
Need- Christian: God's holy wrath is against evil
Pagan: gods are bad tempered, moody
Author- Christian: God in His undeserved love has done for us what we could never do
(Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1-4; 11-14)
Pagan: we have offended the gods, so we must appease them
Nature- Christian: God gave His own Son to die in our place and in doing so gave Himself
Pagan: bribe the gods with sweets, vegetable, animals, money, etc.
“through faith” - The means by which we appropriate (receive) the benefits of Christ's
“in his blood” - The means by which God's wrath is propitiated. (Ephesians 2:13;
Colossians 1:20) Christ's blood is the means through which salvation is secured.
“to show God's righteousness” - “The cross was a demonstration as well as an acheivement. It not only accomplished the propitiation of God and the redemption of sinners; it also
vindicated the justice of God.” -Stott-
“passed over former sins” - “This does not mean that God failed to punish or overlooked sins
committed before Christ; nor does it mean that God did not really forgive sins under the Old
Covenant, but God postponed the full penalty due sins in the Old Covenant, allowing sinners
to stand before Him without having provided an adequate satisfaction of the demands of His
holy justice.” -Moo-
26. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
“God left unpunished the sins of former generations, letting nations go their own way
(Acts 14:16), and overlooking their ignorance (Acts 17:30), not because of any injustice on
His part, or with any thought of condoning evil, but in His forbearance (2:4) and only because
it was His fixed intention in the fulness of time to punish these sins in the death of His Son.”
“Through the sin-bearing, substitutionary death of His Son, God has propitiated His own wrath
in such a way as to redeem and justify us, and at the same time demonstrate His justice.” -Stott-
Luther called this, “the chief point of the whole Bible.” He said, “if that article (3:21-26)
stands, the Church stands; if it falls, the Church falls.”
By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)
27. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Just as in 3:1-8, Paul asks and answers three questions he anticipated from his Jewish listeners
related to his indictment of all mankind, including the Jews; Paul now asks and answers a
fresh set of objections relating not to judgment but justification and that by faith alone.
Question #1: Where then is boasting?
Paul is thinking particularly of Jews here and their boasting, though, all mankind are inveterate
boasters. (1:30) “Boasting is the language of our fallen self-centeredness.” -Stott-
Paul's reason for excluding boasting has to do with a contrast between faith and works – two
kinds of human response to God.
The boasting here is not in their covenant relationship with God (though there was certainly
plenty of that). Paul had already dealt with that issue in 3:1-20. The boasting here has to do
with their pride in their accomplishments in their obedience to the Law (works of the law).
It is the idea that by obedience to the Law they could make some kind of claim on God that
Paul rejects. There is nothing wrong with doing the Law. Indeed, we would not say that not
murdering, stealing, adultery, and dishonoring God was a bad thing, but when you are making
those things the basis of your relationship with God; your right standing with God; this is
wrong! Justification can only come by faith: not only now that Christ has come, but in the past
What is the law of faith?
28. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
There is nothing meritorious about faith. When we say that justification is by faith, or as
Paul terms it here, “the law of faith” we are not substituting one kind of merit (faith) for
another (works). Salvation is not a cooperative exercise between us and God, where He
contributes the cross and we contribute faith. No! The value of faith is not to be found in
itself but entirely and exclusively in its object, namely, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
“All boasting is excluded except boasting in Christ.” -Stott- (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So what is the law of faith? A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
“No works, whatever their nature or their motivation, can play any part in making a sinner
right with God.” -Moo-
29. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
30. since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Question #2: Is God the God of the Jews only?
If justification is by works of the law, then only those “in the law” can be justified, and God
becomes the God of the Jews only.
“Paul takes one of the most basic of Jewish beliefs, monotheism, and turns it against Judaism.
The “oneness” of God.” -Moo-
“The LORD our God is one LORD.” Deuteronomy 6:4
“In the Old Testament the Law was not a means of salvation, but it served to “mark out” the
people of God; and for the Jews it became a great wall or impenetrable barrier between them
and the Gentiles. But for Paul monotheism, as seen in Christ, means that there can be no
such barrier; all must have equal access to God, and this can be guaranteed only if faith, not
works in obedience to the Jewish law, is made the requirement.” -Moo-
31. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Question #3: Do we, then, nullify the Law by this faith?
Paul's answer is, “By no means! We uphold the law.” But in what sense is the Law upheld?
And why would they consider Paul to be undermining the Law in the first place?
“Paul's emphasis on “faith alone” to the exclusion of “works of the law” in justification seemed to somehow make the Law appear to be of no use. But rather, Paul says that it is our faith in Christ and what He has accomplished for us on the cross that has provided, for the first time, the complete fulfillment of God's demands in His Law.” -Moo-
“Faith upholds the law by giving to it its proper place in God's purpose. The function of the
law is to expose and condemn sin, and so to keep sinners locked up in their guilt until Christ
comes to liberate them through faith. The Gospel justifies those whom the law condemns.”
-Stott- (Romans 8:3-4; Galatians 3:10-14; 19-25)
The doctrine of justification by faith alone: 1. humbles sinners and excludes boasting (27-28)
2. it unites believers and excludes discrimination (29-30) 3. it upholds the Law and excludes
antinomianism or licentiousness (31)