What advantage then does the Jew have? Or what profit is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because the oracles of God were entrusted to them. What if some did not believe? Would their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 God forbid! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, and may prevail in your judging.”
In the previous chapter, Paul argued that merely possessing the Law of God or being outwardly circumcised will not save a person. For God shows no partiality (Rom. 2:11). Therefore, if God has brought both Jew and Gentile into union with the Father through His Son Jesus, then what advantage do the Jews have?
Paul knew the Jewish people had many advantages over the Gentile nations. For instance, the oracles of God were entrusted to them, the covenants were established for the nation of Israel, the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai unveiled the written code on man’s heart, the several instances where God rescued Israel out of bondage help solidified and strengthened the Jewish people’s trust in Yahweh. John Trapp, an Anglican theologian once said this to conclude the advantage for the Jews.
“This was their prime privilege, that they were God’s library-keepers, that this heavenly treasure was credited to them.”
Nevertheless, the unbelief by some Jews did not nullify the faithfulness of God just like some believers today—who turn away from the living God. As Paul clearly exclaims: “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” For God is the only being who truly keeps his promises. He is the God who is faithful and just at all times.
That’s why, in the end, no matter what ethnic background we come from, God reconciled us all by the true and incarnate Christ—so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Our redemption, justification, and glorification are not a consequence of obeying the Law; rather, they are a consequence of entrusting in the Law of God who became flesh.
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous in taking vengeance? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 God forbid! For then how could God judge the world? 7 If through my lie the truth of God has abounded more to His glory, why am I still being judged as a sinner? 8 Why not rather say, “Let us do evil that good may come,” as we are slanderously accused and as some claim that we say? Their condemnation is just.
Paul brings in a counter-argument concerning how the unrighteousness of man demonstrates the righteousness of God. Judas who betrayed Jesus might argue: If God knew that my betrayal would ultimately lead him to the cross to die for the sins of the world, then didn’t my bad deed lead to a utilitarian good for the rest of humanity? It is true that God used Judas’s wickedness as a means to save the world, but Judas is ultimately responsible for his sin and therefore stands guilty before the living God.
The apostle Paul states another person might argue: “Let us do evil that good may come.” However, in chapter 6, Paul makes an important point: “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? God forbid.” The believer should not have a desire to live wickedly in order that more grace will be allotted to him or her. In fact, this way of thinking is contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit—which convicts, encourages, and strengthens the believer to conform more into the image of God.
9 What then? Are we better than they? No, not at all. For we have already charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. 10 As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become worthless; there is no one who does good, no, not one. Their throats are an open grave; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of vipers is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to she blood; destruction and misery are in their paths; and they do not know the way of peace. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This is truly the first step of the gospel: Admitting our guilty; for all of us have sinned and stand guilty before God. Even the most honorable people in the world have made mistakes and allowed sin to find a way into their hearts. People do not tend to think that they are morally bankrupt. When they compare themselves to others, they might actually feel morally superior and righteous before God. However, the 10 commandments alone convicts us all.
For instance, have you ever lied? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Have you thought about something more than God? Have you been angry with another person in your heart? Has there ever been a time in your life where you felt jealously and desired to have someone or something that didn’t belong to you? If you said yes to any of these questions, you stand guilty before God.
Keep in mind: The point of the law is not solely to condemn you, but also lead you to the grace found in Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for you, so that you might receive the righteousness of God. This is the gospel of grace. This is the good news that God saves sinners. All one must do is repent and believe in this gospel.
19 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 all the world may become accountable to God. 20 Therefore by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
This is not a new concept. In Psalm 143:2, David says, “And do not enter into judgment with your servant; for in your sight no one alive will be considered righteous.” The Apostle Paul is referring back to the Torah in order for both Jews and Gentiles to understand the absolute truth of our condemnation. All of us are under the law. We stand guilty and are therefore accountable to God.
The difference now is the unveiling of God’s redemptive plan in Jesus of Nazareth. He is the long awaited Messiah the Scriptures prophesied about (Isa. 53). When we repent and put our trust in the Lamb of God, there is redemption and mercy found at the foot of the cross—Believers no longer stand guilty but are righteous in God’s sight, not because of what man has done, but because God provided Jesus for us to be the propitiation of our sins.
21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. 22 This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all who believe, for there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith, in His blood, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins previously committed, 26 to prove His righteousness at this present time so that He might be just and be the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.
There is no more distinction. Jews and Gentiles have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Justification is not found in the law of God. Rather, justification is given freely by grace through the redemption in Jesus, who God has set forth as a propitiation through faith. Therefore, God’s wrath no longer abides on those who have accepted Jesus since the punishment has already been paid in full.
The term propitiation is a theological concept that means the act of appeasing God. A similar term used to describe this concept is atonement. Because God is holy, sin still needs to be punished. When Jesus was on the cross, He literally took all the sins of those who would believe in Him to appease the justice of God. In other words, sin can’t go unpunished. It must be dealt with because God is holy, righteous, and has a duty to uphold His righteous decrees.
Therefore, Jesus not only lived a perfect life in order to impute righteousness to us, He also satisfied all the sin we committed by becoming our scapegoat; He essentially suffered in our place. This is the power, relentless, unconditional love that Jesus displayed on the cross.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law. 29 Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 seeing it is one God, who shall justify the circumcised by faith, and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make the law void through faith? God forbid! Instead, we establish the law.
There is no boasting before God. Humankind is justified by faith without the works of the law. For by the works of the law, no person will be justified in the sight of God. This is because all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Does this therefore nullify the law through faith? Paul exclaims: “God forbid! Instead, we establish the law.” Thus, faith in God and the Law are synergistic, not antagonistic.
Furthermore, after Paul establishes the fact that our justification is by faith in the work of Christ, He reestablishes the truth of how God has reached out to both Jews and Gentiles. As Paul says, “Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Truly, there is no other God except Yahweh. He is not a tribal deity excluded to one race: He is King over all creation. This gospel is for every tribe, tongue, and nation.
As Paul said in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is wonderful news. The good news that God saves sinners is a universal message of hope. Let’s continue to share this hope to a world in dire need of Him. Blessings!
Commentary written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)