Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
In the previous two passages, we’ve seen that Paul is deeply concerned with laying out the requirements of the law of God upon us. This is because there can be no grace if it is deserved, and no mercy if there is no affront to justice. The good news and the bad news is that the sinful nature of man puts us in opposition to God, so we all will find ourselves in need of salvation.
This next passage builds primarily on the content of the second chapter, which we covered last week.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
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.
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)
6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
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?
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.
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;
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known:
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
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.
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.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
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:
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 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;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
The Jew and the Law
This chapter begins where the last chapter ended: circumcision of the flesh (a cornerstone of the old testament) has no inherent power or value. If a Gentile adheres to the Law without having it codified for him, he is as righteous as the Jew who adheres to the Law while having it. And, if a Gentile violates the law, he is as damned as a Jew who violates the law.
However, the Jew does have the Law, and there is great value in that. The Gentile had not heard from God’s mouth, yet the Jew had. The Gentile did not know explicitly what the Lord demanded, but the Jew did. This is the true value of being a Jew – not some merit of the flesh or ritual, but having the word of God before them.
There are some questions that have recurred throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity which Paul needs to address before he can move on. Let’s ask these questions in a more modern way and look at the answers.
Does the existence of non-believers nullify the idea of God and faith? God forbid! God is the source of all truth, so if God says X and all men say NOT X, God is correct and all men are liars and fools. Our adherence to God’s word is adherence to truth, and Jesus told us that the truth shall make us free. There is no ethics that can conflict with God’s teachings on ethics; there is no science that can conflict with God’s truth of the universe; there is no historical evidence that can contradict God’s Word.
If evil accentuates good, is it good to be evil? Is God wrong to punish us for sin when sin lets him demonstrate his love and righteousness? God forbid! We know that God will judge the world, and judgment implies a portioning out of reward for goodness and punishment for evil. God does not create evil, and God does not condone evil, but he does make even evil serve His purposes. Some have said at various times that we must sin in order to be forgiven, and we must make evil so God’s goodness can shine, but it remains damnable evil and damnable sin.
There is none righteous
So the question arises – if Jews are blessed by having the Word (if not by circumcision), are they better than Gentiles? In a word, no. Both Jews and Gentiles are sinners in need of salvation.
There is not one person on earth, past or present, who is righteous. There is not one person who understands and seeks after God. Everyone has sinned, fallen away from God’s commands, and worked evil and less-than-beneficial acts.
There are no good people. Sometimes we are asked, “Does a good person go to heaven even if they don’t believe?” and the answer is “No idea – there are no good people.” We are all wicked sinners, and we all deserve to be punished.
All of us speak evil or meaningless drivel (an open sepulchre is an open grave). All of us are liars, and all of us have spoken evil and poisonous words. All of us have spoken bitterly and harshly, or cursed others (not necessarily using “curse words”, but saying things like “I hope he fails” or “I hope he gets hit by a bus”).
All of us have sufficient hatred to inflict harm, and most of us have at least considered killing another human being (no matter how idly). We have all done things that are destructive and bring harm or misery to others (or ourselves). Our understandings of peace involve bloodshed and fear – even the “peace and love” crowd loves violence and oppression.
We do not fear, respect, or love God. In fact, we hate him, and all our words and deeds oppose him. Even those who claim not to know whether he exists and those who claim he does not exist have within them hatred for God, every bit as much as every other human being on the earth.
Law and Righteousness
The Law condemns us all. Whether we have the law on our hearts or laid out in plain text before us, it condemns us. And though we may deceive ourselves about what that law does say, it condemns us just the same. We are all guilty in the eyes of God.
Under the Law that condemns us, we cannot earn any reprieve from condemnation, because the law explains our sins to us. Every “good” act is tainted by evil, and the law reveals that to us. So even those who strive most valiantly to obey the Law are considered disobedient under God’s Law.
However, after all that, there his hope. We are condemned under the Law, but we have finally seen what it is to be righteous. Our Lord Jesus Christ lived and died in obedience to the Law, and he has thus fulfilled the law for us. Jew or Gentile, those of us who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are considered righteous with or without the Law.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all erred and defied the Law, and we all justly deserve punishment under that Law (whether we knew the Law of Moses or not). Jew and Gentile, both are damned under the law, for both have failed to maintain the glorious standard of God’s Law.
But God has given us an unearned and unearnable gift in Jesus Christ. By Christ alone are we redeemed and made to be righteous, and by Christ Alone can we be spared the just punishment for our violations of the Law. This gift is given to us freely, and it is of such worth that it would be unobtainable were it not free.
Gospel (“good news”)
God has given Christ Jesus as propitiation (an offering to satisfy God and His Law). Jesus deserved neither suffering nor death, as he was not a sinner, yet he suffered and died in our stead so that the Law might be fulfilled. All those who have faith in his blood (that is, that he did die and rise again in order to give us the gift of salvation) are saved indeed. We are considered righteous because He is righteous, and it is His righteousness that grants us forgiveness for our past sins.
Jesus’s righteousness is made known today, in this time and this place. We who believe declare with all joy how magnificent is His righteousness, and how merciful and gracious he is to make us just and right in the eyes of God. For we could never live up to His law, but in Christ we are called righteous anyway.
This is the gospel. This is the good news. We have deserved all condemnation and wrath, but we have been spared because of our God’s love for us. He is just, and He has made a way to save us sinners and fulfill all the requirements of justice.
All this is as the prophet Isaiah wrote: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53 – great chapter)
How can we boast?
There is nothing we have done or could do to merit justification and salvation. Nothing. We are sinners, condemned under the Law even when we know it not, and all our works merit destruction. It is only the grace and mercy of a just God that has bought for us these things.
How can we boast about our salvation if we did nothing to merit it? We cannot – it is excluded. We are justified by faith without works, as repeated in Ephesians 2: “For it is by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Our God has given this salvation to both Jew and Gentile, to both his chosen people (with whom he made the old covenant of Abraham) and to those without the old covenant. He is God of us all, and He is One God (As the Jews pray: “Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is one God!”).
Yet, as we will see, this does not invalidate the Law but establish and fulfill the Law.
Let us Pray
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has brought salvation and justification to all peoples. For the LORD is just, and his justice does not sleep, but he has postponed his wrath in order that those who will be saved might be brought to Christ. There is no other God before Him, and there is no other Lord besides our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
O Lord, hear our prayers. We know that you always hear us, as we are reassured by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, but we pray this because our own wicked hearts doubt. In the same way we know that You have given us salvation and justification through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, in his blood which was shed for our redemption, but our own wicked hearts doubt.
Protect us from the sinful flesh, O Lord. We know that you have granted us salvation from all sins, and we know that all sin is opposition to you, yet we do sin and feel deeply the weight of our sins. We who have received the Law are convicted under it, yet by grace You redeem us. Forgive us sins we know and sins we commit unaware, through your mercy. Grant us wisdom and power to resist our sinful natures through the Holy Spirit, and bless us with all spiritual gifts according to Your will.
We pray all these things knowing that You know what we need and desire before we can even say them. Even so, Lord, as you have commanded us, we pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Benediction and Command
As always, feel free to discuss the content of this post and the chapter in the comments below. In addition, check out the forum and newsletter for communion with the brethren and further teaching.
I leave you now with the Aaronic Blessing and the Great Commission:
The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you
The Lord look upon you with his favor and give you His peace
Now go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all Christ has commanded you. And surely Christ is with you always, unto the very end of the age.