• Brian O'Kelly

25 - Romans 3:1-20

Updated: Sep 10


1. 3 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

2. 7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.



3. Let’s unpack this now

4. 1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?

4.1. They were given this mark in their bodies to identify them.

4.1.1. How would people know?

4.1.2. Public Nudity was quite common. There were no tidy whities.

4.1.3. There were no nice, neat stalls for using the bathroom. There were no showers or bathtubs at home so people often cleaned themselves in the river or the lake.

4.1.4. Many people had only one garment.


4.1.4.1. Did your mom ever tell you to make sure you are wearing clean underwear in case you were in an accident?

4.1.5. There were also a thing called a miqva’ot. The issue of “purity” was a crucial one in Judaism of Jesus’ day. There are over 700 ancient miqva’ot – most dating before AD 70, spread over Judea and Galilee. A miqva’ot is a pool in which Jews would immerse themselves to become ritually clean. They are basically Jewish baptisteries. The presence of these miqva’ot, btw, also explains why (historically) no one ever argued about baptism in Palestine because ritual immersion was universally regarded by Jews as necessary for purification in Judaism. Such a miqva’ot is the site of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9.

5. 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

5.1. The Jews had been given and preserved Gods word. They had more information. Paul is issuing an indictment of the Jews in Jerusalem. He’s letting them know that as Jews who had the word of God that they should’ve known better. A higher level of responsibility and accountability.

6. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?

6.1. Our belief in God doesn't add to Him, nor does our unbelief detract from Him. God is faithful regardless of what we do.

6.2. What Paul is addressing here is the idea that the Jews were supposed to be saved by the Messiah. I mean, here they are, the Messiah has come and obviously some of the Jews hadn’t become Christians, hadn’t come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and for this reason some people were questioning whether God was faithful.

6.3. Paul is asking here these rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are questions that are not really intended to elicit an answer, but to make a point through the interrogative and so Paul has been asking a series of rhetorical questions:

6.3.1. “What advantage has the Jew?

6.3.2. What is the profit of circumcision?

6.3.3. What if some did not believe?

6.3.4. Will their unfaithfulness make God somehow unfaithful?


7. 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “ That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”

7.1. Here Paul is answering his own questions. Absolutely not, it doesn’t matter what men do or say, it won’t change God’s faithfulness.

7.2. Paul is referencing Psalm 51. Whenever you see the words “as it is written” we should go and find out where it is written and what it means.

7.3. Psalm 51:3-4

7.3.1. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

8. At this point I’d like you to watch how often in the upcoming versus Paul references the way people speak and important our words are.

8.1. When you tell a lie, what are you doing? You’re speaking. Or sometimes you’re not speaking. But in either case you are representing, verbally or otherwise something untrue. If you’re not using words for example in pantomime or charades the actions or motions represent words.

8.2. The third verse of Genesis says “Then God said, “Let there be light”

8.3. There is power in our words. What we say is of great consequence.

8.3.1. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”

8.3.2. And again in Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

8.4. The word of faith movement has also observed this power of speech in the power of God’s word.

8.4.1. Where they have made a serious error is in the thinking that words themselves have power. The idea as they communicate it is that words are “containers” of power and that there are laws of the universe that even God himself is subject to.

8.4.2. It’s similar to the Christian Science movement of Mary Baker Eddy. She believed that Jesus understood the principles of the universe and that all we must do is understand and appropriate the same and we will be like Jesus.

8.4.3. In the word of faith movement, they say that all you have to do is “speak it into existence”. In the new age movement this is called “manifesting”.

8.4.4. This I believe, is a perverse understanding. The word of faith movement makes God subject to the laws of the universe that He set up. They articulate the idea that God has put power into words and that those words then need to be obeyed even by God himself. Comes from that you can have whatever you ask God for. You may of heard some word of faith preachers say that after all you are a child of the King, if you are living like royalty then you aren’t living in your proper status. And if you’re not living in this Royal extravagant situation it’s simply because you aren’t exercising sufficient faith in your words. Hence the name “word of faith”

9. 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)

9.1. Paul is asking that another rhetorical question here: If my sins show how God is righteous, then why should He judge us or be angry with us for doing so?

9.2. Since God has said that all men have sinned, some people say they sin to prove that God spoke the truth.

9.3. When Paul says I speak as a man, he isn't trying to imply that he is no longer speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and proper apostolic authority; he is explaining that only as a man would anyone dare to question God's justice.

9.4. 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

10. 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

10.1. This is the second time Paul says “certainly not”. It becomes very clear as you read this that Paul is countering the arguments that he either knows or suspects some are making.

11. 7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

11.1. It appears that some people at least were making a claim that this was the teaching of Paul and the apostles. That if they went on sinning and demonstrating thereby, God’s goodness than why is God judging them?

12. 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” 13 “Their throat is an open [d]tomb; With their tongues they have practiced 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 they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

13. So let’s unpack that section:

14. 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

14.1. So who is the we in “are we better than they?” The Jews, is who he is referencing when he says we. And he immediately clears it up both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.

14.2. The traditional teaching is that chapter 1 was demonstrating that the Greeks or the Gentiles were under sin, and chapter 2 was to say the same thing about the Jews. Here Paul is basically clarifying that the same teaching about being under sin applies to both the Greek and the Jew.

15. 10 As it is written: “ There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

15.1. This is a direct quote from Psalm 53 and verses one through three. Let me read that to you:

15.1.1. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

15.1.2. Who is this about? This is about people who say that there is no God. In other words it’s about atheists. This is not, as is so often taught a verse that is claiming total depravity as the Calvinists do. Through my day job I know and have become friends with a number of Muslims. Some of them are listening to this podcast now. These guys aren’t people who don’t believe in God. They’re not atheists.

15.1.3. Further, this is poetry and as poetry often does it uses hyperbole. You’ll often hear in Christian circles things like “the problem with the churches today” or “Christians _________________”. now course often the person speaking is complaining about a general state of things and often were typically not about their own church or about their own Christian walk. This is no different with David here. David wasn’t a man who said “there is no God” and he knew others who didn’t say that either. Neither was David making a claim that no one ever did any good, he knew that he himself had done some good and he knew others who did some good things. This simply is not teaching a doctrine of total depravity.

16. 13 “ Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”

16.1. Again, Paul is quoting Psalm, in this case Psalm five and verse nine:

16.2. Explain why an open tomb is a problem and how the practice of whitewashing worked

17. “ The poison of asps is under their lips”;[d] Psalm 140:3 14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Psalm 10:7

17.1. They say evil destructive things. And not only do they say evil things, they do evil things.

18. 15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Isaiah 59:7

19. Every man is guilty before God. There's not one man who dares to stand before God in his own righteousness. It doesn’t matter what your lineage is, whether you are Jewish or Gentile regardless, Paul is explaining this is the condition of man independent of who you are..

20. 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20.1. Who are those who are under the law? The Jews of course. It was assumed that the Gentiles were guilty before God. Paul here is explain that the law and the inability of the Jews to keep it was a demonstration that they were no better which is why he says “all the world”

21. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21.1. No man can be justified by keeping the law. The law was intended to show us our sin, not to justify us. "Justified" means "Just as if I'd never sinned."