Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 3:1-22a

God’s Righteousness Upheld

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though (F)every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
    and prevail when you are judged.”

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? 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.

No One Is Righteous

What then? Are we Jews[a] any better off?[b] No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
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.”
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.”

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. 20 For by works of the law no human being[c] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s warning about circumcision being useless for those who had the religious procedure and then never obeyed God’s law.

Christians can substitute baptism for circumcision and heed Paul’s warning similarly.

Today’s post has a lot of messages. I decided to run Romans 3 in one post, because I had written about most of it many years ago before I began going through one book of the New Testament at a time. The older posts will appear below.

Paul picks up where he left off with the first two verses.

In verse 1, he asks what advantage does the Jew have if he is circumcised. He answers by saying that there is much in circumcision for the Jew, as they were given ‘the oracles of God’ (verse 2).

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

They were marks of God’s care, they were marks of God’s concern, they were marks of God’s love. They were aids to their deliverance from sin. They were instructions for the blessing of the Holy Spirit. God gave them all of these things and they just never really lived up to what they possessed. Great advantage, great privilege, great priority, great preeminence was given to the people of Israel but they wasted it. They had the privilege of proclaiming the true God. They had the privilege of revealing the Messiah. They had the privilege of blessing from God as they served faithfully. They had the privilege of a land. They had a privilege of an ultimate restoration and glory in the final kingdom. They had all of these privileges.

You can read at length about Romans 3:1-8 here. Ultimately, God’s promise of salvation is a constant. He will save those who believe in Him and follow His Word. Is God really being ‘unfair’ in judging our sins? St Paul firmly answers, ‘No’ (verse 6). God will judge us equally and do so on His terms, not our own. As for verses 7 and 8, how can we think that sin can produce goodness, especially if we cloak it in God’s name? One example would be of clergy who embrace all sorts of error in order to attract greater attendance at church. It is commonplace today for clergy to say, ‘Don’t worry about what the New Testament says. We’ve moved on. Go and enjoy yourselves.’

Then Paul comes right out and cites various passages from the Old Testament which say that no one is righteous in and of himself. We need God’s grace for our faith in and obedience to Him. Why? Because we are all inherently sinful, even if baptism removes Original Sin. I have a lengthy post about Romans 3:9-20 which explains our vulnerability and inclination to sin. Paul says that because we are all guilty of sin, we cannot use the Law in our defence (verse 20). Only God can use it in judgement, and it will be in our condemnation. However, what we can do is to use the Law to make us aware of sin and to pray for God’s divine grace to keep us from sinning. This is why we cannot merit Heaven through our own works. Salvation can come only through faith.

This brings us to verse 21 and the first part of verse 22, wherein Paul announces that the righteousness of God has been made manifest apart from the law through faith in Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur explains:

The doctrine of salvation in the Scripture is very clear. God saves us by grace through faith, not human effort. But part of God’s gracious work is to bring us to repentance and to bring us to confession and to bring us to submission to the lordship of Christ. Now why do people have such a hard time allowing that to be the gracious work of God in our hearts? Because I say that I believe the Bible teaches you have to repent of your sin doesn’t mean that I decide to repent of my sin all by myself and I sort of resolve that in my own heart. No, no, no, that is a gracious work of God as much as any other thing. Because I say you need to submit yourself to the lordship of Christ in salvation does not mean that I do that in my flesh. It means that God produces that in me through His gracious act of salvation. You see, justification is the initiating of the sanctifying process, or the purifying process, and it begins with turning from sin to God, Acts 20. Anything less is religious reformation. And you know what happens to people who religiously reform? They get swept and garnished and they’re still (What?) empty, and eight more come back and the end is worse than the beginning.

So, when you say salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that. But I believe in that gracious work there is a transforming of the nature of the individual.

Therefore, the conduct of such persons manifests itself to others. It is a transformation made possible not by our own actions but by God’s grace working through us:

If there’s no manifestation of a righteous pattern [in a person], then you know that the work didn’t get done because if he was redeemed he would have been presented holy and unblamable and unreprovable. And that is not only to be seen as a positional reality but is to be manifest as a practical truth as well …

So, sanctification, righteous manifestation, godly behavior, holy activity is the manifestation of genuine salvation.

God’s mercy and love for us is so great that He saves us regardless of our status in society. We do not need money, multiple university degrees or social standing. We do not have a caste system, as some other world faiths do.

For that, we should be eternally grateful to our Creator and to our Saviour.

Paul writes more about circumcision — in the context of the Old Testament — in Romans 4.

Next time — Romans 4:6-12