To the Romans 3:1-31

3  What, then, is the advantage of the Jew, or what is the benefit of circumcision?  A great deal in every way. First of all, that they were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.+  What, then, is the case? If some lacked faith, will their lack of faith invalidate the faithfulness of God?  Certainly not! But let God be found true,+ even if every man be found a liar,+ just as it is written: “That you might be proved righteous in your words and might win when you are being judged.”+  However, if our unrighteousness highlights God’s righteousness, what are we to say? God is not unjust when he expresses his wrath, is he? (I am speaking in human terms.)+  By no means! How, otherwise, will God judge the world?+  But if by my lie the truth of God has been made more prominent to his glory, why am I also being judged as a sinner?  And why not say, just as some men falsely claim that we say, “Let us do bad things that good things may come”? The judgment against those men is in harmony with justice.+  What then? Are we in a better position? Not at all! For above we have made the charge that Jews as well as Greeks are all under sin;+ 10  just as it is written: “There is not a righteous man, not even one;+ 11  there is no one who has any insight; there is no one who searches for God. 12  All men have turned aside, all of them have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not so much as one.”+ 13  “Their throat is an open grave; they have deceived with their tongues.”+ “Venom of asps is behind their lips.”+ 14  “And their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”+ 15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood.”+ 16  “Ruin and misery are in their ways, 17  and they have not known the way of peace.”+ 18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”+ 19  Now we know that all the things the Law says, it addresses to those under the Law, so that every mouth may be silenced and all the world may become accountable to God for punishment.+ 20  Therefore, no one will be declared righteous before him by works of law,+ for by law comes the accurate knowledge of sin.+ 21  But now apart from law God’s righteousness has been revealed,+ as the Law and the Prophets bear witness,+ 22  yes, God’s righteousness through the faith in Jesus Christ, for all those having faith.+ For there is no distinction.+ 23  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,+ 24  and it is as a free gift+ that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness+ through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.+ 25  God presented him as an offering for propitiation+ through faith in his blood.+ This was to demonstrate his own righteousness, because God in his forbearance was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past. 26  This was to demonstrate his own righteousness+ in this present season, so that he might be righteous even when declaring righteous the man who has faith in Jesus.+ 27  Where, then, is the boasting? There is no place for it. Through what law? That of works?+ No indeed, but through the law of faith. 28  For we consider that a man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law.+ 29  Or is he the God of the Jews only?+ Is he not also the God of people of the nations?+ Yes, also of people of the nations.+ 30  Since God is one,+ he will declare circumcised people righteous+ as a result of faith and uncircumcised people righteous+ by means of their faith. 31  Do we, then, abolish law by means of our faith? Not at all! On the contrary, we uphold law.+


Study Notes

salvation begins with the Jews: Or “salvation originates with the Jews.” Jesus’ statement implies that the Jewish people had been entrusted with God’s Word, pure worship, and the truth that could lead to salvation. (Ro 3:1, 2) They were also chosen as the people from whom the Messiah would come, fulfilling God’s promise regarding the “offspring” of Abraham. (Ge 22:18; Ga 3:16) When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, it was only through the Jews that a person could learn the truth about God and what he required as well as details about the Messiah. Israel was still God’s channel, and any who wished to serve Jehovah had to do so in association with his chosen nation.

Luke: The Greek form of the name is Lou·kasʹ, from the Latin name Lucas. Luke, the writer of this Gospel and of Acts of Apostles, was a physician and a faithful companion to the apostle Paul. (Col 4:14; see also “Introduction to Luke.”) Because of his Greek name and his style of writing, some have claimed that Luke was not a Jew. Also, at Col 4:10-14, Paul first speaks of “those circumcised” and later mentions Luke. However, that claim runs contrary to the indication at Ro 3:1, 2, which says that the Jews “were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” Therefore, Luke may have been a Greek-speaking Jew with a Greek name.

in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms: Jesus was here evidently grouping the entire inspired Hebrew Scriptures in the way adopted by the Jews and known to them. “The Law” (Hebrew, Toh·rahʹ) refers to the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. “The Prophets” (Hebrew, Nevi·ʼimʹ) refers to the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures, including the so-called Former Prophets (the Bible books of Joshua through Kings). “Psalms” refers to the third section, which contains the remaining books of the Hebrew Scriptures and is called the Writings, or in Hebrew, Kethu·vimʹ. The designation “Psalms” is used because it was the first book of the third section. The term “Tanakh,” a Jewish designation for the Hebrew Scriptures, comes from combining the first letter of each of these three sections (TaNaKh). Jesus’ use of these three terms indicates that the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was well-established when he was on earth and was approved by him.

they were entrusted with: That is, the Jews. (See Glossary, “Jew.”) Moses wrote at De 29:29: “The things revealed belong to us [Israelites] and to our descendants forever.” At Ps 147:19, 20, God is said to declare “his word . . . to Israel,” something he had not done “with any other nation.” Jesus alluded to the Jews’ being entrusted with God’s word of salvation and true worship when he said: “Salvation begins with the Jews.” (Joh 4:22; see study note.) Paul here confirms that Jehovah had entrusted the Jews with writing the Hebrew-Aramaic portion of the inspired Scriptures. Also, the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures were composed by the Jewish disciples of Jesus. So the Jews were custodians of Scriptural knowledge, and they were responsible for composing the books of the entire Bible canon.​—See study notes on Lu Title and 24:44.

sacred pronouncements: This expression occurs only four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and it translates the plural form of the Greek word loʹgi·on (meaning “little word”), a diminutive of loʹgos (word). Originally, loʹgi·on meant only a brief sacred statement, but in time it came to signify any divine communication. Paul here referred to the entire Hebrew Scriptures and apparently also to the part of the Christian Greek Scriptures written up to that time. The writing of this body of inspired Scriptures was entrusted to the Jews, who wrote “as they were moved by holy spirit.” (2Pe 1:20, 21) In the Septuagint, the word loʹgi·on is often used to render Hebrew expressions that refer to God’s pronouncements, such as at Ps 12:6 (11:6, LXX): “The sayings of Jehovah are pure.”

Certainly not!: This expression renders a Greek phrase that Paul uses ten times in his letter to the Romans. It is also rendered “By no means!” and “Not at all!” (Ro 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11) A more literal rendering would be “Never may it occur (happen).” It is an emphatic way of making a negative response to questions that are often rhetorical. It expresses strong aversion to the idea, as if to say, “Away with the thought.”

let God be found true: Paul’s exclamation “Certainly not!” at the beginning of this verse is in reply to the question he raised in the preceding verse: “If some lacked faith, will their lack of faith invalidate the faithfulness of God?” The majority of Jews of that day showed a lack of faith, particularly when they rejected the Hebrew Scripture prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. (Ro 3:21) By taking that position, they​—the people to whom God had entrusted those “sacred pronouncements” (Ro 3:2)​—made it seem that Jehovah had been untrue to his promises. But Jehovah had faithfully fulfilled those pronouncements through Christ. In establishing that God is trustworthy, Paul quoted the words of King David, as rendered in the Septuagint: “That you [God] might be proved righteous in your words.” (Ps 51:4 [50:6, LXX]) In that verse, David admitted his error, acknowledging that God is true and righteous. He did not try to justify himself and discredit God. Paul used David’s words to show that God is always loyal and true, regardless of who or how many claim otherwise.

all have sinned: Paul makes a similar point at Ro 3:9, 12; 5:12. The Greek word rendered fall short of could also be rendered “fail to reach” or “come short of.” God created humans “in his image” by giving them the ability to reflect his personality and qualities. (Ge 1:26, 27) However, when the first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command (Ge 2:15-17; 3:1-6), they came short of reflecting the glory of God, including his glorious qualities. Since all of Adam’s offspring have inherited sin and its consequence, death, every member of the human family falls short of properly reflecting God’s lofty qualities.

under sin: That is, under the power of sin. The Greek preposition hy·poʹ, “under,” here conveys the idea of being under the control of someone or something. In the Bible, sin is personified as a domineering master who holds humans in slavery. (Joh 8:34; Ro 6:16-20; 7:14) In a similar way, Paul describes sin as ruling “as king.”​—Ro 5:21.

sin: The basic Greek term for “sin” in the Scriptures is ha·mar·tiʹa. This is the first occurrence of the word in the book of Romans. The related verb, ha·mar·taʹno, literally means “to miss,” in the sense of missing a target or not reaching a goal. For example, secular Greek writers used ha·mar·taʹno with regard to a spearman missing his target. The corresponding Hebrew terms chat·taʼthʹ, “sin,” and cha·taʼʹ, “to sin,” convey a similar meaning. At Jg 20:16, cha·taʼʹ is used with a negative to describe the Benjaminites who “could sling a stone to within a hairbreadth and would not miss.” Both the Hebrew and the Greek terms could refer to missing, or failing to reach, not only physical goals but also moral or intellectual ones. But in the Scriptures, these terms refer mainly to human sin, a failure to live or act in harmony with moral standards set by the Creator. (Ge 39:9; 1Sa 7:6; Ps 51:4; Da 9:8; Lu 15:18; Ro 2:12; 5:12) The Septuagint often uses the verb ha·mar·taʹno to render the Hebrew verb cha·taʼʹ.​—See study note on Ro 3:23.

just as it is written: Paul often used this phrase (Greek, ka·thosʹ geʹgra·ptai, form of graʹpho, “to write”) to introduce quotes from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. (Ro 2:24; 3:10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:26; 15:3, 9, 21; 1Co 1:31; 2:9; 2Co 8:15) In his letter to the Romans, Paul quoted more than 50 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and made numerous other references or allusions to them.

just as it is written: In verses 10 through 18, Paul uses several quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to prove his point “that Jews as well as Greeks are all under sin.” (Ro 3:9) In verses 10 through 12, the quotes are taken from Ps 14:1-3 and Ps 53:1-3; Ro 3:13 is taken from Ps 5:9 and Ps 140:3; Ro 3:14, from Ps 10:7; Ro 3:15-17, from Pr 1:16 and Isa 59:7, 8; and Ro 3:18, from Ps 36:1.​—See study note on Ro 1:17.

under law . . . by law: In Paul’s letter to the Romans, these are the first two occurrences of the Greek word for “law” (noʹmos). The expression without law in this verse renders the Greek word a·noʹmos. In this context, the term “law” refers to the Mosaic Law, as is true of most occurrences in the book of Romans. As used throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term “law” can refer to (1) a single or particular law, (2) God’s Law given through Moses, (3) all of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures or parts thereof, or (4) law as a guiding principle.​—See study notes on Mt 5:17; Joh 10:34; Ro 8:2.

the Law: See study note on Ro 2:12.

What has been born from the flesh is flesh: The Greek word for “flesh” (sarx) is here used to refer to a living being with fleshly or human heritage, along with its limitations.​—See study note on Joh 17:2.

all flesh: Or “all mankind; all people.” This expression is also found at Lu 3:6, which is a quote from Isa 40:5, where a Hebrew term with the same meaning is used.​—Compare study note on Joh 1:14.

one: Lit., “flesh.” The Greek word sarx is here used in the sense of a human, a being of flesh and blood.​—See study notes on Joh 3:6; 17:2.

all have sinned: Paul makes a similar point at Ro 3:9, 12; 5:12. The Greek word rendered fall short of could also be rendered “fail to reach” or “come short of.” God created humans “in his image” by giving them the ability to reflect his personality and qualities. (Ge 1:26, 27) However, when the first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command (Ge 2:15-17; 3:1-6), they came short of reflecting the glory of God, including his glorious qualities. Since all of Adam’s offspring have inherited sin and its consequence, death, every member of the human family falls short of properly reflecting God’s lofty qualities.

ransom: The Greek word lyʹtron (from the verb lyʹo, meaning “to let loose; to release”) was used by non-Biblical Greek writers to refer to a price paid to release those under bond or in slavery or to ransom prisoners of war. It occurs twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Mr 10:45. The related word an·tiʹly·tron appears at 1Ti 2:6 and is rendered “corresponding ransom.” Other related words are ly·troʹo·mai, meaning “to set free; to ransom” (Tit 2:14; 1Pe 1:18; also ftns.), and a·po·lyʹtro·sis, often rendered “release by ransom” (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15; 11:35; Ro 3:24; 8:23).​—See Glossary.

being declared righteous: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek verb di·kai·oʹo and the related nouns di·kaiʹo·ma and di·kaiʹo·sis, traditionally rendered “to justify” and “justification,” carry the basic idea of clearing of any charge, holding as guiltless, and therefore pronouncing and treating as righteous. For example, the apostle Paul wrote that the person who has died has been “acquitted [form of di·kai·oʹo] from his sin,” having paid the penalty, death. (Ro 6:7, 23) In addition to such usage, these Greek words are used in a special sense in the Scriptures. They refer to God’s viewing as guiltless an imperfect person who exercises faith.​—Ac 13:38, 39; Ro 8:33.

the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus: Or “the redemption that is in (by) Christ.” The Greek word a·po·lyʹtro·sis is related to several other words having to do with the ransom.​—See study note on Mt 20:28.

forbearance: Or “tolerance.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek noun a·no·kheʹ appears only here and at Ro 3:25. It literally means “a holding back” and could also be rendered “restraint.” A related Greek verb is used in a number of verses, where it is rendered “put up with” or “patiently endure” in connection with difficult circumstances. (Mt 17:17; 1Co 4:12; Eph 4:2) The verb is also used in the Greek Septuagint in reference to Jehovah’s showing restraint. (Isa 42:14; 64:12; LXX) Throughout human history, God has shown extraordinary kindness, tolerance, and patience by putting up with the blaspheming of his name, the cruel torture and execution of his Son, and the mistreatment of his loyal worshippers. God shows these qualities because he “is trying to lead [people] to repentance.” The apostle Peter also pointed this out.​—2Pe 3:9.

an offering for propitiation: Or “an offering for atonement (reconciliation).” The Greek word hi·la·steʹri·on, here rendered “an offering for propitiation,” and the related word hi·la·smosʹ, rendered “propitiatory sacrifice” at 1Jo 2:2 and 4:10, can signify a means of appeasement. In the Scriptures, these terms are used to refer to a restoration of good relations between God and man. When Adam was created as an earthly “son of God,” he enjoyed a peaceful relationship with his Creator. (Lu 3:38) By disobeying God and sinning, Adam forfeited his favorable relationship and his perfect human life. He also sold his descendants into slavery to sin and death. (Ro 5:12) God’s perfect justice required like for like in order for mankind’s relationship with God to be restored. (Ex 21:23-25; De 19:21) When Jesus sacrificed his perfect human life, the sacrifice he offered appeased, or satisfied, Jehovah’s standard of justice by providing the righteous and just basis for pardoning sin. Thereafter, God could “be righteous even when declaring righteous the [inherently sinful] man who has faith in Jesus.” (Ro 3:26) Jesus’ sacrifice made it propitious, or favorable, for humans to seek and receive restoration to a peaceful relationship with Jehovah. (Eph 1:7) At Heb 9:4, 5, the Greek word hi·la·steʹri·on is used in connection with the cover of the chest called “the ark of the covenant” and is rendered “the propitiatory cover” or, as found in the footnote, “the place of atonement.”

forbearance: Or “tolerance.”​—See study note on Ro 2:4.

was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past: Jehovah began to forgive sins even before Jesus provided the ransom to redeem Adam’s descendants from imperfection, sin, and death. This became possible from the moment Jehovah began to reveal his purpose to provide an “offspring” who would save believing mankind. (Ge 3:15; 22:18; Isa 53:5, 6, 10-12; Mt 20:28; Ga 3:19) From the viewpoint of God Almighty, the ransom was as good as paid; he had absolute confidence in the willingness of his Son to provide this sacrifice. (Ps 40:6-8; Heb 10:7-10) Nothing could ever prevent God from fulfilling his purpose. (Nu 23:19; Isa 46:10; Tit 1:2) Thus, God could pardon repentant sinners while at the same time maintain his own justice. (De 32:4; Ps 32:1, 2, 5; Isa 1:18) He could also declare faithful humans righteous in a relative sense, without compromising his standards of righteousness. (Ge 15:1, 6; Eze 14:14; Mt 23:35; Jas 2:23-25) Likewise, Jesus, while on earth as God’s representative, had the authority to forgive sins in advance of the ransom by applying the value of his yet future sacrifice to individuals of faith.​—Mt 9:2-6; Lu 7:36-50; Heb 2:9; see Glossary, “Ransom,” “Righteousness.”