1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?
The Jews reading this letter would then wonder what good it is to be a Jew in the first place. If the rituals do not save and God is impartial between Jew and Gentile, then is there still any special honor in being a Jew? The answer is that there is a great honor in being a Jew.
2Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
The Jews were given the Word of God. God spoke directly with them. God sent prophets to them. God did great miracles on their behalf and established the most powerful nation on earth until they rebelled. The Son of God came through the line of David and was Himself a Jew. They have the ark of the covenant, the ten commandments, and the sacrificial system which will be reintroduced in the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 40-48). There is great honor in being a Jew. They are God’s people and God will not reject them for their unbelief forever. He promises to eventually write the law of God on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).
3What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
Knowing that Israel is still the apple of God’s eye, it is important to understand that just because they were unfaithful does not mean that God will forget His promises to Israel. His promises are unilateral and unconditional. Even though they have rejected Him, He will give them hearts to honor Him and give them everlasting honor in and through Christ and His kingdom.
4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,
"THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS,
AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."
God will be true according to His promises no matter what. If man tries to claim that God is a liar, it only further gives evidence that man himself is a liar. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Quoting from Psalm 51:4, Paul shows that God will be justified in His words and prevail when unrighteous man tries to judge Him. Mankind will themselves be judged for making such assertions about the integrity of God.
5But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)
We see God’s righteousness by His being faithful to keep His promises despite the unfaithfulness of man, particularly of Israel. It is perfectly just for God to inflict wrath in accordance with His righteousness. Unrighteousness will be met with God’s wrath because God is righteous. The parenthesis explains that Paul is role playing, acting as a questioner who objects to what Paul is saying. Paul develops and answers the objection before anyone has a chance to think it as the letter is read.
6May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?
God is perfectly just to judge the world according to His righteousness and because of the unrighteousness of man. There is no glory that can be credited to man just because God’s righteousness is more clearly seen against the backdrop of man’s unrighteousness.
7But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?
In other words, God is glorified in the fact that His righteousness is more clearly seen. (Role playing again) So if through the unrighteousness and deceit of man God is glorified as His truth is made more evident, then why is man still guilty and judged as a sinner and as one who is unrighteous? In other words, Paul is expecting the listeners to self-justify by saying that their sin gives glory to God because it showcases God’s glory. It is ludicrous, but it is what the heart of man does.
8And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just.
Again, the idea is that, from man’s evil, good comes in that it shows how good God is when He is contrasted with man’s evil. Some have even said and taught that Paul and the apostles are teaching such nonsense. It is never right to do evil so that good may come because the good God wants is a righteous heart. Any who teach such things and who tell others that the apostles are teaching such things are false teaching, and their condemnation and judgment will be just. They even serve as an illustration of how evil will be punished by God’s just wrath.
9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;
Moving on, then, Paul explains that all men are wicked just as those who try to rationalize their own evil behavior. Left to himself, no man is free from the power of evil. All men, Jew and Greek, are under sin. They are enslaved by its power and prone to do its bidding. They cannot by themselves break free. No one is better than any other because all are under sin.
10as it is written,
"THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
13"THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,"
"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,
16DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN."
18"THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."
Paul explains as Scripture says that no man is righteous, not even one. There are no anomalies and no special cases. No man left to himself understands the things of God or seeks after God. There are no seekers who seek solely because of their own ability to desire and find God. God must draw them by His Spirit. All have turned away from the path of truth and are thus useless for the purposes of God. They are incapable of doing good, as everything they do is by nature self-centered. Everything that comes out of their mouth is deceit and lies. They can’t be trusted because they backbite and do not tell the truth. They curse God and others and are downright bitter about their state. They hate, they kill, and they destroy, making misery for all men. No one feels safe. There is no peace because they don’t know peace nor can they get on that path by themselves. They have no fear of Almighty God, though they know that they will be judged by Him. Going on in sin, they do not care about how God feels about it. Amazingly, they do not fear His judgment.
19Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
The purpose of the Law of Moses is here revealed. Those who are under the Law are spoken to by the Law, being informed by the Law that they are sinners. The Law is a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ by showing us our sin (Galatians 3:24). It stops every mouth from self-justification because no man has ever kept every point of the Law. Most don’t come anywhere even close. The Law clearly defines God’s expectations for man so that man knows that for which he is accountable.
20because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Just by trying to keep the Law no person can be saved. No one can be justified by trying to do the works of the Law because no man can fulfill the Law and keep all of the points of it. The sin nature takes the “Thou shalt not…” and lusts after whatever it was told not to do. The Law exposes sin, and it makes it perfectly clear how we have fallen short of God’s standards of perfection and holiness.
21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
The work of the Law is to show men their sinfulness and inability to be made righteous before God. Their own lack of ability to keep the Law makes it impossible for any man to fulfill righteousness through the Law. But what man couldn’t do, God did through sending Christ. Christ’s righteousness was not because He kept the Law, though He did. His righteousness was inherent in His person. He was born without sin, unlike the rest of man, and He never sinned. He was perfectly righteous, regardless of the Law because He is God and God is the definition of righteousness. The Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) is full of references to the coming of Christ (Genesis 3:15, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Isaiah 53, etc.) The fact that righteousness had to come from outside of the Law is demonstrated by the fact that Messiah was predicted even before the Law was ever instituted (Genesis 3:15). If the Law had been sufficient, a Messiah wouldn’t have been necessary.
22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
The righteousness of God, since it is not through the Law but apart from it, is through Christ. It is appropriated to those who believe in Christ and put their faith in His work as Messiah rather than in their own work apart from the Messiah. Righteousness is God’s and of God. The only way we can attain to it is through a mediator, namely Christ.
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
The reason that we cannot make ourselves righteous is because we have all sinned. We were born into sin, being bent to do evil from early on. As such, we do not measure up to the standard of God. We fall short of His glorious perfection and holiness. Man must see the holiness and glory of God as a contrast to his lack of righteousness.
24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Just as all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all have the opportunity through Christ to be justified. The justification is through the grace of God the Father through the buying back (paying for sin and its penalty) of our souls through Christ. We must be redeemed, and the one doing the redemption must be God who does so through the righteousness of Christ. We must respond to His calling through faith and receive the gift of salvation so that Christ’s righteousness can be credited to our accounts.
25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
We must understand that left to ourselves we are at enmity with God. God’s wrath is stored up and ready to be poured out in the life to come. But the good news is that God through Christ made a public declaration to the world that He loved us and would make it possible for us to be righteous. God’s wrath could be satisfied through the propitiation in Christ’s blood. A perfect blood sacrifice of the righteous Lamb of God is the means by which man is saved. The righteousness of Christ is appropriated by faith in the sufficiency of that sacrifice. The giving up of His own Son demonstrated that God would not hold men to the sin that was on their account, assuming of course that they would receive Christ by faith. This is not a get out of jail free card for all mankind, though all mankind are allowed to receive it should God give them the grace to choose Him. The death of Christ showed God’s forbearance in being willing to not hold men to the judgment and wrath that should have been theirs. Yet this forbearance is only appropriated to those who have faith in the Word of God as revealed in the Old Testament or in the time period in which they lived.
26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
God demonstrated His righteousness in that chosen time, so near to when Paul was writing. This showed that God is just, not judging man for something that they had no chance to ever be saved from. It also showed that God Himself is the justifier of the person who puts their faith in Christ. Often we credit Christ with doing the act of justification, but it is actually God who does it through Christ. God sent His Son, and we are to thank Him.
27Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
Justification by faith by definition gives no man the opportunity or grounds to boast. Man’s salvation is by the grace of God and not because of any righteousness of his own. No keeping of the Law can generate this righteousness because it is apart from the Law. The law (small “l”) of faith precludes that any person can boast in works. This is just the way it works because of God’s sovereign plan. The law of faith means that the Law of Moses and the law of works cannot save. Otherwise man would have reason to steal God’s glory and boast.
28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
The bottom line essential truth that Paul wants to communicate is that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Man’s righteousness is found in and through Christ, which has nothing to do with man’s own righteousness in keeping the Law.
29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
If the justification had been through the Law, then only those who had the Law could have been justified. That would mean that Jews could be saved but Gentiles could not. Yet God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles, desiring all men to come to a knowledge of the Son of God.
30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
Justification is not because of the Law or because of circumcision. God is impartial to Jew and Gentile, saving both through faith.
31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
Anticipating an objection about the worthlessness of the Law, Paul explains its purpose. The Law is not nullified through faith or because of the fact that righteousness is through faith. The Law is the Law; it just so happens that righteousness comes apart from the Law. What faith does is establish the Law, showing it to be of value and of God. Its purpose is that it shows man that he cannot keep it. Thus faith is the perfect conclusion to the work and testimony of the Law, establishing its purpose and design.