God’s Righteousness Upheld (Romans 3:1-8)

Many years ago, I was talking with someone about what ethnic group had faced more than any other ethnic group. What ethnic group faced more hardship, more genocide, more slavery, etc. The person I was talking with thought the African Americans have faced more than anyone else. I admit that it is true that the African Americans have faced unbearable crimes against them. They were enslaved in the American colonies starting in 1619 and going until 1865. They faced another 100 years of systemic racism, and of course other issues since. I cannot imagine having my children ripped from me for the purpose of slavery. I cannot imagine being taken across the Atlantic Ocean to be a slave. I cannot imagine what went on with the slave trade. John Newton wrote Amazing Grace because he ran a slave trade ship. He recognized how hurtful his sin was and how great God’s grace on him was. Still, I do not think the African Americans faced more than any other ethnic group. I think the Jewish people faced the most. What advantage was there, or is there, in being Jewish? That is a question Paul begins to answer in Romans 3.

But, what advantage is there in being Jewish? Listen to this history of the Jewish people.

They were menial slaves in Egypt for some 400 years

They eventually are freed and take the promised land. They eventually face a divided kingdom and then they are conquered. They soon are sent back to the promised land.

Not long after they rebuilt their homeland, they were conquered by Greece, and the despotic Antiochus Epiphanes revelled in desecrating their Temple, corrupting their sacrifices, and slaughtering their priests. Under Roman rule they fared no better. Tens of thousands of Jewish rebels were publicly crucified, and under Herod the Great scores of male Jewish babies were slaughtered because of his insane jealousy of the Christ child. In the year a.d. 70, the Roman general Titus Vespasian carried out Caesar’s order to utterly destroy Jerusalem, its Temple, and most of its citizens. According to Josephus, over a million Jews of all ages were mercilessly butchered, and some 100,000 of those who survived were sold into slavery or sent to Rome to die in the gladiator games. Two years previously, Gentiles in Caesarea had killed 20,000 Jews and sold many more into slavery. During that same period of time, the inhabitants of Damascus cut the throats of 10,000 Jews in a single day.

In a.d. 115 the Jews of Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia rebelled against Rome. When they failed, Emperor Hadrian destroyed 985 towns in Palestine and killed at least 600,000 Jewish men. Thousands more perished from starvation and disease. So many Jews were sold into slavery that the price of an able-bodied male slave dropped to that of a horse. In the year 380 Emperor Theodosius I formulated a legal code that declared Jews to be an inferior race of human beings—a demonic idea that strongly permeated most of Europe for over a thousand years and that even persists in many parts of the world in our own day.

For some two centuries the Jews were oppressed by the Byzantine branch of the divided Roman empire. Emperor Heroclitus banished them from Jerusalem in 628 and later tried to exterminate them. Leo the Assyrian gave them the choice of converting to Christianity or being banished from the realm. When the first crusade was launched in 1096 to recapture the Holy Land from the Ottoman Turks, the crusaders slaughtered countless thousands of Jews on their way to Palestine, brutally trampling many to death under their horses’ hooves. That carnage, of course, was committed in the name of Christianity.

In 1254 King Louis IX banished all Jews from France. When many later returned to that country, Philip the Fair expelled 100,000 of them again in 1306. In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain even as Columbus began his first voyage across the Atlantic, and four years later they were expelled from Portugal as well. Soon most of western Europe was closed to them except for a few areas in northern Italy, Germany, and Poland. Although the French Revolution emancipated many Jews, vicious anti-Semitism continued to dominate most of Europe and parts of Russia. Thousands of Jews were massacred in the Ukraine in 1818. In 1894, because of growing anti-Semitism in the French army, a Jewish officer named Dreyfus was falsely accused of treason, and that charge was used as an excuse to purge the military of all Jews of high rank.

When a number of influential Jews began to dream of reestablishing a homeland in Palestine, the Zionist movement was born, its first congress being convened in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. By 1914, some 90,000 Jews had settled in Palestine. In the unparalleled Nazi holocaust of the early 1940s at least 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated, this time for racial rather than religious reasons.[1]

Christianity is not about ethnicity, but the Apostle Paul is going to talk about that subject today.

My theme today:

God’s Righteousness is Upheld, God is righteous as a judge, even while we are sinners.

My application:

Remember Jesus is the righteous judge.

  • What advantages are there in being of a Jew or being circumcised (Romans 3:1-2)?

Read with me Romans 3:1-2:

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.

  • In this chapter the Apostle Paul answers questions. He uses a rhetorical device called a diatribe in which he has an imaginary conversation with his readers. We will read and study three questions today.
    • Paul asks the question. Remember the previous chapter was pretty much saying that the Jews are not excused. The Apostle Paul focused on the gentiles in chapter 1. In chapter one the Apostle Paul focused on how the gentiles do all these vile sins. Then in chapter 2 Paul zooms in on the Jewish people. They thought they were okay. Paul says that they are not okay. They need the Gospel as well. Paul says that they need a circumcision of the heart. Paul had just argued that a gentile can be a true Jew. So now he answers the logical question of what advantage it is to be a Jew in ethnicity.
    • In verse 2 Paul responds regarding the advantage of the Jew.
    • The Jewish people were entrusted with the Law.
    • The Jewish people were privileged. The Lord communicated to them, and called them out, and blessed them to bless the nations (Deut 4:8; Ps 147:19; Rom 9:4;[2]Genesis 12).
    • We must never forget the privilege of certain positions the Lord places us in.
    • Likewise, we know the Gospel and we should take it to heart and share with others.
  • Will Israel’s unfaithfulness nullify God’s promises (Romans 3:3-4)?

Read with me Romans 3:3-4:

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

  • The question is posed in verse 3. Remember in the previous chapter Paul talked about the unbelief of some. Paul talked about Jews that were Jews outwardly only.
    • Paul answers in verse 4a. God is true no matter what. God is true.
    • Paul strongly rejects their thinking.
    • MacArthur: If all mankind were to agree that God had been unfaithful to His promises, it would only prove that all are liars and God is true.[5]
    • Paul answers from Psalm 51:4 in 4b.
    • The quote in verse 4 is from the time when David is repenting from his sin with Bathsheba. David is saying that God is justified when He judges.
    • That is most critical to remember right now. God is a just judge.
    • Our sin is first against God.
  • If our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness, isn’t He unfair to punish us (Romans 3:5-8)?

Let’s read verses 5-8:

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.

  • The question is in verse 5.
    • Paul is considering a false implication. He is using a literary device called a diatribe.[7] The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul does not provide a full answer to the objection here (for that, see chs. 9–11). He shows that the Jewish objector’s position is untenable, for then God could not judge the (Gentile) world either, and no evil behavior would be punished.[8]
    • This question is important, and Paul will come back to a similar idea in Romans 9.
    • Remember that at the end of Romans 3:5 Paul says that he is speaking in human terms. This is a parenthetical apology for blasphemous thoughts of God as unjust.
    • In Romans 7:7 Paul says the law shows us that we are sinners.
    • The reply is in verses 6-8.
    • In verse 6: Paul says that He, God, has to judge the world. Paul uses a reductio ad absurdum argument. This means that he reduces the argument to the absurd. Of course God is the righteous judge. It is absurd to think God cannot judge.
    • Paul strongly rejects this thinking.
    • Paul says that if you follow that kind of thinking you might as well think the more you sin the better it is. Paul has been falsely accused of teaching this very thing—that is, do evil that good may result.[9] Paul strongly rejects this idea. See also Romans 6:1-2.
    • Verses 7-8 seem to be a rhetorical question trying to get them to think logically.
    • Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. They deserve condemned for the things they says that Paul says.
  • Applications: We must understand that there were advantages to ethnic Israel in that the Messiah our Savior, came through Israel (verses 1-2).
  • We must understand that there is a purpose for Israel based on Romans 11 and other passages (verses 1-2 and Romans 11).
  • We must understand that God is faithful (verses 3-4).
  • We must trust the Lord as faithful.  
  • We must understand that God is true (verse 4).
  • We must worship the Lord as the faithful One.
  • We must surrender before Him (Rev 4:8-11).
  • We must understand that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by Him (John 14:6).
  • We must trust Jesus for salvation.
  • We must trust Jesus for our day-to-day life.
  • When all the reports on the news say something different and we do not know who to trust, we must know that Jesus is truth.
  • When the medical advice changes, we must know that Jesus is truth.
  • When government leaders are not trustworthy, we must know that Jesus is the truth.
  • Jesus is the Truth and He is the way to salvation, we can trust Him. He is a righteous judge (Psalm 51:4), we will not be falsely accused, or misrepresented.
  • We can be saved forever through Him.
  • We must never sin that grace may abound (verses 5-8 and Romans 6:1-2).We must seek to grow and serve the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

So, as we can see the Apostle Paul begins to make the argument that God is a just judge. Further, that even if we are all liars it just shows that we are liars and God is the righteous judge. Don’t we yearn for that? Don’t we desire a righteous judge?

Have you surrendered to Him? Are you seeking Jesus?  


[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., Romans, vol. 1, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 164–165.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 3:2.

chap. chapter

[4] Edwin A. Blum, “Romans,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1784.

[5] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 3:4.

[6] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1747.

[7] A Graeco-Roman literary style characterized by a question-and-answer structure; used in much literature of the period, including New Testament letters (especially Paul’s). (David L. Woodall, “Diatribe,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

TIC That Incredible Christian)

[8] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2161.

[9] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 3:8.

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