We are studying the Letter to the Romans, written by the apostle Paul to the church at Rome,
which was composed of Jews and Gentiles. The gospel is Paul’s theme in this letter, and the first
half of the letter is a presentation of the gospel starting from the basics.
To this point, Paul has argued that:
i. People have rejected God→thinking is corrupted→worship idols→immorality
● Because people reject God, their thinking and feelings become distorted.
● As a result, we take created things and treat them as absolute, serving them
as if they were God.
● This leads into deep immorality in both personal and social spheres.
Now Paul turns to the Gentiles.
ii. Everyone is guilty before God because of their actions
● We all have some knowledge of what we should and should not do.
● We show this by judging. We judge others, and our conscience judges us.
● Measured against the standard of what we know, God’s will judge us on
what we do.
● So God is fair and impartial.
Then in last week’s passage, Paul turns to the Jews.
iii. Jews are guilty because they don’t obey God’s Law
● We saw that the Jews were chosen by God, and given God’s law. They took
these gifts as proofs they were superior to non-Jews
● However, Jews don’t obey the Law they were given. Even non-Jews notice
this, and blaspheme God because of it.
● Therefore the Jews being ‘chosen’ has no value.
● The knowledge of the Law or being part of the chosen people is not the
important issue. God is looking at the heart. It is obedience from the heart
and inward dedication to God that marks real Jewishness.
So that summarizes the argument of chapters 1-2.
Today, we will look at chapter 3, as Paul continues to address the Jews. He will give us three
possible objections to last week’s argument and answer those objections.
1. If obedience is what really matters, what use is it to be God’s chosen people?
2. Since Jews disobey God’s covenant and law, isn’t the Law irrelevant?
3. If God brings good out of evil, why shouldn’t I just do what I want?
Similar objections are still around today. You can see what you think as we go through these
2. #1 If obedience is what matters, what use is it to be God’s people?
3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?
Last week’s passage showed us that the Jews are also under judgement, because of their
breaking of the Law. According to Paul, the essence of Jewishness is obedience and dedication
from the heart. To fulfill the requirements of the Law is as good as being Jewish.
So here is the first objection : If the standard is obedience to what the Law requires, and non-Jews
can know instinctively what the Law is aiming at, what advantage is it to have been been set apart
as God’s chosen people?
In other words, what good is Jewishness? Is being a member of God’s chosen people actually
On similar lines, a modern skeptic might say: You are right. You don’t need to have a holy book to
know right from wrong. You don’t need to believe in God to be a good person. So why should I
worry about God, and religious teaching, etc.?
Paul’s answers is v2:
2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
This phrase ‘First of all’ is also used in 1:8: It doesn’t mean the first of a list of items, it simply
means ‘primarily’ or ‘mainly’.
Paul’s answer is to the objection is No. To be in relationship to God like the Jews has a big
advantage: chiefly, that they have been entrusted with the words of God. And they have recorded
these, and passed it on to the whole world, as the Bible.
This a big advantage because the Gentiles did not have these revelations from God.
Now, chapter 1 tell us that people in general know God is creator, of immense power, and divine,
that is, above the world. We look at the sun by day, and the stars in the night sky. We look at the
tomato plant on our balcony and marvel at how it grows and turns air and light into food. We
contemplate our hands at work, and wonder at the gift of our bodies and minds.
People also have a sense of what is right and wrong. But it is different than what the Jews know.
When Paul speaks to the Gentiles, he doesn’t give specific examples of sins, but when speaking to
Jews he gives examples from the Ten Commandments.
Again, from chapter 1, we know that our minds and hearts have become confused because we are
alienated from God. As a result, people have many different ideas about right and wrong; they
don’t agree with one another, and often they don’t agree with God’s Law either. For example,
sexuality and sexual ethics.
So there is a huge difference between Gentile and Jew in terms of knowledge. But what is this
difference, and does it really matter? Let’s quickly list some points:
1. There is a God, who created everything. He is not an impersonal force, but a personal
2. God is holy and good, and he hates evil and will judge it.
3. God created mankind for a purpose, to be in relationship to Him, and to manage the world.
But we turned away from Him and our actions became evil.
4. God has made covenants with mankind so we know how we are meant to live, and what
we can expect from Him in return.
So Paul’s answer to the modern skeptic could be something like: God’s Word gives us answers to
important questions we couldn’t know otherwise. Our observations of a fallen world cursed with sin
and the reasoning of our confused minds are insufficient and often misleading.
Broadly, knowing God’s word tells us about who God is, who we are, why we are here, and how to
find deep and lasting satisfaction in life. Because of the way God has made us, we are all looking
for answers to these questions.
But what Paul is focusing on here is God’s revelation to his chosen people of how he wants them
to live, which he has revealed in the Law.
3. #2 Since Jews disobey God’s covenant and law, isn’t the Law irrelevant?
v3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness ?
It is well known that the Jews were not faithful to their covenant. The OT is a history of the failure
of the Jews to keep the Law. And in the NT, we see Jesus giving God’s evaluation of the Jews:
instead of serving God, they want a God to serve them; they don’t want to fulfill the role he gave
them, to be a blessing and a light to the whole of humankind. Instead their privileged state as the
chosen people is turned inward into pride and contempt of others.
So, here is the second objection : what about the covenant? Doesn’t Jewish unfaithful
disobedience destroy the covenant relationship the Jews have with God?
Again, we turn to our modern skeptic who might say: Aren’t religious people hypocrites, having
high standards but not actually doing them? Isn’t religion is useless at best and toxic at worst?
Paul answers this by focusing back on God.
4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:
“So that you may be proved right when you speak, and prevail when you judge.”
The second half of v4 is a quote from Psalm 51:4, where David is confessing his sin of adultery
with Bathsheba and the conspiracy to have her husband killed. David is saying, ‘God, I have
broken your Law, I am in the wrong. You are right, and have every right to condemn me. You are
true, and I am false.’
So Paul’s answer is this: God is true, which is to say he is good and pure, consistent and reliable.
People are not, we are false, and not just some of us, but all of us.
Regardless of what people do, God will fulfill his covenant promises, whether it is to bless the
obedient, punish the faithless, or to forgive. God is completely trustworthy, and his judgements are
So even if religious people are all hypocrites, it does not invalidate what God says and promises to
4. #3 If God is glorified through my wickedness, my wickedness is unimportant
This third and final objection comes in two related pieces.
5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we
say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)
In other words, if sin shows God’s righteousness more clearly, removing sin would make God’s
righteousness less clear. And making God’s righteous less clear is a bad thing.
So the third objection starts off like this: if our moral failures just point out how good God is, then
since we are showing so clearly that God is good – which is a positive thing – then, why are we
punished for our failures when the net end result is positive?
This is a utilitarian argument: the ends justify the means. In other words, if the net effect is positive,
then any evil which contributed to the net effect is justified. Paul shows his distaste for this logic by
calling it a ‘human argument’
6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?
So Paul says in response: if this kind of logic excuses our sin because the final result is positive,
how will God be able to judge sin when it has contributed to a good result? In other words, how
could God judge the world to remove sin, if it has the negative effect of making God’s holiness less
Certainly not! Paul is having none of this nonsense. God will remove evil and establish
righteousness when he comes to judge the world with justice, repaying actions as they deserve as
we have seen in chapter 2.
Now let’s look at the second half of this objection.
7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases
his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously
claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!
Verse 8 says ‘.. as some slanderously claim that we say …’. From this we see that critics are
objecting to the gospel message preached by Paul and others, and Paul is including that criticism
So this is saying : if my falseness shows how wonderfully true God is, and in addition we are
forgiven freely by grace, then why don’t we sin as much as possible? God is glorified, and there is
no impact on me.
But again, this is just complete nonsense. The logic is so corrupt, and the suggestion is so
immoral, that Paul bursts out in condemnation of it.
But the objection is more often stated this way : God is not hurt by my sin because the greatness of
his forgiveness brings him glory. His forgiveness also takes my condemnation away.
Consequently, I can do whatever I want. Or, put another way: it doesn’t matter what I do; grace
Paul strongly disagrees, and he will come back to this objection in chapter 6, after he has laid the
foundation of how the gospel actually works.
But it is enough to say here two things:
1. God is not interested in looking good by making us look bad; he wants to heal and restore
2. the motivation for a Christian for avoiding evil and doing good has nothing to do with the
fear of condemnation and punishment.
5. Application / Conclusion
So we’ve done with the detailed argument for now. Let’s step back and see what has been
Paul said to the Jews: “you religious people, you are not okay.” And the religious people come
back and say basically this: “It’s God’s fault.”
“God hasn’t given us what we need. God hasn’t delivered on his promises. So why does he
condemn us? It’s unfair! God is only concerned with with his own glory, and doesn’t care about us.
So I’m just going to give up and do what I want.”
To which Paul says firmly: No, God is not the problem. You are the problem.
We all have a tendency to blame someone else for our problems, don’t we? No matter how
ridiculous the logic, we find some way of shifting the blame to other people and to God.
We do not need less of God, we need more.
Paul is trying to help us see through our excuses. If we can’t see and accept our failure, how will
we come to God for help?
Let’s think. Where is God’s glory? Where is the fairness of God? Where is his answer for our guilt?
Where is the fulfillment of his promises? Where is his provision for our need?
It’s Jesus, isn’t it? The Son of God whose glory was to lay down his glory so he could come to
rescue us. Jesus, who opens his arms to all the world without partiality. Jesus who died to take on
our condemnation so we could receive his reward. Jesus, who is the promised son of Eve who will
break the devil’s power, the seed of Abraham who brings blessing to the world. Jesus who is
God’s provision for us, everything we need.
Jesus who is the faithfulness of God, sent to bring us back to God. Jesus, the Word of God,
lighting the whole world and making us God’s children. Jesus, the Truth of God, who sets us free.
Jesus, the Righteousness of God, which we do not earn but is given as a gift.
Dear brothers and sisters, when we fail, and when we are discouraged, let us look at Jesus, the
faithfulness and truth of God.
Let us pray.