Pristine Grace

Romans 3:10-31 Exposition
by James Johnson
Romans 3:10-31 Exposition

Romans 3:10-18 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."

     The apostle Paul quotes from several different passages from Scripture including: Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalm 5, Psalm 140, Psalm 10, Isaiah 59:7-8, and Psalm 36:1. Paul’s main point in quoting all these passages is to emphasis the point of that no person ever has been righteous in the sight of God and this has been shown from many scriptures throughout the Old Testament. Paul is clearly showing how all men in and of themselves are never righteous and deserve the wrath of God. Righteousness can not be found within men and has never been found coming from man. Everything that proceeds from man’s nature is evil and against God. These verses are a clear indictment against the human race, whom stand completely guilty before the righteous God.

Romans 3:19 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.

     Paul concludes this summary of verses from scripture by showing that the law convicts all men. From Adam, the first man, to us, all of whom stand guilty of transgressing God’s law. No man can give any defense before God or have any excuse for their transgressions. All men are accountable to God for their sins and God has given the law to make sin known and show every person guilty before Him. When this verse is taken with the pervious verses is creates a clear picture of our status before God, which is that no one is righteous and all stand guilty and convicted by the Law, where we have no defense or excuse and are held accountable for our actions and unrighteousness before God almighty.

Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

     This verse shows that it is not possible to be justified before God through keeping the law. Law keeping is useless in creating righteousness in a person. The law was given to expose sin and declare the sinner as guilty before God. Given this fact, it is necessary to conclude that men are unable not to transgress the law of God, as the natural self is inclined to sin. Mankind was not created with an intrinsic righteousness. If mankind had an intrinsic righteousness then the fall would not have been possible and the preceding verses would be proved to be untrue. It is impossible to hold to Adam and Eve being created righteousness because if they were created righteous they would not have sinned. Even if Adam would have obey God perfectly in the garden it would not have led to righteousness because this verse clearly is showing that by the works of the law no human will be justified in God’s sight. It is impossible to have righteousness from the law. God is the only being who has an intrinsic righteousness. Given this fact then only God’s righteousness is valid.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

     This verse is speaking of the Righteousness of God which is apart from the Law because God is intrinsically righteous in and of Himself. God is the essence of righteousness and the law points to God’s righteousness and is derived from His righteousness. Apart from the law, God is righteous and is the only being in existence who is wholly righteous. This verse also shows us another important point to understand, which is the law and the prophets speak of God Righteousness. Throughout the Old Testament there are many examples of God’s righteousness being demonstrated and shown many of which point to Christ.

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:

     Verse 22 continues the thought in verse 21 to show that the righteousness that was being written about in the law and the prophets is the righteousness of Jesus Christ which is received through faith. It is important to look at the wording of this verse as it sets up a important doctrinal principle of the imputed righteousness of Christ. The key phrase is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”. Through faith in Jesus Christ all who believe receive the righteousness of God. Notice that the righteousness of God is “for all who believe” and it is through faith. Faith is the tool or instrument that is used to reveal to all who believe (The Elect) that the righteousness of God is for them. In no way can this verse be shown to be saying that faith in and of itself is imputed as our righteousness as this would be adding a completely new concept into the text. It is God’s righteousness that is being discussed in this verse. The verse ends by declaring that there is no distinction for those who receive the righteousness of God and the reason is explained in the next verse. It is essential to notice here that where it says "for all who believe" it is only talking about the Elect of God. It is not in any way referring to reprobate people but exclusively the elect, God's sheep. The elect are the ones in focus from this point through the rest of the chapter.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

     This verse gives the reason why there is no distinction and it is because all the elect have sinned and thus it is not because of any works or intrinsic righteousness on the part of those who believe but is completely because of God’s choice and mercy.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

     The conjunction at the beginning of this verse shows that the thought from the previous verse is continuing. So to continue… there is no distinction in those that believe because they have all sinned AND are justified by His grace as a gift and the key point is that it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Notice carefully what Paul is saying here. All those who believe are sinners who received grace as a gift having been redeemed in Christ. The only thing that makes the elect different from the rest of the human race is the fact of God's sovereign election of them which is only due to God's grace and mercy and not because of anything found within them.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

     This verse continues the previous verses train of thought adding that God the father put forward His Son as a propitiation through Christ’s blood, which is then received by faith to show God’s righteousness. The key point in this verse is the word propitiation, which in Greek is the word hilastÃ""rion which is defined as:

     1) relating to an appeasing or expiating, having placating or expiating force, expiatory; a means of appeasing or expiating, a propitiation
     1a) used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated); hence the lid of expiation, the propitiatory
     1b) an expiatory sacrifice
     1c) a expiatory victim

     Notice in the definition that this word is used when describing the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. This is where in the Old Covenant the high priest would sprinkle the blood of animals to atone for sins on the mercy seat, aka the lid of the ark. Inside the Ark of the Covenant were the tablets of stone (aka the Ten Commandments) and the law. The lid of the Ark covered the law and was sprinkled with blood to atone for sins. All this is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is being described as a covering where He is using His own blood as a cover for those who believe (The Elect). Jesus’ righteousness is covering the penalty of the law for the elect and He did it with his blood. This verse says the propitiation shows God’s righteousness which results in God passing over former sins. This supports the view that Christ’s Righteousness is imputed to the elect as a covering that results in God passing over the sins of the elect. Faith again is being described as the vehicle that is given to the elect and then used by the elect to realize that the righteousness of Christ is imputed as a sin covering.

Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

     In this verse it describes the reason for the previous four verses saying that all this revelation of God Righteousness in the elect is to reveal His righteous at the present time and to show that Christ is just and the justifier of the elect. It is important to see here that Christ, the second person in the trinity, is the justifier of the elect. It is through His death on the cross and His blood that we are justified and this is applied eternally. The elect of God have the knowledge of Christ’s righteousness imputed on their behalves revealed to them through faith. This then leads directly to the statement made in the next verse.

Romans 3:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

     Verse 27 shows us that boasting is excluded by this because it is not through works or any righteousness found within the elect but only in the righteousness of Christ that the elect boast in. The law of faith is mentioned as the reason for the exclusion of boasting because it is the gift of faith which points to the realization of the righteousness of Christ.

Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

     This verse describes the law of faith showing that the elect are justified by faith in Christ’s Righteousness imputed on their behalves apart from any works. The context of the preceding verses drives this interpretation. To claim that it is our faith imputed to us as our righteousness is to bring in a concept that is foreign to the text.

Romans 3:29-31 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, - 30 since God is one--who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. - 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

     These three verses show that what has just been talked about is for both Jew and Gentile alike and that God gives faith in Christ’s imputed righteousness to all types of men. Verse 31 is very important because it shows that faith in Christ’s imputed righteousness does not overthrow the law but upholds the law. The reason for this is because the imputed righteousness of Christ includes all aspects of His righteousness including His law keeping. Initially it would appear that the law is being overthrown because the elect are not subject to its penalty, however this is not the case. The law of God continues to be upheld because Christ righteousness is imputed on our behalf and our sin is paid for in full by Christ’s death on the cross. This satisfies the requirements of the law in every way.