Answers to Objections. 1* What advantage is there then in being a Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every respect. [For] in the first place, they were entrusted with the utterances of God.a 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God?b 4Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar,* as it is written:
“That you may be justified in your words,
and conquer when you are judged.”c
5But if our wickedness provides proof of God’s righteousness, what can we say? Is God unjust, humanly speaking, to inflict his wrath?d 6Of course not! For how else is God to judge the world? 7But if God’s truth redounds to his glory through my falsehood, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say—as we are accused and as some claim we say—that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.e
Universal Bondage to Sin.* 9Well, then, are we better off? Not entirely, for we have already brought the charge against Jews and Greeks alike that they are all under the domination of sin,f 10as it is written:g
“There is no one just, not one,
11there is no one who understands,
there is no one who seeks God.
12All have gone astray; all alike are worthless;
there is not one who does good,
[there is not] even one.
13Their throats are open graves;
they deceive with their tongues;
the venom of asps is on their lips;h
14their mouths are full of bitter cursing.i
15Their feet are quick to shed blood;j
16ruin and misery are in their ways,
17and the way of peace they know not.
18There is no fear of God before their eyes.”k
19Now we know that what the law* says is addressed to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God,l 20since no human being will be justified in his sight* by observing the law; for through the law comes consciousness of sin.m
III. Justification through Faith in Christ
Justification apart from the Law.* 21But now* the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets,n 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction;o 23all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.p 24They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,q 25whom God set forth as an expiation,* through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed,r 26through the forbearance of God—to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.
27s What occasion is there then for boasting?* It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith.* 28For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.t 29Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles,u 30for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith.v 31Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not!w On the contrary, we are supporting the law.*
* [3:1–4] In keeping with the popular style of diatribe, Paul responds to the objection that his teaching on the sinfulness of all humanity detracts from the religious prerogatives of Israel. He stresses that Jews have remained the vehicle of God’s revelation despite their sins, though this depends on the fidelity of God.
* [3:9–20] Well, then, are we better off?: this phrase can also be translated “Are we at a disadvantage?” but the latter version does not substantially change the overall meaning of the passage. Having explained that Israel’s privileged status is guaranteed by God’s fidelity, Paul now demonstrates the infidelity of the Jews by a catena of citations from scripture, possibly derived from an existing collection of testimonia. These texts show that all human beings share the common burden of sin. They are linked together by mention of organs of the body: throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, eyes.
* [3:19] The law: Paul here uses the term in its broadest sense to mean all of the scriptures; none of the preceding texts is from the Torah or Pentateuch.
* [3:20] No human being will be justified in his sight: these words are freely cited from Ps 143:2. In place of the psalmist’s “no living person,” Paul substitutes “no human being” (literally “no flesh,” a Hebraism), and he adds “by observing the law.”
* [3:21–31] These verses provide a clear statement of Paul’s “gospel,” i.e., the principle of justification by faith in Christ. God has found a means of rescuing humanity from its desperate plight: Paul’s general term for this divine initiative is the righteousness of God (Rom 3:21). Divine mercy declares the guilty innocent and makes them so. God does this not as a result of the law but apart from it (Rom 3:21), and not because of any merit in human beings but through forgiveness of their sins (Rom 3:24), in virtue of the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus for all who believe (Rom 3:22, 24–25). God has manifested his righteousness in the coming of Jesus Christ, whose saving activity inaugurates a new era in human history.
* [3:21] But now: Paul adopts a common phrase used by Greek authors to describe movement from disaster to prosperity. The expressions indicate that Rom 3:21–26 are the consolatory answer to Rom 3:9–20.
* [3:25] Expiation: this rendering is preferable to “propitiation,” which suggests hostility on the part of God toward sinners. As Paul will be at pains to point out (Rom 5:8–10), it is humanity that is hostile to God.
* [3:27–31] People cannot boast of their own holiness, since it is God’s free gift (Rom 3:27), both to the Jew who practices circumcision out of faith and to the Gentile who accepts faith without the Old Testament religious culture symbolized by circumcision (Rom 3:29–30).
* [3:27] Principle of faith: literally, “law of faith.” Paul is fond of wordplay involving the term “law”; cf. Rom 7:21, 23; 8:2. Since “law” in Greek may also connote “custom” or “principle,” his readers and hearers would have sensed no contradiction in the use of the term after the negative statement concerning law in Rom 3:20.
* [3:31] We are supporting the law: giving priority to God’s intentions. God is the ultimate source of law, and the essence of law is fairness. On the basis of the Mosaic covenant, God’s justice is in question if those who sinned against the law are permitted to go free (see Rom 3:23–26). In order to rescue all humanity rather than condemn it, God thinks of an alternative: the law or “principle” of faith (Rom 3:27). What can be more fair than to admit everyone into the divine presence on the basis of forgiveness grasped by faith? Indeed, this principle of faith antedates the Mosaic law, as Paul will demonstrate in Rom 4, and does not therefore mark a change in divine policy.