Romans 3 Study

A succinct study of Romans 3, containing commentary, supporting content, and discussion questions.

Romans 3 Bible Study

Have a Bible study? Attend one? Looking to delve deeper into the Word? You’ve come to the right place. We’re taking a bullet-point approach to scripture and giving you something digestible for each verse of this chapter. Select where you would like to beginning with the links below;

Section Overview

1. (v.1-8) Our minds are as depraved as our hearts. Paul is exposing our flawed logic related to all things we think we know about God’s righteousness and justice. Paul clips any remaining wings we might have after the first two chapters of Romans — we cannot rationalize our sin in any way, nor justify it by any means. Without God’s inspired Word, we can know and understand absolutely nothing about Him.

2. (v.9-20) The gavel strikes — we are helpless and dead. Paul pulls his argument together into an epic conclusion. That is that we are powerless to save ourselves, the law is incapable of bridging the abyss between man and God, and God is justified in His wrath.

3. (v. 21-31) Christ does what we can’t do for ourselves. He is both an atoning sacrifice for our sins and is also a gateway to the righteousness God requires of us. And we can access this gift of justification (being made righteous) through faith — no matter what time, place, demographic, background, or trial we find ourselves in.


Click to jump to verse 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20a, 20b21, 22, 23, 24, 25a, 25b26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 0r 31.

Romans 3:1 “‘What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?’”

After calling out Jews for their self-righteousness hypocrisy and calling for circumcision of the heart, he expected backlash.

Therefore, Paul begins the process of addressing potential questions and accusations that could be made against him based on his prior writings in chapters one and two. This is the humble beginnings for the volatile claims being made in verse 8.

Essentially, the question asked is this: “What’s the point of the Old Testament then, Paul?”

Romans 3:2 “Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.”

Paul immediately reassures Jews that there are advantages to being a Jew despite our fallen nature, namely that the holy scriptures were bestowed to them by God.

However, they were blind to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ because they had been so focused in their privileges as God’s people, ultimately forgoing responsibility to God’s word.

If the Jews, who had great knowledge of half of the Bible, are accountable, then how much more accountable are we as Christians who have the full text?

Romans 3:3 “What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?”

This second objection Paul deals with refers to the Jews’ security in God’s promises to the nation of Israel. The question hopes that despite the unfaithfulness of many individual Jews of old, God will continue to remain faithful to the nation as a whole.

Because Paul had just said that all men are under God’s wrath and the Old Testament law is insufficient, the questioner worries if God is no longer upholding his promise to deliver Israel.

Romans 3:4 “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.””

“Not at all!”

Paul emphatically rejects the previous verse’s notion, as God has always fulfilled His promise to the nation of Israel. The prospective arguer put too much weight on individuals inside of the nation of Israel being protected and not enough on the nation as a whole.

“Let God be true, and every man a liar.”

Paul added additionally emphasis on the first “No!” with another, saying basically that if every single person on the earth were to voice a single statement contrary to God, humanity would still be wrong. God will always be right, even if all mankind opposes Him.

And in this case, God will always uphold His promises and anything contrary to that is a lie.

The reference to Psalms 51:4 adds another pillar to his argument that God will never fall back on a promise, even if all humanity unites around the idea that he has.

Romans 3:5 “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.)”

What began as a possibly innocent objection at the start of the chapter has now taken a dramatic turn — devolving into a twisted and incoherent argument, one so bad only a human could make it. It’s so fallible that Paul had to attach a disclaimer to distance himself to his own writing of the question!

Essentially, the question is born out of the false assumption that God is righteous and glorified because of sin. In reality, God was righteous before sin came into the world, is righteous while sin currently infects the world, and will be righteous long after the world is purged of sin.

The question of whether God’s wrath is just is then built on the false assumption that our sin glorified God.

Romans 3:6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?”

Paul smothers the argument made in the previous verse.

“If that were so…”

He plays to the devil’s advocate (no pun intended) for a moment, knowing full well that it’s far from sound. He does this to set up the ultimate defeater to the rabbit hole of progressively worldly questioning.

“… how could God judge the world?”

The questioner is asking if God condones sin and depravity in order to be glorified more. Paul shuts down not only their false conclusions about God (v.5b), but also their wrong assumptions too  (v.5a).

Because God is holy and immutable (unchangeable), He not only judges perfectly, but He has never been glorified by sin in the first place.

Romans 3:7 “Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?””

This is the first time in the chapter where a question was in quotations — and it was followed up in the next verse with historical context about the heated discussions or rumors that had taken place. The objection is nearly the same as the one in verse 5, but formatted in a way that Paul could then make his final point in the next verse.

Romans 3:8 “Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!”

In this verse, we begin to learn why exactly Paul had wrote these first section in Romans — these were not just questions in a logic exercise, they were questions in the public discourse of Paul’s day. There was great precedence for addressing them.

So, undergirded by faulty logic, assumptions, and conclusions, the objector now believes that Paul is saying the opposite of what he’s actually communicating. And they’re not only drawing this false and final conclusion, but they’re slandering Paul’s teaching by asserting he’s giving license to sin.

Paul’s notes that the manifestation of such a degenerate argument is condemnation — and it is well earned by whoever makes it.

God has always been faithful and his wrath has always been just.

Romans 3:9 “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.”

There is one final objection that could be made after Paul’s description of the condemnation faced by both immoral and moral Jews and Gentiles — what about the Christians? Are Christians superior to Jews or Gentiles?

Paul smacks down this notion too, stating emphatically that he’s basically argued for the last two chapters that the entire world was under God’s wrath, parsing them out by ideology and behavior. Paul effectively explains that if Jews and Gentiles are not righteous, then there’s no room for Christians be any different — we’re all fallen creatures.

Romans 3:10 “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;”

The following three verses stem from writings in Psalms 14:1-3 and Psalms 53:1-3.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts with this statement. It’s clear and concise in its assertion that none are righteous.

Paul uses this verse to back up his argument — again, against prospective Jews who believe Paul is being “holier than thou” — saying that Christians are just as steeped in sin and born into the same unrighteousness as everyone else.

Of course, Christians are imputed righteousness through Christ — there’s no other way to reach that righteous standard God requires except by having the perfect life that Jesus lived ascribed to us through our obedience to Him.

But before that regeneration took place in the life of a Christian, they were dead in their transgressions just as the rest of mankind.

Romans 3:11 “there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.”

Out of the womb, we adopt the sins of Adam — the very first man. And in this sin nature, we sit in a peculiar spot where we can know God, yet not understand him. We can know the manifestation of God’s love for us through Christ, but we can never comprehend how deep that very love goes and how much sin it covers. We know that God is perfectly just, yet cannot understand how he can be so with billions of individuals appearing before him to be judged. We know God is righteous, yet cannot fathom it.

This is why the Gospel message is as simple as it is. We can understand it, that Jesus died for our sins and attributes righteousness from His perfect life to those who believe.

Additionally, if we were born seeking God, then we might not even need Christ — but as we have it, we can only seek God because we have Christ!

Romans 3:12 “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.””

In our state of condemnation under God’s righteous wrath, we have no value. The dirty ground we stand is holier that we are — for the ground has not upped and sinned against the Creator of all things. We, however, have — turning away from honoring and glorifying Him.

This is why Paul repeats verse 10, saying once more that we are not righteous. Our hearts are desperately wicked.

It makes one appreciates Christ a little more knowing who we were before Him and what the world is without Him.

Romans 3:13 ““Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.””

This is a reference to Psalms 5:9.

Inhabiting a world ruled by Satan — the father of lies — our words are a direct imitation of the very words he used to deceive in the Garden of Eden. And that deception led to death. Satan’s lies live in us today, hence why we’re condemned and helpless to save ourselves.

Additionally, the poison we spew affects others when we lie and slander to and about people. We don’t even know it, but our sin can gradually lead others to the grave too.

When we have faith in Christ and seek Him daily, we are cutting ties to the world and the Devil who rules it.

Romans 3:14 ““Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.””

This is a reference to Psalms 10:7.

So it seems both Paul and David dealt with the issue of profanity — my, how humans have not changed. The internet and popular media is rife with foul language, along with perhaps many of our own co-workers and neighbors. It’s very simple sign of what’s in a person’s heart.

Because Paul is bolstering his argument of how there are none righteous, it’s only right to include a common, daily manifestation of human immorality.

Romans 3:15 ““Their feet are swift to shed blood;”

This verse, along with the next two, stem from Isaiah 59:7-8.

At first glance, this might appear to be hyperbolic. Unfortunately, it’s not. A modern-day example of this verse would be what occurs in the infamous abortion industry. How quick so many women are to snuff the life out of their baby. The 100+ million deaths worldwide are the out-working of either non-functioning or indoctrinated minds — and it’s often both at the same time.

Also, it’s worth noting that the 20th century was the bloodiest century in human history, yet the whole time we paraded humanity as “enlightened” moral creatures.

Romans 3:16 “ruin and misery mark their ways,”

Ruin and misery — the symptoms of a lack of purpose. What is one supposed to do when they don’t believe God exists, that Christ died for their sins, or that the Holy Spirit helps us develop a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father?

King Solomon chided the temporal things of life as “meaningless” over and over again. So it should be no surprise that people who have spent decades filling their lives with meaningless things are destitute in soul and miserable in heart.

Because we are unrighteous, we are destined for “ruin and misery.”

Romans 3:17 “and the way of peace they do not know.””

Building on the last verse, how can one have peace without purpose?  Or without meaning?

So many people around the world today believe there is no supernatural, no Creator God. What, then, is life? How can one ever have peace believing that people are not made in God’s image, but are an impossible combination of stardust and primordial slime?

And to those non-Christians who do believe in the supernatural and God, how can they have peace if their entire life is spent trying to outweigh their bad with good? How do they properly measure that? How do they even know what is good?

Christians have peace because Christ not only justified us, but went to prepare a place for us when we leave this earth. It is a blessed assurance that none have until they become saved through faith.

Romans 3:18 ““There is no fear of God before their eyes.””

This final quotation from Paul comes from Psalms 36:1.

This is a perfect conclusion to the list of causes and effects of our lack of righteousness. Ultimately, we are born into this world unafraid of the judgement God has in store for sinners, distracted and led astray by the meaningless things of life.

If we don’t see His power and the woes of Hell looming in the distance, then why would we seek to obey and glorify Him? Yet, as Christians, we do see that judgement from which we were rescued. It is frightening to know that God will give us over to the desire of our hearts — whether that’s salvation or separation.

At the end of Ecclesiastes 12, King Solomon writes that “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

Romans 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”

Paul has spent over three chapters making the case that all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, are not righteous and are under the condemnation of the law. Jews are under the law through the OT scripture. Gentiles are equally under the law through the moral law placed on their hearts.

There will be no excuses at the time of judgement, for all under the law and our lives testify against us. Hence, why we’ll be “silenced.”

Man will have his time, then God will have His.

Romans 3:20a “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law;”

The final nail in the coffin of humanity’s indefensible and unredeemed nature. We are so steeped in sin that even following the law perfectly does not come close to providing salvation. We can do nothing apart from Christ.

Romans 3:20b “rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”

We are aware of sin through the law of the Old Testament and/or the moral law seared on our hearts. Guilt, for example, is often a manifestation of conviction of sin — we don’t have to read scripture to feel guilty after sin. Through this, we can plainly see that there is no one else is righteous, including ourselves.

Romans 3:21 “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”

After making the case that we’re all unrighteous and under God’s wrath, without exception, Paul inserts a glorious “catch,” which we hold tightly to this very day.

The Law testified about Christ in that it was a substitution until our Savior’s blood was shed on Calvary. The Prophets were more direct in their testifying of Christ, not only prophesying about things happening in their current time, but of the One to come.

Romans 3:22 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,”

The righteousness we cannot obtain ourselves is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul hammers the point in the next chapters and other epistles that righteousness is given by faith, not works.

This very concept upends every collection of worldly ethics/wisdom or ancient religious institutions across the world, separating Christianity from the rest in the most fundamental way.

Christ paves the way.

Additionally, this verse ends with the beginning of the sentence of the following verse. Paul reiterates that there are no differences between groups he has previously mentioned.

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

The “Roman Road” starts here. It is a perfectly succinct and tenable statement about man’s fallen condition, explaining the cause and effect in just a few words.

Cause? We have sin in our lives.

Effect? God’s goodness will always be too far away.

Romans 3:24 “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Remedy? Christ, crucified and resurrected.

Paul hits everything in this verse — redemption, justification, grace, and love. If you compare John 3:16 and this verse, you’ll see it’s amazingly similar, revealing how perfectly consistent Paul is with the work of Christ on this earth.

This verse epitomizes the good news.

Romans 3:25a “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

Paul mentions here that Jesus was an atoning sacrifice, which is the meshing of two simple concepts.

The first is that God’s wrath against fallen man (see Romans 1-2) must be answered for, satisfied, atoned. Divine justice must be served.

The second is that in order to spark this atonement, a sacrifice must be provided in place of those that stand condemned.

Christ was a a perfect, spotless lamb that could be — at the very least — a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

Additionally, in order for God to remain true to His qualities of love, justice, grace, and mercy, the only possible way humanity could be saved is through the blood of Christ. Not only is there not another way humanity can find salvation on this Earth, but there is no other possible way that humanity could be saved.

The phrase “atoning sacrifice” has, at its core, an aura of completeness. All parts collided at the cross.

Romans 3:25b “He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…”

Paul once again turns his attention to the unbelieving Jews.

“He did this to demonstrate his justice…”

Before Christ came, the sins of men were not paid for in a manner that satisfied God — because there was no perfect sacrifice at that time.

Christ’s death on the cross satisfied totally God’s justice and righteousness toward sin, even for those under the Law’s insufficient animal sacrifice system.

“… because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…”

God knew what he was doing when he established the Law of the Old Testament. He didn’t have to fully punish the sins of those under the Law before Christ, because He knew before the world that Christ would satisfy their punishment, despite coming much later.

In this full verse, we really see that God had an ultimate goal with the Old Covenant — and he was willing to be patient with the punishment of sin until everything could be rectified perfectly and at once through Christ.

Romans 3:26 “he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Not to leave the point open after the last verse, he completes it by addressing the good news that is here for all those in the present: God’s wrath is satisfied and his justice perfected through the sacrificial atonement through Christ.

Not only for generations of old, but to generations now and upcoming.

He is just because sin has been accounted for — for all time. He justifies because righteousness is now given to those who have faith.

Romans 3:27 “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.”

This is a reality check for those humbled by the message of “faith, not works.”

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.”

For those who have taken pride in their works, they receive a dizzying jab in Paul’s first response — man’s boasting is not a part of salvation. Why? Because his actions and motives are futile, self-aggrandizing, and wholly insufficient to God.

“On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.”

Where is boasting abolished? By works? No, by faith.

The gospel message (law of faith) is one that brings out the realization that we are sinners and that there is nothing to boast about. How foolish people are to think that their actions can make them perfect in the eyes of God.

Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

No matter how many objections Paul gets or  how many answers he gives, he always maintains that we are saved by faith alone. Without this truth, the life work of Paul is a waste and Christ’s sacrificial atonement is for naught — and this Paul acknowledges in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19.

An important distinction to make is that Paul never says works aren’t important — he’s clarifying, mostly to the Jews, that works aren’t enough. Additionally, he never tarnishes works, but lifts them up as a manifestation of faith.

Faith saves. Works glorify. In that order.

Romans 3:29 “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,”

In the previous verse, Paul says that a “person” is justified by faith. He abruptly interjects with a follow-up questions, figuring the Jews would be squirming over such a conclusion.

Reality check — God’s wants all to come to repentance. He can’t do that if salvation is only provided to a certain demographic: Paul yanks the stubborn Jews of the time off their high-horse and establishes the fact that God reigns over all men.

Romans 3:30 “since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This particular verse is one of his most adamant rebuttals of Jewish theology in all of Romans.

At this point, these Jews are beginning to stare down a life that’s very different than what they spent their entire life working on so far — that of works, ceremonies, the letter of the law.

All those are gone and in their place is Jesus Christ. In order to adopt what Paul is preaching, they will have to surrender everything they know.

Its a beautiful picture of what we all have to face. Either we surrender everything we are and have, or we turn our back on the on the one who calls us by name.

Romans 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”

The cross does what the law can’t.

While the law requires righteousness we can’t provide, Christ freely imputes his righteousness to us by our faith. While the law requires punishment for sin, Christ stepped in as an atoning sacrifice. The insufficiencies of the law were made perfect in Jesus.

Additionally, Jesus taught plainly about how he was raising the current standards to a higher one — from the OT law to God’s law (ex. Matthew 5:27-28).

The law was established, glorified, elevated in every way. If there was no salvation through works then, then there certainly isn’t now. Hence, why Christ is kind of a big deal.

Discussion Questions

  • Most people think of sin as breaking a rule. How does Romans 3:23 define sin? Is there a difference?
  • The Jews make the argument in Romans 3:5 that it would have been unrighteous for God to give them wrath. Have you heard someone say it would be unrighteous for God to punish them with wrath? How would you respond?
  • How might your walk with Christ change in grasping the idea that His righteousness is ascribed/imputed to you through faith?
  • How might your view of the world change in closely reading Romans 3:9-18?
  • In Romans 3:31, what are some ways that the law was upheld and elevated through the power of the cross?
  • When someone says they’re a “good” person and therefore going to heaven, how might you respond based on the teachings of Romans 3?

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