Topic: The Universal Condition of Humankind
Text: Romans 3:1-20
It is obvious from our previous studies that Paul has introduced the sinful condition of Gentiles in chapter 1 and in Chapter 2 he talked about the sin of the Jews as well. In Romans 3, Paul then brings the two together to say that the whole world is under sin thereby bringing out the need for the savior. Specifically, in the first section of this chapter (Romans 3:1-20), Paul deals with condemnation and concludes that the whole world – Jew and Gentile alike – is under sin. In the last section (vv. 21-31), he introduces the theme of justification by faith, which will be his theme in the next two chapters.
Condemnation under Sin (3:1-20)
In Romans 3:1-20 Paul appears to demonstrate the universal sinfulness of humankind. This could be seen as bad news. In developing this argument, Paul asks and answers four important questions in this section
– Is there any advantage in being a Jew if Jews are condemned? (Romans 3: 1-2)
The answer is: Yes, because the Jews were given the oracles of God, His revealed will in His Word. Had Israel believed the Word and obeyed it, the nation would have received Christ and be saved. Then, through them, God would have spread the blessing to the whole world. Christians today are certainly privileged to have the Word of God. May we never take it for granted!
– Has Israel’s Unbelief cancelled God’s Word (Romans 3:3-4)
Of course not! The unbelief of people could never cancel the faithfulness of God (faith in v. 3). God is true though every man is a liar. Here Paul quotes Psa. 51:4, where King David openly admitted his sin and God’s righteousness in judging him. Even in admitting his sins, David declared the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word.
– Then, why not sin and glorify God the more? (Romans 3:5-8)
After all, if God is honoured in judging my sin, then I am really doing Him favour by sinning! Instead of judging me, He should let me sin that He might be glorified all the more. He certainly is not righteous to judge me!
Paul quickly disposes of this argument for sin by pointing out in v. 6 that such a position would mean God could never judge the world, and even Abraham recognized God as the Judge of the world (Gen. 18:25). Paul does not explain how God judges sin and gets glory from it; he merely states that all truth and justice would collapse if God did what such people claimed.
Paul’s Jewish enemies had lied about him and said that he taught this very doctrine. Let us do evil that good may result (v. 8). See also Romans 6:1 and 15. This statement is so contrary to all reason and Scripture that Paul dismissed it by saying that the people who say this deserve condemnation themselves (v.8)
– Then is the Jew better than the Gentile? (Roams 3: 9-18)
No, nor is the Gentile any better or worse than the Jew: for both are sinners and stand under condemnation of God. There is no difference is the great message of Romans – no difference in sin (3:22-23) or in salvation (10:12-13). God has regarded both Jew and Gentile as under sin that He might, in grace, have mercy upon all (11:32).
Verse 10-12: Paul now proves that the whole world is guilty by describing the total sinfulness of mankind. He comments on its sinful character and refers to Ps. 14:1-3.
Verses 13-18, he reminds us of its conduct, quoting from Ps. 5:9, 140:3, 10:7, and36:1, and also Isa. 59:7-8. Please read these verses and their settings carefully.
Verses 19-20: He gives his final verdict: the whole world is guilty before God! The Law that the Jews thought would save them merely condemns them; for the Law gives the knowledge of sin.
It could be learnt from the above questions and answers of Paul that the whole world is under sin and therefore in need of a saviour. In the subsequent lesson Paul will show that salvation is through Christ by faith alone.
- When Paul says the whole world is guilty before God (Rom 3:10-11), who is he referring to?
- What does God’s faithfulness mean? Does unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness?
- What advantages did the Jews have over the Gentiles and for what purpose were they favoured?
- From the example of the Israelites, what are the major purpose of God in calling us today unto salvation and thus blessing us with his grace?