Romans 3:5 – 9 — “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous Who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
“For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin…”
In chapter 1, verses 18 – 32, Paul states God’s case for man’s need of the gospel of Christ, against the backdrop of the wrath of God revealed against the ungodliness of men. The Gentile, i.e., pagan, or heathen nations are mostly in view. In chapter 2, verses 1 – 16, the fact that some of these nations have become “civilized” in no way removes them from this need, it only increases their guilt. Then, in 2:17 – 29, the elect Nation is brought before the court, and this nation, while given great privilege as God’s people on the earth, has also shown themselves lacking in personal righteousness. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48).
In chapter 3, verses 1 – 4, Paul shows how the children of Israel, i.e., the Circumcision, have been unfaithful as the stewards of God, but God is faithful. God will be faithful, and because of His faithfulness He will judge the world in righteousness.
People in general, have no fear of God. This is true of both “Christians”, and unbelievers alike. It seems that the prevailing belief among the masses these days is that God essentially owes salvation to people. HE DOES NOT! According to His righteousness, He owes “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish”, to Adam’s children, both Jew and Gentile alike. That He has not dealt with the world in wrath yet, is not owing to our “intrinsic worth as bearers of the image of God”, as much of the “Christian” world likes to say, but it is because of His mercy. Mankind is not “owed” grace. That God gives grace is because of His kindness only, not because of any intrinsic worth in us. We are, by nature, the children of wrath, and the sooner we see that, the better our comprehension of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be.
God will judge the world. He will do it “by that Man Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Paul states that this is “according to [his] gospel” (Romans 2:16). Paul is the apostle given the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), and properly understanding the gospel of the grace of God must be against the backdrop of God’s wrath against sin and that in His grace He is withholding His wrath! It is not that His wrath will never come, it is that He is holding it back now.
On the flip side of this argument, some who would fight against the gospel of grace argue that a “not of works” gospel will lead to a licentious life. People in Paul’s day slanderously reported this of him, according to Romans 3:8, and we can expect that if we are teaching the gospel of grace properly, some may say it of us. We should not be amazed nor dismayed if they do, especially if we have taken care not to do this. The correct answer to the believer’s life and relation to sin is found in Romans 6 and 7, to reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:14). But we cannot do this until we are in fact dead unto sin and alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Romans 3, we find out that in our natural state we are completely unrighteous and under the condemnation of the Law. The Law will not “lift a finger” to save us, it will only point out our guilt and bring us in to condemnation. We need a Savior Who will provide us with righteousness from outside of ourselves, because within us their is none. We will come to more of this truth in later verses in Romans 3, but until then, know that when we teach grace by faith salvation without works, we are not arguing to continue in sin that grace may abound.
The final verdict from the word of God through the pen of His apostle Paul is found in verse 9, with the closing arguments to follow.
“What then? are we better than they?”
The sense here is rhetorical, “are we Jews better than sinning Gentiles?”
The previously written 52 verses make God’s declaration that the entire world, both Jews and Gentiles are “under sin”. It has been proven. 2:17 – 3:8 prove that the Jews are also under sin, and in themselves only stand condemned. In the verses following, Paul will go on to show God’s view of human anatomy.
Now, where do you stand?
Are you standing on your own merits?
God will not accept anyone’s person. All have sinned, all stand condemned. It really is that simple. But all can be justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This is Christ’s work on our behalf, and God will allow you to enter in to this wonderful grace if you will simply take Him at His word in the gospel:
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. He was buried and rose again according to the scriptures. This is God’s word for us, on our behalf. Believe it! Our Lord Jesus paid every bit of what we owe, so now God can now justly forgive us all trespasses. So take Him at His word today, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!