Romans 3 Commentary
ROMANS 3 COMMENTARY
v.1 “In this chapter Paul contends that everyone stands guilty before God. Paul has dismantled [in chapters 1 and 2] the common excuses of people who refuse to admit they are sinners: (1) ‘There is no god’ or ‘I follow my conscience’ –1:18-32; (2) ‘I’m not as bad as other people’ –2:1-16; (3) ‘I’m a church member’ or ‘I’m a religious person’ –2:17-29. No one will be exempt from God’s judgment on sin. Every person must accept that he or she is sinful and condemned before God. Only then can we understand and receive God’s wonderful gift of salvation.”
vv.13-18 “The latter half of the catena [series of text beginning with v.10 and ending with v.18], beginning with v.13, reflects the second emphasis, namely, the ramifications of sin in human life. So far as relationship with God is concerned, the rupturing power of sin has been noted (vv.11, 12). But what effect does sin have on the sinner? The effect is total, because his entire being is vitiated. Observe at this point the various members of the body referred to: the throat, the tongue, and the lips (v.13); the mouth (v.14); the feet (v.15); and the eyes (v.18). This list serves to affirm what theologians speak of as total depravity, i.e., not that man in his natural state is as bad as he can possibly be, but rather that his entire being is adversely affected by sin. His whole nature is permeated with it. Human relations also suffer, because society can be no better than those who constitute it. Some of the obvious effects—conflict and bloodshed—are specified (vv.15-17).”
vv.20-25 “The supreme problem of life is, How can a man get into a right relationship with God? How can he feel at peace with God? How can he escape the feeling of estrangement and fear in the presence of God? The religion of Judaism answered: ‘A man can attain to a right relationship with God by keeping meticulously all that the law lays down.’ But to say that is simply to say that there is no possibility of any man ever attaining to a right relationship with God, for no man ever can keep every commandment of the law.
“What then is the use of the law? It is that it makes a man aware of sin. It is only when a man knows the law and tries to satisfy it that he realizes he can never satisfy it. The law is designed to show a man his own weakness and his own sinfulness. Is a man then shut out from God? Far from it, because the way to God is not the way of law, but the way of grace; not the way of works, but the way of faith.
“To show what he means Paul uses three metaphors.
“(i) He uses a metaphor from the law courts which we call justification. This metaphor thinks of man on trial before God. […] If an innocent man appears before a judge then to treat him as innocent is to acquit him. But the point about a man’s relationship to God is that he is utterly guilty, and yet God, in his amazing mercy, treats him, reckons him, accounts him as if he were innocent. That is what justification means.
“When Paul says that ‘God justifies the ungodly,’ he means that God treats the ungodly as if he had been a good man. That is what shocked the Jews to the core of their being. To them to treat the bad man as if he was good was the sign of a wicked judge. ‘He who justifies the wicked is an abomination to the Lord’ (Prov 17:15). ‘I will not acquit the wicked’ (Exod 23:7). But Paul says that is precisely what God does.
“How can I know that God is like that? I know because Jesus said so. He came to tell us that God loves us, bad as we are. He came to tell us that, although we are sinners, we are still dear to God. When we discover that and believe it, it changes our whole relationship to God. We are conscious of our sin, but we are no longer in terror and no longer estranged. Penitent and brokenhearted we come to God, like a sorry child coming to his mother, and we know that the God we come to is Love.
“That is what justification by faith in Jesus Christ means. It means that we are in a right relationship with God because we believe with all our hearts that what Jesus told us about God is true. We are no longer terrorized strangers from an angry God. We are children, erring children, trusting in their Father’s love for forgiveness. And we could never have found that right relationship with God, if Jesus had not come to live and to die to tell us how wonderfully he loves us.
“(ii) Paul uses a metaphor from sacrifice. He says of Jesus that God put him forward as one who can win forgiveness for our sins. Under the old system, when a man broke the law, he brought to God a sacrifice. His aim was that the sacrifice should turn aside the punishment that should fall upon him. To put it in another way—a man sinned; that sin put him at once in a wrong relationship with God; to get back into the right relationship he offered his sacrifice.
“But it was human experience that an animal sacrifice failed entirely to do that. ‘Thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased’ (Ps 51:16). ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ (Micah 6:6, 7.) Instinctively men felt that, once they had sinned, the paraphernalia of earthly sacrifice could not put matters right.
“So Paul says, ‘Jesus Christ, by his life of obedience and his death of love, made the one sacrifice to God which really and truly atones for sin.’ He insists that what happened on the Cross opens the door back to a right relationship with God, a door which every other sacrifice is powerless to open.
“(iii) Paul uses a metaphor from slavery. He speaks of the deliverance wrought through Jesus Christ. The word [used] means a ransoming, a redeeming, a liberating. It means that man was in the power of sin, and that Jesus Christ alone could free him from it.
“Finally, Paul says of God that he did all this because he is just, and accepts as just all who believe in Jesus. Paul never said a more startling thing than this. Bengel called it ‘the supreme paradox of the gospel.’ Think what it means. It means that God is just and accepts the sinner as a just man. The natural thing to say would be, ‘God is just, and, therefore, condemns the sinner as a criminal.’ But here we have the great paradox—God is just, and somehow, in that incredible, miraculous grace that Jesus came to bring to men, he accepts the sinner, not as a criminal, but as a son whom he still loves.
“What is the essence of all this? Where is the difference between it and the old way of the law? The basic difference is this—the way of obedience to the law is concerned with what a man can do for himself; the way of grace is concerned with what God has done; nothing we can ever do can win for us the forgiveness of God; only what God has done for us can win that; therefore the way to a right relationship with God lies, not in a frenzied, desperate, doomed attempt to win acquittal by our performance; it lies in the humble, penitent acceptance of the love and the grace which God offers us in Jesus Christ.”
v.25 “In the Old Testament period, God did not punish sins with the full severity he should have. People who sinned should have suffered spiritual death, because they did not yet have an adequate sacrifice to atone for their sins. But in his mercy God ‘passed over’ their sins. In doing so, however, he acted against his character, which requires that he respond to sin with wrath. So the coming of Christ ‘satisfied’ God’s justice. In giving himself as a ‘sacrifice of atonement,’ Christ paid the price for the sins of all people — both before his time (v.25b) and after (v.26a). Consequently, Paul summarizes, we can see how God can be ‘just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (v.26b). He accepts as righteous before him sinful people who have faith, and he accepts sinners as righteous without violating his own just character because Christ has fully satisfied God’s demand that all who commit sin must die. By faith in Christ, we are joined to him. He becomes our representative, and his death is accredited to us.” 
 Life Application Study Bible, Study Note on Romans 3:1ff
 Gaebelein, Frank E. Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for Romans 3.
 The Letter to the Romans. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev.ed. (Ro 3:27). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
 Douglas Moo, “Romans” n.p. on The NIV Application Commentary on CD-ROM Version 6.3.6. 2006