Romans 3:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Romans 3:20, NIV: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

Romans 3:20, ESV: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."

Romans 3:20, KJV: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

Romans 3:20, NASB: "because by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin."

Romans 3:20, NLT: "For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are."

Romans 3:20, CSB: "For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law."

What does Romans 3:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the next verse, Paul will turn to God's plan to offer righteousness to sinful humans through faith in Christ. He's not there yet, however. With this verse, he concludes his argument that every single person deserves God's angry judgment against our sinfulness, even those who live under the law of Moses (Romans 3:10).

The law was indeed God's gift to Israel, but it was not the path to being righteous in God's sight. Paul puts it bluntly: No human being will be justified in God's sight by works of the law. Why is this? Because no human being is able to keep the works of the law perfectly. We are sinners by nature. Every single person, without exception, chooses to do what they know is wrong, at least sometimes.

The law is a gift because it proves to us, to Jews and Gentiles, just how sinful we are. Without God's written description of human righteousness in the law, we might be tempted to argue that we are pretty good people. When we compare our lives with the rules of the law, however, we must finally admit that we are desperate sinners. We violate God's law in more ways than we can count.

The law brings knowledge of sin and the ultimate conclusion that we deserve God's judgment. That's not the end of the story, though. In the very next verse, Paul begins to describe a path to righteousness for us that is available "apart from the law."