What does Romans 3:2 mean?
ESV: Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
NIV: Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
NASB: Great in every respect. First, that they were entrusted with the actual words of God.
CSB: Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the very words of God.
NLT: Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.
KJV: Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Paul is asking a series of questions, ones to be expected from an opponent to his teaching in Romans chapter 2. There, he wrote that individual Jewish people will stand before God's judgment for their sins. This will happen even though the people of Israel had been given the law, and even if they have been circumcised. This is because each of the Jews—individually—have broken God's law, just as every Gentile has also sinned. So Paul raises the logical question in the previous verse: What's the point, then, of being a Jew? Is there any advantage? Does it matter that they are circumcised?
Now he answers that question with a definite "yes." There is "much advantage in every way." God's chosen people benefit in many ways, starting with this one: They were entrusted with the "oracles of God." In other words, the Jewish people were given the enormous privilege of receiving and handing down the very words of God to all people.
Paul's point in Romans 2 was not that belonging to Israel was of no value at all. His point was simply that Jewishness, itself, would not keep any person from answering to God's judgment for his or her sin. Paul will list more of the benefits that come with being of the Jewish people in Romans 9:1–5.
Romans 3:1–8 contains a series of questions which might have come from someone opposed to Paul's teaching in Romans 2. Using this challenge-response structure, Paul clarifies that being Jewish and circumcised still comes with great advantages. He also points out that God remains faithful to the Jewish people in spite of their sin. In fact, His faithfulness in the face of unfaithfulness increases His glory. That does not mean, however, that God wants human beings to continue to sin, as some were accusing Paul of teaching.
Romans 3 begins with a question-and-answer scheme. These are responses one might expect from someone opposed to what Paul wrote in Romans 2. Next, Paul quotes from a series of Old Testament passages. These Scriptures show that those writers also agreed that nobody, not one person, deserves to be called righteous. Paul declares emphatically that no one will be justified by following the works of the law. Finally, though, he arrives at the good news: righteousness before God is available apart from the law through faith in Christ's death for our sin on the cross.
The prior chapter explained that God's judgment on sin will come to all men, whether or not they understand the literal law. Faith in God, in the heart, matters more to God than rote obedience. At the start of this chapter, Paul answers a series of questions from an imagined objector to those teachings. Next, he quotes a series of Old Testament passages which support His teaching that human beings are by nature sinful. Each of us turns away from God. Nobody can be justified by the law, Paul insists. Fortunately, it is possible to attain God's righteousness: but only by His grace, through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sin on the cross. We must come to this by faith, and it is available to Jews and Gentiles alike.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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