What does Romans 3:5 mean?
ESV: But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
NIV: But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)
NASB: But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking from a human viewpoint.)
CSB: But if our unrighteousness highlights God's righteousness, what are we to say? I am using a human argument: Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath?
NLT: But,' some might say, 'our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?' (This is merely a human point of view.)
KJV: But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
Verse Commentary:
For the third time in a row, Paul asks a question of himself, as if challenging his own statements at the end of Romans chapter 2. There, he wrote that all people, both Gentiles and Jews, will be judged by God for their sin. Jews will not be spared God's judgment because they have the law or have been circumcised. Those things matter, but all Jews have broken the law just as all Gentiles have been sinful.

Now Paul's imagined questioner asks a more pointed question. In essence, he asks, "If God's righteousness is revealed by our unrighteousness—by our sinfulness—why would God inflict His anger on us? Isn't that unfair? In fact, doesn't that make God Himself unrighteous?" Put another way, "If our being bad makes God look good, why is God angry with us? Why would He punish us, especially those of us in His chosen people Israel?"

Paul includes an aside here, clarifying that he is speaking from a purely human perspective, using a human argument. Many translations put that last sentence in parenthesis to show that Paul is breaking character from this questioner to make it clear to his readers just how ridiculous this question is. This is also intended, by Paul, to clarify that this is not a statement or teaching which he, himself, is making. Rather, this is a point Paul is posing simply to clarify what he is not saying in this letter.

Paul will answer this imagined question with a resounding "no" in the following verses.
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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