What does Romans 3:6 mean?
ESV: By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
NIV: Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?
NASB: Far from it! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?
CSB: Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world?
NLT: Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world?
KJV: God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
Paul is asking and answering a series of questions. These are challenges he supposes someone would ask in response to his teaching at the end of Romans chapter 2. In the previous verse, the question discussed the fairness of God's anger and judgment on human sin. If God's righteousness is revealed by humanity's unrighteousness, isn't that good, in a way? Doesn't that make God's righteousness all the more impressive? How can He be justified in judging us in His anger, then—especially those of us who are His chosen people Israel? Doesn't that make Him unrighteous, to condemn us for the very thing that makes His righteousness apparent?
Paul now returns to his own voice to shout, in a sense, "No!" Again, he uses the Greek words "mē genoito": "may it never be." Paul answers this idea with a logical counter-question, "How could God judge the world if He were in any way unrighteous?" God's role as judge over all of mankind requires that God be above judgment Himself by being perfect in His righteousness. God is the standard of judgment, in the first place.
At first this sounds like a circular argument: Is God unfair to judge human sin? No, because He must be fair to judge human sin! However, a closer look shows the circle is moving in the opposite direction: Because God is righteous, He is rightfully the judge. Because He is the judge, He must express His justified anger against the sinfulness of humanity, even if that faithlessness ultimately only goes to further prove how holy He is.
This challenge—that the gospel of grace implies a license to sin—is one Paul will return to later, particularly in chapter 6. For now, as shown in the next verses, he seems to dismiss the argument by calling it slanderous (Romans 3:8).
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.
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:46:20 AM
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