These small group studies of Romans contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Romans 3:1-20 Inductive Bible Study


  1. Is there any benefit in being a Jew or being circumcised?

  2. Yes, many benefits! The first is that Jews were given the word of God.

  3. What if some didn’t have faith in God? Will their doubt affect God’s faithfulness? 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 11:1-6, Nehemiah 9:13-18, Romans 9:6, Romans 10:16, 2 Timothy 2:13

  4. Definitely not! God is truthful and every man a liar. It is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalms 100:5, 119:160

  5. If our sin illustrates God’s holiness more clearly what should we say? Do we say God is unfair in bringing His wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)  Romans 5:20-6:2.

  6. Certainly not! If that argument is true how could God judge the world?

  7. Some people may argue, “If my lying illustrates God’s truth better and thus gives Him glory, why am I still judged as a sinner?” Genesis 50:18-21 (Joseph and his brothers)

  8. Why not say- as some slander us and claim we say- “Let us sin that good may result.” They deserve their condemnation.

  9. So what is the conclusion? Are the Jews any better? No! We have already concluded that Jews and Gentiles are both under sin.

  10. As it is written “There is no one righteous, not even one;

  11. there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

  12. All have turned away and together become useless. No one does good, not even one.”

  13. “Their throats reek of death; their tongues practice deceit.” “Their lips are poisonous like viper’s poison.”

  14. “Their mouths pour forth cursing and bitterness.”

  15. “They run quickly to kill;

  16. ruin and misery is their life,

  17. and they don’t know the meaning of peace.”

  18. “They have no fear of God before them.”

  19. Whatever the law says is for those who are under the law, so that every mouth will be silent and every person accountable to God.

  20. Not even one person will be righteous to God for keeping the law; but instead it will show us our sin.


I. Benefits for the Jew (verses 1-2)

II. God’s holiness compared with man’s un-holiness

A. God’s faithfulness (verses 3-4)

B. Human’s attempt to justify sin (verses 5-9)

C. Depravity of man (verses 10-18)

D. Law prevents excuses (19-20)

Discussion Questions:

What is the main point of this passage?
We learned in the previous weeks that both Jews and Gentiles deserve to face God’s judgment, so is their any benefit to being a Jew?
What is the biggest benefit? What does it mean that they were “entrusted” with the oracles of God?
Since God chose Israel, would its unbelief mean that God is unfaithful? Why not? How will God continue to be faithful to the Jews?
Does our sin mean God is unfaithful? Whose unfaithfulness does it show? Will God be faithful even when I sin?
What does 4a mean? What does 4b mean?
Does our unrighteousness demonstrate God’s righteousness? How? (1. Provides a clear contrast. If there was no concept of sin, we might not be able to fully understand just how good God is. 2. God will judge unrighteousness and pour out His wrath on those who do it, which demonstrates His holy nature. If He wasn’t holy He wouldn’t judge sinners.)
Has anyone ever told you that God is not righteous? What reason do they give? What is Paul’s answer to this logic?
How can my lie or any sin bring about God’s plan and glory to Him? Give some examples from the Bible.
Some might say that since God uses our sins for His purposes, we are not responsible for those anymore. Is this true? Why or why not?
Is the idea to “let us do evil that good may come” a biblical idea? Who will normally have this kind of idea? What will happen to those who practice it?

Who is the “we” in verse 9?
What does it mean to be “under sin”? Who is under sin?
If you are sharing the gospel and someone says “I have no sin.” what will you tell them?
If you are sharing the gospel and someone says “I have searched for God, but I cannot find Him.” what will you them?
If you are sharing the gospel and someone says “I am a good person.” what will you tell them?
What does Paul say is purpose of the Law here?
What does the phrase that “every mouth may be closed” mean? Who is accountable to God? What are we accountable for?

Verse by Verse Commentary:

Intro-  In the previous passages Paul has leveled the playing field, saying that all people everywhere, Jews and Greeks, are guilty before God and will face His judgment. He has shown that the Jews with all of their traditions, rituals, and even blessings are still lost before God. Jews reading this would naturally want to know if God’s choosing them was of any benefit at all. In this passage Paul anticipates some arguments that Jewish readers might have when they read this in reaction to his “level playing field” doctrine and then answers each objection one by one.

For more details on objections and answers see commentary at bottom.

1. Objection 1 – If the playing field is level and Jews and Greeks alike are both lost, is there then no benefit to God’s special choosing of the Jews?

2. Answer. There is still great benefit. While God’s blessings don’t guarantee salvation, they bring Jews right to the door so to speak. Because they received God’s Word, His commands, promises, and prophecies they had much more knowledge and more opportunity to believe and repent.

3. Object 2. Answer 2. See bottom.

4. God is faithful to the Jews even when they were unfaithful. See cross-references. Elijah. He is always preserving a remnant. God will be faithful to and patient with us even when we are unfaithful to Him. However, we need to realize that many of God’s promises come with a condition. Many Jews didn’t receive some of God’s promises, not because God didn’t fulfill His part of the deal, but because they broke the conditions His promises were given under.

5. Man’s sin highlights God’s righteousness even more. A diamond will shine out more brightly against a black surface. If man never sinned, we would not have a contrast point with God. This truth shows forth God’s sovereignty. Even our own sins can work to accomplish God’s ultimate will and bring about His plans and even glorify Him. The second way our sin highlights God’s holiness is through His judgment. When He judges sin, it shows His holiness and His hate of it. For example, the Jews who turned the temple into a place of business gave Jesus the opportunity to drive them out and show His zeal for the temple and His holiness.

6. This in no way excuses us from our responsibility. We are still responsible for our actions. This is one of the objections Paul answers in the passage. We must not sin to let God’s grace abound. This idea is not normally spoken out, but it sometimes rooted in the heart. Basically it is an excuse for doing wrong. people seek to justify their own evil through any method they can, but in the end it is still unjustifiable.

7. Neither group is intrinsically better than the other group by nature. All are under sin, ie totally depraved.

8. Total depravity. Go through verse by verse through 18.

9. The Law, both the written and unwritten one, make it so we have no excuse. The Law teaches us the knowledge of sin, meaning we know when we do wrong and have no excuse for it. Every single person who has ever lived is accountable to God for his actions. We cannot save ourselves and we fall short.

Key Words

Unrighteousness- This is a key word that describes human’s behavior in this passage. We consistently practice unrighteousness. God gave the Jews every advantage, but they didn’t have faith in God. God gave the Gentiles opportunities, but they didn’t take the ones they had.

Righteousness- God is perfectly and completely righteous and holy in every way. He hates sin and pours out His wrath on it. God does not and can not lie or do any other sin. It is not part of His perfect nature. His holiness provides the basis for His judgment.

Truth- God’s truthful nature is contrasted with men’s deceit and lies.

Key Cross-References

3. It doesn’t matter what we do, God remains faithful. Man’s sin doesn’t affect God’s righteousness. It only shows God’s holiness and puts it on display for all to see.

10. This verse is very clear. No person in all the world is good! Everyone is born a desperate and depraved sinner in need of a Savior.

20. In the end the law shows us our sin so that we will be without excuse. No one can keep the law. We all fall short. It acts as a measuring stick, which when our lives are measured against shows clearly our faults.

Contrast our nature with God’s and the conflict-

Our sinfulness- (Apart from Christ this is our nature.)

Isaiah 53:6

Romans 3:23

Psalms 95:10

God’s holiness- (In Christ we can follow this example and have victory over sin, but we will make occasional mistakes.)

Mark 10:18

1 Peter 1:15-16

1 Samuel 2:2

Man sees God’s holiness-

Exodus 3:5-6

Matthew 17:2

Isaiah 6:1-7

Luke 5:8-10

Conclusion- One of God’s chief attributes is righteousness or holiness. This is the base for His judgment. God hates sin. We must hate it just as He does. We are freed from sin in two steps. The first is already complete when we are redeemed. At that point we are no longer slaves to sin. We are new creatures and we need to walk in the Spirit. God gives us the power to have victory over sin. But as Paul did we still struggle between our old and new nature. Therefore God will finally wipe away our sin once we get to heaven. At that time we will be holy as He is holy.

Romans 3:1-18

Object. 1. If Jew and Gentile stand so much upon the same level before God, what advantage then hath the Jew? Hath not God often spoken with a great deal of respect for the Jews, as a non-such people (Deut 33:29), a holy nation, a peculiar treasure, the seed of Abraham his friend: Did not he institute circumcision as a badge of their church-membership, and a seal of their covenant-relation to God? Now does not this levelling doctrine deny them all such prerogatives, and reflect dishonour upon the ordinance of circumcision, as a fruitless insignificant thing.

Answer. The Jews are, notwithstanding this, a people greatly privileged and honoured, have great means and helps, though these be not infallibly saving (v. 2): Much every way. The door is open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, but the Jews have a fairer way up to this door, by reason of their church-privileges, which are not to be undervalued, though many that have them perish eternally for not improving them. He reckons up many of the Jews’ privileges Rom 9:4-5; here he mentions but one (which is indeed instar omnium – equivalent to all), that unto them were committed the oracles of God, that is, the scriptures of the Old Testament, especially the law of Moses, which is called the lively oracles (Acts 7:38), and those types, promises, and prophecies, which relate to Christ and the gospel. The scriptures are the oracles of God: they are a divine revelation, they come from heaven, are of infallible truth, and of eternal consequence as oracles.
(from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright ?1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Object 2. Against what he had said of the advantages the Jews had in the lively oracles, some might object the unbelief of many of them. To what purpose were the oracles of God committed to them, when so many of them, notwithstanding these oracles, continued strangers to Christ, and enemies to his gospel? Some did not believe, v. 3.

Answer. It is very true that some, nay most of the present Jews, do not believe in Christ; but shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? The apostle startles at such a thought: God forbid! The infidelity and obstinacy of the Jews could not invalidate and overthrow those prophecies of the Messiah which were contained in the oracles committed to them. Christ will be glorious, though Israel be not gathered, Isa 49:5. God’s words shall be accomplished, his purposes performed, and all his ends answered, though there be a generation that by their unbelief go about to make God a liar. Let God be true but every man a liar; let us abide by this principle, that God is true to every word which he has spoken, and will let none of his oracles fall to the ground, though thereby we give the lie to man; better question and overthrow the credit of all the men in the world than doubt of the faithfulness of God. What David said in his haste (Ps 116:11), that all men are liars, Paul here asserts deliberately. Lying is a limb of that old man which we every one of us come into the world clothed with. All men are fickle, and mutable, and given to change, vanity and a lie (Ps 62:9), altogether vanity, Ps 39:5. All men are liars, compared with God. It is very comfortable, when we find every man a liar (no faith in man), that God is faithful. When they speak vanity every one with his neighbour, it is very comfortable to think that the words of the Lord are pure words, Ps 12:2,6. For the further proof of this he quotes Ps 51:4, That thou mightest be justified, the design of which is to show,
(from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright ?1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Object. 3. Carnal hearts might hence take occasion to encourage themselves in sin. He had said that the universal guilt and corruption of mankind gave occasion to the manifestation of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ. Now it may be suggested, If all our sin be so far from overthrowing God’s honour that it commends it, and his ends are secured, so that there is no harm done, is it not unjust for God to punish our sin and unbelief so severely? If the unrighteousness of the Jews gave occasion to the calling in of the Gentiles, and so to God’s greater glory, why are the Jews so much censured? If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? v. 5. What inference may be drawn from this? Is God unrighteous, me adikos ho Theos – Is not God unrighteous (so it may be read, more in the form of an objection), who taketh vengeance? Unbelieving hearts will gladly take any occasion to quarrel with equity of God’s proceedings, and to condemn him that is most just, Job 34:17. I speak as a man, that is, I object this as the of carnal hearts; it is suggested like a man, a vain, foolish, proud creature.

Answer. God forbid; far be it from us to imagine such a thing. Suggestions that reflect dishonour upon God and his justice and holiness are rather to be startled at than parleyed with. Get thee behind me, Satan; never entertain such a thought. For then how shall God judge the world? v. 6. The argument is much the same with that of Abraham (Gen 18:25): Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? No doubt, he shall. If he were not infinitely just and righteous, he would be unfit to be the judge of all the earth. Shall even he that hateth right govern? Job 34:17. Compare v. 18, 19. The sin has never the less of malignity and demerit in it though God bring glory to himself out of it. It is only accidentally that sin commends God’s righteousness. No thanks to the sinner for that, who intends no such thing. The consideration of God’s judging the world should for ever silence all our doubtings of, and reflections upon, his justice and equity. It is not for us to arraign the proceedings of such an absolute Sovereign. The sentence of the supreme court, whence lies no appeal, is not to be called in question.
(from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright ?1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Object. 4. The former objection is repeated and prosecuted (v. 7-8), for proud hearts will hardly be beaten out of their refuge of lies, but will hold fast the deceit. But his setting off the objection in its own colours is sufficient to answer it: If the truth of God has more abounded through my lie. He supposes the sophisters to follow their objection thus: “If my lie, that is, my sin” (for there is something of a lie in every sin, especially in the sins of professors) “have occasioned the glorifying of God’s truth and faithfulness, why should I be judged and condemned as a sinner, and not rather thence take encouragement to go on in my sin, that grace may abound?” an inference which at first sight appears too black to be argued, and fit to be cast out with abhorrence. Daring sinners take occasion to boast in mischief, because the goodness of God endures continually, Ps 52:1. Let us do evil that good may come is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners, so justifying themselves in their wicked ways. Mentioning this wicked thought, he observes, in a parenthesis, that there were those who charged such doctrines as this upon Paul and his fellow-ministers: Some affirm that we say so. It is no new thing for the best of God’s people and ministers to be charged with holding and teaching such things as they do most detest and abhor; and it is not to be thought strange, when our Master himself was said to be in league with Beelzebub. Many have been reproached as if they had said that the contrary of which they maintain: it is an old artifice of Satan thus to cast dirt upon Christ’s ministers, Fortiter calumniari, aliquid adhaerebit-Lay slander thickly on, for some will be sure to stick. The best men and the best truths are subject to slander. Bishop Sanderson makes a further remark upon this, as we are slanderously reported – blasphemoumetha. Blasphemy in scripture usually signifies the highest degree of slander, speaking ill of God. The slander of a minister and his regular doctrine is a more than ordinary slander, it is a kind of blasphemy, not for his person’s sake, but for his calling’s sake and his work’s sake, 1 Thess 5:13.

Answer. He says no more by way of confutation but that, whatever they themselves may argue, the damnation of those is just. Some understand it of the slanderers; God will justly condemn those who unjustly condemn his truth. Or, rather, it is to be applied to those who embolden themselves in sin under a pretence of God’s getting glory to himself out of it. Those who deliberately do evil that good may come of it will be so far from escaping, under the shelter of that excuse, that it will rather justify their damnation, and render them the more inexcusable; for sinning upon such a surmise, and in such a confidence, argues a great deal both of the wit and of the will in the sin-a wicked will deliberately to choose the evil, and a wicked wit to palliate it with the pretence of good arising from it. Therefore their damnation is just; and, whatever excuses of this kind they may now please themselves with, they will none of them stand good in the great day, but God will be justified in his proceedings, and all flesh, even the proud flesh that now lifts up itself against him, shall be silent before him. Some think Paul herein refers to the approaching ruin of the Jewish church and nation, which their obstinacy and self-justification in their unbelief hastened upon them apace.
(from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright ?1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Study Romans 3:21-31
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