Tag Archives: faith

Romans 3.27-31

If you have read ahead, you may be thinking, what do I do with this passage? But do not fear – the passage break up is not a mistake!

I do hope you had a great discussion in Growth Group last week about righteousness, glory, justification, redemption and atonement. Therein lies the reason why we split this last section of chapter 3 into 2. We wanted people to have the chance to really dwell upon and ponder the wonder of salvation!

So what do you do with the tail end of the chapter?

It seems to me that this section (3:27-31) is Paul’s conclusion to his rhetorical argument with the Jews. He picks up on his criticism of their boasting from 2:17 and makes sure they know that there is no merit in them claiming merit! Their pride must be put aside and they must come to Jesus like anyone else. There is only one God and he deals with all people in the same way and he will save all people in the same way – by faith.

David Seccombe helpfully writes:
From this passage we learn somethign enormously important about faith: it is the opposite of achievement. We cannot be proud of faith. Faith is our acknowledgement that we are empty and disqualified. Faith is putting out dirty hands to receive a wonderful gift. Only the utmost perversity could make of it a virtue and a matter of pride.

You may want to ponder with your group the story of the arrogant man who goes proudly to the temple and how he is an example of what Paul is critiquing. (Luke 18:9-14)

You will want to unpack the last sentence in verse 27 – which I think is just saying that the Law never saved (see 3:20) but should have driven Jews to faith for salvation. (This will also bridge into the big idea of chapter 4 – faith!!)

You will probably need to unpack the end of verse 31 which Romans will do later. Perhaps the easy way of doing that is by opening the question to the group of “Do we have to obey the Ten Commandments?” and getting them to think about what they should uphold and what they should not uphold in the Law explained in Exodus and Leviticus and why. The answer is very complex but my simple way of thinking about it is “what does Jesus fulfil and what does Jesus intensify?” Have a Read of Matthew 5:16-end to help your thinking. I’m also happy for you to ask me a question on this as you prepare….

Finally, I am planning on making sure my group really understands and believes 3:29-30. In this age of pluralism and religious tolerance, I fear that many Christian people don’t want to stand on John 14:6 and there only being one God who saves through his one Son Jesus. All other so called God’s are just human constructs made up to help people ignore the reality that they need to trust in Jesus. (You could google the story about the one way Jesus man who lives next to the Harbour bridge – it was in the smh this week.)

I’m hoping this will lead us to prayer for those who are lost.

So in terms of structure of the night, I will probably…
1. Review 1:18-3:20 picking up on 2:17
2. Review the sermon from Sunday on 3:21-26
3. Work through the rhetorical questions one at a time (v.27,29,31) picking up on the issues above.
4. Lead to a discussion of there being only one God.
5. Pray for the lost.

I’m praying for you as you lead your groups this week. Please pray for me!

Romans 3:21-31 – God’s Righteousness Revealed


Paul, writing  a faith and relationship building letter to the early church in Rome, stated his thesis in 1:16-17 – namely, that he is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to bring salvation to all who believe. In those versus he states that this same salvation is for the Jews as well as the non-Jews and that the righteous will live – by faith. He began in 1:18 to explain these two important sentences.
He reaches the end of a major teaching at 3:20 – the law does not make anybody righteous, it simply shines the light on our sin and our sin will find us all guilty before God.

Structure of Romans 3:21-31

  • 21-22a – The Law reveals the righteousness of God
  • 22b-24 – The righteousness of God means judgement has no favourites and salvation has no favourites
  • 25-26 – the atonement reveals God’s righteousness
  • 27-31 – boasting is removed and only faith remains

Comments on the text


  • ‘Righteousness’ is to be right with God – to be at peace instead of in conflict with God. Those who will pass God’s perfect judgement and declared righteous (see rom 2:5,13). To be safe from God’s wrath, we need to be righteous in his sight.
  • The law and the prophets (the Old Testament) prophecy or speak about a righteousness of God. It is superior to the law. God and his righteousness are not subject to the law but the other way around.


  • This righteousness (being declared right with God) is a gift! This is what grace means – to receive righteousness when we do not deserve it!
  • It is not given to all humanity but to those who would believe in Christ and put their faith or trust in Christ. This is no light sentence to be glanced over. Paul has been describing the guilt of all humanity and the wrath of God on all of us since Romans 1:18! Now he states who and why we can be saved! Our salvation is through trusting in Jesus instead of the law, instead of our goodness, instead of religion, instead of our best wishes. There is an object for our faith and that is Jesus and no other. It is not enough to simply be a person of faith if that faith is in anything or anyone else!
  • But there is no limit to the number of people who can be saved – it is available to ALL who believe. If you believe, then you can be assured of your salvation.
  • For both Jew and gentile – Paul has been consistently proving this for the last two chapters. Regardless of who you are, this gospel is for you to hear and respond to in faith.


  • Paul States plainly again that all are guilty and all have access to salvation through one means. John 14:6
  • Redemption is through Christ. We have all fallen short of God’s glory but Jesus has paid the difference. Our guilt makes us indebted to God with a debt we cannot pay – but Jesus has redeemed us like you redeem something from the op shop. He has paid the price owed. Paul goes on in verse 25 to explain this very thing.


  • Paul said in verse 21 that the law and the prophets testify to this righteousness of God. Here in verse 25 he shows that the vocab of the law is used to explain how Christ has redeemed those who believe.
  • Atonement – describing how two parties are unified – ‘at-one-ment’
  • For sacrifice of atonement see Leviticus 16:15-16
  • The sacrificial and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are prophesying of the one true atonement for sin which was Christ shedding his blood on the cross. Colossians 1:20
  • God’s righteousness is revealed because he proves himself to deal with our sins according to the requirements of the law. Through the crucifixion we see God acting perfectly and justly with sin – not just ignoring it but holding back his wrath until he deals with it though his own Son – that is, the Christ – the messiah – the suffering servant of Isaiah’s prophecy. NB God is not subject to the law but he saves in accordance with it because the law was given to point us to that salvation!


  • Therefore he remains just when he declares sinners justified (righteous) if their trust is in Jesus.


  • These verses need no breakdown because they draw to conclusion all that he has said. They support Paul’s argument at the beginning of the chapter when he insisted (‘certainly not!’) that God is right and people are wrong. God has not broken his promises or the law but has upheld the law! (v31)
  • The law that requires works verses the law that requires faith – to boast in the law that requires you to obey it and remain righteous is an empty boast because it only highlights your sin. But to boast in the law that is by faith is to boast in the works of Christ who has fulfilled the law and redeemed us by faith! We trust Jesus rather than our own works.
  • Paul will boast in this just as he proclaimed in 1:16 ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’


  • Righteousness – how do you get right with God and stay there? This is the crucial question of the bible.
  • Redemption – the process of being paid for.
  • The law and the prophets testify or bear witness to the true gospel of God. They prophecy of this righteousness of God who acts rightly in every way and who gives us the gift of his righteousness when we hear the gospel and believe.
  • Salvation by grace alone through faith (eph 2:8-10)
  • God is right when he acts.
  • Faith beats law!


  1. Repent and believe the good news
  2. There is one verdict for all humanity: guilty. There is one way to be saved: the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This is the good news that Paul was so keen and obligated to preach (1:14-15). And we too ought to be keen and obligated to proclaim it.
  3. Paul has helped us understand Romans 1:17 – from faith to faith – saved through faith from first to last. Works has nothing to do with it!


  1. Paul has layed down the gospel for us. Can you explain the gospel without using the same words that Paul has used?
  2. What place does works play in the life of a Christian? Be careful how you answer this that you don’t make works part of your need to be saved.
  3. Name one thing that is more important than this message of salvation. How does your answer affect decisions in your life for work, money spending, teaching children and basically everything? Your prayers?

Does God really listen?


In Luke 18:1-8, we are told that Jesus gave an illustration of a woman bothering a grumpy and selfish judge until the judge finally gave her what she needed. He told this story so that we would learn to pray to God and keep on praying!

Does this mean that we are meant to be ‘God botherers’?

Is God actually bothered by our requests? Are we right in bringing our problems to him? Or does he want to be left alone and work out our own problems?

The question about whether God really listens can be rather, should we bother with prayer?


Before continuing to answer this question, it is worth looking at the context of Luke 18:1-8. The previous chapter began with a story of ten lepors who all came to Jesus with a request (a prayer if you like) to be healed. All ten were healed but only one returned giving praise to God. Jesus recognised this one man out of ten as having faith.

Then chapter seventeen continues with Jesus describing what it will be like when the Son of Man comes. He compares that day with the day of Sodom and Gomorra’s destruction and with the day that Noah boarded the ark! It will be a day of judgement.

It is in the context of this subject that the story of the persistant widow is given. Note in verse 8 that Jesus asks whether faith will be found when the Son of Man comes. The two previous accounts are feeding two strong subjects into this widow’s story 1) Faith and 2) the day of judgement.

The next story starting at verse 9 is just as important. It compares two type of prayers. One from a Pharisee who believes he is God’s gift to the world. The second is a tax collector who comes to God in humility and repentance. Jesus declares that the latter will return justified before God.

This allows us to see that the story of the widow is not simply a message to pray because Jesus says to. We notice that the widow has come in desperation to the local judge – only because he is the only person who can help her. She needs what only he can give. The widow’s story teaches us that, in light of the coming judgement, we need to see our need and the only One who can supply it. We need to come to the judge for help. Like the faith of the tenth lepor, Jesus wonders whether he will find us praying when he returns (verse 8).


1) Prayer is expected – verse 1

Nowhere in the bible are we told to begin praying. It is expected right from the opening story of the scriptures. Man and God were in communication with each other right at creation. Before the woman was created, man spoke with God. But God’s image bearer hid from God’s sight after the Fall. Sin removed the natural position of prayer.

Prayer was not stopped, it only became harder.

But we are told time and time again that God heard the cries of his people (Gen 21:17; 25:21; 30:17; Ex 2:24;16:12; 23:13; Deut 23:5; 26:7-9; Jdg 13:8-9; 2 Sam 22 esp v7; Psalm 18; 2 Chr 30:27; 33:10-13; Psalm 54:2; 55:1; 61:1; 66:17-20; 78:56-61; 84:8; Isa 38:4-8; Jer 31:18-20; Dan 9:19; 10:12; Acts 4:30-31; 2 Cor 6:2) and he even hears his ridicule too (2 Kings 19; Isa37:4).

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the weren’t asking what prayer was or whether it was necessary, but how to do it! They were impressed by Jesus persistence and dedication to it.

In Luke 18:1, Jesus tells us to pray and not to stop praying. Two reasons can be given for this which together, are the most wonderful things ever known. Firstly that God is able to do anything he chooses. He is the sovereign Lord of all. Later in chapter 18, the disciples will ask Jesus how on earth anybody can possibly enter God’s kingdom. Jesus tells them that it is impossible for man, but nothing is impossible for God! Isaiah 46 is a beautiful chapter on exactly how powerful and in control God is. “I am God and there is no other, and I will do all that I please.”

This on it’s own is important news but it is not wonderful unless combined with the next truth: God cares about his people! He has demonstrated that care for us in sending his one and only son in the world to die in our place! Does God care? Of course he does. This is the greatest chasm between the judge in the story and our ultimate judge. The latter cares! And he cares about true justice and righteousness. God can do anything and he cares for you! How wonderful is that news!!!

Prayer is expected. A relationship with our creator was always a priority to him and sin has not stopped God relating with us. He has done away with that obstacle so that we can talk to him.

But what shall we talk to him about in prayer?

2) Prayer is at the heart of salvation – vv2-7

We can bring anything to our God in prayer, but before we do, there is one request we must bring to him and must never be far from our minds: to be saved!

The woman in the story was not bothering the judge for a tablespoon of sugar! She was desperate to get his attention to seek justice. The woman needed to get an answer from the judge and she persisted in this prayer with him.

What is our greatest need? There are some very big issues that plague us. Some of us are burdened with sickness or some misery or hardship. Some have unrelenting addictions. Chronic pain. Relentless depression. All of these are real and can be brought to God in prayer.

But our greatest need is forgiveness. It is easy to forget that. Remember the paralytic man that was brought to Jesus, and when Jesus saw him he told him that his sins are forgiven? And then he healed him of his useless legs only to prove that he CAN forgive sins! Our sins need dealing with first and foremost. This is part of our life of faith: knowing by faith that our greatest need is to be made right with God and then knowing that Jesus can make that happen.

At the heart of prayer, there is a need to be saved. To be rescued from our greatest enemy – sin and death.

When Jesus returns or he calls us home, all of our pain and sorrow will be stripped away. If we have not come to God in repentance – truly sorry and crying out for help – then we treat God more like a wish-bone or a dandelion that the sovereign God and judge.

God can do anything and he cares. But our greatest need is forgiveness. God is not bothered by our requests for that. He has worked hard and long and patiently and deliberately so that he can tell you that it is done. What is impossible for man has been done for us by the Son of God.

God expects that when we pray, when we pray, our desire will be first and foremost to be part of his kingdom. Once that has occured to us, then everything else we talk to God about will be effected by his kingdom.

3) Prayer is faith speaking – verse 8

Jesus was pleased to see that tenth lepor giving praises to God for the healing that he had received. The other nine were shallow and quickly forgot all the heartache they had been through – that they were clean was all that they cared about. The tenth remembered who had brought this salvation to his life. Jesus was pleased to see faith demonstrated in this man. While he didn’t see God, he praised him. While the healing came from a man of Nazareth, he knew that God had made that happen.

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? Will he find people bringing their desperate need of salvation to him in prayer and hearing the songs of praise as faith sings out the victory song? God will deliver all those who cry out to him in faith.

But what should we do with our smaller requests? Is God only interested in our salvation and not in our daily anxieties?

God cares and we are told in 1 Peter 5:8 to throw all of our anxieties on him because he does care. This too is an act of faith. Handing our stresses and nervousness over to an unseen God.

Paul, who wrote half of the NT, brought a concern to God in prayer. He described his problem as a thorn in his flesh. He asked God three times to take it away. He persisted to some degree. Did God hear his prayer? Did God really listen?

The thorn was not taken away. God did not change the circumstances that Paul was in. Although Paul was left in the same physical state as before he prayed, God did change something: he changed Paul. God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul saw even clearer, through this hardship, that God knew what he was doing. And that the gift of the kingdom was sufficient for Paul.

Some good Christians will say that God always answers prayer: he says either yes, no or not yet. This is a true statement. I don’t find it at all comforting though. I’d rather hear the answer that God always listens to a person who needs him. It’s not that our prayers need to be sincere enough. It’s that when we speak with Him – the one who gave us life – seek first the kingdom of heaven, and his righteousness, and you will know what it means that his grace is sufficient for you.