St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans Chapter 3

Beloved Heavenly Father,

Through the miracle of our baptism You have, through water
and the power of God the Holy Spirit, circumcised our hearts of stone and placed
within us a heart that beats in union with the heart of our most beloved Savior,
Jesus.  It is through this supernatural transformation that You have empowered
us to share the love of Christ with others and to live out our Christian faith
in obedience to Your laws and statues so that at every Eucharistic celebration
when we go forth to receive Your Son, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, we at the
same time go forward to offer our lives as a loving sacrifice’a sacrifice from
one who is called to be Your child.  Send us Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us
in our study of St. Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. St. Paul, Apostle and
friend, pray for us.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit.  Amen.


+ + +

“For I shall take
you from among the nations and gather you back from all the countries, and bring
you home to your own country.  I shall pour clean water over you and you will be
cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols.  I
shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the
heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.  I shall
put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and respect and practice my

Question: Up to this point in his letter how would you
articulate Paul’s main points after his address and greeting? See point #1 in
Romans 1:18-19; point #2 in 2:6-11; point #3 in 2:12-16; and point #4 in


1.      All human beings are subject to
God’s impartial judgment: Romans

2.      God’s righteous judgment will
be pronounced according to a person’s deeds: Romans

3.      Gentiles who are not exposed to
the Law will not be judged by the Law of the Sinai Covenant but by natural and
moral law revealed by their conscience: Romans

4.      The Law of Moses [Sinai
Covenant] and the sacrament of outward circumcision [imposed since the time of
Abraham] is no guarantee of salvation.  On the contrary it is the Law which will
expose the sins of the Jews to God’s judgment’the real Jew is one who is
inwardly a Jew and the sign of being a true Jew is circumcision of the heart:
Romans 2:17-29


In chapter two of his letter to the Church in Rome St. Paul
redefined what it means to be a true Jew’one who is called by God’s name into a
holy covenant which binds God to the believer or believers as one covenant
family.  Paul defines the real Jew in a dual statement in 2:28-29‘first
in the negative in verse 28:
“Being a Jew is not only having the outward appearance of a Jew, and
circumcision is not only a visible physical operation”
and then in the
positive in verse 29:
The real Jew is the one who is inwardly a Jew, and real circumcision is in
the heart, a thing not of the letter but of the spirit.  He may not be praised
by any human being, but he will be praised by God.”
Just prior to
establishing the new definition of the true Jew Paul had reminded his hearers of
the promises God made to Israel concerning the New Covenant in Isaiah 52 and in
Ezekiel 36 when He would “sprinkle” [Isaiah 52:15
Septuagint translation] and “pour clean water” over [Ezekiel
] His people to purify them and give them the spirit who would
circumcise their hearts of stone and replace their hearts of stone with new
hearts’a promise of the Sacrament of Baptism.


In the Old Covenant God’s Law had been written on the cold
stone of tablets of the 10 Commandments but now in the New Covenant He will
write His Law on the fertile ground of circumcised hearts transformed by the
Holy Spirit.  In reminding the Roman Christians of this promise Paul is
asserting the value in God’s eyes of the inner and hidden obedience of faith
over the external forms of obedience to God in the Old Covenant’using
circumcision as his example.  Paul is reminding his listeners of the new
definition of holiness that God promised in the New Covenant in Jeremiah
, in Ezekiel 36 and
other passages which are fulfilled in them.  In Paul’s second letter to the
Church in Corinth written sometime just prior to this letter Paul had expressed
a similar teaching in that animated by the Holy Spirit Christians are living
witnesses in 2
Corinthians 3:2-3
, You yourselves are our letter, written in our
hearts, that everyone can read and understand; and it is plain that you are a
letter from Christ, entrusted to our care, written not with ink but with the
Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets but on the tablets of human
‘a reference probably not only to the stone tablets of the 10
Commandments but to the hearts of stone in Ezekiel
and pointing out the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.
Paul will revisit this theme of the new Jewish/Christian identity in Romans
7:6.  It is the inward transformation that will enable the Covenant people to
follow God’s statues and ordnances with faithful obedience’an obedience the Old
Covenant people were too handicapped to fulfill because their hearts had not
receive the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit as New Covenant believes receive
Him in the Sacrament of Baptism.


In chapter 3 Paul continues his dialogue with his Jewish
audience by openly debating an imaginary Jewish questioner.  In 3:1-8 Paul
addresses objections to his previous points that a Jew might raise concerning
the nature of God’s righteousness and God’s faithfulness to His Old Covenant
people.  As he continues in this imaginary debate Paul will ask a series of
anticipated questions followed by a series of responses.  Notice how each
question and response leads to the next objection.


Please read Romans 3:1-8:
God’s Faithfulness to Israel Endures

1 Is there any
benefit, then, in being a Jew?  Is there any advantage in being circumcised?
2 A great deal, in every way.  First
of all, it was to the Jews that the message of God was entrusted. 
3 What if some of them were unfaithful?  Do you
think their lack of faith could cancel God’s faithfulness?
4 Out of the question!  God will always be true
even if no human being can be relied on.  As scripture says: ‘That you may
show your saving justice when you pass sentence and your victory may appear when
you give judgment.’ 
5 But if our
injustice serves to bring God’s saving justice into view, can we say that God is
unjust when’to use human terms’he brings his retribution down on us?
6 Out of the question!  It would mean
that God could not be the judge of the world. 
7 You might as well say that if my untruthfulness
makes God demonstrate his truthfulness, to his greater glory, then I should not
be judged to be a sinner at all. 
this case, the slanderous report some people are spreading would be true, that
we teach that one should do evil that good may come of it.  In fact such people
are justly condemned.”


Question: What three hypothetical objections does
Paul’s imaginary Jewish opponent raise in Romans


Objection #1: “What advantage is there to being a

Objection #2: “What if some of them were
unfaithful?  Do you suppose their lack of faith would cancel God’s

Objection #3 “But if our injustice serves to bring
God’s saving justice into view can we say that God is unjust when’to use human
terms’he brings his retribution down on us?”


Question: What 3 part comparison is Paul making in his
hypothetical debate?

Answer: In this argument he is comparing faithfulness,
truthfulness/ justice, and holiness/righteousness with faithlessness, falsehood,
and sinfulness.


Faithfulness vs. faithlessness Romans
Truthfulness/justice vs. falsehood Romans
Holiness/righteousness vs. sinfulness Romans 3:7-8 and
continuing to verse 20


Question: In 3:1-2 what
double question does Paul ask?

Answer: (1) What advantage is there to being Jewish
and (2) what value is there to the sacrament of circumcision?

Paul is asking what advantage is there in the “ethnic” sense
in addition to the spiritual sense he just defined in his new definition of a
Jew in Romans


Question: How does Paul answer his own question? What
does he mean by “messages” or “oracles”?

Answer: The Israelites/Jews alone were entrusted with
the “messages” or “oracles” of God’the men and woman through which Yahweh spoke
to His Covenant people with the promise of a future redeemer and the promise of
God’s gift of salvation, beginning with father Abraham and continuing through
Moses and the age of the Prophets [see the list of
the Old Testament prophets
in the Charts section].  These “messages” to
which Israel, as God’s Covenant people have been entrusted are probably not only
the revelations made to the prophets but also the rules of conduct under the Law
delivered to them through Moses.  The possession of these divinely inspired
messages was clearly an  to the Jew [see Deuteronomy
; Psalm
; 103:7].


Question: As those to whom God’s message of salvation
was entrusted what was Israel’s duty and obligation?  Was there also a threat
included as punishment for ignoring this privilege?  See Amos 3:2

Answer: Israel alone was given revelation by God to
share God’s revelation her Gentile nations and yes there were curses as well as
blessings: “You alone have I known of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will chastise you for all your iniquities.”
Amos 3:2

Question: Did Old Covenant Israel fulfill her destiny
to spread the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham and to bring her Gentile
neighbors into covenant with the One True God?  Hint: see Romans 2:24: Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel
; 36:20-22;

Answer: Old Covenant Israel as a nation presented a
bad example of holiness and allowed herself to be seduced into idolatry and away
from God by her Gentile nations [Ezekiel chapter
].  The Jews of the Old Covenant had the advantage in that they were the
first to receive the promise of salvation but they were no better off in this
knowledge if they do not obey God’through disobedience they were as much under
the power of sin as the Gentiles.  However, it was through Old Covenant Israel
that God would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer and it would be the faithful
remnant of Israel, who through the gift of faith believed in the Messiah Jesus,
and would be established as the New Covenant Israel on the Feast of Pentecost in
the Upper Room circa 30AD. The Jews of the New Covenant became the nucleus of
the universal Church who would fulfill those covenant promises
made to Abraham circa 2,000
earlier.  It was the filling and indwelling of
the Holy Spirit that allowed the New Covenant Church to fulfill this mission’a
power not available to Old Covenant Israel.


In Romans 3:3-4
Paul raises the second objection which concerns God’s faithfulness.

Question: What is the second objection?

Answer:  The objection is if Israel is the only people
chosen to receive the revelation of God, then does Israel’s infidelity annul
God’s promises?


The Old Covenant nation of Israel [and later Judah] as a
whole did not abide by the Law and did not convert the Gentile nations. did not
convert the Gentile nations.  Instead she allowed herself to be seduced by the
sins of her neighbors. Nevertheless Paul assures the Jews that their lack of
faith cannot cancel God’s faithfulness. In Romans 3:4 Paul
says that “God will always be true..” and Jesus identified Himself  “I
AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life”
in John 14:6.  The
Catechism affirms God as the source of all truth in CCC# 2465: “The
Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth.  His Word is truth,
His Law is truth, His ‘frightfulness endures to all generations.’  Since God is
‘true,’ the members of his people are called to live in the truth.”


Paul continues in 3:4 “that God
will always be true even if no human being can be relied on.  As scripture says:
‘That you may show your saving justice when you pass sentence and your victory
may appear when you give judgment.” 
In his reply to this objection Paul
refers to Psalm
, repeating a phrase of the psalmist in verse 11,
“no human being can be relied on.”

  • “In my terror I said, ‘No human being can be relied on.’
    What return can I make to Yahweh for his generosity to me? I shall take up the
    cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh.   I shall fulfill my vows to
    Yahweh, witnessed by all his people.”
    .  This Psalm was sung during the Last Supper.


and then with the phrase, “As Scripture says,” Paul
quotes Psalm 51:4(New Jerusalem, however verse numbers can be different in other
translation, i.e. it is 51:6 in the New American translation)

Psalm 51 is from
King David’s great Psalm of repentance, but Paul is quoting from the Greek
Septuagent.  The Septuagint was the Greek translation of what we call the Old
Testament that was in use during Jesus’ ministry and which became the official
Old Testament translation of the universal Church.  When the Old Testament is
quoted in the New Testament, even in the Gospels, it is usually from the Greek

  • Psalm 51 begins:
    1 Have mercy on me, O God, in
    your faithful love, in your great tenderness wipe away my offences;
    2 wash me thoroughly from my guilt, purify me from
    my sin.
    3 For I am well aware of my
    offences, my sin is constantly in mind.

4 Against you, you alone, I have sinned, I have
done what you see to be wrong..”
and Paul quotes this part of verse 4,
“that you may show your saving justice when you pass sentence, and your
victory may appear when you give judgment,
remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception.
6 But you delight in sincerity of
heart, and in secret you teach me wisdom.
7 Purify me with hyssop till I am clean, wash me
till I am whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:1-7, New Jerusalem (51:3-10 NAB,
50:3-10 Septuigent)

But the Septuagint translation of this is passage is more
literally translated“…that you may be justified in your word”, which
assures that God will be found righteous when condemning human sin but in
confronting human disobedience and sin God will remain faithful to the saving
“words” He spoke and entrusted to Israel as His Covenant people,  for God is
wholly faithful and true and by pardoning He demonstrates His power over evil
and His victory over sin.


Question: Did you notice the phrase “a sinner from
the moment of conception”
in Psalm 51:5 (51:7
NAB, 50:7 Septuigent)?  To what sin does this verse refer?

Answer: This passage identifies original sin
[see CCC # 388-389].

Question: Did you notice the reference to “hyssop” in
Psalm 51:7(NAB
?  Hyssop was used in the Old Covenant purification rites and it was
used in the ratification of the Sinai Covenant in Exodus 24 [Hebrews 9:19
]. When were we “purified with hyssop and washed whiter than snow” = our sins
forgiven?  Hyssop was used to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Altar,
representing Yahweh, and on the people in the ratification of the Sinai
Covenant; see Hebrews
, and also used for ritual purification in Leviticus
; and Numbers
.  See John 19:28-37;
what is the link between the hyssop used in the ratification at Sinai and in John 19?

Answer: The hyssop was used to sprinkle blood on the
Altar, representing Yahweh and on the book, the word of God, and on the people
forming one covenant family united in the blood.  At Jesus’ crucifixion the
hyssop is used to give Jesus His last drink of wine’essentially the last cup of
the Passover meal which ratified the covenant for another year but this time the
hyssop and the wine are a sign for the sacrifice of the lamb whose blood will
spurt out from His side covering everyone and uniting everyone in the blood of
the New Covenant when His side is pierced by the Roman soldier.  It is in this
use of the hyssop that we became purified and washed whiter than snow when we
enter into Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in our Baptism, the Sacrament
which cleanses us from all sin, including original sin, and justifies us in the
site of God [ this is our “initial justification” which is merited for us by the
Passion of Christ; see CCC# 1992].


The promise of God’s faithfulness to which Paul refers in
quoting from these Psalm passages is a promise repeated consistently throughout
the Old Testament.  

Question: What promise did Yahweh make to David
concerning the Covenant people in Psalms 89:1-52?
What passages especially speak of God’s promise of faithfulness to Israel
despite their lack of faithfulness?

Answer: Psalm 89:30-35.
“Should his descendants desert my law, and not keep to my rulings, should
they violate my statues, and not observe my commandments, then I shall punish
their offences with the rod, their guilt with the whip, but I shall never
withdraw from him my faithful love, I shall not belie my constancy, I shall not
violate my covenant, I shall not withdraw the word once spoken.  I have sworn my
holiness, once and for all, never will I break faith with David.”


Question: Is this promise of faithfulness also
extended to us?  Read 2 Timothy
; what doesn’t this promise of faithfulness mean concerning sin and

Answer: “If we have died with him, then we shall
live with him.  If we persevere, then we shall reign with him.  If we disown
him, then he will disown us.  If we are faithless, he is faithful still, for he
cannot disown his own self.” 
Yes, God is always faithful but faithfulness
in love does not mean the dismissal of righteous judgment for sins.


Question: What is the third objection Paul raises in

Answer: Is God just?  Paul argues that human
sinfulness only serves to highlight God’s truthfulness and justness.  And
continuing in this context of the justness of God Paul asks if our injustice or
unrighteousness serves to demonstrate God’s righteousness and justice [see Psalm 1:4] then
is His punishment unjust since He in a sense gains from our failure’and Paul
adds the disclaimer “in human terms”?

Question: How does Paul answer?

Answer: He answers that God must be able to justly
inflict His wrath or He could not be the One judge of the world.

Question: What significant grammatical change do you
notice in verse

Answer: Paul changes to the first person singular when
he proposes the argument that it is unjust for God to judge a sinner whose very
sin enhances God’s glory.  To this absurd assumption Paul answers that
sinfulness and the furtherance of God’s glory cannot be argued from this morally
perilous position.   No matter how one may try to justify it, it is simply
immoral to do evil with the declared intent of doing good.  Paul regards this
ridiculous position, which evidently some have raised by twisting Paul’s words
and accusing him of saying that evil had to be committed for good in order for
God’s truth and justice to be made manifest.  Paul emphatically rejects this
assumption as a scandal only worthy of condemnation and not worth wasting his


The moral teaching of the Church requires that the Christian
is upright in all matters even if by that upright action someone is hurt’the end
never justifies the means’an action can only be considered fully good if all of
its elements are good.   In Pope Pius XII’s address of April 18, 1952, the holy
Father said, “God desires us always to have, above all, an upright intention,
but that is not enough.  He also requires that the action be a good action.
[…].  It is not permissible to do evil in order to achieve a good


Please read Romans 3:9-20:
The universal sinfulness of man

9 Well: are we
any better off?  Not at all: we have already indicted Jews and Greeks as being
all alike under the dominion of sin. 
As Scripture says: ‘Not one of them is upright, not a single one,
11 not a single one is wise, not a
single one seeks God. 
12 All have
turned away, all alike turned sour, not one of them does right, not a single

13 Their throats are
wide-open graves, their tongues seductive.  Viper’s venom behind their lips;
14 their speech is full of cursing
and bitterness.
15 Their feet quick
to shed innocent blood,
16 wherever
they go there is havoc and ruin. 
They do no know the way of peace,
there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ 
19 Now we are well aware that whatever the Law
says is said for those who are subject to the Law, so that every mouth may be
silenced, and the whole world brought under the judgment of God.
20 So then, no human being can be found upright
[justified] at the tribunal of God by keeping the Law; all that the Law does is
to tell us what is sinful.”


In verse 9 Paul
announces that both Jews and Gentiles are sinners; this is the first mention of
the noun “sin” in Paul’s letter.  He personifies the word “sin” as a master who
dominates a slave held in bondage. In this passage it would be a shocking
scandal for Jewish Christians to be told that they were considered to be in the
same position as Gentile sinners’a universal solidarity composed of unworthy
sinners alienated from fellowship with a righteous God!


Then in Romans 3 verses
10-18 Paul quotes a series of 7 verses; 5 from the Psalms and one verse each
from Isaiah and Proverbs’all from the Septuagint translation:

“Not one of them is upright, not a single one, not a
single one is wise, not a single one seeks God.  All have turned away, all alike
turned sour, not one of them does right, not a single one.”
“Their throats are wide-open graves, their tongues
“Viper’s venom behind their lips;”
“Their speech is full of cursing and
“Their feet quick to shed innocent
“wherever they go there is havoc and
“there is no fear of God before their


These Old Testament passages and Paul’s statements that teach
from them are a review of what Paul has been saying about the spiritual
condition which refers not only to the Jews but to the worldwide infection of
sin upon mankind.  He sums up his assessment of the sinful condition of mankind
with a quotation from Psalms 36:1.

Question: How is Psalm 36:1 a
summation or a result of this accumulation of sin and apostasy?

Answer: If man truly feared the righteous wrath of God
how could he dare to behave so unrighteous?


Question:  In Romans 3:10
Paul’s quote from the Psalms, “There is no righteous person, not even
and in Romans 3:23 in
his statement, “No distinction is made: all have sinned and lack God’s
Paul writes that “all,” everyone, has committed personal sin.
Does that include the Virgin Mary? see CCC# 404-405 for the
difference between the state of original sin and the act of personal sin,

Answer: This is a general “all”.  There are
exceptions: Jesus, for example was without sin; therefore, He did not commit
personal sin.  Babies who die in childbirth or very young children, and the
severely mentally retarded are not guilty of having committed personal sins.
The angel Gabriel called Mary a perfect past participle, replacing Mary’s name
by addressing her as kekaritomene, “has been graced”.  Not “will be full
of grace”, but “has always been in a state of grace”!  To be in a state of grace
is to be without sin.  The verbal adjective “graced” is not just describing a
simple past action.  The perfect tense is used to indicate that an action has
been completed in the past resulting in a present state of being.  Baptism is
what first perfected us in grace but Mary was forgiven original sin in advance,
making her moment of conception immaculate’without sin.  CCC# 411 states,
“…Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin:
she was preserved for all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God
committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.”
And CCC# 491 states:
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full
of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is
what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses…”
[also see CCC# 487-511]. Note: St
Jerome translated Gabriel’s address to Mary in the Greek, kekaritomene
into Latin as gratia plena, “full of grace” in order to convey that sense
of Mary being completed or perfected by grace which is what the perfect tense in
Greek indicated.  To be “full” or “filled” was as full of grace as one could
be’nothing was lacking in Mary’s grace.


In Romans 3:20
Paul sums up the argument he began in Romans 1:16-18
by returning to his theme of justification and God’s righteousness or “saving
justice” and man’s lack of righteousness by making an allusion to Psalm 143:2,
“no living being will be justified before you.” compared to Paul’s verse 20:
“So then, no human being can be found upright [justified]” and linking
this inability to be found righteous through the deeds of the imperfect Old
Covenant Law independent of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Romans 3:21-31
provides a clear statement of St. Paul’s teaching on the Gospel of salvation
introduced in chapters 1-3: the principle of justification by faith in Christ
Jesus.  Our merciful God has provided the means of saving humanity from its
endless spiraling downfall into sin.  Divine righteousness, or divine “saving
justice” [ 3:21] has
judged mankind guilty but has by God’s grace declared the guilty innocent and
not only declared but made the declaration a reality’ not as a result of
following the old Law of Moses, nor through any merit of man [ 3:21-23] but
through forgiveness of their sins [ 3:24] through
the virtue of the redemption of man won from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which
is applied to all who in faith believe in Him [ 3:24-25]. God
the Father’s saving justice and righteousness has been manifested in the
Incarnation of the Son, whose work of salvation inaugurates a New Age in the
history of salvation.


Please read Romans 3:21-26:
The revelation of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ

21 God’s
saving justice was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has
been revealed altogether apart from law:
God’s saving justice given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who
believe.  No distinction is made:
all have sinned and lack God’s glory,
and all are justified by the free gift of his grace through being set
free in Christ Jesus. 
25 God
appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding
of his blood, and so showed his justness; first for the past, when sins went
unpunished because he held his hand;
26 and now again for the present age, to show how
he is just and justifies everyone who has faith in Jesus.”


Paul’s “but now” in verse 21 marks
a transition in Salvation History which moves beyond the Law and the promises of
the Prophets into the Messianic Age of the New Covenant in which the former
period of divine wrath [ 1:18ff] gives
way to the period of divine grace in which believers are justified through the
saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


From Romans 3:1 to 31 the verb or noun which we translate as
righteous/ righteousness or as justify/justification/justice; in Greek  =
dikaios/dikaiosune is used by Paul 12 times [ 3:4, 5, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 (3 times),
28, 30].


Question: In Romans 3:21
Paul writes that God’s righteousness or “saving justice” was previously revealed
in the Old Covenant Law and by the Prophets but in this new age how has His
saving justice or righteousness been revealed?  See verse 22.

Answer:  God’s righteousness have been revealed
through faith in Jesus.

Question: How do we receive faith?  See CCC# 153 – 155

Answer: Faith is a gift of God’s grace in cooperation
with a human act.  It is a supernatural virtue infused by God to the one who
accepts the gift.  In exercising faith the “human intellect and will
cooperate with divine grace.”


Question: Even though all have sinned how has God
justified mankind?  See 3:24

Answer: By His grace through the saving work of Jesus’
sacrifice on the Cross and the shedding of His blood.  Paul uses the Greek word
charis to indicate a gift given freely and unearned.  This is the sense
in which this Greek word is most often used in the New Testament and especially
in Paul’s letters where the word charis is employed to describe the way
in which God offers the gift of salvation through Jesus the Son:

Jesus’ Incarnation was an act of grace John 1:14, 17; 2
Corinthians 8:9
; Titus
Jesus self-sacrificial death was an act of grace’a gift of
the Father
Romans 8:32; 1
Corinthians 2:12
; Ephesians
; Hebrews
Through grace we are justified, receive salvation, and the
right to eternal life without the works of the O.C. Law
Romans 3:24; 4:4ff; Ephesians
; Titus
; Acts
Jesus’ Second Advent will be an act of grace’it will be an
act of grace when we receive everlasting glory
Thessalonians 1:12
1 Peter


It is also possible to receive grace “in vain” [ 2
Corinthians 6:1
], to “fall from grace” [ Galatians
]; to forfeit grace and insult the Spirit of grace [ Hebrews
; 10:29].
Above all grace must be carefully guarded, it must used wisely, and it is
necessary for grace to increase’we must continually grow in grace to be
strengthen on our faith journey in order to strengthen us and help us obtain our
goal [ Romans
; Hebrews
; 1
Peter 4:10
; 5:12; Acts 13:43; 14:26; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Timothy
; Hebrews


Romans 3:25 in
the New American translation reads, “whom God set forth as an expiation,
through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the
forgiveness of sins.” 
To “set forth” means God destined Christ to become
the sacrifice that would free man from his sins by paying the price that a
sinful humanity deserved to pay’death’He died in our place.  A synonym for
“expiation” is “atonement”.  The Catholic Dictionary defines “expiation” as
“Atonement for some wrongdoing.  It implies an attempt to undo the wrong that
one has done, by suffering a penalty, by performing some penance, or by making
reparation or redress.  (Etym. Latin ex-, full = piare, to propitiate: expiare,
to atone for fully)
page 139.  God’s requirement for justice was meant by
Jesus’ atonement or expiation for our sins.  This passage says that it was “by
the shedding of his blood” that we were justified, “He has wiped out the
record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us, he has destroyed it by
nailing it to the cross; and he has stripped the sovereignties and the ruling
forces, and paraded them behind him in his triumphal procession.”


Question: Why was the shedding of Jesus’ blood
necessary for our justification?  See Genesis 9:4;
; Hebrews 9:7
& 22;
; Mark
; Luke
; 24:25-27; John 6:51-58; 1
Corinthians 10:16-17
; 11:24-32;
1 Peter

Answer: It was the plan God had set in motion from
before the fall of our first parents:

  • “For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have
    given it to you for performing the rite of expiation
    [or atonement] on
    the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life.”
  • “The tradition I handed on to you in the first place, a
    tradition which I had myself received, was that Christ died for our sins, in
    accordance with the Scriptures…”

Corinthian 15:3

  • “For you know that the price of your ransom from the
    futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything
    perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood as of a blameless and
    spotless lamb, Christ.  He was marked out before the world was made, and was
    revealed at the final point of time for your sake.”
    1 Peter 1:18-20

On the Old Covenant feast day known as Yom Kippur or the Day
of Atonement, a sacrifice was made for the sake of the sins of the people as a
whole.  The blood of the sacrificed lamb was sprinkled on the “mercy seat” of
God, the top of the Ark of the Covenant.  The blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of
God, has performed what the ancient ritual, and all ancient sin sacrifices,
could only symbolize’purification from sin’  Jeremiah
, 34b,
“Look the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant
with the House of Israel..[…].  …they will all know me, from the least to
the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more
call their sin to mind.”
This is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ
that is the inheritance of the New Israel, the Universal Church.


Question: Romans 3:25-26
says that Jesus came to save those who died in the past as well as the present
and that those of the past’s “sins went unpunished”.  What does Paul mean?  What
was the condition of judgment in the past?  Was it temporal or eternal?  Why?
See CCC # 633; 536; 1026; 1 Peter

Answer: Before the coming of the Savior the blessings
were temporal and so were the punishments.  No one was condemned before having
the opportunity to hear the Gospel message of salvation’even those who had
already died.  Jesus preached to the souls waiting in Sheol/Hades [the grave]
and led them out of Sheol/Hades into heaven’the gates of which were opened at
His Baptism and which continue to remain open in this season of the great
harvest of souls which began with Jesus’ generation.  Note: the Greek word
“Hades” means the abode of the dead and does not refer to the fiery pit reserved
for Satan and his fallen angels.


Please read Romans 3:27-31: The
power of faith

27 So what
comes of our boasts?  There is no room for them.  On what principle’that only
actions count?  No; that faith is what counts,
28 since, as we see it, a person is justified by
faith and not by doing what the Law tells him to do. 
29 Do you think God is the God only of the Jews,
and not of Gentiles too?  Most certainly of Gentiles too,
30 since there is only one God; he will justify
the circumcised by their faith, and he will justify the uncircumcised through
their faith.
31 Are we saying that
the Law has been made pointless by faith?  Out of the question; we are placing
the Law on its true footing.”


Question: In Romans 3:26
Paul writes, “he is just and justifies everyone who has faith in Jesus
and in this passage of Romans 3:27-31
Paul repeats that we are justified by faith and not by works. Is this a
contradiction to Romans 2:6-7 and
13 which
connects justification and eternal life to good deeds?

Answer: Not at all.  First of all Paul is not
referring to the works of God in acts of love an charity through the lives of
redeemed believers, he is instead referring to works of the Old Covenant in
obedience to the Law of Moses which was made to bring the people of God to a
holy and righteous state but that righteousness failed if faith didn’t transform
the law written on stone to the law lived out in faith through transformed and
circumcised hearts.


It is important not focus so exclusively on one particular
passage that you are kept from a properly developed understanding of the
consistent teaching of sacred Scripture as a whole.  For example, the Old
Testament book of Leviticus would be unsolvable without the New Testament book
of Hebrews and the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah would be limited in
its revelation without the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Heresies usually begin from an exaggerated interpretation of one passage of
Scripture without looking at Scripture as a whole.  Focusing on faith and
rejecting the passages on works Martin Luther in the 16th century
erroneously translated Romans 3:28 as
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without
the deeds of the law”,
and interpreted this passage to negate anything of
redeeming value in the works of man.  The phrase “faith alone” only appears in
one place in Scripture and that is in the letter of St. James to the universal
Church in which he writes in James 2:24,
“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone
[New American translation]Luther would have eliminated this letter
from the New Testament entirely had he dared but in the end he gurglingly kept
it in the canon of the New Testament but called it “an epistle of straw”‘this
from a man who insisted that sacred Scripture was the sole authority for the
revelation of God.


Martin Luther viewed Romans chapter 2 and its statements of
judgment according to works as God’s plan for humanity that couldn’t be
fulfilled’a failed Plan A because everything man touched was sinful’man was
incapable of works of righteousness.  Luther instead insisted that Romans
chapter 3 as a means for justification was God’s Plan B that was completed by
“faith alone”.  According to the teaching of the Catholic Church then and now
this teaching is in error.


The only way to avoid error in interpretation is to keep
within the circle of sacred Scripture as a whole, reading and studying within
the Living Tradition of the Church and to not interpret some passages at the
expense of others’every passage of Holy Spirit inspired Scripture is of equal
weight and without error!  If the interpretation of one passage is at odds with
another then the interpretation is in error.  Both Scripture and our sacred oral
Tradition interpreted through the universal Magisterium continually confirms or
corrects our understanding of the revealed Word of God.  It is also important to
be aware that there may be more than one dimension to a given point of doctrine
expressed in Scripture.  For example, Jesus Christ is both man and God.  He is
both High Priest [ Hebrews
; 7:11-28] and
unblemished victim [ Ephesians
; John
; 1
Peter 1:19
] and He is also ‘the Lion of Judah’ and ‘the Lamb of God’ [see Revelation
].  He is also both the ‘Lamb of God’ [ John 1:29, 35], the good
Shepherd of God’s flock which is the Church [ John 10:11-16],
and He is also the Bridegroom of the Bride who is that same Church [ John 3:29; Matthew 9:15;
; 21:2]!
All of these titles are different dimensions of Jesus’ divine authority and
Lordship as the Savior of mankind and the Son of God.


In Romans 3:27-31
Paul is emphasizing that the interior law is built on faith and faith is the
gift of God that leads to justification. This is the faith that Paul is speaking
of as the first step in a process’a process that continues in a life-long
journey of salvation.  It is faith that first justifies us in our initial
justification through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ when God declares us to
be righteous children reborn into the family of God through our Baptism.  As we
journey through this life to eternity it is from faith that the works of God,
working through lives of faith must flow to continue the process of
justification.  We Catholics see faith and works as inseparable’two sides of the
same coin.   For a good explanation on the relationship between faith and works
read St. James teaching on faith and works in James chapter 2.  In
2:24-26 St.
James sums up his teaching by writing, “See how a person is justified by
works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also
justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a
different route?  For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith
without works is dead.”
New American translation. [James is referring to the
story of Rahab the woman of Jericho in Joshua 2:1-21;


Paul beautifully expressed the gift of God’s grace and the
faith that leads to salvation in his letters to the churches of Galatia and
Ephesus when he wrote,

  • “We are led by the Spirit to wait in the confident hope
    of saving justice
    [justification] through faith, since in Christ Jesus it
    is not being circumcised or being uncircumcised that can effect anything’only
    faith working through love.”
  • “But God, being rich in faithful love, through the great
    love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to
    life with Christ’it is through grace that you have been saved’and raised up with
    him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.  This was to show
    for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how
    extraordinarily rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been
    saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not
    by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.  We are
    God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has
    already designed to make up our way of life.”

This is the love that is the work of God the Holy Spirit
working through the circumcised hearts of believers who become a conduit of
God’s love expressed in acts of mercy and kindness to His suffering children in
the world who are most in need of His love.


Questions for group discussion:

Question: Did Mary need a Savior; after all Mary
herself said in Luke
“My soul rejoices in God my Savior”‘isn’t she admitting to
needing a Savior?

Answer: The Catholic Church agrees that Mary did
indeed need a Savior; however, Mary was saved from sin in a unique manner.  She
was given the grace to be saved completely from sin so that she never committed
even the smallest transgression.  Mary was saved from sin by receiving the grace
to be preserved from sin’Christ’s saving grace was applied to her before she was
conceived.  Mary was forgiven original sin in advance, making her moment of
conception immaculate’without sin and in this same way, she was “saved” by her
son and Savior from the moment she was created.  See CCC# 411; 487-511;


Question: We established that it was God’s plan that
Jesus’ blood should purify us from all sin.  Is receiving Christ, Body, Blood,
Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist necessary for our salvation?  See John 6:53-58; 1
Corinthians 11:24-32
; CCC # 1088; 1211; 1324-27; 1370-77; 1393-5; 1413; 1524; see Catechism
index for more

Answer: YES.

Question: Is the Eucharist a true sacrifice?  Are we
re-sacrificing Christ at every Mass?

Answer: Yes, it is the same sacrifice represented on
every Catholic altar at every Mass that took place 2,000 years ago.  NO, we are
not sacrificing the Savior again at every Mass.  His one sacrifice was complete
and sufficient but His sacrifice is on-going because sin and redemption are
on-going.  Read John
and Hebrews
.  As our Prophet, King, and High Priest He has taken His place in
heaven at the right hand [place of honor] of God the Father.  He could not
continue to serve as High Priest if He did not have a continuing sacrifice to
offer, He would only have been the victim.  For more information see the
document “Is the Eucharist a True Sacrifice?” in the Documents files.


Question: In Romans 3:21-24
Paul writes: 21 God’s saving
justice was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has been revealed
altogether apart from law:
22 God’s
saving justice given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  No
distinction is made:
23 all have
sinned and lack God’s glory,
24 and
all are justified by the free gift of his grace through being set free in Christ
In Ephesians he also writes: “For by grace you have been saved
through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. [ Ephesians
And also in Galatians Paul writes: “For in Christ Jesus
you are all sons of God, through faith”
[ Galatians
].  Therefore, is faith all you need and is baptism only a symbol that
is not necessary for salvation?

Answer: Although Martin Luther believed in the
efficacy of Baptism, many Protestant denominations today take sola fide,
“faith alone” in the literalist interpretation and teach that one has only to
believe in Jesus and confess that He is Lord to receive the gift of salvation.
But the passages above quoted from Paul’s letters are only a precondition for
divine son/daughtership in the family of God’faith as opposed to the Old
Covenant Law of Moses in which those who had faith remained children in the
family of Adam [see CCC# 1265].  In the
next part of the Galatians passage Paul explains the instrumental means of the
application of salvation when he writes, “For as many of you as were baptized
into Christ have put on Christ..”
We hear the Gospel message and in faith,
empowered by the Holy Spirit, we accept the message but this acceptance is the
beginning and foundation of our new birth in repentance and Baptism; it is not
the birth itself’what our Protestant brothers and sisters would call being “born
again.”  We should answer when asked if Catholics are “born again”, yes, we are
indeed “born again” through the regenerating power of water and the Spirit in
our Baptism into the life of Christ as Jesus clearly taught in John 3:5-6, “In
all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born
through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human, what is
born of the Spirit is spirit.”
And the Church clearly teaches that the
Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for our salvation [see CCC# 846; 1257].  Jesus
teaching on the necessity of Baptism for salvation is also repeated by the New
Testament writers:

  • Jesus speaking to the disciples after His Resurrection:
    “Jesus came up and spoke to them,].  He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on
    earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations;
    baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
  • Jesus speaking to the disciples after His Resurrection:
    “And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all
    creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not
    believe will be condemned.”
    Mark 16:16
  • St. Peter speaking to the crowd of Jews at Pentecost:
    “You must repent, Peter answered, and every one of you must be baptized in
    the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins, and you will receive
    the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    Acts  2:38
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch led to faith in Jesus Christ by the
    deacon Philip: “Further along the road they came to some water, and the
    eunuch said, ‘Look, here is some water; is there anything to prevent my being
    baptized?’  He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went
    down into the water and he baptized him.”
    Acts 8:36-38
  • Paul’s letter to Titus: “…it was not because of any
    upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own
    faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and
    renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through
    Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs
    in hope of eternal life.  This is doctrine that you can rely on.”
      Titus 3:5-8
  • Finally our Baptism by water as well as by the Spirit is the
    visual link to the promises God made in Isaiah 52:5 and
    that clean water would be “poured out” or “sprinkled” over a New
    Covenant people’a promise still opened to our Old Covenant brothers and sisters
    who have not yet discovered these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus of

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