J.B. Phillips New Testament
Jews are privileged, but even they have failed
3 1-4 Is there any advantage then in being one of the chosen people? Does circumcision mean anything? Yes, of course, a great deal in every way. You have only to think of one thing to begin with—it was the Jews to whom God’s messages were entrusted. Some of them were undoubtedly faithless, but what then? Can you imagine that their faithlessness could disturb the faithfulness of God? Of course not! Let us think of God as true, even if every living man be proved a liar. Remember the scripture? ‘That you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged’.
5-8 But if our wickedness advertises the goodness of God, do we feel that God is being unfair to punish us in return? (I’m using a human tit-for-tat argument.) Not a bit of it! What sort of a person would God be then to judge the world? It is like saying that if my lying throws into sharp relief the truth of God and, so to speak, enhances his reputation, then why should he repay me by judging me a sinner? Similarly, why not do evil that good may be, by contrast all the more conspicuous and valuable? (As a matter of fact, I am reported as urging this very thing, by some slanderously and others quite seriously! But, of course, such an argument is quite properly condemned.)
9-18 Are we Jews then a march ahead of other men? By no means. For I have shown above that all men from Jews to Greeks are under the condemnation of sin. The scriptures endorse this fact plainly enough. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one’. ‘Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit’; ‘the poison of asps is under their lips’, ‘whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’. ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known’. ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’.
19-20 We know what the message of the Law is, to those who live under it—that every excuse may die on the lips of him who makes it and no living man may think himself beyond the judgment of God. No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands—indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.
God’s new plan—righteousness by faith, not through the Law
21-26 But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though amply testified to by both Law and Prophets)—it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ. (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan.) Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith. God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith, not pride of achievement
27-28 What happens now to human pride of achievement? There is no more room for it. Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it? Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane—believing instead of achieving. We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Saviour and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.
29-30 And God is God of both Jews and Gentiles, let us be quite clear about that! The same God is ready to justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith also.
31 Are we then undermining the Law by this insistence on faith? Not a bit of it! We put the Law in its proper place.