Rom 1:1-7, Greeting and benediction;
Rom 1:8-15, Desire to visit Rome;
Rom 1:16-17, Theme of the letter: the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God;
Rom 1:18-5:21, Justification and the righteousness of God;
Rom 1:18-3:19, The unrighteousness of man;
Rom 1:18, The wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness of men;
Rom 1:19-32, The unrighteousness of idolatry (denial of God as Creator);
Rom 2:1-11, The unrighteousness of man judging man;
Rom 2:12-27, The unrighteousness of breaking the Law / righteousness of keeping the Law;
Rom 2:28-29, Circumcision identifies Israel and is of the heart;
Rom 3:1-8, The unrighteousness of man demonstrates the righteousness of God (God is just to inflict wrath on unrighteousness);
Rom 3:9-18, All men are unrighteous and are under sin;
Rom 3:19, The righteous Law witnesses that all are guilty before God;
Rom 3:20-31, The Law cannot solve the problem of unrighteousness;
Rom 3:20, No man can be justified by obeying the Law;
Rom 3:21-26, The righteousness of God (justification) is given freely through faith in Jesus Christ;
Rom 3:27-30, Men are justified by faith apart from deeds of the Law so that they cannot boast;
Rom 3:31, However we do not void the Law because we have faith, but we establish the Law;
Rom 3:19-31 chiastic structure:
1a) Rom 3:19, The Law witnesses that all are guilty before God;
1b) Rom 3:20, No man can be justified by obeying the Law;
central axis) Rom 3:21-26, The righteousness of God (justification) is given freely through faith in Jesus Christ;
1a) Rom 3:21-22a, Now the righteousness of God apart from the Law: faith in Jesus to all who believe;
1b) Rom 3:22b-23, For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
central axis) Rom 3:24-25a, Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness;
2b) Rom 3:25b, Because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed;
2a) Rom 3:26, To demonstrate at present His righteousness, that He might be just + justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus;
2b) Rom 3:27-30, Men are justified by faith apart from deeds of the Law;
2a) Rom 3:31, The Law is not void because we have faith, but we establish it.
In this short paragraph, we learn that one of the purposes of the Law is to give us the knowledge of sin (vs. 20); i.e. it is by the commandments and statutes in Torah, that man learns what is right and wrong. John says the same in 1 Joh 3:4.
Next Paul brings out that by obeying the Torah, no one can be made righteous (vs. 20), and even that, the righteousness of God is not the same as the righteousness of Torah observance (vs. 21). Jesus taught this. He said that unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:17-20). The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was the righteousness of Torah observance, or righteousness by Torah observance. They were trying to be justified by the deeds of the Law. Unless, Jesus said, our righteousness exceeds that of their righteousness, the righteousness by Torah observance, we would not enter the kingdom of heaven. What righteousness exceeds the righteousness of Torah observance? The righteousness of God.
In fact, Paul says, the righteousness of God is free justification for all those who have faith in Jesus Christ. The only way we can become truly righteous, because every one of us has sinned, is to have the righteousness of God imputed to us.
Now Paul goes on to say that the Torah even teaches that the righteousness that is of God is by faith, and not by Torah observance. This is the critical error the scribes and Pharisees made that Jesus referred to. They thought the Torah taught that if you do these commands, you will be justified. No! Neither the Torah nor the Prophets taught that! The Torah teaches that if you do these commands, you will have blessings that will benefit you in this life, in the life for the physical man.
That the Torah teaches that Torah obedience is to bless the physical man in this life (not the spiritual man for eternal life): Deu 10:12-13, Deu 11:8-9, Deu 11:13-15, Deu 28:1-14, Deu 30:2, 6, among many others.
“Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Rom 3:31
So the mistake that is often made now, is that because the purpose of Torah obedience is not to be justified – made in right standing – before God, then the Torah can be ignored all together. That is not what the Torah or the Prophets or Jesus taught nor the apostles nor Paul. But the Prophets taught that in the New Covenant, the Torah would be obeyed from a new heart by the Spirit (Eze 36:25-27). Jesus taught that not one jot or tittle would pass from the Torah until all was fulfilled (Mat 5:17-20). Paul taught that we do not make void the Law simply because we are justified by faith. And John taught that someone who says that he knows Jesus but does not keep Jesus’ commandments is a liar (1 Joh 2:4). Are Jesus’ commandments different from the Father’s commandments? How can they be if He and the Father are One (Joh 10:30), and it is He Himself who is the Word which contains the commandments (Joh 1:1, 14)?
You can obey God and not rely on your obedience to save you! You can simply obey God because you love Him (Joh 14:15) — and because you want His blessing on you in this life for the physical man!
For further study:
the righteousness that is of faith (follow the links at the bottom of the page)