Jewish Objections Answered.
1, 2. What advantage then hath the
Jew?—that is, "If the final judgment will turn solely on the
state of the heart, and this may be as good in the Gentile
without, as in the Jew within, the sacred enclosure of
God's covenant, what better are we Jews for all our advantages?"
2. Much every way; chiefly,
because—rather, "first, that."
unto them were committed the oracles of
God—This remarkable expression, denoting "divine
communications" in general, is transferred to the Scriptures to express
their oracular, divine, authoritative character.
3, 4. For what if some did not
believe?—It is the unbelief of the great body of the nation
which the apostle points at; but as it sufficed for his argument to put
the supposition thus gently, he uses this word "some" to soften
shall their unbelief make the faith of
God—or, "faithfulness of God."
of none effect?—"nullify,"
4. God forbid—literally, "Let it not
be," that is, "Away with such a thought"—a favorite
expression of our apostle, when he would not only repudiate a supposed
consequence of his doctrine, but express his abhorrence of it. "The
Scriptures do not authorize such a use of God's name as must have been
common among the English translators of the Bible" [Hodge].
yea, let God be—held
true, and every man a liar—that is,
even though it should follow from this that every man is a liar.
when thou art judged—so in Ps 51:4, according to the
Septuagint; but in the Hebrew and in our version, "when
thou judgest." The general sentiment, however, is the same in
both—that we are to vindicate the righteousness of God, at
whatever expense to ourselves.
5, 6. But if, &c.—Another objection:
"It would appear, then, that the more faithless we are, so much the
more illustrious will the fidelity of God appear; and in that case, for
Him to take vengeance on us for our unfaithfulness would be (to speak
as men profanely do) unrighteousness in God."
6. God forbid; for then how shall God judge the
world?—that is, "Far from us be such a thought; for that
would strike down all future judgment.
7, 8. For if the truth of God, &c.—A
further illustration of the same sentiment: that is, "Such reasoning
amounts to this—which indeed we who preach salvation by free
grace are slanderously accused of teaching—that the more evil we
do, the more glory will redound to God; a damnable principle." (Thus
the apostle, instead of refuting this principle, thinks it enough to
hold it up to execration, as one that shocks the moral sense).
On this brief section, Note (1) Mark the place
here assigned to the Scriptures. In answer to the question, "What
advantage hath the Jew?" or, "What profit is there of circumcision?"
(Ro 3:1) those holding Romish views would
undoubtedly have laid the stress upon the priesthood, as the
glory of the Jewish economy. But in the apostle's esteem, "the oracles
of God" were the jewel of the ancient Church (Ro 3:1, 2). (2) God's eternal purposes and man's
free agency, as also the doctrine of salvation by grace and the
unchanging obligations of God's law, have ever been subjected to the
charge of inconsistency by those who will bow to no truth which their
own reason cannot fathom. But amidst all the clouds and darkness which
in this present state envelop the divine administration and many of the
truths of the Bible, such broad and deep principles as are here laid
down, and which shine in their own luster, will be found the
sheet-anchor of our faith. "Let God be true, and every man a liar"
(Ro 3:4); and as many advocates of
salvation by grace as say, "Let us do evil that good may come," "their
damnation is just" (Ro 3:8).
That the Jew Is Shut Up under Like Condemnation
with the Gentile Is Proved by His Own Scripture.
9. are we better than they?—"do we excel
No, in no wise—Better off the Jews
certainly were, for having the oracles of God to teach them
better; but as they were no better, that only aggravated their
10-12. As it is written, &c.—(Ps
14:1-3; 53:1-3). These
statements of the Psalmist were indeed suggested by particular
manifestations of human depravity occurring under his own eye; but as
this only showed what man, when unrestrained, is in his present
condition, they were quite pertinent to the apostle's purpose.
13-18. Their, &c.—From generals, the
apostle here comes to particulars, culling from different parts of
Scripture passages which speak of depravity as it affects the
different members of the body; as if to show more affectingly how
"from the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness" in
throat is an open sepulchre—(Ps 5:9); that is, "What proceeds out of their
heart, and finds vent in speech and action through the throat, is like
the pestilential breath of an open grave."
with their tongues they have used
deceit—(Ps 5:9); that
is, "That tongue which is man's glory (Ps 16:9; 57:8) is prostituted to the purposes of
the poison of asps is under their
that is, "Those lips which should 'drop as an honeycomb,' and 'feed
many,' and 'give thanks unto His name' (So 4:11; Pr 10:21; Heb
13:15), are employed to
secrete and to dart deadly poison."
14. Whose mouth, &c.—(Ps 10:7): that is, "That mouth which should be
'most sweet' (So 5:16),
being 'set on fire of hell' (Jas 3:6), is filled with burning wrath against
those whom it should only bless."
15. Their feet are swift to shed
blood—(Pr 1:16; Isa 59:7): that is, "Those feet, which should
'run the way of God's commandments' (Ps 119:32), are employed to conduct men to deeds
of darkest crime."
16, 17. Destruction and misery are in their
ways; and the way of peace have they not known—This is a
supplementary statement about men's ways, suggested by what had
been said about the "feet," and expresses the mischief and misery which
men scatter in their path, instead of that peace which, as strangers to
it themselves, they cannot diffuse.
18. There is no fear of God before their
that is, "Did the eyes but 'see Him who is invisible' (Heb 11:27), a reverential awe of Him with whom we
have to do would chasten every joy and lift the soul out of its deepest
depressions; but to all this the natural man is a stranger." How
graphic is this picture of human depravity, finding its way through
each several organ of the body into the life (Ro 3:13-17): but how small a part of the
"desperate wickedness" that is within (Jer 17:9) "proceedeth out of the heart of
man!" (Mr 7:21-23; Ps 19:12).
19. Now we know that what … the
law—that is, the Scriptures, considered as a law of duty.
saith, it saith to them that are under the
law—of course, therefore, to the Jews.
that every mouth—opened in
may be stopped, and all the world may
become—that is, be seen to be, and own itself.
guilty—and so condemned
20. Therefore by the deeds of—obedience
the law there shall no flesh be
justified—that is, be held and treated as righteous; as is
plain from the whole scope and strain of the argument.
in his sight—at His bar (Ps 143:2).
for by the law is the knowledge of
sin—(See on Ro 4:15; Ro 7:7; and 1Jo 3:4).
Note, How broad and deep does the apostle in
this section lay the foundations of his great doctrine of Justification
by free grace—in the disorder of man's whole nature, the
consequent universality of human guilt, the condemnation, by reason of
the breach of divine law, of the whole world, and the impossibility of
justification before God by obedience to that violated law! Only when
these humiliating conclusions are accepted and felt, are we in a
condition to appreciate and embrace the grace of the Gospel, next to be
Ro 3:21-26. God's
Justifying Righteousness through Faith in Jesus Christ, Alike Adapted to Our Necessities and Worthy of
21-23. But now the righteousness of
God—(See on Ro 1:17).
without the law—that is, a
righteousness to which our obedience to the law contributes nothing
whatever (Ro 3:28; Ga 2:16).
is manifested, being
by the law and the prophets—the Old
Testament Scriptures. Thus this justifying righteousness, though
new, as only now fully disclosed, is an old
righteousness, predicted and foreshadowed in the Old Testament.
22. by faith of—that is, "in"
Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that
believe—that is, perhaps, brought nigh "unto all" men
the Gospel, and actually "upon all" believing men, as theirs in
possession [Luther and others]; but most
interpreters understand both statements" of believers as only a more
emphatic way of saying that all believers, without distinction or
exception, are put in possession of this gratuitous justification,
purely by faith in Christ Jesus.
for there is no difference.
23. for all have sinned—Though men
differ greatly in the nature and extent of their
sinfulness, there is absolutely no difference between the best and the
worst of men, in the fact that "all have sinned," and so
underlie the wrath of God.
and come short of the glory—or
of God—that is, "have failed to earn
His approbation" (compare Joh 12:43,
Greek). So the best interpreters.
24. justified freely—without anything
done on our part to deserve.
by his grace—His free love.
through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus—a most important clause; teaching us that though
justification is quite gratuitous, it is not a mere fiat of the
divine will, but based on a "Redemption," that is, "the payment of a
Ransom," in Christ's death. That this is the sense of the word
"redemption," when applied to Christ's death, will appear clear to any
impartial student of the passages where it occurs.
25, 26. Whom God hath set forth to be a
propitiation—or "propitiatory sacrifice."
through faith in his blood—Some of the
best interpreters, observing that "faith upon" is the usual
phrase in Greek, not "faith in" Christ, would place a
"comma" after "faith," and understand the words as if written thus: "to
be a propitiation, in His blood, through faith." But "faith in
Christ" is used in Ga 3:26 and
1:15; and "faith in His
blood" is the natural and appropriate meaning here.
to declare his righteousness for the
remission—rather, "pretermission" or "passing by."
of sins—"the sins."
that are past—not the sins committed
by the believer before he embraces Christ, but the sins committed under
the old economy, before Christ came to "put away sin by the sacrifice
through the forbearance of God—God not
remitting but only forbearing to punish them, or passing
them by, until an adequate atonement for them should be made. In thus
not imputing them, God was righteous, but He was not seen
to be so; there was no "manifestation of His righteousness" in doing so
under the ancient economy. But now that God can "set forth" Christ as a
"propitiation for sin through faith in His blood," the righteousness of
His procedure in passing by the sins of believers before, and in now
remitting them, is "manifested," declared, brought fully out to the
view of the whole world. (Our translators have unfortunately missed
this glorious truth, taking "the sins that are past" to mean the past
sins of believers—committed before faith—and rendering, by
the word "remission," what means only a "passing by"; thus making it
appear that "remission of sins" is "through the forbearance of God,"
which it certainly is not).
26. To declare … at this time—now
for the first time, under the Gospel.
his righteousness: that he might be just, and
the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus—Glorious
paradox! "Just in punishing," and "merciful in pardoning," men can
understand; but "just in justifying the guilty," startles them. But the
propitiation through faith in Christ's blood resolves the paradox and
harmonizes the discordant elements. For in that "God hath made Him to
be sin for us who knew no sin," justice has full satisfaction;
and in that "we are made the righteousness of God in Him," mercy
has her heart's delight!
Note, (1) One way of a sinner's justification
is taught in the Old Testament and in the New alike: only more dimly
during the twilight of Revelation; in unclouded light under "its
perfect day" (Ro 3:21). (2)
As there is no difference in the need, so is there none in the
liberty to appropriate the provided salvation. The best need to
be saved by faith in Jesus Christ; and the worst only need that. On
this common ground all saved sinners meet here, and will stand for ever
3:22-24). (3) It is on the
atoning blood of Christ, as the one propitiatory sacrifice which God
hath set forth to the eye of the guilty, that the faith of the
convinced and trembling sinner fastens for deliverance from wrath.
Though he knows that he is "justified freely, by God's grace," it is
only because it is "through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus" that he is able to find peace and rest even in this (Ro 3:25). (4) The strictly accurate view
of believers under the Old Testament is not that of a company of
pardoned men, but of men whose sins, put up with and passed by
in the meantime, awaited a future expiation in the fulness of
3:25, 26; see on Lu 9:31; Heb 9:15; Heb 11:39, 40).
Ro 3:27-31. Inferences from
the Foregoing Doctrines and an Objection Answered.
Inference first: Boasting is excluded by this, and
no other way of justification.
27, 28. Where is boasting then? … excluded.
By what law?—on what principle or scheme?.
of works? Nay; but by the law of faith.
28. Therefore we conclude, &c.—It is
the unavoidable tendency of dependence upon our own works, less or
more, for acceptance with God, to beget a spirit of "boasting." But
that God should encourage such a spirit in sinners, by any procedure of
His, is incredible. This therefore stamps falsehood upon every form of
"justification by works," whereas the doctrine that.
Our faith receives a righteousness
That makes the sinner just,
manifestly and entirely excludes "boasting"; and this is the best
evidence of its truth.
Inference second: This and no other way of
salvation is adapted alike to Jew and Gentile.
29. Is he the God of the Jews only?
&c.—The way of salvation must be one equally suited to the
whole family of fallen man: but the doctrine of justification by faith
is the only one that lays the basis of a Universal Religion; this
therefore is another mark of its truth.
30. it is one God who shall
justify—"has unchangeably fixed that He shall justify."
the circumcision by—"of"
faith, and the uncircumcision through
faith—probably this is but a varied statement of the same
truth for greater emphasis (see Ro 3:22); though Bengel thinks that the justification of the Jews, as
the born heirs of the promise, may be here purposely said to be
"of faith," while that of the Gentiles, previously "strangers to
the covenants of promise," may be said to be "through faith," as
thus admitted into a new family.
31. Do we then make void the law through
faith?—"Does this doctrine of justification by faith, then,
dissolve the obligation of the law? If so, it cannot be of God. But
away with such a thought, for it does just the reverse."
God forbid: yea, we establish the
law—It will be observed here, that, important as was this
objection, and opening up as it did so noble a field for the
illustration of the peculiar glory of the Gospel, the apostle does no
more here than indignantly repel it, intending at a subsequent stage of
his argument (Ro 6:1-23)
to resume and discuss it at length.
Note, (1) It is a fundamental requisite of all
true religion that it tend to humble the sinner and exalt God; and
every system which breeds self-righteousness, or cherishes boasting,
bears falsehood on its face (Ro 3:27, 28). (2) The fitness of the Gospel to be a
universal religion, beneath which the guilty of every name and degree
are invited and warranted to take shelter and repose, is a glorious
evidence of its truth (Ro 3:29, 30). (3) The glory of God's law, in its
eternal and immutable obligations, is then only fully apprehended by
the sinner, and then only is it enthroned in the depths of his soul,
when, believing that "He was made sin for him who knew no sin," he sees
himself "made the righteousness of God in Him" (2Co 5:21). Thus do we not make void the law
through faith: yea, we establish the law. (4) This chapter, and
particularly the latter part of it, "is the proper seat of the Pauline
doctrine of Justification, and the grand proof-passage of the
Protestant doctrine of the Imputation of Christ's righteousness and of
Justification not on account of, but through faith alone" [Philippi]. To make good this doctrine, and reseat it
in the faith and affection of the Church, was worth all the bloody
struggles that it cost our fathers, and it will be the wisdom and
safety, the life and vigor of the churches, to "stand fast in this
liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free, and not be again
entangled"—in the very least degree—"with the yoke of