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The Condemnation of Israel
Summary —The Special Privileges of Israel. The Special Claim of the Jew. God's Faithfulness Shown in Keeping his Covenant with the Children of Faith. No Difference between Jew and Gentile. By the Law no Flesh Justified. Justification to the Believer in Christ.
1–4. What advantage then hath the Jew? In the second chapter Paul has shown that the Jews as well as the Gentiles are included under sin, and that the possession of the law and the rite of circumcision were of no avail unless the law was kept faithfully. In this chapter the Jew is supposed to object to this conclusion; his objections are presented, and answered. The first is, “What advantage is it then to the Jew to have the law and the rite of circumcision at all, if all, both Jew and Gentile, will be judged on the same principles in the judgment day?” The second verse gives the answer. 23 2. Much every way. The Jew had great advantages. He had greater light, more knowledge, better privileges, higher honors. The greatest advantage was that they had the oracles of God, the Holy Scriptures, and hence the promises which revealed a Messiah of mankind. This was not the only advantage, but the first. 3. What if some did not believe? In this verse the Jew raises a second objection. God has made a promise to Abraham to be a God to him and to his seed in all generations. “Shall God's faithfulness be made of none effect, his promise be broken, because a great part of Israel does not believe upon the promised Seed of Abraham, who was to bless all nations?” 4. God forbid. The Greek means, literally, “Not so.” It does not follow that God is unfaithful, because he rejects unbelieving Israel, for his covenant with Israel and his promise to Abraham were conditional. Let God be true, but every man a liar. That is, Let us believe all men to have broken their word, rather than God his. As it is written. Psalm 51:4. One of the penitential psalms, in which David mourns over his own sins. God's sayings, his threatenings, are justified by his judgments. They were in the case of David. They were also in the rejection of the Jewish nation, in spite of the promise, when it had rejected the Holy One of Israel.
5–9. But if our unrighteousness commendeth the righteousness of God, etc. Here is presented the Jews' third objection to the conclusion that Israel is under judgment for sin. Paul has just shown that God's righteousness is shown forth in condemning the Jews for their unbelief. “But,” says the Jew, “if our unrighteousness demonstrates God's faithfulness, when he condemns us for unbelief, is it right that we should be punished? Our sin gives occasion for God's holiness to be shown forth. Why, then, should we be punished for furnishing such an occasion? Speaking after the manner of men, is not God unrighteous, when he sends wrath on our nation for its unbelief?” 6. God forbid. Rather, “By no means.” How shall God judge the world? How, if no sin is punished which God turns to some good purpose, shall he judge all men according to their deeds? 7. Why yet am I also judged as a sinner? Here the Jew is supposed to repeat the last objection in another form. “God's truth is shown by our lie. His threatenings are demonstrated to be absolutely true by his rejection of the Jewish nation. If our lie, our false life, has thus shown forth his glory, why should we be individually condemned?” 8. Let us do evil that good may come. The apostle replies to this argument with a reductio ad absurdum. This amounts to saying, “Do evil that good may come,” an abominable doctrine, slanderously charged upon Paul by enemies, would justify every iniquity. This doctrine, so strongly condemned, has been taught by the Jesuits. Whose damnation is just. All 24who teach such doctrine are justly condemned. 9. Are we better than they? If Jews shall be judged as well as Gentiles, are not we Jews, having the oracles of God, better than they, and hence likely to be justified? The Jew is still supposed to be speaking. To this Paul replies, In no wise, for he had already shown (chapters 1 and 2) that both Jews and Gentiles were sinners before God.
10–18. As it is written. Psalms 14:1–3 and 53:1–3. Paul quotes the Jewish Scriptures to confirm his statement. None righteous. None absolutely free from sin. 11. None that seeketh after God. A general statement of the sinfulness of Jew as well as Gentile. 12. None that doeth good. Not one absolutely good. According to the flesh all tended to evil. 13. Their throat is an open sepulchre. Thus far the statements have been general. Now we come to particulars. If the grave is opened, corruption is manifest. So corruption comes from the throats of men when they speak. The poison of asps. The venom of falsehood, as deadly as the deadly serpent. 15. Their feet are swift to shed blood. To carry their owners on a mission of murder. 18. There is no fear of God, etc. David, in the psalms quoted, has affirmed in the strongest possible language, the universal sinfulness. The Jews accepted David's words as inspired. These words included Jews as well as Gentiles; hence all are included under sin.
19–26. Whatsoever the law saith, etc. The law of Moses was written for the Jews especially, and whatsoever it saith, it saith to those under it, to the Jews; just as the United States law is addressed to the people of the United States. That every mouth may be stopped. It has just been seen that even the mouth of the Jew is stopped, since “none are righteous, no, not one;” hence all the world, Jew as well as Gentile, are guilty before God. 20. Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. Since all are found to be sinners, law-breakers, none can be counted sinless; or, in other words, justified. Works of the law. In the Greek, this reads, Works of 25law. The statement is general, and of course would include the law of Moses. For by the law is the knowledge of sin. Again the article is not found in the Greek before law. Law, generally, when once known, reveals to us that we are transgressors. The savage steals as a legitimate pursuit, but when once he hears the law, “Thou shalt not steal,” his sin is revealed. 21. The righteousness of God without the law (Greek, without law) is manifested. A righteousness that does not spring from perfect obedience to law (without law), is predicted both by the law of Moses and the prophets of Israel. 22. Even the righteousness … by faith of Jesus Christ. The Gospel, wherein we are “justified by faith, and have peace with God through Jesus Christ.” All were guilty under the law, but the law and prophets pointed to forgiveness in Christ. Unto all them that believe. There is justification for every sincere believer, whether Jew or Gentile, for there is no difference between them, but not for the unbelieving impenitent. 23. For all have sinned. This has been already shown. And come short of the glory of God. Wickliffe says, “Have need of the glory of God.” I believe this suggests the idea. Man was made originally in the image of God. He was then sinless. No sinner is in the Divine image. All have sinned, and to have the divine likeness restored, need to have their sins blotted out. Until this is done they come short of the glory of God. 24. Being justified freely by his grace. All who believe upon Jesus Christ have their sins thus blotted out, being freely, as a divine gift, justified (that is, counted just, or sinless) by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Christ redeems the sinner who puts his trust in him. His blood pays the debt that the sinner owes to justice. Since Christ, the sinless One, has suffered for sin, God will accept his suffering for the debt of those who love and trust in him. 25. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation. Christ was publicly shown forth as a MERCY SEAT (a Propitiatory). As God of old met Israel at the mercy seat when the blood of the atonement was offered, so Christ on the Cross is our mercy seat. There we meet God who comes to us then in tender mercy, to declare his righteousness, to show it to us, in bestowing righteousness upon us in forgiving out past sins. This system of forgiveness, or righteousness through the cross of Christ, is the righteousness without law predicted by the Law and the Prophets. 26. That he might be just. Can God be just, and yet justify the sinner? Only, because justice was fully satisfied when the sinless Christ died, not for himself, but for his people. The believer in Christ Jesus, trusting in him, baptized into Christ, into his death, is in Christ, and Christ hath paid the penalty for all who are found in him (Rom. 8:1).
27–31. Where is boasting then? If we are justified, not by our own righteous works, not by the law of Moses, but as a free gift of God through a law of faith, where is the ground for Jew or Gentile to boast? 28. Therefore. The conclusion of the line of argument is now reached. No man is justified 26by works of law (no article in the Greek), but by faith, the faith that brings into loving obedience to Christ. 29. Is he the God of the Jews only? If God is the God of all nations, it ought to be regarded a reasonable thing that he would justify through faith Gentiles as well as Jews. 30. As there is one God, there is one plan of justification. The circumcision, the Jews are justified by faith, a faith not in God, whom they already acknowledged, but a faith in Christ, God manifest in the flesh. In the same way the uncircumcision, the Gentile world, are justified through the faith. The Gospel is meant by the faith (the article is found in the Greek). The salvation of both is by faith in Christ crucified. 31. Do we then make void the law? Do we make it useless through the faith; i. e., through the Gospel? (the article is found before faith in the Greek). We establish the law. Rather, law (the article is not found in the Greek). Law is confirmed and rendered sacred, when its just demands are met by the suffering of the Son of God himself. 26
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