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3. God's Faithfulness
1What advantage then hath the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision? 2Much every way: first of all, that they were intrusted with the oracles of God. 3For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God? 4God forbid: yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar; as it is written,
That thou mightest be justified in thy words,
And mightest prevail when thou comest into judgment.
5But if our righteousness commendeth the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who visiteth with wrath? (I speak after the manner of men.) 6God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? 7But if the truth of God through my lie abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8and why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? whose condemnation is just. 9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin; 10as it is written,
There is none righteous, no, not one;
11There is none that understandeth,
There is none that seeketh after God;
12They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable;
There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one:
13Their throat is an open sepulchre;
With their tongues they have used deceit:
The poison of asps is under their lips:
14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17And the way of peace have they not known:
18There is no fear of God before their eyes.
19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God: 20because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin. 21But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; 26for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. 27Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith. 28We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also: 30if so be that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. 31Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law.
25. Whom God hath set forth, etc. The Greek verb, προτίθεναι, means sometimes to determine beforehand, and sometimes to set forth. If the first meaning be taken, Paul refers to the gratuitous mercy of God, in having appointed Christ as our Mediator, that he might appease the Father by the sacrifice of his death: nor is it a small commendation of God’s grace that he, of his own good will, sought out a way by which he might remove our curse. According to this view, the passage fully harmonizes with that in John 3:16,
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son.”
Yet if we embrace this meaning, it will remain still true, that God hath set him forth in due time, whom he had appointed as a Mediator. There seems to be an allusion in the word, ἱλαστήριον, as I have said, to the ancient propitiatory; for he teaches us that the same thing was really exhibited in Christ, which had been previously typified. As, however, the other view cannot be disproved, should any prefer it, I shall not undertake to decide the question. What Paul especially meant here is no doubt evident from his words; and it was this, — that God, without having regard to Christ, is always angry with us, — and that we are reconciled to him when we are accepted through his righteousness. God does not indeed hate in us his own workmanship, that is, as we are formed men; but he hates our uncleanness, which has extinguished the light of his image. When the washing of Christ cleanses this away, he then loves and embraces us as his own pure workmanship.
A propitiatory through faith in his blood, etc. I prefer thus literally to retain the language of Paul; for it seems indeed to me that he intended, by one single sentence, to declare that God is propitious to us as soon as we have our trust resting on the blood of Christ; for by faith we come to the possession of this benefit. But by mentioning blood only, he did not mean to exclude other things connected with redemption, but, on the contrary, to include the whole under one word: and he mentioned “blood,” because by it we are cleansed. Thus, by taking a part for the whole, he points out the whole work of expiation. For, as he had said before, that God is reconciled in Christ, so he now adds, that this reconciliation is obtained by faith, mentioning, at the same time, what it is that faith ought mainly to regard in Christ — his blood.
For (propter) the remission of sins,
The words are, διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν. They seem connected, not with the first clause, but with the one immediately preceding; and διὰ may be rendered here in; see a note on Romans 2:26; or more properly, perhaps, on account of. “For a proof of his own righteousness in passing by the sins,” etc., Macknight; “In order to declare his justification with respect to the remission of sins,” Stuart
What is God’s “righteousness” here has been variously explained. Some regard it his righteousness in fulfilling his promises, as Beza; others, his righteousness in Christ to believers, mentioned in chapter. 1:17, as Augustine; and others, his righteousness as the God of rectitude and justice, as Chrysostom Some, too, as Grotius, view it as meaning goodness or mercy, regarding the word as having sometimes this sense.
It is the context that can help us to the right meaning. God exhibited his Son as a propitiation, to set forth this righteousness; and this righteousness is connected with the remission of, or rather; as the word means, the preterition of or connivance at sins committed under the old dispensation: and those sins were connived at through the forbearance of God, he not executing the punishment they deserved; and the purpose is stated to be, — that God might be or appear just, while he is the justifier of those who believe in Christ. Now, what can this righteousness be but his administrative justice? As the law allowed no remission, and God did remit sins, there appeared to be a stain on divine justice. The exhibition of Christ as an atonement is what alone removes it. And there is a word in the former verse, as Venema justly observes, which tends to confirm this view, and that word is redemption, ἀπολυτρώσις, which is a deliverance obtained by a ransom, or by a price, such as justice requires.
Both Doddridge and Scott regard the passage in this light; and the latter gives the following version of it, —
“Whom God hath before appointed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his justice, on account of the passing by of sins, that had been committed in former times, through the forbearance of God; I say, for a demonstration of his justice, in this present time, in order that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” — Nothing can be clearer than this version.
The last words are rightly rendered, though not literally; τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ιησου — “him of the faith of Jesus,” or, “him of faith in Jesus.” Him of faith is him who believes, as τοῖς οὑκ ἐκ περιτομὢς — “them not of circumcision” means “them who are not circumcised,” Romans 4:12; and τοῖς έξ ἐριθείας — “those of contention,” signifies, “those who contend,” or, are contentious, Romans 2:8. — Ed. etc. The causal preposition imports as much as though he had said, “for the sake of remission,” or, “to this end, that he might blot out sins.” And this definition or explanation again confirms what I have already often reminded you, — that men are pronounced just, not because they are such in reality, but by imputation: for he only uses various modes of expression, that he might more clearly declare, that in this righteousness there is no merit of ours; for if we obtain it by the remission of sins, we conclude that it is not from ourselves; and further, since remission itself is an act of God’s bounty alone, every merit falls to the ground.
It may, however, be asked, why he confines pardon to preceding sins? Though this passage is variously explained, yet it seems to me probable that Paul had regard to the legal expiations, which were indeed evidences of a future satisfaction, but could by no means pacify God. There is a similar passage in Hebrews 9:15, where it is said, that by Christ a redemption was brought from sins, which remained under the former Testament. You are not, however, to understand that no sins but those of former times were expiated by the death of Christ — a delirious notion, which some fanatics have drawn from a distorted view of this passage. For Paul teaches us only this, — that until the death of Christ there was no way of appeasing God, and that this was not done or accomplished by the legal types: hence the reality was suspended until the fullness of time came. We may further say, that those things which involve us daily in guilt must be regarded in the same light; for there is but one true expiation for all.
Some, in order to avoid what seems inconsistent, have held that former sins are said to have been forgiven, lest there should seem to he a liberty given to sin in future. It is indeed true that no pardon is offered but for sins committed; not that the benefit of redemption fails or is lost, when we afterwards fall, as Novatus and his sect dreamed, but that it is the character of the dispensation of the gospel, to set before him who will sin the judgment and wrath of God, and before the sinner his mercy. But what I have already stated is the real sense.
He adds, that this remission was through forbearance; and this I take simply to mean gentleness, which has stayed the judgment of God, and suffered it not to burst forth to our ruin, until he had at length received us into favor. But there seems to be here also an implied anticipation of what might be said; that no one might object, and say that this favor had only of late appeared. Paul teaches us, that it was an evidence of forbearance.
26. For a demonstration, 121121 There is a different preposition used here, πρὸς, while εἰς is found in the preceding verse. The meaning seems to be the same, for both prepositions are used to designate the design, end, or object of any thing. This variety seems to have been usual with the Apostle; similar instances are found in Romans 3:22, as to εἰς and ἐπὶ, and in Romans 3:30, as to ἐκ and διὰ. “By both,” says Wolfius, “the final cause (causa finalis) is indicated.” Beza renders them both by the same preposition, ad, in Latin; and Stuart regards the two as equivalent. There is, perhaps, more refinement than truth in what Pareus says, — that εἰς intimates the proximate end — the forgiveness of sins; and πρὸς, the final end — the glory of God in the exhibition of his justice as well as of his mercy. There is, at the same time, something in the passage which seems favorable to this view. Two objects are stated at the end of the passage, — that God might appear just, and be also the justifier of such as believe. The last may refer to ἐις, and the former to πρὸς; and this is consistent with the usual style of the Apostle; for, in imitation of the Prophets, where two things are mentioned in a former clause, the order is reversed in the second. — Ed. etc. The repetition of this clause is emphatical; and Paul resignedly made it, as it was very needful; for nothing is more difficult than to persuade man that he ought to disclaim all things as his own, and to ascribe them all to God. At the same time mention was intentionally made twice of this demonstration, that the Jews might open their eyes to behold it. — At this time, etc. What had been ever at all times, he applies to the time when Christ was revealed, and not without reason; for what was formerly known in an obscure manner under shadows, God openly manifested in his Son. So the coming of Christ was the time of his good pleasure, and the day of salvation. God had indeed in all ages given some evidence of his righteousness; but it appeared far brighter when the sun of righteousness shone. Noticed, then, ought to be the comparison between the Old and the New Testament; for then only was revealed the righteousness of God when Christ appeared.
That he might be just, etc. This is a definition of that righteousness which he has declared was revealed when Christ was given, and which, as he has taught us in the first chapter, is made known in the gospel: and he affirms that it consists of two parts — The first is, that God is just, not indeed as one among many, but as one who contains within himself all fullness of righteousness; for complete and full praise, such as is due, is not otherwise given to him, but when he alone obtains the name and the honor of being just, while the whole human race is condemned for injustice: and then the other part refers to the communication of righteousness; for God by no means keeps his riches laid up in himself, but pours them forth upon men. Then the righteousness of God shines in us, whenever he justifies us by faith in Christ; for in vain were Christ given us for righteousness, unless there was the fruition of him by faith. It hence follows, that all were unjust and lost in themselves, until a remedy from heaven was offered to them. 122122 A parallel passage to this, including the two verses, Romans 3:25 and 26, is found in Hebrews 9:15; where a reference, as here, is made to the effect of Christ’s death as to the saints under the Old testament. The same truth is implied in other parts of Scripture, but not so expressly declared. Stuart makes here an important remark — that if the death of Christ be regarded only as that of a martyr or as an example of constancy, how then could its efficacy be referred to “sins that are past?” In no other way than as a vicarious death could it possibly have any effect on past sins, not punished through God’s forbearance. — Ed.