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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.

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9. What then? He returns from his digression to his subject. For lest the Jews should object that they were deprived of their right, as he had mentioned those distinctions of honor, for which they thought themselves superior to the Gentiles, he now at length replies to the question — in what respect they excelled the Gentiles. And though his answer seems in appearance to militate against what he had said before, (for he now strips those of all dignity to whom he had attributed so much,) there is yet no discord; for those privileges in which he allowed them to be eminent, were separate from themselves, and dependent on God’s goodness, and not on their own merit: but here he makes inquiry as to their own worthiness, whether they could glory in any respect in themselves. Hence the two answers he gives so agree together, that the one follows from the other; for while he extols their privileges, by including them among the free benefits of God, he shows that they had nothing of their own. Hence, what he now answers might have been easily inferred; for since it was their chief superiority, that God’s oracles were deposited with them, and they had it not through their own merit, there was nothing left for them, on account of which they could glory before God. Now mark the holy contrivance (sanctum artificium) which he adopts; for when he ascribes pre-eminency to them, he speaks in the third person; but when he strips them of all things, he puts himself among them, that he might avoid giving offense.

For we have before brought a charge, etc. The Greek verb which Paul adopts, αἰτιάσθαι is properly a forensic term; and I have therefore preferred to render it, “We have brought a charge;” 9696     So do Grotius, Beza, and Stuart render the verb. Doddridge and Macknight have preserved our common version. “We have before charged,” ChalmersAntea idoneis argumentis demonstravimus — we have before proved by sufficient arguments.” Schleusner It is charge rather than conviction that the verb imports, though the latter idea is also considered to be included. — Ed. for an accuser in an action is said to charge a crime, which he is prepared to substantiate by testimonies and other proofs. Now the Apostle had summoned all mankind universally before the tribunal of God, that he might include all under the same condemnation: and it is to no purpose for any one to object, and say that the Apostle here not only brings a charge, but more especially proves it; for a charge is not true except it depends on solid and strong evidences, according to what Cicero says, who, in a certain place, distinguishes between a charge and a slander. We must add, that to be under sin means that we are justly condemned as sinners before God, or that we are held under the curse which is due to sin; for as righteousness brings with it absolution, so sin is followed by condemnation.

10. As it is written, etc. He has hitherto used proofs or arguments to convince men of their iniquity; he now begins to reason from authority; and it is to Christians the strongest kind of proof, when authority is derived from the only true God. And hence let ecclesiastical teachers learn what their office is; for since Paul asserts here no truth but what he confirms by the sure testimony of Scripture, much less ought such a thing to be attempted by those, who have no other commission but to preach the gospel, which they have received through Paul and others.

There is none righteous, etc. The Apostle, who gives the meaning rather than the entire words, seems, in the first place, before he comes to particulars, to state generally the substance of what the Prophet declares to be in man, and that is — that none is righteous; 9898     Psalm 14:1. The Hebrew is, “There is none that doeth good;” and the Septuagint, “There is none doing kindness, (χρηστότητα), there is not even one, (ὀυκ ἔστιν ἕως ἑνός.)” So that the Apostle quotes the meaning, not the words.
   The eleventh verse (Romans 3:11) is from the same Psalm; the Hebrew, with which the Septuagint agree, except that there is the disjunctive ἢ between the participles, is the following, — “Whether there is any one who understands, who seeks after God.” — Ed.
he afterwards particularly enumerates the effects or fruits of this unrighteousness.

11. The first effect is, that there is none that understands: and then this ignorance is immediately proved, for they seek not God; for empty is the man in whom there is not the knowledge of God, whatever other learning he may possess; yea, the sciences and the arts, which in themselves are good, are empty things, when they are without this groundwork.

12. It is added, 9999     This verse is literally the Septuagint, and as to meaning, a correct version of the Hebrew. “All have gone out of the way — πάντες ἐξέκλιναν” “is in Hebrew הכל סר, “the whole (or every one) has turned aside,” or revolted, or apostatized. Then, “they have become unprofitable” or useless, is נאלחו, “they are become putrid,” or Corrupted, like putrified fruit or meat, therefore useless, not fit for what they were designed — to serve God and to promote their own and the good of others. Idolatry was evidently this putrescence. — Ed. There is no one who doeth kindness By this we are to understand, that they had put off every feeling of humanity. For as the best bond of mutual concord among us is the knowledge of God, (as he is the common Father of all, he wonderfully unites us, and without him there is nothing but disunion,) so inhumanity commonly follows where there is ignorance of God, as every one, when he despises others, loves and seeks his own good.

13. It is further added, Their throat is an open grave; 100100     This is from Psalm 5:9, that is, the first part, and is literally the Septuagint, which correctly represents the Hebrew. The last clause is from Psalm 140:3, and is according to the Septuagint, and the Hebrew, too, except that “asps,” or adders, is in the singular number. Stuart gives the import of this figurative language different from Calvin: “As from the sepulchre,” he says, “issues forth an offensive and pestilential vapor; so from the mouths of slanderous persons issue noisome and pestilential words. Their words are like poison, they utter the poisonous breath of slander.” — Ed. that is, a gulf to swallow up men. It is more than if he had said, that they were devourers (ἀνθρωποφάγους — men-eaters;) for it is an intimation of extreme barbarity, when the throat is said to be so great a gulf, that it is sufficient to swallow down and devour men whole and entire. Their tongues are deceitful, and, the poison of asps is under their lips, import the same thing,

14. Then he says, that their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness 101101     Psalm 10:7. Paul corrects the order of the words as found in the Septuagint, and gives the Hebrew more exactly, but retains the word “bitterness,” by which the Septuagint have rendered מרמות, which means deceit, or rather, mischievous deceit. Some think that it ought to be מררות, “bitterness;” but there is no copy in its favor. — Ed. — a vice of an opposite character to the former; but the meaning is, that they are in every way full of wickedness; for if they speak fair, they deceive and blend poison with their flatteries; but if they draw forth what they have in their hearts, bitterness and cursing stream out.

16. Very striking is the sentence that is added from Isaiah, Ruin and misery are in all their ways; 102102     Romans 3:15, 16, and 17 are taken from Isaiah 59:7, 8. Both the Hebrew and the Septuagint are alike, but Paul has abbreviated them, and changed two words in the Greek version, having put οξει᾿ for ταχινοι, and ἔγνωσαν for ὀίδασι, and has followed that version in leaving out “innocent” before “blood.” — Ed. for it is a representation of ferociousness above measure barbarous, which produces solitude and waste by destroying every thing wherever it prevails: it is the same as the description which Pliny gives of Domitian.

17. It follows, The way of peace they have not known: they are so habituated to plunders, acts of violence and wrong, to savageness and cruelty, that they know not how to act kindly and courteously.

18. In the last clause 103103     It is taken from Psalm 36:1, and verbatim from the Greek version, and strictly in accordance with the Hebrew. It is evident from several of these quotations, that Paul’s object, as Calvin says, was to represent the general meaning, and not to keep strictly to the expressions.
   There is a difference of opinion as to the precise object of the Apostle; whether in these quotations he had regard to the Jews only, or to both Jews and Gentiles. In the introduction, Romans 3:9, he mentions both, and in the conclusion, Romans 3:19, he evidently refers to both, in these words, “that every, mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

   The most consistent view seems to be, that the passages quoted refer both to Jews and Gentiles; the last, more especially, to the Jews, while some of the preceding have a special reference to the Gentile world, particularly Psalm 14, as it describes the character of the enemies of God and his people, to whose liberation the Psalmist refers in the last verse. — Ed.
he repeats again, in other words, what we have noticed at the beginning — that every wickedness flows from a disregard of God: for as the principal part of wisdom is the fear of God, when we depart from that, there remains in us nothing right or pure. In short, as it is a bridle to restrain our wickedness, so when it is wanting, we feel at liberty to indulge every kind of licentiousness.

And that these testimonies may not seem to any one to have been unfitly produced, let us consider each of them in connection with the passages from which they have been taken. David says in Psalm 14:1, that there was such perverseness in men, that God, when looking on them all in their different conditions, could not find a righteous man, no, not one. It then follows, that this evil pervaded mankind universally; for nothing is hid from the sight of God. He speaks indeed at the end of the Psalm of the redemption of Israel: but we shall presently show how men become holy, and how far they are exempt from this condition. In the other Psalms he speaks of the treachery of his enemies, while he was exhibiting in himself and in his descendants a type of the kingdom of Christ: hence we have in his adversaries the representatives of all those, who being alienated from Christ, are not led by his Spirit. Isaiah expressly mentions Israel; and therefore his charge applies with still greater force against the Gentiles. What, then? There is no doubt but that the character of men is described in those words, in order that we may see what man is when left to himself; for Scripture testifies that all men are in this state, who are not regenerated by the grace of God. The condition of the saints would be nothing better, were not this depravity corrected in them: and that they may still remember that they differ nothing from others by nature, they do find in the relics of their flesh (by which they are always encompassed) the seeds of those evils, which would constantly produce fruits, were they not prevented by being mortified; and for this mortification they are indebted to God’s mercy and not to their own nature. We may add, that though all the vices here enumerated are not found conspicuously in every individual, yet they may be justly and truly ascribed to human nature, as we have already observed on Romans 1:26.




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