World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
15. For the law causeth wrath, etc. This is a confirmation of the last verse, derived from the contrary effect of the law; for as the law generates nothing but vengeance, it cannot bring grace. It can indeed show to the good and the perfect the way of life: but as it prescribes to the sinful and corrupt what they ought to do, and supplies them with no power for doing, it exhibits them as guilty before the tribunal of God. For such is the viciousness of our nature, that the more we are taught what is right and just, the more openly is our iniquity discovered, and especially our contumacy, and thus a heavier judgment is incurred.
By wrath, understand God’s judgment, which meaning it has everywhere. They who explain it of the wrath of the sinner, excited by the law, inasmuch as he hates and execrates the Lawgiver, whom he finds to be opposed to his lusts, say what is ingenious, but not suitable to this passage; for Paul meant no other thing, than that condemnation only is what is brought on us all by the law, as it is evident from the common use of the expression, and also from the reason which he immediately adds.
Where there is no law, etc. This is the proof, by which he confirms what he had said; for it would have been difficult to see how God’s wrath is kindled against us through the law, unless it had been made more apparent. And the reason is, that as the knowledge of God’s justice is discovered by the law, the less excuse we have, and hence the more grievously we offend against God; for they who despise the known will of God, justly deserve to sustain a heavier punishment, than those who offend through ignorance.
But the Apostle speaks not of the mere transgression of what is right, from which no man is exempt; but he calls that a transgression, when man, having been taught what pleases and displeases God, knowingly and willfully passes over the boundaries fixed by God’s word; or, in other words, transgression here is not a mere act of sin, but a willful determination to violate what is right.
It is better to take this sentence, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression,” according to its obvious meaning; as it comports better with the former clause. The reasoning seems to be this, — “The promise is by faith, and not by the law; for the law brings wrath or condemnation: but where there is no law, there is no transgression to occasion wrath.” The same idea is essentially conveyed in verse
Romans 4:16, where it is said, that the promise is sure, because it is through faith and by grace. Had it been by the law, there would have been transgression and wrath, and hence the loss of the promise.
This verse is connected with the Romans 4:13 rather than with the 14th. It contains another reason, besides what Romans 4:14 gives, in confirmation of what is said in Romans 4:13. Hence Macknight renders γὰρ, in this verse, “farther,” which renders the connection more evident. “Where no law is, there is no transgression, and therefore no wrath or punishment; but where law is, there is transgression, wrath, and punishment.” — Pareus The particle, οὖ, where, which I take as an adverb, some consider to be a relative, of which; but the former reading is the most suitable, and the most commonly received. Whichever reading you may follow, the meaning will be the same, — that he who is not instructed by the written law, when he sins, is not guilty of so great a transgression, as he is who knowingly breaks and transgresses the law of God.