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Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,

“So that you may be justified in your words,

and prevail in your judging.”

5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

None Is Righteous

9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;


there is no one who has understanding,

there is no one who seeks God.


All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness,

there is not even one.”


“Their throats are opened graves;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”


“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”


“Their feet are swift to shed blood;


ruin and misery are in their paths,


and the way of peace they have not known.”


“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.


Righteousness through Faith

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

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.

19. Now we know, etc. Leaving the Gentiles, he distinctly addresses his words to the Jews; for he had a much more difficult work in subduing them, because they, though no less destitute of true righteousness than the Gentiles, yet covered themselves with the cloak of God’s covenant, as though it was a sufficient holiness to them to have been separated from the rest of the world by the election of God. And he indeed mentions those evasions which he well understood the Jews were ready to bring forward; for whatever was said in the law unfavorably of mankind, they usually applied to the Gentiles, as though they were exempt from the common condition of men, and no doubt they would have been so, had they not fallen from their own dignity. Hence, that no false conceit as to their own worthiness should be a hinderance to them, and that they might not confine to the Gentiles alone what applied to them in common with others, Paul here anticipates them, and shows, from what Scripture declares, that they were not only blended with the multitude, but that condemnation was peculiarly denounced on them. And we indeed see the discretion of the Apostle in undertaking to refute these objections; for to whom but to the Jews had the law been given, and to whose instruction but theirs ought it to have served? What then it states respecting others is as it were accidental; or as they say, παρεργον, an appendage; but it applies its teaching mainly to its own disciples.

Under the law He says that the Jews were those to whom the law was destined, it hence follows, that it especially regards them; and under the word law he includes also the Prophets, and so the whole of the Old Testament — That every mouth may be stopped, etc.; that is, that every evasion may be cut off, and every occasion for excuse. It is a metaphor taken from courts of law, where the accused, if he has anything to plead as a lawful defense, demands leave to speak, that he might clear himself from the things laid to his charge; but if he is convicted by his own conscience, he is silent, and without saying a word waits for his condemnation, being even already by his own silence condemned. Of the same meaning is this saying in Job 40:4, “I will lay my hand on my mouth.” He indeed says, that though he was not altogether without some kind of excuse, he would yet cease to justify himself, and submit to the sentence of God. The next clause contains the explanation; for his mouth is stopped, who is so fast held by the sentence of condemnation, that he can by no means escape. According to another sense, to be silent before the Lord is to tremble at his majesty, and to stand mute, being astonished at his brightness. 105105     To see the force and meaning of this verse, we must bear in mind that the former part was said to prevent the Jews from evading the application of the preceding testimonies; and then the words “that every mouth,” etc., and “that all the world,” etc., were added, not so much to include the Gentiles, as to include the Jews, who thought themselves exempted. No doubt the Gentiles are included, but the special object of the Apostle evidently seems to prevent the Jews from supposing that they were not included. In no other way can the connection between the two parts of the verse be understood. — Ed.

20. Therefore by the works of the law, etc. It is a matter of doubt, even among the learned, what the works of the law mean. Some extend them to the observance of the whole law, while others confine them to the ceremonies alone. The addition of the word law induced Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome to assent to the latter opinion; 106106     The original is “ut in priorem opinionem concederent:” but the context shows clearly that “priorem“ is a misprint for “posteriorem. In addition to the authors mentioned here may be added Ambrose, Theodoret, Pelagius, Erasmus, and Grotius And yet, notwithstanding all those authorities, the opinion referred to is wholly inconsistent with the reasoning of the Apostle here and throughout the whole Epistle. It has indeed been given up as untenable by modern authors of the same school, such as Locke, Whitby, and Macknight
   To disprove this notion it is sufficient to notice the sins which the Apostle had referred to; they are not those against the ceremonial but the moral law, and it is because the moral law is transgressed that it cannot justify.

   “If there be any law which man has perfectly kept, he may doubtless be justified by it; and surely no man can be justified by a law which condemns him for breaking it. But there is no law of God which any man has kept; therefore no law by the deeds of which a man can be justified. The Gentile broke the law of his reason and conscience; the Jew broke the moral law; and even the attempt to justify himself by observing the ceremonial law, contradicted the very nature and intent of it.” — Scott
for they thought that there is a peculiar intimation in this appendage, that the expression should not be understood as including all works. But this difficulty may be very easily removed: for seeing works are so far just before God as we seek by them to render to him worship and obedience, in order expressly to take away the power of justifying from all works, he has mentioned those, if there be any, which can possibly justify; for the law hath promises, without which there would be no value in our works before God. You hence see the reason why Paul expressly mentioned the works of the law; for it is by the law that a reward is apportioned to works. Nor was this unknown to the schoolmen, who held it as an approved and common maxim, that works have no intrinsic worthiness, but become meritorious by covenant. And though they were mistaken, inasmuch as they saw not that works are ever polluted with vices, which deprive them of any merit, yet this principle is still true, that the reward for works depends on the free promise of the law. Wisely then and rightly does Paul speak here; for he speaks not of mere works, but distinctly and expressly refers to the keeping of the law, the subject which he is discussing. 107107     The argument and the reasoning of the Apostle seem to require that ἐξ ἔργων νόμου should be rendered here literally, “by works of law,” without the article, as the word “law” seems here, according to the drift of the argument, to mean law in general, both natural and revealed; and διὰ νόμου in the next clause must be regarded as having the same meaning; the law of nature as well as the written law, though not to the same extent, makes sin known. This is the view taken by Pareus, Doddridge, Macknight, Stuart, and Haldane. — Ed.

As to those things which have been adduced by learned men in defense of this opinion, they are weaker than they might have been. They think that by mentioning circumcision, an example is propounded, which belonged to ceremonies only: but why Paul mentioned circumcision, we have already explained; for none swell more with confidence in works than hypocrites, and we know that they glory only in external masks; and then circumcision, according to their view, was a sort of initiation into the righteousness of the law; and hence it seemed to them a work of primary excellence, and indeed the basis as it were of the righteousness of works. — They also allege what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul handles the same subject, and refers to ceremonies only; but that also is not sufficiently strong to support what they wish to defend. It is certain that Paul had a controversy with those who inspired the people with a false confidence in ceremonies; that he might cut of this confidence, he did not confine himself to ceremonies, nor did he speak specifically of what value they were; but he included the whole law, as it is evident from those passages which are derived from that source. Such also was the character of the disputation held at Jerusalem by the disciples.

But we contend, not without reason, that Paul speaks here of the whole law; for we are abundantly supported by the thread of reasoning which he has hitherto followed and continues to follow, and there are many other passages which will not allow us to think otherwise. It is therefore a truth, which deserves to be remembered as the first in importance, — that by keeping the law no one can attain righteousness. He had before assigned the reason, and he will repeat it presently again, and that is, that all, being to a man guilty of transgression, are condemned for unrighteousness by the law. And these two things — to be justified by works — and to be guilty of transgressions, (as we shall show more at large as we proceed,) are wholly inconsistent the one with the other. — The word flesh, without some particular specification, signifies men; 108108     The expression is ὀυ πᾶσα σὰρξ — not all, that is, not any flesh, etc.; the word πᾶσα, like כל in Hebrew, is used here in the sense of “any.” The sentence bears a resemblance to what is contained in Psalm 143:2, “for justified before thee shall not all living,” or, not any one living, לא כל חי. The sentence here is literally, “Hence by works of law shall not be justified any flesh before Him.” — Ed. though it seems to convey a meaning somewhat more general, as it is more expressive to say, “All mortals,” than to say, “All men,” as you may see in Gallius.

For by the law, etc. He reasons from what is of an opposite character, — that righteousness is not brought to us by the law, because it convinces us of sin and condemns us; for life and death proceed not from the same fountain. And as he reasons from the contrary effect of the law, that it cannot confer righteousness on us, let us know, that the argument does not otherwise hold good, except we hold this as an inseparable and unvarying circumstance, — that by showing to man his sin, it cuts off the hope of salvation. It is indeed by itself, as it teaches us what righteousness is, the way to salvation: but our depravity and corruption prevent it from being in this respect of any advantage to us. It is also necessary in the second place to add this, — that whosoever is found to be a sinner, is deprived of righteousness; for to devise with the sophisters a half kind of righteousness, so that works in part justify, is frivolous: but nothing is in this respect gained, on account of man’s corruption.

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