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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 3

 

 

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Verses 1-8

Romans 3:1-8. Jewish Protests Silenced.

Romans 3:1. "What then," it is asked, "is the advantage of being a Jew, etc.?"

Romans 3:2-4. "Much," Paul replies, "in every way: to begin with, they were entrusted with the oracles of God" (this implies a faith-relationship)—"a trust not voided by the infidelity of some." "Some," for numbers do not count; the heritage of faith is transmitted through "the remnant" (see Romans 9:6-8, etc.).—"Nay" (to use the language of the Pss.), "God will show Himself true, though every man prove false," etc.

Romans 3:5. A further protest: "But if our unrighteousness serves to commend God's righteousness" (as you maintain), "is God, who inflicts the wrath" you speak of, "unjust" like that—punishing those who have helped to glorify Him? Paul apologises for repeating the impudent question: "I say it as a man"—as men might and do say.

Romans 3:6 is his reply: "Far be the thought; for in that case how will God judge the world?"—the world's sin would then go scot-free, for it also illustrates God's righteousness.

Romans 3:7 f. The objector persists; "But if" (as you implied)" my lie has redounded to God's glory, why am I too," after that, "judged like a" common "sinner"? To the Pharisee, the idea of his being classed with "sinners" was monstrous (see Luke 7:36-39; Luke 15:1 f., etc.). The question is answered by its ironical continuation: "And why not . . . as some people affirm that we" (Christians) "say, Let us do evil," etc.? This defence is its own condemnation. The Jew makes no reply on the matters of fact alleged in ch. 2; in arrest of judgment he pleads hereditary privilege, and the tending of his misdoing to the greater glory of God.


Verses 9-20

Romans 3:9-20. sums up the impeachment of mankind.

Romans 3:9. Paul has beaten down Jewish counter-pleas; he and his fellow-believers ("we") might be supposed to have some apology in reserve: "What then? do we make any defence?" (mg.). "Not in the least! for we have already charged Jews and Greeks alike with being all under the power of sin."

Romans 3:10-18. The universal accusation is restated by a string of OT sentences (p. 805) gathered, with the exception of Romans 3:15-17 (Isaiah 59:7 f.), from the Psalter, which poignantly depict the sinfulness of mankind. Two things are conspicuous in this sad catena: the world's "unrighteousness" is traced to a want of "understanding about God" (Romans 3:11; Romans 3:18; cf. Romans 1:18-23); here cruelty, the wrong of man toward man, predominates, as foulness, the wrong of man toward himself, did in ch. 1.

Romans 3:19 f. resumes the thread of Romans 3:9 : "We know, moreover, that in whatsoever things the law pronounces, it speaks to those within its scope, that every mouth may be stopped" (Jewish mouths particularly), "and all the world may find itself obnoxious to God's judgment; because by works of law," etc. (Psalms 143:2). "For through law comes the fuller knowledge of sin": this concluding sentence awaits explanation in ch. 7 (cf. p. 823).


Verses 21-31

Romans 3:21-31. A new chapter opens in human history—the achievement of Redemption in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:21. In the desperation to which man's sin, brought home to him by the Law, has reduced him, "a manifestation has been made of God's righteousness (Romans 1:17*) for salvation outside of law," yet "attested by law and prophets" (see, e.g., Romans 4:3, Romans 1:17). The Jew regarded Moses' law as a complete revelation of God's ways.

Romans 3:22 a. It is a "righteousness" realised "through faith in Jesus Christ," destined "for all that believe." The Divine righteousness displayed in the Gospel is communicative; sinners "become God's righteousness in Christ," even as He "became sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Romans 3:22 b, Romans 3:23 sustains the "all" of Romans 3:22 a: Jew and Gentile are condemned "without distinction"; everywhere "the glory of God," which shone in man's proper nature, is eclipsed under sin's shame.

Romans 3:24. If sinners then are to be "justified," it must be "gratuitously" (cf. "the gift of righteousness," Romans 5:17)—a justification effected "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."—"To justify" is "to count righteous", p. 811, whether (Romans 2:13, Romans 3:4) the subject has been such in conduct or (as here) the opposite; the term is relative to status. The change of character ensues, as ch. 6 will show; God makes men righteous by treating them as such on Christ's account. Justification is forgiveness, and more; it implies reinstatement (see Romans 8:14-17; cf. Luke 15:20-24).—By derivation "redemption" is recovery by ransom": the Greek term, however, like the English, came to include "deliverance" broadly; the stricter connotation holds in this connexion—the thought of "price," the sense of the immense cost of man's salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20*, 1 Timothy 2:6), attaches to the word; Romans 3:25 speaks of "the blood" (Mark 10:45, 1 Peter 1:18 f.). How redeemed, Romans 3:25 a tells; with what issue, Romans 3:25 b, Romans 3:26.

Romans 3:25 a. "God set Him forth" in the eyes of all the world—"a propitiation . . . in His blood." Propitiation (1 John 2:2*) bears reference to "the anger of God" resounding from Romans 1:18* onwards. The death of Jesus consummated the direful train of causation, at once natural and supernatural, under which "sin worketh out death"; on the Cross "the law of sin and death" took full effect—for the sheltering sinner, final effect (cf. Romans 5:9). In heathen propitiations guilty men strove to appease the displeasure of their gods; here God both prescribes the means and is at the cost of expiation (Romans 8:32, 1 John 4:10). The intervening clause "through faith" makes the saved man a party to God's redeeming action; the propitiation avails as he identifies himself with it.

Romans 3:25 b, Romans 3:26. The expiation covers, retrospectively, the time of "passing over of sins" (RV cf. Acts 17:30, Hebrews 10:1-4), when God acted "in forbearance" with wrong-doers. "The present epoch" witnesses the full "exhibition of God's righteousness"—that of One who is "Himself righteous and the justifier" (righteous-er, as Du Bose renders it) "of the man that is of faith in Jesus." The "and" is no "but": the justification vindicates God's own righteousness (Romans 1:17*), who in perfect rectitude reinstates, for Christ's sake. His disinherited children. "Of faith" is more than "through faith" (Romans 3:25): faith originates the new order.

Romans 3:27-31. Three consequences emerge: Jewish pride is abased (Romans 3:27 f.), the Divine Unity is safeguarded (Romans 3:29 f.), and the Divine Law vindicated (Romans 3:31). The "excluded glorying" is that of Romans 2:17-20, the boast asserted under the "law of works" (Romans 2:21-25, Romans 4:4 f.; cf. Romans 10:3)—quashed when "faith" is recognised as the "norm" of God's kingdom; "for" (mg.) "we account that justification comes to man" (qua man, not qua Israelite) "by faith apart from works of law": such a calculus annihilates boasting (cf. Romans 4:1-3). Incidentally. this principle guards the unity of God: "God being one," there is only one way to set men right with Him; He "will justify the Circumcision out of faith, and the Uncircumcision through that faith"—in salvation, as in sin, they stand on an equal footing. Faith is, to Jews, the source of salvation, excluding "works"; for Gentiles, standing afar off, the pathway to salvation.—Finally, "we" (Christians) "establish law," instead of overthrowing it (cf. Romans 6:15, Romans 8:4), "by means of faith." Paul saw in faith a law (Romans 3:27) within and beyond "the law"; he found here the basal principle of God's dealings with mankind (Romans 4:3 ff.; cf. Hebrews 11). His conception of law has deepened along with his conception of righteousness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Romans 3:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/romans-3.html. 1919.

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