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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 3

 

 

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Verse 1

1. Advantage—The question arrays the claim of Christianity against the proud superiority of Judaism. The apostle must conciliate that pride as far as possible, without surrendering a particle of Christianity. He, therefore, in the next verse makes generous concession.

The points here briefly touched in relation to Israel’s advantages, his failure through unbelief, and God’s defence therefor, are more fully treated in chapter 9. And the two passages, being parallel, are each the apostle’s own commentary upon the other.


Verse 1-2

(b.) Admission of the Jews’ advantage, chiefly in the divine oracles, Romans 3:1-2.

The Jew is highly dissatisfied at being in the two preceding chapters placed by the apostle upon a level of guilt and condemnation with the Gentiles. He demands what advantage the apostle allows the Jew, (Romans 3:1.) Nay, as Jewish unbelief really sets God’s faithfulness in a clearer light, that unbelief itself was rather a merit than a sin, (Romans 3:5.) And in final astonishment he demands if the Jew is in no respect better than the Gentile, (Romans 3:9.)

The apostle, accustomed to hear such objections in his various argumentation with the Jews in their synagogues, very concisely states (not in the Jew’s words, but his own) and refutes them here.

The advantage of the Jew is, comprehensively, the possession of God’s revelation, (Romans 3:2;) an advantage which the defection of a part of the race could not neutralize, (Romans 3:3.) He admits that God’s faithfulness is illustrated by Jewish apostasy, but denies that such fact lessens their just penalty from God, since such a concession would subvert God’s very judgment throne over the world, (Romans 3:6,) and lead to justifying our sins by the good that might illegitimately result from them, (Romans 3:8.) And, finally, to the despairing query of the Jew whether the advantage of the Jew did not embrace the being morally better, he gives a prompt and decisive no, and sustains his fearful negative with a running summary of passages of condemnation from their own Scriptures, (9-20.)


Verse 2

2. Much every way—A supernatural history, a succession of prophecies, a Messiah.

Chiefly—Literally, first; yet so comprehending all that he mentions no second. But he gives a fuller enumeration in Romans 9:4-5.

Oracles of God—There were plenty of heathen oracles, giving dubious responses from false gods, and, perhaps, daemons. To the Jews were given those pure oracles of the true Jehovah which constitute the Old Testament. Our apostle did not belong to that sect of rationalists, ancient or modern, which is anxious to separate the Old Testament from the New, denying the divine authority of the former. He based the New on the foundations of the Old.


Verse 3

(c.) Yet without impeaching God’s faith unbelieving Jews are damned, (Romans 3:3-4.)

3. For—The apostle answers the secret objection which might arise in thought, that Christianity makes the gift of those oracles in reality a failure, and so invalidates the advantage of the Jew. He admits that on the human side there was a failure through unbelief; but that proves no failure on God’s part, and so no depreciation of the advantage. Man’s failures may defeat the gracious dispensations of God, but do not disprove nor diminish their original divine graciousness.

Some—Alas! the great majority is to be included in this, the apostle’s gentle some.

Did not believe—The past unbelief of the Jewish people is, most delicately, alone specified; but the total rejection by the Jews and of the Jews was included by terrible implication.

Unbelief… faith—Man’s faithlessness and God’s faithfulness are here set in contrast. Both faiths were pledged in the Abrahamic covenant; man’s was broker and God’s maintained.

Without effect?—And so prove the oracles of God to be a vain gift? The full advantage of the Jew as a beneficence from God stands therefore unimpeached by his wilful forfeiture of it. Be it noted that whether God’s side of the covenant was hereby broken is the question more fully discussed in Romans 9:6-14. And this passage conclusively proves that the exclusion of the rejected side in Romans 9:6-14, was based not on the “Divine Sovereignty,” but on their own unbelief.


Verse 4

4. God forbid—Literally, It may not be so. It is not a permissible thing. The divine name is not used in the apostle’s Greek phrase, but a divine impossibility of the thing is powerfully implied in thought.

God be true— The apostle here assumes two things: First, that falsehood in God would be infinitely wrong. But, second, God is surely infinitely right, and therefore falsehood or unfaithfulness must by no manner of means be admitted of God. The apostle’s ground is not that whatever a God is supposed to do (as, for instance, commit falsehood) is right because He does it; but, it is not to be admitted that the true God—the God we have— will commit that wrong. The apostle does not reason that because God is absolute sovereign therefore any thing supposably done by him is made right thereby. His argument is, that God is right and holy because of all possible courses he takes, not those courses which are unholy, but just the one that is holy; and of all possible doings, He ever does and will do not that which is unrighteous, but solely and truly that which is righteous. It is one of the moral perfections of God—nay, the sum of all his moral perfections—that He holds himself infinitely bound to all the obligations of truth, justice, and holiness, far above what man can conceive. Hence the wisdom of our perfect trust in Him, and of our feeling that perfect self-commitment to Him is a perfect self-commitment to all goodness.

True… liar—Terms used in regard to fidelity or unfaithfulness to the covenant. By let be the apostle means let it be assumed as primarily true.

Written—David had transgressed against the divine covenant in the murder of Uriah. Instead of justifying himself in his unfaithfulness he proclaims himself the sinner, (Psalms 51:7,) and justifies God in inflicting evil upon himself.

Thou art judged—The Divine Being (reverently be it spoken) does more than once place himself and his administration before the tribunal of man’s moral sense in order to have its rectitude tested. He allows even Abraham to assume that certain courses would not be right in the Judge of all the earth. (Genesis 18:25.) But as it became David, their sinful type, so it became the apostate Jews, to assume that in the matter of the failure of the Jewish dispensation, when justice made up its verdict, God would be found the faithful and man the traitor. To “reply against God,” therefore, (Romans 9:20,) is not (with the Arminian) to assume that a course cannot be pursued by God because it would be a wrong course; it is (as the Calvinist) to assume the wrong course to be the real one, and either to reproach God with it, or to defend God by maintaining that wrong is right, and thus pervert the very foundations of all rectitude.


Verse 5

(d.) Nor does God’s glory derived from overruling man’s sin excuse the Jewish any more than the Gentile sinner, Romans 3:5-8.

5. Commend the righteousness of God—The Jew now makes a bold turn. He admits himself the sinner and God the righteous. But how excellent a thing has his sin accomplished! It has set God’s rectitude in a clearer light! How righteous, then, is the Jew whose very sins glorify God!

What shall we say?—How can we condemn the Jew? The apostle answers this question by retorting another. God does nevertheless take vengeance; does he so unrighteously? There is, then, a fair issue between God and the Jew. Is God unrighteous? Not only does St. Paul over and over raise the question whether there is unrighteousness with God, but the whole book of Romans is an argument to show that God’s course with the Jews is the right one; under the assumption that there are other courses which it would be wrong for God to pursue, and which he does not pursue just because they are wrong. That is, a course is not right because God pursues it, but God pursues it because it is right. The righteousness of God appears in this, that from eternity to eternity he does, with a most divine freedom, choose and determine not for the wrong, but for the right, the holy, and the best. (See our work on “The Will,” page 316.) And the apostle assumes this fundamental rightness in God as a first principle in no way to be contradicted. The predestinarian must not, therefore, grimly argue, “God has a right to do what he pleases with his creatures, even decree their sin and then damn them for it.” God has, indeed, a right to do what he pleases with his creatures, just because he, in fact, pleases to do perfectly right. Were there a God over the universe who pleased to do wrong, such a God would have no right to do as he pleases. But to say that the creature cannot be imagined to receive a treatment which would be unjust even from its Creator reverses all true idea of justice; and in fact by saying that injustice would be justice annihilates the very idea of justice.

We are bound to assume, with the apostle, that such a course must not be attributed to God, because it would be infinitely wrong, and God is infinitely right.

Speak as a man—In entertaining the question of the divine rectitude, I do for a moment speak of God as men speak of each other. The sentence is an apologetic parenthesis for the apparent irreverence.


Verse 6

6. How… judge the world?—For this plea, by which the Jew makes himself so righteous a sinner, cannot be monopolized by the Jew alone. If his sin is made righteousness by the fact that it brings the righteousness of God into powerful relief by the contrast, then all sin performs the same office, and all sin is then righteous, and God can condemn no sinner in the world.

There are those who argue that sin is for the best good of the universe. They thus make sin a sort of good, a dark-bright thing. They might better say that the permission of free agency and the allowance of the free agent, by whom sin is able to be committed, is for the best good of the system of the world.

The apostle, however, does not entertain the metaphysical question. It is sufficient for him to remind the Jew that as to the excellence and uncondemnability of his sin he stands just on the same footing with the rest of the world. If God judge the world for sin he will judge the Jew.


Verse 7

7. For—The apostle now states in the first person singular what every man in the world might argue as well as the Jew.

Truth… lie—Faithfulness or falseness to the divine covenant, or the divine law of right. All sin is lie.

Judged—If clearly illustrating the divine righteousness transforms sin to holiness for the Jew, then it also makes every sinner to be no sinner, and makes it impossible for him to be judged.


Verse 8

8. And not rather—Before the words of this verse the apostle’s mind thinks a clause like this: And both my God forbid, (Romans 3:6,) and my earnest reasoning against this fearful fallacy, are rather the true view—and not rather what would strictly follow) the heinous view that evil must be done to secure a good result.

Slanderously reported—In the great discussions raised by the new Christianity, both with Judaism and paganism, there would be colour for this slander. Each might claim that for itself to be destroyed through great strife and commotion, in order that Christianity might be established, was doing evil that good may come. For children to differ from the religion of their parents, or subjects to differ from the religion of the State, in order even to be holy, could be slandered as doing evil in order to good. So the apostle rejects the maxim when charged on the doctrines of Christianity, (Romans 6:1.) For anti-Christians, see note on Acts 28:22.

Whose damnation—Later commentators hold that it is the damnation of the holders of this wicked doctrine, and not of the slanderers, which is pronounced just.


Verse 9

(e.) And so the Jews are no better than the Gentiles, their own Old Testament being witnessCONCLUSION, ALL, UNDER LAW, CONDEMNED, Romans 3:9-20.

9. What then?—The Jew now makes his last desperate effort. Are we Jews, then, any better at all than Gentiles? In advantages and benefits received (Romans 3:1-2) the answer is yes; but as to character and position the apostle returns an inexorable No, in no wise.

Proved—Rather, charged. He now proceeds to the proof of the charge by quoting, either verbally or according to sense, a number of the Old Testament passages, showing that Jews are charged on that conclusive authority with a guilt equal to any that can be ascribed to Gentilism. The quotations are from Psalms and Isaiah. (See references.) The passages describe with dark touches the depravity of unregenerate Judaism. And as the first chapter has described that of unregenerate Gentilism, so both together furnish the biblical picture of what man is, apart from divine grace.


Verse 10

10. Not one—Not that none are regenerate and so righteous, but that none in nature’s condition are so.


Verse 11

11. Understandeth—The Old Testament speaks of wisdom, folly, and understanding not so much from the intellectual as from the moral standpoint. To be wicked is to be a fool; to be righteous was to understand. So truly is the holy book the utterance of the moral sense.


Verse 13

13. An open sepulchre—As swallowing the once living; and, like the whited sepulchres of the Saviour’s words, full of dead men’s bones.


Verse 15

15. Swift—Like the feet of a hotly pursuing murderer.


Verse 17

17. Way of peace—Either with God or man.

Not known—So completely are their minds occupied with wickedness that righteousness is a thing unthought, unrealized, unknown. This, alas! is often the condition of depraved men. These dark strokes do not indeed describe what all unregenerate persons visibly and practically are. They only declare the depravability, the range of capacity for actual wickedness which the natural man possesses, and the actual wickedness at which multitudes do, and all can, arrive without grace or moral culture.


Verse 19

19. Under the law—The Jew cannot claim that these passages describe Gentilism alone; their actual application is to the Jews, and the conclusive authority is their own Old Testament.

Every mouth may be stopped— Scripture, like a gag, suppresses all contradiction from Jewish lips.

All the world—So that the Jew is compelled to take rank with the Gentile on the common footing of universal ruin before God. The Jew is now silenced, but reappears again in the ninth chapter. Yet repressive as is the hand, and often severe as is the tone, of the apostle upon the Jew, how expansive and progressive are his views! So far as God is concerned, to him are attributed a divine impartiality over all our race. So far as the Jew is concerned, he is emancipated from a burdensome ritual, and brought into equal brotherhood with his brother man. So far as Christianity is concerned, it breaks the shell of narrow Judaism, and spreads its wings over all the races of mankind.


Verse 20

20. Deeds of the law—Deeds fulfilling the law. The law is that universal law which Jews and Gentiles are alike obligated to obey, the law of universal and eternal right. This law was, for the Jew, embraced essentially in the Decalogue; and the so-called Mosaic law was a system of special enactments designed to bring men into harmony with that central law.

Justified—Made or declared by divine authority just, or pardoned. None can be justified by the law, for all have broken it.

Knowledge of sin—The law, when clearly seen and compared with our own conduct and character, is able only to convict us of sin, not to redeem us from it, or to pardon us for it.

The apostle has now completed his picture of universal human Ruin. Gentile and Jew, the whole world, are condemned by the law and guilty before God. He is ready now to unfold,


Verse 21

21. But—The small yet great hinging word on which the mighty argument turns—the transition point of the scheme and of the epistle.

Now—Under the new regimen of grace; after the old regimen of wrath depicted in the previous part of the epistle. The apostle springs into this blessed now with a joyous abruptness. He will range through it, leading us through rich and varied scenes of grace and glory.

Righteousness of God—Not merely that righteousness with which God is invested, but that righteousness with which, through Christ, he invests us. The latter is the radiant reflection from the former. It would much simplify the expression of Paul’s theology if all the branchings from the one root, δικαιος, right, righteous, or just, could be translated into English by similar branchings from one root. We should then have just, justify, (or just-make,) justification, (or just-making.) justice, (or just-being.) Or we should have right, (or righteous,) righteousness, (or rightness or right-being,) and rectification, (or righting, or right-making, or righteous-making.) This righteousness of God is God’s rectification or justification of man before the law, making him rectus in curia, or right in God’s court, or before his tribunal, being the opposite of condemnation by God’s law. Yet does it not include, though ever accompanied by, sanctification. For as justification is acquittal from past offences, so sanctification is the inward power, more or less, by grace conferred, to avoid commission of sin for the future. By the former the man comes right; by the latter man stays right. (See note on Matthew 18:3.)

Without the law—Righteousness, though required of man by the law, can never be acquired through the law. The law being once broken can only condemn; it can never justify. Justification, then, can be attained only by some method without the law.

Is manifested—In the advent of Christ and the opening of the new revelation.

Law and the prophets—Note on Matthew 5:17. To the Old Testament Church, looking forward to the New, the law and the prophets were promise and encouragement; to the New Testament Church, looking back, they are testimony and support. The law testified to Christ and his atonement both by its demand for satisfaction for sin and by its whole piacular ritual; the prophets, by fortelling the person and history of the Messiah.


Verses 21-31

II. THE REMEDY. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH THROUGH THE ATONEMENT BY CHRIST.

1. Comprehensive Statement of Gratuitous Salvation by Faith in Christ’s Atoning Death, Romans 3:21-31.

This is the CENTRAL PARAGRAPH of the Epistle. In composing it our great apostle summons all his powers to the task of concentrating into one statement his doctrine of salvation “according to my gospel.” The paragraph is the solution of all that has preceded, and the theme of all that follows. It embraces the core and substance of positive and perfect Christianity, against which rationalizing yet irrational unbelief rebels, whether Judaistic, semi-Christian, or infidel, yet forever rebels in vain.


Verse 22

22. Even the righteousness of GodEven God’s justification or right-making of man. The righteousness of God here is the righteousness or right-making God purposes for man. (Note Romans 1:17.)

Faith of Jesus Christ—The faith of which Christ is the object, or the faith which Christ requires.

This faith is not simply the belief of the intellect, embracing the historical facts of Christ’s character and death. It is the faith or fidelity of the whole man. It is the act of the assenting intellect, the consenting heart, and the accepting will, by which man’s soul deposits itself into the hands of the Redeemer, by his mighty arm to be carried through every danger into everlasting safety. (See note on Romans 10:10; Romans 1:17; Romans 2:6; and on Romans 5:24.) It is self-surrender to Christ. And as Christ is the very incarnation of goodness, holiness, and God, so does the soul pledge itself and give itself over to all goodness, holiness, and God for time and eternity. So does the blessed soul become harmonized and incorporated into the holy universe of God. He becomes part of the glorified Cosmos.

This righteousness or justification is unto all in its offer, and upon all in its accepted bestowment.

No difference—None in the impartial universality of the offer; none in the ample power of the acceptance.


Verse 23

23. All have sinned—The all is all mankind, past, present, and future; the have sinned is, in the Greek, an instance of the apostle’s aoristic tenses, in which past, present, and future are comprehended. (See notes on Romans 4:12; Romans 8:29; Romans 9:22.) The tense is equivalent to a perpetual present, “an eternal now,” and so the phrase is tantamount to all men sin. It thus accords in sense with come short, which in the Greek is actually in the grammatical present. And the fact that both verbs express a perpetual fact explains, decisively, we think, the following phrase, about which commentators so much differ—the glory. The phrase come short is borrowed from a racer’s failure to attain the goal. The goal is the heavenly glorification. All men sin, and, apart from Christ, fail of the blessed goal, the final glory of God.


Verse 24

24. Being justified—If at all justified.

Freely—Gratuitously. For though the justification is conditioned upon faith, yet the faith is no compensation to God for it. Faith being the self-surrender above described has indeed a sort of merit. It has the merit of being a right and not a wrong thing, as unfaith is. It is a compliance with the divine command. It is intrinsically an excellent thing or act, the very best thing indeed possible in the case. It has the merit, too, of suitableness or congruity, being the soul’s putting itself into the proper position of accepting and receiving the blessed gift. The very fact that God selects faith as a condition, implies its excellence and fitness as a condition; otherwise God might just as well make blasphemy or murder a condition of salvation. Yet this implies not that there is in this faith any compensation to God, any merit adequate to the gift of eternal life, any thing that (apart from God’s promises) places him under obligation to confer wages or reward. A millionaire may bestow a fortune on a beggar simply on the condition of his coming, kneeling down, and stretching forth his hand to take it. There would thereby be no merit on the beggar’s part. There might be great demerit in his refusing, and turning his back and calling his benefactor a liar; but there would be no merit in his performing the condition and obtaining the grace. So the receptive faith by which the sinner yields to God’s mercy, though it be a condition, may have no merit.

From all this the reader may clearly see what a blunder it is to suppose that non-merited salvation must imply that the salvation is forced, or fixed, or fastened upon us without power of resistance on our part. Grace is grace without being irresistible, and without being divinely “secured not to be resisted.” The placing any value on man’s service, and therefor conferring pardon, happiness, and heaven, is of God’s free, spontaneous, unbought bounty.

Redemption—The word signifies a ransoming, being derived from the word λυτρον, a ransom. (Note Matthew 20:28.) Dr. Hodge’s note on this word is very admirable: “The word translated redemption has two senses in the New Testament. 1. It means properly ‘a deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom.’ This is its primary etymological meaning. 2. It means deliverance simply, without any reference to the means of its accomplishment, whether by power or wisdom—Luke 21:28 : ‘The day of redemption (that is, of deliverance) draweth nigh;’

Hebrews 11:25, (and perhaps Romans 8:23; compare Isaiah 50:2 :) ‘Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?’ etc. When applied to the work of Christ, as effecting our deliverance from the punishment of sin, it is always taken in its proper sense, deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom. This is evident, (1,) Because in no case where it is thus used is anything said of the precepts, doctrines, or power of Christ as the means by which the deliverance is effected, but uniformly his sufferings are mentioned as the ground of deliverance: ‘In whom we have redemption in his blood;’ Ephesians 1:7; ‘By the means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions,’ Hebrews 9:15; Colossians 1:14. (2.) In this passage the nature of this redemption is explained by the following verse; it is not by truth, nor the exhibition of excellence, but through Christ ‘as a propitiatory sacrifice, through faith in his blood.’ (3.) Equivalent expressions fix the meaning of the term without doubt; 1 Timothy 2:6 : ‘Who gave himself a ransom for all;’ Matthew 20:28 : ‘The Son of man came to give his life as a ransom for many;’ 1 Peter 1:18 : ‘Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ;’ etc., etc. Accordingly, Christ is presented as a Redeemer, not in the character of a teacher or witness, but of a priest, a sacrifice, a propitiation,” etc., etc.


Verse 25

25. Set forth—Exhibited to the world.

Propitiation—The Greek word is generally considered to be an adjective signifying propitiatory; that is, appeasing, removing wrath. The noun supposed to be understood is either cover, or sacrifice. In the holy of holies of the temple was the ark of the covenant, overshadowed by the cherubim. Once a year, on the great day of atonement, the high priest entered and sprinkled the blood of the victim upon the cover of the ark as a propitiation of the divine wrath for the sins of the people. The lid of the ark was thence called the propitiatory-cover, or mercyseat; and sometimes in the Greek of the Septuagint the propritiatory, the very Greek word here used. Hence many commentators understand Jesus here to be called, by a very strong figure, the mercyseat. Yet a less harsh view is that which supplies the word sacrifice, and thus makes Jesus the divine propitiatory victim. Alford, indeed, affirms the word to be not an adjective but a noun, literally signifying a propitiatory or appeasing sacrifice. That view of the atonement which assumes that it was only a method of removing our enmity to God, not God’s wrath against us, besides its absurdity of assuming against abundant Scripture testimonies, that God has no wrath or opposition against sin, finds an answerable refutation in this word.

His blood—The visible symbol of death. Faith in his blood or death is reliance upon the sufficiency of his death for the pardon of our sin, and upon its efficiency for our salvation.

Declare— Make clear.

Righteousness—Rectoral or governmental justice. Pure, absolute justice, as revealed to us by our intuitive sense, could never be done by the substitution of a sufferer in the place of the criminal. The same sense of absolute justice that requires that there should be a sufferer at all, requires that the sufferer should be no other than the guilty actor of the crime. If Damon died in Pythias’ stead, the justice thereby satisfied was not absolute intuitive justice, but rectoral justice, the justice that requires that law and government shall be sustained.

Remission—Not so much forgiveness as withholding of penalty.

Sins that are past—Sins committed before the death of Christ. That atoning death reflected back its efficacy upon previous ages and generations. That is, God, in view of that foreknown atonement, withheld penalty until the sacrifice, and then fully pardoned it.

Forbearance—God forebore for ages in view of the propitiation.


Verse 26

26. At this time—In antithesis with the past time of forbearance.

Just— Affording no pretext for doubting his condemnation of sin. There is a chime of words between just and justifier.

Strictly, St. Paul’s picture of the atonement is now complete. Yet, supplementarily, he next calls attention to three points in the picture, namely, its exclusion of boast, (27, 28,) its impartial universality, (29, 30,) and its true grounding in the Old Testament, (31.) All these three he will illustrate more fully in the future. It is upon the Jew specially that he strongly presses these points.


Verse 27

27. Boasting—The Jew need no longer be solicitous about his advantage, (Romans 3:1,) nor his being better, (Romans 3:9.) The law of salvation by faith is a complete leveller of men in comparison with each other, and of men as claiming to earn or merit justification from God.

Of works?—By WORKS is meant not merely the ritual performances of the Mosaic law, (though these are included,) but every action of body or mind by which we assume to justly earn salvation, or claim to compensate or PAY God for kindnesses done by him to us. That grace or salvation cannot be bestowed by God for works in such a sense is plain, for,

1. God does not need us, and can do entirely without us. He can drop us any moment into non-existence without any real loss to himself. Nay, the angel who has lived trillions of years in perfect obedience to God has no claim for another moment of existence.

2. Far less can any works of man be any equivalent for the eternal weight of glory prepared for the elect of God. Be it that our works are excellent, how high must the excellence be in order to be an equivalent for endless blessedness? If wherever we find the word works in the epistle we read it adequate compensation, we shall at once see the conclusiveness of the apostle’s reasoning. (See note on Romans 4:4.)

3. And especially that our works of the law are no purchase of God’s favour is clear; for since all find themselves transgressors, so on the ground of pure law, as the apostle conclusively maintains, can no flesh be justified. (See notes on Romans 14:2; Romans 10:4.) The only way for man as a sinner is to fall back from the platform of law upon the platform of grace and mercy.

4. Grace in salvation does not, as predestinarians do vainly think, imply that faith is omnipotently or sovereignly planted in a man, (see note on Romans 3:24;) but in the fact that the conditions of salvation are not compensative works, but faith. And faith being a complete self-surrender to God, by him to be ruled and saved, does of itself confess that all salvation comes by grace, and not by works, wages, pay, or compensation to God. Thus faith is the non-meritorious condition of salvation.

5. And yet, after all, under the gospel system works are meritorious! We are required to work; to work out our salvation. We are rewarded according to our works. (See note on Romans 2:6.) And St. James tells us most truly that we are justified by works. For, after the soul has by faith submitted itself to God, God does accept it and its imperfect works, which then, indeed, are acts of faith. Even in the unregenerate state, right doings are intrinsically excellent. (Note on Matthew 5:7.) They are better than wrong doings. And in the man of faith God accepts them as done to and for him; conferring on them a higher excellency than belongs to them—even a rewardable merit.

6. The battle of the apostle against works in this epistle is part of his great battle against circumcision as a means of salvation, against the claim of the power of the Jewish Ritual to save without Christ, and against the proud pretences of heathen moralism. It is, indeed, the great battle of the gospel against all Antichristianity. When Christianity itself becomes overloaded with a pile of rituals and performances, prescribed as works for salvation, the whole is overthrown by appealing to the doctrine of justification by simple heart-deep faith without the works of the law. To this Luther appealed against the ritualism of the Church of Rome; to this Wesley appealed against the formalism of the Church of England.


Verse 30

30. One God—And he not a local or national god, but a universal God.

The circumcision—The Jew.

By faith… through faith—God justifies the Jew from a faith contained in and deduced from true Judaism; he justifies the Gentile through the instrumentality of a faith now first presented and imparted.


Verse 31

31. Make void the law?—From the fact that the apostle next proceeds to ground the doctrine of faith in the Old Testament, Alford and others by main force make the word law here to mean, as it means not anywhere else, the Old Testament history. But Paul is here asserting, what he fully maintains in chap. 7, that the doctrine of faith neither abrogates nor dishonours the eternal law. On the contrary, it assumes the absoluteness of that law, which so discloses sin as to make the atonement necessary. It establishes that law as the perfect standard to which the scheme of redemption aspires to raise fallen man.

The apostle has now with complete explicitness stated the Remedy for the Ruin. He will next find that remedy to have been propounded in the Old Testament.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-3.html. 1874-1909.

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