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1: What then, may some say, is the advantage of the Jew, or
of the circumcision - That is, those that are circumcised,
above the gentiles?
2: Chiefly in that they were intrusted with the oracles
of God - The scriptures, in which are so great and precious
promises. Other prerogatives will follow, (Ro 9:4-5).
St. Paul here singles out this by which, after removing the
objection, he will convict them so much the more.
3: Shall their unbelief disannul the faithfulness of God - Will
he not still make good his promises to them that do believe?
4: (Ps 2:4).
5: But, it may be farther objected, if our
unrighteousness be subservient to God's glory, is it not
unjust in him to punish us for it? I speak as a man - As
human weakness would be apt to speak.
6: God forbid - By no means. If it were unjust in God
to punish that unrighteousness which is subservient to his
own glory, how should God judge the world - Since all the
unrighteousness in the world will then commend the
righteousness of God.
7: But, may the objector reply, if the truth of
God hath abounded - Has been more abundantly shown. Through
my lie - If my lie, that is, practice contrary to truth,
conduces to the glory of God, by making his truth shine with
superior advantage. Why am I still judged as a sinner - Can
this be said to be any sin at all? Ought I not to do what
would otherwise be evil, that so much "good may come?" To
this the apostle does not deign to give a direct answer, but
cuts the objector short with a severe reproof.
8: Whose condemnation is just - The condemnation of
all who either speak or act in this manner. So the apostle
absolutely denies the lawfulness of " doing evil," any evil,
"that good may come."
9: What then - Here he resumes what he said, verse 1.(Ro 3:1).
Under sin - Under the guilt and power of it: the Jews, by
transgressing the written law; the gentiles, by transgressing
the law of nature.
10: As it is written - That all men are under sin
appears from the vices which have raged in all ages. St. Paul
therefore rightly cites David and Isaiah, though they spoke
primarily of their own age, and expressed what manner of men
God sees, when he "looks down from heaven;" not what he makes
them by his grace. There is none righteous - This is the
general proposition. The particulars follow: their dispositions
and designs, (Ro 3:11,12); their discourse, (Ro 3:13,14);
their actions, (Ro 3:16-18). (Ps 14:1), &c.
11: There is none that understandeth - The things of God.
12: They have all turned aside - From the good way.
They are become unprofitable - Helpless impotent, unable
to profit either themselves or others.
13: Their throat - Is noisome and dangerous as an
open sepulchre. Observe the progress of evil discourse,
proceeding out of the heart, through the throat, tongue, lips,
till the whole mouth is filled therewith. The poison of asps
- Infectious, deadly backbiting, tale - bearing, evil - speaking,
is under (for honey is on) their lips. An asp is a
venomous kind of serpent.(Ps 5:9,140:3).
14: Cursing - Against God. Bitterness - Against their neighbour.(Ps 10:7).
15: (Isa 59:7,8)
17: Of peace - Which can only spring from righteousness.
18: The fear of God is not before their eyes - Much less is the love of
God in their heart. (Ps 36:1).
19: Whatsoever the law - The Old Testament. Saith,
it saith to them that are under the law - That is, to those
who own its authority; to the Jews, and not the gentiles. St.
Paul quoted no scripture against them, but pleaded with them
only from the light of nature. Every mouth - Full of bitterness,(Ro 3:14), and yet of boasting, (Ro 3:27).
May become guilty - May be fully convicted, and apparently liable
to most just condemnation. These things were written of old,
and were quoted by St. Paul, not to make men criminal, but
to prove them so.
20: No flesh shall be justified - None shall be
forgiven and accepted of God. By the works of the law - On
this ground, that he hath kept the law. St. Paul means
chiefly the moral part of it, (Ro 3:9,19,2:21,26); &c.
which alone is not abolished, (Ro 3:31). And it is not without
reason, that he so often mentions the works of the law,
whether ceremonial or moral; for it was on these only the Jews
relied, being wholly ignorant of those that spring from faith.
For by the law is only the knowledge of sin - But no
deliverance either from the guilt or power of it.
21: But now the righteousness of God - That is, the
manner of becoming righteous which God hath appointed.
Without the law - Without that previous obedience which
the law requires; without reference to the law, or dependence
on it. Is manifested - In the gospel. Being attested by
the Law itself, and by the Prophets - By all the
promises in the Old Testament.
22: To all - The Jews. And upon all - The gentiles
That believe: for there is no difference - Either as to the
need of justification, or the manner of it.
23: For all have sinned - In Adam, and in their own
persons; by a sinful nature, sinful tempers, and sinful
actions. And are fallen short of the glory of God - The
supreme end of man; short of his image on earth, and the
enjoyment of him in heaven.
24: And are justified - Pardoned and accepted.
Freely - Without any merit of their own. By his grace
- Not their own righteousness or works. Through the
redemption - The price Christ has paid. Freely by his
grace - One of these expressions might have served to convey
the apostle's meaning; but he doubles his assertion, in order
to give us the fullest conviction of the truth, and to impress
us with a sense of its peculiar importance. It is not
possible to find words that should more absolutely exclude all
consideration of our own works and obedience, or more
emphatically ascribe the whole of our justification to free,
25: Whom God hath set forth - Before angels and men.
A propitiation - To appease an offended God. But if, as
some teach, God never was offended, there was no need of this
propitiation. And, if so, Christ died in vain. To declare
his righteousness - To demonstrate not only his clemency,
but his justice; even that vindictive justice whose essential
character and principal office is, to punish sin. By the
remission of past sins - All the sins antecedent to their
26: For a demonstration of his righteousness - Both of
his justice and mercy. That he might be just - Showing his
justice on his own Son. And yet the merciful justifier of
every one that believeth in Jesus. That he might be just
- Might evidence himself to be strictly and inviolably righteous
in the administration of his government, even while he is the
merciful justifier of the sinner that believeth in Jesus.
The attribute of justice must be preserved inviolate; and
inviolate it is preserved, if there was a real infliction of
punishment on our Saviour. On this plan all the attributes
harmonize; every attribute is glorified, and not one superseded
no, nor so much as clouded.
27: Where is the boasting then of the Jew against the gentile?
It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay - This would have
left room for boasting. But by the law of faith - Since this
requires all, without distinction, to apply as guilty and
helpless sinners, to the free mercy of God in Christ.
The law of faith is that divine constitution which makes faith,
not works, the condition of acceptance.
28: We conclude then that a man is justified by faith
- And even by this, not as it is a work, but as it receives Christ;
and, consequently, has something essentially different from all
our works whatsoever.
29: Surely of the gentiles also - As both nature and the
30: Seeing it is one God who - Shows mercy to both,
and by the very same means.
31: We establish the law - Both the authority, purity,
and the end of it; by defending that which the law attests; by
pointing out Christ, the end of it; and by showing how it may
be fulfilled in its purity.