What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?Romans 3:1-2. What advantage then hath the Jew? — The foregoing reasonings being contrary to the prejudices of the Jews, one of that nation is here introduced objecting, If our being the children of Abraham, members of the church of God, and heirs of the promises, will procure us no favour at the judgment, — and if the want of these privileges will not preclude the heathen from salvation; — or, If it be so that God looks only at the heart, and does not regard persons for their external privileges, what is the pre-eminence of a Jew above a Gentile, and, (for there are two questions here asked,) what profit is there of circumcision — And of the other ritual services which are enjoined in the law? To the first of these questions the apostle answers in this chapter, and to the second in chap. 4., beginning at Romans 3:11. Much every way — Or in every respect. The respects in which the Jews were superior to the Gentiles are enumerated Romans 9:4-5, where see the notes. Chiefly, because unto them were committed the oracles of God — The Scriptures, in which are contained great and important truths, precepts, and promises. This prerogative Paul here singles out, by which, after removing the objection, he convicts them so much the more. “The Greeks used the word λογια, oracles, to denote the responses which their deities, or rather their priests, made to those who consulted them, especially if they were delivered in prose: for, as Beza observes, they gave a different name, χρησμοι, to such responses as were uttered in verse. Here oracles denote the whole of the divine revelations; and, among the rest, the law of Moses, which Stephen calls λογια ζωντα, living oracles, Acts 7:18, because God spake that law in person. All the revelations of God to mankind, from the beginning of the world to his own times, Moses, by the inspiration of God, committed to writing; and what further revelations God was pleased to make to mankind during the subsistence of the Jewish Church, he made by prophets, who recorded them in books; and the whole was intrusted to the Jews, to be kept for their own benefit and for the benefit of the world. Now, this being the chief of all their advantages, as Jews, it alone is mentioned here by the apostle. In like manner, the psalmist has mentioned the word of God as the distinguishing privilege of the Israelites, Psalm 147:19, He hath showed his word unto Jacob, &c. He hath not dealt so with any nation. The benefits which the Jews derived from the oracles of God, the apostle had no occasion to explain here, because they were all introduced in the boasting of the Jew, described Romans 2:17-23.” — Macknight.
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?Romans 3:3-4. For what if some — And they a considerable number, of those who once possessed these invaluable treasures; did not believe — Them, or did not duly consider what they speculatively believed, and so rejected the gospel to which they were intended to lead; shall their unbelief make without effect — Shall it disannul; the faith of God — His faithful promises made to Abraham and his seed, especially of sending the Messiah, and of effecting our redemption by him? Shall it destroy his fidelity to his promises, and prevent his fulfilling them to them that do believe? God, having promised to give to Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and to be their God, the Jews affirmed that if they were cast off from being his people, and driven out of Canaan for not believing on Jesus, the faithfulness of God in performing his promises would be destroyed. Probably the apostles, in their discourses to the Jews, had, if not expressly affirmed, yet obscurely intimated, that for crucifying Jesus they would be punished in that manner. God forbid — That we should insinuate any thing that can be justly considered as derogatory to God’s faithfulness: yea, let God be true — Let the blessed God be acknowledged true to his covenant and his promises, though every man should be esteemed a liar, and unfit to have any confidence reposed in him; or, though every Jew should disbelieve, and be cast off on that account. To understand this more fully, we must recollect, that the performance of the promises to the natural seed of Abraham, is, in the original covenant, tacitly made to depend on their faith and obedience, Genesis 18:19, and that it is explicitly made to depend on that condition in the renewal of the covenant, Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Besides, on that occasion, God expressly threatened to expel the natural seed from Canaan, and scatter them among the heathen, if they became unbelieving and disobedient, Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64. The rejection, therefore, and expulsion of the Jews from Canaan, for their unbelief, being a fulfilling of the threatenings of the covenant, established the faithfulness of God, instead of destroying it. As it is written, Psalm 51:4, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings — Εν τοις λογοις σου in thy words; and mightest overcome — Be pronounced holy and just, and clear of all imputation of unrighteousness; when thou art judged — When any presume insolently to arraign the equity of thy conduct, or, when thy proceedings are narrowly examined by right reason. The original expression, however, εν τω κρινεσθαι σε, it seems, should rather be rendered, when thou judgest, a translation agreeable to the place whence the quotation is made. God’s words referred to, in which David justified God, or acknowledged him to be just, are those threatenings which Nathan, by God’s order, denounced against him, on account of his crimes of adultery and murder, 2 Samuel 12:9-12. And God judged, or punished David, when he executed these threatenings on him and his posterity; and David acknowledged God to be just, or clear, in doing this, by receiving the deserved punishment in humility, resignation, and meekness. And the apostle seems to have quoted David’s confession, that God’s punishing him in the manner threatened by Nathan, was no breach of the promises he had made to him and his posterity, because it showed the Jews that God’s promises, like his threatenings, were all conditional, and that, consistently with his promises to Abraham and to his seed, God might reject the Israelites, and drive them out of Canaan, they having forfeited their right to be accounted the seed of Abraham, the father of the faithful, by their infidelity; and the Gentiles, by imitating his faith, being now received for God’s children.
God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)Romans 3:5-6. But — It may be further objected; if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God — Be subservient to God’s glory; or, if our infidelity be so far from making void the faithfulness of God, that it renders it more illustrious, then we ought not to be condemned for it. But Dr. Whitby understands, by the righteousness of God, the righteousness of faith, which indeed is generally the meaning of the phrase in this epistle; and, as in the first chapter the necessity of this faith is shown with respect to the Gentiles, because otherwise they, being unrighteous, could not be justified before God, or escape his wrath revealed against all unrighteousness; and in the second chapter the same is proved respecting the Jews by reason of their unrighteousness, which arguments plainly serve to commend and establish this way of righteousness by faith in Christ, from the necessity of it to the justification both of Jews and Gentiles; he therefore considers the import of the objection to be, “If the unrighteousness both of Jews and Gentiles tend so visibly to illustrate and recommend the wisdom and grace of God, in appointing this way of justification by faith in Christ, is it righteous in God to punish both Jews and Gentiles, as you say he has done and will do, for that unrighteousness that tends so highly to advance the glory of divine grace displayed in the gospel?” What shall we say — What inference shall we draw? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance — Must we grant that God acts unjustly in punishing those practices which so illustrate his mercy, faithfulness, and other perfections? I speak as a man — As a mere natural man, not acquainted with the revealed will of God, or not influenced by his Spirit; or as human weakness would be apt to speak. God forbid — That I should harbour such a thought, or allow such a consequence; for then — If it were unjust in him 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. Add to this, the very idea of God’s judging the world, implies that it shall be done in righteousness. For if any person were to have injustice done him on that occasion, it would not be judgment, but a capricious exercise of power, whereby the Judge would be dishonoured. On this idea is founded the answer which Abraham made to God, respecting the destruction of Sodom, which answer perhaps the apostle had now in his eye, Genesis 18:25; Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?Romans 3:7-8. For — Or but (the objector may reply) if the truth of God hath more 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 yet judged as a sinner — And arraigned for that which is attended with such happy consequences? Can my conduct be said to be sinful 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, adding, whose damnation, or condemnation, is just. The condemnation of all, who either speak or act in this manner. Here the apostle teaches expressly the unlawfulness of doing evil, any evil, on the pretence of promoting what is good. Such a pretence, if allowed, would justify the greatest crimes. This, however, the apostle here signifies they were slanderously reported as teaching; probably on a misinterpretation of their doctrine, that the greatness of the sins of which the Gentiles were guilty, rendered God’s goodness in sending Christ to die for them the more illustrious.
And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;Romans 3:9-18. What then — Well then, (may a Jew further urge,) since you grant that the Jews have the advantage of the Gentiles in point of privileges, having the oracles of God, the promises which he will never fail to observe, and the principles of righteousness which he will never himself violate in his conduct, are we not in a better condition for obtaining justification by our own obedience to his law? No, in no wise — The apostle answers, that all are equal in that point, both Jews and Gentiles. For we have before proved — Namely, in the two former chapters; both Jews — By the breach of the written law; and Gentiles — By transgressing the law of nature; that they are all — Every one of them, without exception; under sin — Under the guilt and power of it: and so are equally excluded from the possibility of being justified by works. And therefore gospel righteousness, or justification by faith, is no less necessary for the one than for the other. As it is written — Here he proves further, concerning the Jews, that they were unrighteous before God, by testimonies taken from their own prophets concerning their universal corruption, and he rightly cites David and Isaiah, (see the margin,) though they spoke primarily of their own age, and expressed what manner of men God sees when he looks down from heaven, not what they become when renewed by his grace. There is none righteous — That lives exactly according to the rule of God’s law. This is the general proposition, the particulars follow; their dispositions and designs, Romans 3:11-12; their discourse, Romans 3:13-14; their actions, Romans 3:16-18. There is none that understandeth — The things of God, till God, by giving them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, open the eyes of their understanding; there is none that seeketh after God — To know, worship, and serve him aright; to obtain his favour, recover his image, and enjoy communion with him; that is, till God, by his grace, incline them to seek after him. They are all gone out of the way — Namely, of truth into error, of righteousness into sin, of happiness into misery. They are together — One and all; become unprofitable — Unfit and unable to bring forth any good fruit, and to profit either themselves or others. There is none that doeth good — From a right principle, to a right end, by a right rule, and in a right spirit; or perfectly, according to the exact meaning of the law which they are under. Their throat is an open sepulchre — Noisome and dangerous as such; or, their speech is offensive, corrupt, and loathsome. 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, tale-bearing, evil-speaking, backbiting, slandering, is under (for honey is on) their lips. An asp is a venomous kind of serpent. Whose mouth is full of cursing — Against God; and bitterness — Provoking language against their neighbour: the most shocking profaneness mingles itself with that malignity of heart toward their fellow-creatures which breathes in every word. Their feet are swift — To run toward the places where they have appointed; to shed the blood — Of the innocent. Destruction — To others; and misery — As to themselves; are in their ways — In their desires and designs, their dispositions, words, and actions. And the way of peace — Which can only spring from righteousness; they have not known — By experience, nor regarded. And, to sum up all in one word, the great cause of all this depravity is, that there is no fear of God before their eyes — Much less is the love of God in their hearts: they have no sense of religion, to restrain them from the commission of these enormities.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.Romans 3:19-20. Now what things soever the law saith — That is, the Old Testament, for these quotations are not made from any part of the five books of Moses, but from the Psalms and Prophets; it saith to them that are under the law — That is, to those who own its authority, to the Jews, and not to the Gentiles. The apostle quoted no scripture against them, knowing it would have answered no end to do so, as they did not acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures; but he pleaded with them only from the light of nature; that every mouth — Full of cursing and bitterness: Romans 3:14, and yet of boasting, Romans 3:27, may be stopped — And have nothing to plead; and the whole world — Not only the Gentiles, but the Jews also; may become guilty — May be fully convicted as guilty, and evidently liable to most just condemnation. These things were written of old, and were quoted by Paul, not to make men guilty, but to prove them so. Therefore by the deeds of the law — By works of complete obedience to the law of God, whether natural or revealed; there shall no flesh be justified — Or pronounced righteous. That the word law must here be taken in this extent, appears evidently from the conclusion which the apostle here draws, and from the whole tenor of his subsequent argument; which would have had very little weight, if there had been room for any to object: Though we cannot be justified by our obedience to the law of Moses, we may be justified by our obedience to God’s natural law. And nothing can be more evident, than that the premises from which this conclusion is drawn refer to the Gentiles as well as the Jews; and consequently that law has here, and in many subsequent passages, that general sense. “Every one failing,” says Locke, “of an exact conformity of his actions to the immutable rectitude of that eternal rule of right, mentioned Romans 1:32, will be found unrighteous, and so incur the penalty of the law. That this is the meaning of the expression here used, εργα νομου, works of law, is evident, because the apostle’s declaration is concerning πασα σαρξ, all flesh. But we know the heathen world were not under the law of Moses.” For by the law — By that written on man’s heart, as well as by that revealed, is the knowledge of sin — Of our sinfulness and guilt, of our weakness and wretchedness. This strongly implies the broken and disordered state of human nature; in consequence of which, the precepts which God gives us, even the moral precepts, serve only, or at least chiefly, to convict us of guilt, and not to produce an obedience by which we can finally be acquitted and accepted. Whereas, were we not fallen and depraved creatures, by his holy law we should have the knowledge of our being righteous; for when weighed in the balance of it, we should not be found wanting.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;Romans 3:21-24. But now the righteousness of God — That is, the manner of becoming righteous which God hath appointed; without the law — Without that perfect and previous obedience which the law requires; without reference to, or dependance on, the law, ceremonial or moral, revealed or natural; is manifested — In the gospel, being attested by the law and the prophets. The example of Abraham’s justification by faith, recorded Genesis 15:6, and the passage which the apostle quotes, Romans 4:7, from Psalm 32:1-2, as well as that from Habakkuk, quoted Romans 1:17, are clear testimonies, from the law and the prophets, that there is a righteousness without the law, which God accepts; and that the method of justification revealed in the gospel was the method in which men were justified under the law, and before the law: in short, it is the method of justifying sinners, established from the very beginning of the world. Even the righteousness of God — That which God hath appointed to be, by faith of Jesus Christ — By such a firm, hearty, lively belief of Christ’s being what the gospel declares him to be, a divinely-commissioned and infallible Teacher, a prevalent Mediator between God and man; an all- sufficient Saviour, and a righteous Governor; such a belief as produces a sincere confidence in him, a true subjection to him, a conscientious obedience to his laws, and imitation of his example. Unto all — Which way of justification is provided for, and sincerely and freely offered unto all, and is bestowed upon all them that believe — Whether Jews or Gentiles; for there is no difference — Either as to men’s need of justification and salvation, or the manner of attaining it. For all have sinned — In Adam and in their own persons; by a sinful nature, sinful tempers, and sinful actions; and come short of the glory of God — The supreme end of man; short of his image and nature, and communion with him, and the enjoyment of him in heaven. Or, they have failed of rendering him that glory that was so justly his due, and thereby have not only made themselves unworthy the participation of glory and happiness with him, but stand exposed to his severe and dreadful displeasure. The word υσερουνται, here rendered come short, is properly applied to those, whose strength failing them in the race, are left behind. The word, therefore, is very suitable to mankind, who, being weakened by sin, have lost eternal life, the reward which they pursued by their obedience. Being justified — Pardoned and accepted, or accounted righteous; freely, δωρεαν, of free gift, and not through any merit of their own; by his grace — His unmerited favour, his undeserved goodness, and not through their own righteousness or works, in whole or in part. 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, unmerited goodness. Through the redemption which is in, or by, Christ Jesus — Procured for them by his death, the price paid for their redemption. The word απολυτρωσις, here and elsewhere rendered redemption, denotes that kind of redemption of a captive from death, which is procured by paying a price for his life. See note on 1 Timothy 2:6. The redemption purchased for us by Christ is deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, and the wrath of God consequent thereon, and from the power of our spiritual enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh. See Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:18-19.
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;Romans 3:25-26. Whom God hath set forth — Before angels and men: hath in his infinite mercy exhibited to us in the gospel, to be a propitiation — Greek, ιλαστηριον, a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, where mercy may be found by the penitent, in a way consistent with divine justice. The reader will observe, the cover of the ark, in the tabernacle and temple of the Israelites, was called the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, and is termed by the LXX., Exodus 25:17, ιλαστηριον επιθεμα, a propitiatory cover, “because it was the throne on which the glory of the Lord was wont to be displayed, and received the atonements made by the high-priest on the day of expiation, and from which God dispensed pardon to the people. In allusion to this ancient worship, the apostle represents Christ as a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, set forth by God for receiving the worship of men, and dispensing pardon to them. Or, if a propitiatory is, by a common metonymy, put for a propitiatory sacrifice, the apostle’s meaning will be, that, by the appointment of God, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin, and that God pardons sin through the merit of that sacrifice. Hence Christ is called ιλασμος, a propitiation, 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10. By teaching this doctrine, the apostle removed the great objection of Jews and heathen against the gospel, that it had neither a priest nor a sacrifice.” — Macknight. Through faith in his blood — Through believing that Christ’s blood was shed to expiate our sins, and trusting therein for pardon and acceptance with God, and all other benefits which he has thereby procured for us: to declare, εις ενδειξιν, for a demonstration of his, God’s, own righteousness: both his justice and mercy, especially the former, that thereby it might appear he could pardon sin, without any impeachment of his righteousness, in that he did not pardon it without full satisfaction made to the law by the sufferings of Christ, who was wounded for our transgressions, and on whom was laid that chastisement of sin which was necessary to procure our peace, and render our acceptance with God consistent with the divine perfections, and the equity of his government. For the remission of sins that are past — All the sins antecedent to their believing. Or the expression, δια την παρεσιν των προγεγονοτων αμαρτηματων, may be properly rendered, on account of the passing by, or not instantly and adequately punishing, sins which were before committed, that is, before the coming of Christ: the sins of which both Jews and Gentiles had been guilty before the gospel was promulgated, and on account of which both deserved destruction, and were unworthy of the blessings of God’s covenant. Now God’s righteousness or justice might have appeared doubtful, on account of his having so long, in his great forbearance, thus passed by the sins of men, unless in the mean time he had made a sufficient display of his hatred to sin. But such a display being made in the death of Christ, his justice is thereby fully proved. Doddridge thus paraphrases the passage: “The remission extends not only to the present but former age, and to all the offences which are long since past, according to the forbearance of God, who has forborne to execute judgment upon sinners for their repeated provocations, in reference to that atonement which he knew should in due tinge be made.” To declare, προς ενδειξιν, for a demonstration of his righteousness (see the former verse) at this time — εν τω νυν καιρω, at this period of his showing mercy to sinners. As if he had said, When he most highly magnified his mercy in finding out this way of reconciliation, he did also most eminently declare his justice, in requiring such satisfaction for the transgression of his law: 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 — Who so believes in Jesus, as to embrace this way of justification, renouncing all merit in himself, and relying entirely on the sacrifice and intercession of Christ, for reconciliation with God, and all the blessings of the new covenant. The attribute of justice must be preserved inviolate; and inviolate it is preserved, if there was a real infliction of punishment on Christ. On this plan all the attributes harmonize; every attribute is glorified, and not one superseded, nor so much as clouded.
By just, indeed, in this verse, Taylor would understand merciful, and Locke, faithful to his promises; but “either of these,” as Doddridge observes, “makes but a very cold sense, when compared with that here given. It is no way wonderful that God should be merciful, or faithful to his promises, though the justifier of believing sinners; but that he should be just in such an act, might have seemed incredible, had we not received such an account of the atonement.” This subject is set in a clear and striking light by a late writer: “The two great ends of public justice are the glory of God, and in connection with it, the general good of his creatures. It is essentially necessary to the attainment of these ends, that the authority of the government of God should be supported, in all its extent, as inviolably sacred; — that one jot or tittle should in no wise pass from the law; — that no sin, of any kind, or in any degree, should appear as venial; — that if any sinner is pardoned, it should be in such a way, as, while it displays the divine mercy, shall at the same time testify the divine abhorrence of his sins. All this is gloriously effected in the gospel, by means of atonement; — by the substitution of a voluntary surety, even of him whose name is Immanuel, to bear the curse of the law, in the room of the guilty. In his substitution we see displayed, in a manner unutterably affecting and awful, the holy purity of the divine nature; for no testimony can be conceived more impressive, of infinite abhorrence of sin, than the sufferings and death of the Son of God. Here too we behold the immutable justice of the divine government, inflicting the righteous penalty of a violated law. It is to be considered as a fixed principle of the divine government, that sin must be punished; that if the sinner is pardoned, it must be in a way that marks and publishes the evil of his offence. This is effected by substitution; and, as far as we can judge, could not be effected in any other way. In inflicting the sentence against transgression on the voluntary and all-sufficient Surety, Jehovah, while he clears the sinner, does not clear his sins; — although clothed with the thunders of vindictive justice against transgression, he wears, to the transgressor, the smile of reconciliation and peace; — he dispenses the blessings of mercy from the throne of his holiness; and, while exercising grace to the guilty, he appears in the character — equally lovely and venerable — of — the sinner’s friend, And sin’s eternal foe!
“In this way, then, all the ends of public justice are fully answered. The law retains its complete unmitigated perfection; is ‘magnified and made honourable:’ the dignity and authority of the divine government are maintained, and even elevated: all the perfections of Deity are gloriously illustrated and exhibited in sublime harmony. While the riches of mercy are displayed, for the encouragement of sinners to return to God, the solemn lesson is at the same time taught, by a most convincing example, that rebellion cannot be persisted in with impunity; and motives are thus addressed to the fear of evil, as well as to the desire of good. Such a view of the Divine Being is presented in the cross as is precisely calculated to inspire and to maintain (to maintain, too, with a power which will increase in influence the more closely and seriously the view is contemplated) the two great principles of a holy life — the LOVE, and the FEAR OF GOD; — filial attachment, freedom, and confidence, combined with humble reverence and holy dread.” See Mr. Ralph Wardlaw’s Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy, pp. 211-213.
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.Romans 3:27. Where is boasting then? — The boasting of the Gentiles in their philosophy, or of the Jews in the rites of the law of Moses, as sufficient for their salvation. Or the boasting of the Jews against the Gentiles, or that of any one in his own righteousness, or on account of any peculiar privileges he may enjoy. It is excluded — This way of justification by free grace, through faith, leaves no room to any one for boasting of what he is, or has, or does, or can do. By what law? Of works? — By that of Moses, or any other law, promising life only to perfect obedience, and threatening all disobedience with inevitable death? Nay; this, if the fulfilling of it had been practicable, and a man could have been justified thereby, would have left him room for boasting, even that he had procured his justification by his own virtue and goodness. But by the law of faith — “The law of faith here, as opposed to the law of works, is that gracious covenant which God made with mankind immediately after the fall. It is fitly termed a law, because it is the law, or rule, by which sinners are to be justified in every age; and the law of faith, because the requisition of faith, as the means of our justification, is as much a law to men under the new covenant, as the requisition of works for the same purpose was a law under the first covenant.” This law of faith is properly said to exclude boasting, since it requires all persons, without distinction, to acknowledge themselves sinners, deserving condemnation and wrath; and, as guilty, depraved, weak, and indigent, to make an humble application to the free mercy and grace of God in Christ, for pardon, holiness, and every other blessing which is necessary to their final happiness.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.Romans 3:28. Therefore we conclude — As if he had said, Since it appears, by what has been said, that all are sinners, involved in guilt and condemnation, and so cannot be justified by the law, whether natural or revealed, and that God has appointed another way of justification, we draw this conclusion; that a man is justified — Is accounted righteous, accepted and dealt with as such; by faith — By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the mercy and grace of God, and the truths and promises of the gospel through him. See Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; Romans 4:24. Without the deeds of the law — Without perfect obedience to any law, as the meritorious cause of his justification. Every one, however, who is justified in this way, must show his faith by his works, James 2:14-26, and make the moral law the constant rule of his temper and conduct. It may be proper to observe here, 1st, That the faith by which men, under the new covenant, are justified, “hath for its object persons, rather than propositions. So Christ himself hath told us; Ye believe in God, believe also in me. So Moses also; Abraham believed in the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness: and Paul; Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. In the mean time, this faith in God and in Christ necessarily leads those who possess it, to believe every thing made known to them by God and by Christ, and to do every thing which they have enjoined: so that it terminates in the sincere belief of the doctrines of religion, and in the constant practice of its duties, as far as they are made known to the believer.” 2d, “When the apostle tells us, that by faith man is justified without the works of the law, or rather, works of law, his plain meaning is, that men are justified gratuitously by faith, and not meritoriously by perfect obedience to any law whatever.” See note on chap. Romans 2:13. For at the same time he teaches us that men are justified freely through God’s grace; consequently he excludes faith equally with works, from any meritorious efficiency in the matter.
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:Romans 3:29-31. Is he the God of the Jews only? — He argues from the absurdity of such a supposition. Can it be imagined that a God of infinite love and mercy should limit and confine his favours to the little perverse people of the Jews, leaving all the rest of mankind in an eternally desperate condition? That would by no means agree with the idea we have of the divine goodness, for his tender mercies are over all his works. He is the God of the Gentiles also — And therefore hath established a way of justification, equally open to the Gentiles as to the Jews. Seeing it is one God — The same eternal and unchangeable Jehovah, that will justify the circumcision — The Jews, by faith; and the uncircumcision — The Gentiles, through the same faith — As if he had said, The way of justification is the same to both, whatever difference men may make in their expressions about it. He shows mercy to both, and by the very same means. Macknight thinks the expression, δια πιστεως, through faith, in the latter clause, is an ellipsis, for through the law of faith, mentioned Romans 3:27, (where see the note,) and signifies the method of salvation by faith, established in the new covenant, called a law for the reasons there given. “By this law of faith the Gentiles are to be justified. For though they have not the doctrines of revelation, as the objects of their faith, they may believe the doctrines of natural religion, (Hebrews 11:5,) and live agreeably to them: in which case their faith will be counted to them for righteousness, equally as the faith of those who enjoy revelation.” The same learned writer supposes, that in the expression, seeing there is one God, the apostle alludes to Zechariah 14:8, where the prophet foretels the progress of the gospel, under the image of living waters going out from Jerusalem, and then adds, Romans 3:9, And the Lord shall be king over all the earth, and in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one; to show, that under the gospel dispensation, all nations shall be regarded by God as his people, that he will be acknowledged and worshipped by all nations, and that in the affair of their justification and salvation, he will observe one rule. Do we then — While we maintain this method of justification and salvation, make void the law — Set it aside, or render it useless, as καταργουμεν properly signifies; through faith — By teaching that justification is by faith, and that it is free for the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, in that way? God forbid — That we should ever insinuate such a design, or entertain such a thought; yea, we establish the law — On a firmer foundation than ever, and place it in a juster and more beautiful point of light: for we show that its honour is displayed in the atonement, as well as in the obedience of Christ; and we make it of everlasting use, for attesting the truth, and illustrating the necessity of the gospel, as well as for directing the lives of men, when they profess to have received it. In other words, we establish the authority, the 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 the moral part of it may be fulfilled in its purity. For through the influence of a faith that worketh by love, being enabled to love God, his children, and all mankind in sincerity and truth, we are brought to serve him without slavish fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, and to walk in his ordinances and moral commandments blameless. So that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, while we walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; love to God and man, productive of such fruits, being accounted by God the fulfilling of the law, Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. Thus also that more ancient and universal law, which God has written on men’s hearts, and which we have termed the law of nature, is established in the strongest manner in and by the gospel. For every one that makes the moral law of Moses the rule of his conduct, will also observe the precepts of this, as included therein.
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.