James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;Romans 3:21-5:11
THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
If a righteousness were not obtainable by the words of the law as we saw in our last lesson, then a Jew especially might well ask in surprise how it were obtainable. To which the apostle replies, that “now apart from the law a righteousness of God is manifested,” (Romans 3:21 RV), i.e., a righteousness which may become man’s without the keeping of the law. This righteousness he describes as:
“Witnessed by the law and the prophets,” in other words, taught in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament; · obtained through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22); without respect of persons, Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:22-23); the free gift of God’s grace (Romans 3:24); based upon the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:25); and its bestowment declarative of God’s righteous character (Romans 3:25-26).
“His righteousness” in these last two verses does not refer as in the earlier instances, to the righteousness he is. It means that He is perfectly consistent with His own law and holiness in freely justifying a sinner who believes on Christ, because Christ has fully met every demand of the law on his behalf (Romans 10:4). In this connection “propitiation” should be understood clearly. It does not convey the idea of placating an angry God, but of doing right by His holy law and so making it possible for Him righteously to show mercy. Christ so honored the law by enduring its righteous sentence that God who ever foresaw the cross, is vindicated in having “passed over” sins from Adam to Moses (5:13), and the sins of Jewish believers under the old covenant, and in justifying sinners under the new covenant.
To appreciate chapter 4 go back to the phrase, “witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Romans 3:22). The Law of the Prophets was one of the names given by the Jews to the Old Testament. The Law meant the Pentateuch or the first five books of Moses and the Prophets the remainder of the Old Testament. Paul was showing that the salvation or justification by faith he preached was Old Testament truth, and in the present chapter he confirms the fact by the instances of David and Abraham. The illustration from Abraham is found in the Law and that from David in the Prophets. Abraham’s case is first treated (Romans 4:1-4), and then David’s (Romans 4:5-8). To Abraham he returns at Romans 4:9, showing in what follows how justification is entirely distinct from ordinances. Romans 4:18-25 should be pondered because of their simple and picturesque presentation of the theme. Abraham believed God’s testimony about Isaac in the face of nature to the contrary, and this faith “was counted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:22). We have only to believe God’s testimony about Jesus Christ, Whom Isaac typified, to receive the same blessing in the same way. Romans 4:2 of this chapter must not be thought to contradict Jam 2:24, because these two scriptures are but two aspects of the same truth. Paul here is laying down the principle which James is applying; or to put it better, Paul is speaking of that which justifies man before God, and James of that which justifies him before man. The former alludes to what God sees faith, and the latter to that which man sees works. The one has in mind Genesis 15:6, the other, Genesis 22:1-19.
There are three great results of justifying faith as indicated in Romans 5:1-11 : peace with God, access unto God, and rejoicing before God (Romans 5:1-2). The rejoicing is in hope of the glory of God, tribulations, and in God Himself (Romans 5:11). The rejoicing in tribulations is a theme full of interest. We rejoice because the tribulations of a justified man work “patience,” the patience “experience,” and the experience “hope, that maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:3-5). The “experience” in this case is experience of the love of God who comforts us in our tribulation, sanctifies it to us and delivers us from it. This experience assures us of His love for us, the Holy Ghost thus ‘sheds it abroad in our hearts,’ and in consequence of that assurance our hope of beholding and partaking of His glory grows the brighter. We know that we shall not be ashamed of, or confounded in regard to the fulfillment of that hope. Romans 5:6-10, important as they are and full of the riches of Christ, are in a sense parenthetical to the main line of teaching in this section. Bishop Moule suggests a rendering of Romans 5:10 of great beauty: “We shall be kept in His life.”
1. What is meant by righteousness “apart from the law”?
2. What is meant by “witnessed by the law and the prophets”?
3. How do you distinguish the “righteousness of God” (Romans 3:25-26), from the same phrase as used earlier?
4. How do you understand “propitiation”?
5. What part of chapter 3 is illustrated by chapter 4?
6. What is the meaning of The Law and the Prophets?
7. Why is the phrase used in this case?
8. What is the substance of chapter 4?
9. How does Abraham’s justification illustrate ours?
10. Harmonize Romans 4:2 with Jam 2:24.
11. Name the three results of justifying faith.
12. Name the three causes of rejoicing.