Romans 3
Pulpit Commentary
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
Verses 1-8. - (2) Certain objections with regard to the Jews suggested and met. In this passage, before proceeding with his argument, the apostle meets certain objections that might be made to what has been so far said. Some difficulty in determining his exact meaning arises from the concise and pregnant form in which the objections are put and answered, and from fresh ones arising out of the answers, which have also to be met. The objections are from the Jewish standpoint, though not put into the mouth of an objecting Jew, but rather suggested as likely ones by St. Paul himself. To the original readers of the Epistle, who were familiar with the tone of Jewish thought, the sequence of the ideas would probably be more obvious than to us. Reserving special consideration of successive clauses for our exposition of each verse, we may, in the first place, exhibit thus the general drift. Objection 1 (ver. 1). If being a Jew, if circumcision itself, gives one no advantage over the Gentile, what was the use of the old covenant at all? It is thus shown to have been illusory; and God's own truth and faithfulness are impugned, if he is supposed to have given, as conveying advantages, what really conveyed none. (This last thought, though not expressed, must be supposed to be implied in the objection, since it is replied to in the answer.) Answer (vers. 2-4).

(1) It was not illusory; it did convey great advantages in the way of privilege and opportunity; this advantage first, not to mention other. that "the oracles of God" were entrusted to the Jew. And

(2) if some (more or fewer, it matters not) have failed to realize these advantages, it has been their fault, not God's. It is man's unfaithfulness, not his, that has been the cause of the failure. Nay, though, according to the hasty saying of the psalmist, all men were false, God's truth remains; nay, further, as is expressed in another psalm (Psalm 51.), man's very unfaithfulness is found to commend his faithfulness the more, and redound to his greater glory. Objection 2 (ver. 5). Based on the last assertion. But if man's unfaithfulness has this result, how can God, consistently with his justice, be wrath with us and punish us for it? Surely the Jew (whose case we are now considering) may claim exemption from "the wrath" of God spoken of above, his unfaithfulness being allowed to have served only to establish God's truth and to enhance his glory. Answer (ver. 6-8). I have suggested this objection as though the matter could be regarded from a mere human point of view, as though it were one between man and man; for it is true that a man cannot justly take vengeance on another who has not really harmed him. But such a view is inapplicable to God in his dealings with man; it does not touch our doctrine of his righteous wrath against sin as such. I can only meet it with a μὴ γένοιτο. For

(1) it would preclude God from judging the world at all, as we all believe he will do. Any heathen sinner might put in the same plea, saying, Why am I too (κἀγὼ) judged as a sinner? Nay,

(2) since it involves the principle of sin being evil, not in itself, but only with regard to its consequences, it would, if carried out, justify the odious view (which we Christians are by some falsely accused of holding) that we may do evil that good may come. Verses 1, 2. - What advantage then hath the Jew! or what is the profit of circumcision! Much (πολὺ, a neuter adjective, agreeing with τὸ περισσὸν) every way (not by all means; the meaning is that in all respects the position of the Jew is an advantageous one): first (rather than chiefly, as in the Authorized Version. One point of advantage is specified, which might have been followed by a secondly and a thirdly, etc. But the writer stops here, the mention of this first being sufficient for his purpose. Others are enumerated, so as to elucidate the purport of κατὰ πάντα τρύπον, in ch. 9:4, 5) for that they (the Jews) were entrusted with the oracles of God. The word λόγια (always used in the plural in the New Testament) occurs also in Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11. Of these passages the most apposite is Acts 7:38, where the Divine communications to Moses on Mount Sinai are spoken of as λόγια ζῶντα (cf. Numbers 24:4, 16, where Balaam speaks of himself as ἀκούων λόγια Θεοῦ). Some (as Meyer), in view of the supposed, reference in the following verse to the Jews rejection of the gospel, take the word λόγια here to mean especially the revealed promises of the Redeemer. But neither the word itself nor its use elsewhere suggests any such limited meaning; nor does the context really require it. It may denote generally the Divine revelations of the Old Testament, which, for the eventual benefit of mankind, had been entrusted exclusively to the Jews.
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?
Verse 3. - For what if some (τινες. The expression does net denote whether many or few; it only avoids assertion of universality of unbelief (cf. Romans 11:17; 1 Corinthians 10:7), though it is implied in the following verso that, even if it had been universal, the argument would stand) did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? Alford renders ἠπίστησαν "were unfaithful," taking it in the sense of being "unfaithful to the covenant, the very condition of which was to walk in the ways of the Lord, and observe his statutes;" and this on the ground that the apostle is not as yet speaking of faith or the want of it, but, in accordance with the idea of the preceding chapter, of ἀδίκια (ver. 5) and moral guilt. But the meaning of words must not be forced to meet the views of interpreters; and we observe that ἀπιστεῖν and ἀπιστία are ever elsewhere used in their proper sense to denote want of faith (cf. Matthew 13:58; Matthew 17:20; Mark 6:6; Mark 16:11, 14, 16; Luke 14:11, 41; Acts 27:24; Romans 4:20; Romans 11:20, 23; 1 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:13). Still, it is to be observed that in the passage before us ἀπιστία in man is opposed to πίστις in God, so as to suggest a more general sense of ἀπιστία than mere unbelief. In view of this opposition, we may adopt the rendering of the whole passage in the Revised Version: "What if some were without faith? Shall their want of faith," etc.? Meyer and others, understanding (as said above) by λόγια the Divine oracles which were prophetic of Christ, refer ἠπίστησαν exclusively to the disbelief in him on the part of the majority of the Jews at the time of writing. But the aorist tense of the verb, as well as the context, is against the idea of such reference, at any rate exclusively. The context, both in ch. 2. and the latter part of this chapter after ver. 9, certainly suggests rather reference to the failure of the Jews throughout their history to realize the advantage of their privileged position; and this failure might properly be attributed to their want of faith, to the καρτδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας (Hebrews 3:12), cf. Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:2, together with Romans 4:11. Ἀπιστία in these passages is regarded as the root of ἀπειθεία. On the other hand, the whole drift of ch. 11. in this Epistle - where the present ἀπιστία of the chosen people shown in their rejection of the gospel is spoken of as not hindering, but furthering, the righteous purpose of God, and redounding in the end to his glory - suggests a like reference here. And it may have been in the apostle's mind, though, for the reasons above given, it can hardly be the only one in the passage before us.
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.
Verse 4. - God forbid (there is no better English phrase for expressing the indignant repudiation of μὴ γένοιτο): yea, let God be true (γινέσθω ἀληθὴς; i.e. "let his truth be established;" "Fiat, in judicio," Bengel), but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged, We can hardly avoid recognizing a reference to Psalm 116:11 in "every man a liar, the words of the LXX. being exactly given, though the general purport of that psalm does not bear upon the present argument. The apostle takes this phrase from it as expressing well what he wants to say, viz. that though all men were false (in the sense expressed and implied by the previous ἠπίστησαν), yet God's truth stands. But it only leads up to the second quotation from Psalm 51, which is the important one, introduced by καθὼς γέραπται. In its final words, νικήσης ἐν τῶ κρίνεσθαί σε, the LXX. is followed (so also Vulgate, cum judicaris), though the Hebrew may be more correctly rendered, as in the Authorized Version, "be clear when thou judgest." The κρίνεσθαι of the LXX. may be understood passively in the sense of God being called to account, as men might be, for the justice of his dealings; or, perhaps, in a middle sense for entering into a suit or controversy with his people. Κρίνεσθαι means "going to law" in 1 Corinthians 6:1, 6 (cf. also Matthew 5:40), and in the LXX., with especial reference to a supposed controversy or pleading of God with men, Jeremiah 25:31; Job 9:2; Job 13:19. (See also Hosea 2:2, Κρίθητε πρὸς τὴν μητέρα ὑῶν.) The meaning of this concluding expression does not, however, affect the main purport of the verse, or its relevancy as here quoted. Occurring in what is believed to be David's penitential psalm after his sin. in the matter of Uriah, it declares, in conjunction with the preceding verse, that, sin having been committed, man alone is guilty, and that God's truth and righteousness can never be impugned. But it seems to imply still more than this, viz. that man's sin has the establishment of God's righteousness as its consequence, or even, it may be, as its purpose; for the conclusion of ver. 4 in the psalm, naturally connected with "against thee only have I sinned" preceding, is so connected by ὄπως α}ν (in Hebrew, לְמַעַן); and it is not out of keeping with scriptural doctrine that David should have intended to express even Divine purpose in that he had been permitted, for his sins, to fall into that deeper sin with the view of establishing God's righteousness all the more. It does not, however, seem certain (whatever some grammarians may say) that the conjunction need of necessity be understood as relic; it may be embatic only. However this be, it is the inference from ὄπως ἀν that suggests the new objection of the following verse.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
Verses 5, 6. - But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall We say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (so the Authorized Version; rather, brings the wrath upon us (ὁ ἐπιφέρων τὴν ὀργήν), with reference to the Divine wrath against sin, spoken of above). I speak after the manner of men. God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world! The purport of this reply appears sufficiently in the paraphrase given above. But the intended Bearing on the argument of ver. 7 is not at once apparent.
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?
Verse 7. - For if the truth of God in my lie abounded to his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? One view is that this is a continuation or resumption of the question of ver. 5 on the part of the Jew, its drift being the same. But the word κἀγὼ, as well as the position of the verse after τῶς κρινε1FC0;ι, etc., suggests rather its being intended to express that any one throughout the world, as well as the Jew, might plead against' deserved judgment, if the Jew's supposed plea were valid. Nay, in that case, the apostle goes on to say, he, or any of us, might justify all wrongdoing for a supposed good end. Why not?
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.
Verse 8. - And not (i.e. why should we not say), as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose (i.e. of those who do say so) condemnation 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;
Verses 9-20. - (3) The testimony of the Old Testament to human sinfulness. Objections having been thus raised and met, the apostle now confirms his position, that all mankind, Jew as well as Gentile, are under sin, by adducing the Scriptures of the Jews themselves. Verse 9. - What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved (or, charged, as in the Vulgate, causati sumus) both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin. The meaning of the first part of this verse has been much discussed. We may observe:

(1) Τί οῦν seems to be rightly separated (as in Authorized Version) from προεχόμεθα because of the form of the answer to the question, οὐ πάντως: after τί προεχόμεθα; we should expect οὐδέν.

(2) The Jews, with whom St. Paul identifies himself, must be supposed to put the question; not the Gentiles, as some have supposed. For there is nothing in the context to suggest the Gentiles as the speakers, nor does what follow suit the supposition.

(3) The main question is as to the sense of προεχόμεθα, which occurs here only in the New Testament, and has, therefore, to be interpreted from consideration of the sense of which the verb is capable, and the probable drift of the argument. Some have taken it as a passive verb, with the meaning, "Are we surpassed?" i.e. are we Jews in worse case than the Gentiles on account of our greater privileges? The active verb, προέχειν, in the sense of "to excel," being both transitive and intransitive, its passive may be used in the same sense. An instance quoted in commentaries is καπ οὐδὲν εχομένοις ὑπὸ τοῦ Διός (Plut., 'Mor.,'), "cum Jove minores non sint." So the recent Revisers, though dissented from by the American Committee. The strong objection to this interpretation is that there has been nothing so far even to suggest any superiority of the Gentile to the Jew, and that what follows does not bear upon any such idea. Thus to interpret would be to sacrifice the sense to supposed grammatical exigence, which, after all, is uncertain. Taking, then, προεχόμεθα as the middle voice, we have two interpretations before us; either, with Meyer, to render, Do we put forward (anything) in our defence? - which he maintains (though not conclusively) to be the only proper sense of the middle verb - or (as in the Authorized Version), Are we better (i.e. in better ease) than they? This rendering, though it gives essentially the same sense as if προέχομεν (intransitive) had been written, is commended by its suitableness to the course of argument, and the middle voice may, perhaps, he accounted for as denoting the Jews' supposed claim of superiority for themselves. Thus the connection of thought is plain. The conclusion of ch. 2. had left the Jews on the same footing with the Gentiles before God in respect of sinfulness. But then objections had been raised on the ground of the acknowledged privileges of the chosen people; and such objections have been met. The apostle now sums up the result: What, then, is the state of the case? Have we any advantage to allege? No, not at all in the sense intended; the previous argument stands; and he proceeds to confine his position from the testimony of the Old Testament itself.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Verses 10-18. - 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 altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Psalm 14. or Psalms 53.). Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they hays used deceit (Psalm 5:9); the poison of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3): whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness (Psalm 10:7): their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known (Proverbs 1:16 and Isaiah 59:7): there is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1). These texts are from various unconnected passages of the Old Testament, quoted from the LXX., though not all accurately. They seem to be put together from memory by way of showing the general scriptural view of human depravity. It may be said that they do not establish the apostle's position of all men being guilty; for that they are for the most part rhetorical rather than dogmatic, that most of them refer only to certain classes of men, and that the righteous are spoken of too, and this in the sequence of even the most sweeping of them all (that from Psalm 14. or Psalms 53.), which does, literally understood, assert universal sinfulness. Any such objection to the cogency of the quotations may be met by regarding them as adduced, not as rigid proofs, but as only generally confirmatory of the apostle's position. See, he would say to the Jew, the picture your own Scriptures give you; observe their continued testimony to human depravity: and the main point of all the quotations is that which is brought out in the next verse, viz. that they had reference, not to the Gentile world, but to the chosen people themselves.
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.
Verses 19, 20. - Now we know that what things soever the Law (ὁ νόμος here for the Old Testament generally as the embodiment and exponent of the Law) saith, it speaketh to them that are under the Law (not to the world outside, but to those within its own sphere): that every mouth (the Jew's as well as the Gentile's) may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Because by works of law (νόμος here suitably without the article; see on Romans 2:13) shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for through law is knowledge of sin. In this concluding verse the apostle briefly intimates the reason of law's inefficacy for justification, anticipating, after a manner usual with him, what is afterwards to be more fully set forth, as especially in ch. 7. The reason is that law in itself only defines sin and makes it sinful, but does not emancipate from it.
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;
Verses 21-31. - (4) The righteousness of God, manifested in Christ and apprehended by faith, is the sole remedy, and available for all. The position enunciated in Romans 1:18 being now sufficiently established, the apostle enters here on his main argument, announced in Romans 1:17. Verse 21. - But now (νυνὶ here may have either its temporal sense of at the present time, or its logical sense of as things are. For its use in the latter sense, cf. Romans 7:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Corinthians 15:20) the righteousness of God without law (i.e. apart from law) is (or, has been) manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets. On the essential meaning of God's righteousness (Θεοῦ δικαιοσύνη), see on Romans 1:17, and Introduction. This passage, in which the thesis of Romans 1:17 is formally enunciated, is consistent with this meaning; in confirmation of which observe vers. 25, 26, where δικαιοσύνη αὐτοῦ evidently means God's own righteousness, as also above, ver. 5. If this view is correct, there is no need to follow commentators into their discussions of the significance of χωρὶς νόμου in supposed connection with the idea of man's imputed righteousness; such as whether it is meant to declare justification through Christ to be without the aid of the Law - "sine legis adminiculo" (Calvin) - or to exclude all legal works, done before, or even after justification, from any share in the office of justification. However true these positions may be, what is said here seems simply to mean that God's righteousness has been manifested in Christ in a different way, and on a different principle, from that of law. The principle of law is to enjoin and forbid, and to require complete obedience; but law, even as exhibited in the Divine Law of the Jews, has been shown to fail to enable man thus to attain to δικαιοσύνη; therefore, apart from this exacting principle, the righteousness of God is now revealed to man, embracing him in itself. The absence of the article before νόμου here, and its insertion in the latter clause of the same verse, where the Mosaic Law is definitely referred to, is fully explained by what has been said above under Romans 2:13. Being witnessed, etc., is introduced parenthetically by way of intimating that this manifestation of God's righteousness, though "apart from law," is not in any opposition to the teaching of the Law and the prophets, being, in fact, anticipated by them. The proof of this appears afterwards in ch. 4.
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:
Verse 22. - Even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ unto all (and upon all is added in the Textus Receptus, but ill supported) them that believe: for there is no distinction. We observe that the expression here used is not ἡ διὰ πίστεως but simply διὰ πίστεως. Thus διὰ πίστεως does not naturally connect itself with δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ as defining it, but rather with εἰς πάντας which follows, and perhaps with reference to the πεφανέρωται of ver. 21 understood. The idea, then, may be still that of God's own righteousness, manifested in Christ, unto or towards all believers, who through faith apprehended it and became sharers in it. When St. Paul elsewhere speaks of the believer's imputed righteousness, his language is different, so as to make his meaning plain. Thus Romans 4:6, ῷ ὁ Θεὸς λογίζεται δικαιοσύνην δικαιοσύνης πίστεως; Romans 5:17, τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς δικαιοσύνης; Romans 9:30δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ πίτσεως; Philippians 3:9, τὴν ἐκ Θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει. What we contend for is simply this - that the phrase δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ means God's own righteousness, which, manifested in the atoning Christ, embraces believers, so that to them too righteousness may be imputed (Romans 4:11).
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Verse 23. - For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. The "glory of God," of which all men are here said to come short (ὑσεροῦνται), has been taken to mean

(1) honour or praise from God. "Dei favore et approbatione carent" (Sehleusner). So decidedly Meyer, Tholuek, Alford, and others. In this case Θεοῦ would be the gen. auctoris, which Meyer argues is probable from its being so in Θεοῦ δικαιοσύνη. This argument (which is not worth much in any case) tells the other way if, as we hold, it is not so in the latter phrase. For the New Testament use of δόξα in the sense of "praise" or "honour," 1 Thessalonians 2:6 is adduced (Οὔτε ζητοῦντες ἐν ἀνθρώποις δόξαν); also John 5:44 (Δόξαν παρὰ ἀλλήλων λαμβάνοντες καὶ τὴν δόξαν τὴν παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεοῦ οὐ ζητεῖτε); and especially John 12:43, where δόξα is, as here, followed by the genitive Θεοῦ without any connecting preposition: Ἠγάπησαν γὰρ τὴν δόξαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων μᾶλλον ἤπερ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ Θεοῦ ("the praise of God," Authorized Version). But, even apart from the different, and in itself more obvious, meaning of the phrase, δόξα τοῦ Θεου, where it occurs elsewhere, it is at least a question whether in the last cited passage it can be taken to mean praise or honour from God. It comes immediately after the quotation from Isaiah 6:9, etc., followed by "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory (τὴν δόξα αὐτοῦ), and spoke of him." Hence the meaning of John 12:43 may probably be that the persons spoken of loved mundane glory (cf. Matthew 4:8; Matthew 6:29) rather than the Divine glory, seen in the vision of faith, manifested to the world in Christ (cf. John 1:14, "We beheld his glory," etc.), and "loved" by those who have not the eyes blinded and the heart hardened. So, even in the previous passage of St. John's Gospel (John 5:41, 44), ἡ δόξα ἡ παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ may denote man's participation in the Divine glory, rather than praise or honour, while δόξα παρὰ ἀλλήλων may mean the mundane glory conferred by men on each other. These considerations commend, in the passage before us, the interpretation

(2) "Significatur ipsius Dei viventis gloria, vitam tribuens (cf. Romans 6:4); ad quam homini, si non peccasset, patuit aditus: sod peccator ab illo fine sue excidit, neque jam eum assequitur, neque gloriam illam, quae in illo effulsisset, ullo mode tolerare potest: Hebrews 12:20, et seq.; Psalm 68:2; quo fit ut morti sit obnoxius: nam gloria et immortalitas suut synonyma, et sic mors et corruptio. Absunt a gloria Dei, i.e. a summo fine homiuis aberrarunt. At justificati recuporant spom illius glorise. Vid. omnino c. 5:2, 11, 17; 8:30, etc." (Bengel). Further, the sense which the same expression seems evidently to bear in Romans 5:2 of this Epistle is of importance for our determination of its meaning here. We are not justified in understanding, with some interpreters, any specific reference to the "image of God" (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων) in which man was created, and which has been lost by the Fall, there being nothing to suggest it, or, with others, exclusively to the future glory, since the present ὑστεροῦνται seems to denote a present deficiency. The general conception appears sufficiently plain in Bengel's exposition above given, according to which "the glory of God" means the glory of the Divine righteousness ("sempiterna ejus virtus et divinitas" Bengel on Hebrews 1:8), which man, through sin, falls short of.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Verses 24-26. - Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Δικαιούμενοι agrees with πάντες in ver. 23. "Repente sic panditur scena amaenior" (Bengel). Δωρεὰν and τῆ αὐτοῦ χάριτι are opposed to the impossible theory of justification by law. And, as all sinned, so all are so justified potentially, the redemption being for all; cf. especially Romans 5:18. But potential justification only is implied; for the condition for appropriation is further intimated by διὰ τῆς πίστεως following. The means whereby it becomes objectively possible is "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Here, as throughout St. Paul's Epistles, and in the New Testament generally, the doctrine of atonement being required for man's justification is undoubtedly taught, Christ being viewed as not only manifesting God's righteousness in his life, and reconciling believers through his influence on themselves, but as effecting such reconciliation by an atoning sacrifice. The word itself (ἀπολύτρωσις) here used may indeed sometimes denote deliverance only (cf. Romans 8:23; Luke 21:28; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 11:35); but certainly, when used of the redemption of man by Christ, it implies atonement by the payment of a ransom (λύτρον or ἀντίλυτρον); cf. Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:6; Revelation 5:9; Matthew 20:28; the ransom paid being said to be himself, or (as in Matthew 20:28) his life; Τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν. It does not follow that all conceptions of schools of theology as to how the atonement was efficacious for its purpose are correct or adequate. It must, from the very nature of the subject, remain to us a mystery. It may be enough for us to believe that whatever need the human conscience has ever felt of atonement for sin, whatever human want was expressed by world-wide rites of sacrifice, whatever especially was signified by the blood required for atonement in the Mosaic ritual, - all this is met and fulfilled for us in Christ's offering of himself, and that in him and through him we may now "come boldly to the throne of grace," having need of no other Προέθετο ιν ´ερ. 25 ("set forth," Authorized Version), may bear here its most usual classical sense of exhibiting to view ("ante omniam oculos possuit," Bengel); i.e. in the historical manifestation of the Redeemer. It may, however, mean "decreed," or "purposed" (cf. ch. 1:13; Ephesians 1:9). The word ἱλαστήριον seems best taken as a neuter adjective used substantively, there being no instance of its application in the masculine to a person. Its ordinary use in the LXX (as also Hebrews 9:5) is to designate the lid of the ark (i.e. the mercy-seat), the noun ἐπίθεμα (which is added Exodus 25:17; Exodus 37:6) being supposed to be always understood, though the usual designation is simply τὸ ἱλαστήριον. Hence most commentators, including the Greek Fathers generally, understood ἱλαστήριον in this sense here, Christ being regarded as the antitype of the mercy-seat, as being the medium of atonement and approach to God. The main objection to this view is that it involves an awkward confusion of metaphors, it being difficult to regard him who was at once the Victim whose blood was offered, and the High Priest who offered his own blood, at the mercy-seat, as being also the Mercy-seat itself. (Thus, however, Theodoret explains: "The mercy-seat of old was itself bloodless, being without life, but it received the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice. But the Lord Christ and God is at once Mercy-seat, High Priest, and Lamb.") The difficulty is avoided if we take the word here in the sense of propitiatory offering, which in itself it will bear, a noun, such as θῦμα, being supposed to be (cf. 4 Maccabees 17:22; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 16. c. 7; Dio Chrys., 'Orat.,' 11:1). Whatever its exact meaning, it evidently denotes a true fulfilment in Christ of the atonement for sin undoubtedly signified by the type; as does further ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι, which follows. For a distinct enunciation of the significance of bleed under the ancient ritual, as reserved for and expressing atonement, see especially Leviticus 17:11. The meaning of the whole sacrificial ritual is there expressed as being that the life of man being forfeit to Divine justice, blood, representing life, must be offered instead of his life for atonement. Hence, in pursuance of this idea, the frequent references in the New Testament to Hebrews physical blood-shedding of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9:22, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission"). It is not, however, implied that the material blood of Christ, shed on the cross, in itself cleanses the soul from sin, but only that it signifies to us the fulfilment in him of the type of an atoning sacrifice. As to the construction of ver. 25, it is a question whether ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι is to be taken in connection with διὰ τῆς πίστεως, meaning "through faith in his blood" (an unusual expression, though grammatically correct, cf. Ephesians 1:15), or with ἱλαστήριον. The emphatic position of αὐτοῦ, such as apparently to signify "in his own blood," favours the latter connection (cf. Hebrews 9:12-25, where the offering of Christ is distinguished from those of the Law in being διὰ τοῦ ἀδίου αἵματος, not ἐν αἵματι ἀλλοτρίῳ). Thus the meaning will be that he was set forth (or purposed) as an ἱλαστήριον, available for us through faith, and consisting in the offering of himself - in, the shedding of his own blood. For showing of his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime in the forbearance of God, in order to the showing of his righteousness in the time that now is, so that he may be righteous, and justifying (the word is δικαιοῦντα, corresponding with δικαιωσύνην and δίκαιων preceding) him that is of faith in Jesus. This translation differs materially from that of the Authorized Version, which is evidently erroneous, especially in the rendering of διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν by "for the remission." Our translators, in a way very unusual with them, seem to have missed the drift of the passage, and so been led to give the above untenable rendering in order to suit their view of it. It is to be observed that two purposes of the setting forth (or purposing) of Christ Jesus as ἱλαστήριον αρε here declared, both denoted by the word ἔνδειξιν, which is repeated, being governed in the first clause of the sentence by εἰς, and in the second by πρὸς. Some say that the preposition is changed with no intended difference of meaning. But it is not St. Paul's way to use his prepositions carelessly. Αἰς in the first clause may be taken to denote the immediate purpose of the propitiation, and πρὸς in the second to have its proper significance of aim or direction, denoting a further intention and result, consequent on the first. The first purpose, denoted by εἰς, was the vindication of God's righteousness with regard to the ages past, in that he had so long passed over, or left unvisited, the sins of mankind. The propitiation of Christ. at length set forth (or, as may be expressed by προέθετο, all along purposed), showed that he had not been indifferent to these sins, though in his forbearance he had passed them over. Cf. Acts 17:30, Τοὺς μὲν οῦν χρόνους τῆς ἀγνοίας ὑπεριδὼν ὁ Θεὸς; also Hebrews 9:15, where the death of Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant, is said to have been "for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant," the meaning and efficacy of the "death" being thus regarded, in the first place, as retrospective (cf. also Hebrews 9:26). But then there was a further grand purpose, expressed by the πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειξιν of the second clause that of providing a way of present justification for believers now, without derogation of the Divine righteousness. Such appears to be the meaning of this passage.
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;
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.
Verse 27. - Where then is the boasting? (that of the Jew, referred to in ch. 2, of his superiority to the Gentile with regard to justification). It is excluded. By what manner of (ποίου) law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Is it, then, here implied that the law of works would allow of boasting? Not so practically. But its theory would leave room for it, on the supposition of its conditions being fulfilled; it is a kind of law (observe ποίου νόμου;) which does not exclude it; for if a man could say, "I have fulfilled all the righteousness of the Law," he would have something wherein to glory. But the principle of the law of faith, which has been shown to be the only one available for the justification of either Jew or Gentile, in itself excludes it. It will be observed that the strict sense of the word νόμος, hitherto preserved, is extended in νόμος πίστεως. (For the various applications of which the word is capable, see especially ch. 7.)
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Verse 28. - For (γὰρ here, rather than οῦν, as in the Textus Receptus; though either reading rests on good authority, γὰρ suits best the course of thought, as introducing a reason for the assertion of the previous verse) we reckon that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law; i.e. the law of works, as a principle of justification, is, in fact, according to our reckoning, nowhere. It is to be particularly observed that χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου implies no antinomian doctrine, nor any opposition to James (James 2:14, etc.). Its reference is not at all to works required or not required from man for acceptance, but simply to the ground or principle of his justification.
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Verse 29. - Is God the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. This verse is in support of the doctrine, already asserted, and pervading the Epistle, of justification through Christ being for all mankind alike without distinction or partiality; and it comes in here in pursuance of the thought of the preceding verse. In it justification was said to be by faith, and apart from works of law, and therefore in itself available for the Gentiles, who had no revealed law, as well as for the Jews, who had. And why should it not be so? Is not the God of the Jews their God too? Yes.
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Verse 30. - If indeed (εἴπερ rather than ἐπείπερ, as in the Textus Receptus) God is one, who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Here the unity of God is given as the reason of his being the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. So also, 1 Timothy 2:5, εῖς γὰρ Θεὸς is the reason why he wills all men to be saved. It is of importance to grasp St. Paul's idea in his assertions of the unity of God. It is not that of numerical unity, but what may be called the unity of quality; i.e. not a mere assertion of monotheism as against polytheism, but that the one God is one and the same to all, comprehending all in the embrace of his own essential unity. God's unity involved in St. Paul's mind the idea of "One God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him" (1 Corinthians 8:6); "who made of one blood every nation of men" (Acts 17:26); in whom we (all of us) "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Thus exclusion of the Gentiles from the paternal embrace of the one God is incompatible with the very idea, so conceived, of his unity. In the latter part of this verse it is said that God will justify the circumcision ἐκ πίστεως, and the uncircumcision διὰ τῆς πίστεως, the preposition being changed, and the second πίστεως being preceded by the article. The difference is not of essential importance, "faith" being the emphatic word. But it is not unmeaning. Ἐκ expresses the principle of justification; διὰ, the medium through which it may be had. The Jew was already in a position for justification through the Law leading up to Christ. He had only to accept it as of faith, and not of works of law (ver. 20). The Gentile must attain to it through faith; i.e. his faith in the gospel now revealed to him. Ἐπὶ τῶν Ἰουδαίων τὸ ἀκ πίστεως τέθεικεν ὡς α}ν ἐγόντων μὲν καὶ ἑτέρας ἀφορμὰς πρὸς δικαίωσιν, πίστεως (Theodorus).
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Verse 31. - Do we then make law void through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish law. The question naturally arises after what has been said about justification being χωρὶς νόμου. Do we then make out our revealed Law, which we have accounted so holy and Divine, to be valueless? Or. rather, as the question is more generally put (νόμον being without the article, and therefore translated as above), "Do we make of none effect the whole principle of law, embodied to us in our Divine Law? Regarded erroneously as a principle of justification, the apostle might have answered. "Yes, we do." But any disparagement of it, regarded in its true light and as answering its real purpose, he meets with an indignant μὴ γένοιτο. On the contrary, he says, we establish it. Law means the declaration of righteousness, and requirement of conformity to it on the part of man. We establish this principle by our doctrine of the necessity of atonement for man's defect. We put law on its true base, and so make it the more to stand (ἰστάνομεν) by showing its office to be, not to justify - a position untenable - but to convince of sin, and so lead up to Christ (cf. Romans 7:12, etc.; Galatians 3:24). In pursuance of this thought, the apostle, in the next chapter, shows that in the Old Testament itself it is faith, and not law, which is regarded as justifying; as, in the first place and notably, in the case of Abraham; thus proving the previous assertion in Romans 3:21, Μαρτυρουμένη ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν. In ch. 7. he treats the subject subjectively, analyzing the operation of law in the human soul, and so bringing out still more clearly its true meaning and purpose.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
Romans 2
Top of Page
Top of Page