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Continuation of section 4
GOD’S WRATH AGAINST MEN AS LEGISLATOR
The apostle continues to deal with the subject of God’s wrath against men.
Structure of the remainder of section 4
|4(d)||3:1-8||The charge of infidelity|
|4(e)||3:9-17||The charge of iniquity|
|4(f)||3:18-20||God before man’s eyes and man in God’s sight|
4(d) The charge of infidelity
The apostle anticipates objections to his first three charges, and in so doing accuses the Jews of infidelity.
3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew?- in view of the failures described in 2:17-24, there seems to be no benefit in being a Jew.
Or what profit is there of circumcision?- in view of the truths set out in 2:25-29, where circumcised persons are said to be no better than the uncircumcised, it might be thought that there is no advantage in being a Jew if outward things are invalid.
3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God- there are many and varied advantages in being a Jew, listed in 9:4,5, but one of the chiefest is the possession of the living word of God, which they were expected to observe. Note the connection between “committed”, (entrusted), and “did not believe”, verse 3, (were unfaithful to the trust).
3:3 For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?- what shall we say about this situation, where some were unfaithful. Shall we say that if some were unfaithful to the trust placed in them by God, (as demonstrated by the fact that He gave them His oracles), that they thereby made it impossible for God to be faithful to His promises?
3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar- let the fact that God is true, and that men are all liars, govern our thinking in this matter. Paul energetically repudiates the idea that God’s truthfulness and faithfulness in regard to His promises depend on man’s favourable response to His word. Every man is a liar, so we cannot expect right dealings from him. God is true to His word, whatever man’s reaction is. Since men are liars, they live out a lie in their lives, as the illustration from the life of David will show. As a result of his experience, he was caused to acknowledge that God was true and he was unfaithful.
As it is written, That thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged- David came into direct confrontation with the word of God over the matter of Bathsheba, and acted out a lie to cover his sin. See 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 32. The apostle quotes here from Psalm 51, one of David’s repentance psalms. When David repented he justified (vindicated) God and condemned himself, thus relieving God of any misrepresentations which men might make about Him because of David’s sin. Thus God overcame His accusers when they criticized Him. This reversed the situation described in 2 Samuel 12:14. All this came about as a result of Nathan the prophet bringing God’s word to David.
3:5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?- the foregoing suggests another objection, which the apostle puts as if from himself, hence “I speak as a man”. Can God righteously judge men for doing that which gives Him fresh opportunity to glorify Himself? “What shall we say” is usually used in the New Testament when the argument of an opponent is being refuted. (I speak as a man)- to speak like this is to speak as a natural man without the knowledge of God. To a believer the idea is abhorrent.
3:6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?- that God will judge the world has been established in chapters 1 and 2, but this objection would destroy that, for it would undermine just judgement, and God is not capable of unjust judgement. Two consequences would follow from this. First, I should not be judged at all. Second, we ought to sin freely, so that more good may come to God’s reputation. These consequences are so outrageous that the apostle is content to simply say that the judgement of those who suggest such things is just.
3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory; why yet am I judged as a sinner?- if the truth about God contained in the oracles delivered to the Jews has been enhanced by my life lived contrary to that truth, (“my lie”), why am I still to be judged as a sinner? Surely I should be praised for enhancing God’s glory! Such an idea is clearly wrong.
3:8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come?- some were saying that Paul taught the practice of evil so that good might come to God’s reputation. “And not rather means “And why should we not say”. Even though the apostle thought this to be slanderous, he is content to leave the matter in God’s hands, being assured that those who speak like this are ripe for judgement.
Whose damnation is just- the suggestion is so outrageous that it only needs the reminder of coming judgement to refute it. But let his opponents beware, for the judgement which is just for sinners generally, is just for false teachers too.
4(e) The charge of iniquity
Having examined all classes of men, the apostle now presents his final argument on the subject of the universal sin of man, and the consequent danger of the wrath of God.
The epistle to the Romans puts man in God’s Law-court, charges him in 1:19-3:8, presents written evidence in 3:9-18, pronounces him guilty in 3:19, then tells of the just means whereby his guilt may be removed, 3:20-25, and the repentant, believing sinner justified, 3:26, with the consequent freedom from condemnation, 8:1.
3:9 What then, are we better than they?- in verse 1 the apostle had asked what advantage and profit the Jew had, and his answer was “much every way.” Now, having disposed of the arguments of his opponents he is able to ask a final question- “Are we (Jews) better than they (Gentiles)? and now his answer is as follows.
No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin- the Jew has outward advantages, but inwardly, as 2:21-24 shows, he is no better than sinful Gentiles. “Proved” here means “charged, incriminated, accused”, and this has been done in 1:18-3:8. The proof proper is about to be presented from the Old Testament scriptures, from which the apostle extracts fourteen statements proving conclusively that man is a sinner.
MAN’S CONSTITUTION IN RELATION TO GOD
3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one- THE NATURE OF MAN is corrupted and depraved by Adam’s fall. Psalm 14:3 actually says, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one”, but as the apostle John says, “he that doeth righteous is righteous, as He is righteous”, 1 John 3:7, for it is the nature that produces the results, such as goodness. If there is not a righteous nature, then there is no righteous fruit.
3:11 There is none that understandeth- THE MIND OF MAN is ignorant of the truth of God, “having the understanding darkened,” Ephesians 4:18.
There is none that seeketh after God- THE ATTITUDE OF MAN is one of apathy towards God.
3:12 They are all gone out of the way- THE WILL OF MAN makes him continue in the path of departure from God begun in Genesis 3.
They are together become unprofitable- THE LIFE OF MAN is unprofitable to God.
There is none that doeth good, no, not one- THE WORKS OF MAN are contrary to God, who is essentially good.
MAN’S CONDUCT IN RELATION TO MEN
3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre- both DEFILED AND DEFILING. See Matthew 23:27; Mark 7:21-23.
With their tongues they have used deceit- DECEITFUL. “the wicked…go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies”, Psalm 58:3.
The poison of asps is under their lips- DANGEROUS. “ye are of your father the Devil”, John 8:44. “O generation of vipers”, Matthew 3:7.
3:14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness- cursing is malice expressed, whereas bitterness is malice harboured. DAMAGEING. All these statements were true of Saul of Tarsus, as he breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, Acts 9:1.
3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood- DEADLY.
3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways- destruction is the action, misery is the effect. DESTRUCTIVE.
3:17 And the way of peace they have not known- DISCORDANT and DISTURBED.
4(f) GOD BEFORE MAN’S EYES AND MAN IN GOD’S SIGHT
3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes- DEFIANCE of God characterises man, and he expresses this by disregarding his responsibilities before God and before man.
These statements may appear to be extreme, but the point is what man is capable of if left to himself. Condemnation comes upon us because we are sinners, as well as because we have sinned, so this passage serves to highlight both what we commit, and what we are. Man is totally depraved, which means he is affected by sin in all aspects of his person. Note this does not mean that men are as bad as they can be, but they do have the potential to be as bad as they can be, and this extreme badness is exposed in verses 10-18. Note also the emphasis on spoken things, for Paul had summarised the sinner’s life as a lie, 3:7. And this living lie works itself out in ways that are hostile to the living God. Then finally the eyes, the vehicle by which sin entered the world at the beginning, for Eve saw the forbidden tree, and failed to fear God, Genesis 3:6.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 21 TO 26:
3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
3:22 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:
3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
3:24 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
3:25 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;
3:26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Section 5 Romans 3:21-26
THE WORK OF CHRIST IS CENTRAL TO THE GOSPEL
Structure of section 5
|5(a)||3:21||The righteousness of God and the law|
|5(b)||3:22||The righteousness of God and faith|
|5(c)||3:23||The righteousness of God and sin|
|5(d)||3:24||The righteousness of God and redemption|
|5(e)||3:25||The righteousness of God and propitiation|
|5(f)||3:26||The righteousness of God and justification|
Subject of section 5
Having shown that man deserves nothing but wrath because of his sin, the apostle now shows that God is willing, in grace, to bestow upon men that which they do not deserve, which they can never earn, and which they will never be able fully to repay. How He does this, whilst still maintaining His just character, is detailed for us in the next few verses.
The expression “righteousness of God” is used in two ways in this passage. In verses 25 and 26, it is the attribute of righteousness which God possesses which is in view, the righteousness which is His intrinsically. In verses 21 and 22, however, the idea is of that righteousness which He reckons or imputes to a person when they believe. Divine righteousness reckoned, is in direct contrast to human righteousness demanded, as when men were under the Law.
The English language is derived from various sources, one of which gives us the adjective “righteous”, and another which gives us the adjective “just”. They mean the same thing, namely that which is right. The same is true of the words “faith” and “belief”- they mean the same. Righteousness was originally spelt right-wise-ness, meaning that which corresponds to right, just as clock-wise means that which corresponds to the direction the hands of the clock travel. This passage, then, assures us that in the salvation of sinners, God acts in perfect conformity to the absolute standard of right that He represents in His own person. It also assures us that through faith a person is reckoned by God to be in conformity with that right character of His, not because he has attained such a position by their own efforts, but because God in grace blesses in this way on the basis of the work of Christ.
It is important to notice the emphasis on the righteousness of God, for this leading theme of the gospel is being forgotten today, and is being replaced by an over-emphasis on the love of God. It is indeed important to proclaim the general love of God for sinners. We should note, however, that the love of God is spoken of in John 3:16 as being in the past, and that historic display of love which took place at Calvary is the once-for-all declaration of God’s attitude towards men. The grace and mercy of God which are based upon His love, Ephesians 2:4-7, should not be preached at the expense of announcing His righteous demands. The love of God is the expression of His nature, 1 John 4:8; but His nature is righteous, and there cannot be conflict between the two. Divine love must act righteously, for God is light, 1 John 1:5.
5(a) The righteousness of God and the Law
3:21 But–the word presents us with the divine alternative to the failure of man in 1:18-3:20. The apostle now resumes where he broke off in 1:17, and having shown conclusively that man is totally unable to attain to personal righteousness, and deserves nothing but wrath from God, begins to unfold the wonder of the gospel which brings sinners into a right relationship with God. Man deserves wrath but…
Now- a different situation altogether prevails at the present time compared to the age of the Law. See verses 25 and 26, “sins that are past…at this time”.
The righteousness of God without the law is manifested- not human righteousness demanded, as under the law of Moses, but Divine righteousness manifested. Without the law- totally apart from attempts to keep the law to earn salvation.
Being witnessed by the law and prophets- the Old Testament gave abundant testimony to the righteous requirements of God. The law gave the directives, the prophets exposed the deviations. Paul is careful to emphasise that the gospel does not overthrow the righteousness of God expressed in the Law, just as he emphasised in 1:1,2, that the gospel is in harmony with the Old Testament scriptures.
5(b) The righteousness of God and faith
3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ- not the unattainable righteousness through works, but that which is freely available to those whose faith is in Jesus Christ. It is not belief about Christ that saves, although obviously the facts concerning Him must be accepted, for Christianity is based on historical events; but it is faith in, or upon, the Lord Jesus Christ which saves, involving unreserved reliance on Him alone for salvation, on the basis of His death at Calvary.
Unto all- the gospel makes a universal offer to men- none are excluded, for just as none are good enough in themselves for God to accept them, so none are too bad.
And upon all them that believe- belief in Christ is the unvarying principle God acts upon. “Upon” signifies that there are objects in view, namely those who are given the opportunity to believe. Gospel blessing is only available on the condition that it is for those who believe, just as a shopkeeper displays his goods on the understanding that people will pay for them, not steal them. The goods are displayed with that condition in mind. The gospel is sent in the direction of, and arrives at, those who believe.
For there is no difference- each individual, of whatever background, must take his place amongst the “all”, for there are no exceptions to the rule that righteousness can be received only by faith. There is no difference, for all need to believe; there is no difference, for all have sinned.
5(c) The righteousness of God and sin
3:23 For all have sinned- the reason why salvation is made available to all. It is man’s sin, not man’s merit, that causes God to offer blessing to all, hence the “for,” or because. Sinned- in the past.
And- the consequence.
Come short- the present situation because of past failure. It is too late for man to begin to earn merit, for he has a sinful record, and “God requireth that which is past,” Ecclesiastes 3:15. Man in his sin comes short of possessing the glory of God, whereas those who believe will be glorified, 8:30, which involves being in harmony with God in all His glory.
Of the glory of God- that sum total of God’s attributes and character which make Him alone worthy of worship. The glory of God demands that man be righteous if he is to be accepted with God, but man falls short because of his sin. The demands of God’s glory, however, have been met fully by Christ, hence the apostle goes on to speak of justification through Him. And those who are justified are as good as glorified, 8:30, and no longer come short.
5(d) The righteousness of God and redemption
3:24 Being justified- a person is reckoned right in the sight of God through God reckoning that person to be righteous because of the merit of Christ’s work.
Freely- translated “without a cause” in John 15:25. There is no reason in man why God should justify him; the cause is found in Christ, for God forgives sins for the sake of Christ, Ephesians 4:32.
By His grace- the motive in the heart of God. Grace is unmerited favour to those who can never repay it, and is an expression of Divine love, Ephesians 2:4,5.
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus- the means by which we may be justified. Sins committed put us under an obligation to God, for His righteous character demands that they be dealt with. We have no means of doing this, and so are constantly in debt to God. In Old Testament times, when a person was without resources, then his near kinsman could act as his redeemer, provided he had both the resolve, and the resources, see Ruth 4. In Christ Jesus- the redemption is found in the One who gave His life a ransom for many, Matthew 20:28. He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, Titus 2:14. Notice it is “that He might”, for His death gives Him the right to redeem when we believe. God says “I have found a ransom”, Job 33:24.
5(e) The righteousness of God and propitiation
3:25 Whom God hath set forth- this verb is in the Middle Voice, which indicates that the one acting has a personal interest and involvement in the thing that is done. In this case, God has a personal interest in setting Christ Jesus forth in the proclamation of the gospel.
To be a propitiation- this and connected words occur seven times in the New Testament in relation to the death of Christ. Here and Hebrews 9:5, (mercy-seat), the idea is of the place where propitiation takes place. Propitiation is effected in His person. In 1 John 2:2; 4:10, the idea is of the sacrifice that effects propitiation, the propitiatory offering for our sins. In Hebrews 2:17, (reconciliation), the idea is of the act of propitiating. In Luke 18:13; Hebrews 8:12, (merciful), the attitude of God expressed because propitiation has been made is in view.
Through faith- the means by which the benefits resulting from propitiation are gained.
In His blood- the blood of Christ is that which does finally, what the blood of bulls and goats did typically, on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:15,16. Christ’s blood effects propitiation, faith secures the benefit. Propitiation is “through faith” only in the sense that only those who exercise faith are in the good of Christ’s work. This was the case on the Day of Atonement, for only those who afflicted their souls, (repented), and abstained from work, (the essence of faith, see Romans 4:5), could continue in the nation, and be in the good of the propitiation made, see Leviticus 23:26-32.
PROPITIATION is that aspect of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus at Calvary, whereby He gave to God the full and satisfactory answer to the demands which the righteousness of God made against sins. By so doing, He enabled God to maintain His own integrity and at the same time justify those who believe the gospel.As the “pro” at the beginning of the word suggests, it is a work done towards God, i.e. in relation to what He is Himself. The results manward are secondary. Indeed the work of propitiation would be glorifying to God even if there were no results manward. In this verse, Christ is the propitiation in the sense that He is the personal means whereby propitiation was effected. The sacrifice of Christ must give God the answer to the presence of sin in the universe, or else the matter will never be resolved, and God will be eternally liable to the charge that He has not acted righteously as the Moral Governor of the universe in relation to all sins. For a fuller treatment of this doctrine please go to “SUBJECTS” on the top menu.
To declare His righteousness- God’s attribute of being right is declared by the work of Christ, for at Calvary every Divine attribute was brought out into fullest display, John 12:28;13:31. This is why the gospel can be called the gospel of the glory of God, 1 Timothy 1:11.
For the remission of sins that are past- this means “because of the passing over of sins done before”, in Old Testament times.
Done before- this does not mean done before conversion, but done before Christ came. Remission here is not forgiveness, but a passing by of sins, not dealing with them in immediate judgement. There was not, generally, the instant dealing with sins committed before Christ’s death which we might have thought a righteous God would have put into effect.
Through the forbearance of God- His tolerance, a not-occupying-oneself-with. See Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30. The work of Christ at the cross vindicates God for acting like this. At the present time the reason why sins are not instantly dealt with is because of His longsuffering and grace.
5(f) The righteousness of God and justification
3:26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness- having shown that the work of propitiation vindicates God’s past dealings, we learn here of God’s righteous dealings in the present.
That He might be just- that is, might maintain His righteous character, even while He is blessing guilty sinners.
And the justifier- the work of Christ enables God to be two things at once, namely, to be just, and also the one who reckons sinners just. It is part of His glory that He does not clear the guilty, Exodus 34:5-7, but He can with true justice forgive the guilty when they plead the work of Christ on their behalf.
Of him which believeth in Jesus- note the use of the historical, personal name of Christ, in connection with the historical and personal work He did on the cross of Calvary. Those who are “of the faith of Jesus”, who are committed in faith to Him, are justified before God.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 27 TO 31:
3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Section 6 (first part) Romans 3:27-32
Structure of section
|6(a)||3:27,28||Question 1- Can man boast?|
|6(b)||3:29,30||Question 2- Is God biased?|
|6(c)||3:32||Question 3- Is law banished?|
Subject of section 6
Having shown in a previous parenthesis, 1:18-3:20, the pressing need of the gospel in view of the wrath of God which hung over Jew and Gentile alike, and then having explained the terms of the gospel in 3:21-26, the apostle now expands on the expression he had used in verse 22, “unto all.” Does this really mean that the imputed righteousness of God is unto all men, without exception? Is the same God who is angry against the sins of Jews and Gentiles, also the God who will forgive those sins? To answer this question, the apostle selects two of the most revered figures in Old Testament history to convince his readers, whether Jew or Gentile, that the righteousness of God which comes through faith, is available to them all. Before he does this, however, he answers three initial questions that may be on the minds of his readers at this point.
6 (a) Question 1- Can man boast?
3:27 Where is boasting then?- the mention of the glory of God in verse 23 has reminded the apostle that God deserves all the glory from His creatures. Does the gospel ensure this, or does it leave room for men to boast (glory) in themselves as well?
It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith- the apostle answers his own question. Boasting on the part of man is totally excluded by the “law of faith”, that is, the principle of faith. The gospel calls for faith, and by definition faith is reliance totally on another, and hence leaves no room for man to boast that he has tried to do the works of the Law. The law of works could not exclude boasting, for it expected human effort, in which a man would tend to boast. The apostle returns to this in 4:1
3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law- “Conclude” means reckon with logical thought. The truth of the gospel, summed up here by the phrase “justified by faith”, will stand the test of the most rigorous examination.
6(b) Question 2- Is God biased?
3:29 Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles?- given that God specially singled out the people of Israel for unique advantages in the Old Testament, is He still restricting His blessing to them, or is He blessing Gentiles also?
Yes, of the Gentiles also- the one and same God (“it is one God”) who blesses Jews with salvation through faith, blesses Gentiles likewise.
3:30 Seeing it is one God- there is only one true God, and He is undivided in His intentions. He blesses men on consistent principles, which are in harmony with His own nature and character.
Which shall justify the circumcision through faith, and the uncircumcision through faith- since salvation is not through law-works, which law was given only to the Jews, the way is open for any to come. “By faith”, or literally “out of faith”, means on the principle of faith, as opposed to the principle of works which the Jews were familiar with. “Through faith”, or literally “by the instrumentality of faith”, the Gentiles not having any other instrument before. The apostle returns to this in 4:9-12.
6(c) Question 3- Is law banished?
3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith?- is all idea of principled action, (which the law required), dispensed with under the faith of the gospel? Make void means to make of no effect, disannul. The apostle now answers this important question.
God forbid: yea, we establish the law- the gospel establishes the law, upholding as it does all the righteous principles set out in the law of Moses, and is just as insistent as the law that man is a sinner. See 1 Timothy 1:8-11, where the demands of the law, sound doctrine, and the gospel are in agreement. In His death the Lord Jesus met all the claims of God who had been offended by the breaking of His law, thus showing that far from being indifferent to the law, the gospel makes known that its claims are met in Christ, Galatians 3:10,13. After all, “justify” is a law-court word, indicating acquittal from all charge. Paul returns to this in 4:13-16.