RPM, Volume 18, Number 14, March 27 to April 2, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 48

By Albert Barnes

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 1

Verse 1. Therefore. Dio. The force of this word here has been the subject of much discussion. The design of this and the following chapter is to show that the Jews were no less guilty than the Gentiles, and that they needed the benefit of the same salvation. This the apostle does by showing that they had greater light than the Gentiles, and yet that they did the same things. Still they were in the habit of accusing and condemning the Gentiles as wicked and abandoned; while they excused themselves on the ground that they possessed the law and oracles of God, and were his favourite people. The apostle here affirms that they were inexcusable in theft sins, that they must be condemned in the sight of God, on the same ground on which they condemned the Gentiles; to wit, that they had light, and yet committed wickedness. If the Gentiles were without excuse Ro 1:20 in their sins, much more would the Jew, who condemned them, be without excuse on the same ground. The word therefore, I suppose, refers not to any particular word in the previous chapter, or to any particular verse, but to the general considerations which were suggested by a view of the whole case. And its sense might be thus expressed: "Since you Jews condemn the Gentiles for their sins, on the ground that they have the means of knowing their duty, THEREFORE YOU, who are far more favoured than they, are entirely without an excuse for the same things."

Thou art inexcusable. This does not mean that they were inexcusable for judging others; but that they had no excuse for their sins before God; or that they were under condemnation for their crimes, and needed the benefits of another plan of justification. As the Gentiles whom they judged were condemned, and were without excuse, Ro 1:20, so were the Jews who condemned them without excuse, on the same principle and in a still greater degree.

O man. This address is general to any man who should do this. But it is plain, from the connexion, that he means especially the Jews. The use of this word is an instance of the apostle's skill in argument. If he had openly named the Jews here, it would have been likely to have excited opposition from them. He therefore approaches the subject gradually, affirms it of man in general, and then makes a particular application to the Jews. This he does not do, however, until he has advanced so far in the general principles of his argument that it would be impossible for them to evade his conclusions; and then he does it in the most tender, and kind, as well as convincing manner, Ro 2:17, etc.

Whosoever thou art that judgest. The word judgest�"krineiv �" here is used in the sense of condemning. It is not a word of equal strength with that which is rendered "condemnest"�"katakrineiv. It implies, however, that they were accustomed to express themselves freely and severely of the character and doom of the Gentiles. And from the New Testament, as well as from their own writings, there can be no doubt that such was the fact; that they regarded the entire Gentile world with abhorrence, considered them as shut out from the favour of God, and applied to them terms expressive of the utmost contempt. Comp. Mt 15:27.

For wherein. For in the same thing. This implies that substantially the same crimes which were committed among the heathen were also committed among the Jews.

Thou judgest another. The meaning of this clearly is, "for the same thing for which you condemn the heathen, you condemn yourselves."

Thou that judgest. You Jews who condemn other nations.

Doest the same things. It is clearly implied here, that they were guilty of offences similar to those practised by the Gentiles. It would not be a just principle of interpretation to press this declaration as implying that precisely the same offences, and to the same extent, were chargeable on them. Thus they were not guilty, in the time of the apostle, of idolatry; but of the other crimes enumerated in the first chapter, the Jews might be guilty. The character of the nation, as given in the New Testament, is that they were "an evil and adulterous generation," Mt 12:39; Joh 8:7; that they were a "generation of vipers," Mt 3:7; 12:34; that they were wicked, Mt 12:45 that they were sinful, Mr 8:38; that they were proud, haughty, hypocritical, etc., Mt 23:1. If such was the character of the Jewish nation in general, there is no improbability in supposing that they practised most of the crimes specified in ch 1. On this verse we may remark,

(1.) that men are prone to be severe judges of others.

(2.) This is often, perhaps commonly, done when the accusers themselves are guilty of the same offences. It often happens, too, that men are remarkably zealous in opposing those offences which they themselves secretly practise. A remarkable instance of this occurs in Joh 8:1, etc. Thus David readily condemned the supposed act of injustice mentioned by Nathan, 2 Sa 12:1-6. Thus also kings and emperors have enacted severe laws against the very crimes which they have constantly committed themselves. Nero executed the laws of the Roman empire against the very crimes which he was constantly committing; and it was a common practice for Roman masters to commit offences which they punished with death in their slaves. (See instances in Grotius on this place.)

(3.) Remarkable zeal against sin may be no proof of innocence. Comp. Mt 7:3. The zeal of persecutors, and often of pretended reformers, may be far from proof that they are free from the very offences which they are condemning in others. It may all be the work of the hypocrite to conceal some base design; or of the man who seeks to show his hostility to one kind of sin, in order to be a salvo to his conscience for committing some other.

(4.) The heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.

{i} "for wherein thou" 2 Sa 12:6,7

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 2

Verse 2. But we are sure. Greek, "We know." That is, it is the common and admitted sentiment of mankind. It is known and believed by men generally that God will punish such crimes. It is implied in this declaration that this was known to the Jews, and it was particularly to the purpose of the apostle so to express himself as to include the Jews. They knew it because it was everywhere taught in the Old Testament, and it was the acknowledged doctrine of the nation. The design of the apostle here, says Calvin, is to take away the subterfuges of the hypocrite, lest he should pride himself, if he obtained the praise of men, for a far more important trial awaited him at the bar of God. Outwardly he might appear well to men; but God searched the heart, and saw the secret as well as the open deeds of men; and they who practised secretly what they condemned openly, could not expect to escape the righteous judgment of God. God, without respect of persons, would punish wickedness, whether it was open, as among the Gentiles, or whether it was concealed under the guise of great regard for religion, as among the Jews.

The judgment of God. That God condemns it, and will punish it. He regards those who do these things as guilty, and will treat them accordingly.

According to truth. This expression is capable of two meanings. The Hebrews sometimes use it to denote truly or certainly. God will certainly judge and punish such deeds. Another meaning, which is probably the correct one here, is, that God will judge those who are guilty of such things, not according to appearance, but in integrity, and with righteousness, he will judge men according to the real nature of their conduct; and not as their conduct may appear unto men. The secret as well as the open sinner, therefore; the hypocrite, as well as the abandoned profligate, must expect to be judged according to their true character. This meaning comports with the design of the apostle, which is to show that the Jew, who secretly and hypocritically did the very things which he condemned in the Gentile, could not escape the righteous judgment of God.

Against them. That is, against every man, no matter of what age or nation.

Which commit such things. The crimes enumerated in chap. i. The apostle is not to be understood as affirming that each and every individual among the Jews was guilty of the specific crimes charged on the heathen, but that they were, as a people, inclined to the same things. Even where they might be externally moral, they might be guilty of cherishing evil desires in their hearts, and thus be guilty of the offence, Mt 5:28. When men desire to do evil, and are prevented by the providence of God, it is right to punish them for their evil intentions. The fact that God prevents them from carrying their evil purposes into execution does not constitute a difference between their real character and the character of those who are suffered to act out their wicked designs.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 3

Verse 3. And thinkest thou, etc. This is an appeal to their common sense, to their deep and instinctive conviction of what was right. If they condemned those who practised these things; if, imperfect and obscure as their sense of justice was; if, unholy as they were, they yet condemned those who were guilty of these offences, would not a holy and just God be far more likely to pronounce judgment? And could they escape who had themselves delivered a similar sentence? God is of "purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity," Hab 1:13. And if men condemned their fellowmen, how much more would a pure and holy God condemn iniquity. This appeal is evidently directed against the Jew. It was doubtless a prevalent sentiment among them, that provided they adhered to the rites of their religion, and observed the ceremonial law, God would not judge them with the same severity as he would the abandoned and idolatrous Gentiles. Comp. Mt 3:9; Joh 8:33. The apostle shows them that crime is crime, wherever committed; that sin does not lose its essential character by being committed in the midst of religious privileges; and that those who professed to be the people of God have no peculiar license to sin. Antinomians in all ages, like the Jews, have supposed that they, being the friends of God, have a right to do many things which would not be proper in others; that what would be sin in others, they may commit with impunity; and that God will not be strict to mark the offences of his people. Against all this Paul is directly opposed, and the Bible uniformly teaches that the most aggravated sins among men are those committed by the professed people of God. Comp. Isa 1:11-17; 65:2-6; Re 3:10.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 4

Verse 4. Or despisest. This word properly means to contemn, or to treat with neglect. It does not mean here that they professedly treated God's goodness with neglect or contempt; but that they perverted and abused it; they did not make a proper use of it; they did not regard it as fitted to lead them to repentance; but they derived a practical impression, that because God had not come forth in judgment and cut them off, but had continued to follow them with blessings, that therefore he did not regard them as sinners, or they inferred that they were innocent and safe. This argument the Jews were accustomed to use, (comp. Lu 13:1-5; Joh 9:2;) and thus sinners still continue to abuse the goodness and mercy of God.

The riches of his goodness. This is a Hebrew mode of speaking, for "his rich goodness," that is, for his abundant or great goodness. Riches denote superfluity, or that which abounds, or which exceeds a man's present wants; and hence the word in the New Testament is used to denote abundance; or that which is very great and valuable. See Barnes "Ro 9:23".

Comp. Ro 11:12,33; 2 Co 8:2; Eph 1:7,18; 2:4; 3:8,16; Col 1:27.

The word is used here to qualify each of the words which follow it�"his rich goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering.

Goodness. Kindness, benignity.

Forbearance. anochv. Literally, his holding in or restraining his indignation; or forbearing to manifest his displeasure against sin.

Longsuffering. This word denotes his slowness to anger; or his suffering them to commit sins long without punishing them. It does not differ essentially from forbearance. This is shown by his not coming forth, at the moment that sin is committed, to punish it. He might do it justly, but he spares men from day to day, and year to year, to give them opportunity to repent, and be saved. The way in which men despise or abuse the goodness of God is to infer that he does not intend to punish sin; that they may do it safely; and instead of turning from it, to go on in committing it more constantly, as if they were safe. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," Ec 8:11. The same thing was true in the time of Peter, 2 Pe 3:3,4. And the same thing is true of wicked men in every age. Nor is there a more decisive proof of the wickedness of the human heart, than this disposition to abuse the goodness of God; and because he shows kindness and forbearance, to take occasion to plunge deeper into sin, to forget his mercy, and to provoke him to anger.

Not knowing. Not considering. The word used here�" agnown�"means not merely to be ignorant of, but it denotes such a degree of inattention as to result in ignorance. Comp. Hosea 2:8. In this sense it denotes a voluntary, and therefore a criminal ignorance.

Leadeth thee, etc. Or the tendency, the design of the goodness of God, is to induce men to repent of their sins, and not to lead them to deeper and more aggravated iniquity. The same sentiment is expressed in 2 Pe 3:9, "The Lord is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." See also Isa 30:18, "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you." Ho 5:15; Eze 18:23,32.

Repentance. Change of mind, and purpose, and life. The word here evidently means not merely sorrow, but a forsaking of sin, and turning from it. The tendency of God's goodness and forbearance to lead men to repentance is manifest in the following ways.

(1.) It shows the evil of transgression when it is seen to be committed against so kind and merciful a Being.

(2.) It is fitted to melt and soften the heart. Judgments often harden the sinner's heart, and make him obstinate. But if, while he does evil, God is as constantly doing him good; if the patience of God is seen from year to year, while the man is rebellious, it is adapted to melt and subdue the heart.

(3.) The great mercy of God in this often appears to men to be overwhelming; and so it would to all, if they saw it as it is. God bears with men from childhood to youth; from youth to manhood; from manhood to old age; often while they violate every law, contemn his mercy, profane his name, and disgrace their species; and still, notwithstanding all this, his anger is turned away, and the sinner lives, and "riots in the beneficence of God." If there is any thing that can affect the heart of man, it is this; and when he is brought to see it, and contemplate it, it rushes over the soul, and overwhelms it with bitter sorrow.

(4.) The mercy and forbearance of God are constant. The manifestations of his goodness come in every form; in the sun, and light, and air; in the rain, the stream, the dew-drop; in food, and raiment, and home; in friends, and liberty, and protection; in health and peace; and in the gospel of Christ, and the offers of life; and in all these ways God is appealing to his creatures each moment, and setting before them the evils of ingratitude, and beseeching them to turn and live.

And from this passage we cannot but remark,

(1.) that the most effectual preaching is that which sets before men most of the goodness of God.

(2.) Every man is under obligation to forsake his sins, and turn to God. There is no man who has not seen repeated proofs of his mercy and love.

(3.) Sin is a stubborn and an amazing evil. Where it can resist all the appeals of God's mercy; where the sinner can make his way down to hell through all the proofs of God's goodness; where he can refuse to hear God speaking to him each day, and each hour, it shows an amazing extent of depravity to resist all this, and still remain a sinner. Yet there are thousands and millions who do it; and who can be won by no exhibition of love or mercy to forsake their sins, and turn to God. Happy is the man who is melted into contrition by the goodness of God, and who sees and mourns over the evil of sinning against so good a Being as is the Creator and Parent of all.

{k} "riches of his goodness" Ro 9:23

{l} "forbearance and longsuffering" Isa 30:18

{m} "not knowing" Joh 4:2

{n} "leadeth" Isa 30:18

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 5

Verse 5. But after thy hardness. The word "after" here (kata) means, in respect to; or, you act according to the direct tendency of a hard heart in treasuring up wrath. The word hardness is used to denote insensibility of mind. It properly means that which is insensible to the touch, or on which no impression is made by contact, as a stone, etc. Hence it is applied to the mind, to denote a state where no motives make an impression; which is insensible to all the appeals made to it. See Mt 25:24; 19:8; Ac 19:9.

And here it expresses a state of mind where the goodness and forbearance of God have no effect. The man still remains obdurate, to use a word which has precisely the meaning of the Greek in this place. It is implied in this expression, that the direct tendency, or the inevitable result of that state of mind, was to treasure up wrath, etc.

Impenitent heart. A heart which is not affected with sorrow for sin, in view of the mercy and goodness of God. This is an explanation of what he meant by hardness.

Treasurest up. To treasure up, or to lay up treasure, commonly denotes a laying by in a place of security of property that may be of use to us at some future period. In this place it is used, however, in a more general sense, to accumulate, to increase. It still has the idea of hoarding up, carries the thought beautifully and impressively onward to future times. Wrath, like wealth treasured up, is not exhausted at present, and hence the sinner becomes bolder in sin. But it exists for future use; it is kept in store (comp. 2 Pe 3:7) against future times; and the man who commits sin is only increasing this by every act of transgression. The same sentiment is taught in a most solemn manner in De 32:34,35. It may be remarked here, that most men have an immense treasure of this kind in store, which eternal ages of pain will not exhaust or diminish! Stores of wrath are thus reserved for a guilty world, and in due time it "will come upon man to the uttermost," 1 Th 2:16.

Unto thyself. For thyself, and not for another; to be exhausted on thee, and not on your fellow-man. This is the case with every sinner, as really and as certainly as though he were the only solitary mortal in existence.

Wrath. Note, Ro 1:18.

Day of wrath. The day when God shall show or execute his wrath against sinners. Comp. Re 6:17; 1 Th 1:10; Joh 3:36; Eph 5:6.

And revelation. Or the day when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, or made known. Here we learn,

(1.) that the punishment of the wicked will be just. It will not be a judgment of caprice or tyranny, but a righteous judgment; that is, such a judgment as it will be right to render, or as ought to be rendered, and THEREFORE such as God will render, for he will do right, 2 Th 1:6.

(2.) The punishment of the wicked is future. It is not exhausted in this life. It is treasured up for a future day, and that day is a day of wrath. How contrary to this text are the pretences of those who maintain that all punishment is executed in this life.

(3.) How foolish, as well as wicked, is it to lay up such a treasure for the future; to have the only inheritance in the eternal world, an inheritance of wrath and woe!

{o} "treasurest up" De 32:34

{p} "and revelation" Ec 12:14

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 6

Verse 6. Who will render. That is, who will make retribution as a righteous Judge; or who will give to every man as he deserves.

To every man. To each one. This is a general principle, and it is clear that in this respect God would deal with the Jew as he does with the Gentile. This general principle the apostle is establishing, that he may bring it to bear on the Jew, and to show that he cannot escape simply because he is a Jew.

According to his deeds. That is, as he deserves; or God will be just, and will treat every man as he ought to be treated, or according to his character. The word deeds (erga) is sometimes applied to the external conduct. But it is plain that this is not its meaning here. It denotes everything connected with conduct, including the acts of the mind, the motives, the principles, as well as the mere external act. Our word character more aptly expresses it than any single word. It is not true that God will treat men according to their external conduct; but the whole language of the Bible implies that he will judge men according to the whole of their conduct, including their thoughts, and principles, and motives; that is, as they deserve. The doctrine of this place is elsewhere abundantly taught in the Bible. Pr 24:12; Mt 16:27; Re 20:12; Jer 32:19.

It is to be observed here, that the apostle does not say that men will be rewarded for their deeds, (comp. Lu 17:10,) but according to (kata) their deeds. Christians will be saved on account of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, (Tit 3:5) but still the rewards of heaven will be according to their works; that is, they who have laboured most, and been most faithful, shall receive the highest reward, or their fidelity in their Master's service shall be the measure or rule according to which the rewards of heaven shall be distributed, Mt 25:14-29. Thus the ground or reason why they are saved shall be the merits of the Lord Jesus. The measure of their happiness shall be according to their character and deeds. On what principle God will distribute his rewards the apostle proceeds immediately to state.

{q} "Who will render" Pr 24:12; Mt 16:27; Re 20:12

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 7

Verse 7. To them. Whoever they may be.

Patient continuance. Who by perseverance in well doing, or in a good work. It means, that they who so continue or persevere in good works as to evince that they are disposed to obey the law of God. It does not mean those who perform one single act, but those who so live as to show that this is their character to obey God. It is the uniform doctrine of the Bible, that none will be saved but those who persevere in a life of holiness, Re 5:10; Mt 10:22; Heb 10:38,39.

No other conduct gives evidence of piety but that which continues in the ways of righteousness. Nor has God ever promised eternal life to men unless they so persevere in a life of holiness as to show that this is their character, their settled and firm rule of action. The words well doing here denote such conduct as shall be conformed to the law of God; not merely external conduct, but that which proceeds from a heart attached to God and his cause.

Seek for. This word properly denotes the act of endeavouring to find anything that is lost, Mt 18:12; Lu 2:48,49.

But it also denotes the act when one earnestly strives, or desires to obtain anything; when he puts forth his efforts to accomplish it. Thus, Mt 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc. Ac 16:10; 1 Co 10:24 Lu 13:24. In this place it denotes an earnest and intense desire to obtain eternal life. It does not mean simply the desire of a sinner to be happy, or the efforts of those who are not willing to forsake their sins and yield to God, but the intense effort of those who are willing to forsake all their crimes, and submit to God and obey his laws.

Glory and honour and immortality. The three words used here denote the happiness of the heavenly world. They vary somewhat in their meaning, and are each descriptive of something in heaven, that renders it an object of intense desire. The expressions are cumulative, or they are designed to express the happiness of heaven in the highest possible degree. The word glory doxan denotes, properly, praise, celebrity, or anything distinguished for beauty, ornament, majesty, splendour, as of the sun, etc.; and then it is used to denote the highest happiness or felicity, as expressing everything that shall be splendid, rich, and grand. It denotes that there will be an absence of everything mean, grovelling, obscure. The word honour (timhn) implies rather the idea of reward, or just retribution�"the honour and reward which shall be conferred in heaven on the friends of God. It stands opposed to contempt, poverty, and want among men. Here they are despised by men; there they shall be honoured by God.

Immortality. That which is not corruptible, or subject to decay. It is applied to heaven as a state where there shall be no decay or death, in strong contrast with our present condition, where all things are corruptible, and soon vanish away. These expressions are undoubtedly descriptive of a state of things beyond the grave. They are never applied in the Scriptures to any condition of things on the earth. This consideration proves, therefore, that the expressions in the next verse; indignation, etc., apply to the punishment of the wicked beyond the grave.

Eternal life. That is, God will "render" eternal life to those who seek it in this manner. This is a great principle; and this shows that the apostle means by "their deeds," (Ro 2:6,) not merely their external conduct, but their inward thoughts, and efforts evinced by their seeking for glory, etc. For the meaning of the expression "eternal life," See Barnes "Joh 5:24".

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 8

Verse 8. Who are contentious. This expression usually denotes those who are of a quarrelsome or litigious disposition; and generally has reference to controversies among men. But here it evidently denotes a disposition towards God, and is of the same signification as rebellious, or as opposing God. They who contend with the Almighty; who resist his claims, who rebel against his laws, and refuse to submit to his requirements, however made known. The Seventy use the verb to translate the Hebrew word

HEBREW, marah, in De 21:20. One striking characteristic of the sinner is, that he contends with God; that is, that he opposes and resists his claims. This is the case with all sinners; and it was particularly so with the Jews, and hence the apostle used the expression here to characterize them particularly. His argument he intended to apply to the Jews, and hence he used such an expression as would exactly describe them. This character of being a rebellious people was one which was often charged on the Jewish nation, De 9:7,24; 31:27; Isa 1:2; 30:9; 65:2; Jer 5:23; Eze 2:3,5.

Do not obey the truth. Comp. Ro 1:18. The truth here denotes the Divine will, which is alone the light of truth. Calvin. It means true doctrine in opposition to false opinions; and to refuse to obey it is to regard it as false, and to resist its influence. The truth here means all the correct representations which had been made of God, and his perfections, and law, and claims, whether by the light of nature or by revelation. The description thus included Gentiles and Jews; but particularly the latter, as they had been more signally favoured with the light of truth. It had been an eminent characteristic of the Jews that they had refused to obey the commands of the true God, Jos 5:6; Jud 2:2; 6:10; 2 Ki 18:12; Jer 3:13,25; 42:21; 43:4,7; 9:13

But obey unrighteousness. The expression means that they yielded themselves to iniquity, and thus became the servants of sin, Ro 6:13,16,17,19.

Iniquity thus may be said to reign over men, as they follow the dictates of evil, make no resistance to it, and implicitly obey all its hard requirements.

Indignation and wrath. That is, these shall be rendered to those who are contentious, etc. The difference between indignation and wrath, says Ammonius, is that the former is of short duration, but the latter is a long-continued remembrance of evil. The one is temporary, the other denotes continued expressions of hatred of evil. Eustathius says, that the word indignation denotes the internal emotion, but wrath the external manifestation of indignation. Tholuck. Both words refer to the opposition which God will cherish and express against sin in the world of punishment.

{r} "that are contentious" 1 Ti 6:3,4

{s} "and do not obey" 2 Th 1:8

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 9

Verse 9. Tribulation. This word commonly denotes affliction, or the situation of being pressed down by a burden, as of trials, calamities, etc.; and hence to be pressed down by punishment or pain inflicted for sins. As applied to future punishment, it denotes the pressure of the calamities that will come upon the soul as the just reward of sin.

And anguish. Stenocwria. This noun is used in but three other places in the New Testament, Ro 8:35; 2 Co 6:4; 12:10.

The verb is used in 2 Co 4:8; 6:12. It means, literally narrowness of place, want of room; and then the anxiety and distress of mind which a man experiences who is pressed on every side by afflictions, and trials, and want, or by punishment, and who does not know where he may turn himself to find relief. Schleusner. It is thus expressive of the punishment of the wicked. It means that they shall be compressed with the manifestations of God's displeasure, so as to be in deep distress, and so as not to know where to find relief. These words, affliction and anguish, are often connected, Ro 8:35.

Upon every soul of man. Upon all men. In Hebrew the word soul often denotes the man himself. But still the apostle, by the use of this word here, meant perhaps to signify that the punishment should not be corporeal, but afflicting the soul. It should be a spiritual punishment, a punishment of mind. (Ambrose. See Tholuck.)

Of the Jew first. Having stated the general principle of the Divine administration, he comes now to make the application. To the principle there could be no objection. And the apostle now shows that it was applicable to the Jew as well as the Greek, and to the Jew pre-eminently. It was applicable first, or in an eminent degree, to the Jew, because

(1) he had been peculiarly favoured with light and knowledge on all these subjects.

(2.) These principles were fully stated in his own law, and were in strict accordance with all the teaching of the prophets. See Barnes "Ro 2:6".

Also Ps 7:11; 9:17; 139:19; Pr 14:32.

Of the Gentile. That is, of all who were not Jews. On what principles God will inflict punishment on them, he states in Ro 2:12-16. It is clear that this refers to the future punishment of the wicked, for

(1) it stands in contrast with the eternal life of those who seek for glory, (Ro 2:7). If this description of the effect of sin refers to this life, then the effects spoken of in relation to the righteous refer to this life also. But in no place in the Scriptures is it said that men experience all the blessings of eternal life in this world; and the very supposition is absurd.

(2.) It is not true that there is a just and complete retribution to every man, according to his deeds, in this life. Many of the wicked are prospered in life, and "there are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm," Ps 73:4. Many of the righteous pine in poverty and want and affliction, and die in the flames of persecution. Nothing is more clear than [that] there is not, in this life, a full and equitable distribution of rewards and punishments; and as the proposition of the apostle here is, that God WILL render to every man ACCORDING to his deeds, (Ro 2:6) it follows that this must be accomplished in another world.

(3.) The Scriptures uniformly affirm, that for the very things specified here, God will consign men to eternal death. 2 Th 1:8, "In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction," etc. 1 Pe 4:17. We may remark, also, that there could be no more alarming description of future suffering than is specified in this passage. It is indignation; it is wrath; it is tribulation; it is anguish which the sinner is to endure for ever. Truly men exposed to this awful doom should be alarmed, and should give diligence to escape from the woe which is to come!

{1} "Gentile" or, "Greek"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 10

Verse 10. No Barnes text on this verse.

{t} "glory" 1 Pe 1:7

{1} "Gentile", or "Greek"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 11

Verse 11. For. This particle is used here to confirm what is said before, particularly that this punishment should be experienced by the Jew as well as the Gentile. For God would deal with both on the principles of justice.

Respect of persons. The word thus rendered means partiality, in pronouncing judgment, in favouring one party or individual more than another, not because his cause is more just, but on account of something personal�"on account of his wealth, or rank, or office, or influence, or by personal friendship, or by the fear of him. It has special reference to a judge who pronounces judgment between parties at law. The exercise of such partiality was strictly and often forbidden to the Jewish magistrates, Le 19:15; De 1:17; Pr 24:23; Jas 2:1,3,9.

In his capacity as a Judge, it is applied often to God. It means that he will not be influenced in awarding the retributions of eternity, in actually pronouncing and executing sentence, by any partiality, or by regard to the wealth, office, rank, or appearance of men. He will judge righteous judgment; he will judge men as they ought to be judged; according to their character and deserts; and not contrary to theft character, or by partiality. The connexion here demands that this affirmation should be limited solely to his dealing with men As THEIR JUDGE. And in this sense, and this only, this is affirmed often of God in the Scriptures, De 10:17; 2 Ch 19:7 Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; Gal 6:7,8; 1 Pe 1:17; Ac 10:34.

It does not affirm that he must make all his creatures equal in talent, health, wealth, or privilege; it does not imply that, as a sovereign, he may not make a difference in their endowments, their beauty, strength, or graces; it does not imply that he may not bestow his favours where he pleases where all are undeserving, or that he may not make a difference in the characters of men by his providence, and by the agency of his Spirit. All these are actually done, done not out of any respect to their persons, to their rank, office, or wealth, but according to his own sovereign good pleasure, Eph 1. To deny that this is done, would be to deny the manifest arrangement of things everywhere on the earth. To deny that God had a right to do it, would be

(1.) to maintain that sinners had a claim on his favours;

(2.) that he might not do what he willed with his own; or

(3.) to affirm that God was under obligation to make all men with just the same talents and privileges; that is, that all creatures must be, in all respects, just alike. This passage, therefore, is very improperly brought to disprove the doctrine of decrees, or election, or sovereignty. It has respect to a different thing, to the actual exercise of the office of the Judge of the world; and whatever may be the truth about God's decrees, or his electing love, this passage teaches nothing in relation to either. It may be added, that this passage contains a most alarming truth for guilty men. It is that God will not be influenced by partiality, but will treat them just as they deserve. He will not be won or awed by their rank or office; by their wealth or endowments; by their numbers, their power, or their robes of royalty and splendour. Every man should tremble at the prospect of falling into the hands of a just God, who will treat him just as he deserves; and should, without delay, seek a refuge in the Saviour and Advocate provided for the guilty, Joh 2:1,2.

{u} "For there is no" De 10:17; 2 Ch 19:7; Ga 6:7,8; 1 Pe 1:17

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 12

Verse 12. For. This is used to give a reason for what he had just said, or to show on what principles God would treat man so as not to be a respecter of persons.

As many. Whosoever. This includes all who have done it, and evidently has respect to the Gentile world. It is of the more importance to remark this, because he does not say that it is applicable to a few only, or to great and incorrigible instances of pagan wickedness; but it is a universal, sweeping declaration, obviously including all.

Have sinned, have been guilty of crimes of any kind toward God or man. Sin is the transgression of a rule of conduct, however made known to mankind.

Without law. anomwv. This expression evidently means without revealed or written law, as the apostle immediately says that they had a law of nature, (Ro 2:14,15.) The word law, nomov, is often used to denote the revealed law of God, the Scriptures, or revelation in general, Mt 12:5; Lu 2:23,24; 10:26; Joh 8:5,17.

Shall also perish. Apolountai. The Greek word used here occurs frequently in the New Testament. It means, to destroy, to lose, or to corrupt; and is applied to life, (Mt 10:39) to a reward of labour, (Mt 10:42) to wisdom, (1 Co 1:19) to bottles, Mt 9:17. It is also used to denote future punishment, or the destruction of soul and body in hell, (Mt 10:28; 18:14; Joh 3:15, ) where it is opposed to eternal life, and therefore denotes eternal death. Ro 14:15; Joh 17:12. In this sense the word is evidently used in this verse. The connexion demands that the reference should be to a future judgment to be passed on the heathen. It will be remarked here, that the apostle does not say they shall be saved without law. He does not give even an intimation respecting their salvation. The strain of the argument, as well as this express declaration, shows that they who had sinned�"and in the first chapter he had proved that all the heathen were sinners�"would be punished. If any of the heathen are saved, it will be, therefore, an exception to the general rule in regard to them. The apostles evidently believed that the great mass of them would be destroyed. On this ground they evinced such zeal to save them; on this ground the Lord Jesus commanded the gospel to be preached to them; and on this ground Christians are now engaged in the effort to bring them to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. It may be added here, that all modern investigations have gone to confirm the position that the heathen are as degraded now as they were in the time of Paul.

Without law. That is, they shall not be judged by a law which they have not. They shall not be tried and condemned by the revelation which the Jews had. They shall be condemned only according to the knowledge and the law which they actually possess. This is the equitable rule on which God will judge the world. According to this, it is not to be apprehended that they will suffer as much as those who have the revealed will of God. Comp. Mt 10:15; 11:24; Lu 10:12.

Have sinned in the law. Have sinned having the revealed will of God, or endowed with greater light and privileges than the heathen world. The apostle here has undoubted reference to the Jews who had the law of God, and who prided themselves much on its possession.

Shall be judged by the law. This is an equitable and just rule; and to this the Jews could make no objection. Yet the admission of this would have led directly to the point to which Paul was conducting his argument, to show that they also were under condemnation, and needed a Saviour. It will be observed here, that the apostle uses a different expression in regard to the Jews from what he does of the Gentiles. He says of the former, that they "shall be judged;" of the latter, that they "shall perish." It is not certainly known why he varied this expression. But if conjecture may be allowed, it may have been for the following reasons.

(1.) If he had affirmed of the Jews that they should perish, it would at once have excited their prejudice, and have armed them against the conclusion to which he was about to come. Yet they could bear the word to be applied to the heathen, for it was in accordance with their own views, and their own mode of speaking, and was strictly true.

(2.) The word "judged" is apparently more mild, and yet really more severe. It would arouse no prejudice to say that they would be judged by their law. It was indeed paying a sort of tribute or regard to that on which they prided themselves so much�"the possession of the law of God. Still, it was a word implying all that he wished to say, and involving the idea that they would be punished and destroyed. If it was admitted that the heathen would perish, and if God was to judge the Jews by an unerring rule, that is, according to their privileges and light, then it would follow that they would also be condemned, and their own minds would come at once to the conclusion. The change of words here may indicate, therefore, a nice tact, or delicate address in argument, urging home to the conscience an offensive truth rather by the deductions of the mind of the opponent himself, than by a harsh and severe charge of the writer. In instances of this the Scriptures abound.; and it was this especially that so eminently characterized the arguments of our Saviour.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 13

Verse 13. For not the hearers, etc. The same sentiment is implied in Jas 1:22; Mt 7:21,24; Lu 6:47.

The apostle here doubtless designed to meet an objection of the Jews; to wit, that they had the law, that they manifested great deference for it, that they heard it read with attention, and professed a willingness to yield themselves to it. To meet this, he states a very plain and obvious principle, that this was insufficient to justify them before God, unless they rendered actual obedience.

Are just. Are justified before God, or are personally holy. Or, in other words, simply hearing the law is not meeting all its requirements, and making men holy. If they expected to be saved by the law, it required something more than merely to hear it. It demanded perfect obedience.

But the doers of the law. They who comply entirely with its demands; or who yield to it perfect and perpetual obedience. This was the plain and obvious demand, not only of common sense, but of the Jewish law itself, De 4:1; Le 18:5. Comp. Ro 10:9.

Shall be justified. This expression is evidently synonymous with that in Le 18:5 where it is said that "he shall live in them." The meaning is, that it is a maxim or principle of the law of God, that if a creature will keep it, and obey it entirely, he shall not be condemned, but shall be approved, and live for ever. This does not affirm that any one ever has thus lived in this world, but it is an affirmation of a great general principle of law, that if a creature is justified BY the law, the obedience must be entire and perpetual. If such were the case, as there would be no ground of condemnation, man would be saved by the law. If the Jews, therefore, expected to be saved by their law, it must be, not by hearing the law, nor by being called a Jew, but by perfect and unqualified obedience to all its requirements. This passage is designed, doubtless, to meet a very common and pernicious sentiment of the Jewish teachers, that all who became hearers and listeners to the law would be saved. The inference from the passage is, that no man can be saved by his external privileges, or by an outward respectful deference to the truths and ordinances of religion.

{v} "For not the hearers" Jas 1:22,25

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 14

Verse 14. For when. The apostle, in Ro 2:13, had stated a general principle, that the doers of the law only can be justified, if justification is attempted by the law. In this verse and the next, he proceeds to show that the same principle is applicable to the heathen; that though they have not the written law of God, yet that they have sufficient knowledge of his will to take away every excuse for sin, and consequently that the course of reasoning by which he had come to the conclusion that they were guilty is well founded. This verse is not to be understood as affirming, as an historical fact, that any of the heathen ever did perfectly obey the law which they had, any more than the previous verse affirms it of the Jews. The main point in the argument is, that if men are justified by the law, their obedience must be entire and perfect; that this is not to be external only, or to consist in hearing or in acknowledging the justice of the law; and that the Gentiles had an opportunity of illustrating this principle as well as the Jews, since they also had a law among themselves. The word when (otan) does not imply that the thing shall certainly take place, but is one form of introducing a supposition, or of stating the connexion of one thing with another; Mt 5:11; 6:2,5,6,16; 10:19.

It is, however, true that the main things contained in this verse, and the next, actually occurred, that the Gentiles did many things which the law of God required.

The Gentiles. All who were not Jews.

Which have not the law. Who have not a revelation, or the written word of God. In the Greek the article is omitted, "who have not law," i.e., any revealed law.

By nature. By some, this phrase has been supposed to belong to the previous member of the sentence, "who have not the law by nature." But our translation is the more natural and usual construction. The expression means clearly by the light of conscience and reason, and whatever other helps they may have without revelation. It denotes simply, in that state which is without the revealed will of God. In that condition they had many helps of tradition, conscience, reason, and the observation of the dealings of Divine Providence, so that to a considerable extent they knew what was right and what was wrong.

Do the things. Should they not merely understand and approve, but actually perform the things required in the law.

Contained in the law. Literally, the things of the law, i.e. the things which the law requires. Many of those things might be done by the heathen, as, e.g., respect to parents, truth, justice, honesty, chastity. So far as they did any of those things, so far they showed that they had a law among themselves. And wherein they failed in these things, they showed that they were justly condemned.

Are a law unto themselves. This is explained in the following verse. It means that their own reason and conscience constituted, in these things, a law, or prescribed that for them which the revealed law did to the Jews.

{w} "a law unto" 1 Co 11:14

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Which shew. Who thus evince or show.

The work of the law. The design, purpose, or object which is contemplated by the revealed law; that is, to make known to man his duty, and to enforce the obligation to perform it. This does not mean, by any means, that they had all the knowledge which the law would impart, for then there would have been no need of a revelation; but that, as far as it went, as far as they had a knowledge of right and wrong, they coincided with the revealed will of God. In other words, the will of God, whether made known by reason or revelation, will be the same so far as reason goes. The difference is, that revelation goes farther than reason; sheds light on new duties and doctrines; as the information given by the naked eye and the telescope is the same, except that the telescope carries the sight forward, and reveals new worlds to the sight of man.

Written in their hearts. The revealed law of God was written on tables of stone, and then recorded in the books of the Old Testament. This law the Gentiles did not possess, but, to a certain extent, the same requirements were written on their hearts. Though not revealed to them as to the Jews, yet they had obtained the knowledge of them by the light of nature, The word hearts here denotes the mind itself, as it does also frequently in the sacred Scriptures; not the heart, as the seat of the affections. It does not mean that they loved or even approved of the law, but that they had knowledge of it; and that knowledge was deeply engraven on their minds.

Their conscience. This word properly means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the morality or immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them. It has usually been termed the moral sense, and is a very important principle in a moral government. Its design is to answer the purposes of an ever-attendant witness of a man's conduct; to compel him to pronounce on his own doings, and thus to excite him to virtuous deeds, to give comfort and peace when he does right, to deter from evil actions by making him, whether he will or no, his own executioner. See Joh 8:9; Ac 23:1; 24:16; Ro 9:1; 1 Ti 1:5.

By nature every man thus approves or condemns his own acts; and there is not a profounder principle of the Divine administration, than thus compelling every man to pronounce on the moral character of his own conduct. Conscience may be enlightened or unenlightened; and its use may be greatly perverted by false opinions. Its province is not to communicate any new truth, it is simply to express judgment, and to impart pleasure or inflict pain for a man's own good or evil conduct. The apostle's argument does not require him to say that conscience revealed any truth, or any knowledge of duty, to the Gentiles, but that its actual exercise proved that they had a knowledge of the law of God. Thus it was a witness simply of that fact.

Bearing witness. To bear witness is to furnish testimony or proof. And the exercise of the conscience here showed or proved that they had a knowledge of the law. The expression does not mean that the exercise of their conscience bore witness of anything to them, but that its exercise may be alleged as a proof that they were not without some knowledge of the law.

And their thoughts. The word thoughts (logismwn) means, properly, reasonings, or opinions, sentiments, etc. Its meaning here may be expressed by the word reflections. Their reflections on their own conduct would be attended with pain or pleasure. It differs from conscience, inasmuch as the decisions of conscience are instantaneous, and without any process of reasoning. This supposes subsequent reflection, and it means that such reflections would only deepen and confirm the decisions of conscience.

The mean while. Margin, "Between themselves." The rendering in the margin is more in accordance with the Greek. The expression sometimes means, in the mean time, or at the same time; and sometimes afterward, or subsequently. The Syriac and Latin Vulgate render this mutually. They seem to have understood this as affirming that the heathen among themselves, by their writings, accused or acquitted one another.

Accusing. If the actions were evil.

Excusing. That is, if their actions were good.

One another. The margin renders this expression in connexion with the adverb, translated "in the mean while," "between themselves." This view is also taken by many commentators, and this is its probable meaning. If so, it denotes the fact that in their reflections, or their reasonings or discussions, they accused each other of crime, or acquitted one another; they showed that they had a law; that they acted on the supposition that they had. To show this was the design of the apostle; and there was no further proof of it needed than that which he here adduced.

(1.) They had a conscience, pronouncing on their own acts; and

(2.) their reasonings, based on the supposition of some such common and acknowledged standard of accusing or acquitting, supposed the same thing. If, therefore, they condemned or acquitted themselves, if, in these reasonings and reflections, they proceeded on the principle that they had some rule of right and wrong, then the proposition of the apostle was made out that it was right for God to judge them, and destroy them, Ro 2:8-12.

{1} "the mean" or, "between themselves"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 16

Verse 16. In the day. This verse is doubtless to be connected with Ro 2:12, and the intermediate verses are a parenthesis, and it implies that the heathen world, as well as the Jews, will be arraigned at the bar of judgment. At that time God will judge all in righteousness, the Jew by the law which he had, and the heathen by the law which he had.

When God shall judge. God is often represented as the judge of mankind, De 32:36; Ps 1:4; 1 Sa 2:10; Ec 3:17; Ro 3:6; Heb 13:4.

But this does not militate against the fact that he will do it by Jesus Christ. God has appointed his Son to administer judgment; and it will be not by God directly, but by Jesus Christ that it will be administered.

The secrets of men. See Lu 18:17; Ec 12:14, "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing," etc. Mt 10:26; 1 Co 4:5. The expression denotes the hidden desires, lusts, passions, and motives of men; the thoughts of the hearts, as well as the outward actions of the life. It will be a characteristic of the day of judgment, that all these will be brought out, and receive their appropriate reward. The propriety of this is apparent, for

(1.) it is by these that the character is really determined. The motives and principles of a mart constitute his character, and to judge him impartially these must be known.

(2.) They are not judged or rewarded in this life. The external conduct only can be seen by men, and of course that only can be rewarded or punished here.

(3.) Men of pure motives and pure hearts are often here basely aspersed and calumniated. They are persecuted, traduced, and often overwhelmed with ignominy. It is proper that the secret motives of their conduct should be brought out, and approved. On the other hand, men of base motives�"men of unprincipled character, and who are corrupt at the heart�"are often lauded, flattered, and exalted into public estimation. It is proper that their secret principles should be detected, and that they should take their proper place in the government of God. In regard to this expression, we may further remark

(1.) that the fact, that all secret thoughts and purposes will be brought into judgment, invests the judgment with an awful character. Who should not tremble at the idea that the secret plans and desires of his soul, which he has so long and so studiously concealed, should be brought out into noon-day in the judgment? All his artifices of concealment shall be then at an end. He will be able to practise disguise no longer. He will be seen as he is; and he will receive the doom he deserves. There will be one place, at least, where the sinner shall be treated as he ought.

(2.) To execute this judgment implies the power of searching the heart, of knowing the thoughts, and of developing and unfolding all the purposes and plans of the soul. Yet this is entrusted to Jesus Christ, and the fact that he will exercise this shows that he is Divine.

Of men. Of all men, whether Jew or Gentile, infidel or Christian. The day of judgment, therefore, may be regarded as a day of universal development of all the plans and purposes that have ever been entertained in this world.

By Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ is appointed to judge the world is abundantly taught in the Bible, Ac 17:31; 2 Ti 4:1; 1 Pe 4:5; Joh 5:22,27; 1 Th 4:16-18; Mt 25:31-46

According to my Gospel. According to the gospel which I preach. Comp. Ac 17:31; 2 Ti 4:8. This does not mean that the gospel which he preached would be the rule by which God would judge all mankind, for he had just said that the heathen world would be judged by a different rule, Ro 2:12. But it means that he was entrusted with the gospel to make it known; and that one of the great and prime articles of that gospel was, that God would judge the world by Jesus Christ. To make this known he was appointed; and it could be called his gospel only as being a part of the important message with which he was entrusted.

{x} "secrets" Lu 8:17

{y} "my Gospel" Ro 16:25

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Behold. Having thus stated the general principles on which God would judge the world; having shown how they condemned the Gentiles; and having removed all objections to them, he now proceeds to another part of his argument, to show how they applied to the Jews. By the use of the word behold, he calls their attention to it, as to an important subject; and with great skill and address, he states their privileges, before he shows them how those privileges might enhance their condemnation. He admits all their claims to pre-eminence in privileges, and then with great faithfulness proceeds to show how, if abused, these might deepen their final destruction. It should be observed, however, that the word rendered behold is, in many Mss., written in two words, ei de, instead of ide. If this, as is probable, is the correct reading there, it should be rendered, "If now thou art," etc. Thus the Syriac, Latin, and Arabic read it.

Thou art called. Thou art named Jew, implying that this name was one of very high honour. This is the first thing mentioned on which the Jew would be likely to pride himself.

A Jew. This was the name by which the Hebrews were at that time generally known; and it is clear that they regarded it as a name of honour, and valued themselves much on it. See Ga 2:15; Re 2:9. Its origin is not certainly known. They were called the children of Israel until the time of Rehoboam. When the ten tribes were carried into captivity, but two remained, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The name Jews was evidently given to denote those of the tribe of Judah. The reasons why the name of Benjamin, was lost in that of Judah were probably,

(1.) because the tribe of Benjamin was small, and comparatively without influence or importance.

(2.) The Messiah was to be of the tribe of Judah, (Ge 49:10); and that tribe would therefore possess a consequence proportioned to their expectation of that event. The name of Jews would therefore be one that would suggest the facts that they were preserved from captivity, that they had received remarkably the protection of God, and that the Messiah was to be sent to that people. Hence it is not wonderful that they should regard it as a special favour to be a Jew, and particularly when they added to this the idea of all the other favours connected with their being the peculiar people of God. The name Jew came thus to denote all the peculiarities and special favours of their religion.

And restest in the law. The word rest here is evidently used in the sense of trusting to, or leaning upon. The Jew leaned on, or relied on the law for acceptance or favour; on the fact that he had the law, and on his obedience to it. It does not mean that he relied on his own works, though that was true, but that he leaned on the fact that he had the law, and was thus distinguished above others. The law here means the entire Mosaic economy; or all the rules and regulations which Moses had given. Perhaps also it includes, as it sometimes does, the whole of the Old Testament.

Makest thy boast of God. Thou dost boast, or glory, that thou hast the knowledge of the true God, while other nations are in darkness. On this account the Jew felt himself far elevated above all other people, and despised them. It was true that they only had the true knowledge of God, and that he had declared himself to be their God, (De 4:7; Ps 147:19,20;) but this was not a ground for boasting, but for gratitude. This passage know us that it is much more common to boast of privileges than to be thankful for them, and that it is no evidence of piety for a man to boast of his knowledge of God. A humble, ardent thankfulness that we have that knowledge�"a thankfulness which leads us not to despise others, but to desire that they may have the same privilege�"is an evidence of piety.

{z} "art called a Jew" Ro 2:28

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 18

Verse 18. And knowest his will. The will or commands of God. This knowledge they obtained from the Scriptures; and of course in this they were distinguished from other nations.

And approvest. The word used here is capable of two interpretations. It may mean to distinguish, or to approve. The word is properly and usually applied to the process of testing or trying metals by fire. Hence it comes to be used in a general sense to try or to distinguish anything; to ascertain its nature, quality, etc., Lu 12:56. This is probably its meaning here, referring rather to the intellectual process of discriminating, than to the moral process of approving. It could not, perhaps, be said with propriety�" at least the scope of the passage does not properly suppose this�"that the Jew approved or loved the things of God; but the scope of the passage is, that the Jew valued himself on his knowledge of that which was conformable to the will of God. See Barnes "Ro 14:1" and following.

The things that are more excellent. The word here translated more excellent denotes, properly the things that differ from others, and then also the things that excel. It has an ambiguity similar to the word translated "approved." If the interpretation of that word above given is correct, then this word here means those things that differ from others. The reference is to the rites and customs, to the distinctions of meats and days, etc., prescribed by the law of Moses. The Jew would pride himself on the fact that he had been taught by the law to make these distinctions, while all the heathen world had been left in ignorance of them. This was one of the advantages on which he valued himself and his religion.

Being instructed, etc. That is, in regard to the one God, his will, and the distinguishing rites of his worship.

{a} "And knowest" Ps 147:19,20

{1} "and approvest", or "triest the things that differ"

{b} "the things" Php 1:10

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 19

Verse 19. And art confident. This expression denotes the full assurance of the Jew that he was superior in knowledge to all other people. It is a remarkable fact, that the Jews put the fullest confidence in their religion. Though proud, wicked, and hypocritical, yet they were not speculative infidels. It was one of their characteristics, evinced through all their history, that they had the fullest assurance that God was the Author of their institutions, and that their religion was his appointment.

A guide of the blind. A guide of the blind is a figurative expression to denote an instructer of the ignorant. The blind here properly refers to the Gentiles, who were thus regarded by the Jews. The meaning is, that they esteemed themselves qualified to instruct the heathen world, Mt 15:14; 23:16.

A light. Another figurative expression to denote a teacher. Comp. Isa 49:6; Joh 1:4,5,8,9.

In darkness. A common expression to denote the ignorance of the Gentile world. See Barnes "Mt 4:16".

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 20

Verse 20. Of the foolish. The word foolish is used in the Scriptures in two significations�"to denote those who are void of understanding, and to denote the wicked. Here it is clearly used in the former sense, signifying that the Jew esteemed himself qualified to instruct those without knowledge.

Of babes. This is the literal meaning of the original word. The expression is figurative, and denotes those who were as ignorant as children�"an expression which they would be likely to apply to all the Gentiles. It is evident that the character here given by Paul to the Jews is one which they claimed, and of which they were proud. They are often mentioned arrogating this prerogative to themselves, as being qualified to be guides and teachers of others, Mt 14:14; 23:2,16,24.

It will be remembered, also, that the Jews considered themselves to be qualified to teach all the world, and hence evinced great zeal to make proselytes. And it is not improbable (Tholuck) that their rabbies were accustomed to give the names "foolish" and "babes" to the ignorant proselytes which they had made from the heathen.

Which hast the form of knowledge. The word here translated form properly denotes a delineation or picturing of a thing. It is commonly used to denote also the appearance of any object; that which we see, without reference to its internal character; the external figure. It sometimes denotes the external appearance as distinguished from that which is internal; or a hypocritical profession of religion without its reality, 2 Ti 3:6, "Having the form of godliness, but denying its power." It is sometimes used in a good, and sometimes in a bad sense. Here it denotes, that in their teaching they retained the semblance, sketch, or outline of the true doctrines of the Old Testament. They had in the Scriptures a correct delineation of the truth. Truth is the representation of things as they are; and the doctrines which the Jews had in the Old Testament were a correct representation or delineation of the objects of knowledge. Comp. 2 Ti 1:13.

In the law. In the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In these verses the apostle concedes to the Jews all that they would claim. Having made this concession of their superior knowledge, he is prepared with the more fidelity and force to convict them of their deep and dreadful depravity in sinning against the superior light and privileges which God had conferred on them.

{c} "the form of knowledge" 2 Ti 1:13; 3:5

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Thou therefore, etc. he who is a teacher of others may be expected to be learned himself. They ought to be found to be possessed of superior knowledge; and by this question the apostle impliedly reproves them for their ignorance. The form of a question is chosen because it conveys the truth with greater force. He puts the question as if it were undeniable that they were grossly ignorant. Comp. Mt 23:3, "They say, and do not," etc.

That preachest. This word means to proclaim in any manner, whether in the synagogue, or in any place of public teaching.

Dost thou steal? It cannot be proved, perhaps, that the Jews were extensively guilty of this crime. It is introduced partly, no doubt, to make the inconsistency of their conduct more apparent. We expect a man to set an example of what he means by his public instruction.

{d} "Thou therefore which" Mt 23:3

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Dost thou commit adultery? There is no doubt that this was a crime very common among the Jews. See Barnes "Mt 12:39" See Barnes "Joh 8:1"

and Joh 8:2-11. The Jewish Talmud accuses some of the most celebrated of their rabbies, by name, of this vice. Grotius. Josephus also gives the same account of the nation.

Thou that abhorest idols. It was one of the doctrines of their religion to abhor idolatry. This they were everywhere taught in the Old Testament; and this they doubtless inculcated in their teaching. It was impossible that they could recommend idolatry.

Dost thou commit sacrilege? Sacrilege is the crime of violating or profaning sacred things; or of appropriating to common purposes what has been devoted to the service of religion. In this question, the apostle shows remarkable tact and skill, he could not accuse them of idolatry, for the Jews, after the Babylonish captivity, had never fallen into it. But then, though they had not the form, they might have the spirit of idolatry. That spirit consisted in withholding from the true God that which was his due, and bestowing the affections upon something else. This the Jews did by perverting from their proper use the offerings which were designed for his honour; by withholding that which he demanded of tithes and offerings; and by devoting to other uses that which was devoted to him, and which properly belonged to his service. That this was a common crime among them is apparent from Mal 1:8,12-14; 3:8,9.

It is also evident, from the New Testament, that the temple was, in many ways, desecrated and profaned in the time of our Saviour. See Barnes "Mt 21:12, See Barnes "Mt 21:13".

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 23

Verse 23. Makest thy boast, etc. To boast in the law implied their conviction of its excellence and obligation, as a man does not boast of that which he esteems to be of no value.

Dishonourest thou God. By boasting of the law, they proclaimed their conviction that it was from God. By breaking it, they denied it. And as actions are a true test of men's real opinions, their breaking the law did it more dishonour than their boasting of it did it honour. This is always the case. It matters little what a man's speculative opinions may be; his practice may do far more to disgrace religion, than his profession does to honour it. It is the life and conduct, and not merely the profession of the lips, that does real honour to the true religion. Alas, with what pertinency and force may this question be put to many who call themselves Christians!

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 24

Verse 24. The name of God. The name and character of the true God. Is blasphemed. See Barnes "Mt 9:3".

That is, your conduct is such as to lead the heathen world to blaspheme and reproach both your religion and its Author. By your hypocrisy and crimes the pagan world is led to despise a religion which is observed to have no effect in purifying and restraining its professors; and of course the reproach will terminate on the Author of your religion�"that is, the true God. A life of purity would tend to honour religion and its Author; a life of impurity does the reverse. There is no doubt that this was actually the effect of the deportment of the Jews. They were scattered everywhere; everywhere they were corrupt and wicked; and everywhere they and their religion were despised.

Among the Gentiles. In the midst of whom many Jews lived.

Through you. By means of you, or as the result of your conduct. It may mean, that you Jews do it, or profane the name of God; but the connexion seems rather to require the former sense.

As it is written. To what place the apostle has reference cannot be certainly determined. There are two passages in the Old Testament which will bear on the case, and perhaps he had them both in his view, Isa 52:5; Eze 36:20,23.

The meaning is not that the passages in the Old Testament, referred to by the phrase "as it is written," had any particular reference to the conduct of the Jews in the time of Paul, but that this had been the character of the people, and the effect of their conduct as a nation, instances of which had been before observed and recorded by the prophets. The same thing has occurred to a most melancholy extent in regard to professed Christian nations. For purposes of commerce, and science, and war, and traffic, men from nations nominally Christian have gone into almost every part of the heathen world. But they have not often been real Christians. They have been intent on gain; and have to a melancholy extent been profane, and unprincipled, and profligate men. Yet the heathen have regarded them as Christians; as fair specimens of the effect of the religion of Christ. They have learned, therefore, to abuse the name of Christian, and the Author of the Christian religion, as encouraging and promoting profligacy of life. Hence one reason, among thousands, of the importance of Christian missions to the heathen. It is well to disabuse the pagan world of their erroneous opinions of the tendency of Christianity. It is well to teach them that we do not regard these men as Christians. As we have sent to them the worst part of our population, it is well to send them holy men, who shall exhibit to them the true nature of Christianity, and raise our character in their eyes as a Christian people. And were there no other result of Christian missions, it would be worth all the expense and toll attending them, to raise the national character in the view of the pagan world.

{e} "as it is written" Eze 36:20,23

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 25

Verse 25. For circumcision. See Barnes "Joh 7:22" See Barnes "Ac 7:8".

This was the peculiar rite by which the relation to the covenant of Abraham was recognised; or by which the right to all the privileges of a member of the Jewish commonwealth was acknowledged. The Jews of course affixed a high importance to the rite.

Verily profiteth. Is truly a benefit; or is an advantage. The meaning is, that their being recognised as members of the Jewish commonwealth, and introduced to the privileges of the Jew, was an advantage. See Ro 3:1,2. The apostle was not disposed to deny that they possessed this advantage, but he tells them why it was a benefit, and how it might fail of conferring any favour.

If thou keep the law. The mere sign can be of no value. The mere fact of being a Jew is not what God requires. It may be a favour to have his law, but the mere possession of the law cannot entitle to the favour of God. So it is a privilege to be born in a Christian land; to have had pious parents; to be amidst the ordinances of religion; to be trained in Sunday-schools; and to be devoted to God in baptism: for all these are favourable circumstances for salvation. But none of them entitle to the favour of God; and unless they are improved as they should be, they may be only the means of increasing our condemnation, 2 Co 2:16.

Thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Thy circumcision, or thy being called a Jew, is of no value. It will not distinguish you from those who are not circumcised. You will be treated as a heathen. No external advantages, no name, or rite, or ceremony will save you. God requires the obedience of the heart and of the life. Where there is a disposition to render that, there is an advantage in possessing the external means of grace. Where that is wanting, no rite or profession can save. This applies with as much force to those who have been baptized in infancy, and to those who have made a profession of religion in a Christian church, as to the Jew.

{f} "but if thou" Ga 5:3

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 26

Verse 26. Therefore if the uncircumcision. If those who are not circumcised, i.e. the heathen.

Keep the righteousness of the law. Keep that which the law of Moses commands. It could not be supposed that a heathen would understand the requirements of the ceremonial law; but reference is had here to the moral law. The apostle does not expressly affirm that this was ever done; but he supposes the case, to show the true nature and value of the rites of the Jews.

Shall not his uncircumcision. Or, shall the fact that he is uncircumcised stand in the way of the acceptance of his services? Or, shall he not as certainly and as readily be accepted by God as if he were a Jew? Or, in other Words, the apostle teaches the doctrine that acceptance with God does not depend on a man's external privileges, but on the state of the heart and life.

Be counted for circumcision. Shall he not be treated as if he were circumcised? Shall his being uncircumcised be any barrier in the way of his acceptance with God? The word rendered "be counted," is that which is commonly rendered to reckon, TO IMPUTE; and its use here shows that the Scripture use of the word is not to transfer, or to charge with that which is not deserved, or not true. It means simply that a man shall be treated as if it were so; that this want of circumcision shall be no bar to acceptance. There is nothing set over to his account; nothing transferred; nothing reckoned different from what it is. God judges things as they are; and as the man, though uncircumcised, who keeps the law, ought to be treated as if he had been circumcised, so he who believes in Christ agreeably to the Divine promise, and trusts to his merits alone for Salvation, ought to be treated as if he were himself righteous. God judges the thing as it is, and treats men as it is proper to treat them, as being pardoned and accepted through his Son.

{g} "Therefore if the uncircumcision" Ac 10:34,35

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 27

Verse 27. Which is by nature. Which is the natural state of man; his condition before he is admitted to any of the peculiar rites of the Jewish religion.

If it fulfil the law. If they who are uncircumcised keep the law.

Judge thee. Condemn thee as guilty. As we say, the conduct of such a man condemns us. He acts so much more consistently and uprightly than we do, that we see our guilt. For a similar mode of expression, see Mt 12:41,42.

Who by the letter, etc. The translation here is certainly not happily expressed. It is difficult to ascertain its meaning. The evident meaning of the original is, "Shall not a heathen man who has none of your external privileges, if he keeps the law, condemn you who are Jews; who, although you have the letter and circumcision, are nevertheless transgressors of the law?"

The letter. The word letter properly means the mark or character from which syllables and words are formed. It is also used in the sense of writing of any kind, (Lu 16:6,7; Ac 28:21; Ga 6:11) particularly the writings of Moses, denoting, by way of eminence, the letter, or the writing, Ro 7:6; 2 Ti 3:16.

{h} "fulfil the law" Mt 12:41,42

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 28

Verse 28. For he is not a Jew, etc. He who is merely descended from Abraham, and is circumcised, and externally conforms to the law only, does not possess the true character, and manifest the true spirit, contemplated by the separation of the Jewish people. Their separation required much more.

Neither is that circumcision. etc. Neither does it meet the full design of the rite of circumcision, that it is externally performed. It contemplated much more. See Ro 2:29.

{i} "he is not a Jew" Mt 3:9; Joh 8:39; Ro 9:6,7; Ga 6:15; Re 2:19

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 29

Verse 29. But he is a Jew. He comes up to the design of the Jewish institution; he manifests truly what it is to be a Jew.

Which is one inwardly. Who is in heart a Jew. Who has the true spirit, and fulfills the design of their being separated as a peculiar people. This passage proves that the design of separating them was not merely to perform certain external rites, or to conform to external observances, but to be a people holy in heart and in life. It cannot be denied that this design was not generally understood in the time of the apostles; but it was abundantly declared in the Old Testament, De 6:5; 10:12,13,20; 30:20; Isa 1:11-20; Mic 6:8; Psa 51:16,17; 50:7-23.

And circumcision is that of the heart. That is, that circumcision which is acceptable to God, and which meets the design of the institution, is that which is attended with holiness of heart; with the cutting off of sins; and with a pure life. The design of circumcision was to be a sign of separation from the heathen world, and of consecration to the holy God. And this design implied the renunciation and forsaking of all sins; or the cutting off of everything that was offensive to God. This was a work peculiarly of the heart. This design was often stated and enforced in the writings of the Old Testament. De 10:16, "Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." Jer 4:4; De 30:6.

In the spirit. This is an expression explaining further what he had just said. It does not mean by the Holy Spirit, but that the work was to take place in the soul, and not in the body only. It was to be an internal, spiritual work, and not merely an external service.

And not in the letter. That is, not only according to the literal, external command.

Whose praise, etc. Whose object is not to secure the praise of men. One of the main characteristics of the Jews in the time of Christ was, a desire to secure honour among men, as being exactly scrupulous in the performance of all the duties of their religion. They prided themselves on their descent from Abraham, and on their regular conformity to the precepts of the law of Moses, Mt 3:9; 6:2,5; Lu 18:10-12; Mt 23:23.

But of God. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart," 1 Sa 16:7. The praise of God can be bestowed only on those who conform really, and not externally only, to his requirements.

The remarks which are made here respecting the Jews, are also strictly applicable to professing Christians, and we may learn�"

1. That the external rites of religion are of much less importance than the state of the heart.

2. That the only value of those rites is to promote holiness of heart and life.

3. That the mere fact that we are born of pious ancestors will not save us.

4. That the fact that we were dedicated to God in baptism will not save us.

5. That a mere profession of religion, however orthodox may be our creed, will not save us.

6. That the estimate which men may put on our piety is not the proper measure of our true character and standing.

7. It is an inexpressible privilege to be in possession of the word of God, and to know our duty. It may, if improved, conduce to our elevation in holiness and happiness here, and to our eternal felicity hereafter.

8. It is also a fearful thing to neglect the privileges which we enjoy. We shall be judged according to the light which we have; and it will be an awful event to go to eternity from a Christian land unprepared.

9. Whatever may be the destiny of the heathen, it is our duty to make preparation to meet God. The most wicked of the heathen may meet a far milder doom than many who are eternally moral, or who profess religion in Christian lands. Instead, therefore, of speculating on what may be their destiny, it is the duty of every individual to be at peace himself with God, and to flee from the wrath to come.


THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 1

Verse 1. What advantage, etc. The design of the first part of this chapter is to answer some of the objections which might be offered by a Jew to the statements in the last chapter. The first objection is stated in this verse. A Jew would naturally ask, if the view which the apostle had given were correct, what peculiar benefit could the Jew derive from his religion? The objection would arise particularly from the position advanced, (Ro 2:25,26) that if a heathen should do the things required by the law, he would be treated as if he had been circumcised. Hence the question, "What profit is there of circumcision?"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 2

Verse 2. Much every way. Or, in every respect. This is the answer of the apostle to the objection in Ro 3:1.

Chiefly. That is, this is the principal advantage, and one including all others. The main benefit of being a Jew is to possess the sacred Scriptures, and their instructions.

Unto them were committed. Or were entrusted, were confided. The word translated "were committed," is that which is commonly employed to express faith or confidence, and it implied confidence in them on the part of God in entrusting his oracles to them; a confidence which was not misplaced, for no people ever guarded a sacred trust or deposit with more fidelity, than the Jews did the sacred Scriptures.

The oracles. The word oracle among the heathen meant, properly, the answer or response of a god, or of some priest supposed to be inspired, to an inquiry of importance, usually expressed in a brief, sententious way, and often with great ambiguity. The place from which such a response was usually obtained was also called an oracle, as the oracle at Delphi, etc. These oracles were frequent among the heathen, and affairs of great importance were usually submitted to them. The word rendered oracles occurs in the New Testament but four times, Ac 7:38; Heb 5:12; 1 Pe 4:11; Ro 3:2. It is evidently here used to denote the Scriptures, as being that which was spoken by God, and particularly perhaps the Divine promises. To possess these was, of course, an eminent privilege, and included all others, as they instructed them in their duty, and were their guide in everything that pertained to them in this life and the life to come. They contained, besides, many precious promises respecting the future dignity of the nation ill reference to the Messiah. No higher favour can be conferred on a people than to be put in possession of the sacred Scriptures. And this fact should excite us to gratitude, and lead us to endeavour to extend them also to other nations. Comp. De 4:7,8; Ps 147:19,20.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 3

Verse 3. For what if some did not believe? This is to be regarded as another objection of a Jew. "What then? or what follows? if it be admitted that some of the nation did not believe, does it not fallow that the faithfulness of God in his promises will fail?" The points of the objection are these:

(1.) The apostle had maintained that the nation was sinful, (chapter 2;) that is, that they had not obeyed or believed God.

(2.) This the objector for the time admits, or supposes, in relation to some of them. But

(3) he asks whether this does not involve a consequence which is not admissible, that God is unfaithful. Did not the fact that God chose them as his people, and entered into covenant with them, imply that the Jews should be kept from perdition? It was evidently their belief that all Jews would be saved�"and this belief they grounded on his covenant with their fathers. The doctrine of the apostle (chapter 2) would seem to imply that, in certain respects, they were on a level with the Gentile nations; that ff they sinned, they would be treated just like the heathen; and hence they asked of what value was the promise of God ? Had it not become vain and nugatory?

Make the faith. The word faith here evidently means the faithfulness or fidelity of God to his promises. Comp. Mt 23:23; 2 Ti 3:10; Ho 2:20.

Without effect. Destroy it; or prevent him from fulfilling his promises. The meaning of the objection is, that the fact supposed, that the Jews would become unfaithful and be lost, would imply that God had failed to keep his promises to the nation; or that he had made promises which the result showed he was not able to perform.

{n} "some did not believe" Ro 10:16; Heb 4:2

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 4

Verse 4. God forbid. Greek, Let not this be. The sense is, Let not this by any means be supposed. This is the answer of the apostle, showing that no such consequence followed from his doctrines; and that if any such consequence should follow, the doctrine should be at once abandoned, and that every man, no matter who, should be rather esteemed false than God. The veracity of God was a great first principle, which was to be held, whatever might be the consequence. This implies that the apostle believed that the fidelity of God could be maintained in strict consistency with the fact that any number of the Jews might be found to be unfaithful, and be cast off. The apostle has not entered into an explanation of this, or shown how it could be; but it is not difficult to understand how it was. The promise made to Abraham, and the fathers, was not unconditional and absolute, that all the Jews should be saved. It was implied that they were to be obedient; and that if they were not, they would be cast off, Ge 18:19. Though the apostle has not stated it here, yet he has considered it at length in another part of this epistle, and showed that it was not only consistent with the original promise that a part of the Jews should be found unfaithful, and be cast off, but that it had actually occurred according to the prophets, Ro 10:16-21; Ro 11:1.

Thus the fidelity of God was preserved; at the same time that it was a matter of fact that no small part of the nation was rejected and lost.

Let God be true. Let God be esteemed true and faithful, whatever consequence may follow. This was a first principle, and should be now, that God should be believed to be a God of truth, whatever consequence it might involve. How happy would it be, if all men would regard this as a fixed principle, a matter not to be questioned in their hearts, or debated about, that God is true to his word! How much doubt and anxiety would it save professing Christians; and how much error would it save among sinners! Amidst all the agitations of the world, all conflicts, debates, and trials, it would be a fixed position, where every man might find rest, and which would do more than all other things to allay the tempests, and smooth the agitated waves of human life.

But every man a liar. Though every man and every other opinion should be found to be false. Of course this included the apostle and his reasoning; and the expression is one of those which show his magnanimity and greatness of soul. It implies that every opinion which he and all others held�"every doctrine which had been defended, should be at once abandoned, if it implied that God was false. It was to be assumed as a first principle in all religion and all reasoning, that if a doctrine implied that God was not faithful, it was of course a false doctrine. This showed his firm conviction that the doctrine which he advanced was strictly in accordance with the veracity of the Divine promise. What a noble principle is this! How strikingly illustrative of the humility of true piety, and of the confidence which true piety places in God above all the deductions of human reason! And if all men were willing to sacrifice their opinions when they appeared to impinge on the veracity of God; if they started back with instinctive shuddering at the very supposition of such a want of fidelity in him, how soon would it put an end to the boastings of error, to the pride of philosophy, to lofty dictation in religion! No man with this feeling could be for a moment a Universalist; and none could be an infidel.

As it is written. Ps 51:4. To confirm the sentiment which he had just advanced, and to show that it accorded with the spirit of religion as expressed in the Jewish writings, the apostle appeals to the language of David, uttered in a state of deep penitence for past transgressions. Of all quotations ever made, this is one of the most beautiful and most happy. David was overwhelmed with grief; he saw his crime to be awful; he feared the displeasure of God, and trembled before him. Yet he held it as a fixed, indisputable principle, that GOD WAS RIGHT. This he never once thought of calling in question. He had sinned against God, God only; and he did not once think of calling in question the fact that God was just altogether in reproving him for his sin, and in pronouncing against him the sentence of condemnation.

That thou mightest be justified. That thou mightest be regarded as just or right; or, that it may appear that God is not unjust. This does not mean that David had sinned against God for the purpose of justifying him, but that he now clearly saw that his sin had been so directly against him, and so aggravated, that God was right in his sentence of condemnation.

In thy sayings. In what thou hast spoken; that is, in thy sentence of condemnation; in thy words in relation to this offence. It may help us to understand this, to remember that the psalm was written immediately after Nathan, at the command of God, had gone to reprove David for his crime. (See the title of the psalm.) God, by the mouth of Nathan, had expressly condemned David for his crime. To this expression of condemnation David doubtless refers by the expression "in thy sayings." See 2 Sa 12:7-13.

And mightest overcome. In the Hebrew, "mightest be pure," or mightest be esteemed pure, or just. The word which the Seventy and the apostle have used, "mightest overcome," is sometimes used with reference to litigations or trials in a court of justice. He that was accused and acquitted, or who was adjudged to be innocent, might be said to overcome, or to gain the cause. The expression is thus used here. As if there were a trial between David and God, God would overcome; that is, would be esteemed pure and righteous in his sentence condemning the crime of David.

When thou art judged. The Hebrew is, when thou judgest; that is, in thy judgment pronounced on this crime. The Greek may also be in the middle voice as well as the passive, and may correspond, therefore, in meaning precisely with the Hebrew. So the Arabic renders it. The Syriac renders it, "when they (that is, men) shall judge thee." The meaning, as expressed by David, is, that God is to be esteemed right and just in condemning men for their sins, and that a true penitent, that is, a man placed in the best circumstances to form a proper estimate of God, will see this, though it should condemn himself. The meaning of the expression in the connexion in which Paul uses it is, that it is to be held as a fixed, unwavering principle, that God is right and true, whatever consequences it may involve, whatever doctrine it may overthrow, or whatever man it may prove to be a liar.

{o} "as it is written" Ps 51:4

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 5

Verse 5. But if our unrighteousness. If our sin The particular sin which had been specified Ro 3:3 was unbelief. But the apostle here gives the objection a general form. This is to be regarded as an objection which a Jew might take. The force of it is this:

(1) It had been conceded that some had not believed; that is, had sinned.

(2) But God was true to his promises. Notwithstanding their sin, God's character was the same. Nay,

(3) in the very midst of sin, and as one of the results of it, the character of God as a just Being shone out illustriously. The question then was,

(4.) if his glory resulted from it; if the effect of all was to show that his character was pure, how could he punish that sin from which his own glory resulted? And this is a question which is often asked by sinners.

Commend. Recommend; show forth; render illustrious.

The righteousness of God. His just and holy character. This was the effect on David's mind, that he saw more clearly the justice of God in his threatenings against sin, in consequence of his own transgression. And if this effect followed, if honour was thus done to God, the question was, how he could consistently punish that which tended to promote his own glory?

What shall we say? What follows? or, what is the inference? This is a mode of speech as if the objector hesitated about expressing an inference which would seem to follow, but which was horrible in its character. Is God unrighteous? The meaning of this would be better expressed thus: "Is not God unrighteous in punishing? Does it not follow, that if God is honoured by sin, that it would be wrong for him to inflict punishment?"

Who taketh vengeance. The meaning of this is simply, who inflicts punishment. The idea of vengeance is not necessarily in the original, orghn. It is commonly rendered wrath, but it often means simply punishment, with out any reference to the state of the mind of him who inflicts it. Mt 3:7; Lu 3:7; 21:23; Joh 3:36.

See Barnes "Ro 1:18; See Barnes "Ro 4:15".

I speak as a man. I speak after the manner of men. I speak as appears to be the case to human view; or as would strike the human mind. It does not mean that the language was such as wicked men were accustomed to use; but that the objector expressed a sentiment which to human view would seem to follow from what had been said. This I regard as the language of an objector. It implies a degree of reverence for the character of God, and a seeming unwillingness to state an objection which seemed to be dishonourable to God, but which nevertheless pressed itself so strong on the mind as to appear irresistible. No way of stating the objection could have been more artful or impressive.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 6

Verse 6. God forbid. See Barnes "Ro 3:4".

For then. If it be admitted that it would be unjust for God to inflict punishment.

How shall God, etc. How will it be right or consistent for him to judge the world. Judge. To judge implies the possibility and the correctness of condemning the guilty; for if it were not right to condemn them, judgment would be a farce. This does not mean that God would condemn all the world; but that the fact of judging men implied the possibility and propriety of condemning those who were guilty. It is remarkable that the apostle does not attempt to explain how it could be that God could take occasion from the sins of men to promote his glory; nor does he even admit the fact; but he meets the objection. To understand the force of his answer, it must be remembered that it was an admitted fact, a fact which no one among the Jews would call in question, that God would judge the world. This fact was fully taught in their own writings, Ge 18:25; Ec 12:14; 11:9.

It was besides an admitted point with them, that God would condemn the heathen world; and perhaps the term "world" here refers particularly to them. But how could this be, if it were not right for God to inflict punishment at nil? The inference of the objector, therefore, could not be true; though the apostle does not tell us how it was consistent to inflict punishment for offences from which God took occasion to promote his glory. It may be remarked, however, that God will judge offences, not from what he may do in overruling them, but from the nature of the crime itself. The question is not, what good God may bring out of it, but what does the crime itself deserve? what is the character of the offender? what was his intention? It is not what God may do to overrule the offence when it is committed. The just punishment of the murderer is to be determined by the law, and by his own desert; and not from any reputation for integrity and uprightness which the judge may manifest on his trial; or from any honour which may accrue to the police for detecting him; or any security which may result to the commonwealth from his execution; or from any honour which the law may gain as a just law by his condemnation. Nor should any of these facts and advantages, which may result from his execution, be pleaded in bar of his condemnation. So it is with the sinner under the Divine administration. It is indeed a truth (Ps 76:10) that the wrath of man shall praise God, and that he will take occasion from men's wickedness to glorify himself as a just Judge and moral Governor; but this will be no ground of acquittal for the sinner.

{p} "how shall God judge" Job 8:3

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 7

Verse 7. For if, etc. This is an objection similar to the former. It is indeed but another form of the same.

The truth of God. His truth or faithfulness in adhering to his threatenings. God threatened to punish the guilty. By their guilt he will take occasion to show his own truth; or their crime will furnish occasion for such an exhibition.

Hath more abounded. Has been more striking, or more manifest. His truth will be shown by the fulfillment of all his promises to his people, and of all his predictions. But it will also be shown by fulfilling his threatenings on the guilty. It will, therefore, more abound by their condemnation; that is, their condemnation will furnish new and striking instances of his truth. Every lost sinner will be, therefore, an eternal monument of the truth of God.

Through my lie. By means of my lie, or as one of the results of my falsehood. The word lie here means falsehood, deceitfulness, unfaithfulness. If by the unfaithfulness of the Jewish people to the covenant, occasion should be given to God to glorify himself, how could they be condemned for it? Unto his glory. To his praise, or so as to show his character in such a way as to excite the praise and admiration of his intelligent creation.

Why yet am I, etc. How can that act be regarded as evil, which tends to promote the glory of God? The fault in the reasoning of the objector is this, that he takes for granted that the direct tendency of his conduct is to promote God's glory, whereas it is just the reverse; and it is by God's reversing that tendency, or overruling it, that he obtains his glory. The tendency of murder is not to honour the law, or to promote the security of society, but just the reverse. Still, his execution shall avert the direct tendency of his crime, and do honour to the law and the judge, and promote the peace and security of the community by restraining others.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 8

Verse 8. And not rather. This is the answer of the apostle. He meets the objection by showing its tendency if carried out, and if it were made a principle of conduct. The meaning is, "If the glory of God is to be promoted by sin, and if a man is not therefore to be condemned, or held guilty for it; if this fact absolves man from crime, why not carry the doctrine out, and make it a principle of conduct, and DO ALL THE EVIL WE CAN, in order to promote his glory?" This was the fair consequence of the objection. And yet this was a result so shocking and monstrous, that all that was necessary in order to answer the objection was merely to state this consequence. Every man's moral feelings would revolt at the doctrine; every man would know that it could not be true; and every man, therefore, could see that the objection was not valid.

As we. This refers, doubtless, to the apostles, and to Christians generally. It is unquestionable, that this accusation was often brought against them.

Slanderously reported. Greek, "As we are blasphemed." This is the legitimate and proper use of the word blaspheme, to speak of one in a reproachful and calumnious manner.

As some affirm, etc. Doubtless Jews. Why they should affirm this, is not known. It was doubtless, however, some perversion of the doctrines that the apostles preached. The doctrines which were thus misrepresented and abused were probably these: the apostles taught that the sins of men were the occasion of promoting God's glory in the plan of salvation. That "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," Ro 5:20. That God, in the salvation of men, would be glorified just in proportion to the depth and pollution of the guilt which was forgiven. This was true; but how easy was it to misrepresent this as teaching that men ought to sin in order to promote God's glory! And instead of stating it as an inference which THEY drew from the doctrine, to state it as what the apostles actually taught. This is the common mode in which charges are brought against others. Men draw an inference themselves, or suppose that the doctrine leads to such an inference, and then charge it on others as what they actually hold and teach. There is one maxim which should never be departed from: that a man is not to be held responsible for the inferences which we may draw from his doctrine; and that he is never to be represented as holding and teaching that which WE suppose follows from his doctrine. He is answerable only for what he avows.

Let us do evil. That is, since sin is to promote the glory of God, let us commit as much as possible.

That good may come. That God may take occasion by it to promote his glory.

Whose damnation is just. Whose condemnation. See Barnes "Ro 14:23".

This does not necessarily refer to future punishment, but it means that the conduct of those who thus slanderously perverted the doctrines of the Christian religion, and accused the apostles of teaching this doctrine, was deserving of condemnation or punishment. Thus he expressly disavows, in strong language, the doctrine charged on Christians. Thus he silences the objection; and thus he teaches as a great fundamental law, that evil is not to be done that good may come. This is a universal rule; and this is in no case to be departed from. Whatever is evil is not to be done under any pretence. Any imaginable good which we may think will result from it; any advantage to ourselves or to our cause; or any glory which we may think may result to God, will not sanction or justify the deed. Strict, uncompromising integrity and honesty is to be the maxim of our lives; and in such a life only can we hope for success, or for the blessing of God.

{q} "Let us do evil" Ro 6:1,15

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 9

Verse 9. What then? This is another remark supposed to be made by a Jewish objector. "What follows? or are we to infer that we are better than others?"

Are we better than they? Are we Jews better than the Gentiles? Or rather, have we any preference, or advantage as to character and prospects, over the Gentiles? These questions refer only to the great point in debate, to wit, about justification before God. The apostle had admitted (Ro 3:2) that the Jews had important advantages in some respects, but he now affirms that those advantages did not make a difference between them and the Gentiles about justification.

No, in no wise. Not at all. That is, the Jews have no preference or advantage over the Gentiles in regard to the subject of justification before God. They have failed to keep the law; they are sinners; and if they are justified, it must be in the same way as the rest of the world.

We have before proved, etc. Ro 1:21-32; 2:1-29.

Under sin. Sinners. Under the power and dominion of sin.

{1} "proved" or, "charged"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 10

Verse 10. As it is written. The apostle is reasoning with Jews; and he proceeds to show, from their own Scriptures, that what he had affirmed was true. The point to be proved was, that the Jews, in the matter of justification, had no advantage or preference over the Gentiles; that the Jew had failed to keep the law which had been given him, as the Gentile had failed to keep the law which had been given him; and that both therefore were equally dependent on the mercy of God, incapable of being justified and saved by their works. To show this the apostle adduces texts, to show what was the character of the Jewish people; or to show that, according to their own Scriptures, they were sinners no less than the Gentiles. The point then is, to prove the depravity of the Jews, not that of universal depravity. The interpretation should be confined to the bearing of the passages on the Jews, and the quotations should not be adduced as directly proving the doctrine of universal depravity. In a certain sense, which will be stated soon, they may be adduced as bearing on that subject. But their direct reference is to the Jewish nation. The passages which follow are taken from various parts of the Old Testament. The design of this is to show, that this characteristic of sin was not confined to any particular period of the Jewish history, but pertained to them as a people; that it had characterized them throughout their existence as a nation. Most of the passages are quoted in the language of the Septuagint. The quotation in Ro 3:10-12, is from Ps 14:1-3, and from Ps 53:1-3. The fifty-third psalm is the same as the fourteenth, with some slight variations.

There is none righteous. The Hebrew (Ps 14:1) is, there is none that doeth good. The Septuagint has the same. The apostle quotes according to the sense of the passage. The design of the apostle is to show that none could be justified by the law. He uses an expression, therefore, which is exactly conformable to his argument, and which accords in meaning with the Hebrew, there is none just�"dikaiov.

No, not one. This is not in the Hebrew, but is in the Septuagint. It is a strong universal expression, denoting the state of almost universal corruption which existed in the time of the psalmist. The expression should not be interpreted to mean that there was not literally one pious man in the nation; but that the characteristic of the nation was, at that time, that it was exceedingly corrupt. Instead of being righteous, as the Jew claimed, because they were Jews, the testimony of their own Scriptures was, that they were universally wicked.

{r} "There is none righteous" Ps 14; Ps 53

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 11

Verse 11. There is none that understandeth. In the Hebrew, (Ps 14:2), God is represented as looking down from heaven to see, that is, to make investigation, whether there were any that understood or sought after him. This circumstance gives not only high poetic beauty to the passage, but deep solemnity and awfulness. God, the Searcher of hearts, is represented as making investigation on this very point, he looks down from heaven for this very purpose, to ascertain whether there were any righteous. In the Hebrew it is not asserted, though it is clearly and strongly implied, that none such were found. That fact the apostle states. If, as the result of such an investigation, none were found; if God did not specify that there were any such; then it follows that there were none. For none could escape the notice of his eye; and if there had been any, the benevolence of his heart would have led him to record it. To understand is used in the sense of being wise; or of having such a state of moral feeling as to dispose them to serve and obey God. The word is often used in the Bible, not to denote a mere intellectual operation of the mind, but the state of the heart inclining the mind to obey and worship God, Ps 107:43; 119:27,100

Pr 2:5; Isa 6:10: "Lest they should understand with their heart," etc.

That seeketh after God. That endeavours to know and do his will, and to be acquainted with his character. A disposition not to seek after God, that is, to neglect and forget him, is one of the most decided proofs of depravity. A righteous man counts it his highest privilege and honour to know God, and to understand his will. A man can indulge in wickedness only by forgetting God. Hence a disposition not to seek God is full proof of depravity.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 12

Verse 12. They have all gone out of the way. They have declined from the true path of piety and virtue.

They are together. They have at the same time; or they have equally become unprofitable. They are as one; they are joined, or united, in this declension. The expression denotes union or similarity.

Become unprofitable. This word in Hebrew means, to become putrid and offensive, like fruit that is spoiled. In Arabic, it is applied to milk that becomes sour. Applied to moral subjects, it means to become corrupt and useless. They are of no value in regard to works of righteousness.

There is none, etc. This is taken literally from the Hebrew.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 13

Verse 13. Their throat, etc. This expression is taken from Ps 5:9, literally from the Septuagint. The design of the psalm is to reprove those who were false, traitorous, slanderous, etc., Ps 5:6. The psalmist has the sin of deceit, and falsehood, and slander particularly in his eye. The expressions here are to be interpreted in accordance with that. The sentiment here may be, as the grave is ever open to receive all into it, that is, into destruction, so the mouth or the throat of the slanderer is ever open to swallow up the peace and happiness of all. Or it may mean, as from an open sepulchre there proceeds an offensive and pestilential vapour, so from the mouths of slanderous persons there proceeds noisome and ruinous words. (Stuart.) I think the connexion demands the former interpretation.

With their tongues, etc. In their conversation, their promises, etc., they have been false, treacherous, and unfaithful.

The poison of asps. This is taken literally from the Septuagint of Ps 140:3. The asp, or adder, is a species of serpent whose poison is of such active operation that it kills almost the instant that it penetrates, and that without remedy. It is small, and commonly lies concealed, often in the sand in a road, and strikes the traveller before he sees it. It is found chiefly in Egypt and Lybia. It is said by ancient writers that the celebrated Cleopatra, rather than be carried a captive to Rome by Augustus, suffered an asp to bite her in the arm, by which she soon died. The precise species of serpent which is here meant by the psalmist, however, cannot be ascertained. All that is necessary to understand the passage is, that it refers to a serpent whose bite was deadly, and rapid in its execution.

Is under their lips. The poison of the serpent is contained in a small bag which is concealed at the root of the tooth. When the tooth is struck into the flesh, the poison is pressed out, through a small hole in the tooth, into the wound. whether the psalmist was acquainted with that fact, or referred to it, cannot be known: his words do not of necessity imply it. The sentiment is, that as the poison of the asp is rapid, certain, spreading quickly through the system, and producing death, so the words of the slanderer are deadly, pestiferous, quickly destroying the reputation and happiness of man. They are as subtle, as insinuating, and as deadly to the reputation, as the poison of the adder is to the body. Wicked men, in the Bible, are often compared to serpents, Mt 23:33; Ge 49:17.

{s} "throat is an open" Ps 5:9

{t} "poison of asps" Ps 140:3

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 14

Verse 14. Whose mouth. Ps 10:7. The apostle has not quoted this literally, but has given the sense. David in the psalm is describing his bitter enemies.

Cursing. Reproachful and opprobrious language, such as Shimei used in relation to David, 2 Sa 16:5,7,8.

Bitterness. In the psalm, deceits. The word bitterness is used to denote severity, harshness, cruelty; reproachful and malicious words.

{u} "whose mouth is full" Ps 10:7

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Their feet, etc. The quotation in this and the two following verses is abridged or condensed from Isa 59:7,8. The expressions occur in the midst of a description of the character of the nation in the time of the prophet. The apostle has selected a few expressions out of many, rather making a reference to the entire passage, than a formal quotation. The expression, "their feet are swift," etc., denotes the eagerness of the nation to commit crime, particularly deeds of injustice and cruelty. They thirsted for the blood of innocence, and hasted to shed it, to gratify their malice, or to satisfy their vengeance.

{v} "feet are swift" Ps 10:7

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 16

Verse 16. Destruction. That is, they cause the destruction or the ruin of the reputation, happiness, and peace of others.

Misery. Calamity, ruin.

In their ways. Wherever they go. This is a striking description not only of the wicked then, but of all times. The tendency of their conduct is to destroy the virtue, happiness, and peace of all with whom they come in contact.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 17

Verse 17. And the way of peace, etc. What tends to promote their own happiness, or that of others, they do not regard. Intent on their plans of evil, they do not know or regard that which is fitted to promote the welfare of themselves or others. This is the case with all who are selfish, and who seek to gain theft own purposes of crime and ambition.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 18

Verse 18. There is no fear of God. Ps 36:1. The word fear here denotes reverence, awe, veneration. There is no such regard or reverence for the character, authority, and honour of God, as to restrain them from crime. Their conduct shows that they are not withheld from the commission of iniquity by any regard to the fear or favour of God. The only thing that will be effectual in restraining men from sin, will be a regard to the honour and law of God.

In regard to these quotations from the Old Testament, we may make the following remarks:

(1.) They fully establish the position of the apostle, that the nation, as such, was far from being righteous, or that they could be justified by their own works. By quotations from no less than six distinct places in their own writings, referring to different periods of their history, he shows what the character of the nation was. And as this was the characteristic of those times, it followed that a Jew could not hope to be saved simply because he was a Jew. He needed, as much as the Gentile, the benefit of some other plan of salvation.

(2.) These passages show us how to use the Old Testament, and the facts of ancient history. They are to be adduced not as showing directly what the character of man is now, but to show what human nature is. They demonstrate what man is when under the most favourable circumstances; in different situations; and at different periods of the world. The concurrence of past facts shows what the race is. And as past facts are uniform; as man thus far, in the most favourable circumstances, has been sinful; it follows that this is the characteristic of man everywhere. It is settled by the facts of the world, just as any other characteristic of man is settled by the uniform occurrence of facts in all circumstances and times. Ancient facts, and quotations of Scripture, therefore, are to be adduced as proofs of the tendency of human nature. So Paul used them; and so it is lawful for us to use them.

(3.) It may be observed, further, that the apostle has given a view of human depravity which is very striking. He does not confine it to one faculty of the mind, or to one set of actions; he specifies each member and each faculty as being perverse, and inclined to evil. The depravity extends to all the departments of action. The tongue, the mouth, the feet, the lips, are all involved in it; all are perverted, and all become the occasion of the commission of sin. The entire man is corrupt; and the painful description extends to every department of action.

(4.) If such was the character of the Jewish nation under all its advantages, what must have been the character of the heathen? We are prepared thus to credit all that is said in Ro 1 and elsewhere, of the sad state of the pagan world.

(5.) What a melancholy view we have thus of human nature. From whatever quarter we contemplate it, we come to the same conclusion. Whatever record we examine, whatever history we read; whatever time or period we contemplate, we find the same facts, and are forced to the same conclusion. All are involved in sin, and are polluted, and ruined, and helpless. Over these ruins we should sit down and weep, and lift our eyes with gratitude to the God or mercy, that he has pitied us in our low estate, and has devised a plan by which. "these ruins may be built again," and lost, fallen man be rinsed up to forfeited "glory, honour, and immortality."

{w} "There is no fear of God" Ps 36:1

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 19

Verse 19. Now we know. We all admit. It is a conceded, plain point.

What things soever. Whether given as precepts, or recorded as historical facts. Whatever things are found in the law.

The law saith. This means here evidently the Old Testament. From that the apostle had been drawing his arguments, and his train of thought requires us here to understand the whole of the Old Testament by this. The same principle applies, however, to all law, that it speaks only to those to whom it is expressly given.

It saith to them, etc. It speaks to them for whom it was expressly intended; to them for whom the law was made. The apostle makes this remark in order to prevent the Jew from evading the force of his conclusion. He had brought proofs from their own acknowledged laws, from writings given expressly for them, and which recorded their own history, and which they admitted to be divinely inspired. These proofs, therefore, they could not evade.

That every mouth may be stopped. This is, perhaps, a proverbial expression, Job 5:16; Ps 107:42. It denotes that they would be thoroughly convinced; that the argument would be so conclusive as that they would have nothing to reply; that all objections would be silenced. Here it denotes that the argument for the depravity of the Jews from the Old Testament was so clear and satisfactory, that nothing could be alleged in reply. This may be regarded as the conclusion of his whole argument, and the expressions may refer not to the Jews only, but to all the world. Its meaning may, perhaps, be thus expressed: "The Gentiles are proved guilty by their own deeds, and by a violation of the laws of nature. They sin against their own conscience; and have thus been shown to be guilty before God, Ro 1. The Jews have also been shown to be guilty; all their objections have been silenced by an independent train of remark; by appeals to their own law; by arguments drawn from the authority which they admit. Thus the mouths of both are stopped. Thus the whole world becomes guilty before God." I regard, therefore, the word "that" here �"ina�"as referring, not particularly to the argument from the law of the Jews, but to the whole previous train of argument, embracing both Jews and Gentiles. His conclusion is thus general or universal, drawn from arguments adapted to the two great divisions of mankind.

And all the world. Both Jews and Gentiles, for so the strain of the argument shows. That is, all by nature; all who are out of Christ; all who are not pardoned. All are guilty where there is not some scheme contemplating forgiveness, and which is not applied to purify them. The apostle in all this argument speaks of what man is, and ever would be, without some plan of justification appointed by God.

May become. May be. They are not made guilty by the law; but the argument from the law, and from fact, proves that they are guilty.

Guilty before God. upodikov tw yew, Marg., subject to the judgment of God. The phrase is taken from courts of justice. It is applied to a man who has not vindicated or defended himself; against whom therefore the charge or the indictment is found true; and who is in consequence subject to punishment. The idea is that of subjection to punishment; but always because the man personally deserves it, and because being unable to vindicate himself, he ought to be punished. It is never used to denote simply an obligation to punishment, but with reference to the fact that the punishment is personally deserved. This word, rendered guilty, is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, nor is it found in the Septuagint. The argument of the apostle here shows,

(1.) that in order to guilt, there must be a law, either that of nature or by revelation, Ro 1:1-3:31 and

(2) that in order to guilt, there must be a violation of that law which may be charged on them as individuals, and for which they are to be held personally responsible.

{x} "every mouth may be stopped" or, "subject to the judgment of God."

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 20

Verse 20. By the deeds of the law. By works; or by such deeds as the law requires. The word law has, in the Scriptures, a great variety of significations. Its strict and proper meaning is, a rule of conduct prescribed by superior authority. The course of reasoning in these chapters shows the sense in which the apostle uses it here. He intends evidently to apply it to those rules or laws by which the Jews and Gentiles pretended to frame their lives; and to affirm that men could be justified by no conformity to those laws. He had shown Ro 1 that the heathen, the entire Gentile world, had violated the laws of nature�"the rules of virtue made known to them by reason, tradition, and conscience, He had shown the same Ro 2:1-3:29 in respect to the Jews. They had equally failed in rendering obedience to their law. In both these cases the reference was not to ceremonial or ritual laws, but to the moral law; whether that law was made known by reason or by revelation. The apostle had not been discussing the question whether they had yielded obedience to their ceremonial law, but whether they had been found holy, i.e. whether they had obeyed the moral law. The conclusion was, that in all this they had failed, and that therefore they could not be justified by that law. That the apostle did not intend to speak of external works only is apparent; for he all along charges them with a want of conformity of the heart no less than with a want of conformity of the life. See Ro 1:26,29-31; Ro 2:28,29. The conclusion is therefore a general one, that by no law, made known either by reason, conscience, tradition, or revelation, could man be justified; that there was no form of obedience which could be rendered, that would justify men in the sight of a holy God.

There shall no flesh. No man; no human being, either among the Jews or the Gentiles. It is a strong expression, denoting the absolute universality of his conclusion. See Barnes "Ro 1:3".

Be justified. Be regarded and treated as righteous. None shall be esteemed as having kept the law, and as being entitled to the rewards of obedience. See Barnes "Ro 1:17.

In his sight. Before him. God sits as a Judge to determine the characters of men, and he shall not adjudge any to have kept the law.

For by the law. That is, by all law. The connexion shows that this is the sense. Law is a rule of action. The effect of applying a rule to our conduct is to show us what sin is. The meaning of the apostle clearly is, that the application of a law to try our conduct, instead of being a ground of justification, will be merely to show us our own sinfulness and departures from duty. A man may esteem himself to be very right and correct, until he compares himself with a rule, or law; so, whether the Gentiles compared their conduct with their laws of reason and conscience, or the Jew his with his written law, the effect would be to show them how far they had departed. The more closely and faithfully it should be applied, the more they would see it. So far from being justified by it, they would be more and more condemned. Comp. Ro 7:7-10. The same is the case now. This is the way in which a sinner is converted; and the more closely and faithfully the law is preached, the more will it condemn him, and show him that he needs some other plan of salvation.

{y} "therefore by the deeds of the law" Ps 143:2

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 21

Verse 21. But now. The apostle, having shown the entire failure of all attempts to be justified by the law, whether among Jews or Gentiles, proceeds to state fully the plan of justification by Jesus Christ in the gospel. To do this was the main design of the epistle, Ro 1:17. He makes, therefore, in the close of this chapter, an explicit statement of the nature of the doctrine; and in the following parts of the epistle he fully-proves it, and illustrates its effects.

The righteousness of God. God's plan of justifying men. See Barnes "Ro 1:17".

Without the law. In a way different from personal obedience to the law. It does not mean that God abandoned his law; or that Jesus Christ did not regard the law, for he came to "magnify" it, Isa 42:21 or that sinners after they are justified have no regard to the law; but it means simply what the apostle had been endeavouring to show, that justification could not be accomplished by personal obedience to any law of Jew or Gentile, and that it must be accomplished in some other way.

Being witnessed. Being borne witness to. It was not a new doctrine; it was found in the Old Testament. The apostle makes this observation with special reference to the Jews. He does not declare any new thing, but that which was fully declared in their own sacred writings.

By the law. This expression here evidently denotes, as it did commonly among the Jews, the five books of Moses. And the apostle means to say that this doctrine was found in those books; not that it was in the ten commandments, or in the law, strictly so called. It is not a part of law to declare justification except by strict and perfect obedience. That it was found in those books the apostle shows by the case of Abraham, Ro 4. See also his reasoning on Le 18:5, and De 30:12-14, in Ro 10:5-11; comp. Ex 34:6,7.

And the prophets. Generally, the remainder of the Old Testament. The phrase "the law and the prophets" comprehended the whole of the Old Testament, Mt 5:17; 11:13; 22:40; Ac 13:15; 28:23.

That this doctrine was contained in the prophets, the apostle showed by the passage quoted from Hab 2:4, in Hab 1:17, "The just shall live by faith." The same thing he showed in \\Ro 10:11\, from \\Isa 28:16; 49:23\; and Ro 4:6-8, from Ps 22. The same thing is fully taught in Isa 53:11; Da 9:24. Indeed, the general tenor of the Old Testament�" the appointment of sacrifices, etc.�"taught that man was a sinner, and that he could not be justified by obedience to the moral law.

{z} "by the Law and the Prophets" Ac 26:22

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Even the righteousness of God. The apostle, having stated that the design of the gospel was to reveal a new plan of becoming just in the sight of God, proceeds here more fully to explain it. The explanation which he offers makes it plain that the phrase so often used by him, "righteousness of God," does not refer to an attribute of God, but to his plan of making men righteous. Here he says that it is by faith in Jesus Christ; but surely an attribute of God is not produced by faith in Jesus Christ. It means God's mode of regarding men as righteous through their belief in Jesus Christ.

By faith of Jesus Christ. That is, by faith inJesus Christ. Thus the expression, Mr 11:22, "Have the faith of God," (margin,) means, have faith in God. So Ac 3:16, the "faith of his name," (Greek,) means, faith in his name. So Ga 2:20, the "faith of the Son of God" means, faith in the Son of God. This cannot mean that faith is the meritorious cause of salvation, but that it is the instrument or means by which we become justified. It is the state of mind, or condition of the heart, to which God has been pleased to promise justification. (On the nature of faith, See Barnes "Mr 16:16". )

God has promised that they who believe in Christ shah be pardoned and saved. This is his plan in distinction from the plan of those who seek to be justified by works.

Unto all and upon all. It is evident that these expressions are designed to be emphatic, but why both are used is not very apparent. Many have supposed that there was no essential difference in the meaning. If there be a difference, it is probably this: the first expression, "unto all"�"eiv pantav�"may denote that this plan of justification has come (Luther) unto all men, to Jews and Gentiles; i.e. that it has been provided for them and offered to them without distinction. The plan was ample for all, was fitted for all, was equally necessary for all, and was offered to all. The second phrase, "upon all"�"epi pantav�"may be designed to guard against the supposition that all therefore would be benefited by it, or be saved by the mere face that the announcement had come to all. The apostle adds, therefore, that the benefits of this plan must actually come upon all, or must be applied to all, if they would be justified. They could not be justified merely by the fact that the plan was provided, and that the knowledge of it had come to all, but by their actually coming under this plan, and availing themselves of it. Perhaps there is reference in the last expression, "upon all," to a robe, or garment, that is placed upon one to hide his nakedness, or sin. Comp. Isa 64:6, also Php 3:9.

For there is no difference. That is, there is no difference in regard to the matter under discussion. The apostle does not mean to say that there is no difference in regard to the talents, dispositions, education, and property of men; but there is no distinction in regard to the way in which they must be justified. All must be saved, if saved at all, in the same mode, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, rich or poor, learned or ignorant. None can be saved by works; and all are therefore dependent on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

{a} "faith of Jesus Christ" Ro 5:1

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 23

Verse 23. For all have sinned. This was the point which he had fully established in the discussion in these chapters.

And come short. Greek, Are deficient in regard to; are wanting, etc. Here it means, that they had failed to obtain, or were destitute of.

The glory of God. The praise or approbation of God. They had sought to be justified, or approved, by God; but all had failed. Their works of the law had not secured his approbation; and they were therefore under condemnation. The word glory�"doxa�"is often used in the sense of praise, or approbation. Joh 5:41,44; Joh 7:18; Joh 8:50,54; 12:43.

{b} "all have sinned" Ec 7:20

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 24

Verse 24. Being justified. Being treated as if righteous; that is, being regarded and treated as if they had kept the law. The apostle has shown that they could not be so regarded and treated by any merit of their own, or by personal obedience to the law. He now affirms that if they were so treated, it must be by mere favour, and as a matter not of right, but of gift. This is the essence of the gospel. And to show this, and the way in which it is done, is the main design of this epistle. The expression here is be understood as referring to all who are justified, Ro 3:22. The righteousness of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, is "upon all who believe," who are all "justified freely by his grace."

Freely�"dwrean. This word stands opposed to that which is purchased, or which is obtained by labour, or which is a matter of claim. It is a free, undeserved gift, not merited by our obedience to the law, and not that to which we have any claim. The apostle uses the word here in reference to those who are justified. To them it is a mere undeserved gift. It does not mean that it has been obtained, however, without any price or merit from any one, for the Lord Jesus has purchased it with his own blood, and to him it becomes a matter of justice that those who were given to him should be justified, 1 Co 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pe 2:1; 1 Pe 2:9, (Greek.) Ac 20:28; Isa 53:11. We have no offering to bring, and no claim. To us, therefore, it is entirely a matter of gift.

By his grace. By his favour; by his mere undeserved mercy. See Barnes "Ro 1:7".

Through the redemption�"dia thv apolutrwsewv. The word used here occurs but ten times in the New Testament, Lu 21:28; Ro 3:24; 8:23; 1 Co 1:30 Eph 1:7,14; 4:30; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15; 11:35.

Its root�"lutron lutron�"properly denotes the price which is paid for a prisoner of war; the ransom, or stipulated purchase-money, which being paid, the captive is set free. The word here used is then employed to denote liberation from bondage, captivity, or evil of any kind, usually keeping up the idea of a price, or a ransom paid, in consequence of which the delivery is effected. It is sometimes used, in a large sense, to denote simple deliverance by any means, without reference to a price paid, as in Lu 21:28; Ro 8:23; Eph 1:14.

That this is not the sense here, however, is apparent. For the apostle in the next verse proceeds to specify the price which has been paid, or the means by which this redemption has been effected. The word here denotes that deliverance from sin, and from the evil consequences of sin, which has been effected by the offering of Jesus Christ as a propitiation, Ro 3:25.

That is in Christ Jesus. Or, that has been effected by Christ Jesus; that of which he is the author and procurer. Comp. Joh 3:16.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 25

Verse 25. Whom God hath set forth. Margin, Fore-ordained �"proeyeto. The word properly means, to place in public view; to exhibit in a conspicuous, situation, as goods are exhibited or exposed for sale, or as premiums or rewards of victory were exhibited to public view in the games of the Greeks. It sometimes has the meaning of decreeing, purposing, or constituting, as in the margin, (comp. Ro 1:13; Eph 1:9) and many have supposed that this is its meaning here. But the connexion seems to require the usual signification of the word; and it means that God has publicly exhibited Jesus Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men. This public exhibition was made by his being offered on the cross, in the face of angels and of men. It was not concealed; it was done openly. He was put to open shame; and so put to death as to attract towards the scene the eyes of angels, and of the inhabitants of all worlds.

To be a propitiation�"ilasthrion. This word occurs but in one other place in the New Testament: Heb 9:5, "And over it (the ark) the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat." It is used here to denote the lid or cover of the ark of the covenant. It was made of gold, and over it were the cherubim. In this sense it is often used by the LXX. Ex 25:17, "And thou shalt make a propitatory�"ilasthrion, of gold," Ex 25:18-20,22; 30:6; 31:7; 35:12; 37:6-9; 40:20; Le 16:2,13.

The Hebrew name for this was capphoreth, from the verb caphar, to cover, or conceal. It was from this place that God was represented as speaking to the children of Israel: Ex 25:22, "And I will speak to thee front above the Ilasterion," the propitiatory, the mercy-seat; Le 16:2, "For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy.seat." This seat, or cover, was covered with the smoke o{ the incense, when the high priest entered the most holy place, Le 16:13. And the blood of the bullock offered on the great day of atonement was to be sprinkled "upon the mercy-seat," and "before the mercy-seat," "seven times," Le 16:14,15. This sprinkling or offering of blood was called making "an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel," etc., Le 16:16. It was from this mercy-seat that God pronounced pardon, or expressed himself as reconciled to his people. The atonement was made, the blood was sprinkled, and the reconciliation thus effected. The name was thus given to that cover of the ark, because it was the place from which God declared himself reconciled to his people. Still the inquiry is, why is this name given to Jesus Christ? In what sense is he declared to be a propitiation? It is evident that it cannot be applied to him in any literal sense. Between the golden cover of the ark of the covenant and the Lord Jesus the analogy must be very slight, if any such analogy can be perceived. We may observe, however,

(1.) that the main idea, in regard to the cover of the ark called the mercy-seat, was that of God's being reconciled to his people; and that this is the main idea in regard to the Lord Jesus, whom "God hath set forth."

(2.) This reconciliation was effected then by the sprinkling of blood on the mercy-seat, Le 16:15,16. The same is true of the Lord Jesus�"by blood.

(3.) In the former case it was [by] the blood of atonement; the offering of the bullock on the great day of atonement, that the reconciliation was effected, Le 16:17,18. In the case of the Lord Jesus it was also by blood�"by the blood of atonement. But it was by his own blood. This the apostle distinctly states in this verse.

(4.) In the former case there was a sacrifice, or expiatory offering; and so it is in reconciliation by the Lord Jesus. In the former, the mercy-seat was the visible, declared place where God would express his reconciliation with his people. So in the latter, the offering of the Lord Jesus is the manifest and open way by which God will be reconciled to men.

(5.) In the former, there was joined the idea of a sacrifice for sin, Le 16:1. So in the latter. And hence the main idea of the apostle here is to convey the idea of a sacrifice for sin; or to set forth the Lord Jesus as such a sacrifice. Hence the word "propitiation" in the original may express the idea of a propitiatory sacrifice, as well as the cover to the ark. The word is an adjective, and may be joined to the noun sacrifice, as well as to denote the mercy-seat of the ark. This meaning accords also with its classic meaning to denote a propitiatory offering, or an offering to produce reconciliation. Christ is thus represented, not as a mercy-seat, which would be unintelligible; but as the medium, the offering, the expiation, by which reconciliation is produced between God and man.

Through faith. Or, by means of faith. The offering will be of no avail without faith. The offering has been made; but it will not be applied, except where there is faith. He has made an offering which may be efficacious in putting away sin; but it produces no reconciliation, no pardon, except where it is accepted by faith.

In his blood. Or, in his death�"his bloody death. Among the Jews, the blood was regarded as the seat of life, or vitality, Le 17:11, "The life of the flesh is in the blood." Hence they were commanded not to eat blood: Ge 9:4, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Le 19:26; De 12:23; 1 Sa 14:34.

This doctrine is contained uniformly in the sacred Scriptures. And it has been also the opinion of not a few celebrated physiologists, as well in modern as in ancient times. The same was the opinion of the ancient Pharisees and Hindoos. Homer thus often speaks of blood as the seat of life, as in the expression porfureov yanatov, or purple death. And Virgil speaks of purple life,

Purpuream vomit ille animam.

AEniad, ix. 349.

Empedocles and Critias, among the Greek philosophers, also embraced this opinion. Among the moderns, Harvey, to whom we are indebted for a knowledge of the circulation of the blood, fully believed it. Hoffman and Huxham believed it. Dr. John Hunter has fully adopted the belief, and sustained it, as he supposed, by a great variety of considerations. See Good's Book of Nature, pp. 102, 108, Edit. New York, 1828. This was undoubtedly the doctrine of the Hebrews; and hence with them to shed the blood was a phrase signifying to kill; hence the efficacy of their sacrifices was supposed to consist in the blood, that is, in the life of the victim. Hence it was unlawful to eat it, as it was the life, the seat of vitality; the more immediate and direct gift of God. When therefore the blood of Christ is spoken of in the New Testament, it means the offering of his life as a sacrifice, or his death as an expiation. His life was given to make atonement. See the word blood thus used in Ro 5:9; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:12,14; Heb 13:12; Re 1:5; 1 Pe 1:19; 1 Jo 1:7.

By faith in his death as a sacrifice for sin; by believing that he took our sins; that he died in our place; by thus, in some sense, making his offering ours; by approving it, loving it, embracing it, trusting it, our sins become pardoned, and our souls made pure.

To declare. eiv endeixin. For the purpose of showing, or exhibiting; to present it to man. The meaning is, that the plan was adopted; the Saviour was given; he suffered and died; and the scheme is proposed to men, for the purpose of making a full manifestation of his plan, in contradistinction from all the plans of men.

His righteousness. His plan of justification. The method or scheme which he has adopted, in distinction from that of man, and which he now exhibits, or proffers to sinners. There is great variety in the explanation of the word here rendered righteousness. Some explain it as meaning veracity; others as holiness; others as goodness; others as essential justice. Most interpreters, perhaps, have explained it as referring to an attribute of God. But the whole connexion requires us to understand it here as in Ro 1:17, not of an attribute of God, but of his plan of justifying sinners. He has adopted and proposed a plan by which men may become just by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by their own works. His acquitting men from sin; his regarding them and treating them as just, is set forth in the gospel by the offering of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice on the cross.

For the remission of sins. Margin, Passing over. The word here used (paresin) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, nor in the Septuagint. It means passing by, as not noticing; and hence forgiving. A similar idea occurs in 2 Sa 24:10; Mic 7:18: "Who is a God like unto thee, that passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?" In Romans it means for the pardoning, or in order to pardon past transgression.

That are past. That have been committed; or that have existed before. This has been commonly understood to refer to past generations, as affirming that sins under all dispensations of the world are to be forgiven in this manner, through the sacrifice of Christ. And it has been supposed that all who have been justified have received pardon by the merits of the sacrifice of Christ. This may be true; but there is no reason to think that this is the idea in this passage, for

(1.) the scope of the passage does not require it. The argument is not to show how men had been justified, but how they might be. It is not to discuss an historical fact, but to state the way in which sin was to be forgiven under the gospel.

(2.) The language has no immediate or necessary reference to past generations. It evidently refers to the past lives of the individuals who are justified, and not to the sins of former times. All that the passage means, therefore, is, that the plan of pardon is such as completely to remove all the former sins of the life, not of all former generations. If it referred to the sins of former times, it would not be easy to avoid the doctrine of universal salvation.

Through the forbearance of God. Through his patience, his long-suffering. That is, he did not come forth in judgment when the sin was committed; he spared us, though deserving of punishment; and now he comes forth completely to pardon those sins concerning which he has so long and so graciously exercised forbearance. This expression obviously refers not to the remission of sins, but to the fact that they were committed while he evinced such long-suffering. Comp. Ac 17:30. I do not know better how to show the practical value and bearing of this important passage of Scripture, than by transcribing a part of the affecting experience of the poet Cowper. It is well known that before his conversion he was oppressed by a long and dreadful melancholy; that this was finally heightened to despair; and that he was then subjected to the kind treatment of Dr. Cotton in St. Alban's, as a melancholy case of derangement. His leading thought was, that he was doomed to inevitable destruction, and that there was no hope. From this he was roused only by the kindness of his brother, and by the promises of the gospel. (See Taylor's Life of Cowper.) The account of his conversion I shall now give in his own words. "The happy period,, which was to shake off my fetters, and afford me a clear discovery of the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus was now arrived. I flung myself into a chair near the window, and, seeing a Bible there, ventured once more to apply to it for comfort and instruction. The first verse I saw was the 25th of the third chapter of Romans, Whom God hath set forth, etc. Immediately I received strength to believe, and the full beam of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement he had made for my pardon and justification. In a moment I believed, and received the peace of the gospel. Unless the almighty Arm had been under me, I think I should have been overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport. I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder. How glad should I now have been to have spent every moment in prayer and thanksgiving. I lost no opportunity of repairing to a throne of grace; but flew to it with an earnestness irresistible, and never to be satisfied."

{1} "set forth" or, "fore-ordained"

{2} "remission of sins" or, "passing over"

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 26

Verse 26. At this time. The time now since the Saviour has come, now is the time when he manifests it.

That he might be just. This verse contains the substance of the gospel. The word "just" here does not mean benevolent, or merciful, though it may sometimes have that meaning, (See Barnes "Mt 1:19, also See Barnes "Joh 17:25") but it refers to the fact that God had retained the integrity of his character as a moral Governor; that he had shown a due regard to his law, and to the penalty of the law, by his plan of salvation. Should he forgive sinners without an atonement, justice would be sacrificed and abandoned. The law would cease to have any terrors for the guilty, and its penalty would be a nullity. In the plan of salvation, therefore, he has shown a regard to the law by appointing his Son to be a substitute in the place of sinners; not to endure its precise penalty, for his sufferings were not eternal, nor were they attended with remorse of conscience, or by despair, which are the proper penalty of the law; but he endured so much as to accomplish the same ends as if those who shall be saved by him had been doomed to eternal death. That is, he showed that the law could not be violated without introducing suffering; and that it could not be broken with impunity, he showed that he had so great a regard for it, that he would not pardon one sinner without an atonement. And thus he secured the proper honour to his character as a lover of his law, a hater of sin, and a just God. He has shown that if sinners do not avail themselves of the offer of pardon by Jesus Christ, they must experience in their own souls for ever the pains which this substitute for sinners endured in behalf of men on the cross. Thus, no principle of justice has been abandoned; no threatening has been modified; no claim of his law has been let down; no disposition has been evinced to do injustice to the universe by suffering the guilty to escape. He is in all this great transaction, a just moral governor, as just to his law, to himself, to his Son, to the universe, when he pardons, as he is when he sends the incorrigible sinner down to hell. A full compensation, an equivalent, has been provided by the sufferings of the Saviour in the sinner's stead, and the sinner may be pardoned.

And the justifier of him, etc. Greek, Even justifying him that believeth, etc. This is the peculiarity and the wonder of the gospel, Even while pardoning, and treating the ill-deserving as if they were innocent, he can retain his pure and holy character. His treating the guilty with favour does not show that he loves guilt and pollution, for he has expressed his abhorrence of it in the atonement. His admitting them to friendship and heaven does not show that he approves their past conduct and character, for he showed how much he hated even their sins by giving his Son to a shameful death for them. When an executive pardons offenders, there is an abandonment of the principles of justice and law. The sentence is set aside; the threatenings of the law are departed from; and it is done without compensation. It is declared that, in certain cases, the law may be violated, and its penalty not be inflicted. But not so with God. He shows no less regard to his law in pardoning than in punishing. This is the grand, glorious, peculiar feature of the gospel plan of salvation.

Him which believeth in Jesus. Gr., Him who is of the faith of Jesus; in contradistinction from him who is of the works of the law; that is, who depends on his own works for salvation.

{c} "that he might be just" Ac 13:38,39

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 27

Verse 27. Where is boasting then? Where is there ground or occasion of boasting or pride? Since all have sinned, and since all have failed of being able to justify themselves by obeying the law, and since all are alike dependent on the mere mercy of God in Christ, all ground of boasting is of course taken away. This refers particularly to the Jews, who were much addicted to boasting of their peculiar privileges. See Barnes "Ro 3:1, etc.

By what law? The word law here is used in the sense of arrangement, rule, or economy. By what arrangement, or by the operation of what rule, is boasting excluded? Stuart. See Ga 3:21; Ac 21:20.

Of works? The law which commands works, and on which the Jews relied. If this were complied with, and they were thereby justified, they would have had ground of self-confidence, or boasting, as being justified by their own merits. But a plan which led to this, which ended in boasting, and self-satisfaction, and pride, could not be true.

Nay. No.

The law of faith. The rule, or arrangement which proclaims that we have no merit; that we are lost sinners; and that we are to be justified only by faith.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 28

Verse 28. Therefore. As the result of the previous train of argument. That a man. That all who are justified; that is, that there is no other way. Is justified by faith. Is regarded and treated as righteous, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without the deeds of the law. Without works as a meritorious ground of justification. The apostle, of course, does not mean that Christianity does not produce good works, or that they who are justified will not obey the law, and be holy; but that no righteousness of their own will be the ground of their justification. They are sinners; and as such can have no claim to be treated as righteous. God has devised a plan by which they may be pardoned and saved; and that is by faith alone. This is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. This was the peculiar point in the reformation from popery. Luther often called this doctrine of justification by faith the article on which the church stood or fell�"articulus stantis, vel earlentis ecclesiae�"and it is so. If this doctrine is held entire, all others will be held with it. If this is abandoned, all others will fall also. It may be remarked here, however, that this doctrine by no means interferes with the doctrine that good works are to be performed by Christians. Paul urges this as much as any other writer in the New Testament. His doctrine is, that they are not to be relied on as a ground of justification; but that he did not mean to teach that they are not to be performed by Christians is apparent from the connexion, and from the following places in his epistles: Ro 2:7; 2 Co 9:8; Eph 2:10; 1 Ti 2:10; 5:10,25; 6:18; 2 Ti 3:17; Tit 2:7,14; Tit 3:8; Heb 10:24. That we are justified by our works is a doctrine which he has urged and repeated with great power and frequency. See Ro 4:2,6; 9:11,32; 11:6; Ga 2:16; 3:2,5,10; Eph 2:9; 2 Ti 1:9.

{d} "that a man" Ro 3:20-22; 8:3; Ga 2:16

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 29

Verses 29, 30. Is he the God, etc. The Jews supposed that he was the God of their nation only, that they only were to be admitted to his favour. In these verses Paul showed that as all had alike sinned, Jews and Gentiles, and as the plan of salvation by faith was adapted to sinners, without any special reference to Jews, so God could show favours to all, and all might be admitted on the same terms to the benefits of the plan of salvation.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 30

Verse 30. It is one God. The same God; there is but one, and his plan is equally fitted to Jews and Gentiles.

The circumcision. Those who are circumcised�"the Jews.

The uncircumcision. Gentiles; all who were not Jews.

By faith�"through faith. There is no difference in the meaning of these expressions. Both denote that faith is the instrumental cause of justification, or acceptance with God.

{e} "which shall justify" Ga 3:8,28

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 31

Verse 31. Do we then make void the law. Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith ? This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness. The word law here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament. This is evident from Ro 3:20,21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law. See Note.

God forbid. By no means. See Barnes "Ro 3:4".

This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.

Yea, we establish the law. That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating men as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured. This is done in the following manner:

(1.) God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement. He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfil its threatenings.

(2.) Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honourable. He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.

(3.) The plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the law. The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the law. He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his law. All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the law, prompt him to yield obedience to it. The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience. We do not easily and readily repeat that which overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate that which inflicted such woes on the Saviour's soul. The sentiment recorded by Watts is as true as it is beautiful

'Twas for my sins my dearest Lord
Hung on the cursed tree,
And groan'd away his dying life
For thee, my soul, for thee.

Oh, how I hate those lusts of mine
That crucified my Lord;
Those sins that pierc'd and nail'd his flesh
Fast to'the fatal wood.

Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart hath so decreed,
Nor will I spare the guilty things
That made my Saviour bleed.

This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law ever has over the human mind. And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the law of God.

{f} "through faith" Heb 10:15,16

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