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Ch. 3:1 2 . The advantage of the Jew: Revelation
1 . What advantage ] Lit. what excess , i. e. of privilege.
St Paul here corrects, though only in passing, the possible inference from the previous passage that circumcision was valueless in all respects, and that the Jew as such had nothing special to thank God for. It is remarkable that his chief reply to such a thought lies in the fact that the Old Covenant secured the immense practical benefit of Revelation . (Cp. Psalms 103:7 .) This correction is aside from the main argument of this part of the Epistle, in which St Paul aims to prove the equality of Jew and Gentile not in respect of privilege but in respect of reality of guilt, and of need of a Divine justification . Yet even here the main argument is not forgotten: the gift of Scripture brings the responsibility of the Jew into the fullest light. His “advantage” is his accusation.
2 . every way ] For a comment see 9:4, 5; part of an argument of which this verse may be regarded as the germ or first suggestion.
chiefly ] Lit. first. Perhaps this is the first step in an enumeration which is not carried on. Cp. 1:8. But the rendering “ chiefly ” is quite possible and natural.
unto them were committed ] Lit. they were trusted with; for their own benefit in the first place, and then as the “keepers of Holy Writ” for the world for enquirers and proselytes under the Old Covenant, and for the universal Church under the New.
the oracles ] the utterances . Same word as Acts 8:38 ; Hebrews 5:12 ; 1 Peter 4:11 . The Gr. word is occasionally used in the LXX. for ordinary human utterances; e.g. Psalms 19:0 (LXX. 18):14: “the words of my mouth.” The context of the passages of N. T. just quoted leaves no doubt that it refers here to the utterances of God through the prophets of the Old Covenant; in short, to the O. T. Scriptures. The Apostle’s testimony to the unique dignity of the Scripture Revelation could not be stronger. And so when he elsewhere contrasts “letter” and “spirit,” his meaning, whatever it is, is not to diminish the Divine authority of the written “oracles.”
3 8 . The Divine Judge will not connive at sin
3 8 . For what if some , &c.] Verses 3 8 form a passage of much difficulty in detail, though clear as a whole. The difficulty results partly from a doubt as to where the Opponent speaks, and partly from the Apostle’s own thought modifying the words put into the Opponent’s mouth. It will be best to waive a minute discussion of interpretations, and at once to give our own in the shape of a paraphrase.
Ver. 3. ( The Jewish Opponent ). “You say the Jew has advantage. He has indeed: God’s veracity (truth, faithfulness) is pledged to give him eternal life. For can we think that the unfaithfulness of some Jews to God annuls His faithfulness to the race? Will He fail in His purpose?”
Ver. 4. ( The Apostle .) “God forbid! Rather should we admit any charge of untruth against man, than the least against God. So David saw, and wrote, in his confession of his own sin; his main thought was (Psalms 51:4 ) that he would even own the very worst against himself, that God might be seen to punish him justly.”
Ver. 5. ( The Opponent .) “But hear me further. The sinful unbelief of some Jews, as you own, cannot change His purpose. May I not say more? does it not, by bringing His faithfulness into contrast, glorify Him? and if so, will He punish it? What say you of His justice or injustice in visiting even wicked Jews with wrath?”
Vv. 6, 7, 8. ( The Apostle .) “I say, God forbid the thought that He will not punish them. For, on such a principle, how shall God be the universal Judge at all? I too, be I Jew or Gentile, might say as well as you, ‘I choose to tell a lie; somehow or other this will illustrate God’s truth, e.g. by contrast; therefore I ought to be acquitted; I ought to be allowed to act on the principle of evil for the sake of good;’ a principle with which we Christians are charged, but which we utterly condemn.”
We now remark on details.
3 . For what ] Here a formula of argument, introducing an objection.
if some ] A euphemism, most natural in the words of a supposed Jewish Opponent . As a fact, it was the “some” who believed, the many who did not; as of old at Kadesh-barnea. (Numbers 13:0 and 14.)
the faith of God ] i.e. His good faith , faithfulness to His promise. The same Gr. word appears with the meaning “faithfulness” in e.g. Galatians 5:22 (where E. V. has “faith”), Titus 2:10 , and perhaps 1 Timothy 4:12 . See Appendix C.
4 . God forbid ] Lit. may it not be; be it not; and so always where the words “God forbid” occur in the Eng. N. T. The Apostle more than accepts the opponent’s position, but not in his sense. God’s promise should indeed stand; the mere thought of a failure there is shocking. But that promise had never said that impenitent individuals of the chosen race should be safe from doom.
let God be true , &c.] Q. d., “If there is failure, it is safer and truer to believe the truest man false, than ‘God who cannot lie.’ ” It is a profound characteristic of all Scripture to be always on the side of God . In this lies one pregnant evidence, to those who will think it out, of the “Supernatural Origin of the Bible.”
that thou mightest , &c.] The Gr. words are verbatim the LXX. of Psalms 51:0 (LXX. 50):4. The lit. Hebrew is exactly as E. V. there, “clear when thou judgest; ” and probably the Gr. of LXX. and of St Paul here is really the same, or nearly so, in effect: “clear when thou impleadest; when thou procurest judgment .” Same word as “go to law,” 1 Corinthians 6:1 . On the special force of this thought in Psalms 51:0 see paraphrase above.
5 . unrighteousness … righteousness ] General terms, but implying the special forms of unbelief and fidelity . Man’s mistrust is awfully unjust to God; God’s fidelity to His promise is just to Himself and His holiness. See below on ver. 21 for the exceptional meaning here of “ the Righteousness of God 1 1 It is possible , however, that the meaning assigned to the phrase in note on 1:17, may be the meaning even here: q.d., “What if our sin should illustrate (by contrast or otherwise) God’s Way of Acceptance?” .”
Is God unrighteous , &c.?] This question (the Opponent’s) is a serious grammatical difficulty in the Gr. The interrogative particle is that which regularly expects the answer “ No .” But the turn of this argument suggests a question ( from the Opponent ) expecting “ Yes .” (The above use of the particle in question is not quite invariable in Gr., but it holds in all other cases in St Paul .) To us it seems that the solution is as follows: The Apostle gives the Opponent’s question, but jealousy for God’s honour compels him to modify it by his own intense sense of the Divine righteousness. The Opponent demands the answer “ Yes; ” St Paul is forced to make him, grammatically, demand the answer “ No .” Instead of his would-be “ Is not God unrighteous, &c.?” it thus stands, “ Is God unrighteous, &c.?” in which at most the question is left, verbally, open.
taketh vengeance ] Lit. inflicteth the wrath ; i.e. the wrath merited by the special sin; the wrath which had fallen on Israel.
I speak as a man ] i.e. “on merely human principles, from mere man’s point of view.” This serious questioning about right and wrong in the Eternal and His acts is, in St Paul’s view, “speaking as man.” In the light of the Holy Spirit’s teaching it is impossible, unless (as here) by way of a mere argumentative formula.
6 . how shall God judge the world? ] The emphasis is on “judge,” not on “world.” It is needless to suppose the word “world” here to stand in opposition to the Jewish people . The point of the question is, that if God could not righteously punish sin when sin illustrated His glory, not only would He not punish those particular sins, but He would (as to principle) entirely abdicate His office as “Judge of all the earth.” All sin, in one respect or another, illustrates His glory, if only as a black contrast: therefore, in no case would punishment be just! On the truth that the Lord is the “Judge of all” the Apostle falls back as on a “first ground.”
7 . For if , &c.] Here St Paul takes up the Opponent on his own ground; speaking as a human being whose sin (e.g. a falsehood) serves to make God’s truth “abound to His glory;” i.e. be more largely manifest in a way to win Him fresh praise: in such a case is not Paul, is not A, B, or C, equally entitled with the Jewish opponent to be excused penalty? In the Gr. of the clause “why am I yet, &c.,” the word “I” is strongly emphatic; I also; i.e. “I, as well as my opponent.” “Why am I yet , &c.:” i.e. “after the recognition of the effect of my sin on the advancement of God’s glory.” “ By my lie; ” lit. in my lie; i.e. “on occasion of it, in connexion with it.”
8 . And not rather , &c.] The grammatical difficulty of this verse is great. The words, up to the brief last clause, are a question. This question is introduced (like that in ver. 5) by the particle which expects a negative reply . But again the drift of the reasoning seems to demand, though not so clearly as in ver. 5, an affirmative , thus: “ Is it not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say) a case for the maxim ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?” Here, in our view, the wording presents a compound between the simple statement of the argumentative question, and St Paul’s abhorrence of the moral wrong involved in an affirmative answer. He cannot bear to state the case without conveying, while he does so , his deep protest, both in the words “as we be slanderously reported” (lit. “as we are blasphemed ”), and in the choice of the interrogative particle which demands a negative .
The “slanderous report” in question is illustrated by 3:31, and 6:1, 15. It was a distortion of the doctrine of free grace. St Paul was charged, by his inveterate adversaries in the Church, with teaching that complete and immediate pardon for Christ’s sake makes sin safe to the pardoned, and that, consequently, the more “evil” is “done” by such, the more “good” will “come,” in the way of glory to God’s mercy.
whose damnation is just ] i.e. the condemnation, moral and judicial, of all who can hold such a principle. This is a more natural reference of the words than that to the slanderers, or to the Apostle and his followers as holding (by the false hypothesis) immoral principles. It is the brief elliptic statement of his abhorrence in toto of all and any who could maintain the lawfulness of wrong. What a comment upon Jesuitical maxims, and “pious frauds” in general! See Introduction , i. § 33, note note Rüstzeug: the word used by Luther in Acts 9:15, where our Version uses vessel . .
damnation ] In the Gr. strictly judgment . So 1 Corinthians 11:29 margin. The Gr. word is inclusive. In Romans 11:33 , in plural, it signifies the Divine counsels or decisions; in 1 Corinthians 6:7 , acts of going to law; in 1 Corinthians 11:29 , 1 Corinthians 11:34 , inflicted penalty; in Revelation 20:4 , judicial power. In almost every other N. T. passage it means “condemnation,” whether that of opinion (Matthew 7:2 ) or of a judicial (usually capital) sentence, either human (Luke 24:20 ) or Divine (Romans 2:2 , Romans 2:3 ; Hebrews 6:2 ). Here undoubtedly it is the latter.
9 20 . Man universally and fatally guilty: no hope in human merit. This with special reference to Jewish prejudice
9 . What then? are we better? ] i.e., probably, “we Jews.” The effect of the last passage has been specially to convince the Jew of his sin and danger; and here the Apostle speaks, as he was so ready to do, as a Jew with Jews. The delicacy of his so doing here is remarkable, where it is a question of humiliation.
proved ] Or charged , as in margin. “ We have before proved:” a use of plural for singular frequent with St Paul.
under sin ] The grammar of the Gr. suggests motion under; q. d., “ fallen under sin,” i.e. from an ideal (not actual) state of original righteousness, such as is implied when we speak of individuals as “fallen human creatures.” “ In Adam all” fell , as from a standing. “ Under sin: ” i.e. so as to be subject to its weight, its power and doom. This is the first occurrence of the word Sin in the Epistle. It is repeated nearly fifty times in the first eight chapters.
10 . There is none , &c.] In vv. 10 18 we have a chain of Scripture quotations. The originals are found, verbally or in substance, in Psalms 5:9 , Psalms 5:10 :7, 14:Psalms 5:1-3 , 36:1, 140:3; Proverbs 1:16 ; Isaiah 59:7 . In the Alexandrine MS. of the LXX. of Psalms 14:0 (LXX. 13):3, appears a singular phenomenon: the Gr. is much ampler than the original Hebrew (for Which see E. V.), and is verbatim the same as the Gr. of vv. 12 18 of this chapter. There can be little doubt that this was the work of a copyist acquainted with this passage of St Paul. Ver. 10 would better read: as it is written that there is none righteous, no, not one . The precise quotations would then begin at ver. 11. The words of ver. 10 are not found in the O. T., and read rather as a summary of what is to follow.
The awful charges of vv. 10 18 are specially pointed at the Jews: see ver. 19. The passages quoted are descriptive of Israelites, some of them of Israelites of the best days of Israel. What at least they establish is that the root of sin was vigorous in Jewish hearts, and that its fruits in Jewish lives were abominable in the sight of God. Meantime we must not narrow the reference too closely. The Apostle’s doctrine of human sinfulness (see e.g. Titus 3:3 ) is that the worst developments of individual sin only indicate the possibilities of the sinful heart in general . Passages like those cited here thus prove, not only what certain men were, but what man is. See Jeremiah 17:9 .
13 . an open sepulchre ] Perhaps as “ uttering abomination .” “Emitting the noisome exhalations of a putrid heart (Bp Home on Psalms 5:9 ).
19 . the law ] Here not the Pentateuch, but the O. T. as a whole. So John 10:34 , John 15:25 . The O. T. does indeed predict and reveal much of redeeming mercy; but its main characteristic work (apart from prophecy) is to reveal the preceptive will of God and the sin of man.
under the law ] Lit. in the law ; within its precincts, its dominion. These persons are here the Jews, the primary objects of the O. T. message. The Gentiles are otherwise convicted; and the Jews being now also thus convicted (from the very title-deeds of their privileges) both of sin and of exposure to its doom, “the whole world is found guilty.” We must remember that the Apostle has had in view the Pharisaic prejudice that the only really endangered sinners were the “sinners of the Gentiles.” See Appendix A.
guilty ] The original word occurs here only in N. T. A common classical meaning is “liable to legal process, actionable.” Every human soul owes to God the awful forfeit for sin. Strong, indeed, is the language of this verse, but no conscience that ever really awoke to the holiness of God thought it at last too strong.
20 . Therefore ] This verse sums up the great argument begun at 1:18, and more especially that begun at 2:1. The Apostle has laid deep the foundation of the fact of universal and intense sinfulness and guilt. Now he will, in the true order, speak of the Divine Remedy.
deeds of the law ] i.e. “prescribed by the Law,” specially by the O. T. as the preceptive revelation; but practically also by its counterpart in every human being Conscience (see 1:14). That the ceremonial law alone is not meant is particularly plain from the recent quotation of purely moral passages as “the Law” (ver. 18). The subsequent argument of the Epistle entirely accords with this, and practically explains that “works of the law” are acts of human obedience viewed as satisfactory, or meritorious, in regard of salvation.
no flesh ] “No human being.” So 1 Corinthians 1:29 ; Galatians 2:16 . See too John 17:2 .
justified ] See note on 2:13.
by the law is the knowledge of sin ] The Gr. for “knowledge” is a special word, meaning full or particular knowledge . The idea of sin does indeed always exist in conscience. But the express revelation of the holy will of God calls out and intensifies that idea, and also makes plain the results and doom of sin, without stating any terms of pardon, which it is not the business of the Precept to offer. See the Apostle’s own comment, 7:7, 8. It is the revealed Precept which, above all things, makes sin known as evil done against the Holy One .
21 31 . The Divine method of holy pardon, alike for all
21 . But now ] i.e. “But as things are, as the fact is.”
Here the great argument of Pardon and Salvation begins, to close with the triumphant words of 8:37 39.
the righteousness of God ] See note on 1:17. In 3:5 this phrase had a reference different from that of most other passages in this Epistle 1 1 See however the footnote there. . Its meaning in that verse is modified and determined by the words “our unrighteousness,” which, by contrast, fix it to mean there the Divine veracity and fidelity . Here, and through the rest of this argument, it means the divinely-granted, and righteous, acceptance of believers.
without the law ] “Apart from the code of precepts.” The best comment on this most important phrase is the rest of this chapter and 4:4 8. The very essence of the argument here demands that the words should mean “to the total exclusion of any work of obedience of man’s from the matter of his justification .”
is manifested ] Lit. has been manifested; i.e. historically, “by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 1:10 .
witnessed by the law and the prophets ] Its reality and virtue is by them attested, confirmed, to those who accept the O. T. as the Word of God. “ The Law ” is here, by the context, the Pentateuch, with its prophecies of redemption, and its Levitical ritual, priesthood, and tabernacle, all which was (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) a “prophecy in act” of the “better things to come.” “ The Prophets ,” including the Psalter, are full not only of direct predictions of the Redeemer and His Work, but of language of love and pardon from the Holy One which only that Work can reconcile with the awful sanctions of the moral law.
22 . even ] Perhaps translate but , i.e. with a sort of contrast to the words just before. The “righteousness” was witnessed indeed by the O. T., but it resided in Christ and His work.
faith of Jesus Christ ] Faith in Jesus Christ is certainly the meaning. The same Gr. construction occurs in Mark 11:22 ; Acts 3:16 ; Galatians 2:16 , Galatians 2:20 ; Ephesians 3:12 ; Philippians 3:9 ; with the same sense.
In this verse the Saviour’s Name is first brought into the argument.
unto all and upon all ] The Gr. phrases respectively indicate destination and bestowal . The sacred pardon was prepared for all believers, and is actually laid upon them as a “robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10 .)
no difference ] i.e., in respect of the need of the revealed justification. Between Jew and Gentile, and soul and soul, there were and are countless other differences; but in this respect, none . A mountain-top differs in level from a mine-floor; but it is as impossible to touch the stars from the mountain as from the mine. The least sinful human soul is as hopelessly remote from the Divine standard of holiness as the most sinful, and that standard is inexorable.
23 . all have sinned ] Lit. all sinned: the Gr. aorist. Probably the time-reference of the tense is to the original Fall of Man, regarded as involving the individual experience of sinfulness in the case of each person. See however on 1:19.
come short ] A present tense. The result of the Fall is that they are now “short of the glory of God.” The word translated “come short” is translated “to be in want” (Luke 15:14 ); “to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12 ); “to be destitute” (Hebrews 11:37 ). Here the context suggests that modification of its root-meaning given in E. V.: “to suffer from defect,” “to fail to attain.” “ The glory of God ” must here be His moral glory, His holiness and its requirements. In many passages the Word “glory” is used with evident reference to the Divine moral attributes mercy, faithfulness, love as well as to Divine power. See 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4 (“the gospel of the glory of Christ”); Ephesians 1:12 , Ephesians 1:14 ; 1 Timothy 1:11 (“the gospel of the glory of the blessed God”). Fallen man lies hopelessly below the standard of the spiritual law which is the expression of the essential holiness of God.
24 . being justified ] A present tense; indicating a constant procedure, in the case of successive individuals.
freely ] Lit. gratis, gift-wise . Same word as John 15:25 (“without a cause,” E. V.); 2 Corinthians 11:7 ; Galatians 2:21 (“in vain,” E. V.; i.e., “without equivalent result”); 2 Thessalonians 3:8 (“for nought”); Revelation 21:6 , Revelation 22:17 .
The word here expresses with all the force possible the entire absence of human merit in the matter of justification.
grace ] The loving favour of God, uncaused by anything external to Himself. For explanatory phrases specially to the point here, see 5:15, 17, 6:14, 15; Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:9 .
through the redemption ] The Divine Grace, because Divine and therefore holy, acts only in the channel of the Work of Christ. “ Redemption: ” this word, and the corresponding Gr., specially denote “deliverance as the result of ransom .” There are cases where its reference is less special, e.g. Hebrews 11:35 . But the context here makes its strict meaning exactly appropriate; the sacrifice, the blood, of the Saviour is the ransom of the soul. See for a similar context the following passages, where the same Gr. word, or one closely cognate, occurs: Matthew 20:28 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; Colossians 1:14 ; Titus 2:14 ; Hebrews 9:15 ; 1 Peter 1:18 . See below on 8:23 for another reference of the word.
in Christ Jesus ] It resides in Him, as the immediate procuring cause; for He “became unto us Redemption,” 1 Corinthians 1:30 . To Him man must look for it; in Him he must find it.
25 . hath set forth ] Lit. did set forth ; the aorist (see on ver. 23). The Gr. verb bears also the derived meaning “to purpose, design,” (so Ephesians 1:9 ), which would not be unsuitable here. But the E. V. is made more probable by the context, which dwells on the fact of the manifestation of redemption.
a propitiation ] The Gr. word is only found elsewhere in N. T., Hebrews 9:5 , where it means the golden lid of the Ark, the “Mercy-seat.” (In 1 John 2:2 , 1 John 4:10 , where E. V. has “propitiation,” the Gr. has another but cognate word.) The translation “Mercy-seat” is insisted on here by many commentators, and it is a fact on their side that in the LXX. the Gr. word is always used locally , of the Mercy-seat, or the like. But on the other side are the facts (1) that the word, as to its form , can quite well mean a price of expiation; (2) that it is found, though very rarely, in that sense in secular Greek; and above all (3) that the context here is strongly in favour of the sense “an expiatory offering.” He becomes “a propitiation” to the soul “ through faith in His blood; ” an expression which naturally points to the Victim, not the Mercy-seat, as the type in view.
through faith ] This, as always in the Scripture doctrine of salvation, is the necessary medium of application . In Himself the Saviour is what He is, always and absolutely; to the soul He is what He is, as Saviour, only when approached by faith; i.e. accepted, in humble trust in the Divine word, as the sole way of mercy. The progress of the Epistle will be abundant commentary.
in his blood ] The same construction as in Gr. of Mark 1:15 : “believe in the Gospel.” The idea is of faith as a hand, or anchor, finding a hold in the object. Here first in the Epistle the holy Blood is mentioned; once again at ch. 5:9, in precisely the same connexion. For similar mentions see Matthew 26:28 ; John 6:53-56 ; Acts 20:28 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; Colossians 1:20 ; Hebrews 9:12 , Hebrews 9:14 , Hebrews 9:22 , Hebrews 9:10 :19, Hebrews 9:12 :24, Hebrews 9:13 :12, Hebrews 9:20 ; 1 Peter 1:2 , 1 Peter 1:19 ; 1 John 1:7 ; Revelation 1:5 , Revelation 5:9 , Revelation 7:14 , Revelation 12:11 .
to declare his righteousness ] Lit. to be a demonstration , or display, of his righteousness . The Redeemer’s expiatory death, and the gift of pardon solely “through faith in” it, explained beyond all doubt that the Divine mercy did not mean indifference to the Divine Law . Many questions regarding the atonement may be beyond our knowledge; but this at least is “declared,” as the sinful soul contemplates it. Here, probably, the phrase “Righteousness of God” bears a sense (suggested in the note) exceptional to the rule given in note on 1:17. But the meaning as in 1:17 is not wholly out of place.
for the remission , &c.] Lit. on account of the letting-pass of the fore-gone sins in the forbearance of God . Almost every word here needs special notice. “ Letting-pass: ” a word weaker than full and free pardon, and thus specially appropriate to God’s dealings with sin before the Gospel , when there was just this reserve about the forgiveness, that the Reason of it was not fully revealed. “ Fore-gone , or fore-done, sins: ” i.e., those before the Gospel. These are specially mentioned here, not because sin was more, or less, sinful then than now, but because the matter in hand here is the display of the righteousness of the Divine pardon of any sin . Cp. Hebrews 9:16 . “ In the forbearance , &c.:” perhaps = in the time when God forebore , i.e. did not punish sin, though without a fully-revealed propitiation. But the words may mean, practically, as E. V., through, &c.; i.e. “His forbearance was the cause of that letting-pass; of that ‘obscure’ pardon.” Lastly, “ On account of the letting-pass: ” the point of this phrase will now be clear. The pardon of sinners under the O. T., being (in a certain sense) unexplained, demanded such a display at last of the Righteousness of Pardon as was made in the Cross.
26 . at this time ] The word translated “time” means usually occasion , “special time,” “due time.” Same word as ch. 5:6. Such a sense is natural here. The “declaration” of God’s righteousness in pardon was made not only “at this time,” as distinct from a previous age (that of the O. T.), but “at this due time,” the crisis fixed by the Divine purpose.
that he might be ] i.e., practically, “might be seen to be,” “that He might be in His creatures’ view .”
just ] With the justice of a judge; giving full honour to the Law.
and the justifier ] “And” here plainly = even whilst . The Cross reconciled two seeming incompatibles jealousy for the Law, and judicial acquittal of the guilty.
him which believeth ] Lit. him who is out of, or from, faith. This Gr. idiom may mean “one who belongs to the class of faith ,” i.e. of the faithful, the believing. Nearly the same Gr. occurs Hebrews 10:39 .
in Jesus ] Some critics omit these words, but without sufficient reason.
27 . boasting ] Lit. the boasting; i.e. probably “the boasting of the Jew in his pride of privilege.” This reference is supported by the next three verses, especially if “for” is read in ver. 28 (q.v.).
It is excluded ] Lit. It was excluded , by the “declaration” made in the Redeemer’s death.
the law of faith ] The word “law,” in Greek as in English, is elastic in its reference. In English it is freely used for two almost opposite conceptions, a moral law and a law of nature; of which the first is a precept of duty à priori , the second a statement of observed facts à posteriori . Here the word, connected with faith , evidently means not a moral code but a rule of procedure; the Divine institute that justification is reached only by faith.
28 . Therefore ] Another reading of the Gr. gives For . Evidence of MSS., &c. is strong on both sides: but the internal evidence, in the coherence of the argument, is decidedly for “ For .” Ver. 28 is then a resumé of what has gone before; a brief restatement of the “law of faith:” q. d. “for this is what our facts go to prove, that a man is justified, &c.”
If “ therefore ” is retained, this verse begins, or rather forms, a new minor paragraph, summing up indeed what has preceded, but with no bearing on what follows. If “ for ” is adopted, vv. 27 and 29 are in close connexion: the Jew’s boasting is “excluded,” because the “law of faith” is as much for the Gentile as for the Jew. “ We conclude ” should rather be we reason, we maintain .
29 . Is he the God , &c.] More lit. Does God belong to the Jews alone? i.e. as the Giver of peace and life by covenant.
30 . seeing it is one God ] This ver. may be lit. rendered thus: If indeed God is one, who will (= and He will ) justify the circumcision in consequence of faith, and the uncircumcision by means of its faith . “ If indeed ” is an argumentative formula, assuming its hypothesis to be true. Q. d., “God is one; hence it is but likely that His action on this great principle will be one also.” “ Will justify: ” this future, like many others in this argument, refers to what is and will be the Divine method through the Gospel age. “ The circumcision in consequence of faith, and the uncircumcision by means of , &c.” It is hardly possible that a distinction is to be insisted on here, as the point of the passage is similarity, equality, oneness , in regard of justification. The fulness of thought and language delights, as it were, to dwell on justifying faith in one case as God’s reason why pardon is applied to the believer, in the other as the believer’s way of accepting the pardon. The whole passage proves that Jewish and Gentile faith is one and the same in kind and effect.
31 . Do we then ] This verse stands very much by itself, a sort of brief paragraph. A serious objection (on the part of the Jew) is anticipated and strongly negatived; but the discussion of it is postponed. It springs out of what has gone before, but is not connected closely with the next passage.
make void ] annul, cancel. Same word as 3:3.
the law ] It has been much doubted what exact reference the word bears here. But the previous context seems to fix it to the moral law, and primarily as embodied in the O. T. (See on ver. 20.) For we have been just occupied with the contrast between “faith” and “works of the law;” and what St Paul intended by the latter (viz. moral, not ceremonial, obedience) is fully shewn by e.g. 4:4 8. Here in fact is suggested and dismissed the objection which is discussed at length in ch. 6; that Justification by Faith not only annuls Jewish privileges, but seems to repeal the moral law. Alford takes this verse in close connexion with ch. 4; but ch. 4 is not at all occupied with the “ establishment of the law,” in any usual sense of the word “law.”
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