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Bible Commentaries
Romans 3

Edwards' Family Bible New TestamentFamily Bible NT

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Verse 1

In the first part of this chapter the apostle meets various objections which might naturally arise in the mind of an unbelieving Jew to the doctrine which he has established in the preceding chapter, that the outward relation of the Jews to Abraham and their outward privileges cannot save them, but that God will deal with them, as with the Gentiles, according to their works. Verses Romans 3:1-8 . He then returns to his great theme, that since Jews and Gentiles are alike under sin, they need alike righteousness of God which is of faith, not of works.

What advantage ; has the Jew above the Gentile, if both are sinners under condemnation, and neither can be justified or accepted of God on account of his works?

Verse 2

Oracles of God ; the Scriptures, revealing salvation through a Saviour to come. As the Scriptures are the voice of God, making known his will and the way in which men can be accepted of him, those who possess them have blessings much greater than those who do not. Hence they should be given to all, and all should be taught to read and obey them.

Verse 3

What if some did not believe? had not faith in God, and as a consequence of their unbelief were unfaithful to God; for both these ideas are included in the original word.

Shall their unbelief ; their unbelief and unfaithfulness to God’s covenant with them, but which, as the apostle has taught, they lost its benefits and brought upon themselves the wrath of God, "who will render to every man according to his deeds." Chap Romans 2:6 .

Make the faith of God without effect? annul God’s faithfulness in fulfilling the terms of his covenant with Abraham and his seed? The unbelieving Jews thought that God’s covenant with their fathers bound him to bestow upon them eternal life, irrespective of their own conduct, and that a failure to do this would be a violation of the divine faith. The apostle, having shown that circumcision and the other privileges of the covenant can profit only those who are faithful to its conditions, and that the unfaithful Jew will be condemned along with the Gentiles, rejects with horror the idea that this is an annulling of the divine faithfulness.

Verse 4

Let God be true ; God is true, and all that deny it are false. This should always be admitted.

As it is written ; Psalms 51:4 .

Justified-overcome ; seen to be just and right when complained of, and in all that he does. The apostle, as often elsewhere, follows the rendering of the Seventy.

Verse 5

If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God ; if our sins are made the occasion of showing the truth and justice of God, and are thus overruled for the display of his glory, is it not wrong for him to punish us? I speak as a man ; as a short-sighted erring man might speak.

Verse 6

God forbid ; certainly not: if it were, God would not be just or right in punishing any one; for the sins of all are in some way overruled for the display of divine perfection, and the advancement of divine glory. This, however, does not alter the evil nature and tendency of sin, nor lessen the guilt of him who commits it. The fact that God takes occasion with regard to the sins of men, to display his perfections, does not alter the evil nature of sin, or lessen the guilt or danger of those who commit it.

Verse 7

Through my lie ; if when I am false, God shows his truth in punishing me as he has declared, and thus glorifies himself, why am I to blame? Because you were false; you felt wrong, and did wrong. When a man commits murder and is hung, the government is made a greater terror to evil-doers, and every man’s life is rendered more safe; why is the murderer then to blame? Because he committed murder. He meant it unto evil, and it was evil. Though God, through his ordinance of civil government, punishes him and thus promotes the good of the community, that does not alter the nature of his crime, or the propriety of punishing him; the government had told him before that they would do it. Truth, therefore, as well as justice and the public good, required his execution.

Verse 8

And not rather ; and why should we not rather say, if we carry out the false principle of the objector, Let us do evil , that good may come? as evil is overruled for good, why not commit it to accomplish that good? as some say is right, and affirm is taught in the Scriptures. Because it is wicked, and renders all who do it deserving of damnation. It is not the evil that does the good; but it is the counteracting and overruling of evil, and the treating of the evil-doer as he deserves, that does the good. Those who do evil for the purpose of accomplishing what they call good, or break the law of God professedly to honor him, will be justly condemned and awfully punished.

Verse 9

We ; Jews.

They ; Gentiles.

Better ; in condition as to the way of justification. Can Jews be justified in any other way than Gentiles? In no wise ; certainly not; because both are sinners, and if saved it must be not by their own works, but by believing in Christ. Thus the apostle returns to his great theme, that Jews as well as Gentiles need the righteousness of God which is by faith, as revealed in the gospel.

All under sin ; all in a state of guilt and condemnation as sinners. The quotations that follow are taken from various parts of the Old Testament.

Verse 10

As it is written ; Psalms 14:1-3 ; Psalms 53:1-3 .

Verse 11

None that understandeth ; naturally aright the true character of God, or the blessedness of serving him.

None that seeketh after God ; as the chief good.

Verse 12

Out of the way ; the way of truth, duty, and blessedness.

Unprofitable ; corrupt, worthless. Hosea 10:1 .

There is none that doeth good ; none naturally glorify God or do right.

Verse 13

Their throat is an open sepulchre ; ready to swallow up and consume, as the grave did the body laid in it. Psalms 5:9 .

The poison of asps ; their words are destructive. Psalms 140:3 .

Verse 16

In their ways ; they cause misery and ruin.

Verse 17

The way of peace ; of holiness and blessedness to themselves and others.

Verse 18

No fear of God ; none which leads them to love and obey him, or keeps them from breaking his laws. Psalms 36:1 . This is the account given of Jews who were blessed with the Scriptures and all the means of grace.

Verse 19

We know ; are certain that this description given in the law , or the Bible, concerning men, applies to those who are under the law , who have the Bible. Of course it describes the natural character and state of Jews as well as Gentiles.

May become guilty ; shown or proved from their own conduct, and from the Bible, to be guilty and deserving of condemnation. The description of the natural character of man which God gives in the Bible, applies to all men. It is a description of the human race, and shows that all men are sinners, guilty, and justly condemned; and that if saved, it must be not on account of their works or worthiness, but on account of the works and worthiness of Christ.

Verse 20

By the deeds of the law ; their own works in obedience to law.

No flesh ; no individual of the human race.

Be justified ; accepted of God or treated as righteous.

The knowledge of sin ; when compared with or tried by the law of God, men are shown to be sinners, shut up under righteous condemnation, without the possibility, on the ground of their own works, of ever being saved.

Verse 21

The righteousness of God ; that which he has provided in and by his Son Jesus Christ, and which he freely gives to sinners upon condition of faith in Christ. See note to chap Romans 1:17 .

Without the law ; which justifies men not on the ground that they have rendered to the law the obedience which it requires, but through faith in Christ. But it must be carefully remembered that this faith produces true obedience to God’s law. See note to chap Romans 2:6 .

Is manifested ; clearly revealed in the gospel.

Being witnessed ; having been referred to, foretold, and described in the Old Testament. Genesis 3:15 ; Genesis 12:3 ; Genesis 15:6 ; Deuteronomy 18:15 ; Deuteronomy 18:19 ; Psalms 51:14 ; Psalms 71:15-16 ; Psalms 85:10 ; Psalms 85:13 ; Psalms 89:16 ; Psalms 119:142 ; Isaiah 43:21 ; Isaiah 45:5 ; Isaiah 45:24-25 ; Isaiah 46:13 ; Isaiah 51:5 ; Isaiah 51:7 ; Isaiah 53:11 ; Isaiah 54:17 ; Isaiah 56:1 ; Isaiah 61:11 ; Isaiah 62:1-2 ; Daniel 9:24 ; Hosea 10:12 ; Habakkuk 2:4 ; Malachi 4:2 . The way of salvation revealed in the Old Testament was the same which is revealed in the New. The revelation was not so clear and full, and it was addressed more to the outward senses: but in both, the salvation revealed is of grace, not of debt; obtained not by works, but by faith; and given not on account of human merits, but the merits of Christ.

Verse 22

By faith of Jesus Christ ; the benefits of whose obedience and death are obtained not by human works or merit, but by receiving him as a Saviour, and trusting in him for salvation.

No difference ; between Jews and Gentiles, as to the way of salvation.

Verse 24

Freely by his grace ; it is wholly of grace, not of debt, that men are saved.

Verse 25

Set forth ; exhibited.

Propitiation ; propitiatory sacrifice.

Through faith in his blood ; that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ may benefit a man, he must appropriate it to himself through faith in Christ’s blood; for it was by the shedding of his blood that the propitiation was made.

Declare his righteousness ; show that he is righteous, in the forgiveness of sinners who believe on Christ.

Sins that are past ; committed in past times, and which God forbore to punish. The influence of Christ’s atonement extends backward to the first believer, and forward to the end of time. From Abel to the trump of the archangel, all who are justified and saved receive this gift through the blood of Christ.

Verse 26

At this time ; the time in which Paul lived, under the gospel dispensation.

Just , and the justifier ; that is, just while at the same time he is the justifier. These words set forth the only possible condition on which God can forgive sin. In doing so, he must be just to himself, his truth, his law, and the interests of his kingdom.

Verse 27

Where is boasting ; in this way of saving sinners, what ground is there for them to be vain of their own merit or worthiness? None at all.

It is excluded ; it is not for their sakes, but for Christ’s sake, that God pardons, accepts, and saves them. Not to them, but to him be all the glory.

By what law? in what way is their boasting excluded? By their being saved through their own works? No; but by their being saved in God’s way, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, called here the law of faith .

Verse 28

Therefore ; in view of the whole subject and all the light that is thrown upon it.

Without the deeds of the law ; man’s obedience to law is not the ground of his justification, but the merits of Christ.

Verse 29

Jews-Gentiles ; he will be the God and Saviour of both-of all classes and all nations to whom Christ is made known, on the same condition-faith in his Son. Jehovah is the Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor of all, Jew and Gentile, high and low, rich and poor, bond and free. When they believe in Christ, he accepts them with equal readiness, adopts them into his family as his own children, and loves them with equal affection. He imprints on them his own blessed image, and as they treat each other so he regards them as treating him.

Verse 30

Circumcision-uncircumcision ; Jews and Gentiles.

By faith ; by a righteousness which is of faith, not of law.

Through faith ; by means of their faith.

Verse 31

Make void the law ; the law of God, as a rule of action, and sacredly binding on all who know it. Does the fact that God saves sinners through faith in Christ, lessen the sanctity and authority of his law as an expression of his will, or the obligations of men to obey it? By no means.

We establish the law ; show its excellence, its unchanging obligations, and lead men more earnestly, successfully, and perseveringly to strive to obey it. The way of saving sinners through the incarnation, obedience, suffering, death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ, and by faith in him, shows that the law of God is holy, just, and good; that the violation of it is unspeakably wicked; and that it cannot be violated with impunity; while the motives for obeying it in order to honor God, to show gratitude to the Redeemer, and become in heart and life like Him who was a living personification of its excellence, are greatly increased: such love and obedience are secured as never were, and never will be, secured among men in any other way. In perfectly obeying the divine law, Christ was a pattern of human perfection, which all who believe in him supremely desire and habitually strive to copy; saying from the heart, each for himself, "Such love, and meekness so divine, I would transcribe and make them mine. Be thou my pattern, make me bear More of thy gracious image here; Then God the Judge shall own my name Among the followers of the Lamb."

Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fam/romans-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.
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