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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Romans 3

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “ What then is the advantage of the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision? Much every way: foremost, in that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

It was a thing generally granted that the elect people must have an advantage over the Gentiles; hence the article τό , the, before the word advantage. The Greek term περισσόν literally denotes what the Jews have more than others. If they are judged in the same category as these, as the apostle in chap. 2, and particularly in Romans 3:25-29, had just shown, what have they then more than they? The οὗν , then, precisely expresses this relation. One might infer from what precedes that every advantage of the Jew was denied.

The second question bears on the material symbol of Israel's election: circumcision. “Will the people whom God has elected and marked with the seal of this election be treated exactly like the rest of the world?” This objection is of the same nature as that which would be made in our day by a nominal Christian, if, when put face to face with God's sentence, he were to ask what advantage there accrues to him from his creed and baptism, if they are not to save him from condemnation?

Verses 1-8

Sixth Passage (3:1-8). Jewish Prerogative does not imply Exemption from Judgment.

The order of thought in this piece, one of the most difficult, perhaps, in the Epistle, is as follows:

1. If the Jew is judged absolutely, as the Gentiles are, what advantage has he over them? Answer: The possession of the divine oracles ( Rom 3:1-2 ).

2. But if this possession has not realized the end which it was intended to serve (the faith of Israel in the Messiah), is not the faithfulness of God toward this people annulled? Answer: By no means; it will rather be glorified thereby ( Rom 3:3-4 ).

3. But if God makes use of human sin to glorify Himself, how can He yet make sinners the objects of His wrath? Answer: If the advantage which God derives from the sin of man prevented Him from punishing sinners, the final judgment would become impossible ( Rom 3:5-8 ).

It is obvious that the reasoning is consecutive, even very compact, and that there is no need of expressly introducing an opponent, as many commentators have done. Paul does not here make use of the formula: But some one will say. The objections arise of themselves from the affirmations, and Paul puts them in a manner to his own account.

Verses 1-20

First Section (1:18-3:20). The Wrath of God Resting on the Whole World.

From Romans 1:18, St. Paul is undoubtedly describing the miserable state of the Gentile world. From the beginning of chap. 2 he addresses a personage who very severely judges the Gentile abominations just described by Paul, and who evidently represents a wholly different portion of mankind. At Rom 2:17 he apostrophizes this personage by his name: it is the Jew; and he demonstrates to him that he also is under the burden of wrath. Hence it follows that the first piece of this section goes to the end of chap. 1, and has for its subject: the need of salvation demonstrated by the state of the contemporary Gentile world.

Verses 1-31


THE principal subdivision of this part is indicated by the somewhat amplified repetition of Romans 1:17, which we shall find Romans 3:21-22. There we again meet with the phrase righteousness of God; the verb was manifested evidently corresponds to the word is revealed; and the two secondary clauses: by faith of Jesus Christ, and: unto and upon all them that believe, are the development of the phrase from faith to faith. It follows from this parallel that the apostle did not mean immediately to study this great truth of justification by faith; but he felt the need of preparing the way for this exposition by laying bare in human life the reasons for this so extraordinary and apparently abnormal mode of salvation. Such, indeed, is the subject of the first section, Rom 1:18 to Romans 3:20: If the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, it is because there is another revelation, that of the wrath of God, and because this latter, unless mankind be destined to perish, requires the former.

Verse 2

Vv. 2. Though the advantage of the Jew does not consist in exemption from judgment, he has an advantage, nevertheless, and it is very great.

The adjective πολύ , which we have translated by much, properly signifies numerous. As neuter, it is connected with the subject of the first proposition of Romans 3:1: the advantage; the second question was in reality only an appendix calculated to strengthen the first.

By adding every way, Paul means that the advantage is not only considerable, but very varied, “extending to all the relations of life” (Morison).

Of these numerous and varied advantages he quotes only one, which seems to him, if one may so speak, central. Commentators like Tholuck, Philippi, Meyer, suppose that when the apostle wrote the word πρῶτον , first, he purposed to enumerate all the other advantages, but that he was diverted from fully expressing his thought. To exemplify this style there are quoted, besides Rom 1:8 et seq., which we have had already before us, 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; 1Co 11:18 et seq. But the apostle has too logical a mind, and his writings bear the mark of too earnest elaboration, to allow us to admit such breaches of continuity in their texture. In the view of a sound exegesis, the passages quoted prove absolutely nothing of the kind. Others think that we may here give to first the meaning of chiefly; but the Greek has words for this idea. The preceding words: every way, suggest the translation; they signify: “I might mention many things under this head; but I shall confine myself to one which is in the front rank.” This form of expression, far from indicating that he purposes to mention others, shows, on the contrary, why he will not mention them. They all flow from that which he proceeds to indicate. Neither has the particle μέν (from μένειν , to remain) its ordinary counterpart ( δέ ) in the sequel. It therefore means: “Though this advantage were the only one, it nevertheless remains perfectly real.” The γάρ , for, is omitted by several Mjj. of both families, and by the old Vss. If it were kept, the ὅτι which follows would require to take the meaning of because, which is unnatural.

It is better, therefore, to reject it, and to translate ὅτι by in that.

This advantage, which takes the lead of all the others, so that after it, it is useless to announce them also, is the dignity granted to the Jews of being the depositaries of the divine oracles. The subject of ἐπιστεύθησαν is οἱ ᾿Ιουδαῖοι understood, according to a well-known Greek construction; comp. 1 Corinthians 9:17. The meaning of the verb in the passive is strictly: “to be esteemed faithful, so that men will confide to you a deposit.”

The deposit here is the divine oracles. The term λόγιον , oracle, has a graver meaning than λόγος , word, of which it is not at all a diminutive (Philippi); for it comes from the adjective λόγιος , eloquent. It always denotes even in the classics, a divine saying; so Acts 7:38, the law of Moses; Hebrews 5:12, the gospel revelation; 1 Peter 4:11, the immediate divine communications with which the church was then favored. In our passage, where the subject in question is the privilege granted to the Jews over the Gentiles, the word must be taken as referring to the whole Old Testament; but it is nevertheless true that the apostle thinks specially of the Messianic promises (Volkmar).

If Paul had intended to set forth the beneficial religious and moral influence exercised by these divine revelations on the national, domestic, and individual life of the Israelites, it is evident that he would have had a multitude of things to say. But it is equally clear that he would have been thus diverted from the object of this discussion. And hence he confines himself to establishing the point from which all the rest flows. This is the first phase of the discussion.

But an objection immediately rises: Has not this advantage, the possession of the Messianic promises, been rendered void by Israel's unbelief? Here begins the second phase.

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. “ For what shall we say? If some did not believe, shall their unbelief make void the faithfulness of God? Let it not be: yea, let God be found true, and every man a liar; as it is written: That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou comest into judgment.

Here again Paul is not introducing any opponent; the objection which he states springs logically from the fact he has just affirmed.

It would be possible to put the point of interrogation after the word τινές , some: “For what are we to think, if some did not believe?” But we think it preferable to put the point after γάρ , for: “For what is the fact? ” and to connect the proposition: “If some did not believe,” with the following question (see the translation). Paul likes these short questions in the course of discussion: for what? but what? fitted as they are to rouse attention. If he here uses the particle for instead of but, it is because he wishes from the first to represent the objection as no longer subsisting, but already resolved.

What is the unbelief of the Jews which the apostle has here in view? According to some, Philippi for example, it is their old unbelief in respect of the ancient revelation. But the aorist ἠπίστησαν , did not believe, refers to a particular historical fact rather than a permanent state of things, such as Jewish unbelief had been under the old covenant. Besides, the faithfulness of God toward Israel, when formerly unbelieving and disobedient, was a fact which could not be called in question, since God by sending them the Messiah had nevertheless fulfilled all His promises to them in a way so striking. Finally, the future will it make void? does not suit this sense; Paul would rather have said: did it make void? The subject in question, therefore, is a positive fact, and one which has just come to pass, and it is in relation to the consequences of this fact that the question of God's faithfulness arises. What is this fact? We find it, with the majority of commentators in Israel's rejection of Jesus, its Messiah; and we might even add: in the persevering rejection of apostolic preaching. The hostile attitude of Israel in relation to the gospel was now a decided matter.

The pronoun τινές , some, may seem rather weak to denote the mass of the people who had rejected the Messiah; but this pronoun denotes a part of the whole irrespectively of the proportion. In chap. Romans 11:17, the unbelieving Jews are called “ some of the branches;” in Hebrews 3:16, the whole people, Caleb and Joshua only excepted, are described by this same pronoun; comp. 1 Corinthians 10:7. The phrase of Plato is also cited: τινὲς καὶ πολλοί γε . Morison rightly says: “Many are only some, when they are not the whole.”

Questions introduced by a μή always imply an answer more or less negative; so it is in this case: “This unbelief will not, however, make void”...? Answer understood: “Certainly not.” Hence the for at the beginning of the verse, which referred to this foreseen negative answer.

The verb καταργεῖν , which we have translated by make void, signifies literally: to deprive of action, or efficacy; and the phrase πίστις τοῦ θεοῦ , in contrast to ἀπιστία , unbelief, can only designate the faithfulness of God Himself, in a manner His good faith. This perfection consists in the harmony between God's words and deeds, or between His past acts and His future conduct; it is his adherence to order in the line of conduct followed by Him. The question thus signifies: “Can Jewish unbelief in regard to the Messiah invalidate God's faithfulness to His people?” The question might be asked in this sense: “If the Jews have not taken advantage of the salvation which the Messiah brought to them, will it follow that God has not really granted them all He had promised? Will any one be able to accuse Him of having failed in His promises?” The sense may also be: “Will He not remain faithful to His word in the future, even though after such an act on their part He should reject them?” For, in fine, His word does not contain promises only, but threatenings; comp. 2 Timothy 2:13: “If we believe not, He abideth faithful” (by punishing unbelief, as He has said).

The first of these meanings does not agree naturally with the future καταργήσει , will make void, which points us not to the past, but to the future. The second might find some countenance in Romans 3:4, where the example of David's sin and punishment is referred to, as well as in the term righteousness (taken in the sense of retributive justice) and in the term wrath, Romans 3:5. Yet the very severe meaning which in this case must be given to the phrase God's faithfulness, would not be sufficiently indicated. We are led to another and more natural meaning: “From the fact that Israel has rejected the Messianic salvation, does it follow that God will not fulfil all his promises to them in the future? By no means; His faithfulness will find a means in the very unbelief of His people of magnifying itself.” The apostle has before him the perspective, which he will follow to its termination in chap. 11, that of the final salvation of the Jews, after their partial and temporary rejection shall have been instrumental in the salvation of the Gentiles.

The negative answer to this question, as we have seen, was already anticipated by the interrogative μή . When expressing it ( Rom 3:4 ), the apostle enhances the simple negative. He exclaims: “ Let that not be (the faithfulness of God made void)!” And to this forcible negation he adds the counter affirmation: “May the contrary be what shall happen: truth, nothing but truth, on God's side! All the lying, if there is any, on man's side!”

There is an antithesis between μὴ γένοιτο , that be far removed (the chalilah of the Hebrews), and the γινέσθω δέ , but let this come to pass! The imperative γίνεσθω , may be or it become, is usually understood in the sense: “May God be recognized as true”...! But the term γίνεσθαι , to become, refers more naturally to the fact in itself than to the recognition of it by man. The veracity of God becomes, is revealed more and more in history by the new effects it produces. But this growing realization of the true God runs parallel with another realization, that of human falsehood, which more and more displays man's perversity. Falsehood denotes in Scripture that inward bad faith wherewith the human heart resists known and understood moral good. The apostle seems to allude to the words of Psalms 116:11: “I said in my haste: All men are liars.” Only what the Psalmist uttered with a feeling of bitterness, arising from painful personal experiences, Paul affirms with a feeling of composure and profound humiliation in view of the sin of his people. He says even all men and not only all Israelites; all men rather than God. If the principle of falsehood is realized in history, let all that bears the name of man be found capable of falseness, rather than that a tittle of this pollution should attach to the divine character. For the idea of faithfulness ( Rom 3:3 ) there is substituted that of veracity, as for the idea of unbelief that of falsehood. In both cases the second is wider than the first, and includes it.

The conflict between the promises of God and His veracity, raised by the present fact of Israel's unbelief, must issue in the glory of the divine faithfulness. This necessary result is expressed by the apostle by means of a saying of David, uttered on the occasion of one of his gravest infidelities, Psalms 51:6: “ That according as it is written...” Alarm has been taken at the that; it has been sought to make it a simple so that (Osterv., Oltram.), as if what was spoken of were an effect, not an end. The wish was to avoid making David say he had sinned in order that God might be glorified. It cannot really be supposed that David means to ascribe to God responsibility for his trespass in any degree whatever, and that in a passage where he expressly affirms that the purity of the divine character must appear with new brightness on occasion of it. Hengstenberg and after him Philippi, have recourse to the distinction between the sinful will of David, which belongs wholly to him, and the form in which his sin was outwardly realized, a form which falls under the direction of Providence. But this distinction, which the theologian can make, could not present itself to the mind of David at the time, and in the disposition in which he composed his psalm. To explain the that, we have simply to take into account the manner in which David expresses himself in the foregoing words. He had said not only: “I have sinned,” but: “I have sinned against Thee; ” not only: “I have done the evil,” but: “I have done that which is displeasing in Thy sight. ” It is with the two ideas against Thee and what is displeasing in Thy sight, which aggravate the confession: I have sinned, that the that is connected. David means: “I was clear as to what I was doing; Thou hadst not left me ignorant that when sinning I was sinning against Thy person, which is outraged by such misdeeds, and that I was doing what Thou hatest that if, in spite of this knowledge, I nevertheless did it, Thou mightest be pure in the matter, and that the guiltiness might belong to me only.” This idea of the knowledge of the divine will possessed by David, is that which is anew forcibly expressed in Romans 3:6: “Thou didst teach me wisdom in the hidden part.” God had instructed and warned David that if he sinned, he sinned, he might be the only guilty one, and might not be able to accuse God. The that has therefore nearly the same meaning as the: “to the end they might be without excuse,” Romans 1:20. We thus recognize the analogy of situation between David and Israel, which leads the apostle to quote these words here. Israel, the depositary of the divine oracles, had been faithfully instructed and warned, that if later, in spite of these exceptional revelations, giving themselves up to the falsehood (voluntary blindness) of their own hearts, they came to miss recognizing the Messiah, they should not be able to accuse God for their rejection, but should be declared, to the honor of the divine holiness, the one party guilty of the catastrophe which might follow.

The words: “that Thou mayest be justified in or by Thy words,” signify: “that Thou mayest be acknowledged righteous, both in respect of the warnings which Thou hast given, and in the sentences which Thou wilt pronounce (on David by the mouth of Nathan, on Israel by their rejection).” In the Hebrew, the second proposition refers exclusively to those sentences which God pronounces; for it said: “and that Thou mayest be found pure when Thou judgest. ” But the LXX. have translated: “that Thou mayest be victor (gain Thy case) when Thou art judged,” or: “when Thou hast a case at law.” It is probably this last meaning to which the apostle adapts his words, giving the verb κρίνεσθαι the middle sense, which it has in so many passages; for example, Matthew 5:40; 1Co 6:1 ; 1 Corinthians 6:6: “that Thou mayest gain Thy case if Thou hast one to plead.” Paul has obviously in view the accusation against God's faithfulness which might be raised from the fact of the unbelief and rejection of the chosen people.

But this very thought, that the veracity of God will come forth magnified from Israel's unbelief, raises a new objection, the examination of which forms the third phase of this discussion.

Verses 5-6

Vv. 5, 6. “ But if our unrighteousness establish the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is not God unrighteous when He inflicts wrath? I speak as a man. Let it not be: for then how shall God judge the world?

From the that, Romans 3:4, it seemed to follow that God wills the sin of man for His own glory. But in that case, has He the right to condemn an act from which He reaps advantage, and to be angry with him who commits it? This objection might be put in the mouth of a Jew, who, placing himself at Paul's view-point, and hearing him say that Israel's rejection of the Messiah will glorify God's faithfulness, and conduce to the accomplishment of His plans, judged God highly unjust for being angry with Israel on account of such conduct. Our unbelief would then signify the unbelief of us Jews. But the contrast which prevailed in Rom 3:4 was that between God and every man, and not between Jew and Gentile. It is therefore more natural to apply the term our unrighteousness to human unrighteousness in general, undoubtedly with special application to the Jewish unrighteousness which gives rise to the objection. It is from the depths of the human conscience that the apostle fetches his question. Is it righteous on God's part to judge an act which He turns to His own advantage? As Paul had previously substituted the idea of truth for that of (God's) faithfulness, he here substitutes righteousness for truth. This term in its most general sense denotes the perfection in virtue of which God cannot become guilty of any wrong toward any being whatever. Now this is what He seems to do to the sinner, when He at once condemns and makes use of him. It is from the word: that Thou mayest be acknowledged righteous, Romans 3:4, that Paul derives the term righteousness, Romans 3:5. Συνιστάναι , strictly: to cause to stand together, whence: to confirm, to establish. The question τί ἐροῦμεν , what shall we say? does not occur in any other letter of the apostle's; but it is frequent in this (Romans 4:1, Romans 6:1, Romans 7:1, Romans 8:31, Romans 9:14; Rom 9:30 ). It serves to fix the mind of the reader on the state of the question, at the point which the discussion has reached. If it had been in the interest of a certain school of criticism to deny the authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans, it is easy to see what advantage it would have taken of this form so exclusively characteristic of this treatise.

The interrogative form with μή assumes, as it always does, that the answer will be negative: “God is not, however, unjust in”...? It is certainly the apostle who is speaking, and not an opponent; for the objection is thus expressed in the outset as one resolved in the negative. The phrase: to inflict wrath, alludes to Romans 2:4-5, where the apostle threatened Israel with divine wrath against the day of wrath; but the question is nevertheless put in a perfectly general sense.

There is always something revolting to a conscience enlightened from above, in joining the epithet unrighteous with the word God, even hypothetically. This is why Paul adds: I speak as a man. By man he here understands man left to himself and his own reason, speaking with lightness and presumption of the ways of God. Some commentators would join this explanatory remark with what follows. But the following exclamation ( μὴ γένοιτο , let it not be so), is absolutely opposed to this.

The argument of Romans 3:6, according to Meyer, is this: How would God be disposed to judge the world, if there was no righteousness in Him? For the troublesome consequences of sin could not impel Him to it, since He can turn them to good. It must be confessed that this would be a singularly wiredrawn argument. To go to prove God's righteousness by the fact of the judgment, while it is the fact of the judgment which rests on divine righteousness! If the apostle had reasoned thus, Rückert would have been right in declaring that the argument was insufficient. But the reasoning is quite different. Meyer might have found it clearly stated by Olshausen: “If God's drawing a good result from a bad deed were enough to destroy His right to judge him who committed it, the final judgment would evidently become impossible; for as God is always turning to good the evil which men have devised, every sinner could plead in his defence: My sin has after all served some good end.”

One might be tempted to apply the word the world exclusively to the Gentile world, which would lead us to the explanation whereby Rom 3:5 is put into a Jewish mouth. To this Jewish interlocutor, excusing the sin of his nation by the good fruits which God will one day reap from it, Paul would then answer: But at this rate God could as little judge the Gentiles ( the world). For He brings good fruits from their sins also. This meaning is very plausible in itself. But yet it does not correspond with the apostle's thought. For the word τὸν κόσμον , the world, would then have such an emphasis (as forming an antithesis to the Jews), that it would necessarily require to be placed before the verb. The idea is therefore more general: No final judgment is any longer possible if the beneficial consequences of sin, human or Jewish, justify the sinner. This idea is exactly that which is expounded in the two following verses.

Verses 7-8

Vv. 7, 8. “ For if the truth of God hath abounded through my lie unto His glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not, Let us do evil as we are accused of doing, and as some falsely pretend that we teach that good may come? whose condemnation is just.

Many commentators (Calvin, Grotius, Philippi) have fallen into a strange error in regard to Romans 3:7. They imagine that this verse reproduces once more the objection of Romans 3:5. The for serves, they say, to justify the question: “Is not God unrighteous?” In reality the apostle is made to add: after the advantage which He has derived from my lie for His glory, how does He still judge me? But for what reason should the for relate to Rom 3:5 rather than Romans 3:6, which immediately precedes? This would be to forget the answer given in Romans 3:6, and so to confess its weakness! In this case we should require rather to adopt the reading εἰ δέ , but if, of the Sinaït. and Vatic., and to make Rom 3:7 an objection to the answer given in Romans 3:6. But this reading is inadmissible, because this new objection raised would remain without answer in the sequel. This same reason tells also against the explanation which makes Romans 3:7 a simple reaffirmation of the objection of Romans 3:5. How could an objection, reproduced so forcibly, possibly be left without any other answer than the relegating of those who dare to raise it to the judgment of God ( Rom 3:8 )? For a mind like Paul's this would be a strange mode of arguing! Rom 3:7 is simply, as the for indicates, the confirmation of the answer given in Romans 3:6: “How would God judge the world? In reality ( for) every sinner might come before the judge and say to Him, on his own behalf: And I too by my lie, I have contributed to Thy glory. And he must be acquitted.”

By the phrase truth of God Paul returns to the beginning of the discussion ( Rom 3:3-4 ). What is in question is the moral uprightness of God; in like manner the term lie brings us back to the every man a liar ( Rom 3:4 ). This lie consists in voluntary ignorance of goodness, to escape the obligation of doing it. The verb ἐπερίσσευσεν , has abounded, strictly: flowed over, denotes the surplus of glory which God's moral perfection extracts from human wickedness in each case. ῎Ετι , yet, signifies: even after so profitable a result has accrued from my sins. Κἀγώ , I also: “I who, as well as all the rest, have contributed to Thy glory.” It is as if one saw the whole multitude of sinners appearing before the judgment-seat one after the other, and throwing this identical answer in God's face; the judgment is therefore brought to nothing. Thus is confirmed the answer of Rom 3:6 to the objection of Romans 3:5.

This so suitable meaning appears to us preferable to a more special sense which might present itself to the mind, especially if one were tempted to apply the term the world ( Rom 3:6 ) to the Gentile, in opposition to the Jewish world ( Rom 3:5 ). The sense would be: “For the judgment comes to nought for me Gentile, as well as for thee Jew, since I can plead the same excuse as thou, my Gentilehood contributing to glorify God's truth as much as thy unbelief to exalt His righteousness.” For the application to the Gentiles of the two expressions: God's truth, and lie, see Romans 1:25. But to make this meaning probable, Paul would require to have brought out in chap. 1 the idea that idolatry had contributed to God's glory; and as to the restricted meaning of τὸν κόσμον , the world, see at p. 137.

The apostle pushes his refutation to the utmost ( Rom 3:8 ): Why even not go further? Why, after annihilating the judgment, not say further, to be thoroughly consequent: “And even let us furnish God, by sinning more freely, with richer opportunities of doing good! Will not every sin be a material which He will transform into the pure gold of His glory?” The words καὶ μή , and not, should properly be followed by the verb: let us do evil? ποιήσωμεν τὰ κακά , as we have translated it. But in Greek the sentence is interrupted by the insertion of a parenthesis, intended to remind the reader that such is precisely the odious principle which Paul and his brethren are accused by their calumniators of practising and teaching. And when, after this parenthesis, he returns in Rom 3:8 to his principal idea: ποιήσωμεν , let us do, instead of connecting it with the conjunction, and (that) not, he makes it depend directly on the last verb of the parenthesis, teach: “As we are accused of teaching, let us do evil. ” The ὁτι , that, is the ὁτι recitative so common in Greek (transition from the indirect to the direct form of discourse). The construction which we have just indicated is a form of anacolouthon, of which numerous examples are found in classic authors.

The verb we are accused has for its object the understood clause: of doing so, of practising this principle. If we understood: “Accused of teaching,” the following words would be a mere superfluous repetition. The term βλασφημεῖσθαι seems deliberately chosen to suggest the idea that the principle calumniously imputed to him is itself blasphemous in its nature. The second part of the parenthesis adds the idea of professing ( λάλειν ) to that of practising. The words form a climax, for it is graver to lay down a blasphemous maxim as a principle than to put it into practice in a few isolated cases. Hofmann has proposed another construction; he understands ἐστιν after καὶ μή , and makes the following καθώς dependent on it: “And it is not the case with me, as we are accused of practising and teaching, that it only remains to do evil that”...But it is harsh to make the καθώς depend on ἐστί ; and Meyer rightly observes that Paul would have required to say καὶ οὐ , and not καὶ μή ; comp. the interrogations, 1 Corinthians 6:7; Luke 19:23, etc.

The sort of malediction which closes the verse is applied by most commentators to those who really practise and teach the maxim which is falsely applied to Paul. But the apostle would not have confined himself in that case to the use of the simple relative pronoun ὧν , whose; he would necessarily have required to indicate, and even characterize, the antecedent of the pronoun, which cannot refer to any substantive expressed or understood in the preceding proposition. It must have for its antecedent the preceding τινές , some, and we must apply this severe denunciation to the calumniators of the apostle's life and teaching. Those who raise such accusations wrongly and maliciously against his person and doctrine themselves deserve the condemnation which they call down on the head of Paul. But it should be well observed that the apostle does not express himself thus till he has satisfied all the demands of logical discussion.

Observations on the passage, Romans 3:1-8.

Notwithstanding its temporary application to the Jewish people, this passage, which will find its complete explanation in chap. 11, has a real permanent value. It has always been sought to justify the greatest crimes in history by representing the advantages in which they have resulted to the cause of humanity. There is not a Robespierre who has not been transformed into a saint in the name of utilitarianism. But to make such a canonization valid, one would require to begin by proving that the useful result sprang from the evil committed as its principle. Such is the teaching of Pantheism. Living Theism, on the contrary, teaches that this transformation of the bad deed into a means of progress, is the miracle of God's wisdom and power continually laying hold of human sin to derive from it a result contrary to its nature. On the first view, all human responsibility is at an end, and the judgment becomes a nullity. On the second, man remains fully responsible to God for the bad deed as an expression of the evil will of its author, and despite the good which God is pleased to extract from it. Such is scriptural optimism, which alone reconciles man's moral responsibility with the doctrine of providential progress. The apostle has laid the foundations of this true theodicée in the remarkable piece which we have just been studying.

It is curious to see how Holsten seeks to explain this passage, the meaning of which has, as we think, been made so clear, by a polemical intention against the alleged Jewish-Christianity of the Christians of Rome. We do not waste time in giving a refutation which seems to us to arise of itself from the preceding.

The apostle has drawn in two great pictures the reign of God's wrath (1) over the Gentile world (chap. 1); (2) over the Jewish people (chap. 2); and by way of appendix he has added a passage to this second picture, intended to sweep away the objections which, from the ordinary Jewish point of view, seemed opposed to the statement that this elect people could possibly become, notwithstanding their unbelief, the object of divine animadversion. Now, to the judgment which follows from the preceding context with respect to the whole of mankind, he affixes the seal of Scripture sanction, without which he regards no proof as finally valid.

Verse 9

Vv. 9. “ What then? are we sheltered?Certainly not:for we have before proved all men, both Jews and Greeks, that they are under sin.

If the words τί οὖν , what then, be taken as an independent question, the meaning will be: “ What, then, is the state of things? To what result are we thus brought?” But many commentators connect these two words with the following sentence, so as to form a single question. The meaning in that case is, according to the different acceptations of the verb προέχεσθαι : What have we to allege as an excuse? or: In what, then, are we superior? But neither of these meanings agrees with the answer following. Indeed, instead of in no wise. it would require to be none whatever, or in nothing. There are therefore two questions, and not merely one.

What is the sense of the verb προεχόμεθα , which by itself forms the second question? We should first testify to the correctness of the Received reading. All the MSS. are at one on this point except A L, which read the subjunctive instead of the indicative, obviously to convert the word into an exhortation, and D G, which read προκατέχομεν while adding the object περισσόν ; these last, at the same time, reject the words οὐ πάντως . This is the text which Chrysostom and Theodoret seem to have followed, as well as the Itala and Peshito. The meaning would be: What superiority do we possess? It is simply an attempt to escape from the difficulty of the Received reading.

The verb προέχειν has two principal meanings in the active: to hold before (in order to protect), and to hold the first place. In the passive, the first meaning changes into to be protected; the second meaning, as being intransitive, has no passive. In the middle, the verb signifies, according to the first meaning: to protect oneself, to shelter oneself, to hold out a pretext; according to the second: to place oneself at the head, to surpass. It is logically impossible to apply here the idea of superiority, either in the passive form: Are we preferred? or in the middle form: Do we surpass? Undoubtedly these two interpretations have both found their defenders; Osterv., for example: Are we preferable? Oltram.: Have we some superiority? But the question of ascribing a superiority to the Jews had been put at Romans 3:1; the apostle had resolved it affirmatively from the theocratic standpoint. If, then, he now resolves it negatively, as he does in the following answer, it can only be from the moral point of view. But in this case he could not fail to indicate this distinction. The only appropriate meaning, therefore, is that of sheltering, which is also the most frequent in classic Greek: “Have we a shelter under which we can regard ourselves as delivered from wrath?” This meaning seems to us to be perfectly suitable. The apostle has demonstrated that the Jewish people, as well as the Gentile world, are under God's wrath. He has put to himself the objection: But what in this case becomes of the Jew's advantage? And he has proved that this advantage, perfectly real though it be, cannot hinder the rejection and judgment of this people. “What then?” he now asks as a consequence from what precedes, “can we flatter ourselves that we have a refuge?” “In no wise,” such is his answer. All is closely bound together in the reasoning thus understood.

The phrase οὐ πάντως strictly signifies: not altogether; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:10. When Paul means: not at all, he uses, in conformity with Greek custom, the form πάντως οὐ ; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:12. But the first meaning is evidently too weak after the preceding argument, and in consequence of that which follows. Meyer even finds himself obliged here to abandon his philological rigorism, and to take the second meaning. And, in reality, this meaning is not incorrect. It is enough, as Morison says, to make a pause in reading after οὐ , not, adding πάντως , absolutely, as a descriptive: no, absolutely; or better: no, certainly. This meaning is that of the entirely similar phrase οὐ πάνυ in Xenophon, Demosthenes, Lucian, and even that of οὐ πάντως in two passages quoted by Morison, the one taken from classic Greek, the other from patristic.

The apostle demonstrates this negation, which refers specially to the Jews, by summing up in the following proposition the result of the long preceding indictment against the two divisions of mankind. The term αἰτιᾶσθαι , to accuse, incriminate, belongs to the language of the bar. The προ , before, previously, which enters into the composition of the verb, reminds the reader of the two great pictures which Paul had just drawn.

The phrase: to be under sin, does not merely signify: to be under the responsibility (the guilt) of sins committed, but also to be under the power of sin itself, which like a perpetual fountain constantly reproduces and increases this guilt. These two meanings, sin as a trespass, and sin as a power, are both demanded by the context, the first by the preceding, and the second by the succeeding context. In point of fact, God's wrath is not based solely on trespasses committed, which have something external and accidental in their character; it is founded, above all, on the permanent state of human nature as it is about to be described by Scripture. So long as the Scriptures had not spoken, Paul might be regarded as a simple accuser. But as soon as the voice of this judge shall be heard, the case will be determined, and the sentence pronounced. Rom 3:10-18 enumerate, if one may so speak, the grounds of judgment; Rom 3:19-20 give the sentence.

Paul first reminds his readers, in scriptural terms, of the most general characteristics of human corruption, Romans 3:10-12. Then he presents two particular classes of the manifestations of this corruption, Romans 3:13-17. Finally, he closes this description by a decisive feature which goes back to the very fountain of evil, Romans 3:18.

Verses 9-20

Seventh Passage (3:9-20). Scripture proclaims the fact of Universal Condemnation.

After a general declaration, repeating the already demonstrated fact of the condemnation of Jews and Greeks ( Rom 3:9 ), the apostle quotes a series of Scripture sayings which confirm this truth ( Rom 3:10-18 ); then he formally states the conclusion ( Rom 3:19-20 ).

Verses 10-12

Vv. 10-12. “ As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become useless; there is none that doeth good, no, not even one.

These six sentences are taken from Psalms 14:1-3. At the first glance, this psalm seems to be depicting the wickedness of the Gentiles only; comp. Romans 3:4: “They eat up my people, as if they were eating bread.” But on looking at it more closely, it is clear that the term my people denotes the true people of Jehovah, “the afflicted” ( Rom 3:6 ), in opposition to the proud and violent as well within as without the theocracy. This delineation therefore applies to the moral character of man, so long as he remains beyond the influence of divine action.

Ver. 10 contains the most general statement. Instead of the word righteous, there is in the Hebrew: the man that doeth good, which comes to the same thing.

The two terms which follow in Rom 3:11 have a more particular sense. The first is related to the understanding: the knowledge of the Creator in His works; the second to the will: the aspiration after union with this perfect being. The Sinaït., like most of the Mjj., reads the article ὁ before the two participles. This article is in keeping with the meaning of the psalm. God is represented as seeking that one man and not finding him. We may accentuate συνιῶν as an unusual participle of συνιέω , or συνίων , from the verb συνίω , which sometimes takes the place of the verb συνίημι .

In the case where positive good is not produced (seeking after God), the heart immediately falls under the dominion of evil; this state is described in general terms, Romans 3:12.

᾿Εκκλίνειν , to deviate, to go in a bad way, because one has voluntarily fled from the good ( Rom 3:11 ). ᾿Αχρειοῦσθαι , to become useless, unfit for good, corresponds to the Hebrew alach, to become sour, to be spoiled.

The sixth proposition reproduces, by way of resumé, the idea of the first. Mankind resembles a caravan which has strayed, and is moving in the direction opposite to the right one, and whose members can do nothing to help one another in their common misery ( do good).

Here begins a second and more particular description, that of human wickedness manifesting itself in the form of speech.

Verses 13-14

Vv. 13, 14. “ Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

These four propositions refer to the different organs of speech, and show them all exercising their power to hurt, under the dominion of sin. The throat ( larynx) is compared to a sepulchre; this refers to the language of the gross and brutal man, of whom it is said in common parlance: it seems as if he would like to eat you. The characteristic which follows contrasts with the former; it is the sugared tongue, which charms you like a melodious instrument. The imperfect ἐδολιοῦσαν (Alex. form) denotes the action as continually repeated. These two features are borrowed from Psalms 5:9, where they describe the behavior of David's enemies. The third proposition is taken from Psalms 140:3, which treats of the same subject; what is meant is that calumny and falsehood which malignant lips give forth, as the serpent infuses its poison. The fourth ( Rom 3:14 ) describes the wickedness which is cast in your face by a mouth full of hatred or bitterness; it is borrowed from Psalms 10:7, where the contrast is between the weak godly man and the powerful wicked man within the theocracy itself.

This picture of human depravity manifesting itself in word is completed by the description of the same wickedness shown in deeds.

Verses 15-18

Vv. 15-18. “ Their feet are swift to shed blood: oppression and misery are in their ways: the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.

Of these four propositions the first three are borrowed from Isaiah 59:7-8, in which chapter the prophet confesses the corruption of Israel. The feet, as the emblem of walking, symbolize the whole conduct. Man acts without regard to his neighbor, without fear of compromising his welfare and even his life; a saying taken from Proverbs 1:16. He oppresses ( σύντριμμα ) his brother, and fills his life with misery ( ταλαιπωρία ), so that the way marked out by such a course is watered with the tears of others.

No peace can exist either in the heart of such men, or in their neighborhood ( Rom 3:17 ). And this overflow of depravity and suffering arises from a void: the absence of that feeling which should have filled the heart, the fear of God ( Rom 3:18 ). This term is the normal expression for piety in the Old Testament; it is that disposition in man which has always God present in the heart, His will and judgment. The words: before their eyes, show that it belongs to man freely to evoke or suppress this inward view of God, on which his moral conduct depends. This final characteristic is borrowed from Psalms 36:1, which marks the contrast between the faithful and the wicked even in Israel.

The apostle in drawing this picture, which is only a grouping together of strokes of the pencil, made by the hands of psalmists and prophets, does not certainly mean that each of those characteristics is found equally developed in every man, Some, even the most of them, may remain latent in many men; but they all exist in germ in the selfishness and natural pride of the ego, and the least circumstance may cause them to pass into the active state, when the fear of God does not govern the heart. Such is the cause of the divine condemnation which is suspended over the human race.

This is the conclusion which the apostle reaches; but he limits the express statement of it, in Romans 3:19-20, to the Jews; for they only could attempt to protest against it, and put themselves outside this delineation of human corruption. They could object in particular, that many of the sayings quoted referred not to them, but to the Gentiles. Paul foresees this objection, and takes care to set it aside, so that nothing may impair the sweep of the sentence which God pronounces on the state of mankind.

Verses 19-20

Vv. 19, 20. “ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh for them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become subject to judgment before God. Seeing that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

By his we know, Paul appeals to the common sense of his readers. It is obvious, indeed, that the Old Testament, while depicting to the Jews the wickedness of the Gentiles, did not at all mean to embitter them against the latter, but to put them on their guard against the same sins, and preserve them from the same judgments; a proof that God saw in their hearts the same germs of corruption, and foresaw their inevitable development if the Jews did not remain faithful to Him. Thus, while none of the sayings quoted might refer to them, they were nevertheless all uttered for them.

The law here denotes the whole Old Testament, as being throughout the rule for Israelitish life; comp. John 10:34; 1 Corinthians 14:21, etc.

The difference of meaning between the words λέγειν , to say, and λαλεῖν , to speak, comes out clearly in this passage the first referring to the contents of the saying, the second to the fact of its utterance.

There is no reason for weakening the sense of the conjunction ἵνα , in order that, and making it signify so that. The object of all those declarations given forth by Scripture regarding the wickedness of the natural man, was really to close his mouth against all vainglory, as that to which a man filled with self-satisfaction gives himself up. Every mouth, even the Jews'. Καί : and that thus. All the world: all mankind, Jew and Gentile; ὑπόδικος , placed under the stroke of justice, like one whom the judge has declared guilty, and who owes satisfaction to the law he has violated. The word is frequently used in this sense in the classics; it is a judicial term, corresponding to the word Paul had used to denote the accusation ( αἴτιᾶσθαι , Rom 3:9 ). The last word: to God, is full of solemnity; it is into the hands of His justice that the whole guilty world falls.

The all the is so true that the only possible exception, that of the Jewish people, is excluded ( Rom 3:20 ). This people, indeed, could have alleged a host of ritualistic and moral works performed daily in obedience to the divine law. Did not such works establish in their case special merit and right to God's favor? The apostle sets aside such a claim, Διότι : for the reason that. No flesh: no human creature (see on Rom 1:3 ).

Here for the first time we meet with the expression ἔργα νόμου , works of the law, one of the important terms in the apostle's vocabulary. It is found, however, only in the Epistles to the Romans (Romans 3:28, Rom 9:32 ) and to the Galatians (Romans 2:16; Romans 3:2; Romans 3:5; Rom 3:10 ). But, nevertheless, it expresses one of the ideas which lie at the root of his experience and of his view of Christian truth. It sums up the first part of his life. It may be understood in two ways. A work of law may mean: a work exactly conformed to the law, corresponding to all the law prescribes (Hodge, Morison, etc.); or it may mean: such a work as man can accomplish under the dispensation of the law, and with such means only as are available under this dispensation. In the first sense it is certainly unnecessary to explain the impossibility of man's finding his righteousness in those works by an imperfection inherent in the moral ideal traced by the law. For Paul himself says, Romans 7:14, that “ the law is spiritual;Romans 7:12, that “ the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good;Romans 8:4, that “the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer consists in fulfilling what the law has determined to be righteous.” Much more, he goes the length of affirming positively, with Moses himself ( Lev 18:5 ), that if any one exactly fulfilled the law he would live by his obedience (Romans 10:5; Gal 3:12 ). Taking this meaning, then, why cannot the works of the law justify? It can only be man's powerlessness to do them. St. Paul would then say: “No man will be justified by the works of the law, because works really conformed to the spirit of the law are beyond his power to realize.” Thus the kind of works referred to in the declaration: “not being justified by the works of the law,” would be ideal and not real. This meaning is far from natural. From Paul's way of speaking of the works of the law, we cannot help thinking that he has a fact in view that he is reckoning with a real and not a fictitious value. We must therefore come to the second meaning: works such as man can do when he has no other help than the law that is to say, in fact, in his own strength. The law is perfect in itself. But it does not provide fallen man with the means of meeting its demands. Paul explains himself clearly enough on this head, Galatians 3:21: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” In other words, the law does not communicate the Spirit of God, and through Him the life of love, which is the fulfilling of the law ( Rom 13:10 ). Works wrought in this state, notwithstanding their external conformity to the letter of the law, are not therefore its real fulfilment. Though agreeable to the legal statute, they are destitute of the moral disposition which would give them value in the eyes of God. Paul himself had groaned till the time of his conversion over the grievous contrast in his works which he constantly discerned between the appearance and the reality; comp. the opposition between the state which he calls, Romans 7:6, oldness of the letter and newness of spirit. He gives his estimate of the works of the law when, after saying of himself before his conversion, Philippians 3:6: “As to the righteousness which is under the law, blameless,” he adds, Romans 3:7: “But what things were gain to me (all this from the human point of view blameless righteousness), these I counted loss for Christ's sake.”

There remains one question to be examined. Is it true, as Theodoret, Pelagius, and many modern critics have thought, that Paul is speaking here only of ceremonial works imposed by the law, and not of works implying moral obedience? The meaning of the verse would then be this: “The whole world is condemned; for the Jews themselves cannot be justified by the observance of the ceremonies which their law prescribes.” But such a distinction between two kinds of works is opposed to the context; for the apostle does not contrast work with work he contrasts work with faith. Then how could he add immediately, that by the law is the knowledge of sin? From Romans 7:7-8, it appears that this saying applies above all to the moral law. For it was the tenth commandment which led the apostle to discern covetousness in his heart, and it was this discovery of covetousness which convinced him of sin. Hence it appears that the last words of our verse refer to the moral, and not the ceremonial law, which decides the meaning of the term: the works of the law. Besides, the expression all flesh, which evidently embraces the Gentiles, could not be applied to them if the law were here taken as the ceremonial law, for in this sense they have never had it. In general, the distinction between the ritual and the moral elements of the law is foreign to the Jewish conscience, which takes the law as a divine unity.

It follows from this saying of the apostle, that man ought never to attempt to put any work whatever between God and himself as establishing a right to salvation, whether a work wrought before his conversion proceeding from his natural ability, for it will lack the spirit of love which alone would render it good in God's sight; or even a work posterior to regeneration and truly good ( ἔργον ἀγαθόν , Eph 2:10 ), for as such it is the fruit of the Spirit, and cannot be transformed into a merit of man.

The declarative meaning of the verb δικαιοῦν , to justify, appears clearly here from the two subordinate clauses: by the works of the law, and before him (see on Rom 1:17 ).

By a short proposition (Romans 3:20 b) the apostle justifies the principle affirmed Romans 3:20 a. Far from having been given to sinful man to furnish him with a means of justification, the law was rather given to help him in discerning the sin which reigns over him; ἐπίγνωσις , discernment, proof.

This thought is only indicated here; it will be developed afterward. Indeed, Paul throughout the whole of this piece is treating of sin as guilt, forming the ground of condemnation. Not till chap. 7 will he consider sin as a power, in its relation to the law, and in this new connection; then will be the time for examining the idea with which he closes this whole passage.

Judaism was living under a great illusion, which holds it to this very hour, to wit, that it is called to save the Gentile world by communicating to it the legal dispensation which it received through Moses. “Propagate the law,” says the apostle, “and you will have given to the world not the means of purifying itself, but the means of seeing better its real corruption.” These for us are commonplaces, but they are become so through our Epistle itself. At the time when it was written, these commonplaces were rising on the horizon like divine beams which were to make a new day dawn on the world.

On the order of ideas in this first section, according to Hofmann and Volkmar.

Hofmann finds the principal division of this section between Romans 3:4-5. Up to Romans 3:4, the apostle is proving that God's wrath rests on mankind, whether Gentile ( Rom 1:18 to Rom 2:8 ) or Jewish ( Rom 2:9 to Rom 3:4 ); but from that point all the apostle says applies specially to Christians, thus: “As we are not ignorant, we Christians ( Rom 3:5 ), that man's sin, even when God is glorified by it, can be justly judged ( Rom 3:5-7 ), and as we do not teach, as we are accused of doing, that the good which God extracts fron evil excuses it ( Rom 3:8 ), we bow, with all other men, before the Scripture declarations which attest the common sin, and we apply to ourselves the sentence of condemnation which the law pronounces on the whole world. Only ( Rom 3:21 et seq.) we do not rest there; for we have the happiness of knowing that there is a righteousness of faith through which we escape from wrath.”

This construction is refuted, we think, by three principal facts

1. The man who judges, Romans 2:1, is necessarily the Jew (see the exegesis).

2. The objection, Romans 3:5, is closely connected with the quotation from Psalms 51:0, and cannot be the beginning of a wholly new development.

3. The question: “What then? have we a shelter?” ( Rom 3:9 ), is too plainly a reference to that of Romans 3:1 (“what then is the advantage of the Jew?”) to be applied otherwise than specially to the Jew. This is confirmed by the end of Romans 3:9, in which the apostle gives the reason for the first proposition in this general sentence: “ For we have proved both Jews and Greeks. ” It is clear, therefore, that as chap. 1 from Rom 3:18 describes the wrath of God displayed on the Gentiles, chap. 2 describes and demonstrates the wrath of God as accumulating over the Jewish world, and that the passage Rom 3:1-8 is simply intended to set aside the objection which the Jew might draw from his exceptional superiority. Rom 3:9-20 are the scriptural resumé and demonstration of this double condemnation of Jews and Gentiles.

According to Volkmar, chap. 1 from Rom 3:18 describes the wrath of God against all sin, and chap. 2 that same wrath against all sinners, even against the Jew, notwithstanding his excuses ( Rom 2:1-16 ) and his advantages, which he is unable to turn to moral account ( Rom 3:17-29 ), and finally, notwithstanding the greatest of his privileges, the possession of the Messianic promises ( Rom 3:1-8 ). Here, Romans 3:9, Volkmar places the beginning of the new section, that of the righteousness of faith. “Since the whole world is perishing, Romans 3:9-20, God saves the world by the righteousness of faith, which is confirmed by the example both of Abraham and Adam, the type of Christ.” This construction differs from ours only in two points, which are not to its advantage, as it appears to me (1) The antithesis between all sins (chap. 1.) and all sinners (chap. 2), which is too artificial to be apostolical; (2) The line of demarkation between the preceding and the new section fixed at Romans 3:9 (instead of Rom 3:21 ), a division which awkwardly separates the section on wrath in its entirety ( Rom 1:18 to Rom 3:8 ) from its scriptural summary ( Rom 3:9-20 ).

Verses 21-22

Vv. 21, 22 a. “ But now the righteousness of God is manifested without the law, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ for all and upon all them that believe.

The δέ , but, is strongly adversative; it contrasts the revelation of righteousness with that of wrath. The former is presented as a new fact in the history of mankind; so that one might be led to give the word now a temporal sense; comp. the at this time, Romans 3:26, and Acts 17:30. This, however, is only apparent. The contrast with the preceding is moral rather than temporal; it is the contrast between the condemnation pronounced by the law ( Rom 3:20 ) and the new righteousness acquired without the law ( Rom 3:21 ). It is therefore better to give the word now the logical meaning which it has so frequently in the New Testament (Romans 7:17; 1Co 13:12 ; 1 Corinthians 14:6, etc.) and in the classics: “The situation being such.” The words: without the law, stand foremost, as having the emphasis. They evidently depend on the verb is manifested, and not on the word righteousness ( a righteousness without law, Aug.). The absence of the article before the word law does not prove that the apostle does not mean the term to denote the Mosaic law; only the law is excluded from co-operating in the new righteousness not because it is Mosaic, but because it is law. Under the old dispensation, righteousness came to man through the thousand channels of legalism; in the new, righteousness is given him without the least co-operation of what can be called a law.

We know what Paul calls the righteousness of God: it is the state of reconciliation with God in which man is placed by the sentence which declares him just (see on Rom 1:17 ).

The verb φανεροῦν , to put in the light, differs from the verb ἀποκαλύπτειν , to reveal, used Romans 1:17, in the figure, not in the sense. The second applies to an object which was hidden by a veil, and which is made known by withdrawing the veil; the former, to an object placed in the shade, and on which rays of light are let fall. The only real difference from Rom 1:17 is therefore this: there, the verb was in the present, for it denoted the permanent revelation of the gospel by means of evangelical preaching; while here, the verb is in the perfect, because it refers, as Morison says, “to the fact itself, which that preaching proclaims.” That fact now finished is the subject expounded in Romans 3:25-26; it is through it that the righteousness of God is set in the light for all times.

But if legal observances are excluded from all co-operation in this righteousness, it does not follow that the latter is in contradiction to the Old Testament revelation in its double form of law and prophecy. These two manifestations of the divine will, commandment, and promise, understood in their true sense, contain, on the contrary, the confirmation of the righteousness of faith, as the apostle will prove in the sequel of this section, Rom 3:27 to Romans 4:25. The law by unveiling sin opens up the void in the heart, which is filled by the righteousness of faith; prophecy completes the work of preparation by promising this righteousness. Thus there is no objection to be drawn from the old revelation against the new. As the new fulfils the old, the latter confirms the former.

Verses 21-26

Eighth Passage (3:21-26). The Fact by which Justification by Faith is acquired for us.

We have already proved that Rom 3:21 is directly connected in sense with Romans 1:17 (see p. 99). In the interval from. 18 to Romans 3:20, the apostle has shown that the wrath of God rests on mankind, whence it follows that if the world is not to perish, a divine manifestation of an opposite kind, and able to overcome the first, is indispensable. It is this new revelation which forms the subject of the following passage. Vv.21 and 22 contain the theme of the first piece, and at the same time of the whole section. Rom 3:23 once more sums up the thought of the preceding section; and Rom 3:24-26 are the development of the subject, the exposition of the new way of justification.

Verses 21-31

Second section. 3:21-5:11. Justification by Faith Acquired for the Whole World.

In this section, which forms the counterpart of the preceding, three principal ideas are developed.

1. The historical fact by which justification by faith is acquired for the world, Romans 3:21-26.

2. The harmony of this mode of justification with the revelation of the Old Testament, Rom 3:27 to Romans 4:25.

3. The certainty of justification, not for the present only, but for all the future, embracing the last judgment, Romans 5:1-11.

Thus the sentence of condemnation is effaced by that of absolution.

Verse 22

Vv. 22. The new righteousness, then, being given without any legal work, what is the means by which it is conferred? Rom 3:22 answers: faith in Jesus Christ. Such is the true means opposed to the false. The δέ , now, which the translation cannot render, is explanatory, as Romans 9:30; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:8, etc. It takes the place of a scilicet, to wit. Osterv. and Oltram. have well rendered it by: say I: “The righteousness, I say, of God.” Here, again, the absence of the article serves to indicate the category: a righteousness of divine origin, in opposition to the legal dispensation, in which righteousness proceeds from human works.

This righteousness is granted to faith, not assuredly because of any merit inherent in it for this would be to fall back on works, the very thing which the new dispensation wishes to exclude but because of the object of faith. Therefore it is that this object is expressly mentioned: Jesus Christ. The omission of the word Jesus by Marcion is perhaps to be explained by the fact that this heretic denied the humanity of Jesus, and attached importance only to His Christship. The omission of this word in the one Mj. B, cannot bring it into suspicion. It has been attempted to make this complement: Jesus Christ, a gen. subjecti: the faith which Jesus Christ Himself had, whether His faith in God (Benecke: His fidelity to God) or His fidelity to us (Lange). The parallel, Romans 1:17, suffices to refute such interpretations. The only possible sense is this: faith in Jesus Christ; comp. Mark 11:22; Galatians 2:16; James 2:1, etc.

This clause: by faith in Jesus Christ, is the reproduction and development of the first clause: ἐκ πίστεως , by faith, Romans 1:17. The following: for and upon all them that believe, is the development of the second clause in the same verse: εἰς πίστιν , for faith. Faith, indeed, as we have seen, plays a double part in justification. It is the disposition which God accepts, and which He imputes as righteousness; and it is at the same time the instrument whereby every one may appropriate for his own personal advantage this righteousness of faith. The first office is expressed here by the clause: by faith; the second by the clause: for and upon all them that believe.

The words καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας , and upon all them, are wanting in the four Alex., but they are found in the Mjj. of the other two families (except P), and in the ancient Vss. Meyer and Morison justly remark that it would be impossible to account for their interpolation, as there was nothing in the clause: for all them, to demand this explanatory addition. It is easy to understand, on the contrary, how these words were omitted, either through a confusion of the two πάντας by the copyists the Sinaït., in particular, abounds in such omissions or because this clause seemed to be a pleonasm after the preceding. It is quite in keeping with Paul's manner thus to accumulate subordinate clauses to express by a change of prepositions the different aspects of the moral fact which he means to describe. These two aspects in this case are those of general destination ( εἰς , for) and personal application ( ἐπί , upon): “As to this righteousness, God sends it for thee that thou mayest believe in it; and it will rest on thee from the moment thou believest.” Comp. Philippians 3:9. Theodoret, Bengel, etc. have thought that the clause: for all them, applied to the Jews, and the clause: upon all them, to the Gentiles. But the very object the apostle has here in view is to efface every other distinction save that of believing. This same reason prevents us also from allowing the explanation of Morison, who, after Wetstein, Flatt, Stuart, puts a comma after εἰς πάντας , for all, that is to say, for all men, absolutely speaking, inasmuch as this righteousness is really universal in destination, and who applies the participle: them that believe, only to the second clause: upon all, inasmuch as real participation in this righteousness is granted to believers only. But in this case the second πάντας , all, should of course have been omitted. Then we shall see in Rom 3:25 that the condition of faith is included from the beginning in the very decree of redemption. Finally, these two clauses: for all them, and upon all them that believe, are plainly the unfolding of the contents of the words εἰς πίστιν , for faith, Romans 1:17; whence it follows that the words who believe belong equally to the two pronouns all.

To pronounce one righteous, God does not then any more ask: Hast thou kept the law? but: Believest thou, thou, whoever thou art? The first clause: for all, contrasts this believer, Jew or Gentile, with the Jews, who alone could attain to the righteousness of the law. The second clause: upon all, contrasts this righteousness as a gift of God fully made, with that of the law of which man himself must be the maker.

These two verses are, as we shall see, the theme which will be developed in the whole following section. But, first, Rom 3:23 sums up the preceding section by restating the ground on which every human being needs the righteousness of faith.

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22 b, 23. “ For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and are deprived of the glory of God.

By denying all difference, the apostle means here that there are not two ways by which men can be justified, the one that of works, the other of faith. The first is closed against all, even the Jews, by the fact of universal condemnation, which has just been demonstrated. The second, therefore, alone remains open. The old Genevan version, Ostervald, and Martin put all Rom 3:23 into Romans 3:22, and thus reckon only thirty verses instead of thirty-one in the chapter. The object of this change was to make Romans 3:23 a simple parenthesis, that the participle being justified might be directly connected with Romans 3:22. But this grammatical connection is certainly incorrect, and we should preserve the reckoning of the verses as it stands in the Greek text.

Verse 23

Vv. 23. This absence of difference in the mode of justification rests on the equality of all in respect of the fact of sin. In the aorist ἥμαρτον , have committed sin, no account is taken of the question whether they have done so once or a hundred times. Once suffices to deprive us of the title of righteous, and thereby of the glory of God. Καί , and in consequence.

The verb ὑστερεῖσθαι , to lack, expresses in general the idea of a deficit, which consists either in remaining below the normal level, or in being behind others. Paul therefore means that they all want more or less a normal state, which he calls the glory of God. By this term some have understood the favorable opinion which God has of the just man, His approbation or favor (Grot. Turret. Fritzsche). This meaning is far from natural; Joh 12:43 does not suffice to justify it. Others understand by this expression: glory in God's sight, that which we should possess if we were righteous (Mel. Calv. Philippi). This meaning is not much more natural than that which appears sometimes in Luther: the act of glorying in God; or than that of OEcumenius and Chalmers: the destination of every man to glorify God. There are really only two senses possible. The first is that of the many commentators who understand the glory of God as the future and eternal glory (Beza, Morison, Reuss, etc.). But in this case we must give to the verb ὑστερεῖσθαι a very forced meaning: to lack the necessary qualifications for obtaining this glory. The second meaning, and the only one which we think admissible, is this the divine splendor which shines forth from God Himself, and which He communicates to all that live in union with Him (see Hofmann, Meyer). This meaning includes that of Rückert and Olshausen, who understand it too specially, no doubt, to mean the original image of God in man. The complement Θεοῦ , of God, is at once a gen. possess. and a gen. auctor. God can communicate this glory, because He possesses it Himself, and it belongs to His nature. He had communicated a ray of it to man when He created him pure and happy; it was intended to shine more and more brightly in him as he rose from innocence to holiness. By sinning, man lost both what he had received of it and what he was yet to obtain. A dispossessed king, the crown has fallen from his head.

The consequence of this state of things is indicated, in close connection with the context, in Romans 3:24.

Verse 24

Vv. 24. “ Being justified as a pure gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

The participle δικαιούμενοι , being justified, takes us by surprise. Why give this idea, which is the principal one in the context, a subordinate place, by using a participle to express it? To explain this unexpected form, it must be remembered that the idea of justification had already been solemnly introduced, Romans 3:21-22. Rom 3:23 had afterward explained it by the fact of the fall; and now it can reappear as a simple corollary from this great fact. We might paraphrase: “being consequently justified, as we have just declared, freely”...The present participle ( δικαιούμενοι ) refers to every moment in the history of mankind when a sinner comes to believe. There is no need therefore to add, as Ostervald and others do, a new conjunction: “and that they are justified.” Neither is it necessary to take this participle, with Beza and Morison, as the demonstration of the fact of sin, Romans 3:23. It is impossible that the essential idea of the whole passage should be given in proof of a secondary idea. The most erroneous explanation seems to us to be that of Oltramare, who here begins a wholly new period, the principal verb of which must be sought in Romans 3:27: “Since we are justified there here, then, any cause for boasting?” The most important passage in the whole Epistle, Romans 3:24-26, would thus be degraded to the rank of a simple incident. And, moreover, the asyndeton between Rom 3:23-24 would be without the slightest justification.

This notion: being justified, is qualified in three directions: those of the mode, the origin, and the means. The mode is expressed by the adverb δωρεάν , gratuitously. It is not a matter of wages, it is a free gift.

The origin of this gift is: His grace, God's free goodwill inclining him to sinful man to bestow on him a favor. There is no blind necessity here; we are face to face with a generous inspiration of divine love. The means is the deliverance wrought in Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἀπολύτρωσις denotes etymologically, a deliverance obtained by way of purchase ( λύτρον , ransom). No doubt the New Testament writers often use it in the general sense of deliverance, apart from all reference to a price paid; so Romans 8:23; Luke 21:28; 1 Corinthians 1:30. But in these passages, as Morison observes, the matter in question is only one of the particular consequences of the fundamental deliverance obtained by Christ. The idea of the latter is usually connected with that of the ransom paid to obtain it; comp. Matthew 20:28, where it is said that Jesus gives his life a ransom ( λύτρον ), in the room and stead ( ἀντί ) of many; 1 Timothy 2:6, where the term signifying ransom forms one word with the preposition ἀντί , in the place of ( ἀντίλυτρον ); 1 Peter 1:18: “Ye were ransomed as by the precious blood of the Lamb, without spot.” This notion of purchase, in speaking of the work of Christ, appears also in 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; Galatians 3:13. It is obvious that this figure was most familiar to the apostle's mind; it is impossible to get rid of it in the present passage.

The title Christ is placed before the name Jesus, the main subject here being his mediatorial office (see on Rom 1:1 ).

After thus giving the general idea of the work, the apostle expounds it more in detail by defining exactly the ideas he has just stated. That of divine grace reappears in the words: whom he had set forth beforehand, Romans 3:25; that of deliverance, in the words: to be a propitiation through faith; that of Christ Jesus, in the words: in His blood; and, finally, the principal term: being justified, in the last words of Romans 3:26: the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. This conclusion thus brings us back to the starting-point of the passage.

Verses 25-26

Vv. 25, 26. “ Whom He had established beforehand as a means of propitiation through faith,by His blood, for the demonstration of His justice, because of the tolerance shown toward sins done aforetime, during the forbearance of God, for the demonstration of His justice at the present time; that He might be just, and justifying him who is of the faith in Jesus.

It is not without reason that these two verses have been called “the marrow of theology.” Calvin declares “that there is not probably in the whole Bible a passage which sets forth more profoundly the righteousness of God in Christ.” And yet it is so short that the statement seems scarcely to have begun when all is said, within so few lines are the most decisive thoughts concentrated! It is really, as Vitringa has said, “the brief summary of divine wisdom.”

It is God Himself who, according to this passage, is to be regarded as the author of the whole work of redemption. The salvation of the world is not therefore wrested from Him, as is sometimes represented by the mediation of Christ. The same thought is expressed elsewhere; for example, 2 Corinthians 5:18: “All is of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ;” and John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” This point should never be forgotten in the idea which we form of expiation.

The verb προτιθέναι , to put before, may signify in the middle, either: to exhibit, present publicly (in view of oneself), or to set before oneself in the innermost shrine of the spirit; to decide, to design beforehand within oneself. For the preposition πρό may have the local meaning in front of, or the temporal meaning before. Both significations of the verb have been used here, and in favor of both numerous examples may be quoted in classic Greek. The second sense is obviously the prevailing one in the New Testament; comp. Romans 1:13, Ephesians 1:9, etc., as well as the common use of the word πρόθεσις to denote God's eternal plan (Romans 8:28; Eph 3:11 ); see also Acts 27:13. In favor of the first meaning, there may be quoted, indeed, the phrase ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως , the shewbread, in the LXX. If we use it here, it would make the apostle say: “whom God set forth publicly as a propitiatory victim.” This act of public showing forth would refer either to the exhibition of Jesus on the cross, or to the proclamation of His death by the apostolic preaching. The middle form (to set forth for oneself) would find its explanation in the clause following: “for the demonstration of His justice. ” This meaning is not impossible. It is adopted by the Vulgate, Luth., Beng., Thol., de Wette, Philip., Meyer, Hofm., Morison. But this idea of a public exhibition of the person of Jesus appears to us to have it something at once theatrical and superfluous. Independently of what we have just been saying of the ordinary meaning of the words προτιθέναι , πρόθεσις , in the New Testament, the context speaks strongly in favor of the other meaning. The fundamental idea of the passage is the contrast between the time of God's forbearance in regard to sin, and the decisive moment when at once He carried out the universal expiation. It is natural in this order of ideas to emphasize the fact that God had foreseen this final moment, and had provided Himself beforehand with the victim by means of which the expiation was to be accomplished. Thus the phrase: to set forth beforehand, already gives a hint of the contrast: at the present time, Romans 3:26. Placed as it is at the head of the whole passage, it brings out forcibly, at the same time, the incomparable gravity of the work about to be described. The middle of the verb refers to the inward resolution of God. In adopting this meaning, we find ourselves at one with the ancient Greek interpreters, Chrys., OEcum., Theoph.; see, among the moderns, Fritzsche. The word ἱλαστήριον , propitiatory, belongs to that host of Greek adjectives whose termination ( ηριος ) signifies what serves to. The meaning therefore is: “what serves to render propitious, favorable.” The verb ἱλάσκεσθαι corresponds in the LXX. to kipper, the Piel of kaphar, to cover. Applied to the notion of sin, this Piel has a double sense: either to pardon the subject is then the offended one himself, who, as it were, covers the sin that he may see it no more, for example, Psa 65:4 or to expiate the subject is then the victim which covers ( effaces) the sin with its blood, that the judge may see it no more, for example, Exodus 29:36. In the New Testament this verb occurs twice, Luke 18:13, where the publican says to God: ἱλάσθητι , show Thyself propitious to me, which is equivalent to: forgive me; and Hebrews 2:17: εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας , to expiate the sins of the people. We find in these same two passages the two meanings of the term in the Old Testament. The etymology of this verb ἱλάσκεσθαι is the adjective ἱλαος , favorable, propitious (probably connected with ἔλεος , merciful). To explain the word ἱλαστήριον in our text, very many commentators, Orig., Theoph., Er., Luth., Calv., Grot., Vitringa, and among the moderns, Olsh., Thol., Philip., etc., have had recourse to the technical meaning which it has in the LXX., where it denotes the propitiatory, or lid of the ark of the covenant. With this meaning the substantive understood would be ἐπίθεμα , lid, which is sometimes joined to the adjective, for example, Exodus 25:17. As is well known, the high priest, on the day of atonement, sprinkled this lid with the blood of the victim ( Lev 16:14 et seq.). On this account these commentators hold that it was here regarded by Paul as the type of Christ, whose shed blood covers the sin of the world. The term is found in this sense, Hebrews 9:5. We do not, however, think this interpretation admissible. 1. If the matter in question were a well-known definite object, the only one of its kind, the article τό could not be omitted. 2. The Epistle to the Romans is not a book which moves, like the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the sphere of Levitical symbolism; there is nothing here to indicate that the term is applied to an object belonging to the Israelitish cultus. 3. Gess justly observes that if this type had been familiar to St. Paul, it would have been found elsewhere in his letters; and if it were not so, the term would have been unintelligible to his readers. 4. In all respects the figure would be a strange one. What a comparison to make of Jesus Christ crucified with a lid sprinkled with blood! 5. Give to the verb προέθετο whichever of the two meanings you choose, the figure of the propitiatory remains unsuitable. In the sense of exhibiting publicly, there is a contradiction between this idea of publicity and the part assigned to the propitiatory in the Jewish cultus; for this object remained concealed in the sanctuary, the high priest alone could see it, and that only once a year, and through a cloud of smoke. And if the verb be explained in the sense which we have adopted, that of establishing beforehand, it is still more impossible to apply this idea of an eternal purpose, either to a material object like the propitiatory itself, or to its typical connection with Jesus Christ. We must therefore understand the word ἱλαστήριον in a very wide sense: a means of propitiation. After reading Morison, we cannot venture to define more strictly, and to translate: a victim of propitiation, as if there were to be understood the substantive θῦμα ( victim). For this meaning of the term used here does not seem to be sufficiently proved by the passages alleged (see the examples quoted by Thol., de Wette, Meyer, with Morison's criticism). The English commentator himself takes the word ἱλαστήριον as a masculine adjective, agreeing with the relative ὅν : “Jesus Christ, whom God set forth as making propitiation. ” Such is the explanation of the Peshito, Thomas Aquinas, Er., Mel., etc. It is certainly allowable. But in this sense would not Paul rather have used the masculine substantive ἱλαστής ? The word ἱλαστήρια is indeed found, not ἱλαστήριοι (Hofm.). We therefore hold by the generally received interpretation, which makes the term ἱλαστήριον a neuter substantive (originally the neuter of the adjective; comp. σωτήριον , χαριστήριον , etc.). As to the idea of sacrifice, if it is not in the word itself, it follows from its connection with the following clause: by His blood (see below). For what is a means of propitiation by blood, if it is not a sacrifice? A question may here be raised: if it is God himself who, as we have just said, has established this means of pardon of His free grace, what purpose then was this means to serve? For it cannot obtain for us anything else than we possessed already, the Divine love. This objection rests on the false idea that expiation is intended to originate a sentiment which did not exist in God before. What it produces is such a change in the relation between God and the creature, that God can henceforth display toward sinful man one of the elements of His nature rather than another. The feeling of the divine mind shows itself in the foundation of the expiatory work as compassion. But the propitiation once effected, it can display itself in the new and higher form of intimate communion. As Gess says: “Divine love manifests itself in the gift of the Son, that it may be able afterward to diffuse itself in the heart by the gift of the spirit.” There are therefore 1. The love which precedes the propitiation, and which determines to effect it; and 2. Love such that it can display itself, once the propitiation is effected.

The clause διὰ [ τῆς b πίστεως , by faith, is wanting in the Alex., which, however is not enough to render it suspicious. Five Mjj. (Alex. and Greco-Lat.) omit the article τῆς ( the, before faith). It would be impossible to explain why this word had been rejected if it existed originally in the text. It has therefore been added to give the notion of faith a more definite sense: the well-known faith in Jesus. But it was not on this or that particular faith the apostle wished here to insist; it was on faith in its very idea, in opposition to works. On what does the clause depend: διὰ πίστεως , by faith? According to some ancients and Philippi: on προέθετο ( He set forth, or established beforehand). But it is difficult to conceive what logical relation there can be between the ideas of setting forth or establishing, and a clause such as by faith. The only natural connection of this clause is with the word ἱλαστήριον ( means of propitiation): “God has established Jesus beforehand as the means of propitiation through faith,” which signifies that the efficacy of this means was from the first bound by the divine decree to the condition of faith. God eternally determined within Himself the means of pardon, but as eternally He stipulated with Himself that the condition on which this means should become available for each individual should be faith, neither more nor less. This idea is important; the subjective condition of faith entered as an integral element into the very decree of amnesty (the πρόθεσις ). This is what we shall find afterward expressed in the words οὓς προέγνω , whom He foreknew (as His own by faith), Romans 8:29. The clause following: in or by His blood, is connected by most commentators (Luth., Calv., Olsh., Thol., Morison) with the word faith: “by faith in His blood. ” Grammatically this connection is possible; comp. Ephesians 1:15. And it is the interpretation, perhaps, which has led to the article τῆς being added before πίστεως . But it should certainly be rejected. The idea requiring a determining clause is not faith, which is clear of itself, but the means of propitiation. In a passage entirely devoted to the expounding of the fact of expiation, Paul could not possibly fail to indicate the manner in which the means operated. We therefore find the notion of propitiation qualified by two parallel and mutually completing clauses: the first, by faith, indicating the subjective condition; and the second, by His blood, setting forth the historical and objective condition of the efficacy of the means. Propitiation does not take place except through faith on the part of the saved, and through blood on the part of the Saviour. The attempt of Meyer, Hofmann, etc., to make this clause dependent on προέθετο (“He set Him forth or established Him beforehand... through His blood ”) is unnatural. To present or establish a person through or in his blood, would not only be an obscure form of speech, but even offensively harsh. According to Leviticus 17:11, the soul of man, the principle of life, is in the blood. The blood flowing forth is the life exhaling. Now the wilful sinner has deserved death. Having used the gift of life to revolt against Him from whom he holds it, it is just that this gift should be withdrawn from him. Hence the sentence: “In the day thou sinnest, thou shalt die.” Every act of sin should thus, in strict justice, be followed by death, the violent and instant death of its author. The sinner, it is true, no longer understands this; for sin stupefies the conscience at the same time that it corrupts the heart and perverts the will. Such, then, is the law which must be set in the light of day before pardon is granted, and that it may be granted. Otherwise the sovereign majesty of God on the one side, and the criminal character of the sinner on the other, would remain shrouded in the conscience of the pardoned sinner; and such a pardon, instead of laying a foundation for his restoration, would consummate his degradation and entail his eternal ruin. Thus are justified the two qualifications of the means of propitiation indicated here by the apostle: in blood and by faith; in other terms 1. The judgment of God on sin by the shedding of blood; 2. The adherence of the guilty to this judgment by faith. The apostolic utterance may consequently be paraphrased thus: “Jesus Christ, whom God settled beforehand as the means of propitiation on the condition of faith, through the shedding of His blood.”

Blood does not certainly denote the holy consecration of life in general. It is purely arbitrary to seek any other meaning in the word than it naturally expresses, the fact of a violent and bloody death. This signification is specially obvious in a passage where the word is found in such direct connection with ἱλαστήριον ( propitiation), in which there is concentrated the whole symbolism of the Jewish sacrifices.

The relation commonly maintained between propitiation (the act which renders God favorable) and blood is this: the blood of the Messiah, shed as an equivalent for that of sinners, is the indemnity offered to God's justice to purchase the pardon granted by love. But it must be observed that this relation is not stated by the apostle himself, and that the term ἱλάσκεσθαι , to render propitious, does not necessarily contain the idea of an indemnity paid in the form of a quantitative equivalent. The word denotes in general the act, whatever it be, in consequence of which God, who was displaying His wrath, is led to display His grace, and to pardon. This propitiatory act is, Luke 18:13-14, the cry of the penitent publican; Psalms 51:17, the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart. In the supreme and final redemption which we have in Christ, the way of propitiation is more painful and decisive. The apostle has just told us in what it consists; he proceeds in the words which follow to explain to us its object: for the demonstration of His justice.

The term demonstration is remarkable. If the apostle had in view a payment offered to justice in compensation for the death which sinful men have merited, he would rather have said: “for the satisfaction of His justice.” The word manifestation seems to belong to a somewhat different order of ideas. But let us begin with fixing the meaning of the principal expression: the righteousness of God. Luther has connected it with justification. But in this case the contrast with the time of God's long-suffering, Romans 3:26, becomes unintelligible, and the two last terms of the same verse: “that He might be just and the justifier,” could not be distinguished from one another. So all interpreters agree to take the word as indicating a divine attribute which, long veiled, was put in the light of day by the cross. Which attribute is it? Justice sometimes denoting moral perfection in general, each commentator has taken the term used by Paul as expressing the special attribute which agreed best with his system in regard to the work of redemption. It has been taken to express (1) Goodness (Theodor., Abel., Grot., Seml., etc.); (2) Veracity or fidelity (Ambr., Beza, Turret.); (3) Holiness (Nitzsch, Neand., Hofm., Lipsius); (4) Righteousness as justifying and sanctifying (the Greek Fathers, Mel., Calv., Oltram.) this meaning is almost identical with Luther's; (5) Righteousness in so far as it carries the salvation of the elect to its goal; such is the meaning of Ritschl, which comes very near No. 3; (6) Retributive justice in God, considered here specially as the principle of the punishment of sin (de Wette, Mey., Philip.). The first five meanings all fall before one common objection; the Greek language, and Paul's vocabulary in particular, have special terms terms to express each of those particular attributes: χρηστότης , goodness; ἀλήθεια , veracity; πίστις , faithfulness; χάρις , grace; ἁγιωσύνη , holiness. Why not use one of these definite terms, instead of introducing into this so important didactic passage a term fitted to occasion the gravest misunderstandings, if it was really to be taken in a sense different from its usual and natural signification? Now this signification is certainly that of No. 6: justice, as the mode of action whereby God maintains the right of every being, and consequently order throughout the whole moral universe, blessing him who has respect to this order, visiting with punishment him who violates it. The essence of God is the absolute love of the good, His holiness (Isaiah 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy”...). Now, the good is order, the normal relation between all free beings, from God Himself to the last of them. The attribute of justice, eternally latent in holiness, passes into the active state with the appearance of the free creature. For in the fact of freedom there was included the possibility of disorder, and this possibility soon passed into reality. God's abhorrence of evil, His holiness, thus displays itself in the form of justice preserving order and maintaining right. Now, to maintain order without suppressing liberty, there is but one means, and that is punishment. Punishment is order in disorder. It is the revelation of disorder to the sinner's conscience by means of suffering. It is consequently, or at least may be, the point of departure for the reestablishment of order, of the normal relation of free beings. Thus is explained the notion of the justice of God, so often proclaimed in Scripture (John 17:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 16:5; Revelation 19:2; Revelation 19:11, etc.); and especially Rom 2:5 et seq., where we see the δικαιοκρισία , the just judgment, distributing among men wrath and tribulation ( Rom 3:8-9 ), glory and peace ( Rom 3:7-10 ).

This meaning which we give with Scripture to the word justice, and which is in keeping with its generally received use, is also the only one, as we shall see, which suits the context of this passage, and especially the words which follow.

How was the cross the manifestation of the justice of God? In two ways so closely united, that either of them separated from the other would lose its value. 1. By the very fact of Christ's sufferings and bloody death. If Paul does not see in this punishment a quantitative equivalent of the treatment which every sinner had incurred, this is what clearly appears from such sayings as 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made Him sin for us;Galatians 3:13: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. ” Now, herein precisely consists the manifestation of the righteousness wrought out on the cross. God is here revealed as one against whom no creature can revolt without meriting death; and the sinner is here put in his place in the dust as a malefactor worthy of death. Such is the objective manifestation of righteousness. 2. This demonstration, however striking, would be incomplete without the subjective or moral manifestation which accompanies it. Every sinner might be called to die on a cross. But no sinner was in a condition to undergo this punishment as Jesus did, accepting it as deserved. This is what He alone could do in virtue of His holiness. The calm and mute resignation with which He allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter, manifested the idea which He Himself formed of the majesty of God and the judgment He was passing on the sin of the world; from His cross there rose the most perfect homage rendered to the righteousness of God. In this death the sin of mankind was therefore doubly judged, and the righteousness of God doubly manifested by the external fact of this painful and ignominious punishment, and by the inward act of Christ's conscience, which ratified this dealing of which sin was the object in His person.

But now it will be asked what rendered such a demonstration necessary: Because, says St. Paul, of the tolerance exercised in regard to sins done aforetime.

For four thousand years the spectacle presented by mankind to the whole moral universe (comp. 1Co 4:9 ) was, so to speak, a continual scandal. With the exception of some great examples of judgments, divine righteousness seemed to be asleep; one might even have asked if it existed. Men sinned here below, and yet they lived. They sinned on, and yet reached in safety a hoary old age!...Where were the wages of sin? It was this relative impunity which rendered a solemn manifestation of righteousness necessary. Many commentators have completely mistaken the meaning of this passage, by giving to the word πάρεσις , which we have translated tolerance, the sense of pardon (Orig., Luth., Calv., Calov.; see also the Geneva translation of 1557, and, following it, Osterv. etc.). This first mistake has led to another. There has been given to the preposition διά the meaning of by, which it cannot have when governing the accusative, or it has been translated in view of, which would have required the preposition εἰς . The first error lies in confounding the term πάρεσις ( tolerance, impunity) with ἄφεσις ( remission, pardon). The second of these substantives comes from the verb ἀφίεναι , to send away, dismiss, pardon ( remittere); while the first used here comes from the verb παρίεναι , to let pass, neglect, not to occupy oneself with ( praetermittere); nearly the same idea as that expressed by the word ὑπεριδεῖν , to close the eyes to, Acts 18:30. The signification of the verb παρίεναι appears clearly from the two following passages: Sir 23:2 : “Lest sins should remain unpunished ( μὴ παριῶνται τὰ ά μαρτήματα );” and Xenophon, Hipparchic. 7.10: “Such sins must not be allowed to pass unpunished ( τὰ οὗν τοιαῦτα ἁμαρτήματα οὐ χρὴ παρίεναι ἀκόλαστα ).” It is worthy of remark also that in these two places sin is designated by the same word ἁμάρτημα as Paul employs in our passage: sin in the form of positive fault, transgression. The real sense of πάρεσις is therefore not doubtful. It has been given by Theodor., Grot., Beng.; it is now almost universally received (Thol., Olsh., Mey., Fritzs., Rück., de Wette, Philip. etc.). The διά can thus receive its true meaning (with the accusative): on account of; and the idea of the passage becomes clear: God judged it necessary, on account of the impunity so long enjoyed by those myriads of sinners who succeeded one another on the earth, at length to manifest His justice by a striking act; and He did so by realizing in the death of Jesus the punishment which each of those sinners would have deserved to undergo.

Ritschl, who, on account of his theory regarding the righteousness of God (see on Rom 1:18 ), could not accept this meaning, supposes another interpretation (II. p. 217 et seq.). Tolerance ( πάρεσις ) is not, according to him, contrasted with merited punishment, but with the pardon which God has finally granted. Rom 3:25 would thus signify that till the coming of Jesus Christ, God had only exercised patience without pardoning, but that in Christ the justice of God (His faithfulness to the salvation of His elect) had advanced so far as to give complete pardon. But where then, asks Gess, is this only, so necessary to indicate the advance from tolerance to pardon? The natural contrast to impunity is not pardon, but punishment; comp. Romans 2:4-5, and the parallel passage to ours, Acts 17:30-31: “ The times of ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth men to repent, because He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness. ” Finally, it is impossible on this interpretation to give a natural meaning to the words on account of. For pardon was not given because of the impunity exercised toward those sins. Paul would have required to say, either: because of those sins themselves, or: following up the long tolerance exercised toward them.

Several commentators (Calovius, for example) refer the expression: sins done aforetime, not to the sins of mankind who lived before Christ, but to those committed by every believer before his conversion. It is difficult in this sense to explain the words which follow: at this time, which form an antithesis to the former. We must apply them to the moment when each sinner in particular believes. But this meaning does not correspond to the gravity of the expression: at this time, in which the apostle evidently contrasts the period of completion with that of general impunity, and even with the eternal decree (the πρόθεσις ).

It may be further asked if these sins done aforetime are those of all mankind anterior to Christ, or perhaps, as Philippi thinks, only those of the Jews. The argument which this commentator derives from the meaning of ἱλαστήριον , the lid of the ark, the propitiatory so called, has of course no weight with us. Might one be found in the remarkable parallel, Hebrews 9:15: “The transgressions that were under the first testament”? No, for this restricted application follows naturally from the particular aim of the Epistle to the Hebrews (comp. for example, Rom 2:16 ). It may even be said that the demonstration of which the apostle speaks was less necessary for Israel than for the rest of mankind. For the sacrifices instituted by God were already a homage rendered to his justice. But this homage was not sufficient; for there was wanting in it that which gives value to the sacrifice of Christ; the victim underwent death, but did not accept it. Hence it was that the death of the Messiah necessarily closed the long series of the Levitical sacrifices. No more can we receive the opinion of Beza, Cocceius, Morison, who think the sins that are past are those of the faithful of the Old Testament whom God pardoned from regard to the future sacrifice of Christ. The article τῶν (“ the sins”) does not admit of this restriction, which there is nothing else to indicate. And the sacrifice of Christ cannot be explained here by an end so special.

But if it is asked why Paul gives as the reason for this sacrifice only the past and not the future sins of mankind, as if the death of Christ did not apply equally to the latter, the answer is easy, from the apostle's stand-point: the righteousness of God once revealed in the sacrifice of the cross, this demonstration remains. Whatever happens, nothing can again efface it from the history of the world, nor from the conscience of mankind. Henceforth no illusion is possible: all sin must be pardoned or judged.

Regarded from the point of view here taken by the apostle, the death of Jesus is in the history of humanity, something like what would emerge in the life of a sinner had he a time of perfect lucidity when, his conscience being miraculously brought into one with the mind of God regarding sin, he should judge himself as God judges him. Such a moment would be to this man the starting-point of a total transformation. Thus the demonstration of righteousness given to the world by the cross of Christ at the close of the long economy of sin tolerated, founded the new epoch, and with the possibility of pardon established the principle of the radical renewal of humanity.

Verse 26

Vv. 26. The first words of this verse: during the forbearance of God, depend naturally on the word πάρεσις , tolerance: “the tolerance (shown) during the forbearance of God.” It is less simple to connect this clause with the participle προγεγονότων : “committed formerly during the forbearance of God.” For the principal idea in what precedes, that which needs most to be explained, is that of the tolerance, and not that expressed by this participle. Meyer gives to the preposition ἐν the meaning of by: “the tolerance exercised toward the sins that are passed by the forbearance of God.” But the following antithesis: at this time, imperatively requires the temporal meaning of the clause ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ .

At the first glance it seems strange that in a proposition of which God is the subject, the apostle should say, not: “during his forbearance,” but: “during the forbearance of God. ” The reason of this apparent incorrectness is not, as has been thought, the remoteness of the subject, nor the fact that Paul is now expressing himself as it were from his own point of view, and not from that of God (Mey.). Rather it is that which is finely given by Matthias: by the word God the apostle brings more into relief the contrast between men's conduct (their constant sins) and God's (His long-suffering).

We have seen that Rom 3:26 should begin with the words reproduced from Romans 3:25: for the demonstration of His justice. To what purpose this repetition? Had not the reason which rendered the demonstration of righteousness necessary been sufficiently explained in Rom 3:25 ? Why raise this point emphatically once more to explain it anew? This form is surprising, especially in a passage of such extraordinary conciseness. De Wette and Meyer content themselves with saying: Repetition of the εἰς ἔνδειξιν ( for the demonstration), Romans 3:25. But again, why the change of preposition: in Romans 3:25, εἰς ; here, πρός ? We get the answer: a matter of style (Mey.), or of euphony (Gess), wholly indifferent as to meaning. With a writer like Paul our readers, we hope, are convinced of this such answers are insufficient. Rückert and Hofmann, to avoid these difficulties, think that the words: for the demonstration...should not be made dependent, like the similar words of Romans 3:25, on the verb προέθετο , had established, but on the substantive forbearance: “during the time of His forbearance, a forbearance which had in view the manifestation of His justice at a later period.” De Wette replies, with reason, that were we to connect these words with so subordinate an idea, the reader's mind would be diverted from the essential thought of the entire passage. Besides, how can we fail to see in the πρὸς ἔνδειξιν ( for the manifestation) of Rom 3:26 the resumption of the similar expression, Rom 3:25 ? The fact of this repetition is not, as it seems to us, so difficult to explain. The moral necessity of such a manifestation had been demonstrated by the tolerance of God in the past; for it had thrown a veil over the righteousness of God. But the explanation was not complete. The object to be gained in the future by this demonstration must also be indicated. And this is the end served by the repetition of this same expression in Romans 3:26: “for the demonstration, I say, in view of ”...Thus at the same time is explained the change of preposition. In Rom 3:25 the demonstration itself was regarded as an end: “whom he set forth beforehand as a propitiation for the demonstration ( εἰς , with a view to)”...But in Rom 3:26 this same demonstration becomes a means, with a view to a new and more remote end: “ for the demonstration of His justice, that He might be (literally, with a view to being) just, and the justifier”...The demonstration is always the end, no doubt, but now it is only the near and immediate object such is exactly the meaning of the Greek preposition πρός , which is substituted for the εἰς of Romans 3:25 -compared with a more distant and final end which opens up to view, and for which the apostle now reserves the εἰς (with a view to): “ with a view to being just, and the justifier.” Comp. on the relation of these two prepositions, Ephesians 4:12: “ for ( πρός ) the perfecting of the saints with a view to a ( εἰς ) work of ministry.” Here we may have a convincing proof that nothing is accidental in the style of a man like Paul. Never did jeweller chisel his diamonds more carefully than the apostle does the expression of his thoughts. This delicate care of the slightest shades is also shown in the addition of the article τήν before ἔνδειξιν in Romans 3:26, an addition sufficiently attested by the four Alex. Mjj., and by a Mj. from each of the other two families (D P). In Rom 3:25 the notion of demonstration was yet abstract: “ in demonstration of righteousness.” In Rom 3:26 it is now known; it is a concrete fact which should conspire to a new end; hence the addition of the article: “for that manifestation of which I speak, with a view to”...The following words: at this time, express one of the gravest thoughts of the passage. They bring out the full solemnity of the present epoch marked by this unexampled appearance, preordained and in a sense awaited by God Himself for so long. For without this prevision the long forbearance of the forty previous centuries would have been morally impossible; comp. Acts 17:30 (in regard to the Gentiles), and Hebrews 9:26: “But now once in the end of the ages hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (in regard to Israel).

And what was the end with a view to which this demonstration of righteousness was required at this time? The apostle answers: that he might be just and justifying that is to say, “that while being and remaining just, God might justify. It was a great problem, a problem worthy of divine wisdom, which the sin of man set before God to remain just while justifying (declaring just) man who had become unjust. God did not shrink from the task. He had even solved the difficulty beforehand in His eternal counsel, before creating man free; otherwise, would not this creation have merited the charge of imprudence? God had beside Him, in Christ ( προέθετο , Romans 3:25; comp. Eph 1:3-4 ), the means of being at once just and justifying that is to say, just while justifying, and justifying while remaining just.

The words: that He might be just, are usually understood in the logical sense: “that He might be known to be just.” Gess rightly objects to this attenuation of the word be. The second predicate: and justifying, does not suit this idea of being known. If God did not once show Himself perfectly just, would He be so in reality? Gess rightly says: “A judge who hates evil, but does not judge it, is not just: if the righteousness of God did not show itself, it would not exist.” In not smiting those sinners at once with the thunderbolt of His vengeance, those who had lived during the time of forbearance, God had not shown Himself just; and if He had continued to act thus indefinitely, mankind and the entire moral universe would have had good right to conclude that He was not just. It is obvious that the words: that He might be just, do not, strictly speaking, express a new idea: they reproduce in a different form the reason for the demonstration of righteousness already given in Rom 3:25 in the words: “because of the tolerance exercised toward sins done aforetime.” If this tolerance had not at length issued in a manifestation of justice, justice itself would have been annihilated. The thought is nevertheless of supreme importance here, at the close of this exposition. Men must not imagine, as they might easily do, especially with pardon before them, that the justice of God is somehow completely absorbed in His grace through the act of justifying. There is in the firm and immovable will of God to maintain right and order in the universe

His justice, that is to say the principle of the justification of believers no doubt, but not less certainly that of the judgment of the impenitent. Now, if God did not show Himself just at the moment when He justifies the unjust, there would be in such a pardon what would plunge sinners into the most dangerous illusion. They could no longer seriously suppose that they were on their way to give in an account; and judgment would burst on them as a terrible surprise. This is what God could not desire, and hence He has exercised the divine privilege of pardon only through means of a striking and solemn manifestation of His justice. He would really have given up His justice if, in this supreme moment of His manifestation, He had not displayed it brightly on the earth.

After having secured His righteousness, He is able to justify the unjust; for He has, in Christ, the means of justifying him justly. We have seen that the cross re-establishes order by putting each in his place, the holy God on His throne, rebellious man in the dust. So long as this homage, making reparation for the past, remains without us, it does not save us; but as soon as we make it ourselves by faith in Jesus, it avails for us, and God can justly absolve us. This is what is expressed by the last words, to which the passage pointed from the first: and justifying him who is of the faith in Jesus. By adhering to this manifestation of divine righteousness accomplished in Jesus, the believer makes it morally his own. He renders homage personally to the right which God has over him. He sees in his own person the malefactor worthy of death, who should have undergone and accepted what Jesus underwent and accepted. He exclaims, like that Bechuana in his simple savage language: Away from that, Christ; that's my place! Sin is thus judged in his conscience, as it was in that of the dying Jesus that is to say, as it is by the holiness of God himself, and as it never could have been by the ever imperfect repentance of a sinner. By appropriating to himself the homage rendered to the majesty of God by the Crucified One, the believer is himself crucified as it were in the eyes of God; moral order is re-established, and judgment can take end by an act of absolution. As to the impenitent sinner, who refuses to the divine majesty the homage contained in the act of faith, the demonstration of righteousness given on the cross remains as the proof that he will certainly meet with this divine attribute in the judgment.

The phrase: to be of the faith, has nothing surprising in Paul's style; comp. the εἶναι ἐκ , Romans 2:8; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:10, etc. It forcibly expresses the new mode of being which becomes the believer's as soon as he ceases to draw his righteousness from himself and derives it wholly from Jesus.

Three Mjj. read the accusative ᾿Ιησοῦν , which would lead to the impossible sense: “and the justifier of Jesus by faith.” This error probably arises from the abridged form IY in the ancient Mjj., which might easily be read IN. Two MSS. (F G) wholly reject this name (see Meyer). The phrase: “him who is of the faith,” without any indication of the object of faith, would not be impossible. This reading has been accepted by Oltramare. But two MSS. of the ninth century do not suffice to justify it. Nothing could better close this piece than the name of the historical personage to whose unspeakable love mankind owes this eternal blessing.

The Expiation.

We have endeavored to reproduce exactly the meaning of the expressions used by the apostle in this important passage, and to rise to the sum of the ideas which it contains. In what does the apostolical conception, as we have understood it, differ from the current theories on this fundamental subject?

If we compare it first with the doctrine generally received in the church, the point on which the difference seems to us to bear is this: in the ecclesiastical theory God demands the punishment of Christ as a satisfaction to Himself, in so far as His justice ought to have an equivalent for the penalty merited by man, to permit divine love to pardon. From the point of view to which the exposition of the apostle brings us, this equivalent is not intended to satisfy divine justice except by manifesting it, and in re-establishing the normal relation between God and the guilty creature. By sin, in short, God loses His supreme place in the conscience of the creature; by this demonstration of justice He recovers it. In consequence of sin, the creature no longer comprehends and feels the gravity of his rebellion; by this manifestation God makes it palpable to him. On this view it is not necessary that the sacrifice of reparation should be the equivalent of the penalty incurred by the multitude of sinful men, viewed as the sum of the merited sufferings; it is enough that it be so as regards the physical and moral character of the sufferings due to sin in itself.

The defenders of the received theory will no doubt ask if, on this view, the expiation is not pointed simply to the conscience of the creature, instead of being also a reparation offered to God Himself. But if it is true that a holy God cannot pardon, except in so far as the pardon itself establishes the absolute guilt of sin and the inviolability of the divine majesty, and so includes a guarantee for the re-establishment of order in the relation between the sinner and God, and if this condition is found only in the punishment of sin holily undertaken and humbly accepted by Him who alone was able to do so, is not the necessity of expiation in relation to the absolute Good, to God Himself, demonstrated? His holiness would protest against every pardon which did not fulfil the double condition of glorifying His outraged majesty and displaying the condemnation of sin. Now, this double end is gained only by the expiatory sacrifice. But the necessity of this sacrifice arises from His whole divine character, in other words, from his holiness, the principle at once of His love and justice, and not exclusively of His justice. And, in truth, the apostle nowhere expresses the idea of a conflict between justice and love as requiring the expiation. It is grace that saves, and it saves by the demonstration of justice which, in the act of expiation, restores God to His place and man to his. Such is the condition on which divine love can pardon without entailing on the sinner the final degradation of his conscience and the eternal consolidation of his sin.

This view also evades the grand objection which is so generally raised in our day against a satisfaction made to justice by means of the substitution of the innocent for the guilty. No doubt the ordinary theory of expiation may be defended by asking who would be entitled to complain of such a transaction: not God who establishes it, nor the Mediator who voluntarily sacrifices Himself, nor man whose salvation is affected by it. But, in any case, this objection does not apply to the apostolic conception as we have expounded it. For whenever the question ceases to be one of legal satisfaction, and becomes a simple demonstration of God's right, no ground remains for protesting in the name of justice. Who could accuse God of injustice for having made use of Job and his sufferings to prove to Satan that he can obtain from the children of the dust a disinterested homage, a free submission, which is not that of the mercenary? Similarly, who can arraign the divine justice for having given to sinful man, in the person of Jesus, a convincing demonstration of the judgment which the guilty one deserved at his hand? Deserved, did I say? of the judgment which will visit him without fail if he refuses to join by faith in that homage solemnly rendered to God's rights, and rejects the reconciliation which God offers him in this form.

It seems to us, then, that the true apostolical conception, while firmly establishing the fact of expiation, which is, historically speaking as no one can deny the distinctive feature of Christianity, secures it from the grave objections which in these days have led so many to look on this fundamental dogma with suspicion.

But some would perhaps say: Such a view rests, as much as the so-called orthodox theory, on notions of right and justice, which belong to a lower sphere, to the legal and juridical domain. A noble and generous man will not seek to explain his conduct by reasons taken from so external an order; how much less should we have recourse to them to explain that of God?

Those who speak thus do not sufficiently reflect that we have to do in this question not with God in His essence, but with God in His relation to free man. Now, the latter is not holy to begin with; the use which he makes of his liberty is not yet regulated by love. The attribute of justice (the firm resolution to maintain order, whose existence is latent in the divine holiness) must therefore appear as a necessary safeguard as soon as liberty comes on the stage, and with it the possibility of disorder; and this attribute must remain in exercise as long as the educational period of the life of the creature lasts, that is to say, until he has reached perfection in love. Then all those factors, right, law, justice, will return to their latent state. But till then, God, as the guardian of the normal relations between free beings, must keep by law and check by punishment every being disposed to trample on His authority, or on the liberty of His fellows. Thus it is that the work of righteousness necessarily belongs to God's educating and redeeming work, without which the world of free beings would soon be no better than a chaos, from which goodness, the end of creation, would be forever banished. Blot out this factor from the government of the world, and the free being becomes Titan, no longer arrested by anything in the execution of any caprice. God's place is overthrown, and the creatures destroy one another mutually. It is common to regard love as the fundamental feature of the divine character; and in this way it is very difficult to reach the attribute of justice. Most thinkers, indeed, do not reach it at all. This one fact should serve to show the error in which they are entangled. Holy, holy, holy, say the creatures nearest to God, when celebrating His perfection (Isaiah 6:0), and not good, good, good. Holiness, such is the essence of God; and holiness is the absolute love of the good, the absolute horror of evil. Hence it is not difficult to deduce both love and justice. Love is the goodwill of God toward all free beings who are destined to realize the good. Love goes out to the individuals, as holiness to the good itself which they ought to produce. Justice, on the other hand, is the firm purpose of God to maintain the normal relation between all these beings by his blessings and punishments. It is obvious that justice is included no less necessarily than love itself in the fundamental feature of the divine character, holiness. It is no offence therefore to God to speak of His justice and His rights. The exercise of a right is only a shame when the being who exercises it makes it subservient to the gratification of his egoism. It is, on the contrary, a glory to one who, like God, knows that in preserving His place He is securing the good of all others. For, as Gess admirably expounds it, God, in maintaining His supreme dignity, preserves to the creatures their most precious treasure, a God worthy of their respect and love.

Unjustifiable antipathy to the notions of right and justice, as applied to God, has led contemporary thought to very divergent and insufficient explanations of the death of Christ.

Some see nothing more in this event than an inevitable historical result of the conflict between the holiness of Jesus and the immoral character of his contemporaries. This solution is well answered by Hausrath himself: “Our faith gives to the question: Why did Christ require to die on the cross? another answer than that drawn from the history of His time. For the history of the ideal cannot be an isolated and particular fact; its contents are absolute; it has an eternal value which does not belong to a given moment, but to the whole of mankind. Every man should recognize in such a history a mystery of grace consummated also for him ” ( Neutest. Zeitgesch. 1:450).

Wherein consists this mystery of grace contained in the Crucified One for every man? In the fact, answer many, that here we find the manifestation of divine love to mankind. “The ray of love,” says Pfleiderer, “such is the true saviour of mankind....And as to Jesus, He is the sun, the focus in whom all the rays of this light scattered elsewhere are concentrated” ( Wissensch. Vorträge über religiöse Fragen). On this view, Jesus sacrificed himself only to attest by this act of devotion the full greatness of divine love. But what, then, is a devotion which has no other object than to witness to itself? An exhibition of love, which might be compared to that of the woman who committed suicide, a few years ago, to awake, as she said, the dormant genius of her husband by this token of her love. Besides, how could the sacrifice of his life made by a man for his fellow-men demonstrate the love of God? We may, indeed, see in it the attestation of brotherly love in its most eminent degree, but we do not find the love of the Father.

Others, finally, regard the death of Christ only as the culminating point of His consecration to God and men, of His holiness. “These texts,” says Sabatier, after quoting Romans 6:0 and 2 Corinthians 5:0, “place the value of the death of Jesus not in any satisfaction whatever offered to God, but in the annihilation of sin, which this death brings about” ( L'ap. Paul, p. 202). To the same effect M. de Pressensé expresses himself thus: “This generous suffering, which Jesus voluntarily accepts, is an act of love and obedience; and hence its restoring and redeeming character....In the name of humanity Christ reverses the rebellion of Eden; He brings back the heart of man to God....In the person of a holy victim, humanity returns to the God who waited for it from the first days of the world” ( Vie de Jésus, pp. 642 and 643). Most modern theories (Hofmann, Ritschl), if we mistake not, are substantially the same, to wit, the spiritual resurrection of humanity through Christ. By the holiness he so painfully realized, and of which His bloody death was the crown, Jesus has given birth to a humanity which breaks with sin, and gives itself to God; and God, foreseeing this future holiness of believers, and regarding it as already realized, pardons their sins from love of this expected perfection. But is this the apostle's view? He speaks of a demonstration of justice, and not only of holiness. Then he ascribes to death, to blood, a peculiar and independent value. So he certainly does in our passage, but more expressly still in the words, Romans 5:10: “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled ( justified, Rom 3:9 ) by His death (His blood, Rom 3:9 ), much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life ( through him, Rom 3:9 ).” It is by His death, accordingly, that Jesus reconciles or justifies, as it is by his life that he sanctifies and perfects salvation. Finally, the serious practical difficulty in the way of this theory lies, as we think, in the fact that, like the Catholic doctrine, it makes justification rest on sanctification (present or future), while the characteristic of gospel doctrine, what, to use Paul's language, may be called its folly, but what is in reality its divine wisdom, is its founding justification on the atonement perfected by Christ's blood, to raise afterward on this basis the work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit.

Verses 27-28

Vv. 27, 28. “ Where is the boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by that of faith. For we judge that man is justified by faith without works of law.Οὖν , then: in consequence of the great fact which has been explained, and of the means of justification which it implies ( Rom 3:23-26 ). Καύχησις , boasting, vainglory; this term denotes not the object boasted of, but the act of self-glorification. The article ἡ , the, marks this boasting as well known; it is therefore the boasting of the Jews which is referred to. The word might be connected with the καυχᾶσθαι ἐν Θεῷ , Romans 2:17, and understood of the glory which the Jews sought to borrow from their exceptional position; but the context, and especially the following verse, prove that the apostle has in view the pretension of the Jews to justify themselves by their own works, instead of deriving their righteousness from the work of Christ.

This pretension has been excluded forever by the work described, Romans 3:24-26. There remains nothing else for man to do than to lay hold of it by faith. This question has something of a triumphant character; comp. the similar form, 1 Corinthians 1:20. The self-righteousness of the Jews is treated here as the wisdom of the Greeks is in that passage. The apostle seeks it, and before the cross it vanishes. Hofmann understands this exclamation of the vainglory to which even Christians might give themselves up: “Have we then, we Christians, thus justified, whereof to boast?” This interpretation is bound up with that of the same author, according to which the question, Romans 3:9: “Have we any advantage (over those whom judgment will overtake)?” is also put in the mouth of Christians. But it is evident that, like the question of Romans 3:9, this refers specially to Jewish prejudice; for it is expressly combated in the following words, Romans 3:29, and it is alluded to by the article ἡ , the, before καύχησις .

Only the question arises, What leads the apostle to put such a question here? The answer seems to us to be this. His intention in these few verses is to show the profound harmony between the law and the gospel. Now the conclusion to which he had been led by the searching study of the law, Romans 3:9-20, was, that it was intended to shut the mouths of all men, and of the Jews in particular, before God, by giving them the knowledge of sin. Hence it followed that the mode of justification which best agreed with the law was that which traced the origin of righteousness not to the works of the law, by means of which man thinks that he can justify himself, but to faith; for, like the law itself, the righteousness of faith brings all boasting to silence, so that the righteousness of works, which lays a foundation for boasting, is contrary to the law, while that of faith, which excludes it, is alone in harmony with the law. And this is exactly what Paul brings out in the following questions.

In these two questions the term law is taken in a general sense. This word is often used by Paul to denote a mode of action which is imposed on the individual, a rule to which he is subject, a principle which determines his conduct. Sometimes when thus understood it is taken in a good sense; for example, Romans 8:2: “the law of the spirit of life which is in Jesus Christ;” again it is used in a bad sense; so Romans 7:23: “the law which is in my members;” or, again, it is applied in both ways, good and bad at once; comp. Romans 7:21. As Baur well says, the word law denotes in general “a formula which serves to regulate the relation between God and man.” The genitive τῶν ἔργων , of works, depends on a νόμου understood, as is proved by the repetition of this word before πίστεως .

That glory which man derives from his self-righteousness, and which the law had already foreclosed, has been finally excluded. And by what means? By a rule of works? Certainly not, for such a means would rather have promoted it, but by that of faith (Romans 3:26.) The apostle thus reaches the striking result that the rule of works would contradict the law, and that the rule of faith is that which harmonizes with it.

He here uses the word νόμος , rule, probably because he was speaking of excluding, and this requires something firm.

Verses 27-31

Ninth Passage (3:27-31). The Harmony of this Mode of Justification with the true Meaning of the Law.

The apostle had asserted, Romans 3:21, that the law and the prophets themselves bear witness to the mode of justification revealed in the gospel. This he demonstrates, first generally, from the spirit of the law, then specially, from the example of Abraham, in the two following pieces: chap. Rom 3:27-31 and chap. 4. As the theme of the preceding piece was expressed in the words of Romans 3:21-22: righteousness of God revealed without faith in Jesus Christ, that of the following development is found in the words of Romans 3:21: witnessed by the law and by the prophets. We see how rigorously the apostle adheres to order in his work.

The piece, Romans 3:27-31, argues from all that precedes to the harmony of justification by faith with the Old Testament 1. Inasmuch as the law and the gospel equally exclude justification by works, Romans 3:27-28; this is the negative demonstration; and 2. Inasmuch as only justification by faith harmonizes with the Monotheism which is the doctrinal basis of the whole Old Testament, Romans 3:29-31; such is the positive demonstration.

Verse 28

Vv. 28. The relation between this verse and the preceding rests on the contrast between the two ideas καύχησις and πίστει δικαιοῦσθαι , boasting and being justified by faith. “We exclude boasting in proportion as we affirm justification by faith.”

Several commentators read οὖν , then, after T. R., which is supported by the Vat. and the Byzs. In that case this verse would form the conclusion from what precedes: “We conclude, then, that man”...But if the apostle were concluding finally in Romans 3:28, why would he recommence to argue in the following verse? We must therefore prefer the reading of the other Alexs. and the Greco-Lats., γάρ , for: “For we deem, we assert that”...Another question is, Whether, with the Byzs., we are to put the word πίστει , by faith, before the verb δικαιοῦσθαι , to be justified, or whether it is better to put it after, with the other two families, and so give the idea of justification the dominant place over that of the means of obtaining it. The connection with Rom 3:27 certainly speaks in favor of the Byz. reading, which has the Peshito for it. It is the idea of being justified by faith, and not that of being justified in general, which excludes boasting.

It is worth remarking the word ἄνθρωπον , man. This general term is chosen designedly: “whatever bears the name of man, Jew as well as Gentile, depends on the justification which is of faith, and can have no other.” If it is so, it is plain that boasting is finally excluded. The apostle adds: “ without works of law, that is to say, without participation in any of those works which are wrought in the servile and mercenary spirit which prevails under the rule of law (see on Rom 3:20 ). The matter in question here is neither final salvation nor works as fruits of faith ( good works, Ephesians 2:10; Tit 3:8 ). For these will be necessary in the day of judgment (see on Rom 2:13 ).

If it were otherwise, if the works of the law had not been excluded by the great act of expiation described Romans 3:24-26, and by the rule of faith involved in it, it would be found that God provided for the salvation of a part of mankind only, and forgot the rest. The unity of God is not compatible with this difference in his mode of acting. Now the dogma of the unity of God is the basis of the law, and of the whole of Judaism. On this point, too, therefore, the law is at one with faith, Romans 3:29-31.

Verses 29-30

Vv. 29, 30. “ Or is he the God of the Jews only?is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, who shall bring out the justification of the circumcised from faith, and who shall bring about that of the uncircumcised by the faith.

The meaning of the ἤ , or, when prefixed to a question by Paul, is familiar to us: “ Or if you do not admit that”...? This question therefore goes to show that the negation of what precedes violates the Monotheism so dear to the Jews, and in which they gloried. The genitive ᾿Ιουδαίων , of Jews, used without the article, denotes the category. Meyer refuses to take this word as the complement of the predicate Θεός , God, understood; but wrongly; the natural meaning is: “Is God the God of the Jews?” Comp. Rom 2:29 , 1 Corinthians 14:33, and Luke 20:38 (with Mat 22:32 ). Otherwise we should require to apply here the phrase εἶναί τινος , to be the property of (to belong to), which does not correspond to the relation between God and man.

To the question: Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Paul could answer with assurance: yes, of the Gentiles also; for the entire Old Testament had already drawn from Monotheism this glorious inference. The psalms celebrated Jehovah as the God of all the earth, before whom the nations walk with trembling (Psalms 96-98, 100). Jeremiah called Him ( Rom 10:7 ) the King of nations; and the apostle himself had demonstrated in chap. 1 the existence of a universal divine revelation, which is the first foundation of universalism.

Verse 30

Vv. 30. The Alex. read εἴπερ : if truly. This reading might suffice if the apostle were merely repeating the principle of the unity of God as the basis of the preceding assertion: “ if indeed God is one.” But he goes further; this principle of the unity of God serves him as a point of departure from which to draw important inferences expressed in a weighty proposition: “ who will justify. ” To warrant him in doing so, it is not enough that he has asserted the unity of God as an admitted supposition: “ if indeed. ” He must have laid it down as an indubitable fact which could serve as a basis for argument. We must therefore prefer the reading of the other two families: ἐπείπερ , seeing that. Monotheism has as its natural corollary the expectation of one only means of justification for the whole human race. No doubt this dogma is compatible with a temporary particularism, of a pedagogic nature; but as soon as the decisive question arises, that of final salvation or condemnation, the unity must appear. A dualism on this point would imply a duality in God's essence: “ who (in consequence of His unity) will justify. ” The future: will justify, has been variously explained. Some think that it expresses logical consequence (Rück. Hofm.); others, that it refers to the day of judgment (Beza, Fritzs.); a third party refer it to all the particular cases of justification which have taken or shall take place in history. The last sense seems the most natural: the whole new development of history, which is now opening, appears to the apostle as the consequence of the fundamental dogma of Judaism.

Meyer alleges that the difference of the two prepositions ἐκ and διά , from and by (which we have sought to render in our translation), is purely accidental. Is it also accidental that the article τῆς , the, which was wanting in the first proposition before the word πίστεως , faith, is added in the second? Experience has convinced us that Paul's style is not at the mercy of chance, even in its most secondary elements. On the other hand, must we, with Calvin, find the difference a pure irony: “If any one insists on a difference between Jews and Gentiles, well and good! I shall make over one to him; the first obtains righteousness from faith, the second by faith.” No; it would be much better to abandon the attempt to give a meaning to this slight difference, than to make the apostle a poor wit. The following, as it seems to me, is the shade of meaning which the apostle meant to express. With regard to the Jew, who laid claim to a righteousness of works, he contrasts category with category by using the preposition ἐκ , from, out of, which denotes origin and nature: a righteousness of faith. Hence, too, he omits the article, which would have described the conciete fact, rather than the quality. But when he comes to speak of the Gentiles, who had been destitute till then of every means of reaching any righteousness whatever, he chooses the preposition διά , by: by means of, which points to faith simply as the way by which they reach the unexpected end; and he adds the article because faith presents itself to his mind, in this relation, as the well-known means, besides which the Gentile does not dream of any other.

The harmony between the Mosaic law and justification by faith has been demonstrated from two points of view 1. That of the universal humiliation (the exclusion of all boasting), which results from the former and constitutes the basis of the latter ( Rom 3:27-28 ). 2. That of the unity of God, which is the basis of Israelitish Mosaism and prophetism, as well as that of evangelical universalism ( Rom 3:29-30 ). Thereafter nothing more natural than the conclusion drawn in Romans 3:31.

Verse 31

Vv. 31. “ Do we then make void the law through faith? That be far from us! Much rather we establish the law.

This verse has been misunderstood by most commentators. Some (Aug., Luth., Mel., Calv., Philip., Rück.) apply it to the sanctification which springs from faith, and by which the gospel finally realizes the fulfilment of the law. This is the thesis which will be developed in chaps. 6-8. We do not deny that the apostle might defer the full development of a maxim thrown out beforehand, and, as it were, by the way; comp. the sayings, Romans 3:3; Romans 3:20 b. But yet he must have been logically led to such sentences by their necessary connection with the context. Now this is not the case here. What is there at this point to lead the apostle to concern himself with the sanctifying power of faith? Let us remark, further, that Rom 3:31 is connected by then with what precedes, and can only express an inference from the passage, Romans 3:27-30. Finally, how are we to explain the then at the beginning of chap. 4? How does the mode of Abraham's justification follow from the idea that faith leads to the fulfilment of the law? Hofmann offers substantially the same explanation, only giving to the word law the meaning of moral law in general (instead of the Mosaic law). But the difficulties remain absolutely the same.

Meyer and some others regard Rom 3:31 as the beginning, and, in a manner, the theme of the following chapter. The term law, on this view, refers to the passage of Genesis which the apostle is about to quote, Romans 4:3: “The harmony of justification by faith with the law is about to be explained by what the law says of Abraham's justification.” But it is difficult to believe that Paul, without the slightest indication, would call an isolated passage of the Pentateuch the law. Then, if the relation between Rom 3:31 and Rom 4:1 were as Meyer thinks, it should be expressed logically by for, not by then. Holsten, if we understand him rightly, tries to get rid of these difficulties by applying the term law in our verse to the law of faith ( Rom 3:27 ), in which he sees an absolute rule of righteousness holding good for all men, and consequently for Abraham. One could not imagine a more forced interpretation. Our explanation is already indicated; it follows naturally from the interpretation which we have given of the preceding verses. Paul's gospel was accused of making void the law by setting aside legal works as a means of justification; and he has just proved to his adversaries that it is his teaching, on the contrary, which harmonizes with the true meaning of the law, while the opposite teaching overturns it, by keeping up the vainglory of man, which the law was meant to destroy, and by violating Monotheism on which it is based. Is it surprising that he concludes such a demonstration with the triumphant affirmation: “Do we then overturn the law, as we are accused of doing? On the contrary, we establish it.” The true reading is probably ἱστάνομεν ; the most ancient form, which has been replaced by the later form ἱστῶμεν . The verb signifies, not to preserve, maintain, but to cause to stand, to establish. This is what Paul does with regard to the law; he establishes it as it were anew by the righteousness of faith; which, instead of overturning it, as it was accused of doing, faithfully maintains its spirit in the new dispensation, the fact which he had just proved.

This verse forms a true period to the whole passage, Romans 3:21-30. The law had been called to give witness on the subject of the doctrine of universal condemnation; it had borne witness, Romans 3:7-19. It has just been cited again, and now in favor of the new righteousness; its testimony has not been less favorable, Romans 3:27-31.

After demonstrating in a general way the harmony of his teaching with Old Testament revelation, the apostle had only one thing left to desire in the discussion: that was to succeed in finding in the Old Testament itself a saying or an illustrious example which, in the estimation of the Jews, would give the sanction of divine authority to his argument. There was such a saying, and he was fortunate enough to find it. It was written by the hand of the legislator himself, and related to what was in a manner the typical example of justification with the Jews. It therefore combined all the conditions fitted to settle the present question conclusively. Thus it is that Gen 15:6 becomes the text of the admirable development contained in chap. 4. This piece is the counterpart of the scriptural demonstration which had closed the delineation of universal condemnation, Romans 3:9-20. It belongs, therefore, to the exposition of the thesis of Romans 3:21: the righteousness of faith witnessed by the law and the prophets.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".