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Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the Bible Kretzmann's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ kpc/ romans-3.html. 1921-23.
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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Man's Guilt and God's Righteousness.
The advantage of the Jew:
v. 1. What advantage, then, hath the Jew, or what profit is there of circumcision?
v. 2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
v. 3. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
v. 4. God forbid! Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.
The apostle had last shown that the mere outward possession of the Law did not exempt the Jews from judgment and condemnation, since God demands a keeping of the Law and is not satisfied with a mere hearing; he had argued, furthermore, that circumcision in the flesh, though it be the seal of the covenant of God and the pledge of His promises, could be of value only if it was accompanied by a circumcision of the heart. But the Jewish reader might now answer that these statements were inconsistent with the acknowledged superiority and privileges of his nation. This objection the apostle here meets. In consequence of what has just been set forth: What, then, is the advantage, the preeminence, the superiority, of the Jew, or what is the benefit, the value, the profit, of circumcision? The two questions have the same thought, for by circumcision the descendant of Abraham became a member of the Jewish nation. The answer is: Much, in every way, in every respect. The superiority of the Jews was evident in all conditions of life. But Paul here mentions only the chief prerogative: First, the most outstanding and unmistakable advantage, because or that they have been entrusted with the oracles, the special sayings, of God, the revelations of God as included in the Old Testament writings, both Law and Gospel. By the deposit of this treasure in their midst God granted to the Jews a distinction above all other nations; He placed almost unlimited trust in them, and expected a proportional measure of faithfulness from them.
The apostle now finds it necessary to vindicate himself against a further possible objection: For what is the situation? If some were unfaithful, surely their unfaithfulness will not render the faithfulness of God inefficient! The Jews, the majority of the Jews, had been unfaithful; they had not shown the proper appreciation of, and reverence for, the divine revelations; they had not believed the promises of God. And therefore one might conclude that, since they had broken their trust and had not been obedient to the Law of God, God's part of the covenant had also been annulled. But Paul answers with an emphatic: Indeed not! By no means! The very idea seems to the apostle to savor of blasphemy; the thought that the faith of God has been rendered inefficient, His trust has been withdrawn, is no fair inference from his teaching. There is "no breach of the promises of God involved in the condemnation of the wicked Jews. " The situation rather is this: Let God be true, but every man a liar. God will always be found faithful in keeping His part of the covenant, and He must be seen and acknowledged as true. That will be the final result and consequence of the drift of matters: God will stand before the whole world as the Faithful One, that adhered strictly to His promises, but the Jews as liars, that have abandoned the Word of God. But Paul purposely speaks in general terms. All men, in comparison with God, in their relation toward God, are liars, Psalms 116:11. To all of them God has revealed Himself, though not in the same degree; and all of them have turned from Him to vanity and lies. This statement the apostle substantiates with a Scripture-passage, Psalms 51:4: In order that Thou mayest be justified in Thy sayings and overcome, remain victorious, when Thou art judged. In the final analysis, God will always be found just and truthful, the case will and must be decided in His favor, if not before, then most assuredly on, the last day. The evidence will demonstrate that God showed only kindness and mercy to men, but that they offended Him and broke the covenant of trust at all times. And so the very transgressions of men will serve to bring out the unchanging faithfulness of God all the more strongly. Note: The words of Paul in this instance should be the very strongest incentive to every Christian to prove faithful to Him at all times, and not to rely upon a mere conventional form of religious observation.
God vindicated in every respect:
v. 5. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.)
v. 6. God forbid! For then how shall God judge the world?
v. 7. For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
v. 8. And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just.
A new thought is here introduced by the apostle. For if the argument of verses 3 and 4 is correct, then the unbelief of the Jews actually serves as a foil to set off the faithfulness of God; it makes His truth all the more conspicuous; it actually redounds to His glory: why, then, should they still be exposed to judgment and condemnation? If our unrighteousness, our wickedness, our condition of faithlessness and proneness to lying, actually demonstrates, sets forth, the righteousness, the rectitude, the moral excellence of God, what shall we say, what follows, what conclusion may we draw? A Jew might feel that, with God's fidelity pledged to his salvation, and his wickedness setting forth God's rectitude, surely his condition could not be such as to place him in danger of eternal condemnation. St. Paul states such an argument: Can it be? Dare we assume or infer that God is unjust in taking vengeance? Since the entire situation so obviously results in an advantage on the part of God, then, if one wants to argue from a purely human standpoint, does it not seem that God, in inflicting punishment, is acting in a vengeful, spiteful way? But the apostle again rejects the very suggestion with an emphatic: Indeed not! By no means! For if the implication is true that God would resort to such petty forms of vengeance and thereby become unrighteous, how, then, will He judge the world? If He Himself were unrighteous, He surely could not execute His wrath on the unrighteousness of men, Genesis 18:25. If God were actually unjust, it would be out of the question for Him to pass sentence upon the world.
Paul now further amplifies and confirms the answer given to the Jews in v. 6, by placing his own person into the foreground: For if the truth of God through my lie has abounded to His glorification, why should I then still be judged as sinner? He argues as a member of the human family might on the Day of Judgment. If the fact that the adherence of God to His promises is brought out so strongly by the falseness and wickedness of man, if it has made the glory of God the more conspicuous, why should man be judged and condemned as a sinner? God ought to be satisfied with the fact that man's sin increases His own glory and honor. The answer of Paul is given in the form of his question. The fact that God still condemns is due to the guilt and the culpability of sin, that He, who is and remains the Holy and Just One, cannot do otherwise than pass sentence of condemnation upon the transgression of the sinner, even though this redounds to His honor and glory. The righteousness of God cannot possibly suffer to have him that has done evil go unpunished.
This thought is brought out still more strongly in v. 8. If the argument of the Jews were valid, then not only may every sinner claim exemption, but it would follow that one might freely do evil, with the specious plea that good would come from it: Why is not the situation so as we are being slandered and as some report that we say, Let us do the evil in order that the good may come? If the principle brought out in the objection were correct, then this conclusion would be perfectly logical and acceptable. Every further sin enhances the glory of God; therefore let us sin, by all means. Such proposals were slanderously ascribed to the Christians in those days, just as they are reported today. The conclusion drawn by the unbelievers from the doctrine of justification is that the Christians deliberately performed wicked deeds in order that the grace of God, in the forgiveness of sins, might stand out all the more gloriously. But such theory and practice is not found among the Christians, as St. Paul here emphasizes, both by the negative interrogatory particle and by the words: Whose condemnation is altogether just. People that persist in misunderstanding justification by grace through faith, as taught in Scriptures, will bring upon themselves a just punishment. Thus also this last statement of the apostle is a vindication of divine righteousness and justice, and a refutation of the false conclusion that God is unjust in condemning the sinners. Note: The Christians to this day are under suspicion on account of the doctrine of justification. The false conclusion is cast into their teeth: The worse we are, the better; for the more wicked we are, the more conspicuous will be the mercy of God in our pardon. But Christians, in spite of this slander, are fully conscious of the guilt and culpability of sin, of the fact that God's righteous wrath will strike all transgressors, but above all of the fact that every sin is a cause of grief to the Holy Spirit of God and to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.
The Scriptural Proof for the Universal Guilt of Mankind.
Scripture includes all men under sin:
v. 9. What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin;
v. 10. as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;
v. 11. there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
v. 12. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one
v. 13. their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips;
v. 14. whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;
v. 15. their feet are swift to shed blood;
v. 16. destruction and misery are in their ways;
v. 17. and the way of peace have they not known;
v. 18. there is no fear of God before their eyes.
The apostle now, including himself with the Jews, brings out very clearly the general guilt of mankind, of Jews as well as of Gentiles: How now? What is the situation? Have we, as Jews, any preference or advantage over the Gentiles? Have we any better claim to the privileges of the kingdom of God than they? His answer is a decisive: Not at all. The Jews in no way were more excellent than the Gentiles in their relation toward God; for we have before charged Jews as well as Gentiles that all of them are under sin, their condition is one of transgression and guilt. This the apostle had done at length, beginning with chap. 1:18. Polluted by sin and subject to the condemnation of sinners: that is the situation of all men, whether they be Jews or whether they be Gentiles.
These statements Paul now substantiates by a reference to Scripture. What he himself says and writes is in itself the truth, the Word of God. But in order to overcome all opposition in advance, he adds the authority of the Old Testament prophecy to the inspired word of his letter. There is written: It has been written, and it stands there as the eternal truth. The apostle here quotes freely from the Old Testament, Psalms 14:1-3; Psalms 53:1-6; Psalms 5:10; Psalms 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; Psalms 36:1. He offers the texts in a free translation or according to the Greek version, the Holy Ghost arranging the words of eternal truth to suit the present argument. This method of reasoning, with application of general passages, is altogether legitimate. The prevalence of certain acts and crimes in a people may well be taken as a manifestation of the national character. It is a terrible arraignment of mankind which is here offered. There is not that is righteous, not even one; the universality of sin is flatly stated. There is not an understanding man, one with real sense and wisdom in religion. There is not one that seeketh God, that uses zeal and diligence in finding the Lord. They have become estranged from God, and are now totally indifferent to His will and worship. All have turned away, out of the right and proper course which the will of God has shown; altogether they have become unprofitable, worthless, good for nothing, so far as spiritual matters are concerned. Not is there any that doeth goodness. not so much as one.
This depravity of men is manifested in their speech as well as in all their actions. A widely opened grave is their throat: they breathe forth death, they have in mind only to do injury with their tongues. With their tongues they deceive: they make smooth their tongues, they flatter, they speak treacherously, deceitfully. The poison of asps is under their lips: in the midst of all their feigned friendliness and flattery they have evil, treacherous intentions, to inflict suffering delights their malignant soul. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, and they do not stop with maledictions and blasphemy, but continue in their course with sins of violence. Swift are their feet to shed blood: they are eager, they cannot wait, they find their delight in taking their neighbor's life: wherever they can harm their neighbor in body and life, they seize the opportunity with murderous joy. Destruction and misery are in their ways: their path through life is marked by poor unfortunate people whom they have trodden under foot and plunged into grief. And the way of peace they have not learned to know: a manner of living by which they might dispense peace, salvation, blessings, has never engaged their serious attention. There is no fear of God before their eyes: that is the cause of their entire depravity; the absence of the fear of God, of reverence, of piety, is shown in their entire life and in all their deeds. A person that has the fear of God in his heart and the picture of God before the eyes of his mind will make every effort to lead a life in accordance with His will. Thus St. Paul has given a complete description of natural man's depravity, a picture which holds true at the present time just as it did several thousand years ago. Of man as he left the Creator's hand, with the imprint of the divine image on his reason and will, there is left only a caricature, which fills the heart of the beholder with shuddering and horror.
A special word to the Jews:
v. 19. Now we know that what things so ever the Law saith it saith to them who are under the Law, that every mouth maybe stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.
v. 20. Therefore, by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.
In the previous passage the apostle had spoken of men in general, both Jews and Gentiles, giving a full and detailed description of their natural condition. He now applies the thought to the Jews in particular, to those that were under the Law in a special sense. So we know, it is a fact generally conceded, it is a statement which may be assumed at once, without further proof. Whatever things, all the things which the Law tells, it speaks with reference to the Lawgiver and to the purpose of His will, to them that are under the Law, who made their boast of the Mosaic Law, whose entire life, down to the minutest details, was regulated by its provisions. But the purpose of the Law and of all instruction in the Law is that every mouth should be silenced, and that the entire world should become guilty before God. In the case of the heathen the deeds of their depravity were evidently culpable. But the Jews, in whose case the vices and transgressions were often covered with a certain external righteousness and show of sanctity, were equally guilty before the Law of God. Not one mouth can be opened in a plea of innocence and righteousness, but the whole world, regardless of race and nationality, should stand convicted of guilt, be liable to punishment on account of sin. And why will all the world become guilty before God? Because by the deeds of the Law will no flesh be justified before Him. It is impossible for any person, by means of the works which are demanded by the Law, to stand before God, to be accepted by Him, as a just person; no sinner can fulfill the Law in its real requirements, actually keep all its demands in regard to omission and commission. For through the Law, by the Law, is the knowledge of sin. The Law convicts us of sin; it shows us our manifold transgressions; it condemns us by bringing home the fact that our sin deserves the wrath of God; and this knowledge is full and accurate. "Through the Law my conscience grows and fills me with wrath against the Law and against God that has given the Law, the sin thus becoming exceedingly sinful through the commandment. " (Luther.) To justify a sinner, to pronounce him just in the sight of God, that is not the purpose of the Law; for that it was never intended. Note: This purpose of the Law is utilized by the Christians every day in examining their lives; for, as in a mirror, it reveals the sins and shortcomings of man, it convinces him of his guilt and damnation.
Justification by Faith.
The righteousness of God revealed:
v. 21. But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets;
v. 22. even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference,
v. 23. for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;
v. 24. being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;
v. 25. whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
v. 26. to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that he might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
"Having proved that justification, on the ground of legal obedience or personal merits, is for all men impossible, Paul proceeds to unfold the method of salvation presented in the Gospel. " (Hodge.) In v. 20 the sentence of condemnation concerning them all has been declared. And only he that has this knowledge of sin will incidentally comprehend, understand, what is really meant with the righteousness which is valid before God. The apostle places his statements as an expression of logical consequence: "But now. " Although, then, all men are under the sentence of condemnation, there is still hope for them, there is a way of justification, of salvation, open for all of them. Without the Law the righteousness of God is revealed, manifested. The Law has nothing to do with this revelation; the righteousness which is here spoken of is not that of the Law. It is God's method of justification which is here presented, as in chap. 1:17. It is the righteousness of which God is the Source and Author, which comes from Him alone, which He alone can give, and which therefore is acceptable in His sight. It is the righteousness which is imputed to us by God for the sake of Jesus Christ, of which Luther confesses: "Therefore this is a majestic preaching and heavenly wisdom that we believe: our righteousness, salvation, and consolation are outside of us, that we should be righteous, acceptable, holy, and wise before God, and still there is in us only sin, unrighteousness, and foolishness. In my conscience there is nothing but the feeling and the memory of sin and of the terrors of death, and yet I should look elsewhere and believe that sin and death is not there. " Justification does not designate a moral change in man, but signifies a forensic act on the part of God, by which He imputes to us, makes us possessors of, a righteousness which was not ours, which we did not merit: But whom God justifies, declares to be righteous, he is righteous, although all the world and all devils unite in condemning him, though even his own conscience blames and condemns him. This righteousness has been manifested, it has been made plain, placed in the light. The sentence of God according to which the sinner is declared righteous was spoken and existed in Christ before the foundation of the world. And this is now made known to sinners through the Gospel, by the witness of the Law and the prophets, the two principal parts of the Old Testament Scriptures, in both of which parts the Gospel-message was plainly contained; for the prophecies of Christ proclaimed the salvation in and through Christ.
This thought is again taken up in the next verse for further explanation: The righteousness; namely, before God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and upon all that believe. That is the righteousness to which the apostle refers, the righteousness which is valid before, acceptable to. God, and which becomes the possession of all those that believe in Jesus Christ, the God-man, the Messiah, and thus accept the salvation which has made justification possible. The Gospel-message works faith in the hearts of men, and this faith does not earn or merit righteousness before God, but accepts, receives, and appropriates the imputed righteousness. Faith is the trustful acceptance of the mercy of salvation. By believing the Gospel, the believer accepts and appropriates his Savior, Jesus Christ, and therefore also the righteousness which Jesus has prepared. The righteousness of God is intended for all those that believe, and therefore it also is poured forth like a stream upon all those that believe. Whoever believes, no matter what his antecedents and his history, by his faith receives what God offers, and thus becomes the possessor of this great blessing of the New Testament.
That there can be neither the merit of a natural excellency nor even that of the act of believing in the believers, is evident from the nest words of the apostle: For there is no difference, no distinction among men as to their relation toward God, for they all, also the believers, have sinned and are lacking the glory of God; they have no standing before God by nature, they have nothing that they can boast of before Him. It is because they are conscious of their own sinfulness and of their moral destitution before the omniscient and holy God that they cling to their Savior in faith and accept His righteousness, which makes them acceptable and just before God.
Justification is thus, as the apostle states, transmitted freely, as a gift, through the grace of God, which alone can be the source of mercy. And it is made possible through the redemption, literally, through the deliverance by the paying of ransom, of Jesus Christ. Jesus had redeemed us from all our sins and from the wrath of God by staking a price, a ransom, for our souls, Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14. And this price of ransom was none other than His own precious blood. Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19. And the manner in which He paid this wonderful price is fully described. God has set Him forth as a mercy seat through faith in His blood; that was the purpose, the intention! of God as put into practice in the sacrifice of Calvary, John 3:14. Jesus is the true Mercy-seat, of whom the cover of the ark in the Most Holy Place was but a feeble type. Just as the high priest of the Old Testament, on the great Day of Atonement, sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice against the lid of the ark, thereby making reconciliation for the sins of the entire people. Leviticus 16:30, thus Jesus is the perfect Mercy seat in His own blood. High Priest, Sacrifice, and Mercy-seat in one person, Jesus has fulfilled all types of Old Testament sacrifices by the shedding of His holy blood as a ransom for the sins of the world. Thus He became the true Mediator between God and men, covering all our sin, guilt, shame, and nakedness before the eyes of God, and obtaining a perfect redemption for all men. And the reconciliation thus obtained becomes our possession and property by faith in His blood: God looks upon the precious blood of His Son, through which the sins of the whole world are expiated, through which all sinners are delivered from sin, guilt, wrath and damnation: and for the sake of this bloody sacrifice and perfect merit of Christ He pronounces the sinners just and holy.
Having set forth the nature and ground of the Gospel method of justification. Paul now states its object: For the declaration of His righteousness. God has set forth Jesus, His Son, the Redeemer, as the true Mercy-seat, is still setting Him forth before the eyes of the entire world of sinners, Galatians 3:1, in order to show forth His righteousness. It was an act of the righteousness of God that He condemned His Son, the Substitute for all sinners, to the violent death of the cross; by setting forth Christ in His wounds and blood before the eyes of all men, He declared His righteousness before the whole world. The avenging righteousness and holiness of God could not be satisfied with less, it must demand the supreme sacrifice. And such an open declaration and demonstration of the essential righteousness of God was all the more necessary because of the passing over of the sins committed before in the forbearance of God. On account of the great patience and forbearance of God in the period before Christ the sins of men had remained unpunished, apart from a few extraordinary manifestations of God's avenging justice, Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30. Even though death, the wages of sin, reigned from Adam to Christ, yet it was a time of comparative impunity, and it was a demonstration of the forbearance of God that sinful people could live years and generations in their sins before they were called away by death. But now, at the present time, in the new dispensation. God demonstrated His righteousness. The very act of overlooking the sins in the time before the advent of Christ had been done in view of this demonstration of His righteousness in the present time. During all the centuries before the coming of Christ, the divine justice, on account of the righteousness of God, had demanded the punishment of sinners. And the full punishment had been meted out to Christ, the Substitute for all sinners of all times. "The death of Christ vindicated the justice of God in forgiving sin in all ages of the world, since those sins were by the righteous God punished in Christ. " The punishment of the sinners which was taken over by Christ is full expiation for all sins; by His suffering and death He has paid the debt in full, He has exhausted wrath and judgment. And the setting forth of Christ as the true Mercy-seat was done finally for the purpose, in order to be Himself just and to justify him who is of the faith of Jesus, in demanding from Christ, the Substitute of sinners, the full payment of the guilt of sin, God proved Himself to be the Just One. And in sending forth Christ to make this vicarious sacrifice, and in being in Christ for the reconciliation of the world, God justified the sinners, pronounced them pure and righteous, the justification actually becoming the possession of him that accepts it by faith in Jesus, in whom this faith is characteristic, whose entire religious and moral nature has its source in his faith in Jesus.
The doctrine of the justification of a poor sinner before God is the central doctrine of Christian faith, the doctrine with which the Church stands and falls. "If this article of justification is lost, then there is lost at the same time the entire Christian doctrine... For in it are contained all the other articles of our faith, and if this one is considered in the right light, then all the others will be judged properly... If this article is put aside, then nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness, idolatry, no matter how much it may appear as the highest truth. " "From this article we can yield or recede nothing, no matter if heaven and earth fall and everything that will not remain. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And by His stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:3. And upon this article everything rests that we teach and live against the Pope, devil, and the world. Therefore we must be altogether sure of it and not doubt, else everything is lost, and Pope and devil and everything will have and keep the victory and right against us."
Every effort has been made by the sectarians and false teachers to weaken the force of the glorious passage, 3:21-28. Some have maintained that the righteousness of God here referred to is merely the divine attribute, the justice, mercy, and general rectitude of God. If this were true, however, then this quality of God would be revealed outside of the Law, v. 22, and would become the actual property and attribute of the believer by faith, v. 23. Others have declared that the righteousness of God is the quality of being good, as demanded by the Law and wrought through the power of God in the hearts of men. But the righteousness spoken of in the text is revealed without the cooperation of the Law, and a perfect moral and civic righteousness is not possible without the Law as given by God. The righteousness which the apostle speaks of is one without the Law, with which the Law has nothing to do. It is God's method of justification. "The method of justification by works being impossible, God has revealed another, already taught indeed, both in the Law and prophets, a method which is not legal (without Law), i. e. , not on the condition of obedience to the Law, but on the condition of faith, which is applicable to all men, and perfectly gratuitous. " Justification, therefore, is the act of God by which He declares a man to be righteous, pronounces him righteous, states that he is free from the sentence of condemnation, openly asserts that the accused is no longer guilty or worthy of punishment.
This justification, this merciful declaration of God, is imputed to the sinner by faith, Acts 13:38-39, without the deeds of the Law. All merit on the part of man, both as to righteous deeds and a proper attitude toward God and His mercy, are excluded, and even faith itself as the fountain or root or germinating power of good works. Even when faith exercises its own peculiar office and quality, and in this way takes hold of, accepts, the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ, faith comes into consideration only inasmuch as it is the creation of God in the heart of man for the purpose of receiving the judgment of mercy. It is not the act of apprehending that justifies the believer, but only the thing which is apprehended. The factor that induces God to declare a man righteous and just is altogether and alone the object of faith. Truly, "by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast," Ephesians 2:8-9. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law; for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified," Galatians 2:16.
The great conclusion of the apostle:
v. 27. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith.
v. 28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law.
v. 29. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also;
v. 30. seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith.
v. 31. Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the Law.
Here the apostle offers the conclusion of the glorious plan of salvation as he has just unfolded it. Since this is the case, where, then, is the act of glorying? What reason for indulging in boasting have men? All men by nature, not only the Jews, have a proud heart, which delights in boasting every one's own virtues and deeds. But now boasting is absolutely, once and for all, shut out, it is not admissible. Through what law, by what rule or order, speaking generally? By the rule which requires works? The rule of works is identical with the Law of God. Here, indeed, there would be some chance of glorying, since carnal-minded persons are addicted to self-approbation and self-congratulation on account of an outward, literal fulfillment of the Law's demands. All boasting is, however, effectually excluded by the rule or norm of faith, by the order of salvation as it is presented in the Gospel and includes faith. The Gospel continually speaks of the necessity of faith, not in the sense of demanding faith, as a meritorious work, but in the sense of an invitation extended to all men to accept the promise of God. Justifying faith can in no way be construed or understood as an act by which the salvation of Jesus is merited, no more than a beggar can be said to earn the slice of bread or the coin for which he has extended his hand. So far as the Gospel, therefore, is concerned, all boasting is excluded, eliminated, for (v. we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without, apart from, the deeds of the Law. That is the conclusion which every true Christian must reach with Paul. Justification, the forensic act of God by which He pronounces a sinner righteous, pure, holy, acceptable before Him, is received by faith, the sinner simply believing the fact of Christ's redemption and applying it to himself. Works of man, works of the Law, any personal merits are excluded. The ground of our justification is placed entirely outside of ourselves. The contrast, as one commentator remarks, is between what is done by us, whether in a state of nature or in a state of grace, and what Christ has done for us. By faith, and by faith alone, which is altogether and alone a gift of God, do we enter into that relation to God that we are acceptable before Him and become His dear children.
The apostle had purposely and emphatically written: A man is justified; any man, every person, regardless of race or nationality. But he feels that it is necessary to bring out the universality of justification by an express declaration, and thus exclude the idea of a particular grace, of racial or national distinction before God. Or of Jews only is He God? not also of Gentiles? (Are the Jews entitled to any advantage? Have they any prerogative with reference to the content of faith?) Paul answers: Yes, of Gentiles also. And why? Since God is one. From the unity of God, as an axiom, Paul argues the universality of the salvation presented in the Gospel. Consequently He will justify the circumcision on the ground of faith and the uncircumcision by means of faith. All men, Jews and Gentiles, are justified and saved in the same way, namely, by faith. Faith is the means of justification; faith alone is necessary for the appropriation of the righteousness of God, for the righteousness which is valid before God. One God and one Mediator, one salvation and one way of salvation for all mankind, all members of which are in the same condemnation, that is the preaching of Paul, that is the fundamental teaching of Christianity.
In concluding this section, Paul meets a possible objection, one which has ever been made against this central doctrine of Christianity. Do we then make void, annul, put out of commission, the Law? For the present he is satisfied to reject the very idea with a curt: Indeed not, rather we establish, confirm, the Law. Not a single moral obligation is weakened, not a single sanction is disregarded, 1 Timothy 1:8-9. Just how the new obedience follows out of faith he shows in another part of his epistle. "Faith fulfills all laws; the works do not fulfill a single tittle of the Law. " (Luther.)
Man is and remains culpable before God, even though the falseness of men does not invalidate the truth of God, and though the sins of men redound to God's glory; and so man is justified without the deeds of the Law, without all boasting and merit, only through grace, through the redemption of Christ, this being the only way of salvation for all men, both Jews and Gentiles.