What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit of circumcision? (2) Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (3) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (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. having therefore started the question in the first verse, opens at once in the, to give answer. And he begins with setting forth, the vast advantage the had over the notwithstanding the mercies themselves had, by their abuse of them, been much perverted. And while he observes, that their privileges were every way great, he mentions one, which indeed, more or less, comprehended in its bosom every other; namely, in having the Oracles of his holy Word, which so blessedly set forth, in type and shadow, as well as by absolute promise and prophecy, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle is here further prosecuting the Subject respecting the Jews. He proves the full Condemnation of all the World before God by the Deeds of the Law, In the close, he sweetly preacheth Christ.
Romans 3:1-4 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit of circumcision? (2) Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (3) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (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.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? (2) Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (3) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (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.
We cannot sufficiently admire, the very delightful method, the Apostle was led to adopt, in this Chapter, while prosecuting his subject. He puts a question into the mouth of the Church, which he foresaw would arise in the minds of the people, from what he had said, and as instantly answers it. Concluding, that from the leveling principle he had made, of hewing down at one stroke both Jew and Gentile, as alike unable to justify themselves before God, it would stagger the faith of many, who had before conceived, as the Jews all along had done, high notions of their privileges; he demands, to what good the whole of the dispensation by the Jew had tended? What advantage then (saith he) hath the Jew; or what profit is there of Circumcision? As if he had said, If your statement be correct, that the Jew is as far from salvation by the law, as the Gentile is by nature; to what purpose was it to be born of the natural stock of Abraham, or what use was it for all his children to be circumcised?
The answer to those interesting questions, which the Apostle immediately follows up, in a most ample and satisfactory manner, gives occasion to set forth, in yet stronger features of character, the object he had all along in view, of the utterly lost and helpless estate of every man before God, in anything of his own. And the great drift from the whole is, to prove the absolute need of Christ; and the compleatness in Christ, in a way of a full, free, and finished justification.
Paul having therefore started the question in the first verse, opens at once in the, to give answer. And he begins with setting forth, the vast advantage the had over the notwithstanding the mercies themselves had, by their abuse of them, been much perverted. And while he observes, that their privileges were every way great, he mentions one, which indeed, more or less, comprehended in its bosom every other; namely, in having the Oracles of his holy Word, which so blessedly set forth, in type and shadow, as well as by absolute promise and prophecy, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
having therefore started the question in the first verse, opens at once in the second, to give answer. And he begins with setting forth, the vast advantage the Jew had over the Gentile, notwithstanding the mercies themselves had, by their abuse of them, been much perverted. And while he observes, that their privileges were every way great, he mentions one, which indeed, more or less, comprehended in its bosom every other; namely, in having the Oracles of his holy Word, which so blessedly set forth, in type and shadow, as well as by absolute promise and prophecy, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I beg the Reader to pause in this place. And, I would ask him, whether it doth not strike him, that over and above these things, among the many blessed designs in God the Holy Ghost, when committing the sacred Oracles to the Jewish nation, which contain such abundant proofs and testimonies, of all the leading doctrines of our most holy faith; that this also was a very principal one: namely, to confirm to all the after ages of the Church, the truth as it is in Jesus. Who, that reads the Scriptures of the Old Testament with an enlightened eye, but must see the doctrine of the Holy Three in One, which bear record in Heaven, shining with full lustre in every Book? Who that hears the Prophets, predicting the coming of the Messiah, but must be struck with their witness to the Godhead of Christ? All, with one voice, bearing testimony to one and the same fundamental truth; behold your God will come and save you! then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped!, Isaiah 35:4-5; Luke 4:16-21. And who that reads so much of the out-pouring of the Spirit in the latter day dispensation, upon all flesh; can hesitate to conclude, but that the leading design for which such grace was foretold, was that the minds of the people in the Church of God, might be led to discover, under his Almighty teaching, sweet features of the Person, Godhead, and Ministry, of the Eternal Spirit?, Joel 2:28, with Acts 2:17; 1Co 12 throughout.
The Reader may, if he please, accept the foregoing paragraph as if written within a parenthesis. I could not suppress the thought, which involuntarily arose in my mind, from the view, of the sacred Oracles having been all along deposited with Israel, for this among other purposes. And, I hope it may be found useful. With such as call in question those fundamental truths of our holy faith, I cannot suppose it will be interesting. But the Poor Man's Commentary is designed for a very different class, James 2:5. And, all of a contrary complexion, are invulnerable to conviction, untaught by the Spirit; neither can they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead!, Luke 16:31.
The Apostle very properly argues, that the unbelief of Israel, could not do away God's promises, which were not conditional, for those promises depended not upon the merit of man, but the faithfulness of God. And the instance of David is as gracious as it is striking, by way of confirmation. God's promise to David, was an absolute unconditional promise, that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, Psalms 132:11; Acts 2:30. But shall David's sin, in the case of Bathsheba, do away this promise? God forbid. Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar. The Lord must be justified in his sayings. His word must stand. And, if presumptuous men will dare to impeach, either the Lord's word, or his wisdom, in any of his dispensations; he will be found justified and holy in all. Reader! do not overlook by the way the blessedness of this doctrine, as it may be, and as it ought to be, applied, to numberless occasions in life.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? I (speak as a man) (6) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? (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? (8) And not (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
(NOTE: For Romans 3:5-8 see end)
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? I (speak as a man) (6) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? (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? (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. (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; (10) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (13) Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: (14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood: (16) Destruction and misery are in their ways: (17) And the way of peace have they not known: (18) There is no fear of God before their eyes. (19) Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (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.
The Apostle having very fully answered every objection, and shewn, by the plainest and most incontrovertible arguments, that neither Jew nor Gentile could justify themselves before God, both, being in the Adam-state of nature, of original sin, and actual transgression; he now calls upon the Church, to consider their situation, under the Gospel dispensation, and demands whether they thought themselves, as to any external privileges, brought into a better state, so as to be able to contribute anything towards their own justification before God? To which Paul answers, both for himself and them, in declaring the contrary. And, as he had before shewn, that both Jew, and Gentile, were proved to be sinners; so the Church, considered in the Adam-nature of a fallen state, were equally so before God, And, in confirmation of this, the Apostle quotes at large, what the Scriptures bad long before delivered, on this momentous point, which brought in the whole world guilty before God. I earnestly beg the Reader to pause over this subject, and consider its weighty nature. However humbling, yet it is important to be known. For, in proportion to the conviction of it on the mind, so will be, more or less, our real regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, and his salvation. For the words at the end of this paragraph, by the law is the knowledge of sin: See Romans 7:7 and Commentary.
Romans 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? I (speak as a man) (6) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? (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? (8) And not (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? I (speak as a man) (6) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? (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? (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.
The Apostle foresaw, how ready the carnal, and ungodly, would be, to take offence at this statement; as if the doctrine led to licentiousness. And moreover, the infidel would go further, and charge God with unrighteousness, while punishing for sin, in one instance, while in another, taking occasion from sin, to magnify and display the riches of his grace. But, the Apostle refutes the unjust charge; and, by the plainest statement shews, that it is but just in God to commend his righteousness in pardoning his people, because, in the Person of their glorious Head, he hath received a full equivalent for their transgression. While, on the other hand, God is not unrighteous, when he takes vengeance on the ungodly, who despise redemption by Christ; for they stand upon the bottom of self-security, and consequently fall in the day of judgment. And, ill respect to the false and malicious slander, thrown upon the Lord's people, as if they should assert what they totally deny, that they may live as they like; this charge is not so directly leveled at the Lord's people, as it is at the Lord himself. It ariseth from the deadly hatred of the Devil, against Christ, and his people. And therefore, he stirs up the minds of carnal men, to be indignant against the sovereignty of Jehovah, and against the glorious doctrine of justification wholly by Christ. It is these precious truths, which are arraigned at man's bar. It is these things, which excite, both the bitterest hatred of Satan, and unawakened sinners, But, to raise the hue and cry against the Lord himself for his dispensations, would be too open and barefaced; and therefore, the charge is brought forward against the Lord's people, as if their doctrines led to licentiousness. Reader! You cannot be a stranger to these things, if you observe what is going on in the present day, among what is called the religious world; for it is precisely the same as it was in the days of the Apostle. Indeed it is a blessed proof, and ought to be regarded as such by the faithful, that the Apostle's faith and practice were the same then, as the faith and practice of the present hour, among the true followers of Christ, since they are subject to the same calumny. We know, and our opposers know, that they who from right principles, profess faith in the sole justification by Christ, cannot lead lives unsuitable to this precious doctrine. The thing is impossible. For they art regenerated by God the Holy Ghost, live thereby in union with Christ, and are followers of God the Father, as dear children. Hence, they may, and they do, challenge the whole neighborhood where they dwell, whether they are not examples of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12. That beautiful Portrait Paul hath drawn in his Epistle to the Philippians, is the character which every child of God seeks for grace to copy after, and to form his life by. Finally, Brethren, (said he,) whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things, Philippians 4:8.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (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: (23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (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; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Here Paul arrives at the great object, which all along he had been preparing to bring in; and in the very mention of which, his whole soul seems to be on fire, Jeremiah 20:9. He had glanced at it before, Romans 1:17. But here he dwells on it more particularly. And, what he marks as the distinguishing feature of it, is, that it is wholly unconnected with any other, and with every other, principle. But now, (saith he,) the righteousness of God without the law is manifested; yea, saith Paul, it is witnessed by the law and the prophets. Both, joyfully give in their testimony, to the complete, full, and all justifying righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ. They gladly minister to proclaim their own nothingness, and Christ's all-sufficiency, in a way of justification. Reader! I beseech you, pause over this precious testimony, which God the Holy Ghost hath here given, by his servant Paul, to the righteousness of God our Savior. Look at the law in all its bearings. By the law, saith Paul, is the knowledge of sin. Yes! the law teacheth of sin, shews what sin is; but cannot shew a righteousness which may save from it. This the Gospel only proclaims. And the blessedness of it, and the fulness of it, and the compleatness of it, both the law and the Prophets witness to with joy! Daniel 9:24; Romans 4:25.
But, what I beg the Reader also not to overlook, in this precious statement, of the righteousness of God our Savior, is, that it is a righteousness so universally suited to the Lord's people, in every department, whether babes in Christ, or old saints of God, that it is unto all, and upon all, that believe, for there is no difference. Reader! calculate, if you can, the immense blessedness of what is here said. First, of the righteousness itself, which is wholly of God. Not of man's providing, but of God's appointing. Not of man's merit, but of God's free grace. No predisposing cause but the everlasting love of God in Christ, having anything to do in the matter. Yea, faith itself, by which a child of God is made to possess it, and enjoy it, hath nothing of merit by way of recommendation. The Lord, who is the sole Author and Giver of this righteousness, is the sole Author and Giver of faith also to receive, believe, and enjoy it, So that faith, as an act of ours, is but the effect, and not the cause; the hand to receive, and not to promote, the vast mercy. The highly favored soul, who is made a rich partaker of the blessing; to him it is given, to feel his want of righteousness in himself, to behold Christ's righteousness as every way suited to himself and his wants, to accept on his bended knees the proffered mercy, and to receive it to the divine glory, and his own happiness.
Secondly. This righteousness, is said to be, unto all, and upon all, that believe, for there is no difference. No difference in the thing itself, neither in the application of it. For the Lord, whose it is, gives it to all with an equal hand, and loves all with an equal love, and justifies all with an equal freeness of grace. For, it is not what they are in themselves, but what they are in Christ, which makes them the objects of the divine favor. It is blessed, yea, very blessed, to have a large hand of faith to receive the larger portions of the grace of belief, to enjoy the Lord's blessings of every kind, with a greater fulness. But our enjoyment is one thing, and the Lord's righteousness, which justifies, another. He that hath little faith, and is in Christ, is as compleatly justified by Christ, as he that hath the largest portions of faith to apprehend with greater delight his mercies. By him, (saith the Apostle, that is, by Christ,) all that believe, whether strong believers or weak ones, whether babes in Christ, or fathers in the strength of Christ; are justified from all things, Acts 23:35. And the reason is given. For the righteousness which justifies, is alike justifying, too all, and upon all. It is unto them, and upon them; not within them, nor from them. And therefore, being wholly out of themselves, and nothing within, no inherent holiness in the creature, which some men talk of, but none know; there can be no difference in the receiver, or in the act of justification by the Giver. For, as the Apostle adds in the following verses: All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And, therefore, the justification of all, cannot but. be alike the free gift of God, and not the smallest difference in man. Being justified (saith the Apostle) freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
In the close of this paragraph, the Apostle dwells very blessedly on the greatness of Christ's sacrifice; and on the grace of God, in the wonderful ordination of it: and, from the union of both he shews, how Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, may, and indeed doth, justify the believer in Jesus, while preserving his own glory, in the full perfection of all the rights of his justice. Whom God (saith he) hath set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood. The Reader will perceive, that I take no notice in this passage of those words, to be, which are in Italicks, and which have no business there; for Christ was not then to be set forth; for this had been done from everlasting. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, Proverbs 8:22-23. And, Christ is said to have been, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world!, Revelation 13:8. And Christ hath been, and is, and will be, the same, in the perpetual, and unceasing efficacy of his blood, to all eternity.
We do not meet with this word propitiation, but three times in all the Bible, once in this place and twice in the First Epistle of John, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10. Christ indeed is both the propitiation and the propitiatory. He is the propitiation, or sacrifice; the propitiatory, or mercy seat and altar, on which that sacrifice was offered; and he is the high priest, or sacrificer, to make the offering. The Jews were accustomed, on this account, to call the mercy-seat Ilasterion. For here, in allusion to all the great events connected with the Person of Christ, and his Offices, and Character; the Lord promised to come and meet his people, Exodus 25:22. And, in the Person of Christ only, can this meeting be, either in time, or eternity. Well might his Name be called Wonderful! For, while all the divine Attributes meet in his Person, and shine in one full constellation; all our sins meet on him, (so it is rendered in the margin of our old Bibles, Isaiah 53:6) as centering upon Christ, not in Christ; and the Lord Jesus washing them all away by his blood. So that Christ, in the fullest sense of the word, is the propitiation, and the only propitiation for sin; having by that one offering of himself once offered, perfected forever them that are sanctified, Hebrews 10:14.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. (28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (29) Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: (30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. (31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
The Apostle having shewn, and by means so clear and plain, the way of salvation to be only in Christ, and by Christ; now returns back to his original subject, in relation to the total inability of either Jew, or Gentile, justifying themselves before God. And, to do this with greater, force of argument, he puts every objection which the weakness, or perversity of the human mind, untaught of God, might bring into the form of questions. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Everything is excluded in the creature, while Christ alone is exalted in the infinite greatness, and glories of his Person, and in the infinite merit of his work, in his blood shedding, and righteousness. The, Jew and Gentile are distinctions but in name, while Christ is all, and in all. For God, as a Covenant God in Christ, is the God of both, in every individual instance of his Church, given by God to Christ, and chosen by God in Christ, before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4. This ancient settlement of eternity took place, not only before the name of Jew or Gentile were known, but before sin had entered into the world to make those distinctions; yea, before the world itself was called into being. And therefore, as the Church of Christ had being in Christ, from everlasting; the recovery of the Church from the Adam-fall by sin, in this time-state of her being, had been all along provided for: and Christ's people, whether Jew or Gentile, were his, and the objects of his love, and grace, and favor, from all eternity. So that He that is the God in Covenant for the Jew, is also for the Gentile; seeing it is His justification of them, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, and not their different claims to favor, which becomes the cause of their acceptance. And so far is all this blessed and approved way, of being wholly justified by Christ, from setting aside the law, that in fact it becomes the only establishment of it. Since it proves, that rather than one jot or tittle of God's holy law should fail; the Son of God shall fulfil all its righteous demands, and give his soul an offering for sin, for the breaches of it by his people. And, it is the joy of all the redeemed, as well in heaven, as earth, that by the obedience and death of Christ, the Son of God in our nature, hath done more to magnify, and make honorable, God's holy law, than could have been done by the unsinning obedience of the whole creation of (God, to all eternity, Daniel 9:24.
Reader! behold the awful state by nature, both of Jew and Gentile! See, what a portrait to humble our souls to the dust, the Lord the Spirit hath twice drawn, in his sacred pages; once by David, and here by Paul, of our utterly lost, and ruined estate, by nature and by practice; as we stand in ourselves before God. And this we are told, was the result of that enquiry, when the Lord looked down from heaven, to see if there were any that would see k after God. All were gone out of the way. All together become unprofitable. None good, no, not one. And how then could it be otherwise, than while beheld in our Adam-nature, and without being considered in Christ, all the world must become guilty before God?
And, can it need any argument of persuasion, to prompt the heart convinced of this, to look to Jesus; yea, to flee to Him, from the wrath to come? Am I, are you, convinced of these most unquestionable truths, and do we pause, or remain stupid, and senseless, in the view of these vast concerns? Hath god set forth his dear son, as propitiation through faith in his blood; and do we hesitate in the acceptation of it? Is it declared from heaven, that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in god' s sight; and are we looking to that quarter, either in whole, or in part, for favor with the lord? Oh! Sir! if at that awful tribunal, when god cometh to judge the world in righteousness, and minister true judgment unto the people, we are found without the righteousness of Jesus, and his propitiation, to be our security; what paleness, what horror, will mark the countenance of every son and daughter of Adam? Precious lord Jesus! be thou my propitiation, my high Priest, my Altar, the lord my righteousness now: and sure I am thou wilt be my everlasting glory then. When law, and justice, in the multitude of breaches I have committed against both, would give in their verdict against me: Thou shalt answer for me, 0 lord my god! Oh! the preciousness of that voice now heard by the ear of faith, and then confirmed with the unalterable determination from the throne: deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany