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Bible Commentaries
Romans 3

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Verses 1-2

Romans 3:1-2

Preciousness of the Bible.

I. Think of the wonderful providence which has watched over the Bible from the beginning. There is no miracle comparable to that which has preserved to us the Scriptures amid all the convulsions of society, after so many centuries of persecution, neglect, superstition, and ignorance that we should still possess the writings of Moses in their freshness, what a miracle of providence is that!

II. The Old Testament presupposes the New. Neither would be intelligible without the other. And both alike have the same mysterious texture call it typical, mystical, spiritual, or what you will whereby the common events of men's lives and the ordinary course of human history are found to be expressive of heavenly truths to be instinct with divinest teaching woven into the very midst of the sacred narrative; from the Alpha to the Omega of it are found the mysteries of redemption, the secret purposes and practices of God. And why is all this but because God Himself is in it, because His Spirit hath inspired it in every part? The Scripture is the very shrine of the Eternal the Holy of Holies, in which the Shekinah of Glory dwelleth, and where God's voice is heard speaking to man. It is called the Word of God, less because it is His utterance than because it is Divine as well as human shares the nature of Him whose name in heaven is even now the Word of God. And need I dwell on the grand mystery of all, the awful circumstance that the gospel not only discourses to us of the Eternal Son come in the flesh, but actually exhibits Him to us? In what relation, then, to the ancient oracles of God is our Saviour Christ found to stand as the constant witness to their infallible truth, their paramount value, their Divine origin? They are for ever on His lips. What wonder if, in reply to the question as to what was the Jews' advantage, the Apostle answered, "Much every way," chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 3.

References: Romans 3:1 , Romans 3:2 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 203; R. W. Church, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 113; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 193.Romans 3:4 . H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 168. Romans 3:6 . B. Jowett, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 273; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 312.Romans 3:9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 93.

Verses 9-20

Romans 3:9-20

Every Mouth Stopped.

I. Perhaps some readers are aware of a feeling of disappointment at reaching this result. Not that they doubt the native depravity of mankind, or the certainty that all men, left to themselves, will go very far astray from righteousness. But it may be said, ail men were not left to themselves. God interposed with a holy and awful law. He took one race under His own moral education. He taught them carefully the way of duty, and did what was possible to fence them in it and cut off all temptation to wander out of it. Surely the average moral standard was greatly raised within that sheltered Hebrew commonwealth, and many individual Hebrews succeeded in leading very virtuous and devout lives "in all the ordinances of the law blameless"! Does it not sound hard to say that not one of them was good enough to justify his life in the sight of God? Is this not like confessing that the whole Mosaic system of religious training and moral legislation was a failure.

II. To put us in a right attitude for judging of this whole matter, it is of the first consequence to see what the purpose of God was in giving His law at all. You cannot judge whether the Mosaic law was a failure or not until you know what it was intended to accomplish. Now, the express teaching of St. Paul is that God did not expect the Jews to attain such a righteousness as would justify them at the last by their own attempts to keep the Mosaic law. A law is not intended to give life: it is only intended to regulate life. The law was not meant to lead to righteousness, because it could not give spiritual life. The law was meant to fill a far humbler office: it brought us a better knowledge of our sin. Each addition to revealed law widens men's knowledge of what is sinful, and pushes forward the frontier of the forbidden a little nearer to that ideal line which God's own nature prescribes: "Through the law cometh the knowledge of sin."

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 66.

Reference: Romans 3:10 . J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, p. 1.

Verse 20

Romans 3:20

I. That wrath of God against sin, to which conscience testifies, is itself merely His love, the opposition of His love to that which exalts itself against it. The fire of His love lights and cheers and warms all that abides in His love; but is a consuming fire against all that is out of and contrary to His love. And he who knows not God's wrath against sin knows not God's love. He who regards not Christ as the Judge and Avenger does not thoroughly know Him as the Saviour. Man will never be won back to God rather, man will never be brought up to that highest perfection in which even his fall is an element, without a revelation from God which is not liable, as conscience is, to be corrupted by our tendency to sin. And how shall such a revelation be given such an incorruptible revelation? We must have it, or we drop lower and lower into perdition the longer the world lasts. God made to man what has scoffingly been called a "book-revelation," a written record of His will and His acts which might not drift away with the vain imaginations and insecure traditions of men, but might remain, guarded by His providence, through the ages of the world. By the commandments and the other moral parts of the law a fixed and unalterable testimony was borne against sin.

II. But whereunto served this law? It could give us no strength, could implant no new principle in our nature, could effect for us no reconciliation with God. The more definite and precise the law was the more effective would it be for this one end, and this only to multiply transgressions; that by it might be brought out into light the utter incapacity of man to please God or to rescue himself from the awful consequences of sin. The sense of sin is the first step towards recovery. Sad as it is, low as it sometimes sinks a man in loss of hope, it is the first probing of the wound by the Great Physician of the soul. "When the Spirit is come," says our Lord, "He shall convict the world of sin."

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iv., p. 84.

References: Romans 3:21 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 253.Romans 3:21-24 . W. M. Metcalfe, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 321.

Verses 21-26

Romans 3:21-26

Paul's Evangel.

The history of God's relations with human sin breaks into two before Christ, and after Christ. The death of Christ, which marks the point of division, is at the same time the key to explain both.

I. Antecedently to the death of Christ the sins of men were passed over in the forbearance of God. By offering His Son for the expiation of sin, God has cut off from men the temptation to misconstrue His earlier toleration of sins, His forbearance to punish them, or His willingness to forgive them. Then, in the antecedent ages, He did pretermit sin in His forbearance; but it was only because He had purposed in His heart one day to offer for it a satisfaction such as this.

II. The same public satisfaction for sin, made by God in the face of the world, which is adequate to explain His former indulgence to past sin, is adequate to justify Him in forgiving sin now. (1) The propitiation instituted by God in His Son's sacrificial death having been made amply adequate to vindicate Divine justice, without any further exaction of penalty from sinners, Christ's death becomes our redemption. (2) Let God justify whom He will on the ground of this redemption by the expiating blood of His Son, such a justifying of the guilty must be entirely a gratuitous act on His part, undeserved, unbought by themselves, a boon of pure and sovereign grace. (3) A way of being justified which is entirely gratuitous, hanging not on man's desert but on God's grace, must be impartial and catholic. It is offered on such easy terms, because on no harder terms could helpless and condemned men receive it. Only it lies in the very nature of the case that whosoever refuses to repose his hope of acceptance with God upon the revealed basis of Christ's atonement, shuts himself out and never can be justified at all, since even God Himself knows or can compass no other method for acquitting a guilty man.

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 77.

References: Romans 3:21-26 . E. H. Gifford, The Glory of God in Man, p. 30; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 15.

Verse 22

Romans 3:22

Paul here, in his grand way, triumphs and rises above all these small differences between man and man, more pure or less pure, Jew or Gentile, wise or foolish, and avers that in regard of the deepest and most important things "there is no difference." And so his gospel is a gospel for the world, because it deals with all men on the same level.

I. There is no difference between men in the fact of sin. The gospel does not assert that there is no difference in the degrees of sin. At the same time, do not let us forget that if you take the two extremes, and suppose it possible that there is a best man in all the world and a worst man in all the world, the difference between these two is not perhaps so great as at first sight it looks. For we have to remember that motives make actions, and that you cannot judge of these by considering those, that "as a man thinketh in his heart," and not as a man does with his hands, so is he. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

II. There is no difference in the fact of God's love to us. God does not love men because of what they are, therefore He does not cease to love them because of what they are. His love to the sons of men is not drawn out by their goodness, their morality, their obedience; but it wells up from the depths of His own heart. A man can as soon pass out of the atmosphere in which he breathes as he can pass out of the love of God. "there is no difference" in the fact that all men, unthankful and evil as they are, are grasped and held in the love of God.

III. There is no difference in the purpose and power of Christ's Cross for us all. "He died for all." The area over which the purpose and power of Christ's death extends is precisely conterminous with the area over which the power of sin extends. The power of Christ's sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of all the sins of all the world, past, present, and to come. The worth of that sacrifice, which was made by the willing surrender of the Incarnate Son of God to the death of the Cross, is sufficient for the ransom price for all the sins of all men.

IV. There is no difference in the way which we must take for salvation. The only thing that unites men to Jesus Christ is faith. You must trust Him, you must trust the power of His sacrifice, you must trust the might of His living love. Let there be no difference in our faith, or there will be a difference, deep as the difference between them that believe and them that believe not, which will darken and widen into the difference between them that are saved and them that perish.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, May 21st, 1885.

References: Romans 3:22 . E. H. Gifford, The Glory of God, p. 1; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 373.Romans 3:22-26 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 83.Romans 3:23 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 98; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 63; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 23; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 229; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 84; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 184; vol. xxxi., p. 147. Romans 3:23 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 160. Romans 3:24 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 126. Romans 3:24 , Romans 3:25 . Ibid., vol. vii., No. 373.Romans 3:24-28 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 282.Romans 3:26 . Ibid., vol. i., p. 165; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 255; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 269. Romans 3:27 . Ibid., Sermons, vol. viii., No. 429.

Verse 28

Romans 3:28

I. What was the point which lay at the root of St. Paul's whole argument? It was this: whether obedience to the ordinances of the Jewish law could be deemed necessary to salvation, whether it should be required of Gentile converts, whether there were anything in it which was to be held in conjunction with faith in Christ, or whether it were all done away by Christ, and declared by His Cross and Passion to be incapable of making a sinner righteous before God. This question has now for us faded in the dimness of distance; rejoicing as we do in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, we can perhaps hardly understand that such a question should be argued, much less that it should form the grand point of discussion in any age of the Church. Yet so it was in apostolic times. A very little consideration shows us why it was so, and why it was necessary for the due establishment of the Church that the question should be set at rest at once and for ever. To do this was one of the great tasks entrusted to St. Paul; himself a Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law a Pharisee, he nevertheless, by the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, saw with a keenness of view, which seems to have been vouchsafed to no other apostle, the error and danger of allowing any word of the law, be it what it might, to be regarded as in any way co-operating with the Lord Jesus Christ for the justification of man. It is in connection with such a view of the subject that St. Paul uses the words of the text.

II. Doubtless we must all strive with our hearts and souls to keep God's law; but the real question is, in what light we are to regard all works of righteousness, all obedience to God's law, all efforts to do good, all submission of our will to His, with reference to the pardon of our sins and our entrance into eternal life? And the answer is, that we do wrong if we allow ourselves to consider for a moment how much obedience, how much doing of good, how complete an abnegation of self, will entitle us to God's favour. No amount will do this. It is only when a man realises his position as redeemed freely by the blood of Jesus Christ, as adopted into God's family for no merit of his own, that he can serve God with perfect freedom, and consider all that he can do as nothing in comparison with what has been done by God's grace for him, and return love for love, and cry out in the spirit of adoption, "Abba, Father."

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 320.

References: Romans 3:28 . G. Salmon, Sermons in Trinity College, Dublin, pp. 206, 224; S. Leathes, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 415; S. Martin, Sermons, p. 57.

Verse 31

Romans 3:31 ; Romans 4:0

A Crucial Case.

I. It was by his faith Abraham was justified, not by his works of obedience. Paul's proof of this is very simple. He finds a remarkable proof-text ready to his hand in Genesis 15:16 . On God's side there was simply a word announcing the promises of His grace; on the man's side simply a devout and childlike reliance upon that word. God asked no more; and the man had no more to give. His mere trust in God the Promiser was held to be adequate as a ground for that sinful man's acceptance into favour, friendship, and league with the eternal Jehovah.

II. Abraham was justified by his faith, not as a circumcised man, but as an uncircumcised. It lies in the very idea of acceptance through faith, that wherever faith is present there God will accept the sinner apart from every other circumstance, such as nationality, or an external rite, or Church privilege, or the like. If faith saves a man, then faith must save every man who has it. Abraham was a justified man as soon as he was a believer, not as soon as he was circumcised. And the design of such an arrangement was to make him the true type and spiritual progenitor of all believers. The only people whom his experience fails to embrace are those Jews who are circumcised but not believing, who trust in their lineage and in their covenant badge and their keeping of the law, expecting to be saved for their meritorious observance of prescribed rules, but who in the free and gracious promises of Abraham's God put no trust at all.

III. It turns out now that, instead of St. Paul being an apostate or disloyal Jew for admitting believing Gentiles to an equal place in the favour of Israel's God, it is his self-righteous countryman, who monopolises Divine grace, and will have no Gentile to be saved unless he has first become a circumcised observer of Moses' law, that is really false to the original idea of the Abrahamic covenant. All who have faith, whatever their race, are blessed with faithful Abraham; and he, says Paul, writing to a Gentile Church, is the father of us all.

J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 99.

References: Romans 3:31 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 25. 3 Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 215.Romans 4:1-9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 249. Romans 4:3 . J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 121.Romans 4:6-9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 248. Romans 4:7 . Ibid., p. 248. Romans 4:9 . Ibid., p. 258. Romans 4:9-11 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 10.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/romans-3.html.
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