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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Romans 3

 

 

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Verse 1

1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

Ver. 1. What advantage] Gr. το περισσον, what odds, singular thing, prerogative?


Verse 2

2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

Ver. 2. Chiefly, because that, &c.] This was their prime privilege, that they were God’s library keepers, that this heavenly treasure was concredited unto them. Other nations are said to have been without God, because without those lively oracles, 2 Chronicles 15:3; Ephesians 2:12. Prize we this privilege, and improve it. You must never expect another edition of the faith once received, 1:3, once for all.


Verse 3

3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

Ver. 3. The faith of God] That is, his faithful promises, opposed to man’s perfidy. Fides quia fit quod dictum est. God is faithful, saith the apostle often.


Verse 4

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.

Ver. 4. Every man a liar] viz. By nature. But, Isaiah 63:8, God’s people are "children that will not lie," they will die rather. Non ideo negare volo ne peream, sed ideo mentiri nolo ne peccem, saith she upon the rack, of whom St Jerome writeth. The officers of Merindol answered the bishop that moved them to abjure, that they marvelled much that he would persuade them to lie to God and the world. And albeit that all men by nature are liars, yet they had learned by the word of God that they ought diligently to take heed of lying in any matter, be it never so small, &c.

Every man a liar] So he is either by imposture, and so in purpose, or by impotence, and so in the event, deceiving those that rely upon him, Psalms 62:9.

That thou mayest be justified in thy sayings] David speaketh of the truth of Nathan’s reprehension; Paul applies it to the truth of God in his promises also. Let us give him a testimonial, John 3:33; such as is that Deuteronomy 32:4; "A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he."

And mightest overcome] Mayest be pure, saith David, Psalms 51:4. Zacah in the Syriac is used for overcoming. Vincit veritas, et dare non dignis res mage digna Deo est.


Verse 5

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)

Ver. 5. Is God unrighteous] Such heart boilings there were in the rejected Jews. And Job said little less, till God, overhearing him, steps, as it were, from behind the curtains, and takes him up for it, Job 38:2; "Who is this," saith he, that talketh thus? How now?


Verse 6

6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

Ver. 6. I speak as a man] q.d. Is there not such language heard in some men’s hearts?

For then how shall God judge the world] How shall every transgression and disobedience receive a just recompence of reward? Hebrews 2:2. God’s will is the absolute rule of right, nec tantum recta, sed regula. (Bonav.)


Verse 7

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?

Ver. 7. For if the truth of God] Here the former objection is repeated, explicated, and more fully answered, that every mouth might be stopped. Ferunt ranas lampade supra lacum, in quo tumultuantur, appensa, illius fulgore repercussas conticescere. (Lomelius.) So gainsayers are silenced, when the truth is thoroughly cleared.


Verse 8

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.

Ver. 8. As we be slanderously reported] So are the reformed Churches by the black mouthed Papists. See the Abatement of Popish Brags, by Alex. Cook, the Preface; Eudaemon Joannes against Casaubon, and Calvino-Turcismum, &c.

Whose damnation is just] In the year of grace 1552, a monk of Berlin in Germany, who in the pulpit charged St Paul with a lie, was suddenly smitten with an apoplexy, while the word was yet in his mouth, and fell down dead in the place on St Stephen’s day, as they call it. (Scultet. Annal.)


Verse 9

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;

Ver. 9. That they are all under sin] Whole evil is in man, and whole man in evil. Homo est inversus decalogus. Man by nature is no better than a filthy dunghill of all abominable vices. His heart is the devil’s storehouse, throne, nest. His eyes great thoroughfares of lust, pride, vanity, &c. His life a long chain of sinful actions, a web of wickedness spun out and made up by the hands of the devil and the flesh, an evil spinner, and a worse weaver. (Mr Whately’s New Birth.)


Verse 10

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Ver. 10. As it is written] What the prophets had said of some particular people or person is here applied to the whole race of mankind, because by nature there is never a better of us. κακοι μεν θριπες, κακοι δε και ιπες. (Eras. Adag.)


Verse 11

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Ver. 11. None that seeketh] That seeketh and fetcheth him out of his retiring room, as she did, Mark 7:24-25.


Verse 12

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Ver. 12. Become unprofitable] Or rotten, nasty, stinking, as the Hebrew hath it, Psalms 14:3. The old world was grown so foul, that God was forced to wash it with a deluge.


Verse 13

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Ver. 13. The poison of the asps] Of that sort of asps that spit their venom far from them upon the bystanders. ( πρυαδες.) There is a great deal of such vermin and venom in that newly found world of wickedness, the tongue, James 3:6. It is easy to observe that St Paul here, making the anatomy of a natural man, stands more on the organs of speaking than all other members, and showeth how his tongue is tipped with fraud, his lips tainted with venom, his mouth full of gall, his throat a gaping grave, his tongue as a rapier to run men through with, and his throat as a sepulchre to bury them in. As for the asp, they write of her, That whereas her poison is so deadly, that the part infected cannot be cured but by cutting off, succurrit periclitantibus benignior natura, et noxiosissimo animali caliginosos obtutus dedit. (Jo. Wover.) Aspidi (saith Pliny, viii. 23) hebetes oculi dati, eosque non in fronte, sed in temporibus habet.


Verse 14

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Ver. 14. Full] γεμει, As a ship that hath its full freight and lading.


Verse 15

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

Ver. 15. Swift to shed blood] As Paul, till God stopped him in his cursed career.


Verse 16

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Ver. 16. They mind nothing but mischief.]


Verse 17

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Ver. 17. They are restless and troublesome.]


Verse 18

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Ver. 18. There is no fear of God] This is set last, as the source of all the former evils.


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. Guilty] Culpable, and such as cannot plead their own cause without an advocate. (Chrysos.)


Verse 20

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.

Ver. 20. Therefore by the deeds of the law] This is directly against Popish justification by works, merits, &c. Those misled and muzzled souls did worse than lose their labour that built religious houses, Pro remissione et redemptione peccatorum, pro remedio et liberatione animae, in eleemosynam animae, pro salute et requie animarum patrum et matrum, fratrum et sororum, &c. These were the ends that they aimed at, as appears in stories. And here observe how the once faithful city of Rome is now become a harlot, Isaiah 1:21-22; her silver is become dross, her wine mixed with water, yet with blood, now since the Council of Trent, Revelation 16:3; Revelation 16:5; and this Epistle of Paul to the Romans is now become the Epistle of Paul against the Romans; like as Roma Rome is become Amor inversus. love perverted.


Verse 21

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Ver. 21. But now] Since Christ came.


Verse 22

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:

Ver. 22. Upon all] So that none shall hinder their happiness.


Verse 23

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Ver. 23. All have sinned] The first man defiled the nature, and ever since the nature defileth the man. Adam was a parent, a public person, a parliament man, as it were; the whole country of mankind was in him, and fell with him.

Short of the glory of God] i.e. Of his image now obliterated, or of his kingdom, upon the golden pavement whereof no dirty dog must ever trample. It is an inheritance undefiled, 1 Peter 1:4.


Verse 24

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Ver. 24. Being justified freely] Because the apostle’s word δωρεα is expounded by Varinus to be χαριτος αλλαγη, therefore Thammerus will needs conclude from this text that God by justifying us, doth but pay for our pains, give us what we have earned. Caelum gratis non accipiam, saith Vega. Opera bona sunt caeli mercatura, saith another. Heaven is the purchase of good works.

By the redemption] i.e. By faith applying this redemption, wrapping herself in the golden fleece of that Lamb of God.


Verse 25

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;

Ver. 25. To be a propitiation] Or a covering, in allusion to the law; where the ark covering the two tables within it, the mercy seat covering the ark, and the cherubims covering the mercy seat and one another, showed Christ covering the curses of the law, in whom is the ground of all mercy; which things the angels desire to pry into, as into the pattern of God’s deep wisdom.

For the remission of sins] Gr. παρεσιν, for the relaxation or releasement of sins, as of bonds or fetters.


Verse 26

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Ver. 26. To declare] Gr. ενδειξις, for a clear demonstration or pointing out with the finger.


Verse 27

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Ver. 27. Where is boasting then, &c.] A certain sophister would hence prove the authority of the Church. He read the words thus, by a mistake of their shorthand writing, Ubi est gloriatio? Ecclesia est, Where is boasting, it is the church, for exclusa est. it is excluded.


Verse 28

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Ver. 28. A man is justified by faith] Here St Paul shows himself a pure Lutheran, and is therefore sharply and blasphemously censured by some Jesuits for a hot-headed person, who was so transported with the pangs of zeal and eagerness beyond all compass in most of his disputes, that there was no great reckoning to be made of his assertions. (Speculum Europae.) Yea, he was dangerous to read, as savouring of heresy in some places, and better perhaps he had never written. Four years before the Council of Trent, Cardinal Contarenus asserted the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in a just treatise, and was therefore soon after poisoned. Cardinal Pole is thought to have been sound in this point. Bellarmine reproves Pighius for consenting to Luther herein, whom he undertook to confute, and yet Bellarmine himself with his tutissimum est, it is most safe. doth as much upon the matter. Magna est veritas, et valebit, Great is the truth, and shall prevail.


Verse 29

29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

Ver. 29. Is he the God of the Jews only] That is, Doth he justify the Jews only? For he is their God only whom he justifieth. Now men are said to be justified effectively by God, apprehensively by faith, declaratively by good works. The schoolmen are very unsound in this capital article of justification, and are therefore the less to be regarded. Nam quae de gratia Dei iustificante scholastici seribunt, commentitia universa existimo, saith Cardinal Pighius, who is therefore much condemned by Bellarmine, but without cause.


Verse 30

30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Ver. 30. And uncircumcision] All by one way, lest he should seem not to be one, but alius et alius.


Verse 31

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Ver. 31. We establish the law] Which yet the Antinomians cry down, calling repentance a legal grace, humiliation a backdoor to heaven; grieving that they have grieved so much for their sins, &c., that they have prayed so often, and done other holy duties. Islebius Agricola (the first Antinomian that ever was) and his followers held these unsound opinions; That the law and works belong only to the court of Rome; that as soon as a man begins to think how to live godlily and modestly, he presently wandereth from the gospel; that a man was never truly mortified till he had put out all sense of conscience for sin; that if his conscience troubled him, that was his imperfection, he was not mortified enough; that St Peter understood not Christian liberty when he wrote those words, "Make your calling and election sure;" that good works were perniciosa ad salutatem, destructive to men’s souls; with a deal of such trash. All which, this Islebius afterwards condemned and recanted in a public auditory, and printed his revocation. Yet when Luther was dead, he relapsed into the same error, and hath to this day among us too many disciples. We have need, therefore, to take St Paul’s part, to establish the law, to settle it, now that it is falling (as the Greek word, ιστωμεν, signifies), to make it valid, ικανωμεν (as some copies have it), sufficient and effectual to those ends for which it was given, viz. to discover transgression and to restrain it, Galatians 3:19; to humble men for sin, Romans 3:19-20; to be a schoolmaster to Christ, and a rule of life, that, according to his royal law, James 2:8, we may live royally above the rank of men, in obedience; while by the gospel, we obtain grace in some measure to fulfil the law; having a counterpart of it in our hearts, and a disposition answerable to it in all things, Hebrews 8:8-10 cf. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3; as the lead answers to the mould, as tally answers tally, indenture indenture. That was a good saying of Luther’s, Walk in the heaven of the promise, but in the earth of the law; that in respect of believing, this of obeying. Another of his sayings was, That in the justification of a sinner, Christ and faith were alone tanquam sponsus cum sponsa in thalamo, as the bridegroom and bride in the bed; howbeit it is such a faith as works by love. A third golden saying of his was, He that can rightly distinguish between law and gospel, let him praise God for his skill, and know himself to be a good divine.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-3.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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