Romans 3 explained

Romans 3 explained DEFAULT

Romans 3 – Justified Freely by His Grace

A. The righteousness of God’s judgments.

1. (1-2) The advantage of the Jewish people.

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

a. What advantage then has the Jew: Paul has carefully explained in Romans 2 that the possession of the law or circumcision will not save a Jewish person. If this is the case, then what is the advantage of being “God’s chosen nation”?

i. After all, if there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11), what good is it to be Jewish?

b. Much in every way! Paul knows there are many advantages God gave to the Jewish people. In particular, He entrusted them with the oracles of God, which speaks of God’s written revelation before the time of Jesus. He gave the Jewish people His Word, and that is an indescribable gift.

i. “This was their prime privilege, that they were God’s library-keepers, that this heavenly treasure was concredited to them.” (Trapp)

ii. Paul will later expand on the advantage of the Jewish people in Romans 9:4, explaining that Israel also had the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.

2. (3-4) Jewish unbelief does not make God wrong.

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”

a. For what if some did not believe? The fact that the Jewish people as a whole to that point had rejected the gospel did not mean that God’s faithfulness to them was in vain. It did not mean that God’s work was futile or without effect.

i. “I have to say, with Paul, ‘What if some did not believe?’ It is no new thing; for there have always been some who have rejected the revelation of God. What then? You and I had better go on believing, and testing for ourselves, and proving the faithfulness of God, and living upon Christ our Lord, even though we see another set of doubters, and another, and yet another ad infinitum. The gospel is no failure, as many of us know.” (Spurgeon)

b. Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar: Paul reminds us that God will be justified in all His actions. In the end, it will be demonstrated that even our unrighteousness somehow proclaimed His righteousness and glory, even if only in judgment.

i. “Should any man say that the promise of God had failed toward him, let him examine his heart and his ways, and he will find that he has departed out of that way in which alone God could, consistent with his holiness and truth, fulfill the promise.” (Clarke)

ii. Spurgeon on let God be true but every man a liar: “It is a strange, strong expression; but it is none too strong. If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false. God speaks the truth, and cannot lie. God cannot change; his word, like himself, is immutable. We are to believe God’s truth if nobody else believes it. The general consensus of opinion is nothing to a Christian. He believes God’s word, and he thinks more of that than of the universal opinion of men.”

3. (5) An objection regarding the unrighteousness of man and the righteousness of God.

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)

a. But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Paul brings the counter-argument of an opponent: “If my unrighteousness will demonstrate God’s righteousness, how can God judge me? My sin ultimately serves to bring Him more glory, and that is good!”

b. Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? Paul was familiar with the line of thinking that says, “God is in control of everything. Even my evil will ultimately demonstrate His righteousness. Therefore God is unjust if He inflicts His wrath on me, because I’m just a pawn in His hand.”

i. In theory, the most dramatic example of someone who might ask this question is Judas. Can you hear Judas make his case? “Lord, I know that I betrayed Jesus, but You used it for good. In fact, if I hadn’t done what I did, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross at all. What I did even fulfilled the Scriptures. How can You judge me at all?” The answer to Judas might go like this: “Yes, God used your wickedness but it was still your wickedness. There was no good or pure motive in your heart at all. It is no credit to you that God brought good out of your evil. You stand guilty before God.”

c. I speak as a man: This doesn’t mean Paul is without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and apostolic authority. Instead he explains that only as a man – a fallen man at that – would anyone dare to question God’s justice.

4. (6-8) Paul’s answer to the objection raised.

Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?; as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

a. Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? Paul dismisses the question of his opponent easily. If things were such as his opponent suggested, then God could judge no one.

i. It is true that God will use even the unrighteousness of man to accomplish His work and bring praise to His name – Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is a perfect example. Nevertheless, part of the way God glorifies Himself in man’s sin is by righteously judging that unrighteousness.

b. How will God judge the world? For both Paul and his readers it was a given that a judgment day was coming, when some will be acquitted and some condemned. He didn’t need to contest this point; it was simply understood in that culture.

i. Paul understood that God would judge the world, both Jew and Gentile. Many of the Jews of Paul’s day figured that God would condemn the Gentile for his sin, but save the Jew despite his sin.

c. For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? Paul re-states the objection of an imaginary questioner: “If God will glorify Himself through my lie, how can He judge me, since I seem to indirectly increase His glory?”

d. Let us do evil that good may come: This was a perversion of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith, and an extension of the objection of his imaginary questioner. If you take the thinking of Paul’s adversary far enough, you end up saying, “Let’s sin as much as we can so God can be glorified even more.” This shows us that one way to examine a teaching is to extend its meaning and consequences and see where you end up.

i. Of course, let us do evil that good may come was not Paul’s teaching. He was slanderously reported to teach this. Still, it is possible to see how this accusation came as Paul freely preached forgiveness and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, not works.

ii. Most Christian preaching is so far from the true gospel of free grace that Paul preached that there is no way anyone could even slanderously report that they taught “let us do evil that good may come.” If we find ourselves sometimes accused of preaching a gospel that is “too open” and too centered on faith and grace and God’s work then we find ourselves in good company with Paul.

e. Their condemnation is just: Paul will not even answer such an absurd twisting of his gospel. He simply says of those who would teach such things or accuse Paul of teaching them, their condemnation is just. God rightly condemns anyone who teaches or believes such a thing.

i. Twisting the glorious free gift of God in Jesus into a supposed license to sin is perhaps the peak of man’s depravity. It takes the most beautiful gift of God and perverts it and mocks it. This twisting is so sinful Paul saves it for last, because it is beyond the depravity of the pagan (Romans 1:24-32), beyond the hypocrisy of the moralist (Romans 2:1-5), and beyond the false confidence of the Jew (Romans 2:17-29).

B. Conclusion: the universal guilt of mankind before God.

1. (9) The guilt of both Jew and Gentile before God.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

a. Are we better than they? Not at all: Since Paul was Jewish by birth and heritage (Philippians 3:4-6), when he says “we” he means “we Jews.” The point is that by nature, the Jewish person is no more right with God than the pagan or the moralist. Paul demonstrates that the pagan, the moralist, and the Jew are all under sin and under condemnation.

b. Under sin: This is a powerful phrase. It speaks of our slavery to sin, literally meaning “sold under sin.” By nature every person knows what it is like to be a slave to sin, both Jews and Greeks.

i. “Under the power of sin, but chiefly under the guilt of sin.” (Poole)

ii. Morris on under sin: “He is regarding sin as a tyrant ruler, so that sinners are ‘under’ it (Jerusalem Bible, ‘under sin’s dominion’); they cannot break free.”

2. (10-18) The Old Testament witnesses to the universal depravity and guilt of mankind.

As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

a. There is none righteous, no, not one: These quotations from the Psalms (Psalms 14:1-3; 5:9, 140:3, 10:7 and 36:1) and from Isaiah 59:7-8 all support this opening statement.

i. Paul looks at the human condition from top to bottom. He begins with the head and moves down to the feet. Warren Wiersbe calls this passage “An X-ray study of the lost sinner, from head to foot.”

ii. This look at the human condition is depressing. What’s the point? The Apostle Paul wants us to understand our complete inability to save ourselves. The fall touches every part of man’s being, and the inventory of body parts corrupted by the fall demonstrates this.

b. There is none righteous, no, not one: When God finds none righteous, it is because there are none. It isn’t as if there were some and God couldn’t see them. There has never been a truly righteous man apart from Jesus Christ. “Even Adam was not righteous: he was innocent – not knowing good and evil.” (Newell)

c. There is none who seeks after God: We deceive ourselves into thinking that man, on his own, really does seek after God. But don’t all the religion and rituals and practices from the beginning of time demonstrate that man seeks after God? Not at all. If man initiates the search then he doesn’t seek the true God, the God of the Bible. Instead he seeks an idol that he makes himself.

i. “You have gone through this form of worship, but you have not sought after God. I am sick of this empty religiousness. We see it everywhere; it is not communion with God, it is not getting to God; indeed, God is not in it at all.” (Spurgeon)

d. They have together become unprofitable: The word unprofitable has the idea of rotten fruit. It speaks of something that was permanently bad and therefore useless.

e. Their throat is an open tomb: With these references from the Psalms, Paul calls virtually every part of man’s body into guilt. The throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, and eyes are filled with sin and rebellion against God.

i. Their feet are swift to shed blood: “For further details, read your daily papers!” (Newell). For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that in 1992 murders reached a record level of 800 in Los Angeles County.

f. There is no fear of God before their eyes: This summarizes the entire thought. Every sin and rebellion against God happens because we do not have a proper respect for Him. Wherever there is sin, there is no fear of God.

i. John Calvin on the fear of God: “In short, as it is a bridle to restrain our wickedness, so when it is wanting, we feel at liberty to indulge every kind of licentiousness.”

3. (19-20) Summation: the law cannot save us from our sin and the penalty it deserves.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

a. Whatever the law says: Paul points out that this horrific description of man’s utter sinfulness come to us in the law; and it is intended for those under the law, to silence every critic and to demonstrate the universal guilt of mankind – that all the world may become guilty before God.

i. “We may add, that though all the vices here enumerated are not found conspicuously in every individual, yet they may be justly and truly ascribed to human nature, as we have already observed.” (Calvin)

b. It says to those who are under the law: If God speaks this way to those who had the law, and attempted to do the law, it is evident that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.

i. Remember that many Jewish people of Paul’s day took every passage of the Old Testament describing evil and applied it only to the Gentiles – not to themselves. Paul makes it clear that God speaks to those who are under the law.

c. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight: The law cannot save us. The law can’t justify anyone. It is useful in giving us the knowledge of sin, but it cannot save us.

i. Since the time of Adam and Eve, people have tried to justify themselves by the deeds of the law. In the Garden of Eden Adam tried to make himself presentable to God by making coverings out of fig leaves – and he failed. In Job, the oldest book of the Bible, the problem is presented clearly: how can a man be righteous before God? (Job 9:2). God makes part of the answer clear here through Paul – the answer is not in the performance of good works, in the deeds of the law.

ii. How we need to deeply understand this – that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified!

· This means that the law, having been broken, now can only condemn us – it can never save us.

· This means that even if we could now begin to perfectly keep the law of God it could not make up for past disobedience, or remove present guilt.

· This means that keeping the law is NOT God’s way of salvation or of blessing under the New Covenant.

d. For by the law is the knowledge of sin: J.B. Phillip’s paraphrase of this phrase is striking. He writes, “it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.

i. “Lest any should think that the law hereupon is useless, he goes on to show its use, but a quite contrary one to what they intended.” (Poole)

C. The revelation of the righteousness of God.

1. (21) The revelation of righteousness.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

a. But now: These words provide the most glorious transition from the judgment of Romans 3:20 to the justification of Romans 3:21.

i. But now speaks of the newness of God’s work in Jesus Christ – it really is a New Covenant. Being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets reminds us that there is still continuity with God’s work in former times.

b. Apart from the law: The law cannot save us, but God reveals a righteousness that will save us, apart from the law. This is the essence of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is a salvation that is offered apart from the law, apart from our own earning and deserving, apart from our own merits.

c. Being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets: This righteousness is not a novelty. Paul didn’t “invent” it. It was predicted long ago, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. The Old Testament said this righteousness was coming.

d. Apart from the law: It isn’t that the righteousness of God is revealed apart from the Old Testament, but that it is revealed apart from the principle of law. It is apart from a legal relationship to God, based on the idea of earning and deserving merit before Him.

i. “The Greek puts to the very front this great phrase apart from law (choris nomou) and this sets forth most strongly the altogether separateness of this Divine righteousness from any law-performance, any works of man, whatsoever.” (Newell)

ii. God’s righteousness is not offered to us as something to take up the slack between our ability to keep the law and God’s perfect standard. It is not given to supplement our own righteousness, it is given completely apart from our own attempted righteousness.

2. (22) How this righteousness is communicated to man.

Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

a. To all and on all who believe: In Romans 3:21, Paul told us how this righteousness does not come. It does not come through the deeds of the law, it is apart from the law. Now Paul tells us how this saving righteousness does come. It is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.

b. Through faith in Jesus Christ: The righteousness of God is not ours by faith; it is ours through faith. We do not earn righteousness by our faith. We receive righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.

i. Through faith “points to the fact that faith is not a merit, earning salvation. It is no more than the means through which the gift is given.” (Morris)

ii. “But faith is not ‘trusting’ or ‘expecting’ God to do something, but relying on His testimony concerning the person of Christ as His Son, and the work of Christ for us on the cross… After saving faith, the life of trust begins… trust is always looking forward to what God will do; but faith sees that what God says has been done, and believes God’s Word, having the conviction that it is true, and true for ourselves.” (Newell)

c. For the there is no difference: There is no other way to obtain this righteousness. This righteousness is not earned through obedience to the law; it is a received righteousness, gained through faith in Jesus Christ.

i. “There is a little book entitled, Every man his own lawyer. Well, nowadays, according to some people, it seems as if every man is to be his own saviour; but if I had, say; a dozen gospels, and I had to sort them out, and give the right gospel to the right man, what a fix I should be in! I believe that, oftentimes, I should be giving your gospel to someone else, and someone else’s gospel to you; and what a muddle it would all be! But now we have one universal cure… The blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ will save every man who trusts him, for ‘there is no difference.’” (Spurgeon)

3. (23-24) Man’s universal need and God’s universal offer.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

a. Being justified: Paul develops his teaching about salvation around three themes.

· Justification is an image from the court of law.

· Redemption is an image from the slave market.

· Propitiation is an image from the world of religion, appeasing God through sacrifice.

i. Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge. Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending our Creator.

b. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God: This universal statement is answered by a universal offer to be justified freely by His grace. It is open to everyone who will believe.

i. Morris, quoting Moule: “The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.” Everyone falls short, but everyone can be justified freely by His grace.

c. Fall short of the glory of God: It’s impossible to describe every way we fall short, but here are four important ways man falls short of the glory of God.

i. We fail to give God the glory due Him, in our words, thoughts and actions.

ii. We fail to qualify for, and thereby reject the glory and reward that God gives faithful servants.

iii. We fail to properly reflect God’s glory by refusing to be conformed into His image.

iv. We fail to obtain the final glory God will bestow on His people at the end of all history.

d. Justified freely by His grace: Being in such a sinful state, the only way we can be justified is to be justified freely. We can’t purchase it without good works at all. If it isn’t made free to us, we can’t have it all. So we are justified freely by His grace – His unmerited favor, given to us without regard to what we deserve. It is a giving motivated purely by the giver, and motivated by nothing in the one who receives.

i. Freely is the ancient Greek word dorean. The way this word is used in other New Testament passages helps us understand the word. Matthew 10:8 (Freely you have received, freely give) and Revelation 22:17 (And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely) show that the word means truly free, not just “cheap” or “discounted.” Perhaps the most striking use of the ancient Greek word dorean is in John 15:25: They hated me without a cause (dorean). Even as there was nothing in Jesus deserving of man’s hatred, so there is nothing in us deserving of justification – all the reasons are in God.

ii. Calvin on the use of both the words freely and grace: “He thus repeats the word to show that the whole is from God, and nothing from us… lest we should imagine a half kind of grace, he affirms more strongly what he means by a repetition, and claims for God’s mercy alone the whole glory of our righteousness.”

e. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Again, Paul’s gospel centers squarely in Christ Jesus. Salvation is possible because of the redemption found in Him. God cannot give us His righteousness apart from Jesus Christ.

f. Redemption: This has the idea of buying back something, and involves cost. However, God pays the cost and so we are justified freely.

i. The word translated redemption had its origin describing the release of prisoners of war on payment of a price and was known as the “ransom.” As time went on, it was extended to include the freeing of slaves, again by the payment of a price.

ii. The idea of redemption means that Jesus bought us; therefore, we belong to Him. Paul expressed this thought in another letter: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).

4. (25-26) How the death of Jesus satisfies the righteous judgment of God.

Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

a. Whom God set forth as a propitiation: Jesus, by His death (by His blood) was a propitiation (substitute sacrifice) for us. As He was judged in our place, the Father could demonstrate His righteousness in judgment against sin, while sparing those who deserved the judgment.

i. Wuest on propitiation: “The word in its classical form was used of the act of appeasing the Greek gods by a sacrifice… in other words, the sacrifice was offered to buy off the anger of the god.”

ii. The NIV translates propitiation as sacrifice of atonement; the Living Bible has: to take the punishment for our sins.

b. A propitiation: The ancient Greek word for propitiation (hilasterion) is also used in the Septuagint for the mercy seat, the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant, upon which sacrificial blood was sprinkled as an atonement for sin. While it might be said that this passage means “Jesus is our mercy seat,” it probably has the more straightforward idea of propitiation – a substitute sacrifice.

i. At the same time, the “mercy seat” idea should not be neglected as an illustration of propitiation. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of man’s great sin: the tablets of law; the manna received ungratefully; the budded rod of Aaron, showing man’s rejection of God’s leadership. Up over the Ark of the Covenant were the symbols of the holy presence of the enthroned God in the beautiful gold cherubim. In between the two stood the mercy seat, and as sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), God’s wrath was averted because a substitute had been slain on behalf of sinners coming by faith. We really can say that Jesus is our “mercy seat,” standing between guilty sinners and the holiness of God.

c. Whom God set forth as a propitiation: This shows that Jesus did not somehow appease a reluctant, unwilling Father to hold back His wrath. Instead, it was God the Father who initiated the propitiation: whom God set forth.

d. Passed over the sins: God, in His forbearance, had passed over the sins of those Old Testament saints who trusted in the coming Messiah. At the cross, those sins were no longer passed over, they were paid for.

i. The idea is that through the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament, those who looked in faith to the coming Messiah had their sins “covered” by a sort of an “IOU” or promissory note. That temporary covering was redeemed for full payment at the cross.

ii. The work of Jesus on the cross freed God from the charge that He lightly passed over sin committed before the cross. Those sins were passed over for a time but they were finally paid for.

e. That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus: At the cross, God demonstrated His righteousness by offering man justification (a legal verdict of “not guilty”), while remaining completely just (because the righteous penalty of sin had been paid at the cross).

i. It’s easy to see how someone could be only just – simply send every guilty sinner to hell, as a just judge would do. It’s easy to see how someone could only be the justifier – simply tell every guilty sinner, “I declare a pardon. You are all declared ‘not guilty.’” But only God could find a way to be bothjust and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

ii. “Here we learn that God designed to give the most evident displays of both his justice and mercy. Of his justice, in requiring a sacrifice, and absolutely refusing to give salvation to a lost world in any other way; and of his mercy, in providing THE sacrifice which his justice required.” (Clarke)

5. (27) Boasting in the salvation which comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ is excluded.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.

a. Where is boasting then? It shouldn’t be anywhere. Because we are justified freely by His grace, there is no room for self-congratulation or credit.

b. By what law? Boasting and pride are not excluded because there is some specific passage in the law against them. Instead, pride is excluded because it is completely incompatible with the salvation that is freely ours though faith. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith.

c. By the law of faith: No room for boasting! This is why the natural man hates being justified freely by His grace. Grace absolutely refuses to recognize his (imagined) merits and gives no place to his pride whatsoever.

6. (28-30) Justification (acquittal in the court of God) is found, for both Jew and Gentile, apart from the deeds of the law.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

a. Justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law: It isn’t that we are justified by faithplus whatever deeds of the law we can do. We are justified by faithalone, apart from the deeds of the law.

i. “Since all works of law are barred out, faith alone is left. Luther so translated, and since his time Sola Fide has become a slogan.” (Lenski)

b. Apart from the deeds of the law: Doesn’t James contradict this in passages like James 2:14-26? How can we say that it is faith alone that saves, apart from the deeds of the law?

i. It is true faith alone saves, but true faith, saving faith, has a distinct character. It is not just agreeing with certain facts, but it is directing the mind and will in agreement with God. The whole purpose of the book of James is to describe the character of this saving faith.

ii. Calvin explains: “What James says, that man is not justified by faith alone, but also by works, does not at all militate against the preceding view [of justification by faith alone]. The reconciling of the two views depends chiefly on the drift of the argument pursued by James. For the question with him is not, how men attain righteousness before God, but how they prove it to others that they are justified; for his object was to confute hypocrites, who vainly boasted that they had faith… James meant no more than that man is not made or proved to be just by a feigned or dead faith, and that he must prove his righteousness by his works.”

c. Yes, of the Gentiles also: This righteousness is offered to both Jew and Gentile. The universal character of the offer is demonstrated by a simple fact: Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Of course He is. If there is only one God, then God is God of the Gentiles as much as He is God of the Jews. It’s just up to the Gentiles to recognize Him as God.

d. There is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith: Not only is this righteousness available to both Jew and Gentile, it is also received the same way by both Jew and Gentile. Since one God justifies both Jew and Gentile, He justifies them in the same way: by faith… through faith.

7. (31) What of the law then?

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

a. Do we then make void the law through faith? We can see how someone might ask, “If the law doesn’t make us righteous, what good is it? Paul, you have just made the law void. You are going against the law of God.”

b. Certainly not! Of course, Paul does not make void the law. As the Apostle will demonstrate in Romans 4, the law anticipated the coming gospel of justification by faith, apart from the deeds of the law. Therefore, the gospel establishes the law, fulfilling its own predictions.

©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Sours: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-3/

Romans 3: Commentary, Bible Study And Summary

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Let’s take a close look at Romans chapter 3 and study it together and add some personal commentary to it.  Please leave your own comment so that we can all learn from one another.

The Book of Romans

The Book of Romans is among my favorites in the entire Bible. This book has caused many to come to saving faith as they are walked down the Roman Road of Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23 and many others.  Written somewhere between A.D. 55 and A.D. 57, Paul wrote this letter or epistle which today we call the Book of Romans, while he was in Corinth and possibly staying with Phoebe (16:1-2).  Paul felt that his ministry may have been fulfilled in the areas around Judea and the Mediterranean and so he desired to eventually go to Spain (Rom 15:17-24).  The Reformers saw this book as the key to the Great Reformation because it holds all the essentials of salvation like the cross, sin, repentance, the law, judgment, faith, works, grace, justification, election, sanctification, the role of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the church and in the life of the believer as well as the place that the Jews and Gentiles held in God’s election, so let’s examine the 3rd chapter of the Book of Romans together.

Romans 3 Commentary, Bible Study And Summary

Romans 3:1-3 God’s Righteousness Upheld

“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?  Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.  What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?  By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

There is no advantage to works like circumcision but there was to being a Jew who not only recorded but preserved the Word of God (the oracles).  Their unfaithfulness didn’t nullify the faithfulness of God at all.  As you see in the wanderings in the Wilderness, God was faithful even with His people were not.  God is always true as He cannot lie like humans often do.

Romans 3:9-20 No One is Righteous but God

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

These verses are rich in the message of the gospel acting as cobblestones in the Romans Road to salvation.  There isn’t even one person who is righteous; no one does good at all…not even one of us!  Every one of their and our mouths were open graves before they/we were saved.  Like you, my feet ran swiftly toward sinful activities and I had no peace at all.  There was no fear of God before our eyes, much like the unsaved today, but then the law exposed our standing before God.  Our words couldn’t justify us so we had to shut our mouths and stop trying to justify ourselves.  It is for this reason that the whole world will be held accountable to God unless they repent and trust in Christ.  The best of our works cannot justify us.  The law’s purpose is fulfilled in our lives in the sense that it showed us what sin was.  Paul said it well when he wrote that it was our schoolmaster, bringing us about to knowledge of sin (Gal 3:24).

Romans 3:21-26 God’s Righteousness is Through Faith

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

God’s righteousness is revealed or displayed apart from His law but it is displayed through having faith in Jesus Christ for anyone that believes.  There isn’t any difference between any of us because all of us have sinned and fallen so far short of God’s glory to be as good as humanly unbridgeable.  That’s why it must take a free gift, freely received, and that is the gift of faith which could only come through Jesus redeeming the unredeemable. God had to satisfy His wrath on Jesus, and this is what propitiation means.  It involved His suffering, the shedding of His blood, and His death and it did satisfy God’s wrath and that is why it can only be received by faith.  This was how the righteousness of God was displayed…in His great patience or forbearing of our sins, it was just as death passed over the first born of all those who believed God in Egypt, so those who believe in Christ today have had His deadly wrath pass over them.   This passing over, made possible by Christ’s work at Calvary, is the passing over of our sins and the punishment we deserved.  This is how Jesus is both the just and the justifier. God is the Just One and the Justifier and those who have faith in Christ are the ones who are justified (2 Cor 5:21).

Romans 3:27-31 Justified Apart from the Works of the Law

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

The is law given to the proud and only when they are humbled by it, can grace be given, therefore no one could possibly boast about it (Eph 2:8-9).  Who has ever been justified by the law or without faith?  No one!  God is the God not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles because more than these, He is a God of grace and not of race. For whoever it is that trusts in Him, He is their God. That doesn’t mean that the law is null and void but we live by the law because Jesus Himself said if you really love Me, you will keep or obey My commandments (John 14:15).  Our love for Him and our faith in Him doesn’t mean that we don’t obey Him.  That is contrary to the Word of God.

Conclusion

If you want to share the gospel, you must understand the Book of Romans and chapter 3 is a huge part of the Romans Road to salvation, especially Romans 3:10-12, 23.  It should be used to humble the proud, bring them to the knowledge of their sin, allow them to see the sinfulness of all mankind, the wrath that abides on all who disbelieve, that no amount of doing good will ever justify a person, that the law should take away any excuses, and when they are finally humbled, and not before, tell them that they can only be saved by the free gift of God which is faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no other way a person can be saved.

Take a walk through this related article:What is the Romans Road to Salvation?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Romans 3

Chapter 3

The apostle, in this chapter, carries on his discourse concerning justification. He had already proved the guilt both of Gentiles and Jews. Now in this chapter,

  • I. He answers some objections that might be made against what he had said about the Jews (v. 1-8).
  • II. He asserts the guilt and corruption of mankind in common, both Jews and Gentiles (v. 9-18).
  • III. He argues thence that justification must needs be by faith, and not by the law, which he gives several reasons for (v. 19-31).

The many digressions in his writings render his discourse sometimes a little difficult, but his scope is evident.

Rom 3:1-18

  • I. Here the apostle answers several objections, which might be made, to clear his way. No truth so plain and evident but wicked wits and corrupt carnal hearts will have something to say against it; but divine truths must be cleared from cavil.
    • Object. 1. If Jew and Gentile stand so much upon the same level before God, what advantage then hath the Jew? Hath not God often spoken with a great deal of respect for the Jews, as a non-such people (Deu. 33:29), a holy nation, a peculiar treasure, the seed of Abraham his friend: Did not he institute circumcision as a badge of their church-membership, and a seal of their covenant-relation to God? Now does not this levelling doctrine deny them all such prerogatives, and reflect dishonour upon the ordinance of circumcision, as a fruitless insignificant thing.
      • Answer. The Jews are, notwithstanding this, a people greatly privileged and honoured, have great means and helps, though these be not infallibly saving (v. 2): Much every way. The door is open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, but the Jews have a fairer way up to this door, by reason of their church-privileges, which are not to be undervalued, though many that have them perish eternally for not improving them. He reckons up many of the Jews' privileges Rom. 9:4, 5; here he mentions but one (which is indeed instar omnium-equivalent to all), that unto them were committed the oracles of God, that is, the scriptures of the Old Testament, especially the law of Moses, which is called the lively oracles (Acts 7:38), and those types, promises, and prophecies, which relate to Christ and the gospel. The scriptures are the oracles of God: they are a divine revelation, they come from heaven, are of infallible truth, and of eternal consequence as oracles. The Septuagint call the Urim and Thummim the logia-the oracles. The scripture is our breast-plate of judgment. We must have recourse to the law and to the testimony, as to an oracle. The gospel is called the oracles of God, Heb. 5:12; 1 Pt. 4:11. Now these oracles were committed to the Jews; the Old Testament was written in their language; Moses and the prophets were of their nation, lived among them, preached and wrote primarily to and for the Jews. They were committed to them as trustees for succeeding ages and churches. The Old Testament was deposited in their hands, to be carefully preserved pure and uncorrupt, and so transmitted down to posterity. The Jews were the Christians' library-keepers, were entrusted with that sacred treasure for their own use and benefit in the first place, and then for the advantage of the world; and, in preserving the letter of the scripture, they were very faithful to their trust, did not lose one iota or tittle, in which we are to acknowledge God's gracious care and providence. The Jews had the means of salvation, but they had not the monopoly of salvation. Now this he mentions with a chiefly, proµton men gar-this was their prime and principal privilege. The enjoyment of God's word and ordinances is the chief happiness of a people, is to be put in the imprimis of their advantages, Deu. 4:8; 33:3; Ps. 147:20.
    • Object. 2. Against what he had said of the advantages the Jews had in the lively oracles, some might object the unbelief of many of them. To what purpose were the oracles of God committed to them, when so many of them, notwithstanding these oracles, continued strangers to Christ, and enemies to his gospel? Some did not believe,v. 3.
      • Answer. It is very true that some, nay most of the present Jews, do not believe in Christ; but shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? The apostle startles at such a thought: God forbid! The infidelity and obstinacy of the Jews could not invalidate and overthrow those prophecies of the Messiah which were contained in the oracles committed to them. Christ will be glorious, though Israel be not gathered,Isa. 49:5. God's words shall be accomplished, his purposes performed, and all his ends answered, though there be a generation that by their unbelief go about to make God a liar. Let God be true but every man a liar; let us abide by this principle, that God is true to every word which he has spoken, and will let none of his oracles fall to the ground, though thereby we give the lie to man; better question and overthrow the credit of all the men in the world than doubt of the faithfulness of God. What David said in his haste (Ps. 116:11), that all men are liars, Paul here asserts deliberately. Lying is a limb of that old man which we every one of us come into the world clothed with. All men are fickle, and mutable, and given to change, vanity and a lie (Ps. 62:9), altogether vanity,Ps. 39:5. All men are liars, compared with God. It is very comfortable, when we find every man a liar (no faith in man), that God is faithful. When they speak vanity every one with his neighbour, it is very comfortable to think that the words of the Lord are pure words,Ps. 12:2, 6. For the further proof of this he quotes Ps. 51:4, That thou mightest be justified, the design of which is to show,
        • 1. That God does and will preserve his own honour in the world, notwithstanding the sins of men.
        • 2. That it is our duty, in all our conclusions concerning ourselves and others, to justify God and to assert and maintain his justice, truth, and goodness, however it goes. David lays a load upon himself in his confession, that he might justify God, and acquit him from any injustice. So here, Let the credit or reputation of man shift for itself, the matter is not great whether it sink or swim; let us hold fast this conclusion, how specious soever the premises may be to the contrary, that the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Thus is God justified in his sayings, and cleared when he judges (as it is Ps. 51:4), or when he is judged, as it is here rendered. When men presume to quarrel with God and his proceedings, we may be sure the sentence will go on God's side.
    • Object. 3. Carnal hearts might hence take occasion to encourage themselves in sin. He had said that the universal guilt and corruption of mankind gave occasion to the manifestation of God's righteousness in Jesus Christ. Now it may be suggested, If all our sin be so far from overthrowing God's honour that it commends it, and his ends are secured, so that there is no harm done, is it not unjust for God to punish our sin and unbelief so severely? If the unrighteousness of the Jews gave occasion to the calling in of the Gentiles, and so to God's greater glory, why are the Jews so much censured? If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?v. 5. What inference may be drawn from this? Is God unrighteous, meµ adikos ho Theos-Is not God unrighteous (so it may be read, more in the form of an objection), who taketh vengeance? Unbelieving hearts will gladly take any occasion to quarrel with equity of God's proceedings, and to condemn him that is most just, Job 34:17. I speak as a man, that is, I object this as the of carnal hearts; it is suggested like a man, a vain, foolish, proud creature.
      • Answer. God forbid; far be it from us to imagine such a thing. Suggestions that reflect dishonour upon God and his justice and holiness are rather to be startled at than parleyed with. Get thee behind me, Satan; never entertain such a thought. For then how shall God judge the world?v. 6. The argument is much the same with that of Abraham (Gen. 18:25): Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? No doubt, he shall. If he were not infinitely just and righteous, he would be unfit to be the judge of all the earth. Shall even he that hateth right govern?Job 34:17. Compare v. 18, 19. The sin has never the less of malignity and demerit in it though God bring glory to himself out of it. It is only accidentally that sin commends God's righteousness. No thanks to the sinner for that, who intends no such thing. The consideration of God's judging the world should for ever silence all our doubtings of, and reflections upon, his justice and equity. It is not for us to arraign the proceedings of such an absolute Sovereign. The sentence of the supreme court, whence lies no appeal, is not to be called in question.
    • Object. 4. The former objection is repeated and prosecuted (v. 7, 8), for proud hearts will hardly be beaten out of their refuge of lies, but will hold fast the deceit. But his setting off the objection in its own colours is sufficient to answer it: If the truth of God has more abounded through my lie. He supposes the sophisters to follow their objection thus: "If my lie, that is, my sin" (for there is something of a lie in every sin, especially in the sins of professors) "have occasioned the glorifying of God's truth and faithfulness, why should I be judged and condemned as a sinner, and not rather thence take encouragement to go on in my sin, that grace may abound?" an inference which at first sight appears too black to be argued, and fit to be cast out with abhorrence. Daring sinners take occasion to boast in mischief, because the goodness of God endures continually,Ps. 52:1. Let us do evil that good may come is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners, so justifying themselves in their wicked ways. Mentioning this wicked thought, he observes, in a parenthesis, that there were those who charged such doctrines as this upon Paul and his fellow-ministers: Some affirm that we say so. It is no new thing for the best of God's people and ministers to be charged with holding and teaching such things as they do most detest and abhor; and it is not to be thought strange, when our Master himself was said to be in league with Beelzebub. Many have been reproached as if they had said that the contrary of which they maintain: it is an old artifice of Satan thus to cast dirt upon Christ's ministers, Fortiter calumniari, aliquid adhaerebi-ay slander thickly on, for some will be sure to stick. The best men and the best truths are subject to slander. Bishop Sanderson makes a further remark upon this, as we are slanderously reported-blaspheµmoumetha. Blasphemy in scripture usually signifies the highest degree of slander, speaking ill of God. The slander of a minister and his regular doctrine is a more than ordinary slander, it is a kind of blasphemy, not for his person's sake, but for his calling's sake and his work's sake, 1 Th. 5:13.
      • Answer. He says no more by way of confutation but that, whatever they themselves may argue, the damnation of those is just. Some understand it of the slanderers; God will justly condemn those who unjustly condemn his truth. Or, rather, it is to be applied to those who embolden themselves in sin under a pretence of God's getting glory to himself out of it. Those who deliberately do evil that good may come of it will be so far from escaping, under the shelter of that excuse, that it will rather justify their damnation, and render them the more inexcusable; for sinning upon such a surmise, and in such a confidence, argues a great deal both of the wit and of the will in the sin-a wicked will deliberately to choose the evil, and a wicked wit to palliate it with the pretence of good arising from it. Therefore their damnation is just; and, whatever excuses of this kind they may now please themselves with, they will none of them stand good in the great day, but God will be justified in his proceedings, and all flesh, even the proud flesh that now lifts up itself against him, shall be silent before him. Some think Paul herein refers to the approaching ruin of the Jewish church and nation, which their obstinacy and self-justification in their unbelief hastened upon them apace.
  • II. Paul, having removed these objections, next revives his assertion of the general guilt and corruption of mankind in common, both of Jews and Gentiles, v. 9-18. "Are we better than they, we Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God? Does this recommend us to God, or will this justify us? No, by no means." Or, "Are we Christians (Jews and Gentiles) so much better antecedently than the unbelieving part as to have merited God's grace? Alas! no: before free grace made the difference, those of us that had been Jews and those that had been Gentiles were all alike corrupted." They are all under sin. Under the guilt of sin: under it as under a sentence;-under it as under a bond, by which they are bound over to eternal ruin and damnation;-under it as under a burden (Ps. 38:4) that will sink them to the lowest hell: we are guilty before God, v. 19. Under the government and dominion of sin: under it as under a tyrant and cruel task-master, enslaved to it;-under it as under a yoke;-under the power of it, sold to work wickedness. And this he had proved, proeµtiasametha. It is a law term: We have charged them with it, and have made good our charge; we have proved the indictment, we have convicted them by the notorious evidence of the fact. This charge and conviction he here further illustrates by several scriptures out of the Old Testament, which describe the corrupt depraved state of all men, till grave restrain or change them; so that herein as in a glass we may all of us behold our natural face. The 10th, 11th, and 12th verses are taken from Ps. 14:1-3, which are repeated as containing a very weighty truth, Ps. 53:1-3. The rest that follows here is found in the Septuagint translation of the 14th Psalm, which some think the apostle chooses to follow as better known; but I rather think that Paul took these passages from other places of scripture here referred to, but in later copies of the Septuagint they were all added in Ps. 14 from this discourse of Paul. It is observable that, to prove the general corruption of nature, he quotes some scriptures which speak of the particular corruptions of particular persons, as of Doeg (Ps. 140:3), of the Jews (Isa. 59:7, 8), which shows that the same sins that are committed by one are in the nature of all. The times of David and Isaiah were some of the better times, and yet to their days he refers. What is said Ps. 14 is expressly spoken of all the children of men, and that upon a particular view and inspection made by God himself. The Lord looked down, as upon the old world, Gen. 6:5. And this judgment of God was according to truth. He who, when he himself had made all, looked upon every thing that he had made, and behold all was very good, now that man had marred all, looked, and behold all was very bad. Let us take a view of the particulars. Observe,
    • 1. That which is habitual, which is two-fold:-
      • (1.) An habitual defect of every thing that is good.
        • [1.] There is none righteous, none that has an honest good principle of virtue, or is governed by such a principle, none that retains any thing of that image of God, consisting in righteousness, wherein man was created; no, not one; implying that, if there had been but one, God would have found him out. When all the world was corrupt, God had his eye upon one righteous Noah. Even those who through grace are justified and sanctified were none of them righteous by nature. No righteousness is born with us. The man after God's own heart owns himself conceived in sin.
        • [2.] There is none that understandeth,v. 11. The fault lies in the corruption of the understanding; that is blinded, depraved, perverted. Religion and righteousness have so much reason on their side that if people had but any understanding they would be better and do better. But they do not understand. Sinners are fools.
        • [3.] None that seeketh after God, that is, none that has any regard to God, any desire after him. Those may justly be reckoned to have no understanding that do not seek after God. The carnal mind is so far from seeking after God that really it is enmity against him.
        • [4.] They are together become unprofitable,v. 12. Those that have forsaken God soon grow good for nothing, useless burdens of the earth. Those that are in a state of sin are the most unprofitable creatures under the sun; for it follows,
        • [5.] There is none that doeth good; no, not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, Eccl. 7:23. Even in those actions of sinners that have some goodness in them there is a fundamental error in the principle and end; so that it may be said, There is none that doeth good. Malum oritur ex quolibet defect-very defect is the source of evil.
      • (2.) An habitual defection to every thing that is evil: They are all gone out of the way. No wonder that those miss the right way who do not seek after God, the highest end. God made man in the way, set him in right, but he hath forsaken it. The corruption of mankind is an apostasy.
    • 2. That which is actual. And what good can be expected from such a degenerate race? He instances,
      • (1.) In their words (v. 13, 14), in three things particularly:-
        • [1.] Cruelty: Their throat is an open sepulchre, ready to swallow up the poor and innocent, waiting an opportunity to do mischief, like the old serpent seeking to devour, whose name is Abaddon and Apollyon, the destroyer. And when they do not openly avow this cruelty, and vent it publicly, yet they are underhand intending mischief: the poison of asps is under their lips (Jam. 3:8), the most venomous and incurable poison, with which they blast the good name of their neighbour by reproaches, and aim at his life by false witness. These passages are borrowed from Ps. 5:9 and 140:3.
        • [2.] Cheating: With their tongues they have used deceit. Herein they show themselves the devil's children, for he is a liar, and the father of lies. They have used it: it intimates that they make a trade of lying; it is their constant practice, especially belying the ways and people of God.
        • [3.] Cursing: reflecting upon God, and blaspheming his holy name; wishing evil to their brethren: Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. This is mentioned as one of the great sins of the tongue, Jam. 3:9. But those that thus love cursing shall have enough of it, Ps. 109:17-19. How many, who are called Christians, do by these sin evince that they are still under the reign and dominion of sin, still in the condition that they were born in.
      • (2.) In their ways (v. 15-17): Their feet are swift to shed blood; that is, they are very industrious to compass any cruel design, ready to lay hold of all such opportunities. Wherever they go, destruction and misery go along with them; these are their companions-destruction and misery to the people of God, to the country and neighbourhood where they live, to the land and nation, and to themselves at last. Besides the destruction and misery that are at the end of their ways (death is the end of these things), destruction and misery are in their ways; their sin is its own punishment: a man needs no more to make him miserable than to be a slave to his sins.-And the way of peace have they not known; that is, they know not how to preserve peace with others, nor how to obtain peace for themselves. They may talk of peace, such a peace as is in the devil's palace, while he keeps it, but they are strangers to all true peace; they know not the things that belong to their peace. These are quoted from Prov. 1:16; Isa. 59:7, 8.
      • (3.) The root of all this we have: There is no fear of God before their eyes,v. 18. The fear of God is here put for all practical religion, which consists in an awful and serious regard to the word and will of God as our rule, to the honour and glory of God as our end. Wicked people have not this before their eyes; that is, they do not steer by it; they are governed by other rules, aim at other ends. This is quoted from Ps. 36:1. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. The fear of God is would lay a restraint upon our spirits, and keep them right, Neh. 5:15. When once fear is cast off, prayer is restrained (Job 15:4), and then all goes to wreck and ruin quickly. So that we have here a short account of the general depravity and corruption of mankind; and may say, O Adam! what hast thou done? God made man upright, but thus he hath sought out many inventions.

Rom 3:19-31

From all this Paul infers that it is in vain to look for justification by the works of the law, and that it is to be had only by faith, which is the point he has been all along proving, from ch. 1:17, and which he lays down (v. 28) as the summary of his discourse, with a quod erat demonstrandu-hich was to be demonstrated. We conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law; not by the deeds of the first law of pure innocence, which left no room for repentance, nor the deeds of the law of nature, how highly soever improved, nor the deeds of the ceremonial law (the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin), nor the deeds of the moral law, which are certainly included, for he speaks of that law by which is the knowledge of sin and those works which might be matter of boasting. Man, in his depraved state, under the power of such corruption, could never, by any works of his own, gain acceptance with God; but it must be resolved purely into the free grace of God, given through Jesus Christ to all true believers that receive it as a free gift. If we had never sinned, our obedience to the law would have been our righteousness: "Do this, and live." But having sinned, and being corrupted, nothing that we can do will atone for our former guilt. It was by their obedience to the moral law that the Pharisees looked for justification, Lu. 18:11. Now there are two things from which the apostle here argues: the guiltiness of man, to prove that we cannot be justified by the works of the law, and the glory of God, to prove that we must be justified by faith.

  • I. He argues from man's guiltiness, to show the folly of expecting justification by the works of the law. The argument is very plain: we can never be justified and saved by the law that we have broken. A convicted traitor can never come off by pleading the statute of 25 Edward III, for that law discovers his crime and condemns him: indeed, if he had never broken it, he might have been justified by it; but now it is past that he has broken it, and there is no way of coming off but by pleading the act of indemnity, upon which he has surrendered and submitted himself, and humbly and penitently claiming the benefit of it and casting himself upon it. Now concerning the guiltiness of man,
    • 1. He fastens it particularly upon the Jews; for they were the men that made their boast of the law, and set up for justification by it. He had quoted several scriptures out of the Old Testament to show this corruption: Now, says he (v. 19), this that the law says, it says to those who are under the law; this conviction belongs to the Jews as well as others, for it is written in their law. The Jews boasted of their being under the law, and placed a great deal of confidence in it: "But," says he, "the law convicts and condemns yo-ou see it does." That every mouth may be stopped-that all boasting may be silenced. See the method that God takes both in justifying and condemning: he stops every mouth; those that are justified have their mouths stopped by a humble conviction; those that are condemned have their mouths stopped too, for they shall at last be convinced (Jude 15), and sent speechless to hell, Mt. 22:12. All iniquity shall stop her mouth,Ps. 107:42.
    • 2. He extends it in general to all the world: That all the world may become guilty before God. If the world likes in wickedness (1 Jn. 5:19), to be sure it is guilty.-May become guilty; that is, may be proved guilty, liable to punishment, all by nature children of wrath,Eph. 2:3. They must all plead guilty; those that stand most upon their own justification will certainly be cast. Guilty before God is a dreadful word, before an all-seeing God, that is not, nor can be, deceived in his judgment-before a just and righteous judge, who will by no means clear the guilty. All are guilty, and therefore all have need of a righteousness wherein to appear before God. For all have sinned (v. 23); all are sinners by nature, by practice, and have come short of the glory of God-have failed of that which is the chief end of man. Come short, as the archer comes short of the mark, as the runner comes short of the prize; so come short, as not only not to win, but to be great losers. Come short of the glory of God.
      • (1.) Come short of glorifying God. See ch. 1:21, They glorified him not as God. Man was placed at the head of the visible creation, actively to glorify that great Creator whom the inferior creatures could glorify only objectively; but man by sin comes short of this, and, instead of glorifying God, dishonours him. It is a very melancholy consideration, to look upon the children of men, who were made to glorify God, and to think how few there are that do it.
      • (2.) Come short of glorying before God. There is no boasting of innocency: if we go about to glory before God, to boast of any thing we are, or have, or do, this will be an everlasting estoppe-hat we have all sinned, and this will silence us. We may glory before men, who are short-sighted, and cannot search our hearts,-who are corrupt, as we are, and well enough pleased with sin; but there is no glorying before God, who cannot endure to look upon iniquity.
      • (3.) Come short of being glorified by God. Come short of justification, or acceptance with God, which is glory begun-come short of the holiness or sanctification which is the glorious image of God upon man, and have overthrown all hopes and expectations of being glorified with God in heaven by any righteousness of their own. It is impossible now to get to heaven in the way of spotless innocency. That passage is blocked up. There is a cherub and a flaming sword set to keep that way to the tree of life.
    • 3. Further to drive us off from expecting justification by the law, he ascribes this conviction to the law (v. 20): For by the law is the knowledge of sin. That law which convicts and condemns us can never justify us. The law is the straight rule, that rectum which is index sui et obliqu-hat which points out the right and the wrong; it is the proper use and intendment of the law to open our wound, and therefore not likely to be the remedy. That which is searching is not sanative. Those that would know sin must get the knowledge of the law in its strictness, extent, and spiritual nature. If we compare our own hearts and lives with the rule, we shall discover wherein we have turned aside. Paul makes this use of the law, ch. 7:9, Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight. Observe,
      • (1.) No flesh shall be justified, no man, no corrupted man (Gen. 6:3), for that he also is flesh, sinful and depraved; therefore not justified, because we are flesh. The corruption that remains in our nature will for ever obstruct any justification by our own works, which, coming from flesh, must needs taste of the cask, Job 14:4.
      • (2.) Not justified in his sight. He does not deny that justification which was by the deeds of the law in the sight of the church: they were, in their church-estate, as embodied in a polity, a holy people, a nation of priests; but as the conscience stands in relation to God, in his sight, we cannot be justified by the deeds of the law. The apostle refers to Ps. 143:2.
  • II. He argues from God's glory to prove that justification must be expected only by faith in Christ's righteousness. There is no justification by the works of the law. Must guilty man then remain eternally under wrath? Is there no hope? Is the wound become incurable because of transgression? No, blessed be God, it is not (v. 21, 22); there is another way laid open for us, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested now under the gospel. Justification may be obtained without the keeping of Moses's law: and this is called the righteousness of God, righteousness of his ordaining, and providing, and accepting,-righteousness which he confers upon us; as the Christian armour is called the armour of God,Eph. 6:11.
    • 1. Now concerning this righteousness of God observe,
      • (1.) That it is manifested. The gospel-way of justification is a high-way, a plain way, it is laid open for us: the brazen serpent is lifted up upon the pole; we are not left to grope our way in the dark, but it is manifested to us.
      • (2.) It is without the law. Here he obviates the method of the judaizing Christians, who would needs join Christ and Moses together-owning Christ for the Messiah, and yet too fondly retaining the law, keeping up the ceremonies of it, and imposing it upon the Gentile converts: no, says he, it is without the law. The righteousness that Christ hath brought in is a complete righteousness.
      • (3.) Yet it is witnessed by the law and the prophets; that is, there were types, and prophecies, and promises, in the Old Testament, that pointed at this. The law is so far from justifying us that it directs us to another way of justification, points at Christ as our righteousness, to whom bear all the prophets witness. See Acts 10:43. This might recommend it to the Jews, who were so fond of the law and the prophets.
      • (4.) It is by the faith of Jesus Christ, that faith which hath Jesus Christ for its object-an anointed Saviour, so Jesus Christ signifies. Justifying faith respects Christ as a Saviour in all his three anointed offices, as prophet, priest, and king-trusting in him, accepting of him, and adhering to him, in all these. It is by this that we become interested in that righteousness which God has ordained, and which Christ has brought in.
      • (5.) It is to all, and upon all, those that believe. In this expression he inculcates that which he had been often harping upon, that Jews and Gentiles, if they believe, stand upon the same level, and are alike welcome to God through Christ; for there is no difference. Or, it is eis pantas-to all, offered to all in general; the gospel excludes none that do not exclude themselves; but it is epi pantas tous pisteuontas, upon all that believe, not only tendered to them, but put upon them as a crown, as a robe; they are, upon their believing, interested in it, and entitled to all the benefits and privileges of it.
    • 2. But now how is this for God's glory?
      • (1.) It is for the glory of his grace (v. 24): Justified freely by his grace-doµrean teµ autou chariti. It is by his grace, not by the grace wrought in us as the papists say, confounding justification and sanctification, but by the gracious favour of God to us, without any merit in us so much as foreseen. And, to make it the more emphatic, he says it is freely by his grace, to show that it must be understood of grace in the most proper and genuine sense. It is said that Joseph found grace in the sight of his master (Gen. 39:4), but there was a reason; he saw that what he did prospered. There was something in Joseph to invite that grace; but the grace of God communicated to us comes freely, freely; it is free grace, mere mercy; nothing in us to deserve such favours: no, it is all through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. It comes freely to us, but Christ bought it, and paid dearly for it, which yet is so ordered as not to derogate from the honour of free grace. Christ's purchase is no bar to the freeness of God's grace; for grace provided and accepted this vicarious satisfaction.
      • (2.) It is for the glory of his justice and righteousness (v. 25, 26): Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, etc. Note,
        • [1.] Jesus Christ is the great propitiation, or propitiatory sacrifice, typified by the hilasteµrion, or mercy-seat, under the law. He is our throne of grace, in and through whom atonement is made for sin, and our persons and performances are accepted of God, 1 Jn. 2:2. He is all in all in our reconciliation, not only the maker, but the matter of it-our priest, our sacrifice, our altar, our all. God was in Christ as in his mercy-seat, reconciling the world unto himself.
        • [2.] God hath set him forth to be so. God, the party offended, makes the first overtures towards a reconciliation, appoints the days-man; proetheto-fore-ordained him to this, in the counsels of his love from eternity, appointed, anointed him to it, qualified him for it, and has exhibited him to a guilty world as their propitiation. See Mt. 3:17, and 17:5.
        • [3.] That by faith in his blood we become interested in this propitiation. Christ is the propitiation; there is the healing plaster provided. Faith is the applying of this plaster to the wounded soul. And this faith in the business of justification hath a special regard to the blood of Christ, as that which made the atonement; for such was the divine appointment that without blood there should be no remission, and no blood but his would do it effectually. Here may be an allusion to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifices under the law, as Ex. 24:8. Faith is the bunch of hyssop, and the blood of Christ is the blood of sprinkling.
        • [4.] That all who by faith are interested in this propitiation have the remission of their sins that are past. It was for this that Christ was set forth to be a propitiation, in order to remission, to which the reprieves of his patience and forbearance were a very encouraging preface. Through the forbearance of God. Divine patience has kept us out of hell, that we might have space to repent, and get to heaven. Some refer the sins that are past to the sins of the Old-Testament saints, which were pardoned for the sake of the atonement which Christ in the fulness of time was to make, which looked backward as well as forward. Past through the forbearance of God. It is owing to the divine forbearance that we were not taken in the very act of sin. Several Greek copies make en teµanocheµ tou Theou-through the forbearance of God, to begin v. 26, and they denote two precious fruits of Christ's merit and God's grace:-Remission: dia teµn paresin-for the remission; and reprieves: the forbearance of God. It is owing to the master's goodness and the dresser's mediation that barren trees are let alone in the vineyard; and in both God's righteousness is declared, in that without a mediator and a propitiation he would not only not pardon, but not so much as forbear, not spare a moment; it is owning to Christ that there is ever a sinner on this side hell.
        • [5.] That God does in all this declare his righteousness. This he insists upon with a great deal of emphasis: To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness. It is repeated, as that which has in it something surprising. He declares his righteousness,
          • First, In the propitiation itself. Never was there such a demonstration of the justice and holiness of God as there was in the death of Christ. It appears that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. Finding sin, though but imputed, upon his own Son, he did not spare him, because he had made himself sin for us, 2 Co. 5:21. The iniquities of us all being laid upon him, though he was the Son of his love, yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, Isa. 53:10.
          • Secondly, In the pardon upon that propitiation; so it follows, by way of explication: That he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth. Mercy and truth are so met together, righteousness and peace have so kissed each other, that it is now become not only an act of grace and mercy, but an act of righteousness, in God, to pardon the sins of penitent believers, having accepted the satisfaction that Christ by dying made to his justice for them. It would not comport with his justice to demand the debt of the principal when the surety has paid it and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction. See 1 Jn. 1:9. He is just, that is, faithful to his word.
      • (3.) It is for God's glory; for boasting is thus excluded, v. 27. God will have the great work of the justification and salvation of sinners carried on from first to last in such a way as to exclude boasting, that no flesh may glory in his presence, 1 Co. 1:29-31. Now, if justification were by the works of the law, boasting would not be excluded. How should it? If we were saved by our own works, we might put the crown upon our own heads. But the law of faith, that is, the way of justification by faith, doth for ever exclude boasting; for faith is a depending, self-emptying, self-denying grace, and casts every crown before the throne; therefore it is most for God's glory that thus we should be justified. Observe, He speaks of the law of faith. Believers are not left lawless: faith is a law, it is a working grace, wherever it is in truth; and yet, because it acts in a strict and close dependence upon Jesus Christ, it excludes boasting.
    From all this he draws this conclusion (v. 28): That a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
  • III. In the close of the chapter he shows the extent of this privilege of justification by faith, and that it is not the peculiar privilege of the Jews, but pertains to the Gentiles also; for he had said (v. 22) that there is no difference: and as to this,
    • 1. He asserts and proves it (v. 29, 30): Is he the God of the Jews only? He argues from the absurdity of such a supposition. Can it be imagined that a God of infinite love and mercy should limit and confine his favours to that little perverse people of the Jews, leaving all the rest of the children of men in a condition eternally desperate? This would by no means agree with the idea we have of the divine goodness, for his tender mercies are over all his works; therefore it is one God of grace that justifies the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith, that is, both in one and the same way. However the Jews, in favour of themselves, will needs fancy a difference, really there is no more difference than between by and through, that is, no difference at all.
    • 2. He obviates an objection (v. 31), as if this doctrine did nullify the law, which they knew came from God: "No," says he, "though we do say that the law will not justify us, yet we do not therefore say that it was given in vain, or is of no use to us; no, we establish the right use of the law, and secure its standing, by fixing it on the right basis. The law is still of use to convince us of what is past, and to direct us for the future; though we cannot be saved by it as a covenant, yet we own it, and submit to it, as a rule in the hand of the Mediator, subordinate to the law of grace; and so are so far from overthrowing that we establish the law." Let those consider this who deny the obligation of the moral law on believers.

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Romans chapter 3

New International Version

1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God's faithfulness?

4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.'

5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, 'If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?' 8 Why not say--as some slanderously claim that we say--'Let us do evil that good may result'? Their condemnation is just!

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

10 As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.' 13 Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.' 'The poison of vipers is on their lips.' 14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.' 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.' 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.'

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

English Standard Version

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

King James Version

1 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. 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) 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 sepulchre; 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. 21 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. 27 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. 29Is 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.

New American Standard Bible

1 Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First, that they were entrusted with the actual words of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?

4 Far from it! Rather, God must prove to be true, though every person be found a liar, as it is written: 'SO THAT YOU ARE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.'

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking from a human viewpoint.) 6 Far from it! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (just as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let’s do evil that good may come of it'? Their condemnation is deserved.

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

10 as it is written: 'THERE IS NO RIGHTEOUS PERSON, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NO ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NO ONE WHO SEEKS OUT GOD; 12 THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME CORRUPT; THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.' 13 'THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,' 'THE VENOM OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS'; 14 'THEIR MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS'; 15 'THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN THE WAY OF PEACE.' 18 'THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.'

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished; 26 for the demonstration, that is, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Where then is boasting? It has been excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? Far from it! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

New Living Translation

1 Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? 2 Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

3 True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?

4 Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him, 'You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.'

5 'But,' some might say, 'our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn't it unfair, then, for him to punish us?' (This is merely a human point of view.) 6 Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? 7 'But,' someone might still argue, 'how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?' 8 And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, 'The more we sin, the better it is!' Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.

9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin.

10 As the Scriptures say, 'No one is righteous--not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.' 13 'Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.' 'Snake venom drips from their lips.' 14 'Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.' 15 'They rush to commit murder. 16 Destruction and misery always follow them. 17 They don't know where to find peace.' 18 'They have no fear of God at all.'

19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

Christian Standard Bible

1 So what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the very words of God. 3 What then? If some were unfaithful, will their unfaithfulness nullify God's faithfulness?

4 Absolutely not! Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar, as it is written: That you may be justified in your words and triumph when you judge.

5 But if our unrighteousness highlights God's righteousness, what are we to say? I am using a human argument: Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? 6 Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, "Let us do what is evil so that good may come"? Their condemnation is deserved!

9 What then? Are we any better off? Not at all! For we have already charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin,

10 as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers' venom is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and wretchedness are in their paths, 17 and the path of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God's judgment. 20 For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.

21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. 22 The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Sours: https://www.bibleref.com/Romans/3/Romans-chapter-3.html

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Romans

Verses 3-4

God Justified, Though Man Believes Not

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A Sermon

(No. 2255)

Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, May 8th, 1892,

Delivered by

C. H. SPURGEON,

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

On Lord's-day Evening, August 31st, 1890.

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"For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." Romans 3:3-4 .

The seed of Israel had great privileges even before the coming of Christ. God had promised by covenant that they should have those privileges; and they did enjoy them. They had a revelation and a light divine, while all the world beside sat in heathen darkness. Yet so many Jews did not believe, that, as a whole, the nation missed the promised blessing. A great multitude of them only saw the outward symbols, and never understood their spiritual meaning. They lived and died without the blessing promised to their fathers. Did this make the covenant of God to be void? Did this make the faithfulness of God to be a matter of question? "No, no," says Paul, "if some did not believe, and so did not gain the blessing, this was their own fault; but the covenant of God stood fast, and did not change because men were untrue." He remained just as true as ever; and he will be able to justify all that he has said, and all that he has done, and he will do so even to the end. When the great drama of human history shall have been played out, the net result will be that the ways of God shall be vindicated notwithstanding all the unbelief of men.

I am going to talk of our text, at this time, first, as giving to us a sorrowful reminder: "For what if some did not believe?" It is sad to be reminded that there always have been some who did not believe. Next, here is a horrible inference, which some have drawn from this grievous fact, that is, because some did not believe, it has been hinted that their unbelief would make the faith of God or the faithfulness of God without effect; to which, in the third place, the apostle gives an indignant reply: "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justifies in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."

I. Well now, first, we have here A SORROWFUL REMINDER. There always have been some who have not believed.

When God devised the great plan of salvation by grace; when he gave his own Son to die as the Substitute for guilty men; when he proclaimed that whosoever believed in Jesus Christ should have everlasting life; you would have thought that everybody would have been glad to hear such good news, and that they would all have hastened to believe it. Christ is so suitable to the sinner. Why does not the sinner accept him? The way of salvation is so simple, so suitable to guilty men, it is altogether so glorious, so grand, that if we did not know the depravity of the human heart, we should expect that every sinner would at once believe the gospel, and receive its boons. But, alas, some have not believed!

Now, this is stated very mildly. The apostle says, "For what if some did not believe?" He might have said, "What if many did not believe?" But he is talking to his Hebrew friends, and he wishes to woo them; so he states the case as gently as he can. Remember, dear friends, the carcasses of all but two who came out of Egypt fell in the wilderness through unbelief. Only Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land; but the apostle does not wish to unduly press his argument, or speak so as to aggravate his hearers; and he therefore puts it, "For what if some did not believe?" Even in his own day, he might have said, "The bulk of the Jewish nation has rejected Christ. Wherever I go, they seek my life. They would stone me to death, if they could, because I preach a dying Saviour's love;" but he does not put it so; he only mentions that some did not believe. Yet this is a very appalling thing, even when stated this mildly. If all here, except one person, were believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was announced that that one unbeliever would be pointed out to the congregation, I am sure we would all feel in a very solemn condition. But, dear friends, there are many more than one here who have not believed on the Son of God, and who, therefore, are not saved. If the unconverted were not so numerous, there is all the greater need for our tears and our compassion.

The terms of Paul's question suggest a very sweet mitigation of the sorrow. "What if some did not believe?" Then it is implied that some did believe. Glory be to God, there is a numerous "some" who have believed that Jesus is the Christ; and believing in him, have found life through his name! These have entered into a new life, and now bear a new character, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." Beloved, we do thank God that the preaching of the gospel has not been in vain. Up yonder, more numerous than the stars are they that walk in white robes which they have washed in the blood of the Lamb; and down here, despite our mourning, there is a glorious company, who still follow the Lamb, who is to them, their only hope.

Looking at the other side of the case, it is true that, at times, the "some" who did not believe meant the majority. It must be admitted that, sometimes, unbelievers have preponderated even among the hearers of the precious Word. Read the story of Israel through, in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, and you will be saddened to find how again and again they did not believe. The history of Israel, from the moment they became a nation, is a very painful one. It is full of the mercy of God; but it is also full of treachery of the human heart. In the days of the judges, the people served God while a good judge ruled over them; but as soon as he was dead, they went astray after false gods. I almost think that the Christian church is in the period of the judges now. When the Lord raises up, here one and there another, to preach his Word faithfully, the people seem to take heed to it; but when the faithful preachers are gone, many of their hearers turn aside again. Blessed be to God, we expect the coming of the King soon; and when the King comes, and the period of the judges shall have ended, then we shall enter upon a time of rest and peace. It may be that, even among hearers of the gospel, those who do not believe preponderate over those who do believe. My text sounds like a solemn knell, and there is something terribly awful about it, like the deep rumbling of underground thunder.

Now, dear friends, this unbelief has usually been the case throughout all ages among the great ones of the earth. In our Saviour's day, they said, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?" The gospel has usually had a free course among the poor and among those who some call "the lower orders", though why they are said to be lower than others, I do not know, unless it is because the heavier and more valuable things generally sink to the bottom. The church of God owes very little to kings and princes and nobles. She owes far more to fishermen and peasants. Jesus said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.: I suspect that, until the King himself shall come, we shall still find that the common people will gladly hear the gospel; and that, while Christ the Lord will choose for his own some from all ranks and conditions of men, it will still be true that "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called."

I think we may also say, with deep solemnity that some who have not believed have belonged to the religious and to the teaching class. In the days of our Lord and his apostles, the scribes and Pharisees were the greatest haters of the doctrine of Christ. Those whom you might have supposed, being most familiar with the Scriptures, the scribes, would soonest have recognized the Messiah, were the men who would not acknowledge him. So it was with the priests, even the chief priests, the men who had to do with the sacrifices and with the temple. They rejected Christ, although they were the religious leaders of the people. Do you suppose it is very different now? Alas, my friends, we may be preachers, and yet not preach the gospel of Christ; we may be members of the church, and yet not savingly know the gospel; we may go in and out of the house of God, and seem to take part in its holy service, and yet, all the while, we may be strangers and foreigners in the presence of the Most High. Believers are not always those whom you would suppose to be believers. The Lord often brings to himself, as in the case of the centurion, of whom we read this morning, far-off ones, rough soldiers, who were not thought likely to feel the power of such gentle teaching as the doctrine of the cross; and they bow before the Saviour. But alas! Alas! Among those who appear to be the children of the kingdom, brought up in the worship of God, there are some, yea, many, who have not believed on Christ; and, saddest of all, even among those who are the teachers of others in the things of God, there are some that have not savingly believed.

Now, dear friends, if we take the whole range of the nations favoured with the gospel, we shall have to say, and say it, as it were, in capital letters, "SOME DO NOT BELIEVE," and that "some" is a very large number. The question of the apostle is, "What if some did not believe?" Well, if I had to ask and answer that question, at this time, I would say, "What if some do not believe?" Then they are lost. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." There still remains, to those who hear the gospel, the opportunity to believe; and, believing in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." There still remains, to those who hear the gospel, the opportunity to believe; and, believing, they shall find life through the sacred name. Let us pray for them. If some do not believe, let us, who do believe, make them the constant subject of our prayers; and then let us tell them what is it to be believed, and bear our witness to the saving power of the gospel. When we have done that, let us scrupulously take care that our life and conduct are consistent with the doctrine that we teach, so that, if some do not believe, they may be won to Christ by the example of those who believe in him. Oh, that every Christian here would seek to bring another person to Christ! I pray you, beloved, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, be not barren nor unfruitful. If you know the great secret, tell it to others. Tell it out; tell it out; we all want stirring up to this blessed work; I am sure we do. I heard of a Christian who always spoke about Christ to, at least, one person every day. I commend the example for your imitation. How many of us could say that we do that? I know there are some here who do ten times as much as that. It has grown to be a habit with them to speak of Christ to every one they meet; but it is not the habit even of all who believe. It takes some Christians a long time to begin to say anything for their Lord. Let us try and labour hard, that, if some people do not believe, we may bring them to the Saviour, that God may have praise from them also.

II. But now I advance a step further, and dwell upon A HORRIBLE INFERENCE drawn from the fact that some did not believe. The inference was, that their unbelief had made the faith of God, or the faithfulness of God, altogether without effect. I will translate what Paul said without dwelling on his words.

Some will say, "If So-and-so, and So-and-so do not believe the gospel, then religion is a failure." We have read of a great many things being failures nowadays. A little time ago, it was a question whether marriage was not a failure. I suppose that, by-and-by, eating our dinners will be a failure, breathing will be a failure, everything will be a failure. But now the gospel is said to be a failure. Why? Because certain gentlemen of professed culture and supposed knowledge do not believe it. Well, dear friends, there have been other things that have not been believed in by very important individuals, and yet they have turned out to be true. I am not quite old enough to remember all that was said about the introduction of the steam-engine, though I remember right well going to see a steam-engine and a railway-train as great wonders when I was a boy. Before the trains actually ran, all the old coachmen, and all the farmers that had horses to sell, would not believe for a moment that an engine could be made to go on the rails, and to drag carriages behind it; and in parliament they had to say that they thought they could produce an engine that could go at the speed of eight miles an hour. They dare not say more, because it would have been incredible if they did. According to the wise men of the time, everything was to go to the bad, and the engines would blow up, the first time they started with a train. But they did not blow up, and everybody now smiles at what those learned gentlemen (for some of them were men of standing and learning) ventured then to say. Look at the gentlemen who now tell us that the gospel is a failure. They are the successors of those who have risen up, one after the other; whose principal object has been to refute all that went before them. They call themselves philosophers; and, as I have often said, the history of philosophy is a history of fools, a history of human folly. Man has gone from one form of philosophy to another, and every time that he has altered his philosophy, he has only made a slight variation in the same things. Philosophy is like a kaleidoscope. The philosopher turns it round, and exclaims that he has a new view of things. So he has; but all that he sees is a few bits of glass, which alter their form at every turn of the toy. If any of you shall live fifty years, you will see that the philosophy to today will be a football of contempt for the philosophy of that period. They will speak, amidst roars of laughter, of evolution; and the day will come, when there will not be a child but will look upon it as being the most foolish notion that ever crossed the human mind. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I know what has befallen many of the grand discoveries of the great philosophers of the past; and I expect that the same thing will happen again. I have to say, with Paul, "What if some did not believe?" It is no new thing; for there have always been some who have rejected the revelation of God. What then? You and I had better go on believing, and testing for ourselves, and proving the faithfulness of God, and living upon Christ our Lord, even though we see another set of doubters, and another, and yet another ad infinitum. The gospel is no failure, as many of us know.

Is the gospel to be disbelieved because some people will not receive it? I trow not, dear friends. As I have already said, many other things have been believed, although some people have not believed them; and the believers have had the best of it, and so they always will. Has the gospel changed your character? Has the gospel renewed you in the spirit of your mind? Does the gospel cheer and comfort you in the day of sorrow? Does it help you to live, and will it help you to die? Then do not give it up, even though some do not believe it.

Again, dear friends, has God failed to keep his promise to Israel because some Israelites did not believe? That is the point that Paul aims at, and the answer is, "No." He did bring Israel into the promised land, though all but two that came out of Egypt died in the wilderness. He did give that promised land to Israel, albeit that, through their unbelief, God smote them, and they were destroyed; yet a nation came up again from their ashes, and God kept his covenant with his ancient people; and to-day he is keeping it. The "chosen seed of Israel's race" is "a remnant, weak and small"; but the day is coming when they shall be gathered in, and we shall then rejoice; for then shall be the fullness of the Gentiles, also, When Israel has come to her own Lord and King. God has not cast away his people, whom he did foreknow; nor has he broken his covenant made with Abraham, nor will he while the world standeth, even though many believe not on him.

Will God fail to keep his promise to anyone who believes on him? Because some do not believe, will God's promise therefore fail to be kept to those who do believe? I invite you to come and try. When two of John's disciples enquired of Jesus where he dwelt, he said to them, "Come and see." If any person here will try Christ, as I tried him, when yet a youth, as miserable as I could be, and ready to die with despair, if they shall feel in believing such joy as I felt, if they shall experience such a change of character as passed over me when I believed in Christ, they would not tolerate a doubt. What they have known, and felt, and tasted, and handled of the good Word of God, will prove to them that, if some believe not, yet God abideth faithful, he will never deny himself. One said that she believed the Bible because she was acquainted with the Author of it, which is an excellent reason for believing it. You will believe the gospel if you are so acquainted with the Saviour who brings that gospel to us. Personal dealings with God in Christ, personal trust in the living Saviour, will put you out of reach of this strange inference that God will be unfaithful because some do not believe in him.

I am going a step further. Will God be unfaithful to his Son if some do not believe? I have heard sometimes, a fear expressed that Christ will lose those for whom he dies. I thank God that I have no fear about that. "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." I never come to you, and, in forma pauperis, ask you to accept Christ, begging and praying you to take Christ, because otherwise he will be a loser by you. It is you who must beg of him. He giveth grace as a king bestows his favours; nay more, he lovingly condescends to entreat you to come to him. Suppose that you wickedly say, "We will not have Christ to reign over us." If you think that you will rob him of honour, and bring disgrace upon him by your rejection, you make a great mistake. If you will not have him, others will. If you who are so wise will not have Christ, there are plenty, whom you reckon to be fools, who will take him to be their "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." If you who are so gay and frivolous will not have my Lord, you will die in your sins; but there are others who will have him. Do not think that you can by any possibility rob him of his glory. "For what if some did not believe?" This word shall yet become true. "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever." If myriads reject him, there will be myriads who will receive him, and in all things he shall have the preeminence; and he will return to his Father not defeated, but more than a conqueror over all his foes.

To put the question in another shape, "For what if some did not believe?" Will God alter his revealed truth? If some do not believe, will God change the gospel to suit them? Will he seek to please their depraved taste? Ought we to change our preaching because of "the spirit of the age"? Never; unless it be to fight "the spirit of the age" more desperately that ever. We ask for no terms between Christ and his enemies except these, unconditional surrender to him. He will bate not jot or tittle of his claims; but he will still come to you, and say, "Submit yourselves; bow down, and own me King and Lord, and take me to be your Saviour. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and besides me there is none else." If you wait till there is a revised version of the gospel, you will be lost. If you wait till there is a gospel brought out that will not cost you so much of giving up sin, or so much of bowing your proud necks, you will wait until you find yourself in hell. Come, I pray you, come even now, and believe the gospel. It cannot be altered to your taste; therefore alter yourself so as to meet its requirements.

Now suppose that these men, who will not believe, should all concert together to proclaim new views in order to upset the gospel. You see, up to the present time, they never have agreed. One wing of Satan's army of doubters always destroys the other. Just now the great scientists say to the modern-thought gentlemen, and say to them very properly, "If there is no serpent, and no Eve, and no Adam, and no flood, and no Noah, and no Abraham. As you tell us now that all this is a myth, then your whole old Book is a lie." I am very much obliged to those who talk thus to the disciples of the higher criticism. They thought that they were going to have all the scientists on their side, to join them in attacking the ancient orthodoxies. There is a split in the enemy's camp; Amalek is fighting Edom, and Edom is contending against Moab.

But suppose they were all to agree. Well, what would happen then? I thought I saw a vision once, when I was by the seaside. To my closed eyes, there seemed to come down to the beach at Brighton a huge black horse, which went into the water, and began to drink; and I thought I heard a voice that said, "It will drink the sea dry." My great horse grew, and grew, till it was such a huge creature that I could scarcely measure it; and still it drank, and drank, and drank. All the while the sea did not appear to alter in the least, the water was still there as deep as ever. By-and-by the animal burst, and its remains were washed up on the beach, and there it lay dead, killed by its own folly. That will be the end of this big black horse of infidelity that boasts that it is going to drink up this everlasting gospel.

I remember that Christmas Evans put this truth rather roughly on one occasion. He said, "There was a dog on the hearthrug, and there was a kettle of boiling water on the fire. As the kettle kept puffing out steam and hot water, the dog sat up and growled. The more the kettle kept on puffing, the more the dog growled; and at last he seized the kettle by the throat, and of course the boiling water killed him." Thus will unbelievers do with the gospel. They growl at it to-day; but if they ever join together, and really make an attack upon it, the gospel will be a savour of death unto death to those who oppose it, as it is a savour of life to those who receive it.

Thus I have mentioned this horrible inference.

III. Now I close by speaking very briefly upon AN INDIGNANT REPLY to this horrible inference.

In reply to this question, "Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" Paul give a solemn negative: "God forbid." All the opponents of the gospel cannot move it by a hair's breath; they cannot injure a single stone of this divine building. It remains ever the same. Let them do what they may, they cannot alter it.

Then Paul utters a vehement protestation: "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar." Can you picture this great host? Here they come, all the men who ever lived, unnumbered millions! They come marching up; and we stand like the inspecting general at a review, and see them all go by; and as every man passes, he shouts, "The gospel is not true. Christ did not die. There is no salvation for believers in him." The apostle Paul, standing as it were at the saluting-point, and seeing the whole race of mankind go by, says, "God is true, and every one of you is a liar." "Let God be true, but every man a liar." You know the way that we have of counting beads, and if the majority goes in a particular direction, we almost go that way. If you count the heads, and there is a general consensus of opinion, you are apt to say, "It must be so, for everybody says so." But what everybody says is not therefore true. "Let God be true, but every man a liar." It is a strange, strong expression; but it is non too strong. If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false. God speaks the truth, and cannot lie. God cannot change; his word, like himself, is immutable. We are to believe God's truth if nobody else believes it. The general consensus of opinion is nothing to a Christian. He believes God's word, and he thinks more of that than of the universal opinion of men.

Paul next uses a Scriptural argument. Whenever he gets thoroughly redhot, and wants an overwhelming argument, he always goes to the divine treasury of revelation. He quotes what David had said in the fifty-first Psalm, "That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."

God will be justified in everything that he has said. You may take every line of the Word of God, and rest assured that God will be justified in having directed the sacred penman to write that line.

God shall also be justified when he judges, and when he condemns men. When he pronounces his final sentence upon the ungodly, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" he shall be justified even in that dreadful hour.

A very startling expression is used here: "That thou mightest overcome when thou art judged." Think of this enormous evil; here are men actually trying to snatch the balance and the rod from the hand of God; and presuming to judge his judgments, and to sit as if they were the god of God. Suppose that they could be daring enough to do even that, the verdict would be in God's favour. It would be proved that he had neither said anything untrue, nor done anything unjust. We are confident that, although some do not believe God, he will be justified before men and angels, and we shall have nothing to do but to admire and adore him world without end.

Now, I could say much more; but I will not except just this, I want those who are the Lord's people to be very brave about the things of God. There has been too much of yielding, and apologizing, and compromising. I cannot bear it; it grieves me to see one truth after another surrendered to the enemy. A brother writes to me, saying, "You do not put so much mirth into your preaching as you used to do. When the captain at sea whistles, then all the sailors feel more cheerful." My friend adds, "Whistle a bit." I will do so. This is my way of whistling to cheer my shipmates. I believe in the everlasting God, and in his unchanging truth; and I am persuaded that the gospel will win the day, however long and stern the conflict rages. Therefore, my brethren, be not ashamed of the gospel, nor of Christ your Lord, who died that he might save you eternally. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." Even if it did come to this, that every other man in the world were against the truth of God, stand you to his word, and say, "Let God be true, but every man a liar."

The other word that I have to say is a message to the unsaved. If you are opposed to God, I beseech you give up your opposition at once. The battle cannot end well for you unless you yield yourself to God. He is your Maker and Preserver; every argument we can use ought to convince you that you should be on his side. I pray you remember that, for you to contend with God, is for the gnat to contend with the fire, or the wax, to fight with the flame. You must be destroyed if you come into collision with him. Then yield to him at once. "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." What is it to kiss the Son? Why, to accept the Lord Christ as your King and Saviour. To ask him to be your peace and your salvation. Ask him now, before that clock ceases striking. I pray that some may at this moment say, "I will have Christ, and I will be Christ's." The Lord grant it! This great transaction done now, it shall be done forever; and you and I will meet on the other side of Jordan, in the land of the blessed, and eternally praise him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God. The Lord be with you, for Jesu's sake! Amen.

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PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 3:1-31 .

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HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 166, 675, 674.

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Romans 3:0 .

Verse 1. What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision?

If, after all, both Jew and Gentiles were under sin, what advantage had the Jew by the covenant under which he lived? Or what was the benefit to him of the circumcision which was his distinctive mark?

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

The Jews were God's chronicle-keepers. They had to guard the holy Books, "the oracles of God." They had also to preserve the knowledge of the truth by those divers rites and ceremonies by which God was pleased to reveal himself of old time.

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

Did he not, after all, bless the Jews though among them were unbelievers? Could it be that their unbelief would turn God from his purpose to bless the chosen people? Would their want of faith affect God's faithfulness?

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 are judged.

However faithless men might be, God was still true and faithful. Paul quotes the Septuagint, which thus renders David's words.

5. But if our unrighteousness comment the righteousness of God, what shall we say?

If it so turns out, that even man's sin makes the holiness of God the more illustrious, what shall we say?

5. Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

Paul spoke as a mere carnal man might be supposed to speak. If ever we are obliged, for the sake of argument, to ask a question which is almost blasphemous, let us do it very guardedly, and say something to show that we really do not adopt the language as our own, just as Paul says, "I speak as a man." If the very sin of man is made to turn to the glory of God, is God unjust in punishing that sin?

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

God will judge the world; and he does judge the world even now. There are judgments against nations already executed, and recorded on the page of history. If God were unjust, how could he 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?

If God has even turned the opposition of evil men to the establishment of his truth, as he has often done; why, then, are men punished for it? These are deep, dark questions, which come out of the proud heart of man, and Paul ventures to answer them.

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.

We never said, we never even thought, that we might do evil that good should come; nay, if all the good in the world could come of a single evil action, we have no right to do it. We must never do evil with the hope of advancing God's cause. If God chooses to turn evil into good, as he often does, that is no reason why we should do evil; and it is no justification of sin. The murder of Christ at Calvary has brought the greatest possible benefit to us; yet it was a high crime against God, the greatest of all crimes, when man turned deicides, and slew the Son of God.

9, 10. What then? Are we better than they? No, in no vain: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are under sin; as it is written.

Paul had already proved in the Epistle that both Jews and Gentiles were guilty before God. Now he quotes a set of texts from Israel's own holy Books, to show the universal depravity of men. Notice how he rings the changes on the words "all" and "none."

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

This is the character of all unregenerate men. It is a true description of the whole race of mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles. In their natural state, "there is non righteous . . . there is none that seeketh after God . . . there is none that doeth good, no, not one."

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

Paul does not use flattering words, as those preachers do who prate about the dignity of human nature. Man was a noble creature when he was made in the image of God; but sin blotted out all his dignity.

14-19. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:

The Jews are comprehended here, for they are specially "under the law." The whole chosen seed of Israel, highly privileged as they were, are described in these terrible words that we have been reading, which Paul quoted from their own sacred Books.

19. That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

That is the true condition of the whole world, "guilty before God." This is the right attitude for the whole human race, to stand with its finger on its lip, having nothing to say as to why it should not be condemned.

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.

All the law does, is to show us how sinful we are. Paul has been quoting from the sacred Scriptures; and truly, they shed a lurid light upon the condition of human nature. The light can show us our sin; but it cannot take it away. The law of the Lord is like a looking-glass. Now, a looking-glass is a capital thing for finding out where the spots are on your face; but you cannot wash in a looking-glass, you cannot get rid of the spots by looking in the glass. The law is intended to show a man how much he needs cleansing; but the law cannot cleanse him. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." The law proves that we are condemned, but it does not bring us our pardon.

21, 22. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon them that believe:

We have no righteousness of our own; but God gives us a righteousness through faith in Christ; and he gives that to everyone who believes.

22, 23. For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

There are degrees of guilt; but all men have sinned. There is no difference in that respect, whatever gradations there may be in sinners.

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

Dear hearers, are you all justified, that is, made just, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? You are certainly all guilty in the sight of God; have you all been made righteous by faith in the redemption accomplished on the cross by Christ Jesus our Lord? I beg you to consider this question most seriously; and if you must truthfully answer, "No," may God make you tremble, and drive you to your knees in penitence to cry to him for pardon!

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;

God holds back the axe which, were it not for his forbearance, would cut down the barren tree. He still forbears, and he is ready to pardon and blot out all the past if you will but believe in his dear Son.

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

Where is it? It is to be found in a great many people. It is common enough; but where ought it to be? Where does it get a footing? It is shut out/ There is no room for boasting in the heart that receives Christ. If a man were saved by works, he would have whereof to glory; boasting would not be shut out. But as salvation is all of grace, through faith in Christ, boasting is barred out in the dark, and faith gratefully ascribes all praise to God.

27-31. It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles, also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Whether Jews or Gentiles, there was no salvation for them by the works of the law; the only way in which the circumcised or the uncircumcised could be justified was by faith. This principle does not make void God's law; on the contrary, it establishes it, and sets it on the only right and solid foundation. The gospel of the grace of God is the best vindication of his law.

Verse 24

Justification by Grace

A Sermon

(No. 126)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 5, 1857, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

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"Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:24 .

THE hill of comfort is the hill of calvary; the house of consolation is builded with the wood of the cross; the temple of heavenly cordials is founded upon the riven rock, riven by the spear which pierced its side. No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like the scene on Calvary.

"Is it not strange, the darkest hour

That ever dawn'd on sinful earth

Should touch the heart with softer power

For comfort, than an angel's mirth?

That to the cross the mourner's eye should turn,

Sooner than where the stars of Bethlehem burn?"

Nowhere does the soul ever find such consolation as on that very spot where misery reigned, where woe triumphed, where agony reached its climax. There grace hath dug a fountain, which ever gusheth with waters pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes and the agonies of mankind. Ye have had your seasons of woe, my brethren and my sisters in Christ Jesus; and ye will confess it was not at Olivet that ye ever found comfort, not on the hill of Sinai, nor on Tabor; but Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha have been a means of comfort to you. The bitter herbs of Gethsemane have often taken away the bitters of your life; the scourge of Gabbatha hath often scourged away your cares, and the groans of Calvary have put all other groans to flight.

We have, this morning, then, a subject which I trust may be the means of comforting God's saints, seeing it takes its rise at the cross, and thence runs on in a rich stream of perennial blessing to all believers. You note, we have in our text, first of all, the redemption of Christ Jesus; secondly, the justification of sinners flowing from it; and then thirdly, the manner of the giving of this justification, "freely by his grace."

I. First, then, we have THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN OR BY CHRIST JESUS.

The figure of redemption is very simple, and has been very frequently used in Scripture. When a prisoner has been taken captive, and has been made a slave by some barbarous power, it has been usual, before he could be set free, that a ransom price should be paid down. Now, we being, by the fall of Adam, prone to guiltiness, and, indeed, virtually guilty, we were by the irreproachable judgment of God given up to the vengeance of the law; we were given into the hands of justice; justice claimed us to be his bond slaves for ever, unless we could pay a ransom, whereby our souls could be redeemed. We were, indeed, poor as owlets, we had not wherewith to bless ourselves. We were, as our hymn hath worded it, "bankrupt debtors;" an execution was put into our house; all we had was sold; we were left naked, and poor, and miserable, and we could by no means find a ransom; it was just then that Christ stepped in, stood sponsor for us, and, in the room and stead of all believers, did pay the ransom price, that we might in that hour be delivered from the curse of the law and the vengeance of God, and go our way, clean, free, justified by his blood.

Let me just endeavour to show you some qualities of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. You will remember the multitude he has redeemed; not me alone, nor you alone, but "a multitude that no man can number," which shall as far exceed the stars of heaven for number, as they exceed all mortal reckoning. Christ hath bought for himself, some out of every kingdom, and nation, and tongue, under heaven; he hath redeemed from among men some of every rank, from the highest to the lowest; some of every colour black and white; some of every standing in society, the best and the worst. For some of all sorts hath Jesus Christ given himself a ransom that they might be redeemed unto himself.

Now, concerning this ransom, we have to observe, that it was all paid, and all paid at once. When Christ redeemed his people, he did it thoroughly; he did not leave a single debt unpaid, nor yet one farthing for them to settle afterwards. God demanded of Christ the payment for the sins of all his people; Christ stood forward, and to the utmost farthing paid whate'er his people owed. The sacrifice of Calvary was not a part payment; it was not a partial exoneration, it was a complete and perfect payment, and it obtained a complete and perfect remittal of all the debts of all believers that have lived, do live, or shall live, to the very end of time. On that day when Christ hung on the cross, he did not leave a single farthing for us to pay as a satisfaction to God; he did not leave, from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, that he had not satisfied. The whole of the demands of the law were paid down there and then by Jehovah Jesus, the great high priest of all his people. And blessed be his name, he paid it all at once too. So priceless was the ransom, so princely and munificent was the price demanded for our souls, one might have thought it would have been marvellous if Christ had paid it by instalments; some of it now, and some of it then. King's ransoms have sometimes been paid part at once, and part in dues afterwards, to run through years. But not so our Saviour: once for all he gave himself a sacrifice; at once he counted down the price, and said, "It is finished," leaving nothing for him to do, nor for us to accomplish. He did not drivel out a part-payment, and then declare that he would come again to die, or that he would again suffer, or that he would again obey; but down upon the nail, to the utmost farthing, the ransom of all people was paid, and a full receipt given to them, and Christ nailed that receipt to his cross, and said, "It is done, it is done; I have taken away the handwriting of ordinances, I have nailed it to the cross; who is he that shall condemn my people, or lay anything to their charge? for I have blotted out like a cloud their transgressions, and like a thick cloud their sins!"

And when Christ paid all this ransom, will you just notice, that he did it all himself! He was very particular about that. Simon, the Cyrenian, might bear the cross; but Simon, the Cyrenian, might not be nailed to it. That sacred circle of Calvary was kept for Christ alone. Two thieves were with him there; not righteous men, lest any should have said that the death of those two righteous men helped the Saviour. Two thieves hung there with him, that men might see that there was majesty in his misery, and that he could pardon men and show his sovereignty, even when he was dying. There were no righteous men to suffer; no disciples shared his death; Peter was not dragged there to be beheaded, John was not nailed to a cross side by side with him; he was left there alone. He says, "I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me." The whole of the tremendous debt was put upon his shoulders; the whole weight of the sins of all his people was placed upon him. Once he seemed to stagger under it: "Father, if it be possible." But again he stood upright: "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." The whole of the punishment of his people was distilled into one cup; no mortal lip might give it so much as a solitary sip. When he put it to his own lips, it was so bitter, he well nigh spurned it "Let this cup pass from me." But his love for his people was so strong, that he took the cup in both his hands, and

"At one tremendous draught of love

He drank damnation dry,"

for all his people. He drank it all, he endured all, he suffered all; so that now for ever there are no flames of hell for them, no racks of torment; they have no eternal woes; Christ hath suffered all they ought to have suffered, and they must, they shall go free. The work was completely done by himself, without a helper.

And note, again, it was accepted. In truth, it was a goodly ransom. What could equal it? A soul "exceeding sorrowful even unto death;" a body torn with torture; a death of the most inhuman kind; and an agony of such a character, that tongue cannot speak of it, nor can even man's mind imagine its horror. It was a goodly price. But say, was it accepted? There have been prices paid sometimes, or rather offered, which never were accepted by the party to whom they were offered, and therefore the slave did not go free. But this was accepted. The evidence I will shew you. When Christ declared that he would pay the debt for all his people, God sent the officer to arrest him for it; he arrested him in the garden of Gethsemane, and seizing upon him, he dragged him to the bar of Pilate, to the bar of Herod, and to the judgment seat of Caiaphas; the payment was all made, and Christ was put into the grave. He was there, locked up in durance vile, until the acceptance should have been ratified in heaven. He slept there a portion of three days in his tomb. It was declared that the ratification was to be this: the surety was to go his way as soon as ever his suretyship engagements had been fulfilled. Now let your minds picture the buried Jesus. He is in the sepulchre. 'Tis true he has paid all the debt, but the receipt is not yet given; he slumbers in that narrow tomb. Fastened in with a seal upon a giant stone, he sleeps still in his grave; not yet has the acceptance been given from God; the angels have not yet come from heaven to say, "The deed is done, God has accepted thy sacrifice." Now is the crisis of this world; it hangs trembling in the balance. Will God accept the ransom, or will he not? We shall see. An angel comes from heaven with exceeding brightness; he rolls away the stone; and forth comes the captive, with no manacles upon his hands, with the grave clothes left behind him; free, never more to suffer, never more to die. Now,

"If Jesus had not paid the debt,

He ne'er had been at freedom set."

If God had not accepted his sacrifice, he would have been in his tomb at this moment; he never would have risen from his grave. But his resurrection was a pledge of God's accepting him. He said, "I have had a claim upon thee to this hour; that claim is paid now; go thy way." And death gave up his royal captive, the stone was rolled into the garden, and the conqueror came forth, leading captivity captive.

And, moreover, God gave a second proof of acceptance; for he took his only begotten Son to heaven, and set him at his right hand, far above all principalities and powers; and therein he meant to say to him, "Sit upon the throne, for thou hast done the mighty deed; all thy works and all thy miseries are accepted as the ransom of men." O my beloved, think what a grand sight it must have been when Christ ascended into glory; what a noble certificate it must have been of his Father's acceptance of him! Do you not think you see the scene on earth? It is very simple. A few disciples are standing upon a hill, and Christ mounts into the air in slow and solemn movement, as if an angel sped his way by gentle degrees, like mist or exhalation from the lake into the skies. Can you imagine what is going on up yonder? Can you for a moment conceive how, when the mighty conqueror entered the gates of heaven, the angels met him,

"They brought his chariot from on high,

To bear him to his throne;

Clapp'd their triumphant wings, and cried,

'The glorious work is done'"

Can you think how loud were the plaudits when he entered the gates of heaven? Can you conceive how they pressed on one another, to behold how he came conquering and red from the fight? Do you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the saints redeemed, come to behold the Saviour and the Lord? They had desired to see him, and now their eyes behold him in flesh and blood, the conqueror over death and hell! Do you think you see him, with hell at his chariot- wheels, with death dragged as a captive through the royal streets of heaven? Oh, what a spectacle was there that day! No Roman warrior ever had such a triumph; none ever saw such a majestic sight. The pomp of a whole universe, the royalty of entire creation, cherubim and seraphim and all powers create, did swell the show; and God himself, the Everlasting One, crowned all, when he pressed his Son to his bosom, and said, "Well done, well done; thou hast finished the work which I gave thee to do. Rest here for ever, mine accepted one." Ah, but he never would have had that triumph, if he had not paid all the debt. Unless his Father had accepted the ransom-price, the ransomer had never been so honoured; but because it was accepted, therefore did he so triumph. So far, then, concerning the ransom.

II. And now, by the help of God's Spirit, let me address myself to THE EFFECT OF THE RANSOM; being justified "justified freely by his grace through the redemption."

Now, what is the meaning of justification? Divines will puzzle you, if you ask them. I must try the best I can to make justification plain and simple, even to the comprehension of a child. There is not such a thing as justification to be had on earth for mortal men, except in one way. Justification, you know, is a forensic term; it is employed always in a legal sense. A prisoner is brought to the bar of justice to be tried. There is only one way whereby that prisoner can be justified; that is, he must be found not guilty; and if he is found not guilty, then he is justified that is, he is proved to be a just man. If you find that man guilty, you cannot justify him. The Queen may pardon him, but she cannot justify him. The deed is not a justifiable one, if he were guilty concerning it; and he cannot be justified on account of it. He may be pardoned; but not royalty itself can ever wash that man's character. He is as much a real criminal when he is pardoned as before. There is no means among men of justifying a man of an accusation which is laid against him, except by his being proved not guilty. Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us, guilty; and yet, notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that? No; it remained for the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty. Read the 23rd verse, immediately preceding the text " For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." There the verdict of guilty is brought in, and yet we are immediately afterwards said to be justified freely by his grace.

Now, allow me to explain the way whereby God justifies a sinner. I am about to suppose an impossible case. A prisoner has been tried, and condemned to death. He is a guilty man; he cannot be justified, because he is guilty. But now, suppose for a moment that such a thing as this could happen that some second party could be introduced, who could take all that man's guilt upon himself, who could change places with that man, and by some mysterious process, which of course is impossible with men, become that man; or take that man's character upon himself; he, the righteous man, putting the rebel in his place, and making the rebel a righteous man. We cannot do that in our courts. If I were to go before a judge, and he should agree that I should be committed for a year's imprisonment, instead of some wretch who was condemned yesterday to a year's imprisonment, I could not take his guilt. I might take his punishment, but not his guilt. Now, what flesh and blood cannot do, that Jesus Christ by his redemption did. Here I stand, the sinner. I mention myself as the representative of you all. I am condemned to die. God says, "I will condemn that man; I must, I will I will punish him." Christ comes in, puts me aside, and stands himself in my stead. When the plea is demanded, Christ says, "Guilty;" takes my guilt to be his own guilt. When the punishment is to be executed, forth comes Christ. "Punish me," he says; "I have put my righteousness on that man, and I have taken that man's sins on me. Father, punish me, and consider that man to have been me. Let him reign in heaven; let me suffer misery. Let me endure his curse, and let him receive my blessing." This marvellous doctrine of the changing of places of Christ with poor sinners, is a doctrine of revelation, for it never could have been conceived by nature. Let me, lest I should have made a mistake, explain myself again. The way whereby God saves a sinner is not, as some say, by passing over the penalty. No; the penalty has been all paid. It is the putting of another person in the rebel's place. The rebel must die; God says he must. Christ says, "I will be substitute for the rebel. The rebel shall take my place; I will take his." God consents to it. No earthly monarch could have power to consent to such a change. But the God of heaven had a right to do as he pleased. In his infinite mercy he consented to the arrangement. " Son of my love," said he, "you must stand in the sinner's place; you must suffer what he ought to have suffered; you must be accounted guilty, just as he was accounted guilty; and then I will look upon the sinner in another light. I will look at him as if he were Christ; I will accept him as if he were my only- begotten Son, full of grace and truth. I will give him a crown in heaven, and I will take him to my heart for ever and ever." This is the way we are saved, "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."

And now, let me further go on to explain some of the characteristics of this justification. As soon as a repenting sinner is justified, remember, he is justified for all his sins. Here stands a man all guilty. The moment he believes in Christ, his pardon at once he receives, and his sins are no longer his; they are cast into the depths of the sea. They were laid upon the shoulders of Christ, and they are gone. The man stands a guiltless man in the sight of God, accepted in the beloved. "What!" say you, "do you mean that literally?" Yes, I do, That is the doctrine of justification by faith. Man ceases to be regarded by divine justice as a guilty being; the moment he believes on Christ his guilt is all taken away. But I am going a step further. The moment the man believes in Christ, he ceases to be guilty in God's esteem; but what is more, he becomes righteous, he becomes meritorious; for, in the moment when Christ takes his sins he takes Christ's righteousness; so that, when God looks upon the sinner who but an hour ago was dead in sins, he looks upon him with as much love and affection as he ever looked upon his Son. He himself has said it "As the Father loved me, so have I loved you." He loves us as much as his Father loved him. Can you believe such a doctrine as that? Does it not pass all thought? Well, it is a doctrine of the Holy Spirit; the doctrine whereby we must hope to be saved. Can I to any unenlightened person illustrate this thought better? I will give him the parable we have given to us in the prophets the parable of Joshua the high-priest. Joshua comes in, clothed in filthy garments; those filthy garments representing his sins. Take away the filthy garments; that is pardon. Put a mitre on his head; clothe him in royal raiment; make him rich and fair; that is justification. But where do these garments come from? and where do those rags go to? Why, the rags that Joshua had on go to Christ, and the garments put on Joshua are the garments that Christ wore. The sinner and Christ do just what Jonathan and David did. Jonathan put his robes on David, David gave Jonathan his garments; so Christ takes our sins, we take Christ's righteousness; and it is by a glorious substitution and interchange of places that sinners go free and are justified by his grace.

"But," says one, "no one is justified like that, till he dies." Believe me, he is.

"The moment a sinner believes,

And trusts in his crucified God,

His pardon at once he receives;

Salvation in full, through his blood."

If that young man over there has really believed in Christ this morning, realizing by a spiritual experience what I have attempted to describe, he is as much justified in God's sight now as he will be when he stands before the throne. Not the glorified spirits above are more acceptable to God than the poor man below, who is once justified by grace. It is a perfect washing, it is perfect pardon, perfect imputation; we are fully, freely, and wholly accepted, through Christ our Lord. Just one more word here, and then I will leave this matter of justification. Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ's place, and Christ takes the sinner's place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once for ever. God does not give man a free pardon under his own sign-manual, and then afterwards retract it and punish man: that be far from God so to do. He says, "I have punished Christ; you may go free." And after that, we may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," that "being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." And now I hear one cry, "That is an extraordinary doctrine." Well, so some may think; but let me say to you, it is a doctrine professed by all protestant churches, though they may not preach it. It is the doctrine of the Church of England, it is the doctrine of Luther, it is the doctrine of the Presbyterian church; it is professedly the doctrine of all Christian churches; and if it seems strange in your ears, it is because your ears are estranged, and not because the doctrine is a strange one. It is the doctrine of holy writ, that none can condemn whom God justifies, and that none can accuse those for whom Christ hath died; for they are totally free from sin. So that, as one of the prophets has it, God sees no sin in Jacob nor iniquity in Israel. In the moment they believe, their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.

III. And now I close up with the third point, upon which I shall be brief, and I hope very earnest: THE MANNER OF GIVING THIS JUSTIFICATION. John Bunyan would have it, that there are some whose mouths are set a watering for this great gift of justification. Are there not some here who are saying, "Oh! if I could be justified! But, Sir, can I be justified? I have been a drunkard, I have been a swearer, I have been everything that is vile. Can I be justified? Will Christ take my black sins, and am I to take his white robes? Yes, poor soul, if thou desirest it; if God has made thee willing, if thou dost confess thy sins, Christ is willing to take thy rags, and give thee his righteousness, to be thine for ever. "Well, but how is it to be obtained?" says one "must I be a holy man for many years, and then get it?" Listen! "Freely by his grace;" "freely," because there is no price to be paid for it; "By his grace," because it is not of our deservings. "But, O Sir, I have been praying, and I do not think God will forgive me, unless I do something to deserve it." I tell you, Sir, if you bring in any of your deservings, you shall never have it. God gives away his justification freely; if you bring anything to pay for it, he will throw it in your face, and will not give his justification to you. He gives it away freely. Old Rowland Hill once went preaching at a fair; he noticed the chapmen selling their wares by auction; so Rowland said, "I am going to hold an auction too, to sell wine and milk, without money and without price. My friends over there," said he "find a great difficulty to get you up to their price; my difficulty is to bring you down to mine." So it is with men. If I could preach justification to be bought by you at a sovereign a piece, who would go out of the place without being justified? If I could preach justification to you by walking a hundred miles, would we not be pilgrims tomorrow morning, every one of us? If I were to preach justification which would consist in whippings and torture, there are very few here who would not whip themselves, and that severely too. But when it is freely, freely, freely, men turn away. "What! am I to have it for nothing at all, without doing anything?" Yes, Sir, you are to have it for nothing, or else not at all; it is "freely." "But may I not go to Christ, lay some claim to his mercy, and say, Lord, justify me because I am not so bad as others?" It will not do, Sir, because it is "by his grace." "But may I not indulge a hope, because I go to church twice a day?" No, Sir; it is "by his grace." "But may I not offer this plea, I mean to be better?" No, sir; it is "by his grace." You insult God by bringing your counterfeit coin to pay for his treasures. Oh! what poor ideas men have of the value of Christ's gospel, if they think they can buy it! God will not have your rusty farthings to buy heaven with. A rich man once, when he was dying, had a notion that he could buy a place in heaven by building a row of almshouses. A good man stood by his bed-side, and said, "How much more are you going to leave?" "Twenty thousand pounds." Said he "That would not buy enough for your foot to stand on in heaven; for the streets are made of gold there, and therefore of what value can your gold be, it would be accounted nothing of, when the very streets are paved with it?" Nay, friends, we cannot buy heaven with gold nor good works, nor prayers, nor anything in the world. But how is it to be got? Why it is to be got for asking only. As many of us as know ourselves to be sinners may have Christ for asking for him. Do you know that you want Christ? You may have Christ! "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." But if you cleave to your own notions, and say, "No, Sir, I mean to do a great many good things, and then I will believe in Christ." Sir, you will be damned if you hold by such delusions. I earnestly warn you. You cannot be saved so. "Well, but are we not to do good works?" Certainly you are; but you are not to trust in them. You must trust in Christ wholly, and then do good works afterwards. "But," says one, "I think if I were to do a few good works, it would be a little recommendation when I came." It would not, sir; they would be no recommendation at all. Let a beggar come to your house in white kid gloves, and say he is very badly off, and wants some charity; would the white kid gloves recommend him to your charity? Would a good new hat that he has been buying this morning recommend him to your charity? "No," you would say, "you are a miserable impostor; you do not want anything, and you shall not have anything either! Out with you!"

The best livery for a beggar is rags, and the best livery for a sinner to go to Christ in, is for him to go just as he is, with nothing but sin about him. "But no;" say you, "I must be a little better, and then I think Christ will save me!" You cannot get any better, try as long as you please. And besides to use a paradox if you were to get better, you would be all the worse; for the worse you are, the better to come to Christ. If you are all unholy come to Christ; if you feel your sin, and renounce it, come to Christ; though you have been the most debased and abandoned soul, come to Christ; if you feel yourself to have nothing about you that can recommend you, come to Christ.

"Venture on him, venture wholly;

Let no other trust intrude."

I do not say this to urge any man to continue in sin. God forbid! If you continue in sin, you must not come to Christ; you cannot; your sins will hamper you. You cannot be chained to your galley- oar the oar of your sins yet come to Christ, and be a free man. No, sir, it is repentance; it is the immediate leaving off the sin. But mark thee, neither by repentance, nor by leaving off thy sin, can save thee. It is Christ, Christ, Christ Christ only.

But I know you will go away, many of you, and try to build up your own Babel-tower, to get to heaven. Some of you will go one way to work, and some another. You will go the ceremony way: you will lay the foundation of the structure with infant baptism, build confirmation on it, and the Lord's supper. "I shall go to heaven," you say; "Do not I keep Good Friday and Christmas-day? I am a better man than those dissenters. I am a most extraordinary man. Do I not say more prayers than any one?" You will be a long while going up that treadmill, before you get an inch higher. That is not the way to get to the stars. One says, "I will go and study the Bible, and believe right doctrine; and I have no doubt that by believing right doctrine I shall be saved." Indeed you will not! You can be no more saved by believing right doctrine than you can by doing right actions. "There," says another, "I like that; I shall go and believe in Christ, and live as I like." Indeed you will not! For if you believe in Christ he will not let you live as your flesh liketh; by his Spirit he will constrain you to mortify its affections and lusts. If he gives you the grace to make you believe, he will give you the grace to live a holy life afterwards. If he gives you faith, he gives you good works after- wards. You cannot believe in Christ, unless you renounce every fault, and resolve to serve him with full purpose of heart. Methinks at last I hear a sinner say, "Is that the only door? And may I venture through it? Then I will. But I do not quite understand you; I am something like poor Tiff, in that remarkable book 'Dred.' They talk a great deal about a door, but I cannot see the door; they talk a great deal about the way, but I cannot see the way. For if poor Tiff could see the way, he would take these children away by it. They talk about fighting, but I do not see any one to fight, or else I would fight." Let me explain it then. I find in the Bible, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." What have you to do, but to believe this and trust in him? You will never be disappointed with such a faith as that. Let me give you over again an illustration I have given hundreds of times, but I cannot find another so good, so I must give it again. Faith is something like this. There is a story told of a captain of a man-of-war, whose son a young lad was very fond of running up the rigging of the ship; and one time, running after a monkey, he ran up the mast, till at last he got on to the maintruck. Now, the maintruck, you are aware, is like a large round table put on to the mast, so that when the boy was on the maintruck there was plenty of room for him; but the difficulty was to use the best explanation I can that he could not reach the mast that was under the table; he was not tall enough to get down from this maintruck, reach the mast, and so descend. There he was on the maintruck; he managed to get up there, somehow or other, but down he never could get. His father saw that, and he looked up in horror; what was he to do? In a few moments his son would fall down, and be dashed to pieces! He was clinging to the main-truck with all his might, but in a little time he would fall down on the deck, and there he would be a mangled corpse. The captain called for a speaking trumpet; he put it to his mouth, and shouted, "Boy, the next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea." It was, in truth, his only way of escape; he might be picked up out of the sea, but he could not be rescued if he fell on the deck. The poor boy looked down on the sea; it was a long way; he could not bear the idea of throwing himself into the roaring current beneath him; he thought it looked angry and dangerous. How could he cast himself down into it? So he clung to the main-truck with all his might, though there was no doubt that he must soon let go and perish. The father called for a gun, and pointing it up at him, said, "Boy, the next time the ship lurches, throw yourself into the sea, or I'll shoot you!" He knew his father would keep his word; the ship lurched on one side, over went the boy splash into the sea, and out went brawny arms after him; the sailors rescued him, and brought him on deck. Now, we, like the boy, are in a position of extra-ordinary danger, by nature, which neither you nor I can possibly escape of ourselves. Unfortunately, we have got some good works of our own, like that maintruck, and we cling to them so fondly, that we never will give them up. Christ knows that unless we do give them up, we shall be dashed to pieces at the last, for that rotten trust must ruin us. He, therefore, says, "Sinner, let go thine own trust, and drop into the sea of my love." We look down, and say, "Can I be saved by trusting in God? He looks as if he were angry with me, and I could not trust him." Ah, will not mercy's tender cry persuade you? "He that believeth shall be saved." Must the weapon of destruction be pointed directly at you? Must you hear the dreadful threat "He that believeth not shall be damned?" It is with you now as with that boy your position is one of imminent peril in itself, and your slighting the Father's counsel is a matter of more terrible alarm, it makes peril more perilous. You must do it, or else you perish! Let go your hold! That is faith when the poor sinner lets go his hold, drops down, and so is saved; and the very thing which looks as if it would destroy him, is the means of his being saved. Oh! believe on Christ, poor sinners; believe on Christ. Ye who know your guilt and misery come, cast yourselves upon him; come, and trust my Master, and as he lives, before whom I stand, you shall never trust him in vain; but you shall find yourselves forgiven, and go your way rejoicing in Christ Jesus.

Verse 26

Justice Satisfied

A Sermon

(No. 255)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 29th, 1859, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

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"Just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Romans 3:26 .

"Just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 .

WHEN THE SOUL is seriously impressed with the conviction of its guilt, when terror and alarm get hold upon it concerning the inevitable consequences of its sin, the soul is afraid of God. It dreads at that time every attribute of divinity. But most of all the sinner is afraid of God's justice. "Ah," saith he to himself, "God is a just God; and if so, how can he pardon my sins? for my iniquities cry aloud for punishment, and my transgressions demand that his right hand should smite me low. How can I be saved? Were God unjust, he might forgive: but, alas! he is not so, he is severely just. 'He layeth justice to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.' He is the judge of all the earth, and he must do right. How then can I escape from his righteous wrath which must be stirred up against me?" Let us be assured that the sinner is quite right in the conviction that there is here a great difficulty. The justice of God is in itself a great barrier to the salvation of sinners. There is no possibility for that barrier to be surmounted, nor even for it to be removed except by one means, which shall this day be proclaimed unto you through the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is true that God is just. Let old Sodom tell you how God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon man's iniquity. Let a drowning world tell you how God lifted the sluices of the fountains of the great deep, and bade the bubbling waters spring up and swallow up man alive. Let the earth tell you; for she opened her mouth when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against God. Let the buried cities of Nineveh, and the tattered relics of Tyre and Sidon, tell you that God is just, and will by no means spare the guilty. And direst of all, let hell's bottomless lake declare what is the awful vengeance of God against the sins of man. Let the sighs, and groans, and moans, and shrieks of spirits condemned of God, rise in your ears, and bear witness that he is a God who will not spare the guilty, who will not wink at iniquity, transgression, and sin, but who will have vengeance upon every rebel, and will give justice its full satisfaction for every offence.

The sinner is right in his conviction that God is just, and he is moreover right in the inference which follows from it, that because God is just his sin must be punished. Ah, sinner, if God punish not thy sin, he has ceased to be what he has always been the severely just, the inflexibly righteous. Never has there been a sin pardoned, absolutely and without atonement, since the world began. There has never been an offense yet remitted by the great Judge of heaven, until the law has received the fullest vindication. You are right, O convicted sinner, that such shall be the case even to the end. Every transgression shall have its just recompense of reward. For every offence there shall be its stroke, and for every iniquity there shall be its doom. "Ah," now says the sinner, "then I am shut out of heaven. If God be just and he must punish sin, then what can I do? Justice, like some dark angel, strides across the road of mercy, and with his sword drawn, athirst for blood and winged to slay, he strides across my path, and threatens to drive me backwards over the precipice of death into the ever-burning lake." Sinner, thou art right; it is even so. Except through the gospel which I am about to preach to thee, justice is thine antagonist, thy lawful, irresistible, and insatiable enemy. It cannot suffer thee to enter heaven, for thou hast sinned; and punished that sin must be, avenged that transgression must be, as long as God is God the holy and the just.

Is it possible, then, that the sinner cannot be saved? This is the great riddle of the law, and the grand discovery of the gospel. Wonder ye heavens! be astonished O earth! that very justice which stood in the sinner's way and prevented his being pardoned, has been by the gospel of Christ appeased; by the rich atonement offered upon Calvary, justice is satisfied, has sheathed its sword, and has now not a word to say against the pardon of the penitent. Nay, more, that justice once so angry, whose brow was lightning, and whose voice was thunder, has now become the sinner's advocate, and itself with its mighty voice pleads with God, that whosoever confesses his sin should be pardoned and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

The business of this morning shall be to show, in the first place, according to the first text, how justice is no longer the sinner's enemy "God is just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth;" and then, in the second place, that justice has become the sinner's advocate, and that "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

But here let me utter a caution; I shall speak this morning, only to those who feel their guilt, and who are ready to confess their sin. For to those who still love sin, and will not acknowledge their guilt, there is no promise of mercy or pardon. For them there remains nothing but the fearful looking for of judgment. "He that being often reproved hardeneth his heart shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." The soul that neglects this great salvation cannot escape; there is no door of escape provided for it. Unless the Lord has now brought us to feel our need of mercy, has compelled us to confess that unless he gives us mercy we must righteously perish, and unless, moreover, he has made us willing now to be saved on any terms, so that we may be saved at all, this gospel which I am about to preach is not ours. But if we be convinced of sin and are now trembling before the thunders of God's wrath, every word that I am now about to speak will be full of encouragement and consolation to you.

I. First, then, HOW HAS JUSTICE BEEN PUT ASIDE? or rather, HOW HAS IT BEEN SO SATISFIED THAT IT NO LONGER STANDS IN THE WAY OF GOD'S JUSTIFYING THE SINNER?

The one answer to that is, Justice has been satisfied through the substitution of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. When man sinned the law demanded that man must be punished. The first offense of man was committed by Adam, who was the representative of the entire race. When God would punish sin, in his own infinite mind he thought of the blessed expedient, not of punishing his people, but of punishing their representative, the covenant head, the second Adam. It was by one man, the first man, that sin entered into the world, and death by sin. It was by another man, the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, it was by him that this sin was borne; by him its punishment was endured; by him the whole wrath of heaven was suffered. And through that second representative of manhood, Jesus, the second Adam, God is now able and willing to forgive the vilest of the vile, and justify even the ungodly, and he is able to do so without the slightest violation of his justice. For, mark, when Jesus Christ the Son of God suffered on the tree, he did not suffer for himself. He had no sin, either natural or actual. He had done nothing whatever that could bring him under the ban of heaven, or subject his holy soul and his perfect body to grief and pain. When he suffered it was as a substitute. He died "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Had his sorrows been personally deserved they would have had no efficacy in them. But inasmuch as for sins not his own he died to atone; inasmuch as he was punished, not for any guilt that he had done or could do, but for the guilt incurred by others, there was a merit and an efficacy in all that he suffered, by which the law was satisfied, and God is able to forgive.

Let us show very briefly how fully the law is satisfied.

1. Note first the dignity of the victim who offered himself up to divine justice. Man had sinned; the law required the punishment of manhood. But Jesus, the eternal Son of God, "very God of very God," who had been hymned through eternal ages by joyous angels, who had been the favourite of his Father's court, exalted high above principalities and powers, and every name that is named, he himself condescended to become man; was born of the Virgin Mary; was cradled in a manger; lived a life of suffering, and at last died a death of agony. If you will but think of the wondrous person whom Jesus was as very God of very God, king of angels, creator, preserver, Lord of all I think you will see that in his sufferings, the law received a greater vindication than it could have done even in the sufferings of all the men that have ever lived or ever could live. If God had consumed the whole human race, if all the worlds that float in ether had been sacrificed as one mighty holocaust to the vengeance of the law, it would not have been so well vindicated as when Jesus died. For the deaths of all men and all angels would have been but the deaths and sufferings of creatures; but when Jesus died, the Creator himself underwent the pang, it was the divine preserver of the world hanging on the cross. There is such dignity in the Godhead, that all it does is marvellous and infinite in its merit; and when he stooped to suffer, when he bowed his awful head, cast aside his diadem of stars to have his brow girt about with thorns; when his hands that once swayed the sceptre of all worlds were nailed to the tree; when his feet that erst had pressed the clouds, when these were fastened to the wood, then did the law receive an honour such as it never could have received if a whole universe in one devouring conflagration had blazed and burned for ever.

2. In the next place, just pause and think of the relationship which Jesus Christ had towards the great judge of all the earth, and then you will see again that the law must have been fully satisfied thereby. We hear of Brutus that he was the most inflexible of law-givers; that when he sat upon the bench he knew no distinction of persons. Imagine dragged before Brutus many of the noblest Roman senators, convicted of crime: he condemns them, and without mercy they are rent away by the lictors to their doom. You would admire certainly all this justice of Brutus But suppose Brutus' own son brought before him and such was the case imagine the father sitting on the judgment-bench and declaring that he knew no distinction whatever, even of his own children. Conceive that son tried and condemned out of his father's own mouth. See him tied up before his father's own eyes, while, as the inflexible judge, that father bids the lictor lay on the rod, and afterwards cries, "Take him away and use the axe!" See you not here how he loves his country better than his son, and he loves justice better than either. "Now," says the world, "Brutus is just indeed." Now, if God had condemned each of us one by one, or the whole race in a mass, there would certainly have been a vindication of his justice. But lo! his own son takes upon him the sins of the world, and he comes before his Father's presence. He is not guilty in himself, but the sins of man are laid upon his shoulders. The Father condemns his Son; he gives him up to the Roman rod; he gives him up to Jewish mockery, to military scorn, and to priestly arrogance. He delivers up his Son to the executioner, and bids him nail him to the tree; and as if that were not enough, since the creature had not power of itself to give forth all the vengeance of God upon its own substitute, God himself smites his Son. Are you staggered at such an expression? It is scriptural. Read in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and there you have the proof thereof: "It pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief." When the whip had gone round to every hand, when the betrayer had smitten him, when Pilate and Herod, and Jew and Gentile, had each laid on the stroke, it was seen that human arm was not powerful enough to execute the full vengeance: then did the Father take his sword, and cry, "Awake! O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow," and he smote him sternly, as if he had been his enemy, as if he were a common culprit, as if he were the worst of criminals he smote him again and again, till that awful shriek was forced from the lips of the dying substitute, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Surely, when God smites his Son, and such a Son, when God smites his only begotten and well-beloved, then Justice has more than its due, more than itself could ask, Christ himself did freely give!

3. Furthermore, if you will please for a moment to consider how terrible were the agonies of Christ, which, mark you, he endured in the room, the place, the stead of all poor penitent sinners, of all those who confess their sins and believe in him; I say, when you mark these agonies, you will readily see why Justice does not stand in the sinner's way. Doth Justice come to thee this morning, and say, "Sinner, thou hast sinned, I will punish thee?" Answer thus "Justice, thou hast punished all my sins. All I ought to have suffered has been suffered by my substitute, Jesus. It is true that in myself I owe thee a debt greater than I can pay, but it is true that in Christ I owe thee nothing; for all I did owe is paid, every farthing of it; the utmost drachm has been counted down; not a doit remains that is due from me to thee, O thou avenging justice of God." But if Justice still accuse, and conscience clamour, go thou and take Justice with thee to Gethsemane, and stand there with it: see that man so oppressed with grief, that all his head, his hair, his garments bloody be. Sin was a press a vice which forced his blood from every vein, and wrapped him in a sheet of his own blood. Dost see that man there! canst hear his groans, his cries, his earnest intercessions, his strong crying and tears! canst mark that clotted sweat as it crimsons the frozen soil, strong enough to unloose the curse! dost see him in the desperate agony of his spirit, crushed, broken, bruised beneath the feet of the Justice in the olive press of God! Justice, is not that enough? will not that content thee? In a whole hell there is not so much dignity of vengeance as there is in the garden of Gethsemane. Art thou not yet satisfied? Come, Justice, to the hall of Pilate. Seest thou that man arraigned, accused, charged with sedition and with blasphemy! See him taken to the guard-room, spat upon, buffetted with hands, crowned with thorns, robed in mockery, and insulted with a reed for a sceptre. I say, Justice, seest thou that man, and dost thou know that he is "God over all blessed for ever?" and yet he endureth all this to satisfy thy demands! Art thou not content with that? Dost thou still frown? Let me show thee this man on the pavement. He is stripped. Stand, Justice, and listen to those stripes, those bloody scourges, and as they fall upon his devoted back and plough deep furrows there, dost thou see thong-full after thong-full of his quivering flesh torn from his poor bare back! Art not content yet, Justice? Then what will satisfy thee? "Nothing," says Justice, "but his death." Come thou with me, then thou canst see that feeble man hurried through the streets! Seest thou him driven to the top of Calvary, hurled on his back, nailed to the transverse wood? Oh, Justice, canst thou see his dislocated bones, now that his cross is lifted up? Stand with me, O Justice, see him as he weeps, and sighs, and cries; see his soul-agonies! Canst thou read that tale of terror which is veiled in that flesh and blood? Come, listen Justice, whilst thou hearest him cry, "I thirst," and whilst thou seest the burning fever devouring him, till he is dried up like a potsherd, and his tongue cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst! And lastly, O Justice, dost thou see him bow his head, and die? "Yes," saith Justice, "and I am satisfied; I have nothing that I can ask more; I am fully content; my uttermost demands are more than satisfied."

And am I not content, too? Guilty though I am and vile, can I not plead that this bloody sacrifice is enough to satisfy God's demands against me? Oh, yes, I trust I can,

"My faith doth lay its hand,

On that dear head of thine,

While like a penitent I stand,

And here confess my sin."

Jesus, I believe that they sufferings were for me; and I believe that they are more than enough to satisfy for all my sins. By faith I cast myself at the foot of thy cross and cling to it. This is my only hope, my shelter, and my shield. It cannot be, that God can smite me now. Justice itself prevents, for when Justice once is satisfied it were injustice if it should ask for more. Now, is it not clear enough to the eye of every one, whose soul has been aroused, that Justice stands no longer in the way of the sinner's pardon? God can be just, and yet the justifier. He has punished Christ, why should he punish twice for one offence? Christ has died for all his people's sins, and if thou art in the covenant, thou art one of Christ's people. Damned thou canst not be. Suffer for thy sins thou canst not. Until God can be unjust, and demand two payments for one debt, he cannot destroy the soul for whom Jesus died. "Away goes universal redemption," says one. Yes, away it goes, indeed. I am sure there is nothing about that in the Word of God. A redemption that does not redeem is not worth my preaching, or your hearing, Christ redeemed every soul that is saved; no more, and no less. Every spirit that shall be seen in heaven Christ bought. If he had redeemed those in hell, they never could have come there. He has bought his people with his blood, and they alone shall he bring with him. "But who are they?" says one. Thou art one, if thou believest. Thou art one if thou repentest of thy sin. If thou wilt now take Christ to be thy all in all, then thou art one of his; for the covenant must prove a lie, and God must be unjust, and justice must become unrighteousness, and love must become cruelty, and the cross must become a fiction, ere thou canst be condemned if thou trustest in Jesus.

This is the way in which Justice ceases to be the enemy of souls.

II. The second text says that not only can God be just, but it says something more: it says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Now, if I understand this text, it means this: that IT IS AN ACT OF JUSTICE ON GOD'S PART TO FORGIVE THE SINNER WHO MAKES A CONFESSION OF HIS SIN TO GOD. Mark! not that the sinner deserves forgiveness: that can never be. Sin can never merit anything but punishment, and repentance is no atonement for sin. Not that God is bound from any necessity of his nature to forgive every one that repents, because repentance has not in itself sufficient efficacy and power to merit forgiveness at the hand of God. Yet, nevertheless, it is a truth that, because God is just, he must forgive every sinner who confesses his sin. And if he did not and mark, it is a bold thing to say, but it is warranted by the text if a sinner should be led truly and solemnly to make confession of his sins and cast himself on Christ, if God did not forgive him, then he were not the God that he is represented to be in the Word of God: he were a God unjust, and that may God forbid, such a thing must not, cannot be. But how, then, is it that Justice itself actually demands that every soul that repents should be pardoned? It is so. The same Justice that just now stood with a fiery sword in his hand, like the cherubim of old keeping the way of the tree of life, now goes hand in hand with the sinner. "Sinner," he says, "I will go with thee. When thou goest to plead for pardon I will go and plead for thee. Once I spoke against thee: but now I am so satisfied with what Christ has done, that I will go with thee and plead for thee. I will change my language I will not say a word to oppose thy pardon, but I will go with thee and demand it. It is but an act of justice that God should now forgive." And the sinner goes up with Justice, and what has Justice got to say? Why, it says this: "God must forgive the repenting sinner, if he be just, according to his promise." A God who could break his promise were unjust. We do not believe in men who tell us lies. I have known some of so gentle a disposition, that they could never say "No;" if they were asked to do a thing they have said, "Yes." But they have never earned a character for it, when they have said "Yes," and afterwards did not fulfil. It is not so with God. He is no tender-hearted being who promises more than he can perform, and no forgetful one who promises what afterwards shall slip from his memory. Every word which God utters shall be fulfilled, whether it be decree, threatening, or promise. Sinner! go to God with a promise in your hand. "Lord thou hast said, 'He that confesseth his sin, and forsaketh it, shall find mercy.' I confess my sin, and I forsake it: Lord, give me mercy!" Don't doubt but that God will give it you. You have his own pledge in your hand; you have his own bond in your keeping. Take that pledge and that bond before his throne of mercy, and that bond never shall be cancelled till it has been honoured. You shall see that promise fulfilled to the uttermost letter, though your sin be never so black. Suppose the promise you take should be this. "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." "But," says the Law, "thou art one of the greatest sinners that ever lived." "Ay, but the promise says, 'Him that cometh,' and I come, and I claim the fulfillment of it." "No, but thou hast been a blasphemer." "I know it, but the promise says, 'Him that cometh,' and I come, and blasphemer though I am, I claim the promise." "But thou hast been a thief, thou hast deceived thy neighbour, and thou hast robbed men." "I have, but the promise says, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise case out;' I come, and I claim the promise. It does not say anything at all about character in the promise: it says, 'Him that cometh,' and I come, and if I be black as the devil, nevertheless God is true, and I claim the promise. I confess all that can be said against me. Will God be untrue, and send a seeking soul away with a promise unfulfilled? Never!" "But," says one, "you have lived many years in this way; your conscience has often checked you, and you have resisted conscience often: it is too late now." "But I have the promise, 'Him that cometh,' there is no time stipulated in it 'Him that cometh;' I come, and O God, thou canst not break the promise!" Challenge God by faith, and you will see that he will be as good as his word to you. Though you are worse than words can tell, God, I repeat it, as long as he is just, must honour his own promise. Go and confess your sin, trust in Christ, and you shall find pardon.

But, again, not only did God make the promise, but according to the text man has been induced to act upon it; and, therefore, this becomes a double bond upon the justice of God. Suppose you made a promise to any man, that if such a thing was done, you would do something else, and suppose that man were to do something quite contrary to his own nature, quite abhorent to himself; but he did it nevertheless, because he expected to get great blessings thereby, do you mean to say you would tempt a man to do that, and put him to vast expense, and care and trouble, and then turn round and say? "There I shall have nothing to do with that promise: I only promised to make you do so-and-so, now, I will not fulfil my engagement." Why the man would turn about and call you base to make a promise to lead him to do something and then not fulfil your promise. Now, God has said, "If we confess our sins and trust in Christ, we shall have mercy." You have done it; you have made the most abject and sincere confession, and you do declare that you have no trust but the blood and righteousness of Christ. Now, on the faith of the promise you have been led into this state. Do you imagine when God has brought you through much pain and agony of mind to repent of sin, to give up self-righteousness, and rely on Christ, he will afterwards turn round and tell you he did not mean what he said? It cannot be it cannot be. Suppose, now you were about to engage a man to be your servant, and you say to him, renounce such a situation, give that up; come and take a house in the neighbourhood where I live, and I will take you to be my servant." Suppose he does it, and you then say, "I am glad for your own sake that you have left your master, still I will not take you." What would he say to you? He would say, "I gave up my situation on the faith of your promise, and now, you break it." Ah! but it never can be said of Almighty God, that, if a sinner acted on the faith of his promise, then that promise was not kept. God ceases to be God when he ceases to have mercy upon the soul who seeks pardon through the blood of Christ. No, he is a just God, "Faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

One more aspect of this case. God's justice demands that the sinner should be forgiven if he seeks mercy, for this reason: Christ died on purpose to secure pardon for every seeking soul. Now, I hold it to be an axiom, a self-evident truth, that whatever Christ died for he will have. I cannot believe that when he paid to his Father the price of blood, and groans and tears, he bought something which the Father will not give him. Now, Christ died to purchase the pardon of sin for all those who believe on him, and do you suppose that the Father will rob him of that which be has bought so dearly? No, God were untrue to his own Son, he would break his oath to his well-beloved and only begotten Son, if he were not to give pardon, peace, and purity to every soul that comes to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Oh, I would that I could preach it as with a tongue of thunder everywhere, God is just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth. God is just to forgive us our sins, if we confess them; just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

III. Now, to close. I must just enter into some little EXPLANATION OF THE TWO GREAT DUTIES THAT ARE TAUGHT IN THE TWO TEXTS. The first duty is faith "believeth in Christ;" the second text is confession "if we confess our sins."

I will begin with confession first. Expect not that God will forgive you until you confess; not in the general confession of a prayer book, but in the particular confession of your own inmost heart. You are not to confess to a priest or a man, unless you have offended against him. In that respect, if you have been an offender against any man, be at peace with him and ask his pardon for aught you have done against him. It is a proof of a noble mind when you can ask pardon of another for having done amiss. Whenever grace comes into the heart it will lead you to make amends for any injury which you have done either by word or deed to any of your fellow-men; and you cannot expect that you shall be forgiven of God until you have forgiven men, and have been ready to make peace with those who are now your enemies. That is a beautiful trait in the character of a true Christian. I have heard of Mr. John Wesley, that he was attended in most of his journeyings by one who loved him very much, and was willing, I believe, to have died for him. Still he was a man of a very stubborn and obstinate disposition, and Mr. Wesley was not perhaps the very kindest man at all times. Upon one occasion he said to this man, "Joseph, take these letters to the post." "I will take them after preaching, sir." "Take them now, Joseph," said Mr. Wesley. "I wish to hear you preach, sir; and there will be sufficient time for the post after service." "I insist upon your going now, Joseph." "I will not go at present" "You won't!" "No, sir." "Then you and I must part," said Mr. Wesley. "Very good, sir." The good men slept over it. Both were early risers. At four o'clock the next morning, the refractory helper was accosted with, "Joseph, have you considered what I said that we must part?" "Yes, sir." "And must we part?" "please yourself, sir." "Will you ask my pardon, Joseph?" "No, sir." "You won't?" "No, sir." "Then I will ask yours, Joseph!" Poor Joseph was instantly melted, and they were at once reconciled. When once the grace of God has entered the heart, a man ought to be ready to seek forgiveness for an injury done to another. There is nothing wrong in a man confessing an offense against a fellow-man, and asking pardon for the wrong he has done him. It you have done aught, then, against any man, leave thy gift before the altar, and go and make peace with him, and then come and make peace with God. You are to make confession of your sin to God. Let that be humble and sincere. You cannot mention every offense, but do not hide one. If you hide one it will be a millstone round your neck to sink you into the lowest hell. Confess that you are vile in your nature, evil in your practice, that in you there is no good thing. Lie as low as ever you can at the footstool of divine grace, and confess that you are a wretch undone unless God have mercy upon you.

Then, the next duty is faith. Whilst thou art lying there in the dust turn thine eye to Christ and say. "Black as I am, and hell-deserving as I confess myself to be, I believe that Jesus Christ died for the penitent; and inasmuch as he died, he died that the penitent might not die. I believe thy merits to be great; I believe thy blood to be efficacious; and more than that, I risk my eternal salvation and yet it is no risk I venture my eternal salvation upon the merit of thy blood. Jesus, I cannot save myself. Cast the skirts of thy blood-red atonement over me. Come, take me in thine arms; come, wrap me in thy crimson vest, and tell me I am thine. I will trust in nothing else but thee. Nothing I can do or ever did shall be my dependence. I rely simply and entirely upon thy mighty cross, upon which thou didst die for sinners."

My dear hearers, as to any probability of your being lost after such a confession and such a faith, I assure you there is neither possibility nor probability thereof. You are saved; you are saved in time, you are saved in eternity. Your sins are forgiven; your iniquities are all put away. In this life you shall be fed, and blessed and kept. Remaining sin within you shall be overcome and conquered; and you shall see his face at the last in glory everlasting, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him. "Whosoever believeth on the Son of God hath eternal life, and shall never come into condemnation." "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned."

And now in conclusion, I have tried to tell out simply and plainly the story of how God's justice is satisfied, and has become the sinners friend, and I look for fruit, for where the gospel is simply preached it is never preached in vain. Only let us go home and pray now, that we may know the Saviour. Let us pray that others may know him too. If you are convinced of sin, my dear friends, do not lose a moment. Go to your chamber as soon as you get home, shut to your door, go alone to Jesus, and there repeat your confession, and once more affirm your faith in Christ; and you shall have that peace with God which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot take away. Your troubled conscience shalt find rest: your feet shall be on a rock; and a new song shall be in your mouth, even praise for evermore.

"From whence this fear and unbelief?

Hast thou, O Father, put to grief

Thy spotless Son for me?

And will the righteous Judge of men

Condemn me for that debt of sin,

Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made,

And to the utmost farthing paid

Whate'er thy people owed;

How then can wrath on me take place

If shelter'd in thy righteousness,

And sprinkled with thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,

And freely, in my room, endured

The whole of wrath divine;

Payment God cannot twice demand,

First, at my bleeding Surety's hand,

And then again at mine.

Turn, then, my soul unto thy rest!

The merits of thy great High Priest

Speak peace and liberty:

Trust in his efficacious blood;

Nor fear thy banishment from God,

Since Jesus died for thee."

Romans

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/romans-3.html. 2011.

Sours: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/romans-3.html
Romans Chapter 3 Summary and What God Wants From Us

From guilt to grace

In Romans 2, Paul explains that both Jews and Gentiles need the gospel — everyone needs salvation, or rescue from judgment. Although some Jews claimed to have an advantage in salvation, Paul explains that Jews are not immune to sin and judgment. Everyone is saved in the same way. So how do people become right with God? Paul explains it in chapter 3 — but first he has to answer some objections.

Any advantage for Jews?

Paul had preached in many cities, and he knew how people responded to his message. Jewish people often responded by saying: “We are God’s chosen people. We must have some sort of advantage in the judgment, but you are saying that our own law condemns us.” Paul asks the question that they do: “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?” (3:1). What’s the point of being a Jew?

Paul answers in verse 2: “Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.” The Jews have the Scriptures. That is an advantage, but there is a downside to it — those who sin under the law will be judged by the law (2:12). The law reveals requirements that the people do not meet.

So what’s the advantage? Paul will say more about that in chapter 9. But here in chapter 3 his goal is not to explain how special the Jews are, but to explain that they, just like everybody else, need to be saved through Jesus Christ. He’s not going to elaborate on their privileges until he has explained their need for salvation — they haven’t kept the law that they boast about.

So Paul asks: “What if some [Jews] were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?” (3:3). Will the fact that some Jews sinned cause God to back out of his promises?

“Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar” (verse 4). God is always true to his word, and even though we are unfaithful, he is not. He won’t let our actions turn him into a liar. He created humans for a reason, and even if we all fall short of what he wants, his plan will succeed. God chose the Jews as his people, and they fell short, but God has a way to solve the problem — and the good news is that the rescue plan applies not only to Jews, but to everyone who falls short. God is more than faithful.

Paul then quotes a scripture about God being true: “As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge’” (verse 4). This is quoted from Psalm 51:4, where David says that if God punishes him, it is because God is right. When God judges us guilty, it is because we are guilty. His covenant with Israel said that there would be unpleasant consequences for failure, and indeed, there had been many such times in Israel’s checkered history. God had done what he said he would.

Reason to sin?

Paul deals with another objection in verse 5: “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)” Here is the argument: If we sin, we give God an opportunity to show that he is right. We are doing God a favor, so he shouldn’t punish us. It’s a silly argument, but Paul deals with it. Is God unjust? “Certainly not!” he says in verse 6. “If that were so, how could God judge the world?” God said he would judge the world, and he is right in doing so.

Paul paraphrases the argument a little in verse 7: “Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’” If my sin shows how good God is, why should he punish me? In verse 8 Paul gives another version of the argument: “Why not say — as some slanderously claim that we say — ‘Let us do evil that good may result’”? Paul stops dealing with the argument and repeats his conclusion by saying, “Their condemnation is just!” These arguments are wrong. When God judges us as sinners, he is right. The gospel does not give any permission to sin.

All have sinned

In verse 9 Paul returns to his discussion: “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage?” Are we Jews better off than others? “Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.” Jews have no advantage here, because we are all sinners — we are all under an evil spiritual force called sin. God does not play favorites, and he does not give salvation advantages to anyone.

In a rapid-fire conclusion, Paul quotes in verses 10 to 18 a series of scriptures to support his point that everyone is a sinner. These verses mention various body parts: mind, mouth, throat, tongue, lips, feet and eyes. The picture is that people are thoroughly evil:

  • There is no one righteous, not even one [Ecclesiastes 7:20];
  • There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
  • All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
  • There is no one who does good, not even one [Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3].
  • Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit [Psalm 5:9].
  • The poison of vipers is on their lips [Psalm 140:3].
  • Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness [Psalm 10:7].
  • Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and The way of peace they do not know [Isaiah 59:7-8].
  • There is no fear of God before their eyes [Psalm 36:1].

Those scriptures are true about Gentiles, some Jews might say, but not about us. So Paul answers them in verse 19: “Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law.” These Scriptures (the law in a larger sense) apply to people who are under the law — the Jews. They are sinners. Gentiles are, too, but Paul doesn’t have to prove that — his audience already believed that.

Why do the scriptures apply to the Jews? “So that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.” Humanity will stand before the judgment seat of God, and the result is described in verse 20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by the works of the law.” By the standard of the law, we all fall short.

What does the law do instead? Paul says: “Rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The law sets a standard of righteousness, but because we sin, the law can never tell us that we are righteous. It tells us that we are sinners. According to the law, we are guilty.

A righteousness from God

Paul introduces the good news in verse 21 with the important words “But now.” He’s making a contrast: We can’t be declared righteous by the law, but there is good news—there is a way that we can be declared righteous: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” Here Paul gets back to what he announced in Romans 1:17, that the gospel reveals God’s righteousness.

Since we are sinners, we cannot be declared righteous by observing the law. It must be through some other means. God will declare us righteous in a way other than through the law. And although the law does not make us righteous, it does give evidence about another means of righteousness: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ1 to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile” (3:22). This righteousness is a gift! We do not deserve it, but God gives us the status of being counted as righteous. He gives this to all who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus was faithful, we can be given the status of being righteous.

This pathway to righteousness gives no advantage to the Jew — all are counted righteous in the same way. There is no difference, Paul says, “for all have sinned” — both Jews and Gentiles have sinned — “and [everyone] falls short of the glory of God.” When our works are judged by the law, we all fall short, and no one deserves the salvation that God has designed for us. But our weakness will not stop God’s plan!

“All are justified [declared righteous] freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (verse 24). Because of what Jesus did, we can be made right, and it is done as a gift, by God’s grace. We are not made sinless and perfect, but in the courtroom of God, we are declared righteous instead of guilty, we are accounted as acceptable to God and as faithful to the covenant. Whether we feel forgiven or not, we are forgiven because Christ paid our debt in full.

What permits God to change the verdict? Paul uses a variety of metaphors or word-pictures to explain this. Jesus has paid a price to rescue us from slavery. He has bought us back; that is what “redemption” means. That is one way to look at it, in financial terms. Courtroom terms have also been used, and in the next verse Paul uses words from Jewish worship:

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith.” God himself provided the payment, the sacrifice that sets aside our sin. For “sacrifice of atonement,” Paul uses the Greek word hilasterion, the word used for the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant, a place where Israel’s sins were atoned every year on the Day of Atonement.2

Because of his love and mercy, God provided Jesus as the means by which we can be set “at one” with him. That atonement is received by us through faith; we believe that Jesus’ death did something that allows us to be saved. Paul is talking about three aspects of salvation: The cause of our salvation is what Jesus did; the means by which it is offered to us is grace; and the way we receive it is faith.

God provided Jesus as an atonement, verse 25 says, “to demonstrate his righteousness” — to show that he is faithful to his promises — “because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” Normally, a judge who let criminals go free would be called unjust (Exodus 23:7; Deuteronomy 25:1). Is God doing that? No, this verse says that God is not unjust when he justifies the wicked because he has provided Jesus as a means of atonement.

He is within his legal rights, to use a human analogy, in letting people escape because their sins have already been compensated for in the death of Jesus Christ. Even for people who lived before Christ, the payment was as good as done. In one sense, that applies to everyone, to the whole world: sins are paid for even before people become aware of it and believe it. But only those who believe it can be freed from the fear of punishment.

Romans 3:26 says that God “did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God demonstrates that he is just even when he declares sinners to be just. He has “earned the right” to count us as righteous.

All are equal

“Where, then, is boasting?” Paul asks in verse 27. Can the Jew boast about advantages over Gentiles? When it comes to salvation, there’s nothing to boast about. We can’t even boast about faith. Faith does not make us better than other people — we are only receiving what God gives. We can’t take credit for that, or brag about it.

Boasting “is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith” (verse 27). If people were saved by keeping the law, then they could brag about how well they did. But when salvation is by grace and faith, no one can boast. Paul is making two points that reinforce each other: That no one can boast, and that righteousness is by grace rather than by the law or by works. It takes faith because we don’t have the physical evidence to prove that we are righteous—all we have is the promise of God in Jesus Christ.

In verse 28, he says it again: “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Being counted right with God on the day of judgment can never be on the basis of the law. The law can’t do anything except point out where we fall short. If we are going to be accepted by God, it will not be on the basis of the law, but because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

“Is God the God of Jews only?” Paul asks. “Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God” (verses 29-30). God is not the exclusive possession of the Jews. According to the gospel, God “will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” He makes Jews righteous in the same way that he makes Gentiles righteous, and that is through faith, not through the law.

“Do we…nullify the law by this faith?” Of course not, Paul says in verse 31. “Rather, we uphold the law.” The gospel does not contradict the law, but it puts law in its proper place. The law was never designed as a means of salvation. But the salvation it hinted at is now available to all through Jesus Christ. Paul does not yet say how we “uphold the law.” For that, we will have to continue reading in his letter.

Things to think about

  • Did the Jews, by having the Scriptures, have an advantage in salvation? (verse 2)
  • Does our sin give God an opportunity to be more gracious? (verse 7)
  • Are people really worthless, no one good for anything? (verses 10-12)
  • If the law can’t declare us righteous, what is it good for? (verse 20)
  • In verses 22, 24, 26 and 28, Paul tells us how we are justified or declared righteous. What does he stress by repetition?
  • How does Jesus’ sacrifice demonstrate God’s justice? (verse 25)
  • How does Paul want us to respond to this chapter?

Endnotes

1 The NRSV footnote on verse 22 says the Greek words can also mean “through the faith of Jesus Christ.” It is theologically correct that we are saved through the faithfulness of Jesus, through his obedience (see Romans 5:19). The only reason that we can have faith in him is because he was completely faithful. But in order for us to experience the results of his faithfulness, we also need faith in him, in what he did. We do not need to resolve the question about the best translation of Romans 3:22 at this point. It is possible that Paul’s original readers were not completely sure of what Paul meant with this phrase. Paul may have given them a phrase that required them to continue reading to get the whole picture.

2 The cover of the ark was the location of atonement, but it was not a place of sacrifice. It may therefore be better to translate hilasterion as “place of atonement,” as done in the NRSV footnote. Some translations use the word “propitiation,” a word Greeks used to describe someone appeasing the anger of the gods. But this would mean that God supplied something to appease his own anger, which implies that he didn’t really want to be angry, but had to perform a ritual so he could get his original wish. This puts God into a convoluted position; it is simpler to say that God provided a means of atonement, because his original wish was atonement, being in fellowship with the humans he had created.

Author: Michael Morrison, 2003, 2012

Michael Morrison, PhD Grace Communion Seminary offers online master's degrees.

Sours: https://learn.gcs.edu/mod/book/view.php?id=4493&chapterid=127

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Romans 3 Bible Commentary

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Chapter Contents

Objections answered. (1-8) All mankind are sinners. (9-18) Both Jews and Gentiles cannot be justified by their own deeds. (19,20) It is owing to the free grace of God, through faith in the righteousness of Christ, yet the law is not done away. (21-31)

Commentary on Romans 3:1-8

(Read Romans 3:1-8)

The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation. Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favours shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many. But especially the Scriptures were committed to them. Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people. But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect. He will fulfil his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers. God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice. The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin. Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways. The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just.

Commentary on Romans 3:9-18

(Read Romans 3:9-18)

Here again is shown that all mankind are under the guilt of sin, as a burden; and under the government and dominion of sin, as enslaved to it, to work wickedness. This is made plain by several passages of Scripture from the Old Testament, which describe the corrupt and depraved state of all men, till grace restrain or change them. Great as our advantages are, these texts describe multitudes who call themselves Christians. Their principles and conduct prove that there is no fear of God before their eyes. And where no fear of God is, no good is to be looked for.

Commentary on Romans 3:19,20

(Read Romans 3:19,20)

It is in vain to seek for justification by the works of the law. All must plead guilty. Guilty before God, is a dreadful word; but no man can be justified by a law which condemns him for breaking it. The corruption in our nature, will for ever stop any justification by our own works.

Commentary on Romans 3:21-26

(Read Romans 3:21-26)

Must guilty man remain under wrath? Is the wound for ever incurable? No; blessed be God, there is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God; righteousness of his ordaining, and providing, and accepting. It is by that faith which has Jesus Christ for its object; an anointed Saviour, so Jesus Christ signifies. Justifying faith respects Christ as a Saviour, in all his three anointed offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him: in all these, Jews and Gentiles are alike welcome to God through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe; not only offered to them, but put upon them as a crown, as a robe. It is free grace, mere mercy; there is nothing in us to deserve such favours. It comes freely unto us, but Christ bought it, and paid the price. And faith has special regard to the blood of Christ, as that which made the atonement. God, in all this, declares his righteousness. It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.

Commentary on Romans 3:27-31

(Read Romans 3:27-31)

God will have the great work of the justification and salvation of sinners carried on from first to last, so as to shut out boasting. Now, if we were saved by our own works, boasting would not be excluded. But the way of justification by faith for ever shuts out boasting. Yet believers are not left to be lawless; faith is a law, it is a working grace, wherever it is in truth. By faith, not in this matter an act of obedience, or a good work, but forming the relation between Christ and the sinner, which renders it proper that the believer should be pardoned and justified for the sake of the Saviour, and that the unbeliever who is not thus united or related to him, should remain under condemnation. The law is still of use to convince us of what is past, and to direct us for the future. Though we cannot be saved by it as a covenant, yet we own and submit to it, as a rule in the hand of the Mediator.

  1. Bible > Bible Commentary
  2. Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary (concise)
  3. Romans
  4. Romans 3
Sours: https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary/matthew-henry-concise/romans/3


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