Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ROMANS - Chapter 3

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Romans 3

Supplemental Commentary:

1, 18 -- 11, 36 (continued)

1.  Humanity without Christ  1, 18 -- 3, 20 (continued)

3, 1-8:  Objections Answered.  As in 2, 1, the answer is made to an individual, an imaginary objector to his argument.    1 f.  The first objection: the requirement of circumcision was then of no advantage to the Jew, there was no advantage in being a Jews.  Answer: their great advantage was that they enjoyed the oracles of God.  By this expression is meant the revealed Law, or perhaps the Scriptures as a whole.    3 f.  The second objection: some Jews have not believed.  Answer: the infidelity of man in no way weakens the absolute fidelity of God.  The quotation from Ps. 50, 6 refers to the manifestation of God's justice in punishing sin, and His rising victorious thereby over the charges of the insolent.    5 f.  The third objection: then wickedness has the advantage of manifesting God's justice.  Before answering, Paul makes an apology for even expressing the thought.  The answer: God is to judge and condemn sinners.  This He could not do if sinners rendered Him a service by their sins.    7 f.  The fourth objection: what redounds to the glory of God does not merit punishment.  The answer reduces the objection to an absurdity: do evil that good may come from it.  9-11 will return more formally to these Jewish objections.

3, 9-18:  The Scriptures Attest Universal Sin.  The Jews indeed (3, 2) have had special advantages, but their failure to avail themselves of their privileges has made them equally sinners with the Gentiles.  This draws the conclusion of the thesis begun at 1, 18.  Proof is found in the words of their Scriptures.  The citation in 10-18 is found in the Vulgate in Ps. 13, 1-3; but in the Hebrew it is derived from various other Pss.    10-12.  Ps. 13, 1-3; 13.  Ps. 5, 11; Ps. 139, 4; 14.  Ps. 9, 28; 15-17.  Isa. 59, 7 f; 18.  Ps. 35, 2.

3, 19-20:  This Concerns the Jews.    19.  Subject: the Greek term means "liable."    20.  By the works of the Law, etc.: in 2, 13 Paul has admitted some efficacy in the Law, but here he denies that it reached to the justification of a man.  The most the Law could do was to indicate a line of action; the inner disposition, or the strength to follow that line, could not be supplied by the Law.

2.  Salvation Through Faith in Christ  3, 21 -- 4, 25

This is the main thesis of the Epistle (cf. 1, 16 f).  It is first developed didactically (3, 21-30), and then illustrated from the Old Testament (4).

3, 21-26:  Justice Comes through Faith in Christ.    21.  But now is to be taken in a temporal sense.  Justice of God: the holiness which comes not through the Law, but by another means arranged by God and foretold in the Law and the Prophets, i.e., in the Old Testament Scriptures.    22.  This means is faith in Jesus Christ.  The justice is available to all men, without distinction, who fulfill the conditions of this faith.    23.  The glory of God: the grace of God which has its consummation in eternal glory.    24.  Freely: justice is a free gift of God, conditioned on faith, but in no way merited.  By his grace: the quality imparted to the soul, transforming it from the state of sin to that of holiness.  Even the act of faith cannot be elicited without the aid of God's actual grace.  Redemption which is in Christ Jesus: this is a frequent thought in St. Paul: cf. 1 Cor. 6, 20; 7, 23; Gal. 3, 13.  It is found in other New Testament writings: cf. 1 Pet. 1, 18; 2 Pet. 2, 1; Apoc. 5, 9.  Man is bought back, or ransomed, by Christ from his slavery to sin; being a slave, he was unable to secure his own liberation.    25.  The price paid by Christ was His death on a cross.  Set forth: publicly exhibited; or, according to another interpretation, foreordained.  Propitiation: a victim who, by His blood, expiated the offense of man's sin.  Cf. Heb. 9, 22 ff.  Through faith: the disposition required for sharing in the benefits of this sacrifice.  To manifest his justice: the purpose of God in thus setting forth His Son.  In this sacrifice God exacted adequate atonement for the sin of the world, and thus His justice was made manifest.    26.  Former times witnessed God's patience in dealing with sinful man; now His justice stands out in the sacrifice of His Son.  His goodness and mercy are manifest in that He allows men who have faith in Jesus to share in His merit.

3, 27-31:  Justification Excludes Boasting.    27.  Law: here a system of justification.  Of works: the Mosaic Law, which prescribed merely a course of conduct.  Law of faith: which imparted the aid necessary for the accomplishment of God's will.    28.  Justified by faith: i.e., "first justification," the introduction of sanctifying grace into the soul.  This cannot be merited.  The faith which is the condition of this gift includes sorrow for sin and the disposition to do whatever God requires.  St. Paul does not intend to deprecate the works of the Christian life.    29.  Since there is but one God, the means of attaining this holiness are the same for all  men.    31.  This verse forms a transition to the next passage.

Confraternity Bible:

Objections Answered 1 What advantage then remains to the Jew, or what is the use of circumcision?  2 Much in every respect.  First, indeed, because the oracles of God were entrusted to them.  3 For what if some of them have not believed?  Will their unbelief make void the fidelity of God?  By no means!  4* For God is true, and every man is a liar, as it is written, "That thou mayest be justified in thy words, And mayest be victorious when thou art judged."  5 But if our wickedness show forth the justice of God, what shall we say?  Is God unjust who inflicts punishment?  6 (I speak after a purely human manner.)  By no means!  Otherwise, how is God to judge the world?  7 But if through my lie the truth of God has abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged a sinner?  8 And why should we not, as some calumniously accuse us of teaching, do evil that good may come from it?  The condemnation of such is just.

The Scriptures Attest Universal Sin  9 What then?  Are we better off than they?  Not at all.  For we have argued that Jews and Greeks are all under sin, 10* as it is written,
"There is not one just man; 11* there is none who understands;

There is none who seeks after God. 

12* All have gone astray together; they have become worthless. 

There is none who does good, no, not even one. 

13* Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have dealt deceitfully. 

The venom of asps is beneath 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 ways. 

17* And the path of peace they have not known. 

18* There is no fear of God before their eyes."
This Concerns the Jews  19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it is speaking to those who are under the Law; in order that every mouth may be shut, and the whole world may be made subject to God.  20* For by the works of the Law no human being shall be justified before him, for through law comes the recognition of sin.

Justice Comes through Faith in Christ  21* But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law, being attested by the Law and the Prophets; 22 the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ upon all who believe.  For there is no distinction, 23 as all have sinned and have need of the glory of God.  24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God has set forth as a propitiation by his blood through faith, to manifest his justice, God in his patience remitting former sins; 26 to manifest his justice at the present time, so that he himself is just, and makes just him who has faith in Jesus.

Justification Excludes Boasting  27 Where then is thy boasting?  It is excluded.  By what law?  Of works?  No, but by the law of faith.  28 For we reckon that a man is justified by faith independently of the works of the Law.  29 Is God the God of the Jews only, and not of the Gentiles also?  30 For there is but one God who will justify the circumcised by faith, and the uncircumcised through the same faith.  31 Do we therefore through faith destroy the Law?  By no means!  Rather we establish the Law.


4: Pss. 115, 11; 50, 4.  Every man is a liar: in comparison with God who is Truth itself, every man is essentially unreliable, and may at any time intentionally or unintentionally fall into error.

10-12: Pss. 13, 1-3; 52, 2-4.

13: Pss. 5, 11; 139, 4.

14: Ps. 9, 7.

15-17: Isa. 59, 7; Prov. 1, 16.

18: Ps. 35, 2.

20: It does not follow from St. Paul's statement that no man is justified by the works of the Law, that good works are not necessary for salvation.  The justification of which St. Paul here speaks is the infusion of sanctifying grace which alone renders a person supernaturally pleasing in the sight of God.  This cannot be obtained either by the observance of the Law or by any other work of unregenerated man.

21: The justice of God through faith is not that holiness whereby God is just, but that grace which He imparts to the soul to make it really, intrinsically pleasing and holy in His sight.  The necessary condition for obtaining the infusion of this divine gift is faith, not a bare speculative faith, but a practical faith which through the love of God effects the observance of the commandments and the performance of other good works.