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.
The conclusions made necessary by the
first two chapters would naturally draw the questions found in verse one.
If obeying the law under which one lived was what really counted, what
advantage did the Jew have? What profit was it to him to be a Jew? Paul
seems to have taken away all advantage. But he says there is "much in every
way." But it was not as much, and not the same, as the Jews had erroneously
The "profit" that Paul suggests is
not the "profit" the Jews had figured. They concluded because they had
the written law, and because of their special calling as descendants of
Abraham, and a special and favored relationship with God, that such would
cause God to simply overlook their sins and grant them indulgences. They
considered this relationship was given to them because they were superior.
In this they were mistaken. They did have a special relationship with God,
but not for the reasons or purposes they thought.
Their "profit" was that they were
able to make certain contributions to the good of every man. Their "profit"
was a profit of serving, not one of superiority. They were a people that
had the privilege of being used by God to accomplish something for the
whole human family. They had looked upon their "specialness" to be for
their own benefit alone.
The service rendered, as mentioned
in verse two, is that God committed unto them His oracles, His Word, the
promises and prophecies that are found in the inspired writings of the
Old Testament. These writings served a unique purpose in God's plan for
redeeming man. The Jews were a fortunate people because through them this
plan was to be made known and brought to a reality. In Stephen's sermon
(Acts 7:53) he mentioned how the Jews "received the law by the disposition
of angels." The trouble with the Jews was, as Stephen continued, they "have
not kept it." Nonetheless, God used the Jews to fulfill His intent to save
mankind. In this is found their advantage and profit.
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.
At this point Paul takes note of the same
thing Stephen recognized in the last part of Acts seven, verse fifty-three.
The Jews had not kept the law nor did they accept the Christ that God sent.
Instead of believing, they disbelieved. But are we to think because some
Jews, even most Jews, rejected Christ that this rejection nullified God's
intent and plan? Because some men that God desired to use for the profit
of mankind turned against God and God's Son, does this place in question
the fidelity of God to keep His Word? The answer to the question is forcefully
given, "God forbid!" which means, "May it not be so!" It was unthinkable
that God would fail because some men failed. In First Corinthians 13:10
we read the phrase, "But God is faithful." This means you can count on
God to keep His Word. He is absolutely dependable. You might also study
this similar thought in Second Peter 3:9 and Hebrews 11:11. God had promised
the gospel (1:2), and He would not fail in what He had promised. Paul asserts
that very point here. He goes on to emphasize the attitude man should have
regarding the compared integrity of God and man. "Let God be true, but
every man a liar." This is a strong point of emphasis that in spite of
the Jewish rejection and disbelief, this did not alter nor declare of none
effect what God had promised.
Those of the false doctrine of premillennial
thought ought take note here. Those who say Christ came to establish His
kingdom but because of Jewish rejection decided to postpone it, and establish
the church as a temporary measure with the intent of establishing His kingdom
the next time He came, ought to heed what Paul says. Man's rejection, and
he specifies the Jewish rejection, did not change one thing God had intended
to do and accomplish all along. This thought is another death-blow in a
long series of death-blows to this speculative and false theory of premillennialism.
By the phrase "Let God be true, but
every man a liar," Paul contends for the authority of God rather than that
of man. He is certainly not wishing for men to be liars. But man's attitude
must be to accept what God says to be true. Anything contrary thereto is
necessarily false. He cites Psalm 51:4 to emphasize this point, "That thou
mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art
The "thou" of the passage refers to
God, not man. If one will go back and read the fifty-first Psalm he will
see that the "thou" refers to God there, so it must refer to God here in
Romans when Paul quoted it. Just how are we to understand this reference?
When man disbelieves God, he is judging
Man is in essence saying to God, "I cannot accept what you say. I challenge
your correctness and authority. I challenge your word." While men may not
think they are committing this serious kind of offense, when a man disbelieves
what God has said this is precisely what he is doing. He is placing himself
as a judge of God by trying to determine the right or wrong of something
God has said. Man has to determine what God says is right, but he must
always accept the fact that whatever God says is right. Man could never
be more out-of-place than to challenge God's Word. Yet, disbelief is a
challenge and judgment of the veracity of God. The statement of Paul that
a man should bow before God's authority rather than his own demonstrates
the correctness and integrity of God's Word and man must submit. That God
has done what He said He would do in the oracles committed to the Jews
means that God has overcome those who would dare stand in judgment of Him
by disbelieving His Word.
Thus far in this chapter we see Paul
proclaiming the way God proposed to use the Jews. We also see Paul's assertion
of God's authority above any and all, especially above those who choose
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?
By asking the question in verse five that
he did, Paul made a point not stressed as forcefully heretofore; namely,
the unrighteousness of the Jew "commend(s)" the righteousness of God. The
"our" refers to the Jews. The word "commend" means to establish or prove
by comparing. The "righteousness of God" again refers to the plan of God
to make man righteous. The thrust of the question in statement form is,
"The sins of the Jews have proven the need for the plan God devised to
save man. When one compares God's plan with the sins of the Jews he sees
the plan is well established."
We know, and do not deny, that the
Bible teaches God punishes the sinful. But Paul asks, "If by their sins
the Jews have shown and proven the value and necessity and worthiness of
God's plan to save, why does God punish them?" At first glance it may seem
that God ought reward them because their behavior has assisted in establishing
the validity of His plan. Paul, even though he has asked the question,
makes it plain that is not the kind of question to ask nor is it appropriate
of anyone to ask it. He says this kind of reasoning is the kind some men
might do and speak. He noted, "I speak as a man."
But the answer again comes with emphasis,
"God forbid," that such a thing be seriously considered at all. The very
idea that God is unrighteous is ridiculous on the very surface. Sin does
deserve punishment. Sin is never for good but for evil. Sin made God's
plan of salvation necessary. Rather than being relieved of punishment due
to sin man ought be thankful there is a plan of salvation at all. His sin
has made the point that such a plan is essential.
Paul responds with another unanswerable
point. If God could not condemn sin, how could He judge the world? How
could God be God if He could not condemn evil? How could God do what God
must do? God is not unrighteous for punishing sinners even though their
sins "commend" His plan. The Jews commended it only in the sense of showing
it was vital and necessary.
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?
In verse seven the same question of verse
five is raised another way. To be sure the truth of God abounded and it
had to abound because of the lie of man. However, sin does not show honor
to God's plan. Sin makes God's plan necessary. Of course, the plan brings
glory to God. But simply because sin has made the plan necessary and the
plan brings glory to God, it does not follow that sin brings glory to God.
God is glorified, not because of sin, but in spite of it.
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.
In verse eight Paul teaches a principle
that doing evil does not ever find justification even if ultimately, somewhere
along the line, some good results. Good things may at times result from
evil, but not because of evil but in spite of evil. Good has to be placed
in conflict and contrast with evil. The idea of doing evil that good may
come is once and for all repudiated by inspiration. Some, it seems, had
slanderously reported and affirmed that Paul had preached such a false
idea. Those "whose damnation is just" may well refer to one or both of
two groups: (1) those who had made a slanderous report against Paul; (2)
or those who really believed one is permitted to do evil that good may
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.
One could just as well have said that
the Gentiles ought to be honored because of their sins as well as the Jews
to be honored by their sins. The sins of each people made the plan of God,
by contrast, a thing of glory. But God was not unjust to condemn either
the Jews or the Gentiles because of their sins. Any kind of conclusion
of facts and situations that would for a moment indicate any unrighteousness
of God to punish sinners immediately is to be dispelled as the worst sort
Paul draws some conclusion by introducing
the question, "What then?" In view of all that had been said, what do we
now know? We know the Jew is no better than the Gentile, and the Gentile
is no worse than the Jew. Paul has already proven, and the Gentiles and
Jews themselves have already demonstrated, that they are all under sin.
This was prophesied and fits exactly into the several Old Testament references
to which Paul now refers. One may wish to look up the following references
and there he will find almost exactly what Paul quotes here to the Romans.
The references are not found at one place, but, as is often done in preaching
or in writing even today, several passages are called upon to substantiate
what has been declared. Consider: Psalm 5:9; 10:7; 14:1-3; 36:1; 53:1;
140:3; Proverbs 1:16 and Isaiah 59:7,8; possibly others.
The thrust of the words quoted from
the Old Testament is simply that sin is a condition of all, Jew and Gentile,
every man, everywhere. The characteristics of a sinful people are found
among them all. They do not righteously; they lack understanding; they
have left the way they ought to go; they are unprofitable; they do not
do good; they are full of decay as a tomb and of poison as a deadly serpent.
They are quick to do wrong, even shed blood. They destroy, cause misery,
know not peace either with God or their fellowman and have no respect or
fear of God. Such is the picture Paul paints that is applicable to both
Jew and Gentile. This condition emphasizes the need of a way of salvation
that would provide for all sinners.
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.
Paul begins these two verses again making
the point he made several times in chapter two that what the law says it
says to those who are subject and amenable to it. No law is applicable
except to those to whom it applies. But when the law says something, then
that is the end of the matter and anything contrary to it is wrong. "Every
mouth may be stopped" is the expression used to convey the idea that there
is no use arguing against what the law says because the law is the law
and that is that. It really does not matter what law is under consideration
here because when that law speaks to those who are accountable under it,
that is the end of it. When one becomes guilty of violating the law to
which he is responsible he becomes guilty of sin before God. That is outside
the realm of being questioned. There is some question whether Paul has
reference specifically to the law of Moses (as most commentaries suggest)
or to law generally, the principle of the rule and authority of law. While
inclined to agree that the specific law of Moses is under consideration,
most certainly the principle applies regarding any divinely given law.
The law of Moses seems to be in mind due to the fact that Paul has just
quoted several passages from the Old Testament. Also, at this point his
words are being addressed primarily to Jews.
However, one good reason for thinking
Paul may be considering more than just the law of Moses is because he mentions
"all the world" and "no flesh," a rather all-inclusive term that would
seem to embrace both Jew and Gentile. In addition to that, one cannot omit
the consideration that the word "the" before the word "law" which appears
in the English translation does not appear in the Greek text in verse twenty.
The word "the" is the specific and definite article, but without it the
meaning becomes rather general. So there is some justification for believing
that Paul is not confining his words to merely the law of Moses. But the
principle would be true even if Paul was including all law or just some
In verse twenty, although he possibly
is speaking specifically of the law of Moses, again the point would be
true even if he was not limiting it to the law of Moses but also including
the laws of nature, the law in the conscience "written" on the hearts of
the Gentiles, the law of moral truth under which Gentiles lived. In no
case could law, by itself justify if the law only specified right from
wrong. The law defined sin and made sin known. The law, when violated,
made one guilty. The law did not provide for justification and forgiveness.
This is true not only of the law of Moses but also the moral law of the
Gentiles. The major thrust of the passage may well be to show that a law
that only condemns is a law that cannot save. One must look elsewhere for
salvation rather than to either of the two laws that have been considered
thus far, one for Jews and one for Gentiles. We must remember that Romans,
and other New Testament books, speaks of the law of Christ, and this law
is a part of God's system of salvation.
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:
The place to look for salvation is now
presented as being open to man. That place is the "righteousness of God,"
God's plan for justifying man, His scheme for making man righteous, the
gospel itself (1:16,17). This plan is manifested without such law as Paul
had been discussing even though this plan is not altogether without any
law, as is very apparent when Paul describes this plan as the "law of faith"
in verse twenty-seven. Paul is showing that this plan is not a part of
the law of Moses and not a part of the moral law of the Gentiles. Furthermore,
the Mosaic law testified of the plan as did the prophets in times past,
which is another assertion of the predictive nature of the Old Testament.
This plan, called "the righteousness of God," is by faith of Jesus Christ.
The phrase "by faith of Jesus Christ" refers to the system of faith which
was given through Christ rather than mere belief in Christ because the
necessity of belief in Christ is mentioned in the next phrase. Unless Paul
is simply repeating himself needlessly, this must be the meaning. In other
words, we do no violence to Paul's words to paraphrase: "Having shown that
nobody can be justified by such laws as the Jews had, or the laws the Gentiles
had, because such laws only showed the guilt of sin; having shown you must
look elsewhere than these laws for salvation, I tell you now where to look
for salvation. It is to be obtained in the plan God has devised, the system
of faith given through Christ, and this system is open to all and all can
receive the benefits of it that believe in the person and system Christ
gave. There is no difference whether one be a Jew or Gentile. Salvation
is needed by all and available to all who will place their trust in Him
and His way."
Lest someone object to the suggestion
of faith in a system rather than in the person of Christ, be it known that
there is no such thing as faith in the Person of Christ separate from faith
in His system. Faith in His system is tantamount to faith in the Person.
God has joined the Man and the plan and no man can separate the two, nor
should attempt to try.
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.
The reason there is no difference between
Jew and Gentile in being saved by this system of faith is because there
is no difference in their spiritual need of it as has been pointedly shown
previously. But here again Paul says, "For all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God." None have lived up to the law under which they lived,
even laws from God written or verbally given and "written" on the heart.
None can lived sinlessly perfect. All were guilty of sin, all had fallen
short, all needed to be saved, all can now be saved, all will be saved
the same way if saved at all.
Again, what is that way, as we consider
verse twenty-four? It is the way of grace, the way of unmerited favor,
the way of receiving blessing from God that are surely undeserved. It is
redemption that is to be found in the right relationship with Christ. Redemption
is not "out of Christ," but "in Christ." The phrase, "in Christ," is often
used in the New Testament to denote the spiritual relationship with God
one must have and enjoys if he is among the redeemed (Second Timothy 2:10;
Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:3; Revelation 14:13).
This way of redemption, "the righteousness
of God." this place of grace, this system of faith given through Christ,
has its merit based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the gift God gave.
God set forth His Son to be the atonement, the propitiation. This word
translated "propitiation" is from the same word the Holy Spirit selected
in Hebrews 9:5 when describing the mercy seat of the Mosaic system. That
which is translated "mercy seat" is the place of propitiation. It appears
likely that Paul is drawing upon the Old Testament for the "type" of which
the Lord Jesus is the "anti-type." "Propitiation" refers to the appeasement
of God's wrath against sin or an atonement, a satisfactory payment. Just
as the blood of animals was sprinkled over the mercy seat which was on
top of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle
and later in the Temple, so the blood of Jesus has been shed. Just as the
blood over the mercy seat was a sign, pledge or promise of expiation from
sin, so the blood of Christ is the expiation of sin. In other words, Paul
is answering the question the old hymn asks, "What can wash away my sins?"
The answer is, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus." This is the provision
God has made. The blessing of forgiveness and hope of eternal salvation
is obtained through faith in His blood. His blood is the life blood, if
you please, of the system of faith that God has devised. Without the blood
the system would not exist. This shedding of the blood of Jesus the Christ
was the declaration of the "righteousness of God," His plan, that would
accomplish the remission of sins that are past.
The phrase, "sins that are past,"
gives no little difficulty to explain. Turning to Hebrews 10:4, "For it
is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."
The animal sacrifices of the Mosaic system did not actually remove the
sins of the people, even though the people did all they could do, knew
to do, and were commanded to do to accomplish the removal of sins when
they offered the sacrifices. Earlier in Hebrews ten the writer said, "For
the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image
of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year
by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." Obviously, the
necessity for the constant repetition of the sacrifices showed their sins
were not actually forgiven, but at best were lifted for another year. Furthermore,
Hebrews 9:15 indicates that Christ is the mediator of a testament or will
that provided for the redemption of transgressions that were committed
under the first testament as well as transgressions that were committed
under His own testament. It is surely within reason and not inconsistent
with other Biblical information to think that the phrase, "sins that are
past," includes sins committed under the Mosaic system, though not limited
to just that. In other words, while animal sacrifices were necessary for
the Jews, it was ultimately the blood of Christ that really provided the
power of remission even for their sins as well as for the sins of people
since the cross.
What took away the sins of the Gentiles
who lived during the time of the Mosaic covenant but who did not sacrifice
as did the Jews? No reference in Scripture comes to my mind that gives
a specific answer to that question unless this one touches upon it. We
do know that "without the shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews
9:22). We also know "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats
should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4). Again, we know that "by his own
blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption
for us." (Hebrews 9:12). We know that redemption is "through his blood."
(Ephesians 1:7). Suffice it here to say that even though there is no specific
reference that informs us of the remission of Gentile sins committed under
the moral law "written" on their hearts, it must of necessity involve the
blood of Christ. There is nothing else that God has ever provided that
would accomplish the washing away of sins.
There is another thought in this phrase,
"sins that are past," that must be considered, not in contrast to what
has been said but in addition to what has been said. When one comes to
Christ and is baptized into Him, it is then that the blood of Christ which
was shed in His death cleanses one from his sins (Galatians 3:27; Acts
22:16; Romans 6:3,4). The sins forgiven upon initial contact with the blood
are sins of the past, sins already committed. At the time one is baptized
and reaches the blood of Christ he does not receive forgiveness of sins
that he may yet commit. To be sure, Christ's blood makes provision for
future sins so long as one remains faithful and loyal in the body (the
church) where His blood is and thereby remains in contact with the blood.
The Lord's blood will keep on keeping him clean (First John 1:7,9) as he
walks in the light. But we are not to think that coming in contact with
the blood of Christ initially provides some kind of indulgence for future
transgressions. The sins forgiven are sins of the past. Peter spoke of
one being "purged from his old sins." (Second Peter 1:9).
The message of the passage is unmistakable.
Remission of sins is provided by the blood of Jesus Christ. Such is God's
plan, His righteousness. This is the demonstration of the forbearance of
God toward the sinner. Forbearance involves an attitude, and here were
see that attitude manifested toward the sinner; namely, God's desire that
the sinner be forgiven.
Paul had earlier stated in verse twenty-five
that God sent Christ "to declare his righteousness;" that is, Christ came
to proclaim the plan of salvation that God offered through the Son and
His blood. Here in verse twenty-six he repeats the thought of declaring
this righteousness. The phrase, "at that time," refers to the dispensation
of Christ, the time the gospel is applicable to man. Whereas God had dealt
with the Jews through the law of Moses and the Gentiles through moral truth
given them, now is the gospel age. God declares a plan of salvation now
that was heretofore never proclaimed but only prophesied and promised.
The purpose of this plan is stated to be twofold. One purpose was that
God might be just; that is, that the justice of a just God might be manifested
against sin by the penalty against sin being provided and met through the
death of Christ. God never intended that sin go unpunished. Justice would
not allow that. Justice demands that somebody pay. God provided that Christ
should pay on behalf of man, at least for those who would come to Him.
The second purpose stated would naturally follow the emphasis of the first.
With God showing His justice by having the penalty for sin exacted, this
would allow Him to be the justifier of those who believed in Jesus Christ.
Whereas justice demanded punishment for sin, mercy demanded release. Psalm
89:14, "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and
truth shall go before thy face." At the cross of Christ, God's justice
and mercy met. Christ paid the penalty for sin enabling the sinner to be
mercifully justified, cleansed, redeemed, and his sins remitted. This could
be accomplished only because of what God has done on the sinner's behalf,
and would be enjoyed when the sinner places his confidence and obedient
trust in Christ. This confidence would include faith in His blood (verse
twenty-five) and obedience to the plan God provided. In the sacrifice of
Christ, we see the demonstration of divine justice and mercy.
Consider what a marvelous plan God
devised! What a sacrifice it took! What mercy and grace is manifested!
We marvel at the greatness and goodness of God and His love for sinful
We need to say more to understand
a quality of God that bears on His demand that somebody pay because of
sin. This was not demanded because God is vindictive and with a desire
to strike back and get even. It is because God is vindicatory and having
the determination to uphold right and execute justice. If God was not such
a God, the holiness ascribed Him would be seriously flawed and impaired.
The execution of His vengeance is not in order to harm or simply even the
score with sinners. The execution of vengeance by God is essential to righteousness,
holiness, and justice. God would possess none of these virtues if He treated
sin and righteousness just alike. In the death of Christ, the demands of
justice were met, and yet, the propriety of mercy was made possible.
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.
Having shown salvation to be through the
"righteousness of God," the plan given through Christ, Paul asks where
is there any room for boasting on the part of man. At least two thoughts
come to mind with this question. First, in what does the Jew have to boast,
seeing the law under which he lived, the law of Moses, is not the way of
salvation? Second, in what does a redeemed soul have to boast as far as
his own merit and goodness is concerned? Salvation is not granted him on
the basis of his merit, but on the merit of the blood of Christ. Indeed,
all boasting "is excluded." If there was to be any boasting at all it would
rather be turned into glorying in the cross of Christ, the very point Paul
makes in Galatians 6:14. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world."
Salvation is neither by the law of
Moses nor by moral law. Both systems rely on man doing good. While men
do much good and must do good, they also do evil. They cannot do enough
good to offset the guilt of the evil they do. All their good will not erase
one transgression. Salvation is not by a law dependent on the meritorious
works of man. It is by the law of faith.
Return in our thoughts to verse twenty-one
of this chapter where Paul had said, "the righteousness of God without
the law is manifested." The article "the" is not found before the word
"law" in the Greek text. We are not to think that no law is involved in
the "righteousness of God." His plan for justifying man involves law. As
stated then, and must be restated in view of the phrase, "the law of faith,"
in verse twenty-seven, there is law involved and this is apparent as Paul
described the plan as "the law of faith." Paul shows that this plan is
separate from the law of Moses and separate from the moral law the Gentiles
had. But he is not saying the way of salvation is totally void of law.
This point must be stressed in view of some false ideas people have that
salvation is by grace or faith alone, and that obedience, even to the law
of faith, is of no real consequence. The "law of faith" is a law, and in
that law are found many commands that will either be obeyed or disobeyed.
When we discuss chapter four regarding Abraham we shall see more clearly
how the "law of faith" includes obeying what the Lord commands.
Having made this plain, then Paul
drew the conclusion that a man is justified by faith. With this none dare
raise objection. Let "every mouth... be stopped" with this affirmation
from inspiration. There is no question but justification is by faith. But
we must ask what this includes. What does this involve? Does this simply
mean giving mental assent to certain truths or does it also include an
obedient response to commands involved in that "law of faith"? It is the
latter. Salvation, shown to be possible through the gospel, is by the kind
of faith that has always been necessary to make men acceptable to God;
namely, an obedient faith. Faith without the works of obedience is a dead
faith (James 2:26). A dead faith will not and cannot save.
But this system of faith is separate
from the deeds of the Mosaic and moral laws and from works of merit that
man might do. It matters not which law is under discussion, the system
of salvation is founded on the blood of Christ. We certainly do not understand
Paul to be saying this "law of faith" would nullify and make unimportant
moral truth, or that one could be immoral and live acceptably under the
"law of faith." God forbid! It simply asserts that the way God justifies
man "at this time" is not by laws previously discussed, but by "the righteousness
29 Is he the God of
the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith,
and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through
faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Getting back to another major theme of
the epistle to the Romans, that of the universality of this gospel plan,
Paul asks if God is the God only of the Jews. Is He not also the God of
the Gentiles? Yes, God is the God of both. God has never been the God for
the Jews only. He did sustain a relationship with the Jews that was special
and for certain purposes, but He has always been the God of the entire
human family. This being true and manifested so obviously now by the universal
offer of salvation and universal conditions of the gospel, there being
one God (one Godhead and divine nature), both the Jew (circumcision) and
the Gentile (uncircumcision) shall be saved the same way, and by the system
of faith, grace, blood, law and obedience.
Paul anticipates a question that may
then arise in the minds of either Jew or Gentile regarding the previous
laws. Does this system of faith make void the law? The answer is, "No."
Notice the real question. It is not
being asked if we make the law of Moses or the moral law of the Gentiles
void by the system of faith. Rather the question is, "Do we make void all
law through faith?" The definite article "the" before "law" is once again
missing in the Greek text. In neither of the two instances where it appears
in the English translation in verse thirty-one does it appear in the Greek
text. This affects the understanding of this passage to some degree and
we might be misled if not cautious and aware of it.
It is plainly stated in other places
that the law of Moses has been made void and abolished (Colossians 2:14;
Ephesians 2:15), in the sense that it is no longer binding upon anybody,
even the Jews, the only ones to whom it was ever applicable. It has been
fulfilled as Jesus said He came to do (Matthew 5:17,18). Paul has just
shown in this chapter how we are justified by faith separate from, and
without, the deeds of former laws. Justification is not founded on deeds,
even though deeds are involved. But now he argues strongly that the system
of faith does not rule out all law and the necessity of obedience to law.
Law means the rule of right. There is law even in the system of faith.
The system of faith is itself a law, the rule of right. Therefore, Paul's
contention for the system of faith does not abolish the principle of law
and the necessity to obey, but rather is a strong contention for law. The
principle of law is firmly established even by the system of faith. Verse
thirty-one read, "Do we then make void law through the faith? God forbid:
yea, we establish law."
Let us investigate this matter even
further by supposing the specific law of Moses is what is meant as the
law that is established. The system of faith established the Mosaic law
in that it is the fulfillment of what "the law and the prophets" (verse
twenty-one) had declared would come to pass. This system of faith is that
to which "the law and the prophets" had borne witness. The coming of the
system of faith proved the Mosaic system was of God.
Then again, let us suppose the moral
law of the Gentiles is the law which the system of faith established. This
is also within good reason and Scriptural affirmation because when one
realizes he needs salvation because he has violated God's moral laws, and
that salvation is in Christ, does he not establish the validity of moral
It slices whatever way you cut it
-- Mosaic law, moral law, or the principle of law itself-- the system of
faith given by and through Christ and based on His blood establishes law.
(The marginal readings in the American
Standard Version take note of the use and non-use of the definite article
"the" as marked in these comments.)
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