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Verses 1-31

The New Way of Acceptance with God

In Romans 1, 2 St. Paul has shown that both Gentile and Jew have sinned wilfully, and are under God’s condemnation. He now digresses to Jewish objections against the gospel, which he had, no doubt, heard urged in synagogues (Romans 3:1-8). Returning to the main subject, he clinches his indictment of the Jew out of the Scriptures, and concludes that all the world is ’under the judgment of God’ (Romans 3:9-20).

Having thus shown that man is sinful and lost, he now proceeds to set forth the gospel. God has provided a way by which acceptance, springing from God’s love, and secured by the redemptive work of Christ, is granted to all who have faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-26). Thus acceptance depends upon faith, not upon human merit (Romans 3:27-28), and is open to all (Romans 3:29-30). At the same time, faith leads to true obedience (Romans 3:31).

1-8. Jewish objections answered.

Paraphrase. ’(1) You may say: If those only are God’s people who are so inwardly and spiritually, what advantage is it to be a Jew? (2) I reply: Much; to begin with, God’s Word with its precious promises was entrusted to them. (3) And since that is so, will God break His word because some have shown their want of faith by rejecting Christ? (4) Impossible! Whoever be false, God will be found true, His promises will be justified and His conduct vindicated. (5) You may say: If this be so, our sin in rejecting Christ has made God’s faithfulness to His promises clear, and it is unjust of Him (humanly speaking) to punish us. (6) I reply: Horrible! On your grounds no sin would be punished. (7) If you plead: This is an exceptional case. My sin has glorified God by showing how He keeps His word: (8) why should I not be accepted by Him equally with the Christians, who say, as I say, let us do evil that good may come? I can only reply: Such a principle is to be condemned, and to impute it to us is slanderous.’

2. Much] cp. Romans 9:4. Oracles] i.e. the utterances of God in the OT.

3. Did not believe] RV ’were without faith.’ Unbelief] RV ’want of faith.’ Faith] RV ’faithfulness.’

4. God forbid] lit. ’let it not be.’ Written] Psalms 51:4. Art judged] RV ’comest into judgment.’

5. Taketh vengeance] RV ’visiteth with wrath.’ As a man] RV ’after the manner of men,’ i.e. speaking of the dealings of God as if they were the dealings of men: cp. Galatians 3:15.

7. For] RV ’but.’

8. Evil] St. Paul said, ’We are not justified because of what we do.’ His adversaries represented him as saying, ’It does not matter what we do’: cp. Romans 3:31, Romans 6:1, Romans 6:15. Whose, etc.] i.e. those who hold such a principle as ’let us do evil,’ etc., will be condemned, and that justly. Damnation] RV ’condemnation.’

9-20. Jewish Scriptures testify to Jewish sin.

Paraphrase. ’(9) What follows then? We Jews have advantages over the Gentles, but are we better than they? By no means. The charge I laid was against Jew as well as Gentile, that both are under the power of sin. (10-18) The Scriptures make the same charge, Psalmist and Prophet alike speak of universal corruption. (19) Such passages exclude self-justification on the part of the Jews, and prove the guilt of mankind against God. (20) This must always be so; weak, sinful man can never attain to acceptance with God through obedience to law; law, since it is never kept, cannot secure righteousness, it can only convict of sin.’

9. Proved] RV ’laid to the charge.’

10-18. From Psalms 5:9; Psalms 10:7; Psalms 14:1.; Psalms 36:1; Psalms 140:3; Isaiah 59:7.

19. Them who are under the law] i.e. the Jews. Become guilty before] RV ’be brought under the judgment of.’

20. Therefore] RV ’because.’ The deeds of the law] RM ’works of law,’ i.e. done to merit salvation by fulfilling an appointed task: cp. Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:19, Galatians 3:21. ’Law is a factor in the moral life fitted to acquaint the intellect with the divine standard of conduct, but incapable of bringing the life of man into harmony with its precepts’ (Robertson, HDB.). No flesh] cp. Psalms 143:2.

21-26. The way of acceptance declared in the Christian message is independent of law (Romans 3:21), a free gift from God through faith in Christ (Romans 3:22-24), and made possible because Christ’s death was propitiatory (Romans 3:25-26).

Paraphrase. ’(21) We have seen that by obedience to law none can enter into acceptance with God because none have rendered it. Now a way of acceptance has been revealed which has nothing to do with law, to which both Law and Prophets bear witness. (22) God accepts all, without distinction, who have devoted their hearts to Jesus Christ. (23) I say all, and the want is universal. All alike have sinned, and feel far off from God. (24) But God’s gracious favour is such, that He accepts them without question of merit, through the deliverance from sin and its penalty which Christ purchased, and which we receive by union with Him. (25) For on the Cross He offered up His life, to restore to the favour of God all who by faith appropriate that offering. In that awful spectacle God manifested His righteous displeasure against sin, forbidding us to attribute to indifference the forbearance by which He passed over, without adequate punishment, sins committed before Christ came. (26) In the death of Christ He so then displayed, I say, His judgment against sin, that now the perfect holiness of His character is vindicated, and He can also accept those who have faith in Jesus.’

21. Now] i.e. under the gospel. The righteousness, etc.] RV ’apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested’: cp. Romans 1:17. ’A righteousness of God,’ i.e. a way of acceptance which God has provided. Manifested] i.e. in the Person and work of Christ: cp. 2 Timothy 1:10. Witnessed] i.e. by types and promises.

22. Faith of] RV ’faith in’: cp. Galatians 2:16. This further defines the ’righteousness’ spoken of. The means by which it is received is faith in Christ, and it is given to all who have such faith. Faith is ’man’s trustful acceptance of God’s gift, rising to absolute self-surrender, culminating in personal union with Christ, working within.. as a spirit of new life’ (Farrar, ’St. Paul,’ p. 473). Difference] RV ’distinction.’

23. Come short] The Gk. word, which means ’to feel one’s need,’ is that used in Luke 15:14 of the Prodigal. Glory of God] i.e. the divine perfection, which is manifested in Christ (cp. 2 Corinthians 4:6), and which shines upon man and transfigures him into the likeness of Christ, partially now, and completely hereafter: cp. Luke 8:18; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2.

24. Justified] i.e. declared or accounted righteous, as by a judge; accepted: refers to ’them that believe,’ Romans 3:22. God can justly declare a sinner righteous who has faith in Christ because his face is turned to the light; he is in sympathy with Christ, and desires to follow His example. Grace] see on Romans 1:5. Redemption] ’Redemption’ means, (1) deliverance from bondage by payment of ransom: cp. Leviticus 25:48; (2) deliverance in general, as of Israel from Egypt: cp. Exodus 6:6. Christ redeemed us from sin and its penalties: cp. Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14. The ransom was His life, not considered as paid to any one, but as the price which it cost Him to procure our deliverance (cp. Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6) and to restore us to God: cp. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:22. In Christ Jesus] see paraphrase. The form ’Christ Jesus’ (not ’Jesus Christ’) always refers to the glorified Christ.

25. Propitiation] i.e. that which makes it possible for God to be propitious, or favourable to man. In his blood] RV ’by his blood,’ i.e. Christ became a propitiation by shedding His blood. Declare] RV ’shew,’ for, otherwise, it might have been doubted. For the remission, etc.] RV ’because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime’: cp. Acts 17:30. ’Passing over,’ i.e. temporary suspension of punishment (Sanday and Headlam).

Forbearance] i.e. temporary suspension of anger.

27-31. Since salvation is by faith, it follows that no claim can be made on the ground of human merit (Romans 3:27-28), that Jew and Gentile are on the same footing (Romans 3:29-30), and that law becomes fulfilled at last (Romans 3:31).

Paraphrase. ’(27) It is plain that the gospel way of salvation by faith leaves no room for reliance upon privilege or merits, (28) for man is accepted through reliance upon his Saviour, not upon himself. (29) It is also plain that Jew and Gentile are on the same footing before God, (30) for there is one God for all, and He accepts all men on the same condition, viz. faith. (31) Some say that by preaching salvation through faith alone we abolish law. On the contrary, we set the principle that God’s will must be done on a firmer basis.’

27. Boasting] cp. Romans 2:1, Romans 2:23. The law] RV ’a law,’ i.e. system.

28. Therefore] RM ’for.’

Without] RV ’apart from.’

30. Circumcision] i.e. Jews. Uncircumcision] i.e. Gentiles.

By.. through] The Judaistic Christians seem to have held that they were justified on account of (’by’) circumcision and obedience to the Law, if they had faith (’through faith’); but that Gentiles were justified on account of (’by’) faith, if, in addition, they were circumcised and obeyed the Law (’through law’). St. Paul rejoins that justification depends on faith alone; Jew and Gentile alike are justified both ’by’ and ’through’ faith: cp. Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16.

31. The law] RM ’law.’ God’s will is brought out more fully in the gospel (cp. Matthew 5:17.), and the believer is enabled to fulfil it: cp. 6, Romans 8:4; Galatians 2:19.

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