|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verses 19, 20. - Now we know that what things soever the Law (ὁ νόμος here for the Old Testament generally as the embodiment and exponent of the Law) saith, it speaketh to them that are under the Law (not to the world outside, but to those within its own sphere): that every mouth (the Jew's as well as the Gentile's) may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Because by works of law (νόμος here suitably without the article; see on Romans 2:13) shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for through law is knowledge of sin. In this concluding verse the apostle briefly intimates the reason of law's inefficacy for justification, anticipating, after a manner usual with him, what is afterwards to be more fully set forth, as especially in ch. 7. The reason is that law in itself only defines sin and makes it sinful, but does not emancipate from it.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now we know that what things soever the law saith,.... By "the law" is meant, not the law of nature, nor the civil law of nations, nor the ceremonial law of the Jews, nor barely the five books of Moses, nor the book of Psalms, of the Prophets, or the writings of the whole Old Testament; but the moral law, as it appears in the whole word of God, which every man is bound to observe, of which all are transgressors, by which is the knowledge of sin, which no man can be justified by, and which Christ was made under, and came to fulfil. This law is represented as a person speaking, and saying many things, some of which are here mentioned; so, , "the law says" so and so, is an usual phrase with Jewish writers (y). The persons it speaks to, are
them that are under the law; the Jews were in a peculiar sense under it, as it was given to them by Moses; all mankind are under it, as to the matter of it; they are under obligation to obedience to it, and, through disobedience, come under its sentence of condemnation. The elect of God themselves were, and are in some sense under it; not indeed as a covenant of works, or as in the hands of Moses, nor as a yoke of bondage; nor are they obliged to seek for justification by it, and are entirely delivered from the curse and condemnation of it by Christ. They were under it, and that as a covenant of works, as in Adam, the federal head and representative of all mankind; and came under its sentence of condemnation and death, for his sin, and their own actual transgressions; which is consistent with the everlasting love of God to them in Christ, the covenant of grace made with them in him, as their head and surety, and their justification by him: and they are now under it, as in the hands of Christ; and look upon themselves as obliged, by the love of Christ, to yield a cheerful obedience to it: here it means such as are transgressors of the law, and so under obligation to punishment, without any regard to Jew or Gentile, or any distinction God has made in his own breast: and the things it says to such are, it charges them with sin, and convicts them of it, both of its pollution and guilt: so
that every mouth may be stopped; and have nothing to say of the purity of their nature, which appears to be so sadly stained; nor of their works of righteousness, which are so few, and so very imperfect. The law makes such a representation of things to them, that their mouths are stopped from glorying in themselves, and in their works, which are far from being adequate to the demands of the law; and from complaining against the righteous judgment of God, should he proceed against them in the most rigorous manner:
and all the world may become guilty before God; Jews and Gentiles; all the individuals of mankind are guilty before God, and will be found to be so, sooner or later: some read it, "subject to God", and understand it of a subjection to his grace, being brought to see their need of it, and of salvation by it; but this is not the case of all the world, rather signifies a subjection to that justice, vengeance, and wrath of God, to which all men are liable in their own persons; since they are all found guilty by the law, and will appear to be so, and therefore can never be justified by their obedience to it; which is what the apostle is aiming at in all he here says, as appears from what follows; all which "we know" to be true, and are fully assured of, who know the nature and spirituality of the law, and to whom it has come with light and power.
(y) T. Bab. Roshhashanah, fol. 16. 1. Taanith, fol. 21. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Now we know that what … the law—that is, the Scriptures, considered as a law of duty.
saith, it saith to them that are under the law—of course, therefore, to the Jews.
that every mouth—opened in self-justification.
may be stopped, and all the world may become—that is, be seen to be, and own itself.
guilty—and so condemned
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