|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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Therefore by the deeds of the law,.... Hence it most clearly appears, that there can be no justification before God by the law, since it stops the mouths of men, and pronounces them guilty: by "the deeds of the law" are meant, works done in obedience to it, as performed by sinful men, which are very imperfect; not as performed by Adam in innocence or by Christ in our nature whose works were perfect; but as performed by sinful men and of themselves, and not as performed in and by Christ for them who is the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness to all believers: now by such works as these whether wrought before or after conversion, with or without the strength and grace of Christ,
there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: that is, no one person: "flesh" designs men, and men as corrupt and carnal, in opposition to God, who is a Spirit pure and holy; and may have respect to the vain opinion of Jews and Gentiles, who were vainly puffed up in their fleshly mind; the one on account of their wisdom and learning, the other on account of their righteousness; and includes all the individuals of human nature:, the word "justified", does not signify being made righteous by the infusion of righteousness, for the infusion of a righteousness, or holiness, is sanctification, which is a work of the Spirit of God, is internal, and imperfect, and so not justifying; but it is a forensic word, or legal term, and stands opposed to a being condemned; and signifies to be acquitted, discharged, and made righteous in a legal sense, which can never be done by an imperfect obedience to the law: men may be justified hereby in their own sight, and in the sight of others, but not in "his sight"; in the sight of God, who is omniscient, and sees not as man seeth; who is pure, holy, and righteous, and whose judgment is according to truth: this is said in direct contradiction to the Jews (z), who say,
"a man is not justified for ever, but by the words of the law:''
but in his sight none can be justified, but by the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ. The reason for it is,
for by the law is the knowledge of sin; it discovers to a man, by the light of the Spirit of God, and as under his influence, and attended with his power, the sins both of his heart and life; and so he is convinced by it as a transgressor and finds himself guilty, and liable to condemnation and death; wherefore he can never hope for and expect justification by it. The Jews ascribe such an use as this to the law, which they suppose it performs in a very gentle manner;
"he that rises in the night (say they (a)), and studies in the law, , "the law makes known to him his sin", but not in a way of judgment, but as a mother makes known to her son in tender language:''
but this is generally done in a rougher way, for the law works wrath.
(z) Zohar in Lev. fol. 33. 3.((a) Zohar in Lev. fol. 10. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. Therefore by the deeds of—obedience to
the law there shall no flesh be justified—that is, be held and treated as righteous; as is plain from the whole scope and strain of the argument.
in his sight—at His bar (Ps 143:2).
for by the law is the knowledge of sin—(See on Ro 4:15; Ro 7:7; and 1Jo 3:4).
Note, How broad and deep does the apostle in this section lay the foundations of his great doctrine of Justification by free grace—in the disorder of man's whole nature, the consequent universality of human guilt, the condemnation, by reason of the breach of divine law, of the whole world, and the impossibility of justification before God by obedience to that violated law! Only when these humiliating conclusions are accepted and felt, are we in a condition to appreciate and embrace the grace of the Gospel, next to be opened up.
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