Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?CHAPTER 3:1-20
A number of objections are next raised and answered. “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” Such would be the natural question of the Jew after reading the argument that the Jew is on the same level with the Gentile. This objection is stated here for the first time. It is important, for the Jews are God’s chosen people and as the Apostle states later, to them belongs “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises” (Romans 9:4). If God puts Jews and Gentiles upon the same footing, what then becomes of all these peculiar blessings promised to the Jews? And in chapter 11 the question comes up again. “I say then hath God cast away His people?” What superiority then hath the Jew” This question of a supposed objection is at once answered. The advantage of the Jew is “much every way.” The chief advantage is stated “unto them were committed the oracles of God.” They possessed what the Gentiles did not have, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. What we call now the Old Testament is therefore the Word of God, in which God spoke to His covenant people. And in these oracles of God are found the great promises for that race, which await their glorious fulfillment in the day of their national restoration.
Another objection comes next. And this is also met and answered (Romans 3:3-4). All did not believe, but that does not make the faithfulness of God void for those who do believe. God does not fail those who put their trust in Him, because others did not believe. Part of the answer is from David’s penitential Psalm (Psalm 51:4). David justified God, declared that He was true and then condemned himself. In the day of judgment it will be found that God is true and every man a liar. But this second objection leads to still another one, which is also answered by the Apostle (Romans 3:5-6). But if our unrighteousness commend God’s righteousness, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who inflicteth wrath? If that were true, that He needs our sins for the praise of His righteousness “then how shall God judge the world?” But more than that. They had accused the Apostle and others of saying, “Let us do evil, that good may come.” If it were true that our unrighteousness commends God’s righteousness, then this slanderous statement would be perfectly right. For if our sins help to glorify God, why should we be judged for them? But the Apostle brands it as utterly false. For those who sin on such a principle awaits a damnation (judgment) which is just.
We have seen that the previous verses considered possible objections to the arguments of the preceding chapter. Romans 3:1-8 have therefore a parenthetical character. And now we come to the summary. Gentiles and Jews were proved to be absolutely unrighteous and therefore guilty and lost. The judgment wrath of a righteous God is upon them who had no law and upon them who possessed the law. The verdict of the Oracles of God is given. The following Scripture passages are quoted to confirm all that has been said: Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3; Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; Psalm 36:1. The whole human race is proved to be negatively and positively bad; nothing good and everything bad is in man. Read carefully these positive statements. We need to be reminded of them in a day when almost universally the truth of man’s lost condition is disbelieved, and when religious teachers constantly speak of “a better self,” “a divine spark,” “the germ of good”; when thousands follow the unscriptural teaching of a Fatherhood of God apart from true and saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Therefore read what God saith about the condition of his fallen creature. “There is none righteous, no, not one”;--”There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God”;--”there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” How positive are these statements. And it is blessed to read in the Scriptures that God knows all the depths of sin into which we have been plunged. God knows all, and here He shows us the true picture of ourselves. “Wherefore by works of law shall no flesh be justified before Him; for through law is knowledge of sin.” Men try to do something to meet God’s requirements, but they cannot do that. All human efforts in doing good works are futile. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God. By deeds of law, all kinds of religious observances and good works, no flesh shall be justified before Him. Thus ends the revelation concerning man guilty and lost. The whole world is proved under sin. Man cannot save himself. If there is salvation, it must come from God. Upon this dark, dreary background a righteous God now flashes forth the wonderful story of redeeming love.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;3. The Righteousness of God Revealed.
Justification, what it is and what it Includes. Chapter 3:21-5:11.
And now God comes forward and manifests His righteousness. Romans 3:21 must be connected with Romans 1:17. As previously stated chapter 1:18-3.20 is a parenthesis proving all the world destitute of righteousness and therefore guilty. Righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel was the statement in chapter 1:17 and it is this which is brought more fully in view. The term “Righteousness of God” is much misunderstood. Not a few think it is the righteousness of Christ (a term nowhere used in Scripture) which is attributed to the believing sinner. They teach that Christ fulfilled the law, lived a perfect life on earth and that this righteousness is given to the sinner. All this is unscriptural. Righteousness cannot be bestowed by the law in any sense of the word. If the holy life of the Son of God, lived on earth in perfect righteousness could have saved man and given him righteousness, there was no need for Him to die. “If righteousness came by the law then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). It is God’s righteousness which is now on the side of the believing sinner; the same righteousness which condemns the sinner, covers all who believe. And this righteousness is revealed in the Gospel. God’s righteousness has been fully met and maintained in the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. By that wonderful work God is now enabled to save sinners and to save them righteously. The righteousness of God is therefore first of all revealed in the Gospel of Christ. Apart then from the law, righteousness of God is manifested, the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ. And this righteousness now revealed was also witnessed to by the law and the prophets. The law of the different sacrifices, insufficient in themselves to take away sins, pointed to the great sacrifice, in which God would be fully glorified as well as His righteousness satisfied. There were many types and shadows. Now since the righteousness of God is fully made known in the Gospel we can trace God’s wonderful thoughts and purposes in the types and histories of the Old Testament. To deny that the law testified to the coming redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ is to deny the Gospel itself. And this is done in the camp of higher criticism. But the Prophets also witnessed to it (Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:5-6; Isaiah 51:8; Isaiah 56:8).
It is blessed to see that the Prophet Isaiah who has the most to say concerning the sufferings of Christ, also witnesses to the righteousness which should follow. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:24-25). “A just God and a Saviour” (Isaiah 45:21). “His Name... the Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). The old, old question never fully answered “how should man be just with God?” is now solved. Thus the Oracles of God witness to the righteousness of God. And this righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ is “unto all and upon all them that believe.” It is unto all, which means that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to save all. The whole world may be saved. It is “upon all that believe,” which means that only those who believe on Christ are covered by the righteousness of God and are justified.
“Being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Christ has met all, He paid for all our sins. If we believe on Jesus we are justified freely by His Grace, that is, as a free gift. And justification is acquittal; we are acquitted from sin and from any charge of it. “It is divine righteousness that acts in justifying; righteousness is just that attribute of God which is concerned in it. It is like a broad, effectual shield stretched over the believer, and for all like a house that with its open door invites men to take shelter from the coming storm of judgment.” The redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ has satisfied every claim forever. Christ has paid the price and all who believe are fully acquitted from every charge and penalty. “Whom God hath set forth a mercy seat through faith by His blood.” On the day of atonement on the mercy seat, overshadowed by the Cherubim, the blood was sprinkled. And now the better blood, that which alone can take away sin, is upon the mercy seat, and God is faithful and just on account of that blood, to justify the believer.
“To declare His righteousness in respect of the passing by the sins that had taken place before, through the forbearance of God.” The sins that had taken place before, does not mean the sins committed before the conversion of an individual believer. It means the sins of believers before Christ had come and died. When sins were forgiven in Old Testament times God’s gracious forbearance was manifested, but when Christ had paid the great redemption price, when His blood had been shed, then God’s righteousness was made manifest in having declared righteous believers, who lived before Christ had died. In view of what God’s blessed Son would do, a righteous God forgave the sins of all who believed. And now God is just; His righteousness is unchanged and fully maintained and as the just God He is the justifier of Him that believes on Jesus. The justification of the believer is fully consistent with the righteousness of God. Negatively stated “what if God were not to justify, declare free, a sinner who believes in Jesus?” Then God would not be just to the blood of Christ. And in view of these wonderful revelations of the Gospel of Christ, so far above man’s wisdom, God-like from start to finish, how awful the rejection of this blessed Gospel, as well as the perversion of it! Surely a righteous God must deal with such in judgment of eternal wrath.
Boasting from man’s side is excluded. The law could do nothing but condemn man. The principle of simple faith excludes all boasting. “Not of works lest any man should boast.” It is all of God and therefore all the praise belongs to Him. And there is another question. God justifies the circumcision (the Jews); He justifies the uncircumcision by faith (Gentiles). “Do not we then make void the law by faith? Far be the thought! No, but we establish the law.” The law is not made void but established by the Gospel, not in the sense that it is to help the sinner. The broken law and its curse was borne by Christ; therefore the law has been vindicated as well as the holiness and righteousness of God. The man who tries to be right with God by the works of the law makes the law void, for he will not live up to the letter of the law, as the law demands and excuses his failures at the expense of the law, which is holy and good.