Romans 3:1
What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
III.

(1-8) Continuing the subject, but with a long digression in Romans 3:3 et seq. The Apostle asks, What is the real value of these apparent advantages? He is about to answer the question fully, as he does later in Romans 9:4-5; but after stating the first point, he goes off upon a difficulty raised by this, and does not return to complete what he had begun. This, again, is characteristic of his ardent and keenly speculative mind. Problems such as those which he discusses evidently have a fascination for him, and lead him, here as elsewhere, at once to leave the immediate subject before him, and to enter eagerly into the discussion of them. A more lethargic or timid brain would be under no such temptation.

One real and solid advantage on the part of the Jew was that he was made the direct recipient of the divine revelation. This privilege of his is not annulled by the defection of a part of the people. It rests not upon the precarious fidelity of men, but upon the infallible promise of God. Yet is not the ultimate triumph of that promise any excuse for those who have set it at nought. They will be punished just the same, and rightly. Otherwise there could be no judgment at all. The casuistical objection that sin loses its guilt if it redounds to God’s glory, or, in other words, that the end justifies the means, carries with it its own condemnation.

Romans 3:1-2. What advantage then hath the Jew? — The foregoing reasonings being contrary to the prejudices of the Jews, one of that nation is here introduced objecting, If our being the children of Abraham, members of the church of God, and heirs of the promises, will procure us no favour at the judgment, — and if the want of these privileges will not preclude the heathen from salvation; — or, If it be so that God looks only at the heart, and does not regard persons for their external privileges, what is the pre-eminence of a Jew above a Gentile, and, (for there are two questions here asked,) what profit is there of circumcision — And of the other ritual services which are enjoined in the law? To the first of these questions the apostle answers in this chapter, and to the second in chap. 4., beginning at Romans 3:11. Much every way — Or in every respect. The respects in which the Jews were superior to the Gentiles are enumerated Romans 9:4-5, where see the notes. Chiefly, because unto them were committed the oracles of God — The Scriptures, in which are contained great and important truths, precepts, and promises. This prerogative Paul here singles out, by which, after removing the objection, he convicts them so much the more. “The Greeks used the word λογια, oracles, to denote the responses which their deities, or rather their priests, made to those who consulted them, especially if they were delivered in prose: for, as Beza observes, they gave a different name, χρησμοι, to such responses as were uttered in verse. Here oracles denote the whole of the divine revelations; and, among the rest, the law of Moses, which Stephen calls λογια ζωντα, living oracles, Acts 7:18, because God spake that law in person. All the revelations of God to mankind, from the beginning of the world to his own times, Moses, by the inspiration of God, committed to writing; and what further revelations God was pleased to make to mankind during the subsistence of the Jewish Church, he made by prophets, who recorded them in books; and the whole was intrusted to the Jews, to be kept for their own benefit and for the benefit of the world. Now, this being the chief of all their advantages, as Jews, it alone is mentioned here by the apostle. In like manner, the psalmist has mentioned the word of God as the distinguishing privilege of the Israelites, Psalm 147:19, He hath showed his word unto Jacob, &c. He hath not dealt so with any nation. The benefits which the Jews derived from the oracles of God, the apostle had no occasion to explain here, because they were all introduced in the boasting of the Jew, described Romans 2:17-23.” — Macknight.3:1-8 The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation. Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favours shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many. But especially the Scriptures were committed to them. Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people. But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect. He will fulfil his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers. God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice. The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin. Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways. The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just.What advantage ... - The design of the first part of this chapter is to answer some of the objections which might be offered by a Jew to the statements in the last chapter. The first objection is stated in this verse. A Jew would naturally ask, if the view which the apostle had given were correct, what special benefit could the Jew derive from his religion? The objection would arise particularly from the position advanced Romans 2:25-26, that if a pagan should do the things required by the Law, he would be treated as "if" he had been circumcised. Hence, the question, "what profit is there of circumcision?" CHAPTER 3

Ro 3:1-8. Jewish Objections Answered.

1, 2. What advantage then hath the Jew?—that is, "If the final judgment will turn solely on the state of the heart, and this may be as good in the Gentile without, as in the Jew within, the sacred enclosure of God's covenant, what better are we Jews for all our advantages?"

Answer:Romans 3:1,2 The Jew’s prerogative,

Romans 3:3,4 which is not vacated by the unbelief of some,

Romans 3:5-8 nor is God’ s justice impeached in punishing their sinfulness.

Romans 3:9-19 The law itself convinceth the Jews also universally of sin,

Romans 3:20 so that no flesh is justified by the deeds of the law,

Romans 3:21-30 but all indiscriminately by God’s grace through faith in Christ,

Romans 3:31 yet without annulling the obligations of the law.

What advantage then hath the Jew? An elegant prolepsis or anticipation of what might be objected against the apostle’s assertion in the foregoing words. If the Jews (might some object) lie equally exposed to condemnation with the Gentiles, then they have no excellency above them. Or thus, If external things do not commend us to God, (as it is affirmed, Romans 2:28,29), but the Gentiles are brought into the church without them, then the Jews have no prerogative above the Gentiles, though God hath owned them so long for his peculiar people.

What profit is there of circumcision? i.e. what is the use of it, or for what end was it instituted, seeing the uncircumcised are brought in and accepted, as being circumcised notwithstanding, and clean in heart?

What advantage then hath the Jew?.... If he is not properly a Jew, who is born of Jewish parents, and brought up in the customs, rites, and religion of the Jewish nation, but anyone of whatsoever nation, that is born again of water, and of the Spirit; where is the superior excellency of the Jew to the Gentile? A man may as well be born and brought up a Heathen as a Jew; the one has no more advantages than the other by his birth and education: it may be rendered, "what hath the Jew more?" or "what has he superfluous" or "abundant?" the phrase answers to the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes 1:3, which is rendered, "what profit hath a man?" and in Ecclesiastes 6:8, , "what hath a wise man more", &c. and in Romans 3:11, , "what is a man better?" the first of these passages the Septuagint render by , "what abundance?" and the last by "what more", or "superfluous", or "abundant?" the phrase used by the apostle here:

or what profit is there of circumcision? since that which is outward in the flesh profits not unless the law is kept, otherwise circumcision is no circumcision; and if an uncircumcised Gentile keeps the law, he is a better man than a circumcised Jew; yea, he judges and condemns him; for the only true circumcision is internal, spiritual, and in the heart. To this the apostle answers in the Romans 3:2.

What {1} advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

(1) The first address to the Jews, or the first anticipating of an objection by the Jews: what then, are the Jews preferred no more than the Gentiles? Indeed, they are, says the apostle, by the doing of God, for he committed the tables of the covenant to them, so that the unbelief of a few cannot cause the whole nation without exception to be cast away by God, who is true, and who also uses their unworthiness to commend and set forth his goodness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
,[730] 2

[730] On chap. 3 see Matthias, exeget. Abhandlung über vv. 1–20 (a school-programme), Hanau 1851; and the same author’s work: das dritte Kap. d. Br. an d. Röm., ein exeg. Versuch, Cassel 1857; James Morison, A critical exposition of the Third Chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Lond. 1866.

Romans 3:1,[731] 2. As an inference (οὖν) from Romans 2:28-29, the objection might now be made from the Jewish standpoint against the Apostle, that he quite does away with the advantage of Judaism and the benefit of circumcision. This objection he therefore raises in his own person, in order to remove it himself immediately, Romans 3:2 ff.

τὸ περισσὸν Κ.Τ.Λ[732]] the superiority (Matthew 5:47; Matthew 11:9; Plat. Ap. S. p. 20 C; Lucian. Prom. 1; Plut. Demosth. 3) of the Jew, i.e. what he has as an advantage over the Gentile, the Jewish surplus. The following (or, to express it in other words) τίς ἡ ὠφέλ. τ. περιτ. presents substantially the same question in a more specific form.

πολύ] Much, namely, is the περισσόν of the Jew or the benefit of circumcision.[733] The neuter comprehends the answer to both; and it must not therefore be said that it applies only to the first question, leaving the second without further notice. It is moreover clear from what precedes and follows, that Paul meant the ΠΕΡΙΣΣΌΝ not in a moral, but in a theocratic sense; comp Romans 9:4 f.

ΚΑΤᾺ ΠΆΝΤΑ ΤΡΌΠΟΝ] in every way (Xen. Anab. vi. 6, 30), in whatever light the matter may be considered. See examples in Wetstein. The opposite: κατʼ οὐδένα τρόπον, 2Ma 11:31; Polyb. iv. 84, 8, viii. 27, 2. It is an undue anticipation to take the expression as hyperbolical (Reiche), since we do not know how the detailed illustration, which is only begun, would be further pursued.

πρῶτον] first of all, firstly, it is a prerogative of the Jew, or advantage of circumcision, that etc. The Apostle consequently begins to illustrate the πολύ according to its individual elements, but, just after mentioning the first point, is led away by a thought connected with it, so that all further enumeration (possibly by ΕἾΤΑ, Xen. Mem. iii. 6, 9) is dropped, and not, as Grotius strangely thinks, postponed to Romans 9:4. Compare on Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 11:18. As the μέν was evidently meant to be followed by a corresponding ΔΈ, it was a mere artificial explaining away of the interruption of the discourse, to render ΠΡῶΤΟΝ praecipue (Beza, Calvin, Toletus, Estius, Calovius, Wolf, Koppe, Glöckler, and others; compare also Hofmann: “before all things”), or to say with Th. Schott, that it indicates the basis from which the πολύ follows.

ὅτι ἐπιστ. τ. λόγια τ. Θεοῦ] that they (the Jews) were entrusted with the utterances of God, namely, in the holy Scriptures given to them, devoutly to preserve these λόγια as a Divine treasure, and to maintain them for all ages of God’s people as their and their children’s (comp Acts 2:39) possession. On the Greek form of expression ΠΙΣΤΕΎΟΜΑΊ ΤΙ (1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7), see Winer, p. 244 [E. T. 326].

ΤᾺ ΛΌΓΙΑ Τ. ΘΕΟῦ] eloquia Dei. That by this general expression (χρησμοὺς αὐτοίς ἄνωθεν κατηνεχθέντας, Chrysostom), which always receives its more precise definition from the context (Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11; compare the passages from the Septuagint in Schleusner, Thes. III. p. 464, from Philo in Loesner, p. 248; and see especially Bleek on Heb. II. 2, p. 114 f.), Paul means here κατʼ ἐξοχὴν the Messianic prophetic-utterances, is shown by Romans 3:3, where the ἀπιστία of the Jews leaves no room for mistake as to the contents of the ΛΌΓΙΑ. Compare ΑἹ ἘΠΑΓΓΕΛΊΑΙ, Romans 9:4. These ΛΌΓΙΑ Τ. ΘΕΟῦ are contained not merely in the prophets proper (Acts 3:24), but even in the Pentateuch (covenant with Abraham, the promise of Moses); yet the law is not meant, nor even jointly included (Matthias), against which Romans 3:3 testifies. Just as little is there meant: all making known of God in the history of salvation” (Hofmann), which is too general, and is extended by Hofmann even to the New Testament revelations. Regarding the classic use of λόγια,[736] prophecies, see Krüger on Thuc. ii. 8, 2, and generally Locella, a[737] Xen. Eph. p. 152 f.

[731] On chap. 3 see Matthias, exeget. Abhandlung über vv. 1–20 (a school-programme), Hanau 1851; and the same author’s work: das dritte Kap. d. Br. an d. Röm., ein exeg. Versuch, Cassel 1857; James Morison, A critical exposition of the Third Chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Lond. 1866.

[732] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[733] This answer is the Apostle’s, not the reply of a Jew asserting his περισσόν, whom Paul then interrupts in ver. 4 with μὴ γένοιτο (Baur in the theol. Jahrb. 1857, p. 69)—a breaking up of the text into dialogue, which is neither necessary nor in any way indicated, and which is not supported by any analogy of other passages. According to Mehring Paul has written ver. 2, and in fact onward to ver. 8, as the sentiments of a Jew to be summarily dealt with, who in πρῶτον had it in view to enumerate yet further advantages, but whose mouth was closed by ver. 9. The unforced exposition of the successive verses does not permit this view; and Romans 2:25-29 is not at variance with ver. 2, but, on the contrary, leaves sufficiently open to the Apostle the recognition of Jewish privileges, which he begins to specify; comp. Romans 2:25 and Romans 9:4 f.

[736] The word is not a diminutive form (Philippi, who finds in it the usual brevity of oracular utterances), but the neuter form of λόγιος. The diminutive conception, little utterances, is expressed not by λόγιον, but by λογίδιον, Plat. Eryx. p. 401 E. This applies also in opposition to Morison.

[737] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.Romans 3:1-8. It might easily seem, at this point, as if the Apostle’s argument had proved too much. He has shown that the mere possession of the law does not exempt the Jew from judgment, but that God requires its fulfilment; he has shown that circumcision in the flesh, seal though it be of the covenant and pledge of its promises, is only of value if it represent inward heart circumcision; he has, it may be argued, reduced the Jew to a position of entire equality with the Gentile. But the consciousness of the Jewish race must protest against such a conclusion. “Salvation is of the Jews” is a word of Christ Himself, and the Apostle is obliged to meet this instinctive protest of the ancient people of God. The whole of the difficulties it raises are more elaborately considered in chaps. 9–11; here it is only discussed so far as to make plain that it does not invalidate the arguments of chap. 2, nor bar the development of the Apostle’s theology. The advantage of the Jew is admitted; it is admitted that his unbelief may even act as a foil to God’s faithfulness, setting it in more glorious relief; but it is insisted, that if God’s character as righteous judge of the world is to be maintained—as it must be—these admissions do not exempt the Jew from that liability to judgment which has just been demonstrated. The details of the interpretation, especially in Romans 3:7 f., are somewhat perplexed.Ch. Romans 3:1-2. The advantage of the Jew: Revelation

1. What advantage] Lit. what excess, i. e. of privilege.

St Paul here corrects, though only in passing, the possible inference from the previous passage that circumcision was valueless in all respects, and that the Jew as such had nothing special to thank God for. It is remarkable that his chief reply to such a thought lies in the fact that the Old Covenant secured the immense practical benefit of Revelation. (Cp. Psalm 103:7.) This correction is aside from the main argument of this part of the Epistle, in which St Paul aims to prove the equality of Jew and Gentile not in respect of privilege but in respect of reality of guilt, and of need of a Divine justification. Yet even here the main argument is not forgotten: the gift of Scripture brings the responsibility of the Jew into the fullest light. His “advantage” is his accusation.Romans 3:1. Τί, what). Paul’s usual form of bringing in an objection.—οὖν) then. Since circumcision is unprofitable without observing the law, and since being a Jew outwardly is of no avail, what advantage does the latter possess, and of what profit is the former? It therefore must follow, that the Jews have no peculiar privileges whatever. Paul denies this conclusion. There are innumerable exceptions taken against the doctrine set forth in this epistle, by the perverseness of the Jews, and of mankind at large; but Paul sweeps them all away.—τὸ τερισσὸν, peculiar advantage), יתר, over [as compared with] the Gentiles. This point is taken up at Romans 3:2ὠφέλεια τῆς περιτομῆς, the profit of circumcision) See on this subject ch. Romans 2:25.Verses 1-8. - (2) Certain objections with regard to the Jews suggested and met. In this passage, before proceeding with his argument, the apostle meets certain objections that might be made to what has been so far said. Some difficulty in determining his exact meaning arises from the concise and pregnant form in which the objections are put and answered, and from fresh ones arising out of the answers, which have also to be met. The objections are from the Jewish standpoint, though not put into the mouth of an objecting Jew, but rather suggested as likely ones by St. Paul himself. To the original readers of the Epistle, who were familiar with the tone of Jewish thought, the sequence of the ideas would probably be more obvious than to us. Reserving special consideration of successive clauses for our exposition of each verse, we may, in the first place, exhibit thus the general drift. Objection 1 (ver. 1). If being a Jew, if circumcision itself, gives one no advantage over the Gentile, what was the use of the old covenant at all? It is thus shown to have been illusory; and God's own truth and faithfulness are impugned, if he is supposed to have given, as conveying advantages, what really conveyed none. (This last thought, though not expressed, must be supposed to be implied in the objection, since it is replied to in the answer.) Answer (vers. 2-4).

(1) It was not illusory; it did convey great advantages in the way of privilege and opportunity; this advantage first, not to mention other. that "the oracles of God" were entrusted to the Jew. And

(2) if some (more or fewer, it matters not) have failed to realize these advantages, it has been their fault, not God's. It is man's unfaithfulness, not his, that has been the cause of the failure. Nay, though, according to the hasty saying of the psalmist, all men were false, God's truth remains; nay, further, as is expressed in another psalm (Psalm 51.), man's very unfaithfulness is found to commend his faithfulness the more, and redound to his greater glory. Objection 2 (ver. 5). Based on the last assertion. But if man's unfaithfulness has this result, how can God, consistently with his justice, be wrath with us and punish us for it? Surely the Jew (whose case we are now considering) may claim exemption from "the wrath" of God spoken of above, his unfaithfulness being allowed to have served only to establish God's truth and to enhance his glory. Answer (ver. 6-8). I have suggested this objection as though the matter could be regarded from a mere human point of view, as though it were one between man and man; for it is true that a man cannot justly take vengeance on another who has not really harmed him. But such a view is inapplicable to God in his dealings with man; it does not touch our doctrine of his righteous wrath against sin as such. I can only meet it with a μὴ γένοιτο. For

(1) it would preclude God from judging the world at all, as we all believe he will do. Any heathen sinner might put in the same plea, saying, Why am I too (κἀγὼ) judged as a sinner? Nay,

(2) since it involves the principle of sin being evil, not in itself, but only with regard to its consequences, it would, if carried out, justify the odious view (which we Christians are by some falsely accused of holding) that we may do evil that good may come. Verses 1, 2. - What advantage then hath the Jew! or what is the profit of circumcision! Much (πολὺ, a neuter adjective, agreeing with τὸ περισσὸν) every way (not by all means; the meaning is that in all respects the position of the Jew is an advantageous one): first (rather than chiefly, as in the Authorized Version. One point of advantage is specified, which might have been followed by a secondly and a thirdly, etc. But the writer stops here, the mention of this first being sufficient for his purpose. Others are enumerated, so as to elucidate the purport of κατὰ πάντα τρύπον, in ch. 9:4, 5) for that they (the Jews) were entrusted with the oracles of God. The word λόγια (always used in the plural in the New Testament) occurs also in Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11. Of these passages the most apposite is Acts 7:38, where the Divine communications to Moses on Mount Sinai are spoken of as λόγια ζῶντα (cf. Numbers 24:4, 16, where Balaam speaks of himself as ἀκούων λόγια Θεοῦ). Some (as Meyer), in view of the supposed, reference in the following verse to the Jews rejection of the gospel, take the word λόγια here to mean especially the revealed promises of the Redeemer. But neither the word itself nor its use elsewhere suggests any such limited meaning; nor does the context really require it. It may denote generally the Divine revelations of the Old Testament, which, for the eventual benefit of mankind, had been entrusted exclusively to the Jews. Advantage (περισσὸν)

Lit., surplus. Hence prerogative or pre-eminence.

Profit (ὠφέλεια)

Compare profiteth, Romans 2:25.

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