Romans 3:21
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
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(21-26) This then introduces the solemn enunciation, repeated more fully from Romans 1:16-17, of the great subject of the Epistle, the declaration of that new scheme by which, through Christ, God had removed the guilt which the Law (whether Jewish or any other) could not remove.

(21-22) Such was the condition of the world up to the coming of Christ. But now, in contrast with the previous state of things, a new system has appeared upon the scene. In this system law is entirely put on one side, though the system itself was anticipated in and is attested by those very writings in which the Law was embodied. Law is now superseded, the great end of the Law, the introduction of righteousness, being accomplished in another way, viz., through faith in Christ, by which a state of righteousness is superinduced upon all believers.

(21) But now.—In these latter days. The Apostle conceives of the history of the world as divided into periods; the period of the Gospel succeeds that of the Law, and to it the Apostle and his readers belong. (Comp. for this conception of the gospel, as manifested at a particular epoch of time, Romans 16:25-26; Acts 17:30; Galatians 3:23; Galatians 3:25; Galatians 4:3-4; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:21; Colossians 1:26; 1Timothy 2:6; 2Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 1:1; 1Peter 1:20.)

The righteousness of God.—Rather, a righteousness of Godi.e., “bestowed by God,” “wrought out by Him,” as in Romans 1:17. The reference is again, here as there, to the root-conception of righteousness as at once the great object and condition of the Messianic kingdom.

Without the law.—In complete independence of any law, though borne witness to by the Law of Moses. The new system is one into which the idea of law does not enter.

Is manifested.—Hath been, and continues to be manifested. The initial moment is that of the appearance of Christ upon earth. The scheme which then began is still evolving itself.

Being witnessed.—The Apostle does not lose sight of the preparatory function of the older dispensation, and of its radical affinity to the new. (Comp. Romans 1:2; Romans 16:26; Luke 18:31; Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; Luke 24:46; John 5:39; John 5:46; Acts 2:25; Acts 2:31; Acts 3:22; Acts 3:24; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 26:22-23; 1Peter 1:10-11.)

Romans 3:21-24. But now the righteousness of God — That is, the manner of becoming righteous which God hath appointed; without the law — Without that perfect and previous obedience which the law requires; without reference to, or dependance on, the law, ceremonial or moral, revealed or natural; is manifested — In the gospel, being attested by the law and the prophets. The example of Abraham’s justification by faith, recorded Genesis 15:6, and the passage which the apostle quotes, Romans 4:7, from Psalm 32:1-2, as well as that from Habakkuk, quoted Romans 1:17, are clear testimonies, from the law and the prophets, that there is a righteousness without the law, which God accepts; and that the method of justification revealed in the gospel was the method in which men were justified under the law, and before the law: in short, it is the method of justifying sinners, established from the very beginning of the world. Even the righteousness of God — That which God hath appointed to be, by faith of Jesus Christ — By such a firm, hearty, lively belief of Christ’s being what the gospel declares him to be, a divinely-commissioned and infallible Teacher, a prevalent Mediator between God and man; an all- sufficient Saviour, and a righteous Governor; such a belief as produces a sincere confidence in him, a true subjection to him, a conscientious obedience to his laws, and imitation of his example. Unto all — Which way of justification is provided for, and sincerely and freely offered unto all, and is bestowed upon all them that believe — Whether Jews or Gentiles; for there is no difference — Either as to men’s need of justification and salvation, or the manner of attaining it. For all have sinned — In Adam and in their own persons; by a sinful nature, sinful tempers, and sinful actions; and come short of the glory of God — The supreme end of man; short of his image and nature, and communion with him, and the enjoyment of him in heaven. Or, they have failed of rendering him that glory that was so justly his due, and thereby have not only made themselves unworthy the participation of glory and happiness with him, but stand exposed to his severe and dreadful displeasure. The word υσερουνται, here rendered come short, is properly applied to those, whose strength failing them in the race, are left behind. The word, therefore, is very suitable to mankind, who, being weakened by sin, have lost eternal life, the reward which they pursued by their obedience. Being justified — Pardoned and accepted, or accounted righteous; freely, δωρεαν, of free gift, and not through any merit of their own; by his grace — His unmerited favour, his undeserved goodness, and not through their own righteousness or works, in whole or in part. Freely by his grace — One of these expressions might have served to convey the apostle’s meaning: but he doubles his assertion in order to give us the fullest conviction of the truth, and to impress us with a sense of its peculiar importance. It is not possible to find words that should more absolutely exclude all consideration of our own works and obedience, or more emphatically ascribe the whole of our justification to free, unmerited goodness. Through the redemption which is in, or by, Christ Jesus — Procured for them by his death, the price paid for their redemption. The word απολυτρωσις, here and elsewhere rendered redemption, denotes that kind of redemption of a captive from death, which is procured by paying a price for his life. See note on 1 Timothy 2:6. The redemption purchased for us by Christ is deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, and the wrath of God consequent thereon, and from the power of our spiritual enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh. See Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:18-19.

3:21-26 Must guilty man remain under wrath? Is the wound for ever incurable? No; blessed be God, there is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God; righteousness of his ordaining, and providing, and accepting. It is by that faith which has Jesus Christ for its object; an anointed Saviour, so Jesus Christ signifies. Justifying faith respects Christ as a Saviour, in all his three anointed offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him: in all these, Jews and Gentiles are alike welcome to God through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe; not only offered to them, but put upon them as a crown, as a robe. It is free grace, mere mercy; there is nothing in us to deserve such favours. It comes freely unto us, but Christ bought it, and paid the price. And faith has special regard to the blood of Christ, as that which made the atonement. God, in all this, declares his righteousness. It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.But now - The apostle, having shown the entire failure of all attempts to be justified by the "Law," whether among Jews or Gentiles, proceeds to state fully the plan of justification by Jesus Christ in the gospel. To do this, was the main design of the Epistle, Romans 1:17. He makes, therefore, in the close of this chapter, an explicit statement of the nature of the doctrine; and in the following parts of the Epistle he fully proves it, and illustrates its effects.

The righteousness of God - God's plan of justifying people; see the note at Romans 1:17.

Without the law - In a way different from personal obedience to the Law. It does not mean that God abandoned his Law; or that Jesus Christ did not regard the Law, for he came to "magnify" it Isaiah 42:21; or that sinners after they are justified have no regard to the Law; but it means simply what the apostle had been endeavoring to show, that justification could not be accomplished by personal obedience to any law of Jew or Gentile, and that it must be accomplished in some other way.

Being witnessed - Being borne witness to. It was not a new doctrine; it was found in the Old Testament. The apostle makes this observation with special reference to the Jews. He does not declare any new thing, but that which was rally declared in their own sacred writings.

By the law - This expression here evidently denotes, as it did commonly among the Jews, the five books of Moses. And the apostle means to say that this doctrine was found in those books; not that it was in the Ten Commandments, or in the Law, strictly so called. It is not a part of "law" to declare justification except by strict and perfect obedience. That it was found "in" those books; the apostle shows by the case of Abraham; Romans 4; see also his reasoning on Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 30:12-14, in Romans 10:5-11; compare Exodus 34:6-7.

And the prophets - Generally, the remainder of the Old Testament. The phrase "the Law and the prophets" comprehended the whole of the Old Testament; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 11:13; Matthew 22:40; Acts 13:15; Acts 28:23. That this doctrine was contained in the prophets, the apostle showed by the passage quoted from Habakkuk 2:4, in Romans 1:17, "The just shall live by faith." The same thing he showed in Romans 10:11, from Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 49:23; Romans 4:6-8, from Psalm 32:1-11. The same thing is fully taught in Isaiah 53:11; Daniel 9:24. Indeed, the general tenor of the Old Testament - the appointment of sacrifices, etc. taught that man was a sinner, and that he could not be justified by obedience to the moral law.

Ro 3:21-26. God's Justifying Righteousness through Faith in Jesus Christ, Alike Adapted to Our Necessities and Worthy of Himself.

21-23. But now the righteousness of God—(See on [2189]Ro 1:17).

without the law—that is, a righteousness to which our obedience to the law contributes nothing whatever (Ro 3:28; Ga 2:16).

is manifested, being witnessed—attested.

by the law and the prophets—the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus this justifying righteousness, though new, as only now fully disclosed, is an old righteousness, predicted and foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

But now: q.d. Though justification be not by the law, yet it is to be obtained in another way, as follows.

The righteousness of God: see Romans 1:17.

Without the law; inasmuch as the law, pressing obedience to be performed by us in our own persons, seems plainly ignorant of the righteousness of another imputed to us.

Is manifested; this righteousness nevertheless is revealed plainly, now since the coming of Christ, and in the gospel, as in Romans 1:17.

Being witnessed by the law and the prophets; that there may be no suspicion of novelty: see John 5:46,47. The testimonies be refers to are very numerous: see Genesis 3:15 15:6 22:17,18 Isa 53 Jer 31:31,33 Da 9:24,25. See the same argument used, Acts 24:14 26:22 28:23.

But now the righteousness of God,.... The apostle having proved that all men are unrighteous, and that no man can be justified in the sight of God by his obedience, either to the law of nature or of Moses, proceeds to give an account of that righteousness, which does justify before God; and so returns to his former subject, Romans 1:17, concerning "the righteousness of God", the revelation of which he makes to be peculiar to the Gospel, as he does here; since he says, that it

without the law is manifested: meaning, either that this righteousness is without the law, and the deeds of it, as performed by sinful men; or that the manifestation of it is without the law, either of nature or of Moses; for the law discovers sin, but not a righteousness which justifies from sin; it shows what righteousness is, but does not direct the sinner where there is one to be had, that will make him righteous in the sight of God: this is made known without the law, and only in the Gospel:

being witnessed by the law and the prophets; a testimony is borne to the justifying righteousness of Christ both "by the law", particularly in the five books of Moses; which testify of Christ, of his obedience, sufferings, and death, by which he brought in life and righteousness; see Genesis 3:15, compared with Daniel 9:24; and Genesis 15:6 with Romans 4:9; and Genesis 22:18 with Galatians 3:8; and Deuteronomy 30:11 with Romans 10:5. And the prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others; see Isaiah 42:21.

{7} But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

(7) Therefore, says the apostle, so that men would not perish, God now exhibits that which he promised from ancient time, that is to say, a way by which we may be instituted and saved before him without the law.

Romans 3:21.[810] Νυνί is usually interpreted here as a pure adverb of time (“nostris temporibus hac in parte felicissimis,” Grotius). So also Tholuck, Reiche, Rückert, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Winzer, Reithmayr, Philippi, van Hengel, Mehring, Th. Schott, and others. But since what precedes was not given as a delineation of the past, there appears here not the contrast between two periods, but that between two relations, the relation of dependence on the law and the relation of independence on the law (διὰ νόμου.… χωρίς νόμου). Hence with Beza, Pareus, Piscator, Estius, Koppe, Fritzsche, de Wette, Matthias, and Hofmann, we render: but in this state of the case. See regarding this dialectic use of the νῦν Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 25; Baeuml. Part. p. 95; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 181. Comp Romans 7:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 13:13, al[812]; 4Ma 6:33; 4Ma 13:3. By Greek authors ΝΥΝΊ is not thus used, only ΝῦΝ.

] placed with full emphasis at the beginning as the opposite of ΔΙᾺ ΝΌΜΟΥ, belongs to ΠΕΦΑΝ. Aptly rendered by Luther: “without the accessory aid of the law,” i.e. so that in this revelation of the righteousness of God the law is left out of account. Reiche (following Augustine, de grat. Chr. 1, 8, and de spir. et. lit. 9, Wolf, and others) joins it with δικαιοσ.: “the righteousness of God as being imparted to the believer without the law, without the Mosaic law helping him thereto.” Compare also Winzer, Klee, Mehring. But apart from the coactior constructio, with which Estius already found fault, we may urge against this view the parallel of διὰ νόμου, Romans 3:20, which words also do not belong to ἘΠΊΓΝΩΣΙς ἉΜΑΡΤ. but to the verb to be supplied.

ΠΕΦΑΝΈΡΩΤΑΙ] is made manifest and lies open to view, so that it presents itself to the knowledge of every one; the present of the completed action, Hebrews 9:26. The expression itself presupposes the previous κρυπτόν (Colossians 3:3 f.; Mark 4:22), the having been hidden, in accordance with which the righteousness of God has not yet been the object of experimental perception. To men it was an unknown treasure. The mode of the πεφανέρωται however consists in the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣ. ΘΕΟῦ having become actual, having passed into historical reality, and having been made apparent, which has been accomplished without mixing up the law as a co-operative factor in the matter.

μαρτυρ. ὑπὸ τ. νόμ. κ. τ. προφ.] An accompanying characteristic definition of ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ ΘΕΟῦ, so far as the latter is made manifest: being witnessed, etc. If it is thus the case with regard to it, that in its πεφανέρωται it is attested by the witness of the law and the prophets, then this precludes the misconception that the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ revealed ΧΩΡΊς ΝΌΜΟΥ is opposed or foreign to the O. T., and consequently an innovation without a background in sacred history. Comp Romans 16:26; John 5:39. “Novum testamentum in vetere latet, vetus in novo patet,” Augustine. In this case we are not to think of the moral requirements (Th. Schott), but of the collective Messianic types, promises and prophecies in the law and the prophets, in which is also necessarily comprised the δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ as that which is necessary to participation in the Messianic salvation. Comp Romans 1:2, Romans 3:2; Acts 10:43; Acts 28:23; Luke 24:27; from the law, the testimony of Abraham, Romans 4:3 ff. and the testimonies quoted in Romans 10:6 ff.

Observe further that ΜΑΡΤΥΡΟΥΜ. has the emphasis, in contrast to ΧΩΡΊς, not ὙΠῸ ΤΟῦ ΝΌΜΟΥ (Bengel, Fritzsche and others). We may add Bengel’s apt remark: “Lex stricte (namely, in χωρίς νόμου) et late (in ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου) dicitur.”

[810] See Winzer, Comm. in Rom. iii. 21–28, Partic. I. and II. 1829.

[812] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

Romans 3:21-30. Paul has hitherto been proving that all men are under sin, and guilty before God. This was the preparatory portion of the detailed illustration of the theme set forth in ch. Romans 1:17; for before anything else there had to be recognised the general necessity of a δικαιοσύνη not founded on the law—as indeed such a legal righteousness has shown itself to be impossible. Now however he exhibits this δικαιοσύνη provided from another source—the righteousness of God which comes from faith to all without distinction, to believing Jews and Gentiles. Hofmann rejects this division, in consequence of his having erroneously taken προεχόμεθα in Romans 3:9 as the utterance of the Christians. He thinks that the Apostle only now comes to the conclusion, at which he has been aiming ever since the fifth verse: as to what makes Christians, as distinguished from others, assured of salvation.

Romans 3:21-26. The universal need of a Gospel has now been demonstrated, and the Apostle proceeds with his exposition of this Gospel itself. It brings what all men need, a righteousness of God (see on Romans 1:17); and it brings it in such a way as to make it accessible to all. Law contributes nothing to it, though it is attested by the law and the prophets; it is a righteousness which is all of grace. Grace, however, does not signify that moral distinctions are ignored in God’s procedure: the righteousness which is held out in the Gospel is held out on the basis of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is put within the sinner’s reach at a great cost. It could never be offered to him—it could never be manifested, or indeed have any real existence—but for the propitiatory virtue of the blood of Christ. Christ a propitiation is the inmost soul of the Gospel for sinful men. If God had not set Him forth in this character, not only must we despair for ever of attaining to a Divine righteousness; all our attempts to read the story of the world in any consistency with the character of God must be baffled. Past sins God seemed simply to ignore: He treated them apparently as if they were not. But the Cross is “the Divine theodicy for the past history of the world” (Tholuck); we see in it how seriously God deals with the sins which for the time He seemed to pass by. It is a demonstration of His righteousness—that is, in the widest sense, of His consistency with His own character,—which would have been violated by indifference to sin. And that demonstration is, by God’s grace, given in such a way that it is possible for Him to be (as He intends to be) at once just Himself, and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus. The propitiatory death of Jesus, in other words, is at once the vindication of God and the salvation of man. That is why it is central and fundamental in the Apostolic Gospel. It meets the requirements, at the same time, of the righteousness of God and of the sin of man.

21–31. The Divine method of holy pardon, alike for all

21. But now] i.e. “But as things are, as the fact is.”

Here the great argument of Pardon and Salvation begins, to close with the triumphant words of Romans 8:37-39.

the righteousness of God] See note on Romans 1:17. In Romans 3:5 this phrase had a reference different from that of most other passages in this Epistle[35]. Its meaning in that verse is modified and determined by the words “our unrighteousness,” which, by contrast, fix it to mean there the Divine veracity and fidelity. Here, and through the rest of this argument, it means the divinely-granted, and righteous, acceptance of believers.

[35] See however the footnote there.

without the law] “Apart from the code of precepts.” The best comment on this most important phrase is the rest of this chapter and Romans 4:4-8. The very essence of the argument here demands that the words should mean “to the total exclusion of any work of obedience of man’s from the matter of his justification.”

is manifested] Lit. has been manifested; i.e. historically, “by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 1:10.

witnessed by the law and the prophets] Its reality and virtue is by them attested, confirmed, to those who accept the O. T. as the Word of God.—“The Law” is here, by the context, the Pentateuch, with its prophecies of redemption, and its Levitical ritual, priesthood, and tabernacle, all which was (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) a “prophecy in act” of the “better things to come.”—“The Prophets,” including the Psalter, are full not only of direct predictions of the Redeemer and His Work, but of language of love and pardon from the Holy One which only that Work can reconcile with the awful sanctions of the moral law.

Romans 3:21. Νυνί) now [as it is] forms the antithesis, including the idea of time, Romans 3:26.—χωρὶς νόμουὑπο τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, without the law—by the law and the prophets) A sweet antithesis. The law is taken both in a limited and extended sense [David, for instance, must be reckoned among the prophets, ch. Romans 4:6.—V. g.].—πεφανέρωται, has been manifested) by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.—μαρτυρουμένη, being witnessed by, having the testimony of) according to [by] promise.

Verses 21-31. - (4) The righteousness of God, manifested in Christ and apprehended by faith, is the sole remedy, and available for all. The position enunciated in Romans 1:18 being now sufficiently established, the apostle enters here on his main argument, announced in Romans 1:17. Verse 21. - But now (νυνὶ here may have either its temporal sense of at the present time, or its logical sense of as things are. For its use in the latter sense, cf. Romans 7:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Corinthians 15:20) the righteousness of God without law (i.e. apart from law) is (or, has been) manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets. On the essential meaning of God's righteousness (Θεοῦ δικαιοσύνη), see on Romans 1:17, and Introduction. This passage, in which the thesis of Romans 1:17 is formally enunciated, is consistent with this meaning; in confirmation of which observe vers. 25, 26, where δικαιοσύνη αὐτοῦ evidently means God's own righteousness, as also above, ver. 5. If this view is correct, there is no need to follow commentators into their discussions of the significance of χωρὶς νόμου in supposed connection with the idea of man's imputed righteousness; such as whether it is meant to declare justification through Christ to be without the aid of the Law - "sine legis adminiculo" (Calvin) - or to exclude all legal works, done before, or even after justification, from any share in the office of justification. However true these positions may be, what is said here seems simply to mean that God's righteousness has been manifested in Christ in a different way, and on a different principle, from that of law. The principle of law is to enjoin and forbid, and to require complete obedience; but law, even as exhibited in the Divine Law of the Jews, has been shown to fail to enable man thus to attain to δικαιοσύνη; therefore, apart from this exacting principle, the righteousness of God is now revealed to man, embracing him in itself. The absence of the article before νόμου here, and its insertion in the latter clause of the same verse, where the Mosaic Law is definitely referred to, is fully explained by what has been said above under Romans 2:13. Being witnessed, etc., is introduced parenthetically by way of intimating that this manifestation of God's righteousness, though "apart from law," is not in any opposition to the teaching of the Law and the prophets, being, in fact, anticipated by them. The proof of this appears afterwards in ch. 4. Romans 3:21Now (νυνὶ)

Logical, not temporal. In this state of the case. Expressing the contrast between two relations - dependence on the law and non-dependence on the law.

Without the law

In a sphere different from that in which the law says "Do this and live."

Is manifested (πεφανέρωται)

Rev., hath been manifested, rendering the perfect tense more strictly. Hath been manifested and now lies open to view. See on John 21:1, and see on revelation, Revelation 1:1 The word implies a previous hiding. See Mark 4:22; Colossians 1:26, Colossians 1:27.

Being witnessed (μαρτυρουμένη)

Borne witness to; attested. The present participle indicates that this testimony is now being borne by the Old Testament to the new dispensation.

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