Romans 4:15
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
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(15) But in reality the Law is unable to admit them to this. It has an entirely contrary function—namely, to call down punishment upon the offences that it reveals. The Law and faith, therefore, mutually exclude each other, and faith is left to be the sole arbiter of salvation.

Where no law is.—Transgression is ex vi termini the transgression or breach of law, and therefore has no existence in that age of unconscious morality which precedes the introduction of law.

4:13-22 The promise was made to Abraham long before the law. It points at Christ, and it refers to the promise, Ge 12:3. In Thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. The law worketh wrath, by showing that every transgressor is exposed to the Divine displeasure. As God intended to give men a title to the promised blessings, so he appointed it to be by faith, that it might be wholly of grace, to make it sure to all who were of the like precious faith with Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles, in all ages. The justification and salvation of sinners, the taking to himself the Gentiles who had not been a people, were a gracious calling of things which are not, as though they were; and this giving a being to things that were not, proves the almighty power of God. The nature and power of Abraham's faith are shown. He believed God's testimony, and looked for the performance of his promise, firmly hoping when the case seemed hopeless. It is weakness of faith, that makes a man lie poring on the difficulties in the way of a promise. Abraham took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises. The strength of faith appeared in its victory over fears. God honours faith; and great faith honours God. It was imputed to him for righteousness. Faith is a grace that of all others gives glory to God. Faith clearly is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness of God, the redemption which is by Christ; and that which is the instrument whereby we take or receive it, cannot be the thing itself, nor can it be the gift thereby taken and received. Abraham's faith did not justify him by its own merit or value, but as giving him a part in Christ.Because the law - All law. It is the tendency of law.

Worketh wrath - Produces or causes wrath. While man is fallen, and a sinner, its tendency, so far from justifying him, and producing peace, is just the reverse. It condemns, denounces wrath, and produces suffering. The word "wrath" here is to be taken in the sense of punishment. Romans 2:8. And the meaning is, that the Law of God, demanding perfect purity, and denouncing every sin condemns the sinner, and consigns him to punishment. As the apostle had proved Romans 1; 2; 3 that all were sinners, so it followed that if any attempted to be justified by the Law, they would be involved only in condemnation and wrath.

For where no law is ... - This is a general principle; a maxim of common justice and of common sense. Law is a rule of conduct. If no such rule is given and known, there can be no crime. Law expresses what may be done, and what may not be done. If there is no command to pursue a certain course, no injunction to forbid certain conduct, actions will be innocent. The connection in which this declaration is made here, seems to imply that as the Jews had a multitude of clear laws, and as the Gentiles had the laws of nature, there could be no hope of escape from the charge of their violation. Since human nature was depraved, and people were prone to sin, the more just and reasonable the laws, the less hope was there of being justified by the Law, and the more certainty was there that the Law would produce wrath and condemnation.

15. Because the law worketh wrath—has nothing to give to those who break is but condemnation and vengeance.

for where there is no law, there is no transgression—It is just the law that makes transgression, in the case of those who break it; nor can the one exist without the other.

The law worketh wrath; i.e. the wrath of God: and this it doth not of itself, but occasionally, in respect of our disobedience. This is a confirmation of what was said in the foregoing verse, that the inheritance is not by the law, and the works thereof; he proves it from the effect and work of the law, such as it hath in all men since the fall; it worketh wrath; it is so far from entitling men to the promised blessing, that it exposeth men to the curse and wrath of God, Galatians 3:10.

For where no law is, there is no transgression: q.d. And that it worketh wrath is evident, because it discovers and occasions transgressions, between which and God’s wrath there is an inseparable connection. This assertion is simply true of things indifferent, as were all ceremonial observations before the law required them, for then before the law it was no sin to omit them: but of things which are evil in their own nature, it must be understood respectively, and after a sort; that is, there was no such great transgression before the law was given, as afterwards. The reasons are; Because we are naturally bent to do that which is forbidden us; and so by the reproofs of the law, the stubbornness of man’s heart is increased. As also, because by the law comes the clear knowledge of man’s duty; and so the servant that knows his master’s will, and doth it not, is worthy of the more stripes.

Because the law worketh wrath,.... Not the wrath of man, though that is sometimes stirred up through the prohibitions of the law, to which the carnal mind of man is enmity, but the wrath of God the law is so far from justifying sinners, that it curses and condemns them; and when it comes into the heart and is let into the conscience of a sinner, it fills with terrible apprehensions of the wrath of God, and a fearful looking for of his judgment and fiery indignation:

for where no law is, there is no transgression; (r); a sort of a proverbial expression: had the law of Moses not been given, there was the law of nature which sin is a transgression of; but the law of Moses was added for the better discovery and detection of sin, which would not have been so manifest without it, and which may be the apostle's sense; that where there is no law, there is no knowledge of any transgression; and so the Ethiopic version reads the words, "if the law had not come, there would have been none who would have known sin"; but the law is come, and there is a law by which is the knowledge of sin, and therefore no man can be justified by it; since that convinces him of sin, and fills him with a sense of divine wrath on account of it.

(r) Caphtor, fol. 10. 1.

{13} Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

(13) A reason of the first confirmation, why the promise cannot be apprehended by the law: because the law does not reconcile God and us, but rather proclaims his anger against us, because no man can fully keep it.

Romans 4:15. On the connection see above. The assigning of a reason (γάρ) has reference to the previous κεκένωται ἡ πίστις κ. κατήργ. . ἐπαγγ., which are closely connected (see Romans 4:16), and not merely to the κατήργ ἡ ἐπα γγ. (Chrysostom, Fritzsche, Mehring, and others). The law produces wrath. It is the divine wrath that is meant, not any sort of human wrath (against the judgment of God, as Melancthon thought). Unpropitiated, it issues forth on the day of judgment, Romans 2:5 ff., Romans 3:5, Romans 9:22; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6 al[1038]; Ritschl, de ira Dei, p. 16; Weber, vom Zorne Gottes, p. 326 f.

οὗ γὰρ οὐκ ἔστι νόμος Κ.Τ.Λ[1039]] Proof of the proposition that the law worketh wrath: for where the law is not, there is not even (οὐδέ) transgression, namely, which excites the wrath of God (the Lawgiver). This short, terse and striking proof—which is not, any more than the three previous propositions introduced by γάρ, to be reduced to a “justifying explanation” (Hofmann), or to be weakened by taking οὐδέ to mean “just as little” (Hofmann)—proceeds a causa ad effectum; where the cause is wanting (namely, παράβασις), there can be no mention of the effect (ὀργή). This negative form of the probative proposition includes—in accordance with the doctrine of the Apostle elsewhere regarding the relation of the law to the human ἐπιθυμία (Romans 7:7 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:19 al[1040]), which is kindled on occasion of the law by the power of sin which exists in man—the positive counterpart, that, where the law is, there is also transgression. Paul however expresses himself negatively, because in his mind the negative thought that the fulfilment of the promise is not dependent on the law still preponderates; and he will not enter into closer analysis of the positive side of it—viz., that faith is the condition—until the sequel, Romans 4:16 ff. Observe moreover that he has not written οὐδὲ ἁμαρτία, which he could not assert (Romans 4:13), but οὐδέ παράβασις, as the specific designation of the ἁμαρτία in relation to the law, which was the precise point here in question. Comp Romans 2:23; Romans 2:25; Romans 2:27, Romans 5:14; Galatians 2:18; Galatians 3:19. Sins without positive law (Romans 4:13) are likewise, and indeed on account of the natural law, Romans 2:14, objects of the divine wrath (see Romans 1:18 ff.; Ephesians 2:3); but sins against a given law are, in virtue of their thereby definite quality of transgression, so specifically and specially provocative of wrath in God, that Paul could relatively even deny the imputation of sin when the law was non-existent. See on Romans 4:13.

[1038] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1039] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1040] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

Romans 4:15. ὀργήν: wrath, i.e., the wrath of God. See on Romans 1:18. Under a legal dispensation sin is stimulated, and brought into clear consciousness: men come under the wrath of God, and know that they do. This is the whole and sole result of “the law,” and hence law cannot be the means through which God administers His grace, and makes man the heir of all things. On the contrary, to attain this inheritance man must live under a regime of faith, οὗ δὲ: δὲ is the true reading (see critical note), not γάρ: but where law is not, neither is there παράβασις. It would not have been true to say οὐδὲ ἁμαρτία, for Paul in chap. 2 recognises the existence and guilt of sin even where men live ἀνόμως; but in comparison with the deliberate and conscious transgression of those who live ἐν νόμῳ, such sin is comparatively insignificant and venial, and is here left out of account. The alternative systems are reduced to two, Law and Grace (or Promise).

15. the law worketh wrath: for] “For” indicates that this statement confirms that just made, namely, that inheritance by law must bar the fulfilment of the promise.—“The faith” in question was said to be “reckoned for righteousness” to the believer; “the promise” in question was that that believer, as such, should “inherit the world.” But if once the Law, with its only possible terms, interposes between the sinner and justification, he is hopelessly cut off (1) from a valid “righteousness,” and (2) therefore from the “heirship” attached to it. Justification and inheritance are equally out of his reach; because inevitably, as applied to fallen man, the Law (just because holy and absolute) “works wrath;” produces what in the nature of things calls down the Judge’s pure but inexorable wrath; for it produces “transgression” by the fact of its application to man as he is.—Note that “transgression,” not “sin,” is St Paul’s word here. “Sin” is wherever the Fall is; “transgression” is a narrower word; the “overstepping” of a definite condition.

Romans 4:15. Νόμος, the law) It occurs twice in this verse; first, with the article, definitely; next, indefinitely.—ὀργὴν, wrath) not grace, see the next verse. Hence the law is not of promise and of faith.—οὐδὲ παράβασις, there is not even transgression) He does not say, not even sin, comp. ch. Romans 5:13, Romans 2:12; offence, ch. Romans 5:20, and transgression have a more express referece to the law which is violated. Transgression rouses wrath.

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