Romans Chapter 3

 

JEWISH ADVANTAGES

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Romans 3:1

From what Paul has said so far it might appear to some that there is little advantage or purpose in being Jewish.  However, this is surely not the case nor is it what Paul really wishes to imply.  Douglas Moo comments here: “Most scholars see in these verses a positive affirmation of God’s continuing faithfulness to his people Israel who, as Paul makes clear in Romans 11, have not been rejected by God (11:1–2) and who will one day be saved (11:25–26 ).”1   Moo goes on to clarify the Jewish situation saying: “Paul’s purpose was to show that Jews have no advantage with respect to Gentiles in the judgment of God simply because they are Jews.”2  Or as Keener clarifies further: “Jewishness was special—but not for salvation.”3

We may have a similar situation today in Christianity.  We have become heirs of the Holy Bible and the Christian tradition with its vast array of eternal truth and its message of salvation.  This sets us far above all those pagans around us.  However, if we do not receive and believe the Bible and accept the Christian truth, it will become a great judgment upon us in the end.

So, is there an advantage in being Jewish by descent?  Paul replies: Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (3:2).  It seems that Paul is about to make a list of Jewish benefits here but he never gets past his first point.  It has been suggested the reason for this is that the first point essentially includes all the other points.  Later, in 9:4-5, Paul will list Jewish benefits in a more comprehensive manner.  He will list the adoption as sons, the divine glory, the covenants, the law, the temple worship, the promises, the patriarchs and finally the ancestry of Christ.  Obviously, there were many advantages to being Jewish.

Perhaps it is true that the first and most important advantage is that they were “entrusted with the very words of God” as he mentions above (3:2).  Pfeiffer and Harrison point out how the word used here, logion, in classical Greek means an oracle or a short saying from a divinity.  It is used in scripture (Acts 7:38; Heb. 5:12) as referring to the oracles or sayings of God.4

Over the many centuries the Jewish people have been the custodians of the Word of God.  At least from the time of Ezra the Scribe, they became known as the “People of the Book.”  Still today in the Islamic religion, both Jews and Christians are referred to by this title.  The Jewish people displayed a remarkable dedication to the preservation of holy writ.  Scribes for the most part were extremely cautious in making copies of the Bible.  They had to insure that every letter was correct.  We learn a lot about this dedication from the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered near the middle of the last century.  The sectarians at the Dead Sea poured out their lives in copying, studying and finally preserving the holy writ.  We can thank them today for their dedication in providing us with a fairly complete copy of the Old Testament a thousand years older than any copy we previously possessed.

“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” (3:3). Now Paul brings up the matter of faith which he formally introduced in 1:17 and which he will develop in much detail as the epistle progresses.  It seems that Paul’s idea here is that the covenant with Israel is sure, certain and continues to exist because of God’s faithfulness.  However, individual Jewish people are free to exclude themselves from this otherwise eternal covenant by their own unbelief.

Actually Paul goes on to answer his question very emphatically: Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge’” (3:4).  His expression “Not at all” (mē genoito in the Greek language) means: “God forbid,” “may it not come to pass,” or “Let not such a thing be considered.”5  Later on in chapters 9-11, Paul will develop more fully how God can remain faithful with the covenant regardless of Israel’s unbelief.  The apostle desires that God be proven true even if all men are proven liars (cf. Psa. 116:11).

“But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)” (3:5). Paul brings up a rather convoluted argument that he had obviously heard somewhere.  Likely it had been used as an argument against his gospel.  In commenting on this idea, Peter Pett states that true goodness cannot be advanced by false means.  It seems that Paul had been slanderously accused of doing just that. 6

Paul replies: “Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? (3:6). If God is to judge the world, he must be just in his judgments.  Abraham long ago struggled with this in his address to God: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).

“Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’” (3:7).  The sin of humanity only serves to set God’s truth in relief.  “The fact that the divine righteousness shines more brightly against the dark background of man’s unrighteousness has nothing to do with the Lord’s righteousness in judging and the condemnation that must come.”7  Certainly, God does not need human sin to demonstrate his righteousness.

Apparently Paul had endured a number of attacks from people who were using this same kind of logic.  He goes on: Why not sayas we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is deserved” (3:8).  The Bible is clear in stating that there is no fellowship between light and darkness (2 Cor. 6:14).  God refuses to publicize Satan and his works.  We remember that in the ministry of Jesus he would not allow evil, demon possessed persons to identify him or praise him (Mk. 1:24-25).  The Bible says that “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5).

NONE ARE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.  Romans 3:9

Obviously the “we” Paul uses here is another reference to the Jewish people.  From this verse to almost the end of the chapter, Paul takes great pains to prove that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin.  He has essentially stated this premise before in 1:18-32 and in 2:1–3:8.  He has verified that the Jews had important advantages, but now he concludes that these advantages make no difference when it comes to the matter of justification.

Paul now launches into a long dissertation concerning the corrupt state of all humankind.  In so doing, he quotes several passages from the popular Bible of his day, the Greek Septuagint (LXX), saying: “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;  there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not
even one’” (3:10-12).

This charge is rather surprising, that there is not one truly righteous person on earth, or one who seeks after God.  Guzik remarks: “If man initiates the search then he doesn’t seek the true God, the God of the Bible. Instead he seeks an idol that he makes himself.”  That idol, of course, could be an image he constructs in his own mind. It is clear from scripture that God must do the seeking if he is to be found at all.  Indeed, that is exactly what God did in the fullness of time by sending his own Son to live on this planet.  He was and is the only truly righteous person who has ever lived.  In his ministry he sought out sinners and still does so today.  It is always God who must seek man just as he did in the case of fallen Adam long ago by asking, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).

We should note in this section that the apostle is using a technique that was popular with the rabbis of his day.  It is called “charaz,” which means “pearl stringing.”  By this technique the rabbis would gather scriptures from various places and string them together into an argument supporting their thesis. 9  As we have seen, Paul first quotes portions of Psalm 14:1-3 from the Septuagint as well as portions and references from Psalm 53:1-3, 1 Kings 8:46, Psalm 143:2, Proverbs 20:9 and Ecclesiastes 7:20.  He continues his description of evil man literally from head to foot as he begins describing the throat and tongue, which are so much involved in human speechoften destructive human speech.

He quotes from Psalm 10:7: “‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness’” (3:13-14).  Robertson describes the words of their mouths, “like the odor of a newly opened grave.”10  Their tongues are full of deceit, that slyness in dealing with others that causes immense problems and in the end somehow even cuts short the lives of those who practice it (Psa. 34:12-13).  Their lips contain the poison of asps.  This is a reference to the Egyptian cobra which had a small sac in its mouth containing deadly poison. After one was bitten, the poison would spread quickly causing a devastating and paralyzing effect on the victim. What a vivid picture of those who allow their lips to speak guile, slander, curses or other such things.

Paul continues with his pearl stringing from Isaiah 59:7-8: Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways,and the way of peace they do not know” (3:15-17). The shedding of blood was always considered a horrible sin in Israel, although it is often considered as nothing by many postmodern TV and video addicts today.  In Bible times the shedding of blood was thought to be so serious that even if death happened by accident, the life of the perpetrator was still required.  The only hope for the one accidentally taking a life was to escape to a designated city of refuge (Num. 35:15-29).

At last Paul strings together part of a verse from Psalm 36:1: “‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (3:18). The Bible makes plain that the fear of the Lord is the starting point.  It is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7) and also “the beginning of wisdom” (Psa. 111:10).  Those who do not fear God are called “fools” in the Bible
(Psa. 53:1).

Such is the picture of depraved humankind.  Indeed, sin touches every organ of the body.  Although it is not specifically mentioned here we know from other scriptures that the organ affected most is the heart.  Because the heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), its evil flows out to all the other members of the body (Mk. 7:21-22).  The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS COMES ONLY BY FAITH

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Romans 3:19 

Now Paul moves back to discuss what true righteousness is all about and how that righteousness relates to the law.  Here Paul is leading up to his great statement concerning the law in the next verse (v. 20).  Obviously the law was not given to make people righteous but to point out their sins.  Paul says later in Romans 7:7: “…For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’”  Thus the law makes the whole world accountable to God for sin and shuts all mouths.  The Phillips paraphrase sums it up well: “it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.”

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (3:20).  No doubt this verse fell like a bombshell on the Jews of the first century.  It continues to do the same in the present day.  Here it is, short and simple: “No Jewish person or anyone else will be declared righteous by keeping the requirements of the law.”  Thus the law for righteousness and justification is a “dead-end street.”  How can Paul, a Jew, say such an unthinkable thing?

Let us consider what the law is and what the law is not.  As we have said, the law was given to convict people of sin.  It was the prosecuting attorney, so to speak, and not the defense counsel.  In Galatians 3:24 Paul uses another picture to point out that the law was the stern schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. The Bible says that there is nothing wrong with the lawthat it is perfect (Psa. 19:7).  The problem is that there is something wrong with uswe are imperfect.  We simply cannot keep the law.  A good example of this is seen in Psalm 119.  This Psalm is the longest chapter in the whole Bible and it is a Psalm extolling the law.  The Psalmist declares many times how he loves the law and how he will keep it always.  Unfortunately, the Psalm ends in verse 176 with these mournful words “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant…”

Not only does the law not bring us to righteousness or justification, but it actually brings us to condemnation.  The law has a built-in curse for all who do not keep it perfectly.  In Galatians 3:10 Paul says: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (cf. Deut. 27:26).  In other words, to break a commandment whether great or small was in a sense to break them all.  Thank God, Paul does not leave us in this dismal and hopeless situation.  He says in Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung
on a tree.’”

Now Paul moves on to discuss the righteousness provided by faith in Christ, who died on a tree for us all: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (3:21).  We should understand that using the expression “the Law and the Prophets” is another way of making reference to the whole of the Old Testament. “Paul’s point is that a new era in God’s plan has arrived now and that his way of bringing people into relationship with himself takes place outside the confines of that old era, of which the Mosaic law was a central component.” 11

Everywhere in the Old Testament we see evidence of this development prophesied. Particularly in the book of Isaiah it is predicted.  Pett remarks how it was Isaiah’s constant theme (cf. Isa. 45.8; 46.13; 51.5, 6, 8; 56.1; 61.10), that the Lord would send his righteousness and salvation in order to redeem his people. 12  In the beautiful Servant Songs of Isaiah, beginning with chapter 42 and continuing through chapter 53, we see this righteous Servant of the Lord portrayed.  We realize in this section that the Messianic Servant comes to help Israel, who was supposed to be God’s appointed servant, but who failed in the task.  We see that the Messianic Servant not only helps and rescues Israel but also brings justice to the Gentiles (42:1).  In fact, Isaiah 49 makes plain that the Messianic Servant not only has the job of caring for Israel and restoring her, but that he also has the job of being a light to the Gentiles (Isa. 49:6).

Of course, the most graphic account of the Servant is found from Isaiah 50 onward.  We see that the Servant suffers greatly on behalf of his people, Israel.  We see him beaten, abused, mocked, spat upon and disgraced (Isa. 50:6-7).  Finally from Isaiah 52:1353:12, the full scope of his awful suffering is revealed.  We see him disfigured, despised, pierced, and at last slaughtered for the sins of his people.  As Isaiah 53:8 states: For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”  In Isaiah 53:12, it is said of him: “…For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

 Thus, it is God who makes righteousness possible for us through the suffering and death of his Messiah.  Paul adds: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference…” (3:22).  So, we see that God’s own righteousness is displayed and offered to us in the Messianic Servant, whom we Christians know as Jesus or Yeshua.  His very name in the Hebrew means “salvation.”  This righteousness and salvation is now offered to Jews and to all other people.  The only requirement for us to receive this grace of a full salvation is that we must believe.  Ephesians 2:8 states it succinctly: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”  We see here that even faith is not from us, but it is also a gift from God.  As Morris remarks: “It is no more than the means through which the gift is given.”13

Someone has said that faith is like the hand of a beggar reaching up to God for help, and that is what we are.  We are just sinful beggars in the sight of a holy and righteous God.  The apostle reminds us again of our fallen state: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (3:23). Here Paul states a universal gospel truth that is absolutely critical for understanding the human race.  All humans are sinners.  They are sinners whether they are Jews or Gentiles.  It is not only that they have sinned, but that by their very nature they are sinners.  They are “dominated by a fundamentally evil dynamic.”14   It is almost as if sin were part of their genetic makeup.

Since the fall of the human race in the Garden of Eden all humans have been sinners.  They are born in sin (Psa. 51:5) and continue in sin because every human impulse is tainted with this “original sin,” as it is sometimes called.  This is also what theologians refer to as “total depravity.”  Because all have sinned, all people have “fallen short” or “missed the mark” of God’s glory and of his creative plan.  Because all have sinned, all are doomed to final judgment and eternal destruction.

Now there are a lot of folks on earth who do not believe this anymore.  Probably many people would laugh or even scoff at it today.  There are also a lot of folks on earth who have probably never even heard this information.  There was a time in the US, however, when the bulk of people knew it and believed it to be true.  In fact, even the un-churched generally believed it because it was a part of the fabric of our great Christian heritage.

I can remember as a young pastor in the early 1960s how we used to win people to the Lord by just showing them in the Bible what we called the “Roman Road to Salvation.”  The “road” began with this verse in Romans 3:23, that all are sinners.  We then progressed to Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Then we led them to Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We finished with Romans 10:9, 10 and 13: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

Later in the rebellious 1960s, people began to throw away the Bible and the gospel heritage, and now these verses make less and less sense in our postmodern world.  For instance, many people we would talk with today would have little or no concept of sin.  They might know what it is to go on a “Peanut Butter Binge” or to have “Chocolate Decadence” but they do not know what it is to have original sin.  It is almost as if the measure of sin today is caloric. 15  They also have no concept of what death is in an eternal and everlasting sense.  Because we have essentially lost the gospel in our society, they would not understand the need for Christ dying for us, nor would they understand his resurrection.  In short, they would not understand salvation or the need to have it.

Modern and postmodern minds have become polluted with humanistic ideas that people are essentially good and whole.  They believe this even in spite of a growing avalanche of proof to the contrary.  All we have to do is turn on the TV to see the latest outrage in human depravity, where someone else has gunned down innocent people and for no reason.  Yet, far be it for folks today to believe the Bible truth that all people are afflicted with the evil sin microbe.  People do not believe it regardless of the fact that the Bible’s analysis relates squarely with reality while other religious systems, including humanism, fail miserably.

It is sad to say that the Jewish people follow a similar humanistic line of thinking and they too do not believe in original sin.  To them, sin is described as an “evil impulse” (yetzer ha ra) which comes from the outside, while man himself is thought to be essentially good and whole.  This is certainly not what Paul is saying.

He hastens to add that because we are all sinners we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:24).  His great grace is a free gift from heaven only because of the redemption that came by Christ.  “It had been Paul’s purpose in 1:18—3:20 to show that all stand under God’s wrath; it is now his purpose to show that all are objects of God’s grace.”16

“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—” (3:25). The “sacrifice of atonement” (ilasthrion) mentioned here is very significant.  In this passage it speaks of the mercy seat that was found in the Holy of Holies.  It was the place where the blood was sprinkled and where the atonement was made for Israel by her High Priest.  Barnes remarks how Christ finally became the “medium, the offering, the expiation, by which reconciliation is produced between
God and man.”17

Bruce in quoting Manson states: “But in Christ ‘the mercy seat’ is no longer kept in the sacred seclusion of the most holy place; it is brought out into the midst of the rough and tumble of the world and set up before the eyes of hostile, contemptuous, or
indifferent crowds.”18

Perhaps the exchange and interchange mentioned in this passage is expressed best in an old hymn penned by Samuel Webbe (1740-1816), entitled Come Ye Disconsolate.

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish:
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.

In the above verse (3:25), we see that God displayed a “forbearance” toward the sins committed during the Old Testament era.  The Greek word used here (paresin) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament or in the Septuagint.  It has the idea of “passing by” or “not noticing” the sins that were committed. 19  Wuest says that it means a “passing over” or “letting pass” and it should be translated “pretermission.”20

God is a God of justice.  Because he is a God of justice, it is impossible for him to be unjust in his dealings with sin.  In Old Testament times if God had simply waved his hand to forgive sin he would not have been dealing justly according to his own word (cf. Prov. 17:15; 24:25).  In the Bible he says: “I will not acquit the guilty” (Exo. 23:7).  Stott comments: “How can the righteous God act un-righteously, and so overthrow the moral order, turning it upside down?  It is unbelievable! Or rather it would be, if it were not for the cross of Christ.”21

It is likely that we have here in this section one of the most astounding portions of scripture in the whole Bible.  Stott relates how Dr. Leon Morris suggests this may be “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written.”22

Here Paul gives us a heavenly insight regarding the treatment of sins in the Old Testament.  It is something we could not know unless it came to us by revelation.  We remember that Paul had visited in the heavenly places (2 Cor. 12:2-4) and in addition he had received powerful revelations of God’s truth (2 Cor. 12:7).  We remember that he was a founding apostle of the church and it should not surprise us that he had special insight into the matters of sin and forgiveness.

What the apostle is saying here is that sin was never fully dealt with by the Old Testament sacrificial system.  The scripture bears this out saying, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).  Guzik remarks: “The idea is that through the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament, those who looked in faith to the coming Messiah had their sins ‘covered’ by a sort of an ‘IOU’ or promissory note. That temporary covering was redeemed for full payment at the cross.”23 God was, “…not remitting but only forbearing to punish them, or passing them by, until an adequate atonement for them should be made.”24 Thus we see that God in his great forbearance was willing to leave the sins of the Old Testament era unpunished until Jesus as the Lamb of God could receive the full punishment for them all at Calvary.  What an awful burden of sin our Savior bore!

Now we can see the partial nature of atonement in the Old Testament.  We can understand why the faithful people of the old covenant at their death were confined to a shadowy place called Sheol, or the abode of the dead.  They were being kept in a suspended state because their redemption was not complete until Jesus died on the cross and paid the full price for their sin.  We see a reflection of this in Hebrews 11:40: “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” We also see it reflected in Hebrews 9:15b, which states of Christ: “…he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Obviously the writer is speaking in this passage of all those who believed in Old Testament times.  It is truly interesting that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected many holy people of the past came from their tombs and appeared to numerous people in Jerusalem (Mt. 27:53).

Brown comments regarding this important section of scripture how translators have often missed the great truth here.  They have taken “the sins that are past” as a reference to the sins of believers which were committed before they came to faith.  They have also seen the word “remission,” to mean “the remission of sins,” while in fact it means only a “passing by.”  Brown remarks how this would make the “remission of sins” come through the “forbearance of God,” and this is certainly not the case.25

Paul says, “he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (3:26).  Here the apostle brings out why God could only “pass by” sins under the Old Covenant.  Had he forgiven them fully based on the offering up of bulls and goats, there would have really been no need for the offering of the Messiah centuries later.  However, the blood of animals could not erase the sins of humankind as we have seen, and therefore God would have been unjust to have forgiven them fully.

The offering of animals was a sort of “virtual reality” awaiting the final offering of Jesus.  Of course, it was absolutely necessary for faithful people of old to make these animal offerings.  They were being obedient to the types and shadows of scripture. Once the Messiah had made his offering on the cross, the sins of all those who had believed in God were paid for and forgiven.  So we understand that the death of Christ was just as important to those who lived before him as for those who have lived after him.  Edwards remarks about this, saying that “animal sacrifice had a proleptic function; it was a harbinger of a final sacrifice which would remit the full consequences of sin.”26

James Denney provides us with a beautiful summary of this whole paragraph:

There can be no gospel unless there is such a thing as a righteousness of God for the ungodly. But just as little can there be any gospel unless the integrity of God’s character be maintained. The problem of the sinful world, the problem of all religion, the problem of God in dealing with a sinful race, is how to unite these two things. The Christian answer to the problem is given by Paul in the words: “Jesus Christ whom God set forth a propitiation (or, in propitiatory power) in his blood.” 27

Those who now have faith in Jesus are justified.  Clearly this is not a process but an act of God.  It is not something we must hope for or even wait for.  It is a judicial verdict that was made before the world began and it becomes effective for us the moment that we believe in Jesus the Lamb of God and as the Messiah.

WHERE IS THE BOASTING?

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.  Romans 3:27

If we can be justified by our works or even by our keeping the law, then we have something about which we can boast (Rom. 4:2).  But this is clearly not the case.  Perhaps this is why our gospel is so repulsive to many people today. There is an old saying that “it is easier to surrender one’s sins than one’s virtues.”  God refuses to recognize the merits of men and thus there is no place left for human pride.  In 1 Corinthians 1:31, Paul sums it up quoting the prophet Jeremiah: Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

The apostle now states his premise clearly and for all time: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (3:28).  This is a revolutionary principle that he will go on to develop in great detail by looking at the life of Abraham particularly in the next chapter.

“Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith” (3:29-30).  “The way of salvation must be one equally suited to the whole family of fallen man: but the doctrine of justification by faith is the only one that lays the basis of a Universal Religion; this therefore is another mark
of its truth.”28

All through the Old Testament it was evident that Gentiles would ultimately be included.  For instance, Joseph’s children, who would make up the two most prominent tribes of Israel, were from a Gentile mother (Gen. 41:45; 48:1-7).  Then there were the Gentiles Rahab and Ruth, who would both figure prominently in the lineage of the Messiah (Matt. 1:5-6).  Even a number of David’s greatest warriors were Gentiles.  Supposedly we could say that Father Abraham, the father of the whole Jewish race, was in fact a Gentile before he was called.  It was certainly promised him that he would be the father of multitudes of Gentiles (Gen. 17:4), and that all the Gentile nations would be blessed through
him (Gen. 12:3).

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (3:31).  Paul will go on in the next chapter to demonstrate how the law actually anticipates the coming gospel, with its justification by faith.  He will demonstrate how the gospel establishes the law by fulfilling the law’s own predictions. 29

As we close this chapter, we need to realize that it is one of the most important passages in the Bible.  Brown points out how this chapter and especially its latter part is the “proper seat of the Pauline doctrine of Justification.”  He quotes Phillipi in pointing out how it is “the grand proof-passage” relating to the great Protestant doctrines, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and our justification through faith alone.30

 

Continue Reading – Chapter 4