ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 3
Having convicted the Jews, in the preceding chapter, of grievous violations of the Law of Moses, the Apostle commences this with pointing out some external advantages which the possessed over the Gentiles (Rom 3:1-2). He next refutes certain objections against the veracity and justice of God, springing out of the subject (Rom 3:2–9). He proves from the testimony of SS. Scripture that both Jew and Gentile were under sin. And these testimonies from SS. Scripture he shows to have special reference to the Jews (Rom 3:9–21). He next lays down the great theme of the Epistle, viz.: Justification by Faith, opposed to the works of the law of nature, or the Law of Moses (Rom 3:22). He shows the congruity of such a means of justification (Rom 3:23), and its gratuitousness (Rom 3:24-25). Hence, all boasting is excluded (Rom 3:27-28). Finally, he shows the congruity, on the part of God, of adopting such a means of justification, as being so universal, and accommodated equally both to Jew and Gentile.
Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew: or what is the profit of circumcision?
(If, then, he alone is regarded by God as a Jew, who is such interiorly, and if the circumcision of the heart is alone approved of by Him), what peculiar excellence or superiority can there be in the profession of Judaism, or what can be the advantage of the external rite of circumcision?
“What advantage then,” &c. This question, or rather objection, is supposed to arise out of the foregoing (chap. 2 verse 29). As much as to say—God, in selecting the Jews as his chosen people, and in commanding them to practise circumcision as a sign of his covenant, must certainly have intended thereby to confer some favour or privilege on the Jews; but, from the foregoing it would follow, that no such favour was conferred on them.
Rom 3:2 Much every way. First indeed, because the words of God were committed to them.
The profession of Judaism gives, in every respect, the Jews many external advantages and prerogatives not enjoyed by the Gentiles. For, in the first place (to pass over all the other advantages), they were made the depositaries of God’s sacred oracles, of which the most important were those that contained the absolute promises of the future Messias.
The Apostle denies the inference. Some Commentators say, the Apostle in this chap. replies to the first part of the question or objection, reserving the reply to the second, regarding circumcision for chap. 4. There were certain external privileges conferred on the Jewish people, as such. “First, indeed.” He mentions one of the principal of them, reserving the rest for chap. 9 verse 6. “Because the words of God,” &c., i.e., the oracles of God, containing many promises, but especially those regarding the promise of the Messiah to be born of them—a promise absolute and unconditional—irrespective of their fidelity. “Were committed to them”; which is a singular privilege.
Rom 3:3 For what if some of them have not believed? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid!
For, what if some of the Jews have not believed these oracles, especially those referring to the coming Messias? Does it cease to be a benefit on the part of God to deposit these oracles with them? Will the incredulity of his people neutralize and cause the veracity of God in the fulfilment of his absolute promises to be of no effect? By no means.
Promises made by God, which are absolute, cannot fail of their accomplishment, owing to the incredulity and disobedience of men. Now, the promise of the Messiah, which is the principal of the oracles referred to, is absolute and unconditional, irrespective of the fidelity of the Jews, as appears from Psalm 88:34.
Rom 3:4 But God is true and every man a liar, as it is written: That thou mayest be justified in thy words and mayest overcome when thou art judged.
The veracity of God is wholly independent of the lying nature of man. For God is essentially true, although every man, of his own corrupt nature, be a liar and liable to be deceived; and David also testifies, in his own particular case, that the incredulity and disobedience of man will not render ineffectual the promises of God; for, (Psalm 50 verse 6), he prays God to have mercy on him and not rescind his promises, although he sinned and did evil in His sight; for, thus it would come to pass that God’s veracity and fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises would be justified, and would appear even more conspicuous; and when men would sit in judgment on His fidelity, He would come off victorious in the cause.
The Apostle proves in this verse, that the unbelief of men will not render ineffectual “the faith,” i.e., the fidelity or veracity of God in the fulfilment of his promises. First, by a general testimony—“God is true,” i.e., veracious, “and every man a liar”—in which the veracity of God is put forward as totally independent of the deceitful and lying nature of man. The first member of the sentence, “God is true,” is a self-evident truth. The second, “and every man is a liar,” is taken from Psalm 115 verse 2. Every man is said, by the corruption of his nature, to be lying and liable to be deceived, as God is essentially, and by the perfection of his nature, “true,” i.e., veracious, incapable of deceiving or of being deceived. Secondly, by a particular testimony of David, who, after his sin, begs of God to spare him, and not rescind the promises made him, although he sinned and did evil in his sight.—(Psalm 50 verse 6). For, thus it would happen, that God’s veracity would be justified and fully vindicated; and when impious and unbelieving men would sit in judgment regarding his fidelity in the case of David, his fidelity and veracity would come off victorious in the judgment. In the Greek, for “God is true,” it is, γενέσθω δὲ ὁ θεὸς αληθὴς, let God be true, i.e., in all his words and promises, let God be believed to be true, although every man is a liar; or, in every case, let us maintain God’s truth or veracity. The Greek word for “art judged,” (ἐν τῶ κρίνεσθαί σε) may be understood in the middle voice, and have an active signification, “thou judgest.”
Rom 3:5 But if our injustice commend the justice of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust, who executeth wrath?
If, then, you will say, our injustice renders the justice of God, i.e., his fidelity in the fulfilment of his promises, more conspicuous, what shall we say? Does it not follow that God is unjust in punishing that which confirms and commends his justice?
Verses 5–8 may be regarded as a digression from the principal subject which the Apostle resumes, verse 9. This objection arises out of the foregoing testimony from the Psalms, wherein it is said that the sin of David shall render the fidelity or justice of God in his covenants more manifest. If, then, our injustice, as in the case of David and the Jews, renders the justice of God more manifest and more commendable; is it not unjust in God to punish that which displays attributes to such advantage?
Rom 3:6 (I speak according to man.) God forbid! Otherwise how shall God judge this world?
(I speak not my own words, but those of the impious). Far be it from us to entertain such a blasphemous thought; for, if God were unjust, how could he discharge the office of supreme judge of this world in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked?
“I speak according to man.” For fear of giving scandal, the Apostle states expressly, that this question or objection is proposed by him not as from himself, but on the part of the impious. “God forbid,” i.e., far be it from us to think so. “Otherwise, how shall God judge this world?” The Apostle refutes the objection from its very absurdity; for, it is acknowledged by all, as demonstrated from Holy Scripture and the very light of reason, that God is to be the judge of this world, that he will reward the good and punish the wicked; but how could he punish the wicked in the supposition now made? Justice being the essential attribute of a judge, God must, therefore, be supremely just. The direct answer to this objection, which is repeated (verse 8), is, that our injustice is not the cause of rendering God’s justice more conspicuous, but the mere accidental occasion. The cause is God’s own infinite goodness and power, eliciting good out of evil, contrary to the very nature and tendency of that evil.
Rom 3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner?
But if the truth and veracity of God has become, through my sin, more conspicuous, why am I condemned as a sinner, for doing that which contributes to his glory?
The same objection proposed (verse 5), is repeated here in clearer terms. “Abounded unto his glory,” is the same as, that he should become more celebrated and distinguished.
Rom 3:8 And not rather (as we are slandered and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil that there may come good? Whose damnation is just.
And why should we not rather do evil and commit sin, that good, viz., the greater manifestation of God’s glory, may result therefrom (perverse principles and teachings with which we are calumniously charged by some men, of whom all we can say is, that their damnation is just).
This verse may also admit of this construction, why should we not rather affirm (what some slanderously assert that we affirm) let us do evil that good may come from it. The construction in Paraphrase is preferable, why not rather do evil (as some slanderously say, that we assert, let us do evil that good may follow, whose damnation is just), The occasion of this slanderous and calumnious imputation, made against the Apostle, may have arisen from his proclaiming that “grace superabounded where sin abounded.” The Apostle, as a wise disputant, thinks it proper not to answer such calumnious charges. He merely despises them, and simply asserts that the authors and abettors of such calumnies shall justly be condemned.
Rom 3:9 What then? Do we excel them? No, not so. For we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.
But to return to the subject. What then, if we possess certain external advantages and privileges not enjoyed by the Gentiles; do we really excel them in that which constitutes true excellence, viz., the possession of justice? By no means; for we have already made good the charge which we undertook to prove, viz., that all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin.
The Apostle now returns to his subject from which he digressed (verse 5). But, although we, Jews, excel the Gentiles in the possession of external blessings, do we really excel them in the concern of salvation, in true justice? “No, not so,” or “By no means,” is the answer. “For we have charged both Jews and Greeks,” &c. “Charged,” in the Greek, προῃτιασαμεθα, already charged, (Vulgate, causati sumus) means, to prove already, to make good the charge, by adducing well-grounded evidences, that both Jew and Gentile are all sinners, and subject to the damnation which their sins deserve. Neither of them could, therefore, on the score of merit, lay claim to the Gospel. This he proved in reference to the Gentiles (chap. 1) and in reference to the Jews (chap. 2).
Rom 3:10 As it is written: There is not any man just.
Which is still further proved by the irrefragable testimony of SS. Scripture, in reference to both Jew and Gentile; for it is written (Psalm 13), there is no one that doth good or just works. There is no one who knows
Lest it might be alleged, that what was said in the preceding chapters regarded only the principal men among the Jews and Gentiles, the Apostle adduces the irrefragable testimony of SS. Scriptures to prove that the ignorant portion also, that, in fact, all were equally guilty. In the following quotations, he considers man left to himself, and in his corrupt nature, destitute of grace and of the faith of Christ. And in these quotations, he sums up what he had proved regarding the crimes of the Gentiles and Jews in the first and second chapters, and confirms the charge he made good against them (verse 9). “As it is written: there is not any man just.” This is the general proposition which he asserts regarding Jew and Gentile. The words are read only in sense in Psalm 13 thus, “There is none that doth good” (verse 1).
Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth: there is none that seeketh after God.
God, or seeks after him.
“There is none that understandeth.” These words also are quoted only according to sense from the Psalm. In place of this reading we have in the Psalms, If there be any that understandeth and seek God. However, “if” has a negative signification. The remainder of the passage is quoted almost verbatim from Psalm 13 as it is now read in our Vulgate. They are not found in the above Psalm in either the Hebrew or Septuagint versions. St. Jerome tells us (in Prefatione, lib. 16, Commentar. in Isaiam), that the entire passage is taken from several parts of the Psalms and from the Prophet Isaias (as noted in Paraphrase), but that the compiler of the Psalms, finding more of this quotation to be contained in the 13th Psalm than in any other passages of SS. Scripture, viz., as far as the words, “their throat is an open sepulchre, &c.,” and being ignorant of the Apostle’s art in uniting together texts from several parts of Scripture bearing on his subject, put the entire passage as found here, from verse 13–18 inclusively, without any authority, under the 13th Psalm. It is also to be borne in mind, that the Apostle does not suppose all the crimes which he enumerates here, to be found in every person; but that some of them were found in some men, and some, in others; so that all had sinned, which is the conclusion the Apostle wishes to establish. “There is none that understandeth,” may refer to the Gentile knowing not God, and having his reason and intellect corrupted. “There is none that seeketh after God,” refers to the Jew, whose will was corrupted, so that he served not God whom he knew.
Rom 3:12 All have turned out of the way: they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good, there is not so much as one.
They have all turned aside from the straight road of God’s precepts to crooked and perverse ways. They are become unprofitable, and have disabled themselves for fulfilling God’s commandments. There is no one doing good. No, not even one.
“Unprofitable.” Useless for the end of their creation. “There is none that doth good” &c. This refers to man left to his own corrupt nature, devoid of grace and faith.
Rom 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre: with their tongues they have dealt deceitfully. The venom of asps is under their lips.
(Psalms 5). Their throat is like an open sepulchre. They have employed their tongues for the purpose of deceiving others. In their mouths they have a deadly poison, no less noxious than the venom of asps.
“Their throat,” &c. These words are taken from Psalm 5.; the preceding from Psalm 13. Their throat, owing to their impure, noxious, and pernicious discourses, is compared to an open sepulchre sending forth a noisome stench. “The venom of asps,” i.e., the most deadly poison, “is under their lips.” They are constantly prepared to spew forth the most deadly and malignant calumnies, under the gloss of smooth, alluring language.
Rom 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
(Psalm 9). Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
This is taken from Psalm 9. Full of bitter, offensive, and reproachful language, uttered publicly.
Rom 3:15 Their feet swift to shed blood:
(Isaias, 59:7). Their feet are swift to shed blood.
From Isaias, 59:7. Quick in executing the evils they plan and concert.
Rom 3:16 Destruction and misery in their ways:
Destruction and misery follow their footsteps Wherever they go, they destroy and render others wretched.
Rom 3:17 And the way of peace they have not known.
And the way of peace they have not known, so as to approve of it; on the contrary, they hate peace and justice.
Rom 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Psalm 35). There is no fear of God before their eyes. They fear not his justice; this is the source of the preceding crimes.
“There is no fear of God,” &c. This is the great source of the preceding disorderly crimes; they fear not the judgment of God. This is taken from Ps. 35. What a lively description have we not in this passage, of the melancholy results of concupiscence and sin in man? It robs him of justice—“there is not any man just” (verse 10). It corrupts his reason—“none that understandeth.” It makes his will depraved—makes him turn aside from God to creatures—“none that seeketh God.” “All have turned out of the way.” It renders him useless for good, or corrupts, owing to bad motives, the good he may do (verse 12). The virus of his corrupt heart is poured forth through the tongue; this world of iniquity (St. James, 2), which is made the instrument of deceit, by lying, perjuries, flattery, and evil counsellings, by procuring the death of the body through false accusations, and death to the soul by false and erroneous doctrines, this tongue becomes more noxious than “the venom of asps” (verse 13). It blasphemies God and curses our neighbour (verse 14). It inspired vengeance (verse 15). It plots the ruin and oppression of the poor (verse 16). It takes away all sense of religion, and of the fear of God (verse 18). This is the state out of which the grace and charity of Jesus Christ has rescued us. Blessed be his goodness for ever.
Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law speaketh, it speaketh to them that are in the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be made subject to God.
And let not the Jew imagine that these testimonies, derived from the law, have reference merely to the Gentiles; for it is a well-known, certain fact, that what things soever the law speaketh, are principally addressed to those under the law, and to be understood, as regarding them. Hence, every mouth is closed, and all matter for boasting removed, and all mankind must acknowledge their liability to divine punishment for sin.
The Jew might object and say, that all these denunciations are addressed merely to the Gentiles, who are often similarly denounced in Scripture. The Apostle meets this plea and says, that when the law speaks in general terms and without exception, it must be understood to regard those principally who are under the law, i.e., the Jews. “The law speaketh.” The law comprised the Psalms and the Prophets, from which the foregoing testimonies are taken. “That every mouth may be stopped.” Hence, every mouth is closed against boasting; because, if the oracles of the Prophets be true of the Jews with their many helps, how much more true must they not be of the Gentiles, destitute of these helps. “And the whole world (Jew and Gentile), may be made subject,” ὑποδίκος (Vulgate, subditus), i.e., punishable or rendered liable to punishment for their crimes against “God.”
Rom 3:20 Because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before him. For by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Because no man shall be ever justified in the sight of God by the works which he performs through the sole aid and lights supplied by the law; for the only help held out by the law itself is, to show what we are to do, and what to avoid.
In this verse is conveyed an additional reason why “every mouth should be closed,” and no man should glory (in the preceding verse their glorying is excluded by their liability to punishment for sin), because men have no means of justification from themselves; for by the aids which the law holds out, no man can fulfil the law and be justified. The doers of the law will be justified (chap. 2 verse 13). By the “law.” is meant the moral law of the Jews, which alone gives us a “knowledge of sin,” and is a clearer exposition of the natural law of the Gentiles, which the Apostle here includes under it. And by “the works of the law,” are meant the works performed by the helps and lights furnished by this law towards its own fulfilment, exclusive of grace and faith. These helps, without grace, will never enable a man to fulfil the entire law; for, the only help it affords is to give a clear knowledge of our duty, without any aid towards the performance of this duty. And if the Jews could not fulfil the moral precepts of the law, though they had greater helps, a fortiori, the Gentiles—destitute of these helps—could not fulfil the same precepts.
Rom 3:21 But now, without the law, the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.
But in these latter times, the true justice by which we are rendered really just in God’s sight, and to which testimony has been rendered by the law and the prophets, is made manifest as proceeding from a source quite distinct from, and independent of, the helps of the law.
“The justice of God.” Real and true justification by which we are really justified before God; and hence called the “justice of God,” because emanating from him alone, “is made manifest without the law,” because by the preaching of the Gospel, it was abundantly confirmed and externally testified by miracles, that this justice has been bestowed on those who never received the law (v.g.), Cornelius the centurion and others. “Being witnessed by the law and the prophets.” “By the law,” (Genesis, 49:10); “the prophets,” (Habacuc, 2:4; Isaias, 55). Hence it is no novel doctrine.
Rom 3:22 Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe in him: for there is no distinction.
That justice, I say, comes from the faith of Jesus Christ, and is abundantly conferred on all who believe in him, as they ought; for there is no distinction between those who received the law and those who did not.
“Even,” i.e., I say, “the justice of God,” comes from a source quite distinct from that which the Gentiles and Jews imagined, viz., from the “faith of Jesus Christ,” “unto all and upon all.” Some say, these words express more strongly the universality and sublimity of this gift; others, that they only express the same thing, and are repeated for the sake of emphasis. “Upon all.” is not found in the Vatican nor in the other chief MSS. “That believe in him.” Of course, he leaves it to be understood, that their faith is accompanied with the other conditions requisite for justification. “In him,” is not in the Greek, which simply is, τους πιστευοντας.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned and do need the glory of God.
For all have sinned, and have no glory, nothing wherein to glory before God; or, are destitute of justifying grace, the seed of future glory, which comes from God alone and is not merited by works. (And hence, the congruity of his adopting a means of justification, wholly independent of any merit on the part of man).
“For all” (Jew and Gentile, as has been already shown), “have sinned, and do need the glory of God.” “Do need,” in Greek, ῦστερουνται, “are behind,” or, come too late for. By “the glory of God,” some understand, the justifying grace of God which will redound to his glory, and which is the seed of future glory in us, and comes from God alone, not merited by works. The other exposition in the Paraphrase is also very probable, and means, they have no glory; or, nothing wherein to glory before God, and hence, the necessity of establishing a system of justification wholly unconnected with man’s merits (for he has none), entirely dependent on God, and consequently redounding to his glory alone. Such is the system of justification through faith. Against this latter exposition it militates, and is in favour of the former, that the Greek for “glory” is not καυχησις, but, δοξα.
Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
But they are justified gratuitously, without any previous merits on their part, by his grace, through the redemption which Christ Jesus purchased for us, having paid for it the price of his most precious blood.
“Being justified.” After having sinned (as in preceding verse) they were justified “freely,” i.e., gratuitously; because none of the things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification itself.—(Council of Trent, SS. 6, ch. 8). “By his grace.” This is the formal cause of justification, and must, consequently, be essentially gratuitous; otherwise it would be no grace. “Through the redemption.” The meritorious cause of this justification is the redemption through Christ. The Greek word for “redemption,” απολυτρωσις, implies, the payment given in ransoming. We are said to be justified by faith, inasmuch as it is, the beginning of man’s salvation, the foundation and root of all justification.—Council of Trent, ibidem.
Rom 3:25 Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to the shewing of his justice, for the remission of former sins,
Whom God publicly exhibited as a real victim of propitiation—of which we are made partakers by faith in his blood or death for us—in order to manifest his justice or the infinite hatred he has for sin, which justice would appear to be in abeyance, owing to his having apparently remitted in past ages, sins for which no adequate ransom appeared to be given, or reparation made.
“Whom God hath set forth,” i.e., publicly exhibited on the cross, and gave to us “to be a propitiation.” The corresponding Greek word—ἱλαστηριον—may signify either a “propitiation,” or a “propitiator.” It more probably is taken in the former signification here, to denote a victim of propitiation “through faith in his blood.” The words, “in his blood,” are connected by many with the word “propitiation,” thus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, which propitiation is effected by the shedding of his blood, and is to be applied to us through faith; others connect the word as in the Paraphrase. “To the shewing of his justice,” i.e., in order to manifest his Attribute of eternal justice, whereby he holds sin in infinite hatred. This he manifests and vindicates by requiring a victim—an effusion of blood, of infinite value, before he remits sin. This “justice,” for the manifestation of which God had publicly exhibited his Son as the victim of propitiation, would also appear to extend to that justice whereby we are made just, which was exercised in the remission of sins in former ages, since it was only by the infusion of grace and justice that these sins were remitted. In the first signification of “justice,” to which it would appear allusion is principally made in this verse, the words, “for the remission of former sins,” are thus connected (as in Paraphrase), which justice of God hating sin would appear to be in abeyance, owing to his having remitted sins in former ages, &c.—(vide Paraphrase). The word “remission” may also signify, as appears from the Greek word—πάρεσιν—moral languor and spiritual debility, which sin introduced into the world, and to cure which the great Physician came down from Heaven; or, rather, it signifies God’s having omitted to punish, and having passed over the sins of former ages. This exposition accords best with the following verse, “through the forbearance,” or patience, “of God.”
Rom 3:26 Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time: that he himself may be just and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus Christ
But with these sins God had hitherto patiently borne, in order to manifest more plainly in these latter times his two-fold justice, viz., his attribute of justice in himself, whereby he holds sin in infinite hatred, which required an atonement of infinite value to satisfy its claims, and his justice in us, whereby we are rendered just in his sight. The consequence of which economy on the part of God is, that his justice and hatred for sin are fully vindicated, and also the source is pointed out from which his justice in us is derived, viz., faith in Jesus Christ.
“Through the forbearance of God.” These sins, or (according to the other interpretation), this spiritual languor caused by sin, God had only borne with and merely tolerated. “For the shewing of his justice in this time,” i.e. in order to manifest more clearly, and vindicate his Attribute of justice, and also to show the abundant justice whereby he renders us just, in these latter days, when the victim of infinite value that satisfied the claims of the former, and that merited and procured the abundant effusion of the latter was offered. The satisfaction made by Christ had a retrospective effect; since it was in consideration of his future redemption, that all sins, from the beginning of the world, were remitted, and justice conferred, “for the remission of former sins;” hence he is called, “agnus occisus ab origine mundi.”—(Apoc. 3:8.) “That he himself may be just.” The consequence of which economy, on the part of God, is, &c. (vide Paraphrase). The word “justice” is taken, in both these verses, for God’s attribute of justice, and for his justice in us, or our justification, which, coming from God, is called “his justice.”
Rom 3:27 Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Where, then, in this system of justification, is there any subject for boasting? It is excluded, By what law? Is it by the Old Law, which merely, as such, prescribed certain things to be done, without supplying grace or aid for their fulfilment? No, not by this law so much as by the New Law, or the law of faith, to which faith, justification is attached quite gratuitously, independently of the merits of any works proceeding from men themselves.
The Apostle having laid down the source whence justification is derived, viz., the faith of Jesus Christ, “on all without distinction,” (verse 23), and having pointed out its perfeet gratuitousness (verse 24), now asks, where, in his system of justification, is there any matter for boasting, either on the part of Jew or Gentile? Accordding to the Vulgate reading, “thy boasting,” (“thy” is not in the Greek, ἡ καυχησις, the boasting), the question specially regards the Jew. “By what law?” “of works?” By “the law of works” is meant the Old Law, which prescribed works to be performed, but did not give the grace to perform these prescribed works. Boasting is not altogether excluded, at least apparently and externally, by this law; for although, in point of fact, men could not fully observe this law by the mere helps furnished by the law itself; and hence, could not in reality, make a boast of the law, the precepts of which they did not entirely fulfil; still, they might be influenced by threats of punishment, to make a show of external observance, and so make it the subject of boasting externally before men. “But, by the law of faith,” i.e., the New Law, which requires faith as a condition of justification, and makes justification quite gratuitous, quite independent of the works that precede it. St. Augustine (in his book de Spiritu et Litera, ch. xiii.) has left us a lively antithetical description of both laws: “the law of works is that which commands what is to be done, the law of faith is faith itself, which obtains the grace to do what the law commands. The law of works is the Old Law; the law of faith, the New Law. The law of works contains the precepts, the law of faith, the help. The law of works gives us light to know, the law of faith, the power to perform. By the law of works God says: ‘do what I command:’ by the law of faith we say: ‘grant us what you command.’ The law of works prescribes external deeds, and these numerous; the law of faith regulates the interior actions, the principal of which is faith and love,” &c.
Rom 3:28 For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.
We come, then, to the conclusion, that a man, whether he be Jew or Gentile, is justified by faith, without any reference to the works of the Mosaic law, performed by the sole aid and helps of that law.
“For,” (in Greek, οὖν, therefore. The Alexandrian MS. supports the Vulgate γὰρ,) “we account,” the meaning of which, as appears from the Greek word λογιζόμεθα, is, we infer, by reasoning from the foregoing, “a man (every man, be he Jew or Gentile), to be justified by faith,” because faith is the root and foundation of all justification.—(Council of Trent, SS. 6, ch. 8). “Without the works of the law,” i.e., without the performance of the works which the law of Moses prescribes, solely with aids and lights administered by the law itself. Although the words of the Apostle here, addressing the Jewish converts, have expressly reference only to the works of the Mosaic law, still, his scope is to deny that any works, whether of the Mosaic or Natural Law, give us a claim to the grace of justification. Hence, addressing the converts from Paganism, he asserts the same.—(Ephes. chap. 11 verses 8, 9).
Objection.—Therefore, good works are not necessary for justification.
Resp.—The inference is quite raise, provided the Apostle does not in this verse speak of the works which Catholics hold to be necessary for obtaining and preserving, first, and for meriting second, justification. And, moreover, if it be clear from other passages of SS. Scripture that good works enter into man’s justification. Now, such is the case. First, “the works of the law,” of which the Apostle here speaks, are quite different from the works which Catholics maintain to be necessary for justification. What description of works do Catholics hold to be necessary for justification? Works done in faith, and by the aid of divine grace. Of this latter class of works there is no question here. For, the Apostle is speaking of works upon which would be based a system of justification opposed to the gratuitous justification by faith. He opposes these works to faith. He makes the first, the basis of the justification maintained by the converted Jews and Gentiles; the second, the basis of the justification propounded by himself. If he were treating of the works done in faith, there would be no such opposition; nor could the gratuitousness of justification be excluded by such works; for, Catholics, while maintaining that these works have a share in justification, still hold that these works preceding justification, although good, although performed by the aid of divine grace, give no claim to strict merit, and leave justification itself quite gratuitous. Moreover, the state of the controversy would admit of no reference to works done under the influence of faith and grace; for, the question at issue regarded the claim which the works upon which the converted Jews and Gentiles relied, gave towards obtaining faith and justification. Faith, then, in the minds of the converted Romans, was supposed to be given in reward for these works; hence, there must be question of works preceding faith. The Apostle, then, refers to the works performed by the sole aid of the law of Moses, and the law of nature, without grace and faith; and he comes to the conclusion, that these works have no share in justification. Secondly, we have numberless passages in SS. Scripture, in which the necessity of good works is asserted. St. Paul himself tells us (chap. 2 of this Epistle), “that only the doers of the law will be justified;” and the saving faith of the Galatians must be “a faith that worketh by charity.”—(Gal. 5:6); and we are told (1 Cor. 13) that faith strong enough to remove mountains, unless accompanied by charity, is worth nothing. St. James (chap. 2), is so clear on this subject as to render comment unnecessary. And we are informed by St. Augustine (Libro de Fide, &c., xiv.), that one of the principal objects of St. James, in writing his Epistle, was, to refute the error regarding the sufficiency of faith, exclusive of good works, for justification; an error which, even in his days was broached and grounded on the false interpretation of the words of the Apostle in this Epistle. The reason why the Apostle dwells on the necessity of faith, passing over the other dispositions for justification, is, because it is the ingredient of justification which most clearly showed its absolute gratuitousness—the point he had chiefly to prove. And if he were, in this Epistle, to point out all the conditions necessary for justification—good works among the rest—he would be only rendering his doctrine less forcible and more obscure; for, his adversaries might artfully endeavour to confound these good works, required by him, with those put forward by themselves, which latter description of works is altogether excluded by him in this Epistle.
Rom 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? yes, of the Gentiles also.
Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles as well? Yes, truly, he is the God of the Gentiles as well as the God of the Jews.
Rom 3:30 For it is one God that justifieth circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith.
Since, therefore, there is but one God, equally the God of all, it is meet that he should have adopted one means of justification for all, and that means is faith, for the justification of both Jews and Gentiles.
(29-30) The Apostle, in these verses, adduces an additional reason, to show the congruity of the system of justification through faith “without the works of the law;” i.e., without the works performed by the sole aid of the law of Moses. For, if God attached justification to these works, he would appear to be the God of the Jews only, to the exclusion of the Gentiles. Hence, as he is the God of the Gentiles too, he must have adopted a means of justification for them also, and must afford them a means of attaining that felicity for which they are destined. This means is the same for all, viz., faith; for, it is congruous that one God would adopt one general system of justifying his creatures. “Circumcision,”—the Jews; “Incircumcision,”—the Gentiles. (For a fuller exposition of justification by faith and good works, see Commentary on chap. 2 Epistle of St. James).
Rom 3:31 Do we then, destroy the law through faith? God forbid! But we establish the law.
Are we then, by this doctrine of justification through faith, abolishing the Law of Moses? By no means; we are only establishing it the more firmly, by pointing out its term, Christ; and also by pointing out the source from which it can be fulfilled, viz., the grace of Christ.
From the foregoing doctrine it by no means follows that the Apostle is destroying the law. On the contrary, he is establishing it more firmly; for, if there be question of the ceremonial or typical part of the law, he establishes it by pointing out the thing typified by all the external observances and justifications, viz., true justification by Christ. If there be question of the moral law, he is establishing it by pointing out the means of fully observing it, viz., the grace of Christ, by which alone man can observe the entire moral law.