Romans: Ch. iii.

December 31, 2010

Chapter 3


From what was said in Chapters 1 and 2 Paul concludes that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are in sin and need the grace of Christ.  Therefore 1) lest he offend the Jews, he says they excel the Gentiles in that the words and promises of God were entrusted to them; 2) v. 9 he equates the Jews with the Gentiles in that they are all in sin, and proves this from many passages of Scripture; 3) v. 20 he teaches that men are freed and justified, not from the works of the law, in which the Jews glory, but from faith in Christ the propitiator.

1. Considers a new objection: “If what you said in ch. 2 is true, there is nothing in which the Jew seems to excel the Gentile.”

2. Answer: First indeed, that is, “principally, especially,” in that God has entrusted to the Jews, as his chosen people, his words: that is, the law and the sacred scriptures in general, in which are implicitly understood all God’s goodness to the Jews, including the promise of the Messiah to be born from them.  The Gentiles can only come to this knowledge through the Jews.

3. Another objection: “How are God’s words entrusted to the Jews, if many of them do not believe in them?”  Answer: Even if some do not believe in them, God on his part is faithful; the infidelity of some cannot hinder his faithfulness to his promises, especially that of the Messiah.

4. Every man a liar (Ps. cxv. 2.) – speaking of man in his fallen state: through grace, man becomes like God and ceases to be a man and a liar (SS. Augustine, Jerome).

4. As it is written … – Ps. l. 6; sense: “I, David, confess that I have sinned before you, Lord, but spare me, and restore to me the promises you once made to me, and so it will come about that you will overcome and overturn the false judgments of men, who think you will not keep your promises” – thus proving the first part of the verse: God is true and every man a liar.

5-7. Another objection: “If our wickedness can show forth God’s justice and faithfulness towards us more greatly, God therefore seems to be wicked in punishing us for our wickedness instead of rewarding us for showing forth his justice.”  Answer – our wickedness only illustrates God’s justice accidentally; by his nature God commends justice.

8. Continuation of the objection: if our sins lead to the glory and mercy of God, God is unjust to punish sin.  Answer – this would be as if men were to say of a pious and patient man: “This man is wonderfully patient, he bears and ignores all wickedness; therefore let us trouble him and inflict a thousand injuries upon him, so that we may show just how patient he is.”  This is a perverse argument: the man’s virtue gained from the injuries he bears, and God’s glory from our sins, are only because of the wisdom of the holy man and of God, who knows how to order evil to the good of his mercy or his justice.  No sin, even the smallest venial sin, can be chosen or committed, even to avoid graver sins (Cajetan).

10-18. The Apostle’s quotations are taken from Pss. xiii, lii, v, cxxxix, ix., Is. lxix. and Prov. i. 16.; afterwards, the string of quotations was inserted into the corresponding place in Ps. xiii, verse 3.  The words refer to every man in his fallen state, without the grace of God.

12. There is none that doth good, that is, that without the grace of Christ can do the good necessary to merit eternal life.  It does not mean that every deed of an unbeliever is evil and a sin, but only insufficient to bring forth God’s saving grace.

19. i.e. “Do not say, o Jews, that these words only apply to the Gentiles; for these are words of the law, the Psalms and the Prophets, which in fact speak more to those under the law (Jews) than those who are not (Gentiles).”

20. i.e. “Again, Jew, you are saying: Even if I am a sinner, and fall into sin, I nevertheless have the works of the law by which I can expiate sin.”  The Apostle replies: “These works can cleanse and expiate the flesh, but they cannot cleanse and justify a soul from sin, since the law and works of the law are only an indication and demonstration of what is right, not an expiation of sin.”

21. i.e. The old law has ended, and the saving justice and grace of God is now made manifest by the Gospel of Christ, which has been witnessed to for long ages by the law and the prophets.

22. all them that believe in him, i.e. with a faith formed by charity, obeying Christ’s commands.

23. the glory of God – i.e. the grace of God, by which he is glorified.  This is the judgment which God pronounces from the mouth of Paul, having considered the cases of the Jews and the Gentiles: “O Jews, you arrogantly assert yourselves against the Gentiles and consider yourselves just because of the law; you Gentiles condemn the Jews and arrogate to yourselves the moral virtues – I have examined your cases in chapters 1 and 2 and I pronounce the following judgment: All men, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned, and need the grace of God.”  Let every man apply this to himself: “All men have sinned, and need the glory of God – therefore I have sinned, therefore I also am a sinner, and need the great and glorious grace and mercy of God.”

25. i.e. God wishes Christ to be a propitiation for those who through faith believe that Christ suffered and died and thus was made propitiation for our sins.  The final cause of justification is the showing of the justice of God.

27. The law of works is that which orders what is to be done; the law of faith is faith itself, which obtains the grace necessary to do what the law commands.

28. Luther added “alone” to the phrase justified by faith; when challenged by a Catholic, he replied: “Doctor Martin Luther will have it so, and says that a Papist and an ass are one and the same.  Thus I will, thus I order, let my will be the reason.  For we do not wish to be the students of the Papists, but their judges.  Luther wills it so, and says he is Doctor above all the Doctors of all Popedom.” – You have heard Lucifer speaking through the mouth of Luther. – The Apostle says that we are justified by faith, not alone, but with a faith that is the root, foundation and beginning of justification.  For the Apostle here only wishes to prove the necessity of the faith and grace of Christ; he is not referring to the works of faith, but to the works of the Jewish law.

29. A new argument ex absurdo: if we are justified by works of the law, therefore justice would be tied to the Mosaic law and to the Jews, and consequently God would seem to be the God only of the Jews, not of the Gentiles, which is absurd.

31. Objection: “You are destroying the Jewish law by your faith.”  Answer – the law is established and confirmed because what it signified and promised has been fulfilled by the Gospel (faith).  The Messiah has fulfilled in the new law, and thereby stabilized and confirmed, whatever Moses prefigured in the old law.


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