Notes on Romans 3:1-20

Romans 3:1-20
The apostle's statement at the end of chapter 2: had laid down. With irresistible force for the conscience that God. will have reality rather than forth. Let the Jew then beware. This gives occasion to objections which are met in the earlier part of chapter iii. 1-8.
“What therefore [is] the superiority of the Jew, or what the profit of circumcision?” To this or at least the former of these questions the apostle replies, “Much in every way; for, first, because they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” In its proper place he enumerates the various high distinctions of Israel; but here he singles out; as foremost, that which had been their constant, and most precious privilege, the possession of God's written word; and the rather too as this was Most suited to demonstrate their moral delinquency. For what use had they made of it? Where was the fruit of so great a favor?
Here again there is an anticipation of any argument founded, however unreasonably, on Jewish refractoriness which knew that the glory of God can never fail. “For what if some believed not? shall their unbelief make void the faith of God? Let it not be, but let God be true and every man false, even as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy words, and overcome when thou art judged.” God holds fast infallibly to His truth, and men fail in faithfulness because of want of faith, which is insensible to sin, trusts self and has no confidence in God. That there is any, the smallest, failure on God's part he indignantly repudiates, find insists that He at least be vindicated to man's shame and Confession of his own evil; even as David found his only resource in acknowledging his sin to God, clearing Him at all cost to himself. Indeed this is the secret of blessing for the sinner; and the willingness to own his ruined estate God operates in the heart by the revelation of His own grace. Our sins justify His words.
Of this the objector would again take advantage by contending that God could not then consistently punish us. Hence the apostle cuts off such misuse of the truth by what follows. “But if our unrighteousness commend God's righteousness, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous? Who inflicteth wrath? I speak according to man. Let it not be: since how shall God judge the world?” This last was an axiom with the Jew, who was willing enough to allow justice in dealing with the earth at large (as, e.g., Abraham had entrenched himself on it in favor of exempting Lot from the destruction then impending over the cities of the plain). Impossible that there can be unrighteousness in God. But this very consideration was fatal to the fond delusion of self-security to which an unrighteous Jew yielded. God brings Himself glory even in face of man's iniquity; but iniquity is none the less, nor the less surely to be judged of God for all that. Hence he allows the objection to betray its own heinousness and leaves it when thus self-exposed without an answer, as necessarily condemned even by the most ordinary natural conscience. “For if the truth of God abounded in My lie to his glory, why any longer am I too judged as a sinner and not, even as we are slanderously reported, and even as some give out that we say, Let us do evil that good may come?’—whose judgment is just.” Such reasoning resembled what was falsely put into the mouth of the Christian, and proved too truly of the Jewish adversary that, in seeking to escape the conviction of his own hopeless exposure to God's judgment, he was obliged, as with the stiffest legalist is so often the ease, to slip into principles of very gross antinomianism. It must always be thus, where men, cloaking their sins, hope for Mercy from God; and the more inconsistently, as they ignore His grace and confess that He is the judge of all.
Next, from Verse 9 the general argument is resumed, all the stronger for the interruption which rebuked the vain struggles and detailed cavils of the Jew. “What therefore? are we better? Not at all; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin, even as it is Written, There is none righteous, not one; there is not the [man] that understandeth; there is not the [nation] that seeketh God. All went out of the way, thus then they became unprofitable; there is none that doeth kindness, there is not so much as one. Their throat [is] an open grave; with their tongues they used deceit; venom of asps [is] under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; swift [are] their feet to shed blood; ruin and misery [are] in their ways, and no way of peace they knew. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever things the law saith, it speaketh to those that are in the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world come under judgment with God; because by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him, for by law is knowledge of sin.” (Ver. 920.) The Jew then is no better. The Gentiles were utterly degraded and guilty, as we saw in chapter 1.; the Jews had brought shame on the Lord in proportion to their exceeding privileges. To clench this last point the apostle cites from the Psalms and prophets, especially Psa. 53 and Isa. 59 Righteousness, intelligence, and even desire after God were not to be found, but all gone aside, and useless morally. Nay, every whit of them was corrupt or violent—throats, tongues, lips, feet, eyes. And this, as is remarked, was God's estimate, not of men merely but of the Jew, and addresses itself to those under itself as no Jew would deny.
The overwhelming conclusion, then, is that every mouth is closed and the whole world comes in guilty before God. The Jew never doubted the wickedness of the idolatrous Greeks, Romans, or other Gentiles. This to him was patent and unquestionable. But the flattering and most mistaken inference of immunity he drew from his own position, as having God's law and ordinances. No, reasons the apostle, this demonstrates your guilt to be even greater than the heathen's, if you are no less immoral than they; and that such is the fact certainly flows from” the revealed sentence of the law on the people who have that law. Thus all stand inexcusable, speechless in their guilt; and before God; and this, because law-works cannot justify—still less of course the works that man's mind suggests—or that the will of others may extort. If any works could justify anybody, those of God’s law must be the surest benefit to the Jew. But the truth is that no flesh shall be justified from any such Source in His sight; for contrariwise law never produces holiness, but is only the means of arriving at a full knowledge of sin.
There is another point I would notice to the two chief portions which the apostle quotes from the Old Testament., The Psalm and the prophecy already referred to terminate respectively—the former, with an earnest wish that the turning-point for Israel were come out of Zion, their captivity giving place to the long-looked-for joy and deliverance—the latter, with the declaration that the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and the covenant of blessing be theirs forever. That is, both texts in their original connection close their sad account of Israel's sin, with the yearning after, and the distinct prediction of, the kingdom of God restored to Israel with all accompanying blessedness and glory. But in the New Testament they are followed by the indiscriminate grade Of God to every sinner that believes in Christ. In the former it is redemption by power; in the latter it is redemption by blood, which is come in Meanwhile, before the Redeemer appears in power and glory, as He will soon.