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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Romans 3

Objections answered. (1-8) All mankind are sinners. (9-18) Both Jews and Gentiles cannot be justified by their own deeds. (19,20) It is owing to the free grace of God, through faith in the righteousness of Christ, yet the law is not done away. (21-31)

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Objections answered

1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

All mankind are sinners

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Both Jews and Gentiles cannot be justified by their own deeds

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

It is owing to the free grace of God, through faith in the righteousness of Christ, yet the law is not done away

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. What advantage then? &c. The apostle, not to offend the Jews, by insisting too long in reprehending them, turns his discourse to the advantages they have hitherto had above other nations. As first, that the words of God, those divine oracles, revelations, promises in the Scriptures, were credited or intrusted to them. And though some, or many of them have not believed God’s promises, especially concerning their Messias; this hath not hindered God from being faithful to his word, in sending the Messias, and those blessings that were promised with him. For God is always true, or faithful in his promises, and therefore must needs be justified, or found just, when his proceedings are judged, that is, considered and examined. Wi.

Ver. 4. God only is essentially true. All men in their own capacity are liable to lies and errors: nevertheless God, who is the truth, will make good his promise of keeping his Church in all truth. See S. John, xvi. 13. Ch. — The Greek text has, “may God be true;” that is, may all men acknowledge him as such; let the whole world know, that he neither can be unfaithful to his word, nor his promises; and that, on the contrary, all men of themselves have but lies and vanity for their portion. — That thou mayest be justified, &c. The particle that, is not casual in this place, but only marks the event. Thy conduct shews that thou art faithful and true to thy promises, and that, notwithstanding the judgments of men, thou art always unchangeable and infallible. Thou art victorious, when judged by them; thou shewest them the falsity and injustice of their judgments. Calmet. — And that the infidelity of man, so far from affecting the fidelity of God, will only serve to set it off in a more striking and clearer light. V.

Ver. 5-6. But if our injustice, &c. S. Paul here puts this objection, that if men’s sins and iniquities, make the justice of God commendable, that is, make his justice more apparent and known; if the truth of God, as to his promises, be more discovered, praised, and glorified by our lies, that is, by our sins, how then can God blame, or punish men for sins, which contribute more to his honour? May we not say, (as some falsely pretend S. Paul said) let us do evil things, that good things may come of them? The apostle answers in short both this objection, and the calumny against him. As to the first; that though men’s sins give an occasion to God to shew his justice, and make known his divine perfections, yet this will not excuse them from being justly condemned, and punished, when God shall judge the wicked world; for if that were a sufficient plea, God could not judge and condemn the wicked: so that as S. Chrys.[1] observes, the apostle resolves their question, by asking another, and shews their reasoning absurd, by taking notice of another absurdity that follows from it. 2dly. He tells them, they slander him, and his doctrine, by only telling them, they deserve to be condemned who say, let us do evil that good may come of it: the damnation, he says, of such men is just. Wi.

Ver. 9. What then do we Jews excel the Gentiles? He again turns his discourse against the Jews, by shewing that they have been sinners, as well as the Gentiles, notwithstanding the particular favours God had done to them, and not to the Gentiles: this he proves out of the psalms; and (v. 19.) he shews, that these things were spoken of them, who were under the law. Wi.

Ver. 10. There is not any man just, viz. by virtue either of the law of nature, or of the law of Moses; but only by faith and grace. Ch. — The apostle here adduces a series of passages from the ancient Scripture, to convince both Jews and Gentiles, that not one amongst them was just, nor had any title to glory, on account of his good works. Not that a just man could not be found under the old law, or even before the law; an infinite number of passages of Scripture will shew the contrary: but he must be understood as speaking of man left to himself, as a son of Adam, conceived in sin, and brought forth a child of wrath. Calmet. — These crimes, enumerated by the apostle, are not mentioned as if found in each individual, but some of this black catalogue of crimes were found in one man; some in another; yet so that all had become infected with sin and iniquity, all had deserted the path of virtue. There was none just, none found, who feared or sought after God. Estius. — These texts of Scripture, though formerly, even before the times of S. Jerom and S. Augustin, they were found together in some Latin editions, viz. Ps. xiii. cannot be found united either in the Hebrew text, or Sept. version, as S. Jerom affirms, in Præf. lib. xvi. commentar. in Isai. This, he says, all the Greek commentators allow. He says, that those who were ignorant of this apostle’s art in uniting together the texts of different pasts of Scripture, upon finding no part where they were all together, placed them, without any authority, in that psalm whence the first part of the citation is taken. The words, an open sepulchre, are taken from Ps. xiii. (Heb. text xiv.) the verse “Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have dealt deceitfully,” from Ps. v. “The venom of asps is under their lips,” from Ps. cxxxix. “Whose mouth is full of curses and bitterness,” from Ps. ix. “Their feet are swift,” &c. as far as, there is no fear, from Isai. ch. lix. “There is not the fear of God before their eyes,” from Ps. xxxv. Estius.

Ver. 17. S. Augustin says, that by the law of actions, is understood, that which teaches us what we have to do: by the law of faith, is meant faith itself, which obtains for us grace of performing what the law requires. The law of actions, then, is the old law, which contains the precept; the law of faith is the new law, which gives assistance to fulfil the law. De Spir. & Lit. c. iv.

Ver. 19. And all the world may be made subject to God. That is, God permitted these sins in all men, that sanctification and salvation might be from Christ only, the Redeemer of all men, so that neither Jew nor Gentile should be justified, but by the free and liberal gift of his grace. See S. Chrys.[2] Wi. — That the Jews might not say that these passages were to be understood of Gentiles, the apostle here assures them that they must be understood in the first place of the Jews themselves; for what the law speaketh, it speaketh to those who are under the law. If the Jews, then, were so guilty, the guilt of the Gentiles was far more enormous. Thus is every mouth stopped, and all the world must confess itself guilty before God. Let none then glory in their good works. Calmet.

Ver. 20. &c. To the end of this chapter, the apostle shews that the Jews cannot be truly justified, and sanctified by the works of the written law of Moses only; that a knowledge of sin, or of what is sinful, came by the law, but if they did not comply with the precepts of the law, this knowledge made them more guilty. Now, at the coming of Christ, the justice of God, that is, the justice by which he made others just, and justified them, cannot be had without faith in Christ, and by the grace of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, whom God hath proposed to all, both Gentiles and Jews, as a sacrifice of[3] propitiation for the sins of all mankind, by faith in his blood; that is, by believing in him, who shed his blood and died for us on the cross. It is he alone, (v. 26.) that is the just one, and the justifier of all. And as to this, there is no distinction. The Gentiles are justified and sanctified without the written law, and the Jews who have been under the law, cannot partake of the justice of God, that is, cannot be justified, sanctified, or saved, but by the faith and grace of Christ Jesus. S. Paul does not pretend that the virtue of faith alone will justify and save a man; nothing can be more opposite to the doctrine of the gospel, and of the apostles in many places, as hath been observed, and will be shewn hereafter. He tells us in this chap. (v. 20. and 28.) that man is justified without the works of the written law: and he teaches us, that no works of the law of Moses, nor any works that a man does by the law of nature, are sufficient to justify a man, and save him of themselves, that is, unless they be joined with faith, and the grace of God. And when he seems to say, that men are justified or saved by faith, or by believing, as he says of Abraham in the next chapter, (v. 3. and 5.) he never says (as some both ancient and later heretics have pretended) that faith alone is sufficient. And besides by faith, he understands the Christian faith and doctrine of Christ, as opposite to the law of Moses, to circumcision, and the ceremonies of that law, as it evidently appears by the design of the apostle, both in this epistle and in that to the Galatians. He teaches us in this epistle (c. ii. 6.) that God will judge every man according to his works: (v. 13.) that “not the hearers of the law,” but the doers, shall be justified. See also c. vi. He tells the Galatians (c. v, v. 6.) that the faith, by which they must be saved, must be a faith working by charity. He also tells the Corinthians (1. vii. 19.) that circumcision is nothing, nor uncircumcision, but the keeping of the commandments of God. That though a man should have a faith, that so he could remove mountains, it would avail him nothing without charity. How often does he tell us that they who commit such and such sins, shall not inherit or possess the kingdom of God? Does not S. James tell us, that faith without good works is dead? See chap. ii. Of this more hereafter. Wi.

Ver. 29. The apostle here tells us that all men are the creatures of God Almighty, and destined to eternal happiness. Neither was it necessary to be incorporated with the Jews by circumcision, to be made partakers of the justice of God. Estius.

Ver. 30. God who justifieth circumcision, and also the uncircumcised by faith; that is, by the faith and religion of the new law, or by a faith working by charity, and joined with good words proceeding from faith. See the Council of Trent, Sess. 6. cap. viii. “When the apostle says, that a man is justified by faith, and gratis, according to the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church, we are said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning and foundation of man’s salvation, and the root of his justification, without which we cannot please God, nor be made his sons; and we are said to be justified gratis, because nothing of those things which go before justification, whether faith or works, are meritorious of the grace of justification.” Wi.

Ver. 31. Do we then destroy the law through faith? No: but we establish the law. See the words of Christ: (Matt. v. 17.) 1. Because the figures and types of the law of Moses, and the predictions of the prophets, are fulfilled. 2. Because Christians are now taught to fulfil the moral precepts, and the chief part of the law, with greater perfection, in the spirit of faith, charity, &c. Wi.

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[1] V. 6. S. Chrys. on the words: how shall God judge the world? atopon atopo luei.

[2] V. 19. Ut subditus fiat omnis mundus Deo, upodikos genetai. o upodikos kurios legetai, o me dunamenos archein eauto pros apologian, alla tes eterou deomenos boethei.

[3] V. 25. Quem proposuit Deus propitiationem, ilasterion. Some read propitiatorium, as I find it in the Council of Trent, Sess. 6. cap. ii.