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Romans 3:31

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Do we then make void the law through faith? -

  1. By law here we may understand the whole of the Mosaic law, in its rites and ceremonies; of which Jesus Christ was the subject and the end. All that law had respect to him; and the doctrine of faith in Christ Jesus, which the Christian religion proclaimed, established the very claims and demands of that law, by showing that all was accomplished in the passion and death of Christ, for, without shedding of blood, the law would allow of no remission; and Jesus was that Lamb of God which was slain from the foundation of the world, in whose blood we have redemption, even the remission of sins.
  • We may understand, also, the moral law, that which relates to the regulation of the manners or conduct of men. This law also was established by the doctrine of salvation by faith; because this faith works by love, and love is the principle of obedience: and whosoever receives salvation through faith in Christ, receives power to live in holy obedience to every moral precept; for such are God's workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works; in which they find it their duty and their interest incessantly to live.
  • In the notes on the preceding chapter, I have, in general, followed the plan of Dr. Taylor, and especially in regard to its dialogue form, but I have often differed much from that very learned and judicious man, in the application of many words and doctrines. He cannot allow that the death of Christ should be considered as a price paid down for the salvation of men and, I confess, I cannot understand the apostle in any other way. Nor can I see the weight of many of his observations, nor the force of his conclusions, on any other ground than this, that the passion and death of Christ were an atonement made to Divine justice in the behalf of man; and that it is through the merit of that great sacrifice that God forgives sin. Nor can I see any reason why such great stress should be laid on faith, but as that lays hold on and takes up the sacrifice of Christ as a ransom price for the redemption of the soul from the thraldom and misery of sin and Satan.
  • This chapter contains a fine and striking synopsis of the whole Christian system. The wretched state of man is awfully exhibited, from the 10th to the 18th verse; and the plan of salvation, in the 24th, 25th, and 26th verses. A pious writer calls these the Catechism of Christian Righteousness. The following points in this catechism are worthy of high consideration - viz. How is God glorified in us, and we in him? - By his Grace. What does his grace work in us? - True holiness. Upon what motive? - Because it is pleasing to him. By whom does he give us salvation? - By Jesus Christ. How has Christ obtained this for us? - By redeeming us. What price did he give? - His Blood. What does his blood effect? - It reconciles us to God. How is it applied? - By Faith. Who has given this victim of reconciliation? - God the Father. Why did he choose these means? - To confound the false righteousness of the Gentiles; to abolish the Figurative righteousness of the Jews; and to establish his own. What does this grace of God perform? - It pardons sin and purifies the heart. For whom is this designed? - For all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles. To whom are these blessings actually communicated? - To all who repent, turn from their sin, and believe on the Lord Jesus. Why did not God make known this grand method of salvation sooner?
  • To make it the more valued:
  • To show his fidelity in the performance of his promises: and,
  • To make known the virtue and efficacy of the blood of Christ, which sanctifies the present, extends its influence to the past, and continues the availing sacrifice and way of salvation to all future ages.
  • On considering this glorious scheme of salvation, there is great danger, lest, while we stand amazed at what was done For us, we neglect what must be done In us. Guilt in the conscience and sin in the heart ruin the man. Pardon in the conscience and Christ in the heart save the soul. Christ has done much to save us, and the way of salvation is made plain; but, unless he justify our conscience from dead works, and purify our hearts from all sin, his passion and death will profit us nothing. While we boast in Christ Jesus, let us see that our rejoicing, καυχησις, our boasting, be this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have our conversation in the world, 2 Corinthians 1:12.
  • We must beware of Antinomianism; that is, of supposing that, because Christ has been obedient unto death, there is no necessity for our obedience to his righteous commandments. If this were so, the grace of Christ would tend to the destruction of the law, and not to its establishment. He only is saved from his sins who has the law of God written in his heart; and he alone has the law written in his heart who lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Wherever Christ lives he works: and his work of righteousness will appear to his servants, and its effect will be quietness and assurance for ever. The life of God in the soul of man is the principle which saves and preserves eternally.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Do we then make void the law - Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith? This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness. The word “law” here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament. This is evident from Romans 3:20-21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law. See the note.

    God forbid - By no means. Note, Romans 3:4. This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.

    Yea, we establish the law - That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating people as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured. This is done in the following manner:

    (1) God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement. He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfil its threatenings.

    (2) Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honorable. He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.

    (3) the plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the Law. The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the Law. He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his Law. All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the Law, prompt him to yield obedience to it. The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the Law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience. We do not easily and readily repeat what overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate what inflicted such woes on the Saviour‘s soul. The sentiment recorded by Watts is as true as it is beautiful:

    “‘Twas for my sins my dearest Lord.

    Hung on the cursed tree.

    And groan‘d away his dying life,

    For thee, my soul, for thee.

    “O how I hate those lusts of mine.

    That crucified my Lord;

    Those sins that pierc‘d and nail‘d his flesh.

    Fast to the fatal wood.

    “Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,

    My heart hath so decreed;

    Nor will I spare the guilty things.

    That made my Saviour bleed.”

    This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law always has over the human mind. And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the Law of God.

    (This is indeed a beautiful and just view of the moral influence of the gospel, and especially of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It may be questioned, however, whether the apostle in this place refers chiefly, or even at all, to the sanctifying tendency of his doctrine. This he does very fully in the 6th Rom.; and therefore, if another and consistent sense can be found, we need not resort to the supposition that he now anticipates what he intended, in a subsequent part of his epistle, more fully to discuss. In what other way, then, does the apostle‘s doctrine establish the Law? How does he vindicate himself from the charge of making it void? In the preceding chapter he had pointed out the true ground of pardon in the “righteousness of God.” He had explained that none could be justified but they who had by faith received it. “Do we then,” he asks in conclusion,” make void the Law by maintaining thus, that no sinner can be accepted who does not receive a righteousness commensurate with all its demands?.” “Yea, we establish the law,” is the obvious answer. Jesus has died to satisfy its claims, and lives to honor its precepts. Thus, he hath brought in “righteousness,” which, being imputed to them that believe, forms such a ground of pardon and acceptance, as the Law cannot challenge.

    Calvin, in his commentary on the passage, though he does not exclude the idea of sanctification, yet gives prominence to the view now stated. “When,” says he, “we come to Christ, the exact righteousness of the Law is first found in him, which also becomes ours by imputation; in the next place sanctification is acquired,” etc.)

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    God will have the great work of the justification and salvation of sinners carried on from first to last, so as to shut out boasting. Now, if we were saved by our own works, boasting would not be excluded. But the way of justification by faith for ever shuts out boasting. Yet believers are not left to be lawless; faith is a law, it is a working grace, wherever it is in truth. By faith, not in this matter an act of obedience, or a good work, but forming the relation between Christ and the sinner, which renders it proper that the believer should be pardoned and justified for the sake of the Saviour, and that the unbeliever who is not thus united or related to him, should remain under condemnation. The law is still of use to convince us of what is past, and to direct us for the future. Though we cannot be saved by it as a covenant, yet we own and submit to it, as a rule in the hand of the Mediator.
    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 1, 347

    There are many who cry, “Believe, only believe.” Ask them what you are to believe. Are you to believe the lies forged by Satan against God's holy, just, and good law? God does not use His great and precious grace to make of none effect His law, but to establish His law. What is the decision of Paul? He says: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law.... For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and [the commandment then ended?—No.] I [Paul] died.... Wherefore the law is [standing directly in the way of my having liberty and peace?—No.] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:7-12). 1SM 347.1

    Paul learned that there was no power in the law to pardon the transgressor of law. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified” (Romans 3:20). “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4). 1SM 347.2

    The Lord saw our fallen condition; He saw our need of grace, and because He loved our souls, He has given us grace and peace. Grace means favor to one who is undeserving, to one who is lost. The fact that we are sinners, instead of shutting us away from the mercy and love of God, makes the exercise of His love to us a positive necessity in order that we may be saved. Christ says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). 1SM 347.3

    When Adam fell, provision was made for his restoration. In due time Jesus, the Prince of life, came to our world to enter into controversy with the powers of darkness. In this world Satan had an opportunity to exhibit the result of the working out of his principles of freedom from all law, and Christ, by His unswerving obedience to His Father's commandments, made manifest the result of practicing the principles of righteousness. In accordance with his principles of evil, Satan harassed the Son of God with fierce temptations, and finally brought Him to the judgment hall, that He might be condemned to death without cause. The confederacy of evil moved upon the hearts of men to work out the principles of evil. Christ and Barabbas were presented before the multitude. Barabbas was a notable robber and murderer; Christ was the Son of God. Pilate looked upon the two, and thought there would be no hesitation in the choice of Jesus. The marks of nobility, intelligence, and purity were plainly revealed in His countenance, in marked contrast to the coarse features of Barabbas. He asked, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? (Matthew 27:21). And the hoarse cry of the infuriated mob was heard, calling, “Barabbas.” “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22, 23). 1SM 347.4

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1072-3

    It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation full and complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the world's Redeemer and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” We know that the gospel is a perfect and complete system, revealing the immutability of the law of God. It inspires the heart with hope, and with love for God. Mercy invites us to enter through the gates into the city of God, and justice is sacrificed to accord to every obedient soul full privileges as a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King. 6BC 1072.1

    If we were defective in character, we could not pass the gates that mercy has opened to the obedient; for justice stands at the entrance, and demands holiness, purity, in all who would see God. Were justice extinct, and were it possible for divine mercy to open the gates to the whole race, irrespective of character, there would be a worse condition of disaffection and rebellion in heaven than before Satan was expelled. The peace, happiness, and harmony of heaven would be broken up. The change from earth to heaven will not change men's characters; the happiness of the redeemed in heaven results from the characters formed in this life, after the image of Christ. The saints in heaven will first have been saints on earth. 6BC 1072.2

    The salvation that Christ made such a sacrifice to gain for man, is that which is alone of value, that which saves from sin—the cause of all the misery and woe in our world. Mercy extended to the sinner is constantly drawing him to Jesus. If he responds, coming in penitence with confession, in faith laying hold of the hope set before him in the gospel, God will not despise the broken and contrite heart. Thus the law of God is not weakened, but the power of sin is broken, and the scepter of mercy is extended to the penitent sinner (Letter 1f, 1890). 6BC 1072.3

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1096

    7-17. The Moral Law Glorified by Christ—The types and shadows of the sacrificial service, with the prophecies, gave the Israelites a veiled, indistinct view of the mercy and grace to be brought to the world by the revelation of Christ. To Moses was unfolded the significance of the types and shadows pointing to Christ. He saw to the end of that which was to be done away when, at the death of Christ, type met antitype. He saw that only through Christ can man keep the moral law. By transgression of this law man brought sin into the world, and with sin came death. Christ became the propitiation for man's sin. He proffered His perfection of character in the place of man's sinfulness. He took upon Himself the curse of disobedience. The sacrifices and offerings pointed forward to the sacrifice He was to make. The slain lamb typified the Lamb that was to take away the sin of the world. 6BC 1096.1

    It was seeing the object of that which was to be done away, seeing Christ as revealed in the law, that illumined the face of Moses. The ministration of the law, written and engraved in stone, was a ministration of death. Without Christ, the transgressor was left under its curse, with no hope of pardon. The ministration had of itself no glory, but the promised Saviour, revealed in the types and shadows of the ceremonial law, made the moral law glorious (The Review and Herald, April 22, 1902). 6BC 1096.2

    7-18 (Romans 3:31; 7:7; Galatians 3:13). Christ's Glory Revealed in His Law—Christ bore the curse of the law, suffering its penalty, carrying to completion the plan whereby man was to be placed where he could keep God's law, and be accepted through the merits of the Redeemer; and by His sacrifice glory was shed upon the law. Then the glory of that which is not to be done away—God's law of ten commandments, His standard of righteousness—was plainly seen by all who saw to the end of that which was done away. 6BC 1096.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Great Controversy, 468

    Is he now free to transgress God's law? Says Paul: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” And John declares: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” Romans 3:31; 6:2; 1 John 5:3. In the new birth the heart is brought into harmony with God, as it is brought into accord with His law. When this mighty change has taken place in the sinner, he has passed from death unto life, from sin unto holiness, from transgression and rebellion to obedience and loyalty. The old life of alienation from God has ended; the new life of reconciliation, of faith and love, has begun. Then “the righteousness of the law” will “be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:4. And the language of the soul will be: “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97. GC 468.1

    “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. Without the law, men have no just conception of the purity and holiness of God or of their own guilt and uncleanness. They have no true conviction of sin and feel no need of repentance. Not seeing their lost condition as violators of God's law, they do not realize their need of the atoning blood of Christ. The hope of salvation is accepted without a radical change of heart or reformation of life. Thus superficial conversions abound, and multitudes are joined to the church who have never been united to Christ. GC 468.2

    Erroneous theories of sanctification, also, springing from neglect or rejection of the divine law, have a prominent place in the religious movements of the day. These theories are both false in doctrine and dangerous in practical results; and the fact that they are so generally finding favor, renders it doubly essential that all have a clear understanding of what the Scriptures teach upon this point. GC 469.1

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