A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
Now then, let us look at the defense.
In a human court, when the charge has been made and the prisoner is given a chance to speak for himself, sometimes (when he feels greatly the tremendous burden of his guilt and his sin) he will only bow his head and say, "I have nothing to say."
When the apostle Paul brings the whole world before the judgment bar of God (Jew and Gentile), it is not a blustering, noisy world. It is a silent world! Mark the words: "That every mouth may be stopped!" The mouth of the heathen idolater, the mouth of the man of exemplary morals, the mouth of the proud Pharisee, even the mouth that was full of cursing and bitterness: every mouth is stopped!
There is a fore-gleam here of the day of judgment. There is no defense! Men have wondered what that day will be like. Some men have been so presumptuous as to declare when that day comes they will stand before the throne of God and make their own defense. The great French infidel Rousseau, a man who shunned wedlock and sent his children to an orphanage, said, "I will stand before God and defend my conduct!" Many men say, "I will stand before God and defend myself." When I hear a man say that, I think, "Poor fool!" When men stand before that dread bar of God, there will be no defense, no alibi, no excuse. Their mouths will be stopped!
There is only one reason why human courts permit a defense. That is to protect against a mistake. Therefore, in order to protect everyone, we say, "You have an opportunity to make your defense. But when God brings a charge against a man, He makes no mistakes! There will be no defense in that day; the day of judgment will be a day of silence! Only one voice will speak, the voice of the Judge. Every mouth stopped! That is guilt! God will stop the mouth. Every man will be free to talk but will know in his heart that he is guilty!
The charge has been made, the indictment has been read, no defense given. The verdict: guilty! What a terrible word that is, even when it drops from the lips of a human judge. How much more terrible when it comes from the lips of God! It is God who is speaking here. "Guilty!"
What does the word mean? In our speech it means merely that the man did it, but Paul's statement means more than that. It means not only that he committed the crime, but that he is obligated to suffer the penalty for doing it. "All the world ... brought under the judgment of God" (3:19). Man not only did it, but he must suffer for it.
In verse 20 Paul tells why God has rendered this verdict. The "therefore" of the King James Version should read "because" as in the American Standard Version. That gives it a clearer meaning. Just let me read it that way: "All the world may become guilty before God, because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." That is why. Man is guilty for two reasons: first of all, because he is a sinner; and second, "because by the deeds of the law no flesh be justified in His sight." The sinner has taken the impossible way for him - the wrong way. The law could justify a righteous man but never a sinner.
Notice something more: the apostle is leaving the specific law of Moses. He is no longer talking about "the law." The definite article "the" is not present in the Greek. It ought to read, "by works of law." I have talked with various authorities and quoted this verse. They have said, "By works of the law. You cannot be justified by the law of Moses, but you can by the law of Christ." Paul includes "all" law, whether it is moral law, the law of Moses, ceremonial law, law of conscience, or whether it is the law that Christ laid down in the Sermon on the Mount, no matter what law, Paul says, "By works of law no flesh shall be justified in His sight" (3:20).
There is only one thing the law can do: "Through the law cometh the knowledge of sin." It is a remarkable end to the passage. "Knowledge of sin." If you have learned what God intended during this study, you will take that verse on your own lips something like this: "I know that I am a sinner." If you have learned that, you have learned the lesson that God would have you learn.
In the whole section on condemnation, the apostle has brought three witnesses against the world:
1. Against the Gentile world he brought the witness of creation. He says, "They ought to have known better, because they could see the created universe."
2. Against the moral man the witness of conscience. The conscience excuses or accuses. A man ought to know what is right or wrong by the conscience he has.
3. Against the Jew the witness of the Scriptures.
All three of these witnesses speak with one voice: "man is guilty!" and the conclusion can be summed up in three statements in this last section: "All under sin" (3:9); "Every mouth stopped" (3:19); "All the world guilty before God" (3:19).
There you have it. Paul has done his work; he has brought the whole world before the judgment bar of God and left everyone standing there, trembling and silent - not a mouth open!
Now we are ready for salvation. The argument is conclusive. If the whole world is under sin; if the whole world has its mouth stopped; if the whole world is guilty before God - thank God that He "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life!" (John 3:16).
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 32 - "Salvation: The Divine Method of Justification")