Romans 3:19-20 Jews and Gentiles both under the Law?

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Herald

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Romans 3:19-20 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Who is under the Law within the context of Romans 3? Jews? Gentiles? Both? Back in Romans 2 we read this:

Romans 2:14-16 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

The Torah was given to Israel through Moses. It seems that Paul is indicating a larger scope of the Law (knowledge of right and wrong?) that transcends the written commandments. This would be consistent with Paul's statement, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Thoughts?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I agree with Josh. The clear teaching from Paul is that all mankind knows the Law of God but supresses that truth in unrighteousness. He can, nevertheless, not escape it fully for it is written on his heart. Dispensationalism understandings of the Scriptures suffer from the idea that until God had actually spelled something out in the Ten Commandments, that mankind did not have the Law revealed to them.

Yet, this cannot be the case. When Cain murdered Abel, Cain didn't say to God: "What? You never said murder was wrong? What are you talking about?"

The entire earth was judged in a flood for their wickedness.

Thus, we do understand that mankind can never claim "I didn't know that was wrong" at the judgment throne of God. I believe judgment will be a great unveiling where those who have practiced suppression will suddenly have all pretense removed and they will be utterly guilty for not only their suppression but for their wanton act of committing sins that they knew, in their natures, was displeasing to God.

But, let's face it, on this Earth we're good at suppressing. We even have difficulty agreeing on things revealed to us and this speaks to the necessity, for the sinful human heart, to have the Law spelled out. I don't believe the Law delivered on Sinai differed in substance with anything that preceded. Even in the ceremonial aspects, we only see a more specific codifying of the idea of the shedding of blood for sin.

But, as Paul demonstrated, the Jews failed to even keep the Law after they could no longer claim that they didn't know. In other words, it's one thing to supress the truth but another to supress the truth when you have the Law on stone tablets. Yet, leave it to the sinful human heart to do just that.

In the end, as Paul notes, both Jews and Gentiles fail but Jews are doubly-guilty because they've not only suppressed the Law written on their hearts but the same Law they had written down for them and agreed to keep.
 

Mathetes

Puritan Board Freshman
Moo's commentary puts it this way, for what it's worth:

19 "Paul now draws out the implications of the series of quotations for the position of human beings before the divine judge. 'We know' introduces a circumstance that would be generally acknowledged by Paul and his readers. In this case, the circumstance is the applicability of 'whatever the law says' to those who are 'in the law'. The first occurrence of 'law' (νομος) refers to the series of quotations just concluded. Since these quotations are drawn from the Psalms and Isaiah, νομος does not designate, as it usually does in Paul, the law of Moses, the torah, but the OT canon (cf. also 1 Cor. 9:8, 9; 14:21, 34; Gal. 4:21b). The second occurrence of νομος - 'it speaks to those who are in the law' - may also refer to the OT as a whole, or it may revert to the more usual narrower meaning, 'Mosaic law.'

The difference is not great since in either case 'those in the law' are the Jews, who live within the sphere of the revelation of God given in the Scripture/law. This interpretation is preferable to giving νομος the more broad signification of divine law in any form, and, in line with 2:14 - 15, expanding 'those in the law' to include all people. For, while the explicitly universal terms of the last part of the verse might suggest so broad a scope, this view has against it the close identification of νομος with the written Scripture in this context (cf. vv. 10 - 18). And it is clear that, whatever access to God's law Gentiles may have, it does not come in this 'written,' 'inscripturated' form. Paul's purpose is to insist that the OT passages quoted in vv. 10 - 18, while not all originally directed to Israel as a whole, are, indeed, 'speaking to' the Jews generally. They cannot be excluded from the scope of sin.

The purpose for which the words of Scripture address the Jews is 'that every mouth might be stopped and the whole world be held accountable to God.' The terminology of this clause reflects the imagery of the courtroom. 'Shutting the mouth' connotes the situation of the defendant who has no more to say in response to the charges brought against him or her. The Greek word translated 'accountable' occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures, but it is used in extra-biblical Greek to mean 'answerable to' or 'liable to prosecution,' 'accountable.' Paul pictures God both as the one offended and as the judge who weighs the evidence and pronounces the verdict. The image, then, is of all humanity standing before God, accountable to him for willful and inexusable violations of his will, awaiting the sentence of condemnation that their actions deserve.

But how is it that Paul can use accusations addressed to Jews ('those in the law') to declare that all people are guilty? Some would limit the reference of 'every mouth' to Jews, but the parallelism with 'the whole world' makes this unlikely. Probably Paul is using an implicit 'from the greater to the lesser' argument: if Jews, God's chosen people, cannot be excluded from the scope of sin's tyranny, then it surely follows that Gentiles, who have no claim on God's favor, are also guilty. We must remember that Paul's chief purpose throughout Rom. 1:18 - 3:20 is not to demonstrate that Gentiles are guilty and in need of God's righteousness - for this could be assumed - but that Jews bear the same burden and have the same need. It is for this reason that, while all people are included in the scope of vv. 19 - 20, there is particular reference to the Jews and their law."
 

Herald

Administrator
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Josh/Rich - yeah, I see it that way too. I posed it in the form of a question in order to give me some wiggle room. ;) Don't like being cornered.

I used the word 'transcend' epistimologically, not in reference to a timeline. Yes, the moral law predated the Torah. That is not in contention. But the very fact that the law of God is written on the heart of men eliminates ignorance. It is one of the reasons why the tribal person out in the bush who has never heard the gospel still stands guilty of his sin.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Roger, I wasn't trying to be corrective but offering thoughts.

I would add, as well, that the substance of the ceremonial Law is also in place prior to Sinai. The economic specifics might have changed but sacrifices (and even a priesthood) existed prior to Sinai.
 

Herald

Administrator
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Roger, I wasn't trying to be corrective but offering thoughts.

I would add, as well, that the substance of the ceremonial Law is also in place prior to Sinai. The economic specifics might have changed but sacrifices (and even a priesthood) existed prior to Sinai.

Roger? Who's Roger?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It is one of the reasons why the tribal person out in the bush who has never heard the gospel still stands guilty of his sin.

Oh, and right on to this. Now the "bush man" isn't judged for not having a parapet around his roof but he is judged on the moral basis for a parapet. That is, for instance, a man would be judged as not loving his neighbor if he allowed a dangerous condition on his property to go uncorrected. We have a modern equivalent in personal liability when we are wreckless.
 

Herald

Administrator
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I am preaching this passage of scripture tomorrow. It is one of those passages that is easily misunderstood. Unfortunately it applies to everyone who shares the human condition. None of us can open our mouth in defense to God. Even Job recognized it was better to remain mute than to speak:

Job 40:4-5 4 "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 "Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more."
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Oh, and right on to this. Now the "bush man" isn't judged for not having a parapet around his roof but he is judged on the moral basis for a parapet. That is, for instance, a man would be judged as not loving his neighbor if he allowed a dangerous condition on his property to go uncorrected. We have a modern equivalent in personal liability when we are wreckless.


Rich, agreed. But are we right to conclude that the "bush man" stands guilty before God on account of sin even though he has never heard the word of God? This is one of the arguments that atheists love to throw in our face. "How could your God send a person to hell who never heard of Him?" The answer I have always given to the question sounds something like this, "All are guilty before God because all are born in sin. Ethnicity, I.Q. or exposure (or lack thereof) to religious education does not increase or decrease guilt. All are guilty." Explaining the "good news" aspect of the gospel is much harder to these type of folks because they are usually so angry over the first part of their question.
 

Herald

Administrator
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I figured that was the case. I pray it goes well.

Oh, and remember that "commentator" I asked about last week on Romans? You know, the one you accused of being a flaming dispie? Umm...that commentator was me. :lol: I was seeking some frank critique and didn't want anyone to pull punches because it was written by lovable ole me.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Well, in fairness Bill, I actually said "...and even a bit dispensational...."

No flames there. I hope my comments were useful. I'm not making it up but I've had some help from the greats of the past.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Rich, agreed. But are we right to conclude that the "bush man" stands guilty before God on account of sin even though he has never heard the word of God? This is one of the arguments that atheists love to throw in our face. "How could your God send a person to hell who never heard of Him?" The answer I have always given to the question sounds something like this, "All are guilty before God because all are born in sin. Ethnicity, I.Q. or exposure (or lack thereof) to religious education does not increase or decrease guilt. All are guilty." Explaining the "good news" aspect of the gospel is much harder to these type of folks because they are usually so angry over the first part of their question.

Oh, I just missed this.

Yes, of course the "bush man" is guilty. God has clearly revealed Himself to him in the things created, even His invisible attributes and power. The man is without excuse.

My only point was that he's not held responsible for breaches of specific Mosaic statutes. All of the statutes were outworkings of the Ten Commandments and the whole Law can be summed up in the command to Love God and to Love Neighbor - not merely generally but perfectly.

I didn't mean to distract with the parapet example but people do get too focused on the specific statutes and think that people haven't sinned unless you can find the statute that was wantonly violated.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Well, in fairness Bill, I actually said "...and even a bit dispensational...."

No flames there. I hope my comments were useful. I'm not making it up but I've had some help from the greats of the past.


Rich - they were helpful. I took a little poetic license in what you said for the sake of effect. I quoted just a snippet from my sermon at the expense of its context, but I appreciate the feedback. I have a habit of bouncing ideas of people. Perspective comes from odd places at times. Even the Puritan Board! :lol:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Vaugn quoted Moo and that got me to thinking. Paul writes in Romans 3:20,

...for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

What Law is this, the moral law or the Mosaic Law? If we take the narrow definition and limit this to the Mosaic Law then it would seem to exclude those who did not subscribe to the Mosaic Law. But if viewed through a wider lens, God's moral law is inherent in all men. Thus Paul is concluding that the moral law of God imparts the knowledge of right and wrong. The Decalogue codified God's Law for the Jews, but it didn't relegate God's moral Law into obsolescence.

Conclusion: all men have an intuitive knowledge of God's moral Law, therefore there is no excuse.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Moo's case is at its strongest when he says Paul argues from greater to less, thus including all.

But I rather agree with the view that asserts that "law" is generic, the legal principle speaks to whomsoever it rules, wherever its jurisdiction, whatever its form. Such that EVERY man, and ALL flesh become accountable. Paul is saying that no matter who you are, by LEGAL WORKINGS (out of works of law) will NO FLESH be justified.
 
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