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.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God:
20 because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.
Textual Issues:There are no textual variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in 3:19-20.
I. With these two verses Paul brings his theology of man under law to a conclusion.
A. He begins by addressing a significant level of "confident knowledge".
1. The word "we know" is a verb that signifies a kind of knowledge that is both comprehensive and settled as far as 'confidence of accuracy' is concerned.
a. This term is generally used when the indisputability of a given claim is in view.
b. It seems to distinguish itself from other verbs for knowing in that it rests not upon rational thought rooted in experience, but rational thought rooted in rationality. In other words, one can "know" in this manner by thinking one's way through the issues.
c. It is this "rationality" that gives the word its greater level of comprehensive confidence: experiences have to be interpreted before confidence can arise; logical thought is the way by which the significance of an experience is interpreted. It is useless to argue against the use of logical argument because one finds oneself immediately in an indefensible circular way of arguing much like writing to argue the futility of writing. The agnostic claims one cannot "know" anything -- but, then, how does he know that one cannot know?
2. The claim is that there is no question about Paul's conclusion: the Law addresses those in its realm.
a. The Law's "message" to those in its realm.
1) Paul writes "whatsoever things the Law says". The use of the word translated "saith" indicates that the Law declares certain doctrinal truths. The Law was filled with commands and commitments. It, basically, established the claim that, given a cause-and-effect universe, it was necessary for life that the participants in that universe act in certain prescribed and proscribed ways. It went further to establish the claim that God was going to enforce both the prescriptions and the proscriptions so that those in violation would be removed from participation. And, even further yet, it set forth a comprehensive set of prescriptions and proscriptions that are necessary for life so that it could be known what "life" requires of its participants.
2) Paul continues to write that the Law "speaks to those in the Law". The translators "bent" the word "in" and "interpreted" it to be "under". However, the issue is this: those who functioned within the realm of the sound of the Law were the ones to whom the Law was addressed. Interestingly, Paul switched words on us between the first "saith" and the second "saith" (the ASV recognized this switch and went from "saith" to "speaketh"). The word he chose as a follow-up is a word that means "to utter sound" without any focus upon the content of the sound. The implication is blunt: the legal content of the Law addressed men who were fundamentally incapable of entering into its proscriptions and prescriptions at the heart level because they are without the inner core necessary to true righteousness so that the Law was basically just "noise" to men.
3) The result?
a) Every "mouth" is "stopped" -- i.e., everyone is brought to an absolute silence. But, what kind of silence is this? It is a silence of self-justification. Paul's point is that every person whose behavior is compared to the requirements built into the Law will be shown, indisputably, to be at odds with those requirements. The result will be that there will be no "sound" from any mouth that has its roots in "legitimate argument that the behavior actually does meet the requirements". There is no justification for being at odds with the requirements of life.
b) The entire world will be brought to the public recognition of its true guilt and, consequently, the recognition of the legitimacy of God's determination that the behavior did not match the requirements.
B. The interesting thing about the claim is that those in the realm of the Law are put in a unique category that embraces all others as a matter of course.
1. Paul says, in effect, that if someone in the realm of "law" is determined to be "guilty", then no one is without guilt.
2. He says that if the mouths of those in the realm of the Law are "stopped", then every mouth is stopped.
3. How does this work?
a. It "works" on the basis of the ultimate purpose for the Law.
1) The Law was not, according to Paul, designed to "regulate" the behavior of men because that "Law" says of men that they cannot be "regulated". The Law says that men have no "inner core" capable of producing the righteousness required by the Law. Thus, the Law cannotregulate.
2) The Law was, rather, for the purpose of making it clear that there is no such thing as a righteous man. In other words, it was "revelatory". It was designed by God to expose man's true condition, not to govern man's behavior.
a) This "design" was a matter of putting men into a "form" where "life" was directly tied to their behavior in the context of their on-going activities.
b) Then, there were penalties established for "failure" that would, if applied, bring every man to total bankruptcy -- no one owned enough material wealth to meet the requirements of sacrifice for sins done.
3) This means that, since the Law's purpose is to expose man's nature, it has done its job if it is set in a setting where some men are exposed by it. And, if it shows the nature of man in this particular setting, the nature of man is exposed even regarding those men who are never in that setting. The issue is that the Law exposes the true condition of all men by exposing the true condition of any man. The claim that "man is without a core capable of producing righteousness" is applicable to all mankind if it can be shown in a "test case" that the essence of "man" since the fall is without that core. It doesn't matter that most men never come under the law since the "point" of the law is to exclude them from righteousness, not to bring them to righteousness. If the Law was supposed to bring men to life, then all men would need to be exposed to the Law if they were to have any hope of life. But, that is not the case.
b. Thus, every mouth is stopped when the mouths of those within the sphere of "Law" are stopped.
1) Interestingly, Jesus removed the necessity of "Law" when He gave the promise of the Spirit because He said that the Spirit would take the Law's place as a persuader of men that they are unqualified to inherit the Kingdom of God [Note John 15:7-11].
2) Paul clearly understood that the Law's function was past. It had done its job through 1500 years of legal history. This is not to say that men will not profit today from the study of the Law -- its "revelatory" character continues -- but it is to say that men will not be convinced of their sinfulness by the Law: the Spirit is the one Who brings man to see his great need. Even during the period of the Law most men did not heed its message, but, rather, turned it into a "guide of behavior" so that they could proclaim themselves superior to others.
C. The "big" conclusion is this: By the works of law shall no flesh be justified before God.
1. The Law was not intended to "justify"; it was intended to "condemn".
2. It has done its job; thus, no one will be justified by its works.