The apostle seems to be speaking still primarily to Jews, whose arguments against the Gospel of Christ he knew so well.  Probably he himself had used some of these arguments, before his Damascus road experience.  I say he is most likely addressing primarily his Jewish brethren, because he finds it necessary to define the place and purpose of the law.  The law speaks to those who know it, and are under its authority.  In the second chapter he had shown that even those who were without the light of God’s law had the voice of reason and conscience, which either accused or excused one another’s deeds.  But it is vital that we understand the nature of salvation with respect to the law.  God’s law is His standard of right and wrong, the measure by which He judges men.  Murder, thieving, adultery, and other sins, are sins, because God has denominated them sins.  The written law of God very definitely condemns these works of the flesh, and even the voice of conscience is enough to expose many deeds men commit as wicked and evil.

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Wherever the law speaks, it speaks with authority, and, because of our fallen condition which has just been proven by multiple Old Testament passages, it condemns us.  Every mouth which would seek to justify itself is shut up when once the law of God is revealed in all its broad spiritual intent.  Even the man who has externally kept nine of the commandments will find there is no getting around the fact that he has coveted in his heart, and is therefore a breaker of the law of God.  All the world is condemned when brought under the scrutinizing glare of the law of God, for it makes excuses for none and respects neither wealth nor station.  God, in fact, gave His law for the very purpose of showing men just how wretched they are in and of themselves, and that they stand condemned before Him.  The law of God cuts away all our ground for hoping that we can be saved by our own efforts and goodness.

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