Romans 3:31


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31

Based on his argument that it is faith apart from deeds of the law by which we are justified, Paul now asks, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” The question is obvious and the answer, unfortunately will be misunderstood unless looked at through the work of Jesus on our behalf. Let us first consider Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:17 –

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Using Paul’s response, and/or the first half of Matthew 5:17, some teach that we are bound by the precepts of the law. This is taken to varying degrees by different sects and denominations, but in the end, it is entirely contrary to the tenor of the rest of the New Testament. Time and time again, we are instructed by Paul and others that the law is over and done with in Christ Jesus. Here are a few of the many examples of this –

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,..” Rom 5:20

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Rom 6:14

“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Gal 2:21

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Gal 5:4

“For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Heb 7:18, 19

That the law is obsolete and set aside in Christ is explicitly stated. This means the entire body of the law; no distinction is ever made between a “moral law” and a “ceremonial law.” However, many attempt to find such a distinction. The “moral law” would include the Ten Commandments and the “ceremonial law” would include such things as eating pork, sacrificing at the altar in Jerusalem, etc.

By looking for such a distinction, the body of law found in the Old Testament becomes a “pick and choose” code for Christians. Some denominations still teach tithing, or they may pick “no pork” for example. And even those who say only the Ten Commandments still apply will normally worship on a Sunday instead of observing a Saturday Sabbath. Thus they violate their own premise in retaining the Ten Commandments. It is all or none and the answer is “none.” The former commandment is annulled in its entirety.

However, this sits uncomfortably with the masses. Does this mean that murder is ok? Of course not. Nine of the ten commandments are explicitly restated in the New Testament and are therefore binding; they are a part of the New Covenant. However, the Sabbath is noted as having been fulfilled. We now enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 4:3) and therefore we are free from a specific Sabbath observance.

Understanding this, we must now return to Paul’s question, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” Paul says, “Certainly not!” So is there a disconnect in what Paul is saying here and the rest of the New Testament? Certainly not! Instead, it is our misunderstanding of his next comment – “On the contrary, we establish the law.” The word translated here as “establish” is histanomen. It has been variously translated as strengthen, uphold, fulfill, establish, support, etc.

The law of faith which Paul has been speaking of is a means of validating or strengthening the law. We have failed at fulfilling it, but Jesus fulfilled it on our behalf. Return again to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” And fulfill it He did!

Now, by faith in His work we are free from the very law which He fulfilled on our behalf. His merits are credited to us when we place our faith in what He did. Thus the law is established in us; it is upheld in us; and thus it is obsolete to us. When something is fulfilled, it is no longer necessary. As He fulfilled it in our stead, we are free from its constraints. This is the amazing work of Jesus on our behalf.

Life application: Do not reinsert the law where it does not belong. Jesus established the New Covenant at the Last Supper. The book of Hebrews tells us that the former commandment is annulled. We cannot mix that which is annulled into what is newly established without showing a lack of trust in Jesus’ work. Give God the glory for what He has done through Jesus and then go forward in the power and strength of that which Jesus established for us.

Beautiful Lord God, when I think on the marvel of what You have done by having wiped out the handwriting of the law which stood against us, having nailed it to the cross to set me free from its constraints, it is beyond my ability to grasp. Where I failed, Jesus prevailed. He has triumphed over darkness and shown forth Your marvelous light. Hallelujah and Amen.






Romans 3:30


Friday, 22 March 2013

since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Romans 3:30

Both Testaments wholly and completely establish the truth that “there is one God.” This was noted in the previous verse and accepting the notion of the Trinity in no way implies polytheism. The Trinity is noted as “three persons in one essence,” although the term “persons” is an unfortunate but necessary appellative. Time is three states in one essence – past, present, and future. All three exist equally and at the same time and yet they differ from each other. They are different reference points within the stream of time. This in no way implies “polychronsim” or multitudes of time. It is one essential thing. Proclaiming a Trinity within the godhead is to affirm one God.

This God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – “will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” God’s means of justification doesn’t change. The law cannot save and so faith in God and His provision, even under the law, is necessary in order to be saved. A person under the law, who lives the law scrupulously and yet doesn’t have faith in what the law teaches is as far from God as the most vile sinner. And the vile sinner who understands his state under the law and yet has faith in the mercy of God is closer to God than the most obedient soul who lacks faith. Jesus showed us this in the following parable –

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

This train of thought is repeated throughout the Old Testament and throughout Jesus’ teachings as He cited the law, reminding those around Him of this truth. The fact is that if a person could be justified through the observance of the law, then God would be the God only of those under the law. Everyone outside of the law would, by default, be excluded. But this isn’t the case at all. In all times and in all ways, it is by faith that one stands justified before God. However, it must be proper faith. Misdirected faith is, after all, wasted faith.

So where does this leave “deeds.” The question is valid because as the New Testament progresses, we will be faced with the concept of “bearing fruit” such as in Romans 7 and “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” as noted in James 2. The answer cannot be that deeds further justify us in our standing before God. If this were so, then a person who accepted Jesus and then got run over by a train wouldn’t be “as saved” as someone who got saved and then lived a long life helping others and doing good stuff.

The deeds after salvation – those done in faith for the sake of the gospel – must then accrue to our account, not for salvation but for rewards. This is an important point and it is the dividing line between heresy and truth concerning justification before God. It is by faith alone with nothing added that we stand justified before God. And the properly directed faith is in Jesus and His works. This will be explained in the following verse.

Life application: What is the motive for your deeds? If it is to attain salvation and a right standing with God, then you are far from Him. You have missed the grace of God as displayed in the work of Jesus for your salvation. Rather, trust in what Jesus has done – that it is all-sufficient to save you. And then, O saved soul, go forth doing good deeds out of a grateful heart in the salvation God has lavished upon you through His Son.

Heavenly Father, how could I add to the perfection of Your salvation through Jesus? I look to the cross and see the fulfillment of the law on my behalf. The code which condemned me has been nailed to that tree and I stand justified, free, and forgiven. May my life go forward in gratitude and in a display of appreciation for the immeasurable gift of my Lord. Amen.

Romans 3:29


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, Romans 3:29

The case against favoritism, prejudice, and presumption has been fully substantiated. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that there is one God. The great affirmation of this fact is quoted by observant Jews around the world each and every day –

“Here O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4

Jesus restated the truth of Deuteronomy 6:4 when He cited it in Mark 12:29. The concept of there being but one God is reaffirmed repeatedly throughout the rest of the New Testament as well. If there is only one God, then He must be the God of all. This fact is being presented in order to establish what is already painfully obvious, but which Paul will clarify anyway in the following verse.

The Jewish nation traces its ancestry back to Abraham through Isaac, but Abraham had another son also, Ishmael. Because both of them came from Abraham and Abraham was justified by faith prior to the rite of circumcision, and then Abraham and both sons were circumcised, then it must be that God is the Justifier of all people apart from the law.

The circumcision mandated in the law cannot be a source of boasting or one which makes a claim on God because it was actually instituted prior to the law and after Abraham’s declaration of righteousness. And the declaration was made based on faith; simple belief in God’s promises.

Life application: It can be deduced apart from the Bible that there is only one God. When we peer into the pages of the Bible, we need to continually remind ourselves that He is the God of all people. When it seems as though He treats different people differently, it is because we are misunderstanding what He is doing and why. In the end, all must come to Him in exactly the same way – by faith alone. Don’t forget this fact and be reassured that God is completely fair in how He deals with all people.

O Lord, when I stand back and look at the Bible as a whole, I see that Your hand is equally upon all people. You are perfectly fair in how You deal with us. When You show mercy on us, it is not because we deserve it, but because of Your infinite goodness. I know that the life I have been given through Jesus is completely unmerited and so I receive it by faith and with eternal gratitude. Amen.

Romans 3:28


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28

“Therefore.” Based on what precedes this statement, Paul will now make an absolute and exclusive claim. It is a tenet which defines true Christianity and separates it from all other religions. It is also a point of separation between the true faith and that which is heretical. Paul couldn’t be clearer in what he is saying. Our justification comes from faith in the merits of Christ Jesus alone. No deeds of the law (note that “law” has no definite article in the Greek, thus it says “deeds of law”) have any part in our justification. We are justified and declared righteous by faith in Christ and by faith in Christ alone.

Martin Luther called this tenet of justification by faith the point upon which the church either stood or fell – and he was right. Any denomination or person who proclaims anything other than this tenet is not a Christian entity because it is a foundational principle of the work of Christ. Only He was born sinless and lived the law perfectly. In contrast, we have both inherited sin and have added further sins to our account before God. Therefore, to claim that we somehow participate in our justification would call into question the righteousness of God and malign His holiness.

To deny justification by faith alone would be comparable to denying that Jesus was born of a virgin or that the Bible wasn’t divinely inspired. Either tenet being false would negate the truth of the Christian faith. The same is true with this one. It is this concept above all others which caused the final break from the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant reformation.

Life application: What does your denomination teach about justification by faith alone? What does your preacher believe concerning this tenet? Go find out and if they differ from Paul’s words in today’s verse, then you need to find another place to worship. This is serious stuff.

Glorious Almighty God, how I thank You for sending Jesus to redeem me from the power of sin, to justify me apart from deeds of the law, and to reconcile me to You. Where I have failed and fallen short, You have forgiven me. I stand amazed at the grace and the mercy You have lavished up me, even me. Thank You O God. Amen.

Romans 3:27


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.Romans 3:27

Continuing on with his humbling line of thought, Paul shows us the greatness of God – both innate greatness and that which He bestows upon us. He asks, “Where is boasting then?” The term he uses (he kauchesis) indicates glorying in something or reveling in something. It is equated with “See what I have done!” Paul wants us to think it through. What will we glory in when we come before the Lord? This Greek term can be used in a negative way – achievements to glory in self, or in a positive way – gratitude for His work and thus glorying in the Lord.

So, where is our boasting? Paul says, “It is excluded.” There can be no merit when something is accomplished by faith in something else or someone else’s work. In fact, to make a personal boast in oneself when they haven’t done anything would be the epitome of stupidity and arrogance. All boasting is excluded and to make sure we comprehend the reason we are given two more questions to ponder – “By what law? Of works?”

The idea of “law” here is one of economy. The Jew was under the economy of the Mosaic law. The gentile was under the economy of natural law. Is the Jew able to boast before God based on fulfilling the deeds of the Law of Moses? No. Paul has shown that the law only brought further condemnation. How can someone boast in salvation from something that condemned them? And the same is true with the natural law of the gentile. Can a philanthropist stand before God and say, “See what I did. You owe me big time.”? No. All are bound under sin – both inherited and those committed in the body against the law.

Boasting isn’t excluded by works. It is excluded by the law of faith. This law, or economy, says that in order to please God we must have faith in what God has done. If God has accomplished all the works, then how can we boast of having done anything at all? It is ludicrous to think that we somehow merit any favor in our salvation.

1) Jesus came from God.
2) Jesus was born without sin.
3) Jesus fulfilled the law that no one else could fulfill.
4) Jesus was crucified for our sins.
5) Jesus was raised for our justification.
6) Jesus will return for us and through Him we will be glorified.

Therefore –

8) To God be the glory.

Let our boasting not be in self but in the Lord. As Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31 –

“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

Life application: When we came before the Lord, it was as poor beggars who had nothing to offer. And yet He crowns us with eternal splendor and glory – a gift fitting the highest noble or the greatest king. This is grace; this is God’s unmerited favor to those who, by faith, reach out to Him. Make it your goal today to truly boast in the Lord and put aside any thought of having merited His favor.

Heavenly Father, it is hard to fathom the depths of Your grace. The favor You lavish upon us is undeserved. From our very breath and the food we eat to the eternal life You have promised us through Jesus – and everything in between – all of it is from Your open hand and truly none of it is deserved. How can we boast in anything when it all came from You? Help us to remember this and to glory in You alone. Amen.