Romans 3:27 – 31 — “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
In closing up Romans chapter 3, the Apostle Paul lets us know how justification by faith excludes boasting. This brings us back to verse 2:17, where he speaks about the one calling himself a Jew resting in the law and boasting of God. This is in reality boasting of their special relationship with God, as though it had to do with their greatness or heritage.
But none can boast. In our day, we do not think particularly of “Jewish boasting”, but we should consider the trap we could fall in of “Christian boasting”. This could be family heritage — “I can trace my Christian heritage back to…”, or “I was raised in a Christian home” — but the real truth of the matter is that we are all children of Adam, and as such our real heritage is that we are under sin; and when we are saved, we are saved by grace through faith “not of works, lest any man should boast¹”.
Christian boasting could also be about past personal accomplishments, or in looking back on how one has turned his life around, but this also is not included in the gospel. This is God’s view of what we were, what we are, and the change that was involved in the transformation:
Titus 3:3 – 7 — “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Boasting in anything that is of ourselves is excluded in the true gospel of Christ. The gospel of Christ is about Christ, and that which He has accomplished for God on our behalf. In the above quote from the epistle to Titus, notice that it is only God that is doing anything to save — it is His kindness and love toward man, His philanthropy². We are saved according to His mercy, not by ours³. He brought us out of the sinful, hateful, malicious condition that we are found in and gave us a bath — the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Again, this is His doing, not ours. It is the operation of God4, not of any representative of any religious system, nor of ourselves. He shed the Holy Ghost on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior5, and we are justified (declared to be righteous) by His grace!
A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. This is the conclusion to which the Apostle Paul brings us, and until we can accept that conclusion, we can move no further. William R. Newell had this to say regarding this precious doctrine of justification by faith and by it the establishment of the law:
It is the constant cry of those who oppose grace, and most especially that declaration of grace that our justification is apart from law — apart from works of law — apart from ordinances, that it overthrows the Divine authority. But in this verse Paul says, “We establish law” through this doctrine of simple faith.
To illustrate: In the wilderness a man was found gathering up sticks to make a fire on the Sabbath day. Now, the Law had said, “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day.” How, then, was this Law to be “established”? By letting the law-breaker off? No. By securing his promise to keep the Law in the future? No! By finding someone who had kept this commandment always, perfectly, and letting his obedience be reckoned to the law-breaker? No, in no wise!
How then, was the Law established? You know very well. All Israel were commanded by Jehovah to stone the man to death. We read:
“And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. And Jehovah said unto Moses The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him to death with stones; as Jehovah commanded Moses” (Numbers 15:33,ff).
Thus and thus only was the commandment of Jehovah established — by the execution of the penalty.
Paul preached Christ crucified: that Christ died for our sins, that “He tasted death for every man.” And that Israel, who were under the Law, He redeemed from the curse of that Law by being made a curse for them. Thus the cross established law; for the full penalty of all that was against the Divine majesty, against God’s holiness. His righteousness, His truth, was forever met, and that not according to man’s conception of what sin and its penalty should be, but according to God’s judgment, according to the measure of the sanctuary, of high heaven itself!
The Jew, prating about his own righteousness, went about to kill Paul, crying that he spake against the Law; whereas it was that very Jew who would lower the Law to his own ability to keep it, instead of allowing it its proper office; namely, to reveal his guilt, curse him, and condemn him to death, and thus drive him to the mercy of God in Christ, whose expiatory death established law by having its penalty executed!
As to the “modernist,” being more shallow by far than even the Sadducees of our Lord’s day, he is not even exercised in his conscience concerning the Law, or the difference between law and grace as a means of righteousness, — of righteous standing with God. For, forsooth, the “modernist” has already a “character,” an “innate nobility,” though where the poor fellow gets these things, alas, who can discern? We know from Scripture that his first father was Adam; and that this “modernist,” was, like David, “shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin.” We have immeasurably more respect for a Jew, who is at least endeavoring by his imagined law-keeping to attain righteousness, — which presupposes that he knows he has it not! Even the Seventh Day Adventists, with their unscriptural bondage to law, are worried in conscience: the “modernist” is smugly secure, for what means Thus saith the Lord to him? But wait — till he faces the Great White Throne!6
Do we make void the law? Are we, as they say, antinomian? No, God forbid! Is it true that, as in Christ, the law has no hold on us? Yes, that is true! Does that make void the law? No, it does not. The law, in itself, is very simple. It is, as we say, black and white. God’s law does not require the expertise of a lawyer to make sense of it. The problem is not with understanding the law, it is with doing it. Those who think that they can live by the law need to look for loopholes, because they truly know that they are not living up to God’s righteous standard.
Truly, re-read and keep in mind this thought from Romans 3:
Romans 3:19 – 20 — “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. 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.”
The law will never do anything for you but condemn you. The law will never be your justification, nor will it make you holy (sanctification) if you attempt to live up to it. I say “attempt”, because I know that you will not live up to it — just read about the struggle that the apostle Paul describes in Romans chapter 7.
Yet with all of this, who is it that establishes the law? It is those that know that they cannot live up to it, so we accept by faith God’s righteous judgment that we are guilty, and accept His grace by faith in the finished work of Christ. We establish the law. Those who make void the law are those that lower the law, or trifle about what it means, its social and historical context and such. They truly are antinomian, because they stand against the truth of the main ministry of the law — to show a sinner his sin and inability to live up to God’s righteous standard, and to drive him to the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. It is not the path of spirituality or saintliness to put one’s self back under that from which God has freed us, but it is the path of unbelief and rebellion against the word of God.
Galatians 5:1 — “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Justification by faith is all about taking God at His word and believing what He has said about what Christ has accomplished for us. A person is justified by faith when he or she believes the gospel, that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead. Have you taken God at His word and accepted His gift of righteousness by faith? If you are waiting for a personal invitation, this is it!
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and THOU SHALT BE SAVED!
- Ephesians 2:8 – 9
- The Greek word here for “love … toward man” is φιλανθρωπία — philanthrōpía — from which we get our English word “philanthropy”. God was doing philanthropy long before it was cool!
- Compare to the Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord speaks of the merciful being shown mercy (Matthew 5:7). We have such a greater gift from God that He later revealed where He is showing mercy to us when we are anything but merciful!
- Colossians 2:12
- Notice the apostle’s free interchanging of the name of our Savior. Freely, without explanation or apology, He changes from “God our Saviour” to “Jesus Christ our Saviour” as freely as can be. This is a wonderful and Scriptural proof for the absolute Diety of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Newell, William R. “Chapter Three.” Romans Verse-by-Verse, Moody Press, 1938, pp. 127-128.
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