Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Romans 3:19-28 Works of Law vs Works of Faith

KEY TEXT: Rom 3:26-31 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

KEY THOT: Paul argues that the God who justifies all sinners does so by faith, whether Jews or Gentiles: “He will justify the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) through faith” (v.30).  If justification is based on the “works of the law” then only Jews could be justified since the Gentiles do not have the Law and therefore could not have the “works” derived from the Law. Paul’s argument here is that justification is not based on the “works of the law” (which means only Jews can be saved) but now based on the “works of faith” (which means Gentiles who do not have the Law can be justified on the basis of their faith). Now no one can boast because both Jews and Gentiles are made righteous through the “law of faith”: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Rom 3:27). And to ensure that he is not misunderstood to mean that the law is irrelevant, he concludes by stating: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31). We can never reject the law without rejecting the law-giver as well. When we uphold the law, we uphold God for the law is an expression of God’s inner nature, not something outside of himself. To deny the law is to deny God for the law, like God himself, is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12).

Even under Law, the Jews were justified by faith, not by works of the law, for no one is ever justified by the works of the law: “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). So, Moses’ Law was given to expose sin so that we might seek to be justified by faith, not works. Grace is not opposed to law, but to works of the law. Instead, it is the law of faith against the law of works. And again, grace does not make works irrelevant; it only makes works of law irrelevant. Under grace, we produce the “works of faith” through His Spirit: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess 1:11).

I thank God that I am not justified by my own righteousness but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to me because of His grace revealed through the “propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (v.25). However, I know that the law is not abolished but internalized in me through the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is not only imputed but also imparted to me by the indwelling Spirit so that I may produce the “work of faith” and thereby uphold the law. For the Spirit is not contrary to the law (which is holy), but contrary to the flesh (which is sinful). I must reject the “works of the flesh” not reject the “works of the faith,” for “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Father, thank You that we are not justified by the law of works but the law of faith. We stand righteous by faith so that we may uphold the law, not deny it. Amen.

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