Reflections From ROMANS 3:21-31: “WHICH LAW REMOVES BOASTING: THE LAW OF WORKS OR THE LAW OF FAITH?”


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            Paul continues his argument about how all are justly under God’s wrath Jew and Gentile alike, and that the law was never intended to justify anyone before God.  He says:

But now, apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,…” (V.21)

Here may be the Jews second advantage.  Recall Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel—that was his mission.  His apostles were to take his message to the Gentile world.  Thus, the oracles of God which were entrusted to the Jew gave witness to God’s righteousness apart from the Law.  And yet this Law and Prophets are putting their stamp of approval on God’s righteousness but how?

…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ” (Vv.22-23)

God’s righteousness (i.e., He always does what is just, true, beautiful and holy) is shown through those who put their trust in Jesus Christs’ work on Calvary’s cross.  It’s the only rescue for Jew and Gentile alike.  Why this righteousness manifested is because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  What’s the glory of God here?  It’s the opposite of what the creature wanted in chapter 1 where the “infamous exchange” took place, the infinite for what is finite, the greater for the lessor, the creator for the creature.  It’s all backwards!

Remember, the glory of God is first, His wrath against all unrighteousness (1:18) because He’s righteous; secondly, His glory is the self-disclosure of attributes in creation (1:19-20); third, His glory is revealed in the truth of things designed (1:25, 32).  In other words, the glory of God as described above, is the perfections of His being demonstrated through just punishment on obstinate creatures refusing to live in accordance with the Creators design.  But as Paul further explains, God’s glory is not just manifest in wrath but also in mercy or justification:

24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”     

Note here that the glory of God is magnified by justifying (acquitting) as a gift sinners who trust in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.  And this act of redemption (i.e., a term meaning to buy out of the slave market) was a propitiation (i.e., a sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath) publicly demonstrated not hidden (e.g., Prophets of Baal and Elijah).  This was done for a purpose:

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It seems that through Christ’s sacrifice the sins previously committed and unpunished were paid for to demonstrate God’s justice-His righteousness where sin’s penalty had to be paid.  Thus God in His forbearance was not unjust in staying David’s execution after his adultery and murder, for Christ at the proper time in history would pay also for his sins.

This was all Gods doing, His purpose—rescue apart from works of the law through faith in Christ’s work on the cross.  And while some may object, it should be remembered that the Creator alone can do whatever He pleases because of His ontological status (i.e., infinite, self-existent, and the source of all life), not the creature specifically because of his ontological status (i.e., finite, needy, dependent on sources outside the self to exist).  Now why did God do this?  Paul continues and asks:

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Thus, both Jew and Gentile have redemption apart from the law if they trust in Christ alone.  Both Jew and Gentile have no reason for boasting because this redemption is a gift.  Thus, God is now glorified through bringing to life in Christ those who were once dead in sins and trespasses.  Those who were once unrighteous have been made righteous, justified by faith by the Just One.  No one gets a “free ride”.  The payment for sins must be made and can only be made by God, not us.  Paul now concludes:

29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Here, he’s affirming monotheism.  That is, the God of scripture who created is also the one God who sent His Son to rescue all who believe in him—Jesus of Nazareth.  Now Paul asks:

31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

I’m not exactly sure what it means to say that “…we establish the Law”.  Perhaps it points to God’s righteousness as being witnessed to by the Law and Prophets (V.21), and now that faith has come, fulfillment of God’s faithfulness has been demonstrated through Christ’s redemption.  That is, God’s faithfulness to do what He promised is seen as His truth shines and the Law’s purpose is fulfilled—by pointing us to Christ.  That is, the Law is good, but its’ purpose was never intended to make the hearer good (righteous), but rather to point them to Christ Jesus who has come in space time history to make his followers righteous, pure and holy.  (SDG)

 

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