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Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Testament and the Law: Romans 3

Law established through faith

Romans 3

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
19 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.
20 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.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Justification by faith

One of the more confusing and ongoing misunderstandings about the law of God when it transitioned to the post-resurrection era, is the failure of believers to understand the difference between justification, which can only come through faith, in order that no man can boast, and holiness or practical transformation, which God expects all believers to work and move in obedience toward.

As the scripture above states, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." While we are only saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and have hope because of His resurrection, it has nothing to do with learning the law of God and with the help of the indwelling Spirit of God, increasingly obeying it as we grow in understanding of its requirements in various situations and circumstances.

Romans 3:31

Verse 31 is the key scripture I want to focus on here, because the other scriptures confirm what every true Christian already knows, that only by faith in Jesus Christ and not works are we saved.

Law also established by faith

The verse says this: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

This is another one of those clear statements in the Bible that can't be misunderstood unless it's willingly misunderstood. We don't get rid of the law because faith in Jesus Christ, without the law, has brought us justification before God. Rather, the law is established by faith. It can't get any clearer than that.

What that means is obedience and conformity to the revealed law in the Holy Scriptures is established by faith in Jesus Christ. That's how we go about searching out the law and obeying the revelation we have of it. Since faith in Jesus Christ means we have the Spirit of God now dwelling within us to empower us to obedience, it's now possible to line up with God's requirements in a way the Old Testament saints didn't have the ability to. The Holy Spirit is what makes the difference in our ability to walk in obedience to His laws.

A book looking at the law from a different perspective

For those not familiar with the Bible, one of the enormous tasks Paul had when he performed his ministry was to work through the implications of justification by faith without the works of the law, but then to turn around and call believers to walk in obedience to that same law.

The resistance of the Jews of that period of time made his task all the harder because they told so many lies about his teaching. That confused Gentile believers, and is why Paul had to severely chastise the Galatians for starting to believe circumcision of the flesh was required for salvation.
As I've mentioned a number of times, there are a lot of changes to the law after Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial aspects of the law, which is why we no longer have animal sacrifices, the priesthood of the Old Testament period, or laws that pertained to Israel living specifically in the geography it did. Those among others have been abolished, but the moral laws laid down by God to Moses, definitely remain in effect.

The idea of Jesus dying for our sins and that allowing people to freely murder other people, contrary to the revealed law of God, is preposterous. All the moral laws revealed in the Bible are still required to be obeyed today, with the caveat we have to work through the penalty portion of those laws to see what remains in force, and how we adapt certain penalties for theft that were specific to the agricultural society of that period of time.

In other words, if it's not an animal that is stolen, how does that translate to other types of theft in regard to the penalty of the law? We know theft is wrong, but we have to clarify how to enforce penalties that various types of theft require, but aren't specifically revealed in the scriptures. And we need to do it without making it difficult to understand by the general Christian population.

The conclusion is we are not only justified by faith, but in regard to obedience to the law, it is also established by faith. Faith is the entirety of the matter, and that faith is in Jesus Christ who indwells all true believers by the Holy Spirit.

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