The Results of Justification by Faith Alone – Romans 3:27-31
Pastor Mark Hardy March 18, 2012
The sin of pride has its built-in hazard, as illustrated in the fable of the two geese and the turtle. A small turtle wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. So he convinced two geese to help him get there by each flying with one end of a stick between their bills, while the turtle hung onto the center of the stick with its mouth.
The flight was going great until someone on the ground looked up and saw the flying trio and in admiration shouted out, “Who in the world thought of that?” Unable to resist the temptation to take the credit, the turtle opened his mouth and said, “I did…as he then fell to the ground below.” He learned the hard way the truth of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (NKJV) literally!
Speaking of the seriousness of pride, C.S. Lewis said, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, and drunkenness are mere flea biters in comparisons. It was through Pride that the Devil became the Devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind….As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” (Zuck, Speakers Quote Book) The sin of pride is one of the things that we will be looking at this morning.
Having just declared in Romans 3:21-26 the good news of God’s remedy for mankind’s hopeless and helpless sinful condition through the wrath-removing atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, Paul now anticipates the critical questions his Jewish opponents would raise about what he has just said. But even as he poses and answers these questions, Paul drives home the positive results of God’s plan of justification by faith alone. Turn in your Bible to Romans 3.
In Romans 3:27-31 we see three results of God’s plan of justification by faith alone that should greatly encourage every believer.
The first result is this:
I. Prideful Boasting by Sinners is Eliminated
A. Look at v. 27: Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
1. Paul first anticipates the question, “Where then is boasting?” The word “boasting” (kauchesis) means “to speak with excessive pride, to glorify oneself or one’s accomplishments, to brag, and to blow one’s own trumpet.”
2. Boasting is simply self-glorying, self-exultation, and self-congratulations. And is nothing more than the expression of self-centered pride.
3. Prideful boasting is the fallen tendency of all of humanity, as we saw in 1:30 where it spoke of the “insolent, arrogant, (and) boastful.” And we also saw where the Jews wrongfully boasted in their privileges as the Chosen People of God (2:17-20) and in their possession of “the oracles of God” (3:2), believing that these things granted them salvation and exempted them from God’s judgment.
4. However, when it comes to salvation, in answer to his own question, Paul decisively states about boasting, “It is excluded.” The word “excluded” (exekleisthe) means to shut out, banish, and eliminate once and for all.
5. Paul summarized mankind’s sinful condition in Romans 3:23 saying, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, since salvation is all of God prideful boasting by sinners is eliminated totally.
6. William Newell describes it this way, “The Feast of Mercy was on, and the damsel Grace was at the door, admitting everyone who came on the ground of mercy alone. Old Mr. Boasting, in a high hat and fine suit, presented himself. ‘Oh,’ said Grace, as she quickly shut the door in his face, ‘There is no room for you here! The people here are feasting on the free gifts of God.’ So Mr. Boasting was shut out!”
7. Since God is so intent to shut out prideful boasting in our lives, we should be just as intent. For 1 Peter 5:5 states, “…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (Jam. 4:6)
8. A man who had a high opinion of himself stepped on a coin-operated scale that dispensed a card, giving his weight and comments about his personality. After reading the card, he handed it to his wife and smugly said, “Here, look at this!” She took it and read aloud, “You are dynamic, a born leader, handsome, and much admired by women for your personality.” Giving a second look, she added, “Hmmmm…I see it got your weight wrong too!”
9. Now on what basis does Paul say that boasting is excluded, shut out, and eliminated? Notice that he asks, “By what kind of law? Of works?”
10. Again answering his own question, Paul declares “No, but by the law of faith.” The striking contrast here is between the “law of works” and the “law of faith.”
11. The word “law” (nomou) in both occurrences refers not to the Mosaic Law, but to a system, method, order, rule, or principle. The system or principle of works will never eliminate boasting.
12. On the contrary, all man-made religious systems of works-righteousness are centered on trying to earn God’s favor and salvation by good deeds, and therefore only fuel prideful boasting. Imagine how miserable heaven would be like if salvation was based on our personal accomplishments.
13. Alan F. Johnson said it well, “If heaven were to be a place where we go because of our meritorious good works, we would turn it into hell by going around—as we surely would—boasting of all we did to get there.” (pg. 79)
14. However, boasting is excluded “…by the law of faith,” which speaks of the method or principle of personal faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The word “faith” (pisteos) is used eight times in vv. 22-31.
15. Divine justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Faith is the complete antithesis or total opposite of works.
16. Whereas works are self-centered and self-exalting, faith is God-centered and self-renouncing. While works focus on what we have done; faith focuses on what God has done.
B. Paul then shows in v. 28 that it is faith that all true Christians hold to: For we maintain (or reckon) that a man is justified (i.e. declared righteous) by faith apart from works of the Law.
1. This is fundamental to biblical Christianity. Since God has accomplished our justification or saving righteousness “by faith” in His Son’s atoning death, apart from works on our part, there is no room whatsoever for prideful boasting.
2. This same truth is seen elsewhere as well. In Galatians 2:16 we read, “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
3. Paul said about himself in Philippians 3:9, “And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
4. And it is most clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
5. Justification by faith alone in Christ’s finished work on the cross on our behalf slams the door in Old Mr. Boasting’s face and locks and bolts it. This is why hymn writer Isaac Watts aptly penned, “When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.”
6. J. Oswald Sanders said this about pride, “Nothing is more distasteful to God than self-conceit. This first and fundamental sin in essence aims at enthroning self at the expense of God….Pride is a sin of whose presence its victim is least conscious….If we are honest, when we measure ourselves by the life of our Lord who humbled Himself even to death on a cross, we cannot but be overwhelmed with the tawdriness and shabbiness, and even the vileness, of our hearts.” (Spiritual Leadership pg. )
7. Prideful boasting it totally unbecoming for the believer. Since our salvation is all of God, all we can do is boast in Him not ourselves.
8. This is why 1 Corinthians 1:31 says, “…Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And Paul models this for us in Galatians 6:14, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Jere. 9:23-24; Rev. 5:9-14; 7:9-11)
9. So the first result of God’s plan of justification by faith alone is: Prideful boasting by sinners is eliminated. The second result is this:
II. God’s Salvation by Faith is Worldwide
A. Look at vv. 29-30: Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
1. Douglas Moo states, “The word ‘Or’ introduces the alternative to the principle set forth in v. 28: if justification is by works of the law, then only those ‘in the law’ can be justified, and God becomes the God of Jews only.” (pg. 251 )
2. However, Paul immediately rejects this by a second question, “Is He not the God of Gentiles also?” And then answers in the affirmative, “Yes, of Gentiles also…”
3. The biblical doctrine of “justification by faith” will never allow for any ethnic superiority or arrogant exclusivism. God has always intended that His salvation by faith be worldwide; it is for the whole world.
B. Paul then proves this by what he says in v. 30: since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
1. Here we see that “God…is one.” The fact that there is only one God or monotheism is the central, fundamental truth and first article of Judaism, known as the Shema.
2. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
3. There is only one true living God and everything else is a false god. God Himself says in Isaiah 45:5, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God…” (1 Cor. 8:5-6; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Jam. 2:19)
4. Now, since there is only one God, then He is the God of the whole world not only of the Jews (Gen. 18:25; Ps. 96:1, 7-8; 97:5: 98:2-3; 100:1; Jer. 10:7). This has always been true since creation, and even in His covenant with Abraham God said in Genesis 12:3, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
5. The Jews knew this truth! John MacArthur correctly observes, “From their own Scripture the Jews knew that many Gentiles had found favor with God. They knew that Rahab, not only a pagan Gentile but also a prostitute, found favor with God. They knew that Ruth, a Moabitess, was the great-grandmother of David, their greatest king. They knew that the prophet Elisha graciously volunteered to heal Naaman, a captain in the army of Syria, of his leprosy. Yet many Jews persisted in their deep prejudice against, and often hatred of, Gentiles.” (pg. 227)
6. This hateful attitude was clearly seen in the prophet Jonah, who tried to flee to Tarshish because he knew his preaching might cause the pagan Ninevites to trust in his God, which he didn’t want to happen (Jonah 4:2).
7. Even in the New Testament it took Peter and the other disciples a while to get the picture that the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ was also for the Gentiles not just the Jews (Acts 8, 10; 15).
8. C.E.B. Cranfield said, “No Jew of Paul’s day would ever have thought of questioning that God is the God of all men in the sense of being their Creator and Ruler and Judge; but Paul clearly takes it for granted that God is not the God of any man without being his gracious and merciful God.” (pg. 221-222)
C. Therefore, since there is only one God, Paul’s point is that God has only one gracious way of salvation that is the same for everyone worldwide, Jews and Gentiles alike.
1. And that one way is by faith in Jesus Christ. Notice again in v. 30 that Paul says the one God “…will justify the circumcised (i.e. the Jew) by faith and the uncircumcised (i.e. the Gentile) through faith…”
2. Whereas some scholars try to make a distinction between “by faith” and “through faith,” most scholars today see these terms as merely synonymous.
3. Now as we have already seen in v. 21, divine justification by faith or God’s saving righteousness isn’t anything new. Faith has always been God’s way of salvation as “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” referring to the entire Old Testament Scriptures, from the time of the Fall onward, which is also seen in Hebrews 11.
4. Putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. And this is the same for everyone in the world!
5. Remember Paul’s proclamation in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
6. This is why we as believers are repeatedly commanded to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8). Whereas everyone is God’s creature, only those who believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord are God’s children.
7. Therefore, regardless of race, nationality, class, sex or age the ground is level at the foot of the cross. All human distinctions are rendered of no significance in the body of Christ, the church, the one family of God.
8. For Galatians 3:28 declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God’s salvation by faith is worldwide!
9. The third result of God’s plan of justification by faith is this:
III. Faith Establishes the Law of God
A. Look at v. 31: Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
1. Paul knew that the doctrine of justification by faith that he preached would cause people to question that since men have never been saved on any other basis than the requirement of faith in God then what happens to the Mosaic Law. “Do we then nullify the Law through faith?”
2. The word “nullify” (katargoumen) here means to abolish, to make ineffective, useless, inoperative, null and void.
3. To this question Paul declares, “May it never be!” As we saw in 3:4 and 6, this particular phrase (me genoito) is the strongest negative Greek expression that indicates a recoiling abhorrence, utter shock, and disgust to such a thought.
4. It has been variously translated by scholars as meaning: “Never!” “No way!” “Not at all!” “Certainly not!” “By no means!” “God forbid!” “Perish the thought!” “Not on your life!” and “Not in a thousand years.”
5. In other words, it is absolutely unthinkable to Paul that faith in Christ would render the Mosaic Law null and void. This is why he goes on to say, “On the contrary, we establish the Law.”
6. The word “establish” (histanomen) here means to cause to stand or confirm.
B. Justification by faith establishes or confirms the Mosaic Law in three specific ways:
1. First, faith in Christ establishes the Law because Jesus paid in full the penalty of sin that we deserved by the demands of the Law for failing to live up to God’s perfect standards.
• Jesus completely fulfilled the demands of the Law by His sinless life and atoning death, and our faith in Him imputes His perfect righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21).
• Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
• I like what Woodrow Kroll said about this, “Faith in Christ is the only proper response to the Law, for what the Law could not do, Christ alone can do. The teaching that justification is by faith alone does not destroy the Law. In fact, it completes the Law, fulfills it, gives it meaning. Justification by faith alone honors the Law, because prior to Jesus Christ no one ever honored the Law by perfectly keeping it. Since the Lord Jesus did, faith in the finished work of Christ on Calvary brings the ultimate respect to the Law.” (pg. 54)
2. Second, faith in Christ establishes the Law because it fulfills its purpose by driving men to faith in Jesus Christ.
• The Law was given not as an instrument of salvation but of condemnation, in order to prepare the way of salvation through faith in Christ.
• The God-intended function of the Law is to show everyone that we don’t have the ability to keep God’s perfect standards of righteousness and that we are sinners. This recognition is to lead us to despair in ourselves and drive us to faith in Jesus Christ who alone can grant grace and forgiveness of our sins.
• We see this function of the Law in various places. Romans 3:20, “…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (4:15) “For the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.” (5:13) “For until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (5:20) The Law came in so that the transgression would increase…” (7:7-11) What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
• Galatians 3:24-25, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
3. Third, faith in Christ establishes the Law because the indwelling Holy Spirit in believers now provides them the potential for fulfilling it.
• What we could never do in our own strength before Christ, now we have the power to do as we depend on the Holy Spirit and allow Him to control our daily lives.
• Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
4. Therefore, the Law is not nullified through faith, but rather confirmed. Christ paid its penalty for us at the cross, its purpose is fulfilled in driving us to faith in Him, and its fulfillment is now our potential by the power of the indwelling Spirit. This should greatly encourage every believer!
In closing, three results of God’s plan of justification by faith alone: Prideful boasting by sinners is eliminated; God’s salvation by faith is worldwide; and, Faith establishes the Law of God.
Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ and received Him as our personal Savior and Lord. Only then can you experience the great encouragement that knowing Him and seeing His Spirit’s power at work in your life brings. And as you do, all you want to do is boast in the Lord alone to whom belongs all the glory and praise.