Title: The Law of Faith
Text: Romans 3.27-31
Introduction: We’ll be in Romans 3.27-31 this morning. We’ll also go to Zechariah 14 at some point. You’re your bulletin or something you can use as a bookmark and identify Zechariah 14.
This morning we come to a concluding statement by Paul. We’re in Romans 3.27-31; Paul presents this part of his letter with rapid-fire questions and answers. It is a popular style and makes it easy for him to answer questions he has probably heard before and can even hear being asked by the reader as they read his letter.
My guess is that this diatribe is with an imaginary Jew. Probably, an imaginary Jewish Leader. I sense from Paul, that he believes this person has a problem with Pride.
I read this week that Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. Attributed to Buddy Robinson.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. He says he’s talking about Pride, in his chapter on Pride.
As we turn our attention to our text this morning, I want you to note how the diatribe is broken up by 4 sets of questions. My sermon has three points, but the text has 4 separate sections. I’ve combined the 1st two into one point. Here’s how I see it broken down:
- 27 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. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
- 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
- 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
So Paul is saying The Law of Faith means:
- Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do.
- There is One God who has done all that he has done for all people: Jews and Gentiles.
- The Law of God is not nullified, but rather validated and upheld.
The Law of Faith means
I. Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do (27-28)
exp.: rd 27a; οὖν; This word is often translated: therefore. Therefore ties the previous passage to this one. The previous passage is 3.21-26; It deals with the righteous work of God through Christ making us righteous – taking away our sin. According to this passage in 3.21-26, we’re all sinners. There was nothing we could do to make ourselves righteous. We were all in a state of sinfulness and fallen from God’s glory. But, in Christ, we are now made righteous, we’re now justified by his grace as a gift freely given to us. This is through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus whom God purposed and planned to be a sacrifice for our sins. His death paid our penalty for us.
Therefore, there is no place for boasting. There is no place for pride. Paul writes in 27a; It is excluded. This is a compound word combining the preposition out or outside with the word meaning to shut. Where is the boasting? It has been shut out! Paul continues in v 27b: How so? By a law of works? There is a question of whether this means the ‘Law of Moses’ or works as a principle (i.e., doing good works). I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t think it matters because it is the same result either way. Put both possibilities up there and the answer is still NO! But by a law of faith! And then he explains in v 28; 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
You see, there isn’t anything to boast about because you didn’t do anything. God did all the work in your salvation.
ill.: there is a story about a theologian who was being pushed to defend his doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The question: What part did you play in your salvation? He replied: I played no part. The theologian was pressed again: But what did you do? Reply: I did nothing. So the man pushed: You mean to tell me that you did absolutely nothing in the process of being saved. The theologian thought about it and answered: I did all the running.
app.: there are no works for you to do – God has done all the work necessary. He could boast – but that isn’t is style. When he speaks he’s just stating the facts; He’s not boasting. You (and I, on the other hand) really can’t say anything in a prideful way about our salvation because (you and I) really can’t do anything to earn our salvation. The most we can say about work, is that we were running from God. And God pursued us.
Think about this: you can’t boast in faith, because faith is basically receptive. Faith looks to another for help.
Ill.: Consider people in Scripture who through faith received help, rescue, intercession, etc. from God.
- The Woman at the Well: She didn’t run into town and say, hey! Look at me! Look what I did! She said: Come and meet a man who…told me everything I ever did. The people said: we believe, not because the woman said, but because we’ve seen this for ourselves. He’s the savior of the world!
- The man born blind from birth: Jesus healed him and the religious leaders didn’t like it. They kept pestering the man for an answer. He was like, “listen, all I really know is that I was blind and now, because of what he did, I see.” They didn’t like that, so they pestered him more. The man really upset them when he asked: do you want to become a follow of him, too!
- The Woman healed of her disease that had kept her bleeding for 12 years. She had basically given up on everything, after spending all of her money on doctors. She didn’t brag about how she was able to brave the crowd and reach out to touch the hem of his coat. I was brave. Oh, the people, they were fighting me off, but one by one I knocked them out of the way and that is what made me whole again! She knew it was Jesus who had the power.
- The Gadarene Demoniac; I love the way this guy just wanted to be with Jesus. He was so thankful for all that Jesus has done for him.
That’s four quick examples. We could probably spend the rest of the morning looking at examples of those who had faith in Christ and then Christ delivered them – he met them at the point of their need.
App.: Faith doesn’t pour itself out on itself. Faith is focused on another – the one who has helped or saved or redeemed.
t.s.: These 1st two questions are closely related to each other and pertain to us. They pertain to us in a negative way: our boasting has been nullified and our work has been nullified, too, because you can’t be justified or made righteous by your good works. The answers are simply put in the negative form: No!
Now we turn to God and the answers get positive.
The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. Next, the Law of Faith declares
II. God is One and He is the Father of all. (29-30)
exp.: Where the first three questions go together, I think Paul is making a new argument here. I don’t think he’s building upon his previous argument. I say this because he uses the word “Or”. This is another argument in support of justification by faith; rd v29; See, here the positive answer: Yes, of the Gentiles also. And then, Paul says; rd 30a;
Now, what does he mean? Where is he coming from? It’s possible that Paul is coming from Zechariah 14. Specifically, v 9; Rd Zech 14.4-9;
Consider this: the context of Zechariah is a future day. If that is the case, then Paul is doing more than just saying Jews and Gentiles can now be saved. He’s making a specific remark about Salvation History. Consider this also: salvation is today. But, it is also a day in the future. You are saved on the day you commit your life to Christ. You are being saved today. And, there will come a day on that great day of the Lord when you will be saved. Are you following me? We are saved today, if we’ve committed our lives to Christ. But, there is coming a day, a final day, when salvation will be realized. On that Great Day of the Lord, Jews and Gentiles will be gathered into the New Jerusalem. There will be no need for a sun to light the City because the Glory of God will light that place. God will rule and reign in that place over all people.
But there is another verse that Paul might be referencing here. It might be that Paul is being super simple here. If you think about it, you’ll realize that the Jews would get this reference right away. Did you? Where have you seen this statement before? That’s right. The Shema; Deuteronomy 6.4: Hear O’ Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles;
To be fair, many Jews understood that God is the One true God. He is the Creator of All, and the Ruler of All, and is judge of all. But, on the other hand, they saw themselves as distinct and would reject the idea of Gentiles being on their same level. They had the court of Gentiles on the outside of the Temple. Sure, there were some Gentiles who followed God, but they were never on the same level as Jews.
The Lord is not divided. Rd all of 30; This is to affirm 3.22; all are sinners (3.21) and all are justified…
I want you to note the difference in words about faith used by Paul in v 30: who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Really, I couldn’t find anything with any solid explanation. Augustine argued some 1600 plus years ago that Paul was simply being rhetorical and stylistic. And most scholars agree with him. Paul’s writing style demonstrates for us what an intelligent and brilliant communicator Paul was. He was putting the Gentiles on the same playing field as the Jews.
ill.: To say that God is the One true God and Father of all is really being super intolerant today, just like it would have been to all of those Romans who believed in a polytheistic religion. Our postmodern world says that there are many ways to this one God and we’re all just trying to get to the same place through different paths. When you and I say that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and his name is the only name by which we must be saved, you and I are considered bigots, narrow-minded and archaic.
Appeal: if you’re sitting here this morning, or listening by way of the Internet, and you’ve never known what it means to be truly forgiven – you can today. That’s been Paul’s message: Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. You see, we’re all sinners. I’m not picking on you by calling you a sinner. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, you can have those sins forgiven through placing your faith in Christ today.
Here’s another point: this takes great humility. You can’t be proud and come to Christ. Some folks struggle with the idea of sin and a holy God because they’re prideful. That’s probably how Satan keeps people from coming to faith – it’s their pride. J. Oswald Sanders said: 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.
You’ve got to remove yourself from the throne of your heart and make room for Christ to come and rule and reign in your life.
Thomas Browne writes:
“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
That might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “Thou art not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art replete with very ‘thou’
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says,
“This is enow unto itself- ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”
t.s.: The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. God did it all. 2ndly, the Law of Faith declares that God is One and He is the God of all. He makes himself known and has done the work to restore this relationship with him – that the whole world might be restored to him. A proud heart will find it impossible to come to this conclusion. Thirdly, The Law of Faith does not nullify the law or good works, but rather validates it.
III. The Law is not nullified, but rather establishes it (31)
exp.: rd v 31; this word means to wipe it out, void it. It is to say that because of faith, the law is now abolished and useless. But that isn’t what Paul is saying at all. Paul says: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Rd 31c: on the contrary, we uphold the law. When you consider 3.21 – that the law and the prophets bear witness to the fact that righteousness would one day be made available and that day is now, you understand the law isn’t made void. It isn’t nullified. It is Validated!
Furthermore, we don’t just live a life of license. We believe laws are good. Good behavior is needed. For those of us who love the Lord, we want to do what he wants us to do. We want to be good. We want to be righteous. We want to live a life worthy of this calling we’ve received.
app.: And again, that doesn’t reflect a life of pride. That reflects a life of humility.
t.s.: Humility comes hard. Pride is something that doesn’t want to die in you. But let me end with the words of the Momma whale to her baby whale as they swam along: When you get to the top and start to ‘blow’, that’s when you get harpooned!
Application: Don’t let pride keep you out of heaven. Humble yourself, acknowledge your sin and find salvation in Christ. We’re going to gather in a moment at the back of the worship center for some coffee and cookies. I’d love to visit with you about today’s message. The Staff and Elders will back there, too.