Justification Pt 3

If one is justified by faith, what is the proper response to the Law?

            After Paul makes the statement in the central part of his Epistle that justification comes by faith alone, and that faith must be in Christ, he moves back to discussing the Law. In verse 21, he says that God’s righteousness has been manifested apart from the law, but then in verse 31 he exclaims that the law is not to be overthrown, but upheld. This seems to be to cause a conflict in his doctrine of justification. To solve the conflict, one must truly understand the idea of saving grace.

Martin Luther defined saving faith as “fides viva, a living faith, a vital faith, a faith that was beating with a heart pulsating after God.”[1] This idea echoes Paul’s words in Romans 6, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”[2] The result of justification will never lead a person to pursue sin, because while we are not saved by following the law, the result of our salvation is that we will pursue righteousness by obeying God’s law.

The Law was incapable of saving us, but capable of pointing out our need for justification. The Law is not bad, in all actuality it is good, but was incomplete because it could not do what Christ accomplished on the cross, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”[3] The law is weakened by the flesh because people will no longer seek God, the writer of the law, but will seek to simply appease the law.

God does not justify people so that they make ignore the law; in fact we can be instructed from the law.[4] Romans 8:30 shares that justification is not the final step, but a starting point, because,”… those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”[5] God justifies people and continues to transform them throughout their life.

In conclusion, Romans 3:21-31 is an important passage as we read through Paul’s letter to the Romans. He begins by making his argument that justification is found apart from the Law, and explains that God gave grace, redemption and propitiation through the sacrifice that Jesus made so that people may be given the righteousness of God and be forgiven of sin. He concludes by saying that although the Law did not justify us, it was not taken, but the ability to obey the Law comes from the justification by faith alone.  

 

[1] R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 74.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 6:1–2.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:3–4.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 2:18.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:30.