How does Faith Establish the Law? (Romans 3:31)

The Bible makes some interesting comparisons between faith and law:

  • We are justified by FAITH, not by LAW (Rom 3:28, Gal 2:16)
  • Abraham and his heirs are blessed on account of FAITH, not LAW (Rom 4:13-14)
  • You can live by FAITH or LAW (Rom 4:14)
  • No one who relies on the LAW is justified for the righteous live by FAITH (Gal 3:11)
  • The LAW is not of FAITH (Gal 3:12)

Summary: You can live by faith or law but not both. It’s one or the other. But what about this…

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31, KJV)

The scriptures declare again and again that faith has nothing in common with law, and living under one nullifies the other. So what is Paul saying here? Is he contradicting himself when he says faith establishes the law? Here’s the same verse in another translation:

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. (Rom 3:31 , NASB)

Like most grace preachers, Paul was slandered as someone who spoke against the law. He was labeled with the dreaded A-word: antinomian, meaning anti- or against the law. This is his response to that baseless accusation.

Sidebar: If you have never been accused of being an antinomian, perhaps that’s a sign you’re preaching a different gospel from Paul. Personally, I get accused of being an antinomiam on an almost weekly basis. For the record, I am for the law. I agree with Paul who said the law is holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12). And I also agree with him when he says the law is not for the righteous but the sinner and ungodly (1 Tim 1:9). The law is a signpost to Jesus (Gal 3:24).

Paul says again and again that we are to live by faith, not law, but living by faith does not make one anti-law. On the contrary, it is by faith that we establish or support the law.

How do we establish or uphold the law? By trusting in Jesus who kept the law perfectly and by whose perfect sacrifice we are made righteous:

So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Gal 3:24-25, TNIV)

Those who trust in their law-keeping performance may scorn those of us who are walking by grace, but the fact is we are 100% lawful while they are the lawbreakers.

You do NOT establish the law by:

  • trying to keep it (you can’t)
  • adopting it as a standard for holy living (it’s a recipe for inferior living, see Heb 10:1)
  • mixing it with grace (you’ll end up lukewarm and alienated from Christ)
  • thinking your rule-keeping pleases the Lord (trusting in your flesh never pleases him)
  • posting it on your Sunday School wall (it’s a ministry that condemns!)
  • telling yourself “it’s part of our Christian heritage” (it never was!)

You DO uphold the law by putting your faith in the One who fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law on your behalf and who offers you his perfect righteousness as a gift.

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4)

Romans 3:31 says we uphold the law by faith. Period. If you’re not convinced, it may help to look at the verse in context:

  • verse 28: You are justified by faith, not by law
  • verse 29: In any case only one nation received the law, yet God is God of all
  • verse 30: God will justify both the Jew and non-Jew by faith
  • verse 31: Does that mean God’s gift to the Jews was wasted? Not at all! As long as you end up with Jesus, then you uphold the law

The Jews were misusing the law. They thought it made them righteous and pleasing to God. Paul wrote to correct this:

No one is righteous. All have sinned and fall short – even the law-loving Jews. The law doesn’t make you righteous; it makes you conscious of sin so that you may be justified freely by grace. (my paraphrase of Romans 3)

Live by the law and you dishonor both it and Jesus. According to Romans 7, living by the law is spiritual adultery. It’s cheating on the One who died to set you free from the law’s heavy demands .

The law points to Jesus. If you are relying on Christ and his perfect work, then you uphold the law and honor the reason for which it was given.


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35 Comments on How does Faith Establish the Law? (Romans 3:31)

  1. Moses Kawuma // August 31, 2017 at 12:22 am // Reply

    Brilliant as always Paul. Keep up the great work.

  2. This is God speaking to me.

  3. I love your posts and they have really helped me. For some reason it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around it at times. If the law is a signpost to Jesus, and serves that purpose, then maybe this is why every preacher in town preaches a mixed grace gospel? They think they need to throw some law in there with the Grace message seems like.

    • You are so right about that, they tell us we are saved forever that nothing can snatch us out of Gods hand but they still add some Law to it. They don’t know what lukewarm means! And if they do they don’t want us to know.

  4. This is absolutely superb. I am virtually forced to reblog it 🙂

  5. Romans 7:5 establishes three things concerning the law.

    1.) Living by the law is living in the flesh.
    2.) Sinful passions are aroused by the law.
    3.) Living by the law causes us to bear fruit unto death.

  6. I’ve heard it said that it is good to follow the ten commandments (law). (And I also see memes on facebook about putting the ten commandments back in school.) I know in the scripture that Paul says that the law, of course, is not evil. But, if it would be mentioned that no one is justified by the law, then they would say that’s true – “The ten commandments don’t save you, BUT they keep you safe”. Have you heard that one before?

    I think it’s JESUS that saves you and keeps you safe.

  7. Great post, by the way! 🙂

  8. As a side note. Coming from a Word of Faith background they often interpreted this passage that Faith is a Law. That it will always produce or work because it’s a Law. I’m glad you shared on this passage. Thanks for new insights.

  9. Good comparison; I like it. Thanks for writing this post.

  10. I was recently studying Romans 3, picked up these very points, Paul. One of your best.

  11. Great article Paul, I also love the TNIV version of Gal 3:24-24. It’s good to wake up in the morning to this and coffee, very refreshing. I feel great when I’m accused as apostle Paul was. It simply confirms for me that I am preaching the gospel.

  12. Michelle French // August 31, 2017 at 7:56 am // Reply

    This is just what i wanted to hear.

  13. Brandon Petrowski // August 31, 2017 at 9:41 am // Reply

    It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Well said. It baffles me how people can miss this, and yet I have been there myself. So glad that God did not let me stay there. Thanks Paul for your faithfulness in championing faith. 🙂

  14. I love being Son-conscious. Jesus did it all.

  15. Jared Westendorp // August 31, 2017 at 9:46 pm // Reply

    Great truth here to wake up and start the day, thanks. I agree that the law is honored by saying it is a perfect work and the cross and resurrection is honored when it is beheld as a perfect work. One work is greater than the other. Choosing which work to believe in for righteousness has made all the difference.

  16. Paul, do you have anything thing written on FREE WILL. Thank you.

    • My views on the subject? I agree with the One who said “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” I also agree with Paul who said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

    • Be free. All our determination to keep the law produces the opposite effect. We don’t need the ten commandments in all our class rooms (it was put under the mercy seat!) rather we need John 3:16 – For God so loved YOU that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever shall believe in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. Blessed be your journey.

  17. About that “antinomian” accusation. All it means from some people is that you do not agree with then 100% so you must be a rule hating rebel on the fast track to hell. Others have been fogged by teachers who say that that talking against the Law handed down to Moses means you are against basic morality. Still others think that without the 10 commandments Christians would all be out running around committing adultery, bowing before idols and murdering. Those poor folks have no concept that we are not self made men before God. They have been robbed of the truth that the old man is dead and we are a new creation in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.
    At the least it is an accusation from the unenlightened and at worst slander from modern day Pharisees.

  18. The WORKING “OUT” of the LAW OF “FAITH”. PICTURE THIS. in the world we are born and the umbilical supply is cut off. IN KINGdom birth a SPIRITUAL UMBILICAL (trust in supernatural physical supply) is ATTACHED NEVER TO LEAVE OR FORSAKE US. The supply is always there uless we constrict the flow. The flow is faith going out from within and receiving supply of all things promised. we do OUR PART “have faith” and in return the UMBILICAL SUPPLY WILL “BE”. We crimp supply with relying on our ability as “default” reaction to negative circumstances where faith as “default” RELIES/TRUSTS in the PROMISES of LORD SPIRIT. The PREMISE of the PROMISE is is we are listening with “EARS to HEAR” what LORD SPIRIT is speaking a His solution in solving, restoring “all things” that TRY TO COME AGAINST US IF WE ARE LISTENING.

  19. If there is only no condemnation for those who don’t sin, then why should there be any condemnation for those who don’t sin? Jesus bore all our condemnation and wrath on the cross!

  20. Thank you pastor for the message. I thank God who saved us from impossible road to heaven and made us heirs to his Kingdom. Am glad i came across you pastor Paul.

  21. well said.. I thank God for using pastor Paul to preach His word especially to me, I can see the light now which comes from the Calvary. I am free

  22. Matheus Almeida // September 5, 2017 at 6:08 am // Reply

    Man, you are so much blessed!

  23. Kevin Grollins // September 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm // Reply

    Great! Interesting to see what Paul has to say on this subject! I have just one question though on something I don’t understand. What did Jesus say on the subject of the law? And isn’t lawlessness a bad thing in the Prophets and matthew 7? I don’t get it, are we really understanding Paul, or is peters warning in 2 peter for us? I’ve really struggled with this over the last year.

  24. Delmont Cable // October 3, 2017 at 5:02 am // Reply

    Actually, we’re justified (made blameless) by Christ’s perfect blood. Our faith has nothing to do with it. It can accomplish nothing.

  25. My friend and I have asked this question…

    • Please note it is our policy to only publish short comments discussing the article above. You may find articles closer to your question in the archives. Alternatively, or you could post your question on E2R’s Facebook page. Thanks.

  26. How are we to understand that the law is made for sinners according to 1 Timothy 1:9 but then Paul says that he is chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15??? Can someone please explain. I’m just trying to reconcile everything together.

  27. Paul, the problem that is never really adequately addressed is why was the law given in the first place?
    In my experience most teaching on this heads toward it being rather arbitrary which has a devastating effect on how people perceive the nature and character of God.
    Everything that the Lord has done to set me free from religious striving has caused me to realize that there is nothing arbitrary about Him at all, every detail of this universe and reality we live in was done so a particular reality could exist – us in relationship with Him.
    In that way the Law IS part of our Christian heritage because it was the very vehicle that God used to expose the problem that manifested after we asserted our own authority through the tree of knowledge.
    God gave us the law to prove to us once and for all that even with the best version of “good and evil” we, in our autonomy, would not be able to keep it. We then used the law God gave us to murder His son which was game set and match, we killed the Son of God with very mechanism that brought Him into the world, our sin was complete.
    Paul said the law was given so that sin would increase, the culmination being putting Jesus on the cross. You are perfectly positioned to reach a lot of people, I encourage you with all of my being to delve into these things, (if you haven’t already) suddenly those “tricky” bible passages all start to make sense.

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