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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