“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” —Romans 3:28
Here the apostle reiterates Romans 3:21 in order to further emphasize that it is not by sinful man’s obedience to God’s commands that he stands justified before the Lord. The New American Standard Bible renders it in this way: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” There is not a man, woman, or child, that is, ever was, or ever will be able to boast in anything apart from the Cross of Jesus Christ because God justifies a man by a trusting faith in Christ’s sufficient sacrifice, apart from anything we can do to attain or maintain righteousness before a good, holy, and just God. It is written: “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23); and again, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Let us take a moment here to understand exactly what this saving faith is whereby man is justified in Christ. We know that the Bible says that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9); that it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22); and that it is the work of God (John 6:28-29); therefore, we understand that, by the truth of God’s Word, faith that saves is imparted to sinful men who are dead in their trespasses. and sins So, how does this faith work?
The means by which God sends His Word is through men saved by God’s grace (Romans 10:13-14), “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” As the gospel is proclaimed, the heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, draws men to Christ, by the hearing of His holy truth: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Spirit of God ministers unto the soul that is dead in sin and that soul is awakened by God’s grace to the glorious beauty of the truth that God has sent His only begotten Son to appease the wrath of God by taking upon Himself God’s wrath, and thus securing God’s favor for all those who would believe.
An objection may arise, pointing to the Lord Jesus’ words directed toward the sinful woman that washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus said to her, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” The objection typically argues that the woman was saved by an inherent faith she had already possessed, “since,” it is argued, “had the faith to believe because she was made in the image of God.”
My answer to that objection is that if the fall of Adam corrupted every area of the human condition, faith from within would be flawed unless it was resurrected unto perfect faith. Consider this: Adam was made perfectly perfect (forgive the redundancy); yet, he disobeyed God. In other words, he lacked faith toward God to keep the command to not eat from the forbidden tree. Would it seem likely that his fallen descendents are able to do in a sinful state that which Adam was unable to keep in a perfect state?
No, my friends, the woman’s faith that saved her was certainly hers because it was a gift from God in the first place in order to believe. The scripture is entirely consistent to call it her faith because once a gift is given the gift belongs to the recipient. Her actions toward the Lord were the faithful response to the grace of God moving within her, as James says, “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
Therefore, as our verse tells us that men are justified by God apart from the work of the law, we realize that God has declared sinners righteous, not because of their own righteousness, but because of faith in the only righteous Man who ever lived perfectly, the only Jew who ever kept the whole Law completely, the only Prophet who ever spoke every Word of God purely, and the only Son who was always pleasing to His Father eternally: Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Holy One of Israel.
Read the previous article in this series, “The Law of Faith” (Romans 3:27).