“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” —Romans 3:27
As examined in the previous three chapters, and especially in the verses immediately preceding this one, God has redeemed the fallen man who believes on Christ from a debt that no man could possibly pay because Jesus Christ came to earth as a man, lived a perfectly righteous and sinless life, and became a propitiation upon Calvary’s cross, suffering the holy wrath of almighty justice for the sins of all those whom God would save by His free gift of grace. This free gift of God began with God before ever an angel winged in the heavens, and was decreed by God, fulfilled through God, and ends with God. This should make the question, “Where is boasting then?” utterly ridiculous. Yet, the apostle asks the question and answers it straight away…
“It is excluded.” Again, at the risk of sounding redundant, the key to this entire epistle is Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” That same key which has opened the door to the holy of holies of the New Testament, Romans 3:23-27, is also the very same key that locks the door in order to keep anything out that would add to the grace of God through the inglorious works of sinful men. The apostle continues, “By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.”
First, we should attempt to understand this word, “law.” What may immediately come to mind are the Old Testament scriptures or the Law of Moses, as that’s what was meant by “the law” in Romans 2. One may even think of the law as the moral law written upon the tablets of stone, also known as the Ten Commandments. Yet, because it says “the law of faith” some may want to define New Testament law as “Biblical principles” or “principles of truth.” These would all be correct definitions depending upon the context in which the word is used; yet, there is a definition, or at least a concept of this word, that is much overlooked, and I believe it is of primary importance in our proper understanding of the use of this word throughout the Bible. We have mentioned in our verse, “the law… of works,” which clearly speaks of commandments as do’s and don’ts that one must “work” by his actions; yet, there is also this “law of faith,” which is clear from our previous texts that it is belief based upon what God has done, through “the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22), as that righteousness was made apparent apart from the law of works (Romans 3:21). Therefore, I hope that today I can pass on to you an understanding of New Testament law. Therefore, I’d like to express that the law is basically this: the STANDARD that reflects who God is in His infinite and eternal attributes. It is also the STANDARD that reflects all things that God has done, specifically, the penal substitutionary and atoning death of Jesus Christ upon Calvary’s tree. It is also the STANDARD that reflects God’s instruction for man to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. Question 2 of A Puritan Catechism states: “What rule (or standard) has God given to direct us how we may glorify Him?” Its answer: “The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy Him.”
The law comes from God, whether that law is by commandments or saving faith. Therefore, as Paul says later, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). The law, whether of works or of faith, is God’s STANDARD, His rule, and it is holy because it comes from Him, reflecting just who He is: a holy God of eternal and divine justice.
If the law of works (the Law of Moses) was something that I could do in order to attain and maintain justification before a holy God, then I would have something to boast in because my works had vindicated me. Nevertheless, we are told that it is excluded; and therefore, there could be no such boasting in myself, in what I have done, in receiving salvation. Likewise, there is no boasting in myself, in who I am intrinsically, if faith was something that was already in me as something that I might muster up according to knowledge and reason so that I might stand justified before a holy God. Were that so, I might have something to boast in and about; at least I would over against another who did not exercise his will, his reason, or attend to that knowledge to believe by faith. The scripture is quite contrary to that thinking as it says that boasting is “excluded.” That means it is completely shut out, locked out, and prohibited from entering.
The law of faith is the standard that comes from God, for it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8); it is the work of the Father through Jesus Christ (John 6:29; Matthew 11:27); and it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Read the previous article in this series, “Where is Boasting” (Romans 3:27).