Paul's Letter to the Saints at Rome

by Bryan Vinson, Sr.

Rewritten In Simple English With Notes

by Paul K. Williams

Chapter Three

Verses 1-2: 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

In the last section Paul showed that the Jews were guilty just like the Gentiles because they were hearers rather than doers of the Law. Paul now asks questions which might come to the mind of the Jew. If the Jew is lost because of his sins, just like the Gentiles, then what advantage does the Jew have? Why did God give him the Law and command him to be circumcised?

Paul answers in clear and strong words that the Jew does have an advantage. He does not say what the advantage of circumcision is, but he says that the chief advantage of the Jews was that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. The “oracles of God” were the Old Testament scriptures, and this implies that the Old Testament brought all the other blessings God promised them.

The Old Testament, its history and Law, has been very important to man. It is terrifying to think of what man would be without it. How could man know where he came from? Where could he find those high moral principles which became the laws of governments and showed what true justice is? These were given to the Jews. They were blessed by these laws. And through them all other people were blessed.

It is good for us to think about a greater advantage. Today we have the oracles of God which are the New Testament. They are able to guide men in the way of salvation from sin and in paths of righteousness. If the Jews had a blessing because they had the Old Testament, what a great advantage we have today!

Though Paul did not tell the advantage of circumcision, the expression “great in every respect” includes circumcision. Circumcision did hold a profit for the Jew. It reminded him of the covenant relationship which he had with God and the blessings which came from that relationship. But this profit did not come from circumcision alone. He also had to keep the Law. It is the same today. God’s blessings to us do not come when we do only one thing which He commands but do not do the rest. For instance, Peter told believers to repent and be baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). This means that believing, repenting and being baptised are all necessary if we wish to be forgiven. If we say that we are saved because we have done only one or two of these things, we are like the Jews who thought they were saved because they were circumcised and had the Law. Because they did not keep the Law, they were not saved. And because people do not do ALL that God says to do to be saved, they are not saved today. This same principle can be applied to everything God tells us to do.

Verses 3-4: 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.”

Here is another question the Jew might ask. “Because some of the Jews did not believe, did this make God unfaithful”? God made promises to the Jews with conditions. If God was going to bless them, they had to have faith in God and they had to obey His commands. But they thought they would be blessed even if they did not keep the commands. It is like a child who is told that he will be given a sweet if he will keep quiet for ten minutes. The child does not keep quiet but thinks he should get the sweet anyway.

But Paul’s question implies something more. When a person does not believe what God says, that person shows that he thinks God is not truthful. If a person disbelieves the gospel he is denying that God who gave the gospel and Jesus Christ who brought the gospel are faithful. People today show that they do not think God is faithful. They like to prove a thing to be true by what men say rather than by what God says. If “everyone” says that we don’t have to be baptised, then people think that what God says is not important. This shows that they do not believe God.

In such things the position which is absolutely true is, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. This does not mean that every man is a liar, but every man who disagrees with God is a liar because God is true. He is true in character, and all that He says is true. It is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). So whenever man disagrees with what God says, man is the liar and God says the truth, even if every man disagrees with God.

When the theories and doctrines of men are compared with what the Scriptures say, every issue must be decided in favor of the Scriptures. It does not matter how many men accept a position in religion, the truth must be found in the Scriptures.

For God to be justified is to show that both what He says and what He does are true and just. God will always be justified when He is judged because He is always truthful and faithful. Christians have a strong reason to hold fast the profession of their faith because “He is faithful who promised” (Hebrews 10:23).

Verses 5-8: 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)

6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.

In what sense could their unrighteousness demonstrate the righteousness of God? It could only be that their sins made a contrast to the justice of God and the comparison showed God to be righteous.

The righteousness of God is His own righteousness and does not mean His plan for making man righteous. The whole setting here involves man’s lie and God’s truth, man’s sins and God’s justice.

So the Jew was in a hard place. Because God is righteous, God must judge both Jew and Gentile in the same way. The Jew had to agree that God’s righteousness forces Him to punish the Jews for their sins, because if He did not judge the Jews for their sins, He could not judge the Gentiles for theirs. And the Jews knew that the Gentiles should be punished.

Also notice, in order for God’s judgment to be righteous on the Jew and Gentile He must punish the evil and give everlasting blessedness to the righteous. There is a teaching that God is so good that He will save everyone eternally and will not punish anyone. But this doctrine means that God is not righteous. If He is righteous He must punish the evil person.

Next Paul gives himself as an example of one who should be punished. The Jews will agree that it is just for God to punish Paul. He left the faith of his fathers and what he preached was regarded as a lie by the Jews. Remember, Paul is answering the question, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say”? If Paul was preaching a lie, his unrighteousness would demonstrate the righteousness of God, and by the reasoning of the Jews he should not be regarded as a sinner. To teach error would produce good because God’s truth would be exalted in contrast to the error. This would be doing evil that good may come. He says that some had charged him with teaching this, but he says that this is slander. He never taught “Let us do evil that good may come”.

But many use this principle to justify unauthorised practices in religion. They believe that the end (the result) justifies the means (the method used). This is the most popular way in which people promote and defend human ideas in religion. When someone adds something to the worship or service of God, he tries to defend himself by saying that “it is doing good”. He is saying that because good is being done the thing itself is right. This is the old argument that “The end justifies the means.” When Briney defended the Missionary Society in his debate with Otey he said it was right for churches to have the Missionary Society because it did a lot of good. And the same defence is made of many things now being practiced for which there is no scriptural authority. They say, “But look at the good we are doing!” Their argument is that the good which is accomplished makes the unauthorised means they use justified.

Paul says concerning those who falsely accused him of teaching this, “Their condemnation is just”. The Law of Moses said that it was a sin to bear false witness. And it is a sin today. Some said that Paul taught that we should do evil that good may come. They lied! To misrepresent the word of another is a terrible sin. We should be careful to rightly understand the position of another before stating it. And if we knowingly and maliciously misrepresent another the sin is made even greater. Even when we oppose false doctrine we must be careful to state the doctrine properly. It is wrong to misstate it in order to refute it. Truth never needs the assistance of misrepresentation in exposing error. Those who accused Paul of teaching “Let us do evil that good may come” were false witnesses.

Verses 9-20: 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;

11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 ¶ Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

In chapter one Paul began showing the sinfulness of Gentiles and Jews. In these verses he brings this charge to a climax. He says that we, the Jews, are no better than they, the Gentiles. This is true because both are guilty of sin. Paul is talking only about the guilt of sin. In God’s sight the Jew is no better than the Gentile because the Jew is a sinner just as the Gentile is.

Verses 10-18 contain a series of quotations from the Old Testament. In many ways the Jews stood in a better light than the Gentiles, but as far as their guilt or innocence of sins was concerned, the Jews were just as guilty as the Gentiles. These words from the Old Testament prove without doubt that the Jews were sinners.

(The Old Testament scriptures quoted are from the book of Psalms and from Isaiah. They do not mean that every single Jew was wicked. Psalm 14:3 says that there is no one who does good. But in verse 5 David shows that it is the evil-doers who were in trouble because God was with the “righteous generation”. In Jeremiah 5:1 God told Jeremiah that there was no righteous man in Jerusalem. But Jeremiah was there and he was righteous. And we know that Baruch was there and other righteous ones. But in both cases ungodliness was everywhere. It was right to say that “all” were wicked. It was right of Paul to use the verses to show that the Jews were wicked in the same way that the Gentiles were.

These verses do not say that babies are born guilty of sin. They do not say that babies are born with a sinful nature that makes it impossible for them to do righteous things. The verses are not talking about babies. Romans 7:9 shows that a baby is “alive” toward God. PKW)

He described them in the following terms: “None righteous”, that is, there were none who lived righteously or had been justified; and because they lived unrighteous lives and were not forgiven, they were not righteous. Further none understood the law of God. They did not understand the real character of the things God required, nor did they understand that it was right for God to condemn the people who did not keep those commandments. They were charged with not seeking after God. They did not try to learn more correctly and follow more righteously after God. Any time one does not work hard to learn and follow the will of God, that one becomes less and less righteous. They had less and less interest in God, and this led to turning aside from the way of faith and obedience. The charge of becoming useless means that they lost all value for God. God called the Jews to be His people to help bring about the salvation of all mankind, but their sinful lives made them useless for this purpose. They lost their good influence on others because of their sins and even caused the Gentiles to blaspheme God. When any person or group of people stops doing good he becomes unprofitable, for we are only useful if we seek good. Their uselessness is emphasized by the words, not even one.

Not only did they fail to do good, but they actually did evil. The description given in the Old Testament verses which Paul quotes showed that their evil was almost as bad as that of the Gentiles. The terms which describe their throat, tongue, lips and mouth show the evil use of speech. The ability to speak sets man apart from other creatures and shows man’s kinship with God. The Jews became very guilty when they took the gift of speech and used it for low and evil purposes. They knew that God had spoken to them. He made known His will by speaking to them through the prophets. This knowledge should have caused them to use words to do good. But their speech was corrupt in its character. They used words to deceive people, and their words were like poison to ruin the people around them.

The words “their feet are swift to shed blood” show that they eagerly committed murder. Destruction and misery were the results of their actions, and peace was unknown to them.

Such sinning without restraint was possible only because there was no fear of God before their eyes. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10); and when men cast away that fear nothing will stop them from doing evil except the punishments other men do to them. This is the reason there is such a frightful amount of crime in the world today. People do not fear God, therefore they do evil. They probably will not be caught by the police, and if they are caught they will probably not be convicted of their crimes, and if they are convicted their punishment is very light. The only thing which will keep people from doing wicked things is the fear of the Lord, and this fear has long ago largely disappeared. If people truly feared the Lord there would not be such disrespect for law and order by the public or the courts.

All of these Old Testament verses apply to someone, but to whom? The apostle now states a truth and applies these verses. He states that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law. But the verses he quoted were taken from the law under which the Jews lived, and therefore what it said applied to them. They were the ones who were such terrible sinners. In chapter two he charged them with sin, but now he proves this by verses from the Law. In the face of this proof, the Jews could no longer say that they were innocent. Their guilt is written on the pages of the Bible.

His conclusion is that by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight. The Jews thought that their works justified them, but they were not justified in God’s sight. It is important to notice here that God is the One who justifies, and therefore all those who are not justified by Him are under condemnation. The Law brought the knowledge of sin to those who were under that Law. Paul says, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law” (Romans 7:7). This does not mean that if a person is ignorant of the Law he can break that Law without sin. It means that the Law makes that which is sinful to appear more clearly and fully to be sin. All of the commandments forbidding sin and the penalties for breaking the Law show how sinful sin is.

Verses 21-23: 21 ¶ But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Both Jew and Gentile were guilty and condemned by their sins. Now Paul brings the thought up to the present time, the time of the giving of grace. The Law and the prophets told about this time of forgiveness long before it came. The Law could not justify those under it because it had no way to forgive sins, but the Law and the prophets showed how people would one day be able to receive the righteousness of God through the faith of Christ.

But this scheme of redemption will only appeal to those who understand their need. Only those who realize that they are guilty and are lost want to be saved. The purpose of what Paul has written up to this point is to cause all to understand that ALL are sinners—all are lost. So he writes that conclusion in clear terms. God’s plan of salvation is for all sinners. Men must be convinced that they are themselves guilty, for that is the only way men are lost.

John Calvin taught, and his teaching is believed by many religious people, that all babies are lost because they are born with the guilt of Adam’s sins on their souls. If that doctrine were true, then Paul went to a lot of work for nothing. He wrote three chapters to prove that all men are sinners because of their own sins. If babies were born guilty of sin, he did not have to write any of that. All he would need to do would be to state that all are guilty because they are born guilty. But he did not do that. He showed that we are all guilty because of what we have done, not because of what we have inherited.

Paul laid down the great proposition that the gospel is God’s power to save those who believe, the Jew first and also the Greek (1:16). This clearly implied that both the Jew and the Greek were lost. (The rest of what he wrote up to this point was to prove that they were lost.) He showed how deep into sin both had sunk, and he did this in such a way as to take away every ray of hope for salvation by any way men could think of, and to lead the guilty to seek the Lord while He can be found and to call upon Him while He is near.

The righteousness by the faith of Christ is for all those who believe. It is not for the unbelievers. And it is for all believers, not just for the Jew. Christ did not give one gospel for the Jew and another for the Gentiles. Some have taught that the Jews were required to be baptised but the Gentiles were not. In South Africa a large Zulu denomination claims to have a Zulu Christ because a white Christ is not for the blacks. But clearly there is no difference in the need for salvation nor in the way of salvation. All are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

Why is there no difference in the way of salvation? The answer is, “All have sinned”. All are equally guilty, and all have to be saved in the same way. The main reason for man’s existence is to glorify God. But because all men have sinned, men have fallen short of the glory of God. Look at the terrible power of sin. God made us so that we can give Him glory. Sin makes it impossible to do that!

The purpose of worship is to give God glory. But sinning defeats our efforts to glorify God. When men change the worship which God has demanded they sin by adding that which God does not want or changing that which He has given. They defeat the purpose of worship. A corrupt worship does not glorify God. I wonder if those who introduce changes in worship ever think about this truth.

Verses 24-26: 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Moses Lard says with respect to this language: “In this compressed and comprehensive sentence we have the ground of the whole remedial system. On this ground depends everything. To expand it, in all its amplitude, would be to write the history of human redemption, from its conception in the mind of God up to its consummation in the glorification of the saved.”

According to verse 22, the ones who are being saved by this grace are those who believed. Being justified is accomplished through God’s grace; justification is not earned by those who receive it. Further, God gives complete justification to the believers. It is not partial nor is it temporary. It is fully, freely and completely given. This shows that human works of righteousness cannot earn justification. And justification is described as redemption (paying the price to free a slave). Redemption was made possible by Christ and cost Him His life’s blood. Being redeemed from the bondage of sin they were justified from its guilt.

In the wisdom and justice of God the shedding of blood was necessary to remission of sins because the penalty for sin is death and the life is in the blood. However the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4), though without the shedding of blood there is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). In order to take away sins there had to be the shedding of blood of greater value than that of animals. The price of redeeming those enslaved by sin is the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19).

God displayed Him publicly to be a satisfying sacrifice. Jesus shed His blood and offered it to God in heaven, and His sacrifice was accepted by God. This shows that God planned the death of Jesus—He displayed Him purposely. He did this to show His justice and righteousness. His righteousness is shown in the forgiveness of those sins committed before Christ died. To propitiate is to satisfy wrath or cause one to be favourable, and since God showed that the sacrifices under the law were not enough to forgive sins, Christ was set forth as a sin offering (Hebrews 10:5-14). His redemption reached back to save those who sinned under the first testament that they might receive the promise of eternal life (Hebrews 9:15). During all those many years before Christ came God exercised forbearance toward those who sinned until in the fulness of time He sent forth His Son, born under the Law to redeem them who were under the Law (Gal. 4:4-5). In doing this He demonstrates His righteousness through the offering of Christ.

But how could He be righteous or just by justifying the sinner? There are some who are called Universalists. They teach that God cannot be just and condemn the sinner, that He is infinitely good and therefore cannot punish man after death for his sins. A man who at one time was a Universalist stated their belief in these terms: “God is infinitely good, and of course must have designed in the beginning, and must still design the greatest possible good of his whole creation.

The greatest possible good of his whole creation requires the universal salvation of all. But God is infinite in power, and, of course, can carry out his design to promote the greatest possible good— the universal salvation of all, into full execution. As, therefore, God designs in His infinite goodness to save all men, and can in his infinite power save all, all men will and must be saved.” This man, who had renounced his former faith, turned this reasoning around and applied it to what happens to man on earth, and showed by this reasoning that universal happiness can and must exist here and now. But the facts show that such is not true and therefore the reasoning is false.

Now Paul appears to be reasoning from the other end of the matter. He is saying that God’s justice requires all sinners to be condemned and punished. But Paul has already proved that all are sinners, so this means all deserve to be punished.

Since the sinner deserves to be punished, how can God be just and yet the sinner be justified? Only by Christ dying for the sinner and the sinner believing on Him. This means that in order for God to be just, the salvation is only for the believer. It is not just for God to save the unbeliever. Therefore the blood of Christ cannot save the unbeliever and he has no hope.

Verses 27-28: 27 ¶ Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Paul gives here the clear conclusion that justification is by faith and not by the works of the Law. In the next chapter he will talk about this in detail, and it will become the theme which continues through the rest of the book to the twelfth chapter. It lies under everything he says in this letter.

Boasting here is of course human boasting which shows pride because of what one has done or can do. In salvation we cannot boast because we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts. The Law of Moses gave the will of God to those who were under it, and if they kept it perfectly they would have been justified and they could have boasted about their justification. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). If they did not ever break the Law, they would have had no sin. If they had been able to do that, they could have boasted because they by their own efforts would have been justified.

But anyone who did not keep the law completely was not justified, and he could not boast. He was a sinner. Paul already proved that all men have broken God’s laws and are therefore sinners. Therefore no one was ever justified by the Law. If there had been a law which could have given life then righteousness would have been by the Law. But the scripture shut up all men under sin (Galatians 3:21-22). The sacrifices under the Law could not justify anyone, therefore those under the Law could not be justified by it. So then, anyone who said he was saved by the Law was saying that he never sinned. And only the one who never sinned would be able to boast.

The Law of Moses is called a law of works, in contrast to the law of faith. It is the Law, but it is also a law—a law of works. Works are the identifying feature of this law, and faith is the leading quality of the other. I do not believe that this means there was no faith involved in the Law of Moses or that there are no works required by the law of faith. Rather, the faith of the one who was trying to be justified by the Law was in himself and was in his perfect works. That is why he could boast. But the one who is under the law of faith trusts in another as the justifier through His grace. Boasting then is not fitting for the Christian; in fact it is forbidden because there is no reason for it.

Paul’s conclusion is that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. This means that no man, Jew or Gentile, is justified by the works of the Law. Whoever is justified is justified by faith. This is true because God justifies, and He justifies those who believe. But why does He justify only those who believe? Because He can be just only by justifying them and no others.

There are two different ideas we must not confuse. Paul teaches that all have sinned. This does not mean that all men have to sin and cannot do otherwise. I cannot believe that God condemns any man for doing what it is impossible for him not to do. Man does not have to sin. While recognizing the truth that we all sin we should not seek to defend ourselves by the plea that we are not able to live without sinning. Jesus did, and in His humanity He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.

That we are justified by faith is true; that we are justified by faith only is not true. Paul says that we are saved by faith, but nowhere in the Bible does it say we are saved by faith only. When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German he inserted the word only. We are told that he did this because he greatly opposed the teaching of the Catholic Church on works of “supererogation” (works which earn salvation). But one false doctrine should not be opposed by creating another false doctrine of an opposite kind. Unfortunately, extremes often produce other extremes, and Luther is not the only one who has produced such things.

Verses 29-31: 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

31 ¶ Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Since law is a rule of action, the law of faith tells us that there is a rule of the action of faith. This is the faith of which we cannot boast. It is the gospel of Christ. Since He is our ruler, this system of faith is the rule or law by which we are justified. This law requires obedience, and therefore the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5) results in one’s justification from sin. The gospel of Christ is the power of God to save. It is to be preached to those who are lost and therefore need salvation. The idea that a person is not lost until he hears the gospel and that he only becomes lost by rejecting the gospel is wrong. He is lost because of his sins and the gospel is offered to him so he can be saved.

The question then arises as to whose God it is that justifies the sinner. If He is the God only of the Jews, then it would follow that only the Jews would be justified. But Paul says He is the God of the Gentiles also, and this means that He also justifies them. There is not one God to justify the Jew and another God to justify the Gentile. This would be polytheism (the religion of having many gods), and the Scriptures teach that there is one God. The same Scriptures teach that there is one Lord and one faith, and since the one God made the one Lord to be our King, and He gave us the one faith, and justification is by this faith, it follows that it is the same God who justifies both the Jew and the Gentile. He is not a tribal God—He is the God and Creator of all men.

Since Jews and Gentiles both stand before God the same way, He justifies both in the same way. The circumcised are the Jews and the uncircumcised are the Gentiles. Paul used those terms the same way in Galatians 2:7, and in that letter he says that anyone who preaches a gospel other than what he preached is accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

The final question is “Do we then nullify the Law through faith”? This is just what the Jew would ask after hearing this teaching. Paul earlier asked the question, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision”? (3:1) His answer showed that the chief advantage was that they had the oracles of God, but that they were not justified by the works of the Law. So it would be logical for the Jew to ask, “Do we then nullify the Law through faith?”

This was a good question. It occurred because the Jew thought that the Law was given to justify him. If that had been the purpose of the Law, then what Paul teaches in this section would “nullify” (make of no effect) the Law, because Paul says that no man is justified by the works of the Law. There are many people today who are like those Jews. They say, “If you keep the Ten Commandments you will go to heaven”. If that was the purpose of the Ten Commandments, then what Paul writes here would nullify the Ten Commandments. Paul teaches that no one can be justified by keeping the Law, or even the part of the Law which is the Ten Commandments.

The problem which this question poses can only be solved when we understand that the Law was given for a different purpose. It was not given to justify anyone. The Galatian letter explains this with clearness: the Law was given to bring the Jews to Christ, that they might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). So if the Law was given to justify the Jews, then the Law was made void by Paul’s teaching that all are saved by faith. But when we understand that justification was never the purpose of the Law, but that the Law was given to bring us to Christ, then the Law is established.

This completely refutes the idea that man can be saved by following the teaching of the Old Testament scriptures, and that the Old Testament stands on the same level with the New Testament. That covenant killed; this covenant makes alive. That one was the letter; this one is the spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6-9)

But how does Paul, in his teaching here, establish the Law? He does so by showing that it is the gospel which is God’s power to save and that justification is attained by faith. We can see that the Law was to prepare for the justification which was to be brought by the gospel. The Law is established when we understand its true purpose and that this purpose has now been realised. This is the only way anything can be established in the sense Paul uses. It stands because we see its true usefulness.

The commandment was holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). In its character it was holy, in its principles just, and in its purpose good. It is good because it is holy and just. These principles stand because the gospel system, the new covenant, became the end (the goal) of the Law for justification to them that believe (Romans 10:4). God planned to redeem man through the gospel of Christ before He gave the Law of Moses. When the gospel came, it completed the process of redemption. It did not make the Law void or purposeless. The Law was not given to save men but to bring men to Christ, and it did that.

In the Greek original from which our English Bible is translated, the article “the” is not found in front of the word “Law”. The conclusion of some is that any law is established by teaching and practicing obedience to it. This is true, but I do not believe this is what Paul teaches here. I believe the Law here mentioned is the Law, and the establishment of that Law did not come about because Paul practiced its teaching. Paul was a sinner along with all other Jews. To establish the Law is the opposite of making the Law void (nullifying the Law), and the same law is under consideration in both expressions. Paul understood that some would say that his teaching concerning the Law and the gospel would nullify the Law, but he affirms that what he here teaches actually establishes the Law. This presents the Law in its proper role. It was given before the gospel as a guide and an influence to prepare for the time of grace when justification by faith would come.

The Seventh Day Adventists and others misuse this statement to prove that the Law is still in force. When they do this they show that they do not understand what Paul is teaching. If the Law is of force today, and since justification is impossible by it (as Paul says), then the Law is void. It is not able to save anyone, and that is the only reason it should exist today. The Law is only established when it accomplishes what it was given to do. When we understand that the Law was temporary, and that when its purpose was accomplished it was done away, we then see that the Law is established. He took away the first that He might establish the second (Hebrews 10:9). When the second (the gospel) came it showed the usefulness of the Law. It was necessary for the beginning of the gospel. The purpose of each—the Law and the gospel—was the same: the justification of sinners. The Law was given first to prepare the way for the gospel which accomplished this purpose.

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