Friday, December 08, 2006

Romans 3:29-31

Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

There is One God of all, Who justifies all kinds of men by the same faith in Christ. Paul uses the words, “we maintain.” This truth is not just something that Paul values; it’s a truth that Christians embrace. Justification is by grace through faith apart from works. And amazingly, it’s for all people. It’s not just for the Jews, those to whom God gave His law. And that is offensive to them. That’s why Paul spends so much time explaining these Jew / Gentile issues. He wants more than anything for his own countrymen to understand what their God has done. And they needed to understand that…

…God doesn’t depend on what we do. He depends upon His work and His work in His Son. On God’s end, salvation is provided by grace. But it’s not just on God’s end. Our salvation is provided by grace. On our end, our faith, whereby we receive the grace of God in the gospel, is a gift of God. He gifts us with faith. So salvation is by grace at both ends: on God’s end and our end. We don’t do things in order to condition God’s acceptance of us, and the one thing that God requires of us—faith—He gives. It goes right back to the prayer of Augustine. He said to God, “Command what You will and grant what You command.” In other words, “Lord, command me to do anything You want. And make me willing and able and certain to do it.”

The law is not nullified, but upheld by this faith. Paul probably got this objection frequently: that the doctrine of justification by faith was nullifying the law. Justification by faith rightly understood, as Paul says, doesn’t lead you to neglect the law or negate or hate the law. In fact it will lead you to love the law of God. But on the other hand justification by faith doesn’t lead you to believe that you can do anything that you want. Paul raises and then briefly answers this question saying that God’s free justification does not mean that works or obedience or love do not have a place in the Christian life. Paul wants us to hold two truths simultaneously in our understanding. We must understand first that there is absolutely no contribution whatsoever on our part to our justification. There is no work that we do or obedience that we do or love that we show or anything in us that determines whether or not God will justify us. There’s not even anything that God does in us that conditions our justification. Justification is done on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ. Paul wants us to understand that on the one hand; on the other hand he wants us to understand that obedience and works and love that flows from a renewed heart, those things are a necessary part of the Christian life.

God in His mercy accepts you not because of something in you, but because of something in His Son and something that His Son did. And so when He accepts you, He looks at His Son, not at you. Do works flow from the work of God in you? Of course they do. But that doesn't make them meritorious. We'll look more at this in chapter four, beginning next week.

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