Pastor David B. Curtis


Justified By Faith Alone

Romans 3:27-31

Delivered 03/27/2011

Paul, in the preceding context, has pointed out that the covenant faithfulness of God has been revealed through one who will do and be what Israel should have done and been. God has been faithful to the covenant with Abraham through the one faithful Israelite--Jesus! By virtue of the saving work of Jesus Christ, God has become just in that sin has been punished, and He has become the justifier of him who believes in Jesus.

Believers are declared righteous through redemption (apolutrosis, which means: "a releasing effected by payment of ransom") on the basis of propitiation. To understand propitiation is to understand the Gospel, and without it, you have no Gospel. The Greek word used here is hilasterion, which means: "the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice."

Why did God face the problem of needing to give a public vindication of His righteousness? The answer is in the last phrase of verse 25 and at the end of verse 26: "because in his forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;" and because He is "the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

God has been passing over thousands of sins. He has been forgiving them and letting them go and not punishing them. And a righteous judge cannot let guilty sinners go unpunished. So God appears to be, and indeed would be, unrighteous if He passed over sin without saving us in a way that demonstrates His infinite righteousness. He did this by punishing Jesus Christ for our sins. We are just before God because our sins have been paid for in full.

So we begin our study this morning with:

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. Romans 3:27 NASB

"Where then"--links 3:21-26 and 3:27-31. Paul is now drawing a conclusion. If justification is a gift of God's grace, then how can anyone boast?

"Boasting"--is from the Greek word kauchesis; the origin of the word goes back to:

Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NASB

Their boast was to be in God, but they had come to boast in the badge of circumcision. Notice the next verse:

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised-- Jeremiah 9:25 NASB

How can they be circumcised and yet be uncircumcised? They were physically circumcised, but not spiritually circumcised. They missed the reality and clung to the sign. This context for boasting and circumcision fits perfectly with our text in Romans.

I don't see this as the boasting of the morally self-righteous person, as most commentators seem to believe. Philips translates this verse, "What happens to human pride of achievement?" But I don't think Paul is talking about boasting in human achievement. In sticking with the context Paul is talking about the boasting of the Jew. He is returning to the question he raised in 2:17-24 of the boasting of the Jew. The "works" that Paul is talking about are not moral effort, or achievement; it is the works that set the Jew apart from the Greek, such as circumcision. This is the boasting that says, "I, because of my birth in the nation Israel, because of my possession of Torah, because of my circumcision, am superior to all Gentiles. We see this view in:

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 NASB

They are saying you can't be saved unless you are circumcised. Who is saying this? It was the "Judaizers." The Judaizers were a group of people who went around in the first century promoting Judaism. News had reached Judea of the many Gentiles who had become Christians and had not been circumcised. This had horrified many Jewish believers, especially many Pharisees who were believers, for they considered that it was not possible to be within God's salvation without being circumcised and keeping the whole Law of Moses. They were pushing Judaism on the believers. They were saying that in order to be a Christian, you must first come through the door of Judaism. You must be circumcised and keep the Law. They were saying, "Yes, you must trust in Christ, but you also must keep the law."

So, I see the boast here as one of race, ethnicity, and the proof of that is in verse 29, where Paul asks, "Or is God the God of Jews only?"

In writing to the Corinthians Paul explained that God has worked in choosing us through electing grace before the foundation of the world:

so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:29 NASB

He further explained:

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB

Salvation is God's doing; not your doing. And the reason is clear:

so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 1 Corinthians 1:31 NASB

And he quotes Jeremiah 9:23. Boasting is excluded!

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB

When all is a gift, boasting is excluded. Paul has already stressed that salvation is a gift of His grace:

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:24 NASB

So boasting is "excluded"--this is the Greek ekkleio, which means: "to shut out." It is in the aorist tense, which indicates that the exclusion referred to has been accomplished once for all.

Paul goes on in verse 27 to say, "By what kind of Law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith"--What kind of Law excludes boasting? The Law of works doesn't, if you work, you have something to boast about, but the Law of Faith does, because faith is a gift of God. Many take the word "Law" here, which is "nomos," and translate it as "principle." But I think that Paul uses nomos here for the Torah, not a principle.

The "works of the Law" for a Jew were not miscellaneous moral activities. They were the things which the Torah prescribed, which marked out the Jew as different from his pagan neighbor. The works of the Law referred to three things in particular: circumcision, the Sabbath, and the purity laws. And these were all things that the Jews boasted in.

We see what "works of the Law" means here by what Paul says in:

since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Romans 3:30 NASB

Here he calls the Jews "the circumcised," and states that they are justified, not by works (circumcision), but by faith. Just as those who are uncircumcised (no works) are justified by faith.

Paul has been teaching over and over so far in Romans that these works do not justify them, they do not protect them from God's judgment:

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 NASB

So Paul says that boasting is excluded by "The Torah of faith"--this is not a principle, but the true teaching of Torah. The Torah was a call to faith, to trust in God; read Hebrews 11: "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain," "By faith Enoch was taken up", "By faith Noah...prepared an ark for the salvation of his household," "By faith Abraham...lived as an alien in the land of promise".

We have already seen that those who believe the Gospel fulfill the Law, even if they never had access to the Law:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14 NASB

Gentiles don't have the Law, but these Gentiles do the things of the Law. How is that possible? They are Gentile Christians, they have trusted Christ, and the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in them. In the same way the Gentile Christian, who is physically uncircumcised, keeps the requirements of the Law by faith in Jesus Christ, which shows that he has been circumcised in heart. Whenever someone believes the Gospel, there the Torah is being fulfilled.

Their faith fulfills the Law! How does this work? Verse 28 explains:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:28 NASB

"We maintain"--is from the Greek logizomai, and would be better translated: "we reckon, or we calculate." This is a mathematical reckoning.

The word "justified" means: "to declare righteous." The term comes from the courtroom of the first century. As a trial drew to a close, the judge, having heard all the evidence, would pronounce his verdict. To justify a person meant to declare that they were not guilty in the eyes of the Law.

It is an act entirely of God, performed by God on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross, and is received by us through the instrumentality of faith. Nothing you do and nothing you ever could do contributes to your own justification. It is entirely an act of God on the sinner's behalf.

Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way in Chapter XI, paragraph 1:

Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justified; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Now let me add here that justification is an eschatological doctrine. It is what God was going to do for His people Israel in the end times. It involved raising them from the dead and bringing them back from exile, thus demonstrating to the world that they were indeed His people.

To Paul and the first century saints righteous was a declaration. Paul was writing in the transition period. At the time of Paul's writing to the Romans, the Second Coming, Resurrection, and Judgement had not yet taken place; Eternal Life had not been consummated. We are living in what the Bible calls the "age to come," the New Covenant Age. You and I are not "declared" righteous; we ARE righteous.

Luther made his own translation of Romans 3:28 and created considerable controversy by adding the word "alone." "A man is justified by faith ALONE"--alone is not found in the Greek text, but Luther felt it was implied.

When the Catholic theologians objected to the word "alone" after "faith," Luther replied that it was necessary to add the word in order to make the sense of the passage clear. This did not convince his critics, but Protestants have agreed with him that Romans 3:28 does indeed teach "sola fide"--faith alone. Luther, following Origen, Chrysostom, Basil, Aquinas, and others, clarified what was meant by faith in Christ by adding "alone."

The reason that word, "alone," was added was due to the confusion generated by Catholicism. A Catholic would agree that we are justified by faith--but he doesn't stop there. He adds merits and works to this justification so that what Christ has done is not enough. Listen carefully to this doctrinal statement of the Catholic church: "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema."

This is a quote from the "Council of Trent Canon 14." According to this, every Christian in the world stands under the official, never changed curse of the Roman Church, and we need to be aware of that fact. According to the Catholic Church, those who believe in justification by faith alone are anathema.

In November of 1544, in the northern Italian community of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church convened its 19th ecumenical council. The Council of Trent officially lasted from December of 1545 through December of 1563. During that time the Church intensified its ongoing affront on Protestantism by codifying Catholic dogma in unprecedented fashion, in matters ranging from the strategic place of the sacraments to the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, indulgences, the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints, and the efficacy of relics. Tradition was declared coequal to Scripture as a basis for authority.

Now you might be thinking, "But the Council of Trent met a long time ago, hasn't Rome since modified its position?" No, it has not! The Vatican II documents as well as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reinvoke the theological position of the Council of Trent, condemning the Gospel of justification by an imputed righteousness.

This is what Pope John Paul II believed and taught. This is Catholic theology. Catholic theology anthanamizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Roman Catholic church taught that Jesus Christ's merit covered sin in a certain sense, but there also was a penalty that you must pay, and God punished you either in this life or in purgatory.

Catholic theology says, "By my deeds I can not only earn merit for myself, but if I earn more merit than I need to get into heaven, my extra merit goes into the treasury of merit to be applied to somebody else to get them out of purgatory." What that says is, "Not only can I by my merit earn my own salvation, but I can over earn it and apply what is left to someone else's salvation." This is salvation by grace plus works, and this is denying the sufficiency of Christ's work.

The Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther taught that we are saved by the application of an "alien righteousness." The word "alien" simply means: "from another place." Amparo, who is one of our members, is what is called a resident alien. That simply means that she is "from another place"--in her case, Columbia.

To say that we are saved by an alien righteousness means that we are saved by righteousness that comes "from another place"; denying the Catholic doctrine that was saying that salvation is completely outside you and me. We do not save ourselves, and we contribute nothing to our salvation--nothing at all. God calls us, His Spirit draws, He gives us faith to believe, and He applies to us righteousness "from another place"--the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

A Christian and a Muslim were having a debate. The Muslim, who was very knowledgeable in Christian theology, thought he could ridicule the Christian view of salvation by saying, "You Christians are trying to go to heaven on the back of a crucified Man." To which the Christian replied, "Sir, you are entirely correct. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for the sins of the world. We are indeed going to heaven on the back of a crucified Man."

Paul teaches, "A man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." We are justified "by" faith. The expression in the original text is an expression that means simply: "by means of faith we are justified." What Paul means is that faith is not something we supply, but faith is the means by which we receive the gift of God. And so, faith is the means by which we are justified. There is no place in the New Testament that says we are justified "on account of" our faith. The New Testament writers are unanimous in affirming that it is not faith that saves, it is Christ that saves through faith. Please understand, It is not faith that saves; it is Christ who saves through faith, by means of faith, upon the basis of faith, never on account of faith:

Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Romans 3:29-30 NASB

Here Paul quotes the most fundamental Jewish confession of faith "God is one":

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NASB

What did the Jews call this passage? The Shema--which literally means: "Hear!" based on the verbal imperative at the start of the verse. According to the Babylonian Talmud("Sukkah," 42a), Jewish boys were taught this biblical passage as soon as they could speak. Deuteronomy 6:4 must have been the first portion from the Torah that Jesus committed to memory. A devout Jew would recite this twice a day.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" That is the essence of all Jewish faith. That is the first article of the manifesto of Judaism. "The Lord our God is one God." And that is repeated throughout the Hebrew Scripture. God is one God. There are no other gods. God will tolerate no other worship. All the idols are wood and stone and so forth and cannot answer. There are no other gods, only the one God, the true God:

"I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, Isaiah 45:5-6 NASB

There is only ONE God. Since we are in Isaiah 45, notice the next verse:

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Isaiah 45:7 NASB

The word translated here as: "calamity", is the Hebrew word "ra" and is better translated: "evil." Now, when you say that God causes evil, most Christians go into paroxysms. Yet, the whole Bible is filled with this idea. There is only one God, so everything that exists has been created by that one God. Back to our text:

Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, Romans 3:29 NASB

Paul says to the Jews, "Is God the God of the Jews only?" And they're going to have to say no. Because there's only one God, and He is the only God ,and they know it from the articles of their faith, He is the God of everybody. "Is He not the God of Gentiles also?" And he answers as if he were answering for the Jews. "Yes, He's the God of the Gentiles, seeing He's one God." He's everybody's God. You only have one God, and He's everybody's God. There are no other gods. Now that was basic to their understanding.

To think that He was only the God of the Jews implied that Gentiles must seek their own gods--thus giving credibility to idolatry. It also limited God to a small people group and geographic locale rather than acknowledge Him as Creator and Sovereign over the universe. If there's only one God, then He must be the God of the Jew and the Gentile.

Now listen, if God is the God of the Jew and the Gentile, then God has a mode of salvation that is the same for both. Follow this. And it can't be keeping the Law, because the Gentiles didn't have the law.

Notice what Peter said to the Jewish audience of the early church:

"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 NASB

There is only one way of salvation. Jesus said this same thing in:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB

There is only one God, and only one way to approach Him, through Jesus Christ. God is the God of everybody, and God doesn't have a works system for Jews and a faith system for Gentiles.

Christians believe in one God, with Israel; we also believe in the Trinity. That is the one God who subsists in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. But we believe in the unity of God. Since there is one God, there must be just one way of salvation. There cannot be different methods. There is one God who saves in one way, and the Scriptures say very plainly that that way is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now understand this, When you believe in this One God, you are doing what Torahreally wanted. Ask a Jew, "What is the summary of Torah?" Ask Jesus that same question; what does He answer?:

And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:37-40 NASB

This is what Torah was all about--faith in the One True God.

Justification by faith is the doctrine that says, "The eschatological people of God are marked out by nothing except faith. They believe that Jesus is the Messiah. It is by faith alone. This is the doctrine that says that Christians of all ages, races, backgrounds, colors, genders, classes belong together at the same table. The only criteria for membership in the people of God is faith!"

since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Romans 3:30 NASB

First he says Jews and Gentiles, then he says circumcised and uncircumcised. Circumcision was a work of the Law. The two prepositions "by" and "through" do not distinguish separate kinds of faith experiences (one for Jews and the other for Gentiles), but are only stylistic variations in Paul's writing. Both prepositions speak of instrumentality or means.

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:31 NASB

"Do we then nullify the Torah through faith?"--did God save through the Law in one age, and now He saves by faith in the Gospel of Christ in the present age? This is what Dispensationalism teaches.

The school of theology called "Dispensationalism" came into being during the 19th century, about 170 years ago. So, as a theology it is relatively new. Of all the things which Dispensationalism teaches, the fundamental teaching of the system is that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. According to Dispensationalism, God has two differing peoples, who each respectively have differing covenant promises, different destinies, and different purposes. Membership in Israel is by natural birth. One enters the Church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the Church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly kingdom, and the Church an eternal heavenly Kingdom. Irrespective of anything else that may be found in the system, if one rejects the Israel/Church distinction, one ceases to be a Dispensationalist.

Darby, the father of Dispensationalism, stated the distinction in the clearest of terms, "The Jewish nation is never to enter the Church." Ryrie considers this the most important Dispensational distinction and approves the statement, "The basic premise of Dispensationalism is the two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity."

Lewis Sperry Chafer, who is probably the most famous exponent of Dispensationalism, defined it this way: "The Dispensationalist believes that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes; one is related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism (the people of Israel). While the other purpose is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity (the Church). Hence the distinction between Israel and the Church and God's purposes and promises for each."

C. I. Scofield, in his reference bible, which within a generation sold more than two million copies and greatly influenced the thinking of the church, says in a note on John 1. "As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation."

Legal obedience was never a condition of salvation. If it had been, no man would ever have been saved. Men are always redeemed, past-present-future, by believing God. And in that time they had to believe all that God had revealed, and now we believe all that God had revealed in His Son.

"Do we then nullify the Law through faith?" Paul answers this using the strongest phrase in his arsenal, "May it never be!" Absolutely, positively not! So we see immediately that faith doesn't void or invalidate The Law.

"We establish the Torah"--Paul seems to have revitalized the Torah as a means of demarcation of the ethnic people of God. But what he has done is affirm the Torah at its very heart. We saw earlier that Paul said:


Paul is saying that judgment is according to deeds. He is talking to a Jewish interlocutor and making the point that being Jewish won't exclude them from judgment, because judgment is according to deeds. And the deeds that they are lacking is faith in Jesus the Messiah! The work of God is: Believe in Jesus the Christ! Then he goes on to say:

for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:13-14 NASB

Here the doers who are justified are believers in Jesus Christ. The Law speaks of the coming Christ and His provision of righteousness.

so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4 NASB

By having faith in Christ the full requirements of the Law are met in us, and therefore, we are righteous according to the obedience of the Law: I have fully obeyed the Law by faith in Christ, which puts me in union with Christ, who fully met the Law's righteous requirements. I share all that Christ is and has:

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:31 NASB

The Law is established insofar as it testifies to faith. We meet all the requirements of the Law by faith in Christ?

This last verse of chapter 3 is really a transition to chapter 4 where Paul will show that his Gospel is consistent with the teaching of the First Testament.

Do you know the difference between religion and Christianity? It's two letters versus four letters. Religion is spelled with two letters--DO. Religion is a list of things people think they have to do in order to be accepted by God--go to church, give money, keep the Ten Commandments, say the Rosary, be baptized, pray every day. The list is endless. It's always do, do, do. That's what religion is all about. If you want to go to heaven, you're going to do something and keep on doing it until the day you die.

Christianity is spelled with four letters--DONE. Christianity is not based on what we do, but upon what Jesus Christ has already done.

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