Calvary Road Baptist Church

“RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH PROVEN”

Romans 3.27-31 

Few people are aware of the fact that Alexander the Great, of Macedonian world conquest fame, had for a private tutor the famous Greek scholar, philosopher, and scientist, Aristotle.[1] Aristotle was a brilliant man. I have his surviving works in my library and let me tell you he was a genius. He was the first scientist to observe that men with large foreheads are slow to move, while men with small foreheads are fickle.[2] But as bright as Aristotle was in such disciplines as psychology and biology, it was in the realm of physics that he was noted for his greatest errors. Aristotle, you see, was of the opinion that matter just naturally sought its own level, so to speak. And that air went up to its own level while heavy stuff went down to its own level. Now, that seems to describe the physical world that we see, except for one aspect of Aristotle’s system. He was of the opinion that the heavier something was, the faster and the more powerfully it would seek its own level. To put it simply, Aristotle was of the opinion that two objects of different mass would fall to the ground at different speeds, the heavier falling faster than the lighter.

More than fifteen hundred years after Aristotle’s time an Italian scientist named Galileo challenged Aristotle’s theories and claimed that two bodies of different mass would fall toward the ground at the same rate, taking into account air resistance. And the story goes that Galileo even proved his theory right by dropping two different size iron balls from the leaning tower of Pisa, which hit the ground at the same time.

Whether that precise story is true or not, Galileo was correct and had proven Aristotle to be incorrect on that point. But guess what happened in the universities of Europe that were teaching the Aristotelian system? Nothing. Though he was proven wrong, scientists and teachers continued to teach and to employ Aristotle’s false notions for centuries.[3] Why? Two reasons: First, people like that which they are familiar with. And being familiar with Aristotle’s system of explaining the physical universe, they decided, against scientific evidence, to hang on to it. And second, fear. They feared what the new and unknown would bring. Never mind that Galileo was right and Aristotle was wrong. The implications of Galileo’s new system, which more correctly described the physical universe, were unknown. So, fear caused folks to hang on to what they were familiar with. Fear of the unknown.

Friends, people are no different when it comes to spiritual truth than they are when it comes to scientific truth. The Apostle Paul, having proven that God’s plan for imparting righteousness to sinful men is via faith, now sets out to convince people to acknowledge what he has proven to be true. How does Paul set out to convince his readers to acknowledge what he has shown to be true? Let’s see. I invite you to stand as we read Romans 3.27-31: 

27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

29  Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

31  Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. 

What was necessary to convince the Roman Christians to acknowledge what has been shown to be true, that righteousness is by faith in Jesus Christ? There was no need to convince the Roman Christians Paul was writing to. They were already Christians. What Paul is seeking to do is clarify pertinent details associated with the Gospel so as to inoculate his readers from the pernicious errors of the Judaizers that he had opposed throughout his Gospel ministry.

Notice the three topics the apostle seeks to clarify: 

First, CLARIFICATION COMES BY UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF THE LAW 

27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 

What do we see evidence of in these two verses? Four things, actually:

First, there was erroneous behavior regarding the Law. That there was erroneous behavior regarding the Law can be seen in two ways: First, in their boasting. The Jewish people were proud of their Law of Moses and felt they were superior because of their possession of the Law. Second, in their working for something that can’t be worked for. There is no doubt that Paul’s Christian readers had experience with Jewish people who boasted of having the Law, and who took pride in being given the revelation of God’s Word. This was despite the fact that God repeatedly told the Jewish people that they were stiff-necked. And this was despite the fact that they had been carried off into captivity and had been overrun numerous times for their sinfulness in the sight of God. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians. The southern kingdom of Judah had fallen to the Babylonians. The region had been harshly ruled in the wake of Alexander the Great’s death. And then, of course, there was the conquest and occupation of the region by the Romans. Stephen’s inspired appraisal of his people was the same verdict Moses had rendered in their wilderness wanderings.[4] What lay behind their erroneous behavior regarding the Law, then? Remember, the way you behave is determined by the way you believe. People who behave badly believe wrongly. And the first step in correcting bad conduct is to correct wrong belief.

Therefore, the erroneous behavior of the Jewish people had to be, second, the result of erroneous beliefs regarding the Law. Now is the time to make a statement that could have been made earlier in our study of Romans. Look at the word “law” in verse 27. Look at the word “law” anywhere in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Whether it is capitalized or not, whether the word “the” appears in front of it or not, the word “law” almost always and in almost every case refers to the Torah. The Torah is what we call the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the books written by Moses. Whenever Paul wants to discuss this body of Scripture, he uses the Greek word that is translated “law.” That understood, we see that Paul is challenging as mistaken those who believed that when they saw the Torah, they were looking at a system that required works on the part of sinners as a means of getting right with God. But that wasn’t the point of the Torah at all. Whether it be Abraham’s faith being counted for righteousness in Genesis, or the continual and unabated slaughter of animals to be offer as sacrifices for the unending sins of the people in Exodus and Leviticus, the first five books of the Bible showed, if they showed anything, that men are too sinful ever to be able to do anything to save themselves from their sins.

That being the case, let us look, third, to the correct belief regarding the Law. In verse 27, Paul refers to “the law of faith.” Understand, friends, that the “law of faith” is not a different Law, not a different Torah, than the one revered by the Jews. It was just the Torah, the “law,” rightly and properly understood. Paul, since his conversion to Christ, saw the Torah for what it was. He saw the Law of Moses for what it was. Not a system by which people could do good things to merit God’s salvation. Instead, the Law of Moses was a system that so completely disallowed works that the sinner was left no option but faith as a means of securing a relationship with God. That’s how he came to the inspired conclusion that “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.”

And this resulted in, finally, correct behavior regarding the Law. Remember, wrong behavior is the result of wrong beliefs, and right behavior is the result of right beliefs. Having believed wrongly about the Law, the Jews, therefore, behaved wrongly. They tried to do the Law to become righteous, and they boasted in the Law. And perhaps this could be traced back to their great error in Exodus 19.7-8: 

7  And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

8  And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD. 

The proper response would have been to fall on their faces and cry out to God for grace and mercy because they would never be able to fulfill the righteous demands of the Law as sinful people. But now Paul, realizing that the Law could not be fully obeyed, thereby showing how sinful men were, had trusted Christ as his personal Savior. Now, whenever the Law pointed out his shortcomings and his faults and sins, he would glory in the salvation that was in Christ and seek to do right by the power supplied, not by the Law, but by the Holy Spirit of God. 

Second, CLARIFICATION COMES BY UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF GOD 

29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 

Want to overcome someone’s fear? Then show them that if they don’t overcome their fear of changing their view of the Torah they face the prospect of an even greater fear; dishonoring God. Two aspects of Paul’s argument:

First, the jurisdiction of God, verse 29: 

“Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” 

Here we have provided three considerations for the readers: The nation of Israel, the nations of the Gentiles, and the unity of God. The question Paul addresses is whether those Judaizers he knew the Roman Christians would eventually have to deal with were willing to acknowledge that God is sovereign over all of His creation, or is He the God only of the Israelites? Obviously, God is God of every man. Who would disagree with that? Therefore, in verse 30, Paul begins, “Seeing it is one God . . . .” Since there is only one God, a reality that no Jewish person would ever think of denying, the jurisdiction of this one God must extend throughout His creation every man, whether Jew or Gentile. Do you see what Paul has begun to do? One must abandon the concept of justification by works of the Law once you acknowledge that the Law was not given to every man. Thus, by the process of elimination, the only provision for the salvation of Gentiles is faith, since we Gentiles were not given the Law. And once you accept the idea of righteousness by faith, apart from works of the Law, you have opened the door to Gentiles being saved. And you can’t limit God’s right to rule over the Gentiles, can you? For that would threaten to undermine one of the greatest truths of all, that God is the Creator and Ruler of all, not just the Jews. Do you see how it all fits together?

Then, we see the justification of God, verse 30: 

“Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” 

Of course, “circumcision” refers to Jewish people and “uncircumcision” refers to Gentiles. Once it is established that God is the God of all men, then it must be allowed that He can extend the arm of salvation to whoever He wants. Is that not true? And since righteousness is by faith, apart from works of the Law, there is no logical reason why such righteousness by faith should not and is not available to everyone, even those to whom the Law was not given. Does that not necessarily follow? Here is where Paul’s rationale is iron clad. For if anyone argues with Paul on this one he threatens to undermine the Biblical concept of the unity of God. And when we realize that for almost four thousand years the Jews have been reciting the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD,” we realize that Paul’s argument is irrefutable. What is necessary to convince Paul’s opponents to accept what has been proven, that righteousness is by faith in Jesus Christ? Two things: A right understanding of the nature of the Law, and a right understanding of the nature of God. 

Finally, CLARIFICATION COMES BY UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF MAN 

Verse 31: 

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” 

Two things to briefly note here:

First, there is the fear of the unfamiliar. 

“Do we then make void the law through faith?” 

This question asked by Paul is one that he, no doubt, contended with repeatedly. Jewish people would ask him, “Are you going to ruin our beloved Law with this doctrine of justification by faith? Does this mean the Law is no good, or that it’s useless?” These were the kinds of questions in the minds of Paul’s Jewish opponents. Do you see something about the nature of man by these questions Paul deals with? People are afraid of the consequences of doing right. They, as well as we, are concerned about what happens when we do what God says or when we believe what God says, especially if it’s different than what we are used to. Isn’t that correct? Allow me to illustrate with an example: Some woman resists with every ounce of her being the spiritual growth and development of her husband from a wimpy beta male into a godly leader in his marriage and home. But why does she so oppose his growth into spiritual manliness? There is no question in her mind that God’s will is for her to submit to her husband, and for her husband to step up and be a godly leader. But she is so afraid of the unknown effects of doing the right thing that she resists with every manipulative trick in her bag of tricks, from “You don’t love me” to planning every vacation so as to function as the leader in their marriage instead of her husband functioning as the leader, pretending of course that she only wants to be helpful. And we see that thinking here. The concern of the Jewish people was that the Law would be disannulled or rendered ineffective by what Paul taught. They were terrified of the consequences of doing right, of thinking right, and of believing right, all the while pretending that it was their love for the Law that motivated them. Not so. It was a selfish fear of the unknown consequences of obedience.

Then, there is the fact about faith. Besides the fact that God has the right to relegate the Law to whatever status He chooses, the fact of the matter, according to Paul, was that justification by faith, rightly understood, actually establishes the Law. Have you heard the old poem? 

Do this and live the Law commands,

but gives me neither feet nor hands.

A better word the Gospel brings.

It bids me fly and gives me wings. 

There’s only one problem with that poem. The Law does not command us to do this and live. For centuries the Jewish people mistakenly thought it did. But Paul, with an inspired understanding of the message and the role of the Law in God’s plan, showed that the Law was given to Israel to show sinfulness in the sight of God. Dealing with that sinfulness was what the Law so clearly showed was to be accomplished by the righteousness which is by faith . . . for Jews as well as Gentiles. So, rather than expect from the Law what the Law could not provide, which is salvation, Paul established the Law by expecting from the Law what God gave it for, to prove sinfulness. Thus, the Law becomes successful at what God intended it to do, not failing any longer because of an inability to do what God had not enabled it to do. 

What profound doctrinal truth Paul presents to us here. Justification by faith without works of the Law must be God’s plan for giving righteousness to sinners for two reasons: First, since God is God of all men. Second, since God gave the Law only to the Jews. Since the Law was not given to all men, righteousness cannot come by the Law, for then only Jews could be saved. But since God is God of all men, all men can be saved, thus enabling God to receive the worship He is due from those He created.

Why would anyone resist such wonderful truth? Because they are unfamiliar with it and because they are fearful of its consequences. Same reason lost people resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings to trust Christ. Same reason saved people resist God’s promptings to surrender to greater commitment to serve Him. We like what we are familiar with, and we are afraid of the unknown.

Friend, think about it. The automobile would never have been invented, the West would never have been won, children would never grow up, and souls would never be saved . . . unless we are willing to overcome our fears and trust God.

Unfamiliar? Doesn’t mean it’s bad. Afraid? Doesn’t mean it’s bad. Trust God to do right by you. Do what God wants you to do, now.

__________

[1] Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in chief, Great Books Of The Western World, The Works Of Aristotle, Volume I, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), Biographical Note, page v.

[2] Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in chief, Great Books Of The Western World, The Works Of Aristotle, Volume II, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), page 13.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_physics 5/4/2017

[4] Exodus 32.9; 33.3, 5; 34.9; Deuteronomy 9.6, 13; 10.16; 2 Chronicles 30.8; Acts 7.51

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org