Romans 3:21 (ESV) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.First off, I am using the English Standard Version for a reason. Paul's manner of speech is superior to most of ours. He was a brilliant and inspired man! The King James English, now archaic adds to that complication! I prefer the KJV because it's less tampered with modern thought! However, if I cannot understand what is written, why read it? Therefore, proceed knowing that I am honest enough that I shall never compare myself with neither Paul nor King James!
Let's take a look at Paul's points:
- There is a "law of works"(Verse 27). A "law" implies that "works" are commanded. Laws are to regulate behavior. All men break the law for "all men have sinned". The law was put into effect so that men are without excuse. It's written on stone because it's eternal. Jesus himself did not come to replace the law, but to complement it! The Law is not done away with, but is eternal (Luke 16:17). Likewise, it can never be changed (Matthew 5:18). Therefore, all this information defines the "law of works", except for one thing: The reason for obedience to the Law. Abraham's obedience to God's instructions was accounted to him as faith. His faith is what made him righteous, not that he obeyed God. In effect the "law of works" has never changed! The Law was never intended to save people, it was ALWAYS by faith through the GRACE of God! That Law has not changed. It's still faith which is God's desire and faith is demonstrated by faith!
- What is the 'law of works". It's faith in action. All the works commanded of God can be summed up in one word: LOVE. Why are we to obey God? To demonstrate our LOVE for him. Why are we to LOVE others? To demonstrate our LOVE for God who "so loves the world"! Obedience is all about LOVE. Love is dictated. It's "The Greatest Commandment". It's not optional. Those commands written in stone are "Ten Ways to Show God That We Love Him!"
- There is a "law of faith" (verse 27). Again, as is works, faith is commanded because it too is a law! As a Christian no one is under the law, but under grace (Romans 11:6). However, grace is by faith and it too is a part of the law (Ephesians 2:9)! How can that be? Faith is the condition of what we call "the heart". It's our reason for obedience, or doing works. Grace is receiving something which we don't deserve. In the case of eternal life, no one deserves to live forever. Why? "All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (verse 23). Sin alienates us from God! It even alienates Christians. Try living a life of sin without obedience to God and look at the consequences of sin! If one isolates oneself from the justice of God, that person becomes reprobate and damns their own soul.
- Works is a demonstration of faith. When Abraham did his works it was accounted to him as faith (Romans 4:16). That passage implies that we are to have the same faith as Abraham whose faith was great. James tells us that "faith without works is dead". If Abraham had disobeyed God, he would have been of little faith. He was "saved" by faith in who was to come whereas we are saved by one who's already been here (verse 25)!
- We are all justified by grace. Justified is a technical term for "made right" from our wrongs. Since we all have sinned, God's justice is to bail us out by making payment for us. His payment for our own sins is called redemption. Jesus redeemed us by shedding his own blood (verse 25).
- When we accept payment for our sins, it is by faith. There is no way in which we can accept redemption by our own efforts. That would credit our own god for the salvation. That god is each of us. Our god can't save anyone, even save itself! Faith is turning to Jesus and that his blood was sufficient and that Jesus is who he says he is and has the authority to do what he says that he has: grant us immortality! Works implies that we shed our own blood or made a sacrifice for our own sins. Faith gives the credit to Jesus Christ by whose blood all are saved!
- God is righteous! That means that he and only he is "good". All of us can only endeavor to do "good" things. That effort is "works". We cant do "good" by forgiving our own sins because that would be evil. That would be prideful. Only God can forgive sins and as Jesus shed his blood, it was for all the sins of mankind ever, but at that cross-section in time it's only FORMER sins of which we are forgiven (verse 25).
- We always live in the present (verse 26). As we sin we are to ask forgiveness. When we were forgiven at the time we first believed, all those are covered by our contrition. Thereafter, we must seek forgiveness if we sin, not sinning with the intention of seeking forgiveness, for then our contrition would not be sincere!
- The law of faith does not outweigh the law of works (verse 31). The law is never voided (Luke 16:17). In effect the Law is a meter to warn us that we are failing to love God. If there is no works we are without love or "works without faith is dead!" If we are not in obedience, we are not loving. There is a correlation there! The "old person" either disobeys or obeys because he is feels coerced to do so. The "new person" obeys out of gratitude for God's grace. If a Christian fails to obey, that person isn't showing gratitude! That DESERVING feeling is what the old person has who works for salvation! In order to get from the old person to the new is a changed heart. When one is truly born-again a new creation, that implies change. The change is the REASON for obeying the Law. It's is no longer a means to salvation, but a demonstration of love for God's grace. Some say that Christians should not be rebuked for sinning. That is the lie of the devil. Becoming new persons means change. The change is from unrighteousness to righteousness!
- Christians are to uphold the Law (verse 31). We are to uphold them for right reasons. That reason is that our hearts have been circumcised!
- Sinners are circumcised not by obedience, but by faith. Christians have been circumcised by their faith, not by the law (verse 30).When Abraham had his flesh cut off, it was partial, but was through obedience that he demonstrated his faith. After Jesus came we submit ourselves a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) by cutting off ALL our flesh! The new covenant of circumcision is of the heart (Romans 2:29). Has that really changed? No! It was Abraham's heart which was circumcised. That was the faith which the patriarchs taught (Jeremiah 4:4). Faith was the condition of the heart when Abraham cut off his flesh and faith is the reason that we today circumcise our heart. The DESIRE to sin is turned over to God. We are to do his will. God's will is that Abraham obey and his will is that we obey!
- Nothing has changed! Salvation was always by grace and the gift of eternal life always resulted because one had faith! Even those with "a little faith" can be born again, because of God's grace. All one must do his trust Jesus and they shall be safe! Trust involves DOING Things. Those are works. What are we to DO? Accept what Jesus did for us! What was that? He died in our place. You see grace is a gift as a result of faith and faith is a work. However, since God calls us to faith, even the work of faith is the gift of faith. Nothing is of ourselves. We must credit God for even our breath!
Some say that Christians who sin should not be criticized nor rebuked. Rebuking is one reason that we have God's word. Changed people should show change! If one claims to be a new person, but still behaves as the old person, one should ask "Have I changed?" If little change is detected, it's likely that the old person is alive and well and the heart has not been circumcised. The new person is to ask that "God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Those still cursing, carousing, getting drunk or high, fornicating, lying, or whatever need to do one thing. That "thing" is to change!
Some say that change is gradual and to be patient. Learning God's will takes study of his word, but some things we know are inherently wrong because the Holy Ghost tells us so. We must listen to the Jesus' Spirit guiding us. I knew it was wrong to curse and get drunk even before I was saved. The Holy Spirit made me feel guilt for doing those things. After I was born again, I still felt the guilt, but now I had Jesus' Spirit to help me to make change. He's the Comforter, so that if we are willing, he is the One who makes us able! He's not comfortable with us sinning against him and seeks quick change.
I know drug pushers and heroin addicts who changed IMMEDIATELY when they were born-again. They knew before they were saved that they lived a life of sin. Immediately, with faith and remorse, God changed them; their hearts were circumcised. With God all things are possible and with obedience he can deliver on his will! We need to quit making excuses for sinning Christians, and I do not excuse myself. They need to change and the sooner the better or Satan will get hold of them again. The faith of some is not great enough to seek change, but great faith is there for the asking!