28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:28–30, NKJV)
God’s promise to Abraham was that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The seed of which He spoke was Christ (Gal. 3:16). In this age of inclusiveness it is vital to see the inclusive nature of the gospel is not about everyone deciding truth for themselves (whether that “truth” is Hinduism, Buddhism, Islamic, Judaic, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, atheistic, agnostic, ad nauseam). God includes all of humanity in one blessed way of justifying sinners. The way of salvation is Christ and is revealed in His gospel. Israel was not justified by the law of Moses (Rom. 2). Gentiles were guilty and under wrath through their unbelief, idolatry and immorality (Rom. 1:18-32). There is one God over all humanity. God justifies Jews “by faith.” The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), not the law of Moses, is how Jews are saved. God justifies Gentiles “through” faith. The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), is how Gentiles are saved. We do not keep the law of Moses or add anything else to the gospel in order to be saved (see this applied in Gal. 5:3-6). God justifies sinners by “faith” – one faith, not many (Eph. 4:5). The gospel of Christ is sufficient to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). To include other “faiths” nullifies its power and forfeits grace (Gal. 1:6-9).
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27–28, NKJV)
No one has room to boast before God of being a perfect keeper and therefore, of being justified by law. Everyone under the law of Moses sinned against it and were condemned as sinners by it (Rom. 3:19-20, 23). By the works or “deeds of the law,” no one is justified because all have sinned against it. It is the “law of faith” (the gospel), which is “apart from the deeds of the law,” that justifies sinners. Paul defines “works” in this context as “the deeds of the law” (the Greek text does not include the article, so literally the phrase here is “deeds of law”). Keeping law for justification demands sinless perfection. That is earning salvation. But, that avenue is forever impossible to us, since we have all sinned. None of us can earn our salvation. Scripture says we are justified by faith (v. 28). The gospel (the faith, Gal. 1:11, 23) produces personal faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Personal faith includes obedience, but an obedient faith is not “works” that earn salvation. Obedience is the action of trust in Jesus to save you when you obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). When we trust and obey the gospel our only boast is in Jesus, not in ourselves (Lk. 17:10; Gal. 6:14).
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:21–23, NKJV)
Law identifies sin, but it cannot save the sinner (Rom. 3:19-20). How God justifies the sinner is revealed in the gospel of Christ, not in the law of Moses (Rom. 1:16-17). God’s redemption is “apart from the law,” that is, the Law of Moses could not justify sinners. (Christians who attempt to justify themselves with the Law of Moses “have fallen from grace,” Galatians 5:4.) The “righteousness of God” in today’s verse is the means by which God counts sinners righteous (Rom. 1:17). How God does this is testified of by the Law and the Prophets, and is accomplished “through faith in Jesus Christ” to all who believe (whether Jews or Gentiles). Since all have sinned, no one attains to the glory of God on his own. That would require sinlessness. The sinless person is the only one who could earn justification as a debt owned (Rom. 4:1-5). Since we are all sinners, no one can earn the right to be saved. We need grace to be justified (Rom. 3:24). This is a far cry from denying the need to obey God to be saved. Without obedient faith we are lost (Acts 10:34-35; Heb. 5:8-9; 11:6). Obeying Jesus does not earn salvation, it is trusting Christ to save us because we have the faith to obey Him.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19–20, NKJV)
Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 Jno. 3:4). Those who are under law are accountable to it. Having observed the sins of Gentiles and Jews (Romans 1 and 2), and having documented them from the Scriptures (Rom. 3:9-18), the apostle has sustained his premise that all are guilty of sin and therefore, in need of salvation from sin’s bondage and death. Law is not the mechanism by which a sinner is justified (acquitted of guilt) – just the opposite. Law identifies the sinner and his sin. As Paul said, “by the law is a knowledge of sin” (v. 20). Attempting to be justified by keeping the law denies the nature of law and the presence of sin. The purpose of the law was not justification from sin. Its purpose was to magnify the reality of sin and man’s need for justification from it (Rom. 5:20; 7:7). Law does not justify sinners, it exposes the need for justification, which God offers through the gospel (Gal. 2:16; 3:1-2). The law reveals our sin. The gospel reveals our means of justification “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Thank God!
17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, not to invalidate them. He did exactly that as He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law (He never sinned against it). Thus, Scripture says Jesus Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them’” (Romans 10:4-5). Jesus was the aim or outcome of the Law to believers. Jesus is the Messiah who fulfilled the Law and the prophets, becoming the perfect and adequate sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 5:8; 10:5-10). Therefore, Jesus was fulfilling the Law and the prophets as He was preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 5:2; Luke 4:16-21). To conclude Jesus was preaching the Law to Jews to teach them how to be faithful Jews misses this fundamental point. Jesus came teaching His gospel, which contains the righteousness of faith (Romans 10:6; 1:16-17). We must hear Jesus because, as God’s Son, He fulfilled the Law and the prophets (Matthew 17:5; Hebrews 1:1-2).
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10, NKJV)
Love obeys God’s law. By doing so it fulfills law. It is indeed futile to try to separate our obedience to God’s law and our love for Him and for our neighbors. Obeying God’s commands grows out of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Loving your neighbor means loving him as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). Just as we do not seek to harm ourselves, love does no harm to its neighbor. Love does not commit adultery, does not murder, does not steal, does not bear false witness, does not covet, or do anything else that harms another person (Romans 13:8-9). Love actively does good instead of evil. Obeying the will of God from the heart is love in action (Romans 6:17; 1 John 3:17-18). Love is not set in contrast to obeying the law of God; It is not one or the other. Instead, love actively fulfills (accomplishes, obeys) the law of God.
5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:5–6, NKJV)
Just as God gathered a remnant of His people back to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity and exile, He is now gathering a remnant for salvation “according to the election of grace.” Here, and throughout the book of Romans, grace (which is heard in the truth of the gospel, Colossians 1:5-6) is set in contrast to law keeping law (the law of Moses) as the means of justification (Romans 3:21-26). Grace is not obtained through law-keeping, for if one keeps the law (without sin), then his reward is a debt earned, not a gift given (Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). So, how does God execute “the election of grace?” God elected (chose) to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). Through the blood of Christ, God makes forgiveness of sins available “according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God calls sinners out of sin into salvation by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Faith obeys God and obtains grace, just like Abraham and his faith (Romans 4:16; James 2:21-24). We are saved “by grace through faith,” not by earning grace, but with a faith that takes God at His word and does what He says. Christians do that, and stand in the “true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12).