27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man 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 indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law (Romans3:227-31)
As the above NASB translation rightly identifies through its capitalization (“Law”) the law Paul is referring to is the Torah. That is why he poses the question “Is God the God of the Jews only?” What about the Gentiles who don’t have and never have had the Law? They also were justified by evincing the quality of faith. But that cannot specifically have been faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour, for as we have repeatedly shown from the Gospels, even Jesus’ twelve disciples did not understand the Messiah was to come to die as an atonement for sin – still less did the righteous of Old Testament times apprehend the matter.
But in what sense does faith establish the Law rather than nullify it? (v31). As we have shown it is because through the outworking of faith the spirit rather than the letter of the Law is fulfilled. “For the entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this one command “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal5:14). The Matthew 25 “sheep” achieved that, and it was evidenced by their showing compassion to the needy, which Jesus treated as if they had served Him personally (v40). [If you believe Paul to be contradicting the teaching of Christ, then treat the Apostle as the inventor of Christianity – the way so many have interpreted him effectively make him to be such]. I am in the business of showing that the Apostle to the Gentile’s moral and juridical teaching gels with every other Bible writer. Does Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith nullify the teaching of Christ? May it never be – on the contrary, it establishes it!
But only when rightly interpreted, and that starts by rejecting any notion of Christ’s own righteousness being imputed to the believer, who as Paul has just shown is morally as unworthy of such a gift as anyone else (Rom3:24). The providential implications of such a doctrine are odious beyond human imagining. Taken alongside predestination (which we have already established is a biblical certitude) it would mean that God had foreordained the eternal misery of the vast majority of those created in His image, a concept diametrically opposed to everything the Bible says about the character of Father, Son and Spirit. Fortunately for wider humanity the Protestant’s take on imputation is a doctrine that cannot stand against the Scriptures when taken as a whole, nor can it be reconciled with the witness of Church history. Such a doctrine is nowhere to be found in the evangelistic preaching of Acts (my earlier posts) or the writings of the pre-Medieval Church – yet is deemed by those who propose it to be an essential component of saving faith. Whilst there is certainly such a thing as progressive revelation, that cannot apply to what is essential to gospel salvation. For the Lord has never ceased to gather a people to Himself so that from the rising of the sun until its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to His name. At the same time Scripture indicates that certain mysteries will be sustained until the last days. These pertain to broader providence – in particular God’s loving intentions towards the many who have not been elected to Christian salvation, a setting forth of the means and extent to which the saving work of Christ avails for them.
Whilst as we shall continue to demonstrate, the Saviour’s personal justice is not imputed to the believer it is certainly the case that Jesus Christ is the source and resource by which the perfecting and sanctifying of those elected to be God’s royal priesthood in the present and corporate Bride through eternity is obtained. It is achieved through Christ’s disciples’ cooperation with the Holy Spirit, self-discipline and a mystical (i.e. sacramental) feeding upon Christ: for “except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no Life in you” (Jn6:53).
In accordance with Christ’s teaching on final judgement, Paul has just taught in the previous chapter that “God will render to each person according to his works: to those who by perseverance in good work seek for glory, honour and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth but unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who practices evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory, honour and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Rom2:6-11). Note the judgement is based on what the individual has practiced, not what Christ has done on their behalf. Rather, the latter (Atonement) facilitates the former by delivering the believer from the guilt and power of sin to serve the living God in spirit and in truth. Many understand Paul to go on to contradict his statements in Romans chapter two – but not when he is rightly understood as hopefully will be demonstrated.