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Romans 3:31 - Faith Unfurled Bookmark

Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law — Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith?  This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness.  The word “law” here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament.  This is evident from Romans 3:20-21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law.  God forbid - By no means.  This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.

Yea, we establish the law — That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating people as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured.  This is done in the following manner:

  1. God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement.  He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfill its threatenings.
  2. Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honorable.  He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.
  1. the plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the Law.  The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the Law.  He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his Law.  All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the Law, prompt him to yield obedience to it.  The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the Law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience.  We do not easily and readily repeat what overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate what inflicted such woes on the Savior's soul.  The sentiment recorded by Watts is as true as it is beautiful:

“’Twas for my sins my dearest Lord.
Hung on the cursed tree.
And groan’d away his dying life,
For thee, my soul, for thee.
“O how I hate those lusts of mine.
That crucified my Lord;
Those sins that pierc’d and nail’d his flesh.
Fast to the fatal wood.
“Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart hath so decreed;
Nor will I spare the guilty things.
That made my Saviour bleed.”

This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law always has over the human mind.  And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the Law of God.  Dr. Albert Barnes

"Do we then nullify the Law through faith?  May it never be!  On the contrary, we establish the Law." (NASB)

"Do we then make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (KJV)

"Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law?  Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law." (NLT)

"Do we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law." (NET)

We see later on in Romans 7 that the law was not scrapped but fulfilled.  Though it would be my thought to do a way with the law, the Lord chose instead to do a way with the lawbreaker.  For now we live by faith in Christ.  We tried with all of our might to use the Law of our Mind to obey the Law of God but the Law but the Law of Sin and Death gave but one outcome, death.  But in Christ we find a new law present, the Law of the Spirit of Life, that has set us free!

 

(This is indeed a beautiful and just view of the moral influence of the gospel, and especially of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  It may be questioned, however, whether the apostle in this place refers chiefly, or even at all, to the sanctifying tendency of his doctrine.  This he does very fully in the 6th Rom.; and therefore, if another and consistent sense can be found, we need not resort to the supposition that he now anticipates what he intended, in a subsequent part of his epistle, more fully to discuss. In what other way, then, does the apostle’s doctrine establish the Law?  How does he vindicate himself from the charge of making it void?  In the preceding chapter he had pointed out the true ground of pardon in the “righteousness of God.”  He had explained that none could be justified but they who had by faith received it.  “Do we then,” he asks in conclusion,” make void the Law by maintaining thus, that no sinner can be accepted who does not receive a righteousness commensurate with all its demands?.”  “Yea, we establish the law,” is the obvious answer.  Jesus has died to satisfy its claims, and lives to honor its precepts.  Thus, he hath brought in “righteousness,” which, being imputed to them that believe, forms such a ground of pardon and acceptance, as the Law cannot challenge.

Calvin, in his commentary on the passage, though he does not exclude the idea of sanctification, yet gives prominence to the view now stated. “When,” says he, “we come to Christ, the exact righteousness of the Law is first found in him, which also becomes ours by imputation; in the next place sanctification is acquired,” etc.)

Dr. Albert Barnes

Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law — Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith?  This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness.  The word “law” here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament.  This is evident from Romans 3:20-21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law.  God forbid - By no means.  This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.

Yea, we establish the law — That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating people as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured.  This is done in the following manner:

  1. God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement.  He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfill its threatenings.
  2. Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honorable.  He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.
  1. the plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the Law.  The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the Law.  He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his Law.  All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the Law, prompt him to yield obedience to it.  The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the Law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience.  We do not easily and readily repeat what overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate what inflicted such woes on the Savior's soul.  The sentiment recorded by Watts is as true as it is beautiful:

“’Twas for my sins my dearest Lord.
Hung on the cursed tree.
And groan’d away his dying life,
For thee, my soul, for thee.
“O how I hate those lusts of mine.
That crucified my Lord;
Those sins that pierc’d and nail’d his flesh.
Fast to the fatal wood.
“Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart hath so decreed;
Nor will I spare the guilty things.
That made my Saviour bleed.”

This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law always has over the human mind.  And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the Law of God.  Dr. Albert Barnes

"Do we then nullify the Law through faith?  May it never be!  On the contrary, we establish the Law." (NASB)

"Do we then make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (KJV)

"Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law?  Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law." (NLT)

"Do we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law." (NET)

We see later on in Romans 7 that the law was not scrapped but fulfilled.  Though it would be my thought to do a way with the law, the Lord chose instead to do a way with the lawbreaker.  For now we live by faith in Christ.  We tried with all of our might to use the Law of our Mind to obey the Law of God but the Law but the Law of Sin and Death gave but one outcome, death.  But in Christ we find a new law present, the Law of the Spirit of Life, that has set us free!

 

(This is indeed a beautiful and just view of the moral influence of the gospel, and especially of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  It may be questioned, however, whether the apostle in this place refers chiefly, or even at all, to the sanctifying tendency of his doctrine.  This he does very fully in the 6th Rom.; and therefore, if another and consistent sense can be found, we need not resort to the supposition that he now anticipates what he intended, in a subsequent part of his epistle, more fully to discuss. In what other way, then, does the apostle’s doctrine establish the Law?  How does he vindicate himself from the charge of making it void?  In the preceding chapter he had pointed out the true ground of pardon in the “righteousness of God.”  He had explained that none could be justified but they who had by faith received it.  “Do we then,” he asks in conclusion,” make void the Law by maintaining thus, that no sinner can be accepted who does not receive a righteousness commensurate with all its demands?.”  “Yea, we establish the law,” is the obvious answer.  Jesus has died to satisfy its claims, and lives to honor its precepts.  Thus, he hath brought in “righteousness,” which, being imputed to them that believe, forms such a ground of pardon and acceptance, as the Law cannot challenge.

Calvin, in his commentary on the passage, though he does not exclude the idea of sanctification, yet gives prominence to the view now stated. “When,” says he, “we come to Christ, the exact righteousness of the Law is first found in him, which also becomes ours by imputation; in the next place sanctification is acquired,” etc.)

Dr. Albert Barnes



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