Based on Paul's letter to the Romans up to this point, mankind's situation is nothing short of dire. Can you imagine the Roman believers reading this and what they must have thought? Yet, Paul was not one to pull punches. He told the world what it needed to hear, not necessarily what it wanted to hear. But was there any hope?
Romans 3:21-31 (KJV)
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
"But now!" With this small phrase, Paul changed his direction (verse 21). Now the righteousness of God is manifested outside of the Torah and it is attested to by the Torah and the prophets. Paul was acknowledging that the Torah was the manifestation of the righteousness of God. But with the birth of Yeshua, the righteousness of God was visibly embodied in Yeshua. This should not have been a surprise to anyone since God's plan of redemption was contained in the Torah and in the prophets (meaning the Old Testament).
The righteousness of God which comes by faith in Yeshua is available to all, but to those who trust in Yeshua by faith receive the righteousness of God (verse 22). It didn't matter if one was a Jew or a Gentile, because all have sinned and have come short of God's glory (verse 23).
Justification (the legal declaration of blamelessness or absence of guilt) is made available by God's grace through redemption in Yeshua (verse 24). Justification is free for us. We don't have to pay the penalty for our sin. Yeshua is the one who redeems us. Redemption could be described as paying a penalty or paying a ransom for someone's deliverance.
It was God who set Yeshua as the instrument of making peace between God and man (verse 25). The peace comes through faith or trust in Yeshua's shed blood. God declared that this satisfied the debt that sinners owed. God legally refrained from exacting the debt from us and the sins committed previously were pardoned.
Through all and at this time, God's righteousness is demonstrated (verse 26). He, in His actions, remains righteous, but also makes righteous those who believe in Yeshua.
So can anyone boast (verse 27)? No! By what Torah can the Jews boast against the Gentiles? Can they boast about a Torah of works whereby they can be saved? No, but they can boast of the Torah of faith.
Therefore, Paul concluded, a man is justified by faith, outside of the deeds of Torah (verse 28).
In verse 29 Paul stated that God is not only the God of the Jews, but He is also the God of the Gentiles.
Since there is ONE GOD who justifies both Jews and Gentiles by faith (verse 30), is the Torah made void (ineffective or without legal force) (verse 31)? Again, Paul responded with his shocked phrase, "God forbid!" Rather the Torah is established.
Paul really was saying that the Torah is not a rule book that the Jews were to follow mechanically, that that was enough to save them. Rather, the Torah is a book of faith that outlines how God wanted His people to live with Him in holiness and how to go about being holy. Paul wasn't some new prophet or teacher who came to teach a new way, but someone who came to establish (or to give the right understanding of) the Torah. Faith has always been God's way, but too often man perverts what God says. In true understanding we need to see how essential the Torah requirements are to our lives, not only in Old Testament days, but in our present, as well.
(Paul addressed how faith and Torah work together in chapters 7 and 9-11.)
Next, Paul continued on his examination of salvation by faith! Stay tuned for my next post!