For we consider a person to be justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28, LEB).

Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the richest books of the Bible when it comes to explaining the truths of salvation in Jesus. After explaining the lost and sinful condition of humanity, and our inability to attain salvation by our own religiosity and good works, he teaches how Jesus Christ provides an atoning sacrifice for sin, allowing us to be made right before God by faith in His person and work (Romans 3:21-31).

This is what is known as “Justification.” This term has to do with question of how we can be in a right legal standing before God in spite of our sins. Paul teaches that when we place our faith in Christ, our sins are covered over and no longer counted against us, and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Because of this, we are able to have peace with God and are no longer counted as enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11).

Furthermore, Paul states that this justification does not depend on works of any kind. Some people say “works of the Law” here refers merely to circumcision and the Old Testament ceremonial laws, but Paul defines “Law” to include even the Ten Commandments (cf. Romans 7:7), excluding them as criteria for Justification. For this reason, great Christian thinkers throughout history such as Augustine,[1] Thomas Aquinas,[2] and Martin Luther,[3] have understood this passage as excluding all works from Justification.

That we are justified before God by faith apart from works is a great source of comfort for Christians, because it means we do not have to earn God’s favour or be anxious that we have not been good enough to be accepted by Him. Rather, we are accepted because of Christ, in whom we cling to and trust for our salvation.

Endnotes

[1] “Now, having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies, we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ,—in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace.” (On the Spirit and the Letter (NPNF1-5), 13.22)

[2] “And so the Apostle means that a human being is not justified by any works of the law, even those mandated by the moral precepts…” (Super Epistoulas I., ad loc., 297)

[3] “The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him. . . . Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.” (Heidelberg Disputation, §§1-2)

Advertisements