Thursday: Without the Deeds of the Law

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Does this mean that if the law doesn’t save us we are not required to obey it? Explain your answer.

Good deeds come from the Heart

Image © Review and Herald Publishing Assn.

In the historical context, Paul was speaking in Romans 3:28 of law in its broad sense of the system of Judaism. No matter how conscientiously a Jew tried to live under this system, that person could not be justified if he or she failed to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

Romans 3:28 is Paul’s conclusion from his claim that the law of faith excludes boasting. If a man is justified by his own actions, he can boast about it. But when he is justified because Jesus is the object of his faith, then the credit clearly belongs to God, who justified the sinner.

Ellen G. White gives an interesting answer to the question, “What is justification by faith?” She wrote: “It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 456.

Works of law cannot atone for past sins. Justification cannot be earned. It can be received only by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Therefore, in this sense works of law have nothing to do with justification. To be justified without works means to be justified without there being anything in ourselves to merit justification.

But many Christians have misunderstood and misapplied this text. They say that all one has to do is to believe, while downplaying works or obedience, even obedience to the moral law. In so doing they completely misread Paul. In the book of Romans and elsewhere, Paul attaches great importance to the keeping of the moral law. Jesus certainly did, as did James and John (Matt. 19:17Rom. 2:13James 2:10-11Rev. 14:12). Paul’s point is that, although obedience to the law is not the means of justification, the person who is justified by faith still keeps the law of God and, in fact, is the only one who can keep the law. An unregenerate person who has not been justified can never fulfill the requirements of the law.

Why is it so easy to get caught up in the trap of thinking that because the law doesn’t save us, we need not worry about keeping it? Have you ever rationalized away sin by claiming justification by faith? Why is that a very dangerous position? At the same time, where would we be without the promise of salvation, even when tempted to abuse it?

Leave a comment

Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons