Romans 3:27-31

Romans 3:27-31 (ESV)

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one 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 God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Time to take my own advice.  I’ve asked Russell for positive assertions to balance his skepticism and he’s provided several excellent ones – – the love for his family and the love for the beauty of science.  What do I love and where can I explain how I build my life?  I too love my family and my work.  That is such a blessing and I realize that all can’t rejoice with it.  My hope for each of our readers is that you have a family to love and treasure.  My hope is that work is a joy and not a toil – – no matter what you do.  Why has scripture led me Christ?  Romans is a major reason.  I chose Romans because its authorship is not disputed by atheist New Testament experts.  That is not the non sequitur it seems.  On many issues of history, I prefer to consult the least biased experts I can find or at least those with different biases than mine.  Serious scholars of the Christian New Testament attest that Paul wrote Romans in the first century CE.  I last addressed Romans 3:21-26 here, saying that humility required confidence.  What does this next passage say?

Here we find that least controversial of words – – faith.  Paul contrasts the Jewish law and prophets with a different kind of law – – faith.  I find our recent discussions of what faith is and is not to be useful background as I revisit Romans.  To simplify, faith is belief based on acceptable evidence or is the evidence when empirical evidence is not available.  Faith is my belief that there was a man named Jesus who was God incarnate and that he made me right before himself by the free gift of forgiveness.  This faith is specific and does differentiate following Christ from other religious faiths.  For me to believe this there are several prerequisites.  I have to believe that a supernatural is possible and probable.  That is empirically untestable.  I have to believe that Jesus and Paul existed and that Paul’s letter is an early and faithful communication of what he believed.  Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, would cede the first three points but argue that a revelation to one is just that – – a revelation to one.  He felt that Paul mythologized the Christian faith based on his familiarity with Roman myth.

As a follower of Christ, I do believe that God came to men and dwelt among them.  I do believe that he willingingly gave his life to rescue mine and to reconcile me to God.  Then what of the myriad book of rules that Paul contrasts here?  Then what of the law of works?  Why did the Jews have so many rules, some of them so strange to our modern ears?  The Jews, people of the book, were set apart.  In my opinion, they still are.  They were, are, a minority.  The law and physical male circumcision were two marks that set them apart.  But I was not born a Jew.  I was born a Gentile (non-Jew) just like >98% of humanity.  If I did grow up with the law, prophets and traditions of God’s chosen people, then how could I be special before him too?

By the law of faith.  Paul is saying that faith in Christ brings Gentiles into God’s fold.  As a Gentile writing 2000 years after him that brings me comfort.  I was not raised with Torah.  I was not circumcised for religious purposes.  I have always identified with the Romans more than I have the Jews.  And yet, there is a way for me.  The law set apart God’s people the Jews.  In antiquity, they were strange.  The law of faith sets apart the people of God today.  I feel strange too.  It is interesting that Paul feels faith is not a replacement for law but a fulfillment.  The purpose of the law was to lead the Jews to and constantly remind the Jews of God.  This purpose is now fulfilled by faith – – leading me to and constantly reminding me of God.

What of my sincere friends who do not believe in either a supernatural, or the historicity or fidelity of scripture?  Here I find comfort and instruction in the reminder that the God of three natures is one.  He is God of Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews).  <2% + >98% = everyone.  Who am I to disrespect those whom God calls his own?  Mine is to love and to gently reason and to be thankful for the law of faith which brings me to God and offers the same for all humans.

Pascal – – 1:16

2 comments

  1. “By the law of faith. Paul is saying that faith in Christ brings Gentiles into God’s fold.” SO TRUE! I agree 100%! SOOOOO comforting to know that I am adopted into his family no matter what my background is.
    clothethepopulation.wordpress.com

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  2. Hi Pascal!

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. Here’s the one point I wanted to discuss…

    To simplify, faith is belief based on acceptable evidence or is the evidence when empirical evidence is not available.

    If this is all faith was about, I’d accept it. I think belief based on acceptable evidence is reasonable. I also think faith is a hope or desire we have, and therefore it is subjective evidence even when we don’t have empirical evidence. So I definitely agree with the last part, because all subjective evidence counts as some evidence.

    The only point of concern is what is left unstated in your simple description of faith. The degree of confidence in said belief. If it is based on subjective evidence that isn’t backed by anything empirical, it should not be granted with extreme confidence. Our human reasoning does little to prevent such overconfidence, and religious descriptions of faith don’t offer a solution to that problem – most descriptions exacerbate it.

    You and I know that beliefs all have confidences that are probabilistic. Faith encourages either a certainty of 1.0, or if we’re probabilistically inclined, a confidence that approaches the limit of 1.0. The reason is probably largely due to the belief that we will be judged one day based on our confidence. If we think he’s God (say Lord, Lord) it might not get us in. The degree to which our confidence is less than 1.0 (say 99.999999999, etc.) is the degree to which we risk never-ending torment and miss never-ending rapture united with a perfect being. This aspect of faith, and it’s valuing this conclusion of Jesus is God, etc., over the process of critically reasoning our way to possibly confident (though not certain) faith, is what is difficult to accept.

    I have no problem with people who hold confidence in their interpretation of the Bible’s claims about who Jesus is – due to that confidence alone. I admire people’s beliefs. I’m a fallibilist, coherntist who only uses foundationalism with confidence when and where it doesn’t break (very few places). I only have a problem with faith when someone accepts a version of it that won’t let them learn about modern fallacies and biases and look at each belief their confidence stands on through those filters. If our accepted version of faith, no matter what it’s in (chain-of-command, political, religion, etc.), demands certainty (as religious faith does like no other) – especially if it does so without appealing to processes that help us critically examine our beliefs to put constraints on an appropriate level of confidence – it’s in opposition to the critical reasoning of science (in my opinion). 🙂 Otherwise, it’s fine.

    Great post! 🙂

    Gentleness and respect,
    –Russell

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