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. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:27-28, ESV).
Works - I know. I’ve put two verses for consideration today, rather than the single verse, but I could not find a meaningful way to separate them in order to follow Sha’ul’s logic. Remember, he has already stated that doing what Torah says is not just a good idea, but the whole concept of justification is wrapped up in the idea. Just as James also wrote.
And so when he comes to his famous statement, “justified by faith,” you will notice that the word “alone” is missing. And it is missing for a reason, which Sha’ul has already explained in verse 27. “No boasting” he proclaims, loudly and clearly. No boasting because it is excluded. On what basis? By a law of “works,” one that can apparently be used as if they earned us some position with YHWH? No, Shau’l says. Can’t do that. That would allow boasting, and there is no boasting allowed here. As he wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast? (Eph. 2:8-9).
To avoid boasting, however, Sha’ul has given two interpretations of Torah – one of works, the other of faith. And it is the Torah of faith that excludes boasting. Consider the way in which he strings the word “faith” together in the text above. Did he have two different ideas of the word “faith” in mind? If so, he forgot to tell his readers he had shifted gear in the space of just a few words. Sha’ul, however, never appears to be that lazy with his words or the ideas he was attempting to convey. “The Torah of faith” and “justified by faith.” That’s how Sha’ul framed his presentation of justification.
But now you see while Sha’ul did not use the word “alone.” He didn’t need to. In his view, faith is not “alone.” Torah- keeping is the absolutely essential part of justification, without which there is no justification before God. In case his readers missed his point, Sha’ul backs it up with, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31).
The idea of “faith alone” is unfortunately the mantra of those who deny Torah. Luther was right to disagree with indulgences; he was wrong in the way he explained justification that does not allow boasting. If he had stuck with Sha’ul and not tried to add the word “alone” where it did not belong, people today would have one less excuse for putting Torah aside.
Topical Index: faith, alone, Romans 3:27-28, works