The Law: Upholding It Yet Not Depending on It

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The Law—an overarching term for God’s demands as revealed in Scripture—can be a difficult thing to grasp. Paul asserts it justifies no one, yet claims God’s people uphold it. Do you ever wonder what he means by both of these seemingly opposite ideas?

Essentially, obeying the Law (i.e., doing works) can’t save anyone. Because external obedience or inward motives are never perfect, our best intentions and deeds can’t justify us before God (Rom 3:28).

Yet, the law’s demands must be met. Violations must be dealt with justly. This is what God requires. If we refuse to acknowledge this, we “overthrow the law” (Romans 3:31) and God appears to be an inconsistent deity that plays favorites.

So what is one to do?

We embrace the posture Paul describes in Romans 3:27-31—we uphold the Law while at the same time not depending on it. In other words, we agree that the Law’s requirements have to be fulfilled. Yet, we admit we can’t do it in the way that satisfies God’s expectations.

Ah, enter Jesus Christ. He does both! Yes, our Lord Jesus, the God-man, has fulfilled the Law and all of its demands, and he offered that perfect life as a sacrifice to God in the place of ruined sinners who could never accomplish that. And now, through faith in Christ Jesus, all who trust in Jesus’ work are accounted as having kept the law when they really didn’t. Oh, what amazing grace! 

In no uncertain terms, Paul boldly reminds that Jesus is why God is both just and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). Simply put, in Jesus God upholds the Law yet doesn’t ask us to depend on it. Instead, he puts forth Jesus as our sole dependence. And through his perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, we gain God’s smile of approval. 

Our response to such a gift? No boasting (Rom. 3:27). Paul says it is “excluded” by the law of faith. In its place? Humble rejoicing that in Christ the Law’s demands are met (we uphold the Law) yet without our effort or help (not depending on it).

As you meditate on this, may God grant you this two-pronged posture of Romans 3 for the maximization of his glory to the ends of the earth.

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