What does this verse mean, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31)?

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Make void of the law 

Paul wrote, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). Some claim that Paul in his writings made void of the law for the New Testament believers claiming that the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law (Romans 3:21) because a man is justified by faith not by works of law (v. 28).  

The Scriptures clearly show that what Paul made void was the Jewish idea of law as a means of attaining righteousness and the Jewish demand that the Gentiles must follow the same method. Paul explained, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified…” (Galatians 2:16–19 also Acts 15:1).  

We establish the law 

Paul seeing that some may have the mistaken notion that faith abolishes the principle of law, he raised the rhetorical question in Romans 3:31 and answered it with an immediate denial. And he emphasized the place of law as a principle in the context of Romans chapter 3, as it is given in the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament (Romans 3:21).  And he confirmed that the law was seen as a revelation of the holy will of God and of the eternal principles of morality which were supported by the gospel of righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ.  

Jesus came to this earth to magnify the law (Isaiah 42:21). He stated, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17,18). Thus, Jesus Himself confirmed the law rather than abolished it. 

Jesus’ new commands don’t replace the Ten Commandments

Love to God makes keeping the first four commandments (which concern God) a joy (Exodus 20:3-11), and love toward our neighbor makes keeping the last six (which concern our neighbor) a delight (Exodus 20:12-17). Love fulfills the law by taking away the stiffness of obedience and by making law-keeping a joy (Psalm 40:8).

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). It is impossible to love the Lord and not keep His commandments, because the Bible says, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). Jesus came to show that by His life of perfect obedience that Christians can, through His empowering grace can give obedience to His law (Philippines 4:13). 

The plan of justification by faith shows God’s view of His law in demanding and providing the atoning sacrifice. If justification by faith abolishes the law, then there was no need for the atoning death of the Son of God to free a man from his penalty, and thus bring him to peace with God. 

The end-time test

The plan of righteousness by faith places law in its proper position. The purpose of the law is to point sin (Romans 3:20) and to show the high standard of righteousness. The law thus, leads the sinner to Christ for cleansing (Galatians 3:24). Then, faith and love bring forth a new obedience to the law of God, the obedience that springs from faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26) and love (Romans 13:8, 10). 

The final conflict between good and evil in this world will be on the authority and function of God’s law. Satan will wage war on God’s commandment keepers (Revelation 12:17). John the Revelator describes the saints as follows, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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