What does Paul say about Law in Romans?

What does Paul say about Law in Romans?

The main occasion and purpose for Romans is to explain and defend the Gospel apart from the Law. So there are many similarities between Galatians and Romans. Of course, this was not Paul’s only reason and purpose in writing Romans. Paul writes a great deal on Jewish and Gentile relations, speaks on unity and explains other parts of his theology in this book. Romans have been explained as Paul’s “complete systematic theology.”22 Romans, also is considered the “purest Gospel.”23 Paul starts from scratch, the condition of the heart under bondage to sin. The meat of his argument is justification by faith. Chapters five through eight explain our new life and freedoms in Christ. Chapter nine through eleven, explain the place of both Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan. The rest of the book, except chapter sixteen - which is final greetings, is about practical Christian living.

Much of Paul’s arguments of justification by faith in Romans are the same as in Galatians but in Romans, Paul explains things on a deeper level. He is writing to a different audience and has a different angle. It is important know the context of Paul’s argument before diving in on justification.

As mentioned above, Paul starts out with the condition of the heart under the power of sin. This is a bleak picture, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE.”24 While men have attributes that reflect God in them, men exchanged the truth of God for a lie and the lusts of the world. So God gave them over to these degrading passions.25 God will punish this sin and men will live unfulfilled. Romans two, Paul shows that with God, there is no partiality, all men are equally sinful and will be judged accordingly and justly by God according to his own deeds. Then Paul makes a great point in verses twelve through fifteen. God judges fairly and justly to each man according to what rules are in place during the age that you live. Those who have never heard the Mosaic Law, will not be held to that Law.

In chapter three, Paul grasps justification. Paul makes it clear just how far man has fallen from God. There is no righteous. In fact, nothing man can do saves, not even an attempt to following the Law perfectly.26 Saints can see and understand sin because of the Law. 27
Justification only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. 28 The death of Christ was a sacrifice of atonement. Christ’s death paid for man’s sins. And God offers the free gift of justification and righteousness when man responds by faith. Jesus’ death and resurrection according to Paul’s Gospel is justification for our sin and sin nature. Christ in his righteousness (perfection) sacrificed for fallen man. Through Christ sinners are justified. As Romans six, verse twenty-three says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because of our sin, sinners are doomed to die. But through Christ one can live. The only way this is possible is through redemption. Jesus justifies (acquits) saints because he redeemed sinners through His death and blood on the cross. As Romans five, verse eight says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God allowed all of this to happen. There is nothing man could do to save himself. John three, verse sixteen, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but has eternal life.” This is the essence of Paul’s Gospel, justification by faith. God’s grace was at work for Him to allow all of this to happen.

It is good to define and better understand what all these terms mean to get a better understanding of Paul’s message. Righteousness is equity, justice, fairness, moral correctness, right doing, being good, worthy, virtue, decency, honest, innocence, holiness, and most precisely, the perfectness and pureness of Jesus Christ. Saving Faith is the ability to believe in Christ's death, as the ground of justification before God. It is personally accepting and believing in Christ’s atonement for sin and putting oneself at God’s disposal in genuine obedience. Redemption means to let go free for a ransom. Jesus Christ is our ransom. Sin is presented as slavery and sinners as slaves. Redemption also means saints have deliverance from sin and death. Saints have freedom. Justification is acquittal for Christ’s sake, to be justified/ excused of sin because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Sinners are made right and righteous by God through justification of Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited, free gift of salvation.

Similar to Galatians three, in Romans four Paul uses Abraham as the example. He was justified by faith and not works.29 Also in Romans four, Paul says, “for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no Law, there also is no violation.”30 Any Law (or Law for that matter) is not created for mercy, but instead for wrath. Laws expose wrong-doing and are made to bring about punishments. Paul has just exposed the Jews to the Law and the sanctions of the Law. Fortunately though, there is good news. Verse twenty-five and twenty-six says, “but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” Jesus Christ paid for it all.
Saints have freedoms in Christ. In chapter five there is freedom from wrath. In chapter six, there is freedom from sin. In chapter seven, Paul tells about our freedom from the Law. And Paul explains our freedom from death in chapter eight. All of these freedoms come from the justification in faith through Christ. In Christ, saints are dead to sin and alive in Christ! Saints are no longer under Law, but grace!31 Saints do not have to sin any longer, but instead can live in Christ.

Chapter five is similar to Galatians three in that in both chapters Paul eludes to the fact that the Law was added. According to Clarke, the Law was added to show the “exceeding sinfulness of sin32”. As intense of a thought this is, Clarke continues with something even harder to phantom33. “The grace of Christ is to be more extensive in its influence and reign than sin has been in its enslaving and destructive nature.” That is beautiful writing; this is how Clarke explains Paul in Romans five, verses eighteen through twenty-one. Just as sin entered into the world through one man and affected all, grace entered the world through one man, Jesus. And Jesus’ influence is much greater than Adam’s!

Romans seven repeats the arguments Paul makes in Galatians about the purpose of the Law. The Law arouses our sin and increases it, because it exposes sin, but not because it is bad. The Law helps because one comes to know sin through the Law. The Law is not evil, but is good, holy, and righteous.34 Through the Law, one can see the evil that is within oneself. And now one can confess their wrong-doing to God 35 It is a privilege to have the Law (Rom. 3:2, 9:4).

The bulk of the rest of Romans, Paul is focusing on Christian living. One of the main points of Christian living is the “Law of love.” When Jesus was teaching, Pharisees asked him which of the commandments was the greatest. Jesus responded not by adding a new commandment, not by picking and choosing which commandment was the best but by summarizing all of the commandments into what is called today the Great Commandment followed by the Golden Rule. But if saints died to the Law, why must saints love? Is it by Law?

Saints are dead to the Law, in that they are not under the Law anymore, but Jesus did not say to completely disregard it. Paul never said to toss the Law out completely. The Law is still a part of Holy and Inspired Scripture. It is still important but it applies differently today than it did to Moses. For us, Christ fulfilled the Law and the Covenants. The Law is now written on our hearts. All are born with the moral Law in their heart. Saints should love because Christ Jesus loved and because Christ commanded that saints do so. Saints are to imitate and follow Christ. To a saint who is truly like Christ, in sanctification, love will come naturally. Saints will love by the Spirit, as it is the first and greatest fruit of the Spirit. Galatians five echoes Romans on the matter of love. While Christ has set us free from the Law. Faith comes to action, through love.36

After examining Romans and Galatians in regards to Paul’s view on the Law, many similarities have been found. Both books are consistent in that they are both pushing for justification by faith and not by the Law. So where is the controversy? The controversy is found with a closer comparison of Galatians five and Romans seven. Also another debate is stirring about “end” or the Law. What exactly does this mean?


What does Paul say about Law in Galatians?

What does Paul say about Law in Galatians?

In Galatians, Paul explains that the Law was not eternal, but was added. It was added because of transgressions.10 The Law is then temporary. Since it has a beginning, it must also have an end.11 Again, it is important to point out that there is some debate about this issue. Wesley say that “this [moral] Law passeth not away; but the ceremonial Law was only introduced till Christ.”12 There are questions lurking, “Is there an end to the Law?” “If so, is it just the end of ceremonial Law? Or the moral Law also?” These questions will be addressed later.
What is clearer in Galatians is the fact that saints are justified by faith in Christ, not by works or the Law.13 Paul makes five key appeals to justification by faith in chapter three.14 First is his appeal to personal experience. Paul asks the disciples whether they received the Spirit ‘by works of the Law’ or by hearing with faith in God? If they genuinely received and partook of the Holy Spirit, how could they forget? They had such an experience. Their “hearing of faith” occurred when they first came to know Christ as their own by accepting the Holy Spirit in their live.15 The second appeal is to Abraham. Galatians three reflects Romans four. The beauty of these two chapters is that God could have made righteousness come through works and obeying the Law, but instead God gave grace and let’s righteousness come through faith in Him and His Son. Thirdly, the appeal to the Law. Paul says the Law tells us to do things, while faith is just the opposite, saints are told to believe things. This belief will manifest in action, but the faith is believing. Where the Law is just doing, there is no belief. Gill makes the case that what Paul is referring to Lev. eighteen, verse five16 and that this passage is speaking about the moral Law, not the ceremonial Law. At any case, the point is that justification is not by the Law, but by grace. Fourth, Paul makes an appeal to history. God made promises through covenant before giving the Law. The Law was an addition. It does not invalidate God’s previous promises. In fact, justification cannot be by both merit and promise. It is one or the other and it is not by merit. And fifthly, Paul makes the appeal to the Gospel from verse nine-teen to the end of the chapter. Christ is the object of our faith and the only way to be justified. The Law is merely a “tutor” or “custodian” until Christ came.

As discussed above, in Galatians, the Law was also our “pedagogue” or tutor. The principle Greek word used here means “to keep or guard someone.17” Before the promised faith through Jesus, saints were locked up under the Law in order to keep us imprisoned under sin until the coming faith was revealed.18 The Law was master over them, keeping them in its custody as long as they were in bondage to sin. When the time was right, God sent for His Son in order to redeem those under the Law.19 This is the Gospel message, which Paul continues to stress over and over again especially in chapter four. Paul emphases that saints are sons of God and no longer slaves to sin! So why, he asks, are you turning your back on God and being enslaved by these worthless things again? Christians have choices to make. Christ is the only way to be justified, but man can choose to live enslaved to other things. Paul builds from this place, as he discusses how Christians can and should live according to the Spirit instead of the flesh. Paul also gives great practical wisdom in Christian living as he speaks about the armor of God and the spiritual forces.

The key of Galatians is getting back to the basics of the Gospel. The Judaizers, had been teaching falsely that believers had to follow the Mosaic Law and be circumcised in order to be saved.20 Paul refutes these teachings and goes over the Gospel message again. He reminds them that the Son of man came from God and requires nothing. Men are not saved through works of the Law.21 In summary, “man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…and [again] not by works of the Law…” (Gal. 2;16).


Where does the Law fit in Paul’s Gospel?

Where does the Law fit in Paul’s Gospel?

The confusion of many of “those in Christ” in the early church is understandable. Paul’s words on this issue were not always easy to understand and not everyone had the ability to read Paul’s writings for themselves. For one thing, only scribes and educated persons even had the ability to read. Also there was a lot of confusion because certain groups of people were intentionally opposing Paul and his words. One example of a group that Paul warns against and rebukes is the Judiazers. The Judiazers in Galatians chapter two are Jewish Christians that teach that one must be circumcised and obey all of the Mosaic Laws in order to truly be justified and saved. This is sort of the best of both worlds, Judaism and Christianity. Paul taught that “saving faith” through Christ’s blood was the only way to be saved and then groups, like these Judiazers, as well as other “false teachers,” came in later preaching that the Law was the way to be justified.

Paul made it clear that justification only comes through Jesus Christ and not through obeying the Law. But Paul was not completely against the Law, in general. The Law was not evil, according to Paul. The Law had purpose and was good, holy, spiritual, and righteous.3 What Paul was against was misuses and extreme uses of the Law. There is no Greek word for the terms “legalism” or “legalist.” But it is still obvious that Paul was not against the Law.4

In Paul’s writing, the Law highlights sin. The Law helps men to define and see the reality of sin. The Law reveals sin to man.5 In other words, sin is now specified and defined, clearly laid out in the Law. These Laws must be kept, if they are not kept then one commits a transgression or sin.6 Disregard to the Law is disobedience. The Law is not God; it merely illuminates God’s rules. The Law, though, causes sin, because it increases our knowledge of God’s standards and increases our knowledge of how to rebel against God. The Law shows how dangerous sin really is.7
Kulikovsky, suggests also that the Law, according to Paul, was a “tutor” or “custodian8” of sorts, whom guided and instructed Israel until Christ came. The Law identified and punished sin. When Christ came, this was no longer necessary and saints are no longer under the supervision of the Law.9 There is some controversy over this idea, which will be discussed later. Galatians and Romans are two letters of Paul’s that more specifically address the issue of the Law more in depth than his other letters.


Paul and the Law

Paul and the Law

Paul warned about legalism and false teachings in most of his epistles. Paul was concerned for his flock. He knew that they had heard the Gospel, sometimes even from his own mouth. Christianity or being a follower of Jesus Christ was a new concept. While the Good News of the Gospel about Jesus Christ was strong and alive, still there were many who were resistant and confused. The common Hebrew religion, known as Judaism, was also still a very strong movement. Christianity builds on Judaism, because Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jesus Christ completes Judaism.
Not everyone accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Not everyone was on board to embrace the Gospel of grace through Jesus Christ’s blood. And even those who understood, accepted, and believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior sometimes misunderstood the full Gospel message. It was a new, complex concept. The long standing traditions and Laws of Judaism were still fresh and well understood. But the full Gospel that Paul preached included “Christ is the end of the Law.”2
Commonly, converts to “Jesus” in the First Century were confused. They wanted to obey the Laws and still have Jesus. Paul constantly had to clarify exactly where the Laws fit into this movement. If Jesus Christ died for man’s sin and offers “saving faith,” what then should man do? What Laws must men obey? Where do the Laws fit into the Paul’s Gospel?


Paul's Gospel

Paul’s Gospel

Paul’s Gospel consists of many things. In short, all men are unrighteous before God. Therefore, it is impossible for justification through works. Jesus Christ is the propitiation and reconciliation for man’s sin and unrighteousness. Christ’s work was a gift to man. For only by Christ’s bloodshed, death on the cross and resurrection can man be declared righteous. Man accepts this free gift through belief or saving faith. All who believe are saved, justified and declared righteous. Not only is Christ’s blood saving, but it is also redeeming. Man was under the power of sin and Satan himself. But Christ met with Satan himself in death and bought back souls with His blood. Once saved, Paul taught that men are united in Christ. His identify is in Him. Also the saint has remission of all of his sins.1 This is a summarization of Paul’s theology and the message of the Gospel found in his letters.


Paul and the Law


The Law is important to Paul’s gospel message. The Law in Paul’s writing is one of the most controversial topics in the New Testament. One of the most difficult things to understand in the New Testament is this idea of the Law, according to Paul. A careful analysis of Paul’s writings about the Law in Galatians and Romans will show that the two books are complementary, not contradictory despite what some scholars might try to conclude. The Law is not evil or a problem to the Gospel. Rather the Law is an essential element to Paul’s Gospel.