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?