Righteousness, Justice, Love
Romans Lesson #037
October 13, 2011
We are in Romans 3. Last time we got through the basic part of Romans 3:25. We are going to go back and pick up a couple of ideas, cover a few things I sort of skimmed over at the end last time. As we go through the rest of chapter three, I want to pick up on some key ideas that are presented. This is really a tremendous text, and as we look at this, one of the most significant passages in all of the Scripture for understanding the character of God is Romans 3:25 and on into 26.
Romans 3:27-31 just provides us with a good review and transition into the next chapter, which gives an illustration of justification through Abraham. Always try to think what does the Bible use for a major illustration to teach the point? It usually uses some concrete, historical event from the Old Testament; an object, like the Ark of the Covenant, the Day of Atonement, the mercy seat; or an event in a person’s life to teach truths that to many people can be pretty abstract.
Romans 3:25 speaks about Jesus “whom (personal relative pronoun) God set forth as a propitiation by means of His blood,” which is a reference to His spiritual death on the cross. “…through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” Last time I spent most of my time looking at two key doctrines mentioned in verses 24-25. Redemption – payment of a price, payment of the penalty for sin, the legal penalty God assigned. Propitiation – satisfaction that was accomplished on the cross, that Christ’s death satisfied the righteous demands of God and satisfied His justice. Then God would be free to save us because God was not going to compromise His righteousness and His justice in order to bring us to salvation. This is a very important passage to understand what God does in terms of His justice, righteousness and love.
We live in a culture today that has a major problem with understanding righteousness and understanding absolutes. As a result of that, then has a tremendous difficulty understanding love. It is obvious to most of us that there is a major problem with parents understanding parental love. There is tremendous problem with adults (in many cases using the term only in terms of their chronological age, not in terms of maturity) understanding love. Because if love is based on integrity and integrity is based on understanding the concepts of righteousness and justice, we will not understand love if we don’t understand righteousness and justice. Those three things really do go together in some remarkable ways in the Scripture. Because for God to bring us to salvation, that which moves Him, that which is the ground of His actions, so to speak, is love. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (in such a way) that He gave His only begotten Son…”
That love is not what the average American usually thinks of love; he thinks of love in terms of some sort of sentimentality. Because we have a shallow view of love, we have a shallow view of God. It is also difficult because we have a relativistic moral standard. Real love has to be based on something that has real stability, real integrity. If we do not really understand integrity because we believe in a relativistic standard of morals, then we cannot really have love. Look at family breakdown, marriage breakdown, breakdown in all kinds of relationships.
Then we have this new factor that comes in that really exacerbates the whole problem. That has to do with what has occurred in terms of the technological revolution with all the social networking over the past 10 years or so. Now kids from very young ages to teenagers are getting these smart phones. You will see them in a crowd just texting one another. There is loss of the ability to have a personal relationship because they are focusing so much on all of this stimulation that comes from the quickness and speed and glitz that goes with an internet or virtual environment. All of these different things just work together, so it is an extremely complex problem.
People say, “You can solve the education problem by just paying teachers more.” The education problem is really the symptom of the breakdown of the home, breakdown of a lot of elements in culture. There is not enough money in the world to throw at it to solve the problem. It is related to a virtue problem, a love problem, standards, breakdown in the home. The only way to solve it is if there is a return within a culture to something that gives stability to everything. And that can only be God – the immutable, eternal God of the Bible. If we are away from that, there is nothing on which to base anything. It is just building a house on shifting sand. Now that is sort of the introduction, and I will come back to that before we are done.
Romans 3:25 “God set forth (Jesus) as a propitiation by means of his blood.” The propitiation is done by means of His blood, not the setting forth. It is through faith that the propitiation is then applied or realized in individual relationship to God. But this is done “to demonstrate His righteousness.” Now we have this same kind of phrase back in verse 21 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed,” and we have it back in Romans 1, which also talked about the unveiling of the revelation of the righteousness of God.
As I pointed out, this is not something secondary to God, not something God gives that is separate from His character. It is talking about the quality of His very own righteousness, His character. Righteousness here is the Greek word DIKAIOSUNE. When you take that ending SUNE and put it on the noun DIKAIOS, it talks about the quality of something. So it is talking about the quality of being righteous. What God demonstrates here is His integrity. The word that is translated “to demonstrate” is a Greek word, ENDEIKNUMI, which indicates something on the order of making an experiment.
You go into a chemistry classroom, and when you make an experiment, you should know what is going to happen before you do the combination of chemicals or whatever you are going to do. An experiment is not doing something to figure out or to see what will happen. That is how many people use the word experiment in everyday language. You may go into the kitchen and try this and do that and see if it works. But in a science setting when we do an experiment, we are trying to prove or demonstrate something that we already know to be true. We have proven it through the use of formula and other things.
What God is doing is putting on a visual demonstration or a visual proof, giving visual evidence of His righteousness. God is saying at the Cross, “This is how righteousness and love work. I am showing you this because this is the prime example for that.” He demonstrates this at the Cross. Then we go on to read in Romans 3:25 “Because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” The word here that is translated forbearance is the Greek noun ANOCHE. It is an interesting word because it is translated correctly as forbearance.
Forbearance in English and ANOCHE in Greek are both words that are used in a legal context to describe what happens when, for example, a banker or someone who is owed money abstains from enforcing or collecting the payment of a debt. Sin is described in a couple of places as a debt, and the sin penalty is a debt owed to God. What we see here is that God puts off or holds back on fully enforcing the penalty of sin in terms of divine discipline, divine judgment in the period of the Old Testament from the time of Adam’s sin up to the time of the Cross. He chooses to not fully judge (within time) sin because it hasn’t been dealt with yet on the Cross. He chooses to abstain from collecting the debt payment from everybody from Adam to Christ because He knows the solution and the debt payment are going to be made when the 2nd Person of the Trinity enters into human history and goes to the Cross and pays the penalty.
Forbearance is a significant term – it is used the same way in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 63:15 in a passage that is addressed to God, we read “Look down from heaven, and see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength, the yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?” Then there is the statement “Are they restrained?” The same word that is used there indicates the putting off of something.
In Romans 1:23-32, I pointed out as we went through this study that the righteousness of God condemned the immorality and the licentiousness of man. In Romans 2:1-4, there is the condemnation of the moral man. Righteousness is saying neither achieves or lives up to His righteous standard. At the conclusion of that section (the break really occurred between 4-5 and not 5-6 as some Bibles have it), in verse four we read “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness …” Goodness is more than just His righteousness. It is sort of like the expression of His righteousness. It is somewhere between talking about the righteousness as the standard of His character and grace as the expression of that standard. Goodness is a form of the expression of that righteousness and that grace. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering …?” All three of these nouns are objects of the term “riches.” The riches of His goodness, the riches of His forbearance, and the riches of His longsuffering.
God has postponed the punishment of sin from His volition because He knows that full payment will be taken care of at the Cross. Forbearance is related to God’s patience. God is patient because He understands the timeframe; He doesn’t look at time the same way we do. It is not that God is permissive towards the sin of humanity from Adam to Christ. It is not like he winked at sin, not like He said, “They just don’t know any better.” There is no sense of the reduction of His standard in order to be good and kind to the human race.
What happens in our finite human relationships—and I am applying this a lot to parental relationships—is parental permissiveness and the reduction of an absolute standard of behavior and expectation of children living up to the standard because parents want to be kind. There is this failure in our culture to understand that love for someone is expressed both in terms of providing them with wonderful things in life, as well as well as bringing just punishment on someone.
Whenever I teach on the love of God and how we are to be gracious to others, forgive others just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, some people have difficulty hearing that because they don’t look except in one direction. It is like the person who says, “We cannot execute the criminal.” They completely fail to understand that executing the criminal is an act of love for society and for the victim. If you do not execute the criminal, you are not loving the society as a whole because you are letting evil run rampant without punishment. If you do not execute the criminal or punish him according to the crime, you are not loving the victim. You are letting someone get away with abuse, with theft, with crimes on innocent people, so you are treating it lightly. You have reduced the standard of righteousness in a culture for the sake of love.
These are not mutually exclusive when you think of it in terms of Scripture. A love that is not righteous is not love. A righteousness that is not loving is not righteous. They are not mutually contradictory. In human viewpoint, that is often presented that way. This is the classic argument that is often expressed in terms of Satan’s accusation against God, “How can a loving God send His creatures to the Lake of Fire?” The real question is “How can a loving God NOT send His creatures to the Lake of Fire?” We have such a diluted and impotent view of love because we have a diluted and impotent view of righteousness. The two things go together.
This passage is teaching that God, though He passes over or postpones the punishment, chooses not to lower the boom fully on the Adam-to-Jesus dispensation. He never reduces the standard of His righteousness. That standard is going to be satisfied at the Cross when Jesus Christ, the 2nd person of the Trinity, receives the full judicial punishment for all the sins from everyone in the Old Testament to all the sins after the Cross. All are poured out on the Cross, so that God’s righteousness, which is the standard of His character, is going to be fully satisfied. He does not have to compromise His standard. His justice, which is the expression of that standard, is also completely consistent with His righteousness. It does not have to change, it is not diluted, it is not reduced in force in any way because it is fully satisfied at the Cross. Because righteousness and justice are then both fully satisfied at the Cross, God’s love is free to flow in providing salvation for everyone in the human race.
As I was reflecting on this, it hit me how profound the essence of God is. We just do not take enough time to really meditate on these dynamics and then to think about how they really impact relationships that we have. We live in a world of such superficial relationships where people just have such a difficult time understanding these things. When you talk about forgiving others, people ask “Does that mean the person who has wronged me?” When you go to the passage in Matthew 18:21-22 when Peter asks the Lord, “How many times should we forgive?”, the Lord says, “Seventy times seven.” When people hear the word forgive, what they mean is that I’m just supposed to rip open my shirt, throw open my arms, put the dagger in his hand, and say “stab me again.” That is not what the Scripture says. An act of loving someone who is an abuser is that they go through punishment and suffer the consequences of their abuse. Someone who is a criminal should suffer the consequences of their criminal action.
You can get involved in mental attitude sins—vindictiveness, anger, maligning—and that destroys the integrity of your motivation. When God punishes, He does not punish from this position of self-righteousness. He punishes from a position of integrity. We have to recognize that in expressing love and forgiveness to someone who is a criminal, someone who has maltreated us, or someone who has abused us, real love means “I forgive you.” This means two things. Negatively, it means I am not going to cave in to bitterness, vindictiveness, hatred, or mental attitude sins in how I deal with you. On the positive side, I am going to do what is right for you, which means that there are consequences that you must endure because of the wrong actions that you have committed.
You do not reduce the standards of right and wrong in order to love someone. Forgiveness is an action and expression of love. But we live in a culture that has juxtaposed love and righteousness in such a way that you either love someone or you hold up a high standard - you lower your standard and elevate the love or lower the love and elevate the standard. The two go together. They are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually dependent. When someone says they love you and has no integrity, it does not mean anything if they say they love you. They are just expressing a shallow sentiment that has no enduring quality to it because it has no integrity. When someone says they love you and has integrity, you know that means something, and it is not something that is frivolously communicated.
In Romans 3:24-25, we have this demonstration of God’s righteousness at the Cross. Verse 26 goes on to say that “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness.” This is all about the demonstration of God’s righteousness. It is a visible picture for all of humanity to understand what love, righteousness, and justice are and how they work together without compromising one another. So the Cross is “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness (the character of God), that He might be just (God will remain just without minimizing or compromising that in any way) and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What Paul is indicating here in this rigorously logical development is that not only does God remain just in the way He deals with sin at the Cross in the fact that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” (2 Corinthians 5:21), but He is able, without sacrificing any measure of partiality, to provide a justification for every single member of the human race.
We know that people are born in different conditions. You have the obvious distinction in this passage between the Jew and the Gentile. The Jew, we have already seen in chapter two, is born in a position where he enjoys certain privileges that are the result of God’s blessing to Israel. They have nothing to do with how he relates to God. He is given certain privileges, certain promises, the Word of God, prophets, a covenant relationship with God, but that doesn’t get him any closer to salvation than any Gentile in the farthest reaches on the earth. It only means that God has blessed them in some way. Just as there are some people who will be born in Athens, Egypt, or other places in the world. Some are born to aristocracy, blessed with certain position and privilege in life, and others are born at the lowest rung of the social strata and have nothing. In terms of how the justice of God deals with each one, they are all equally condemned because of Adam’s original sin. The solution for all is the same, which is trust in Jesus Christ, and they all have equal ability to trust in the Gospel. That is the point of the text showing that God blesses them without distinction and other passages that talk about the fact that there is no partiality with God.
In Romans 3:22, we read “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.” Because salvation is totally dependent upon God’s character and His integrity and justice, and His justice is completely impartial and treats every human being the same way; it has nothing to do with their individual circumstances – some having more and some having less. God is able to provide a perfect salvation.
Think about how that whole concept applies to understanding the operation of justice within the judicial system of a nation. It indicates that for justice to operate in a nation from the top down viewpoint (this is how the founding fathers thought), it doesn’t matter whether those who come before the bar of justice are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, or black, white, yellow, brown. Those circumstances are irrelevant. What matters is that there is an objective standard that is imbedded in the legal statutes and that it is applied equally by a judge. That is an objective view of the law.
Once you start getting away from a firm belief in absolutes (set standards that never change), either as an individual or family or culture, then what happens on the judicial bench within the legal system of the U.S. becomes subject not to what happens above in terms of those external standards but becomes dependent on what is happening below in terms of the circumstances that surround the individual who is standing before the bar of justice. Once you start basing justice on the circumstances surrounding the individual who is standing before you instead of on an objective, external standard, then the application of justice becomes a farce because it becomes dependent upon totally subjective aspects rather than something that is objective that can be equally applied without distinction.
We see the perfection here of God’s character and how it is worked out in this whole plan of salvation. In essence, we see, first of all, the emphasis on the fact that God is righteous. The Greek word is DIKAIOS for righteous based ultimately on the noun DIKAI. It has various forms, but that is what the root is. Righteous is a word that relates to a standard. In the Hebrew Old Testament, you had the phrase tsedeq which is the same idea. It establishes a standard. Righteousness with the suffix “ness” in English does the same thing as adding the suffix SUNE in Greek, which emphasizes the qualitative aspect of the noun. Righteousness becomes the standard of God’s character. God’s character is really the standard.
We come out of a culture and a history going all the way back to an ancient civilization in Greece where a lot of these ideas like righteousness and justice are thought of as abstract ideals. They sort of exist or hang out there in space by themselves. That is a very Platonic type illustration. We have this ideal of righteousness and this ideal of justice. We think God is righteous, so God measures up to this ideal of righteousness. That is completely backwards. What the Scripture says is what God does and how He relates to His creatures defines righteousness. Righteousness exists nowhere as an abstract ideal. Its ultimate expression is within the very Person of God. Something is righteous not because it conforms to some external quality but because it conforms to the character of God. His being defines that standard; how He does things defines righteousness.
The second aspect here is God’s justice. God is perfect justice. Justice is the application then of that perfect standard of God’s character to His creatures. God has a righteous standard that never gets compromised; His justice always applies it without distinction. He does not give any benefit to a creature for this reason or that circumstance. The word for justice is the same word as we have for righteousness. It is DIKAIOS in both places. We have the same thing in Hebrew. That is because the context is going to tell us whether it is talking about a standard or the application of the standard. The concepts of justice and righteousness are inseparable.
The third point here is that God cannot compromise His righteousness or justice because He is immutable. He never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He cannot ever do anything to compromise His justice.
We are told in numerous places in Scripture that God is also love. How do you know what love is? The same way you know what righteousness is. You can only do it by looking at God’s character. There is not this abstract ideal that sits out there in Hollywood in a romantic movie or in some novel that tells you what love is. “Love is X and God conforms to X.” That is how we treat it. Try to look love up in a dictionary, and there are usually descriptions and not definitions. Nobody gets it right – it is always an emotion. Love in the Bible is not an emotion; it is an expression of kindness from the character of God as He seeks to bring about the best for the object of His love.
In English, you have your comparative adjectives: good, better, and best. That immediately brings in a value judgment. How do we know what is best for someone? How do you as a parent know what is best for your child? How do you as a husband, commanded to love your wife as Christ loved the church, know what is best for your wife? What you want? No, because one week it is this and one week it is that. That is awfully changeable, mutable, unstable. So it cannot be your character. It has to be based on something that has complete, perfect stability and never changes, and that can only be the character of God. For a husband to be able to love his wife as Christ loved the church, he has to constantly be pursuing an understanding of the character of God. That understanding of the character of God has to permeate his character in the process.
So God is love. That means His very character defines what love is. The only way we can ever learn what love is is to go to the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, you have this God who shows up in Genesis 18 and 19 and sends two angels to the five cities of the plains, among which are Sodom and Gomorrah. God has allowed these cities to live to the fullest extent of their sin nature. They are rank with open sexual sin, not just homosexuality but everything. When these two angels who appear as men come, and they are invited into Lot’s house, all the men in Sodom and Gomorrah try to knock down the door in order to be able to take one of these men and rape them all night long. It is such a horrid picture of sexual perversion. God loves the human race and Sodom and Gomorrah so much that He obliterates everyone.
You don’t usually hear that from the pulpit of the 1st Metho-presby-bapterian Church. That does not fit our concept of love – how can a loving God do that? But how can a loving God NOT do that? As a loving God, He has to protect the rest of the human race from the cancer and the malignancy of rank perversion.
Another example a few centuries later when the Israelites come out of Egypt, and they are headed to the Promised Land. God is going to give the land to Israel that has been occupied by the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Jebusites. But that is not fair! That is not how the UN Resolution 1-umpty-dump-1 works! We have to be fair to the people who were there before! Man has a false sense of what righteousness means because he has a false sense of what love is and vice versa. God is going to allow in His permissive will the inhabitants of Canaan to pursue the joys of their sin nature to the fullest extent. God gives them grace so that at any number of points, they can respond to the general revelation of God in creation and turn to Him, and God would revoke the plan of punishment. But they do not. Finally their sin is ripened to the point that God is going to give the land to the Israelites and is going to destroy the inhabitants of the land. That means that all the men are going to be killed—not just the adult soldiers but all the old men, young men, male babies. All the women will be killed—the grandmothers, mothers, pregnant women. I am trying to create as graphic an example of this as I can because this rubs against the value system that our culture has drilled into us.
God tells Joshua at the battle of Jericho that they are to kill every man, woman and child—every single inhabitant of Jericho. It does not matter that they are only one or two weeks old or two or three months old. It doesn’t matter if they are 80 years old and have Alzheimer’s. Every single one has to be killed. The world says that is not loving. The Bible says that is precisely what it is. That is loving; it is not abusive. When it is motivated by sin, not by righteousness, then it would become abuse, it would become tyranny, it would become cruel.
There comes a time when the act of love towards 95% of the human race means that 5% of the human race has to be executed in order to preserve the health of the rest of the body. Just as in cancer surgery, you are going to go in and cut out part of the body, so that you can save the rest of the body. That is where the focus is. Love focuses in two directions because God recognizes that with the perversion among the Canaanites continuing, their culture is just going to be immersed in greater self-misery. So it is an act of love to put them out of their misery. It is an act of love to protect the rest of the human race. God’s love is operating at multiple levels.
You look at other examples down through the centuries as when God removes the Israelites from the land because He gave them the land, and then they disobeyed the Law. All throughout those passages, there is the emphasis on the faithful, loyal love of God (chesed), His love for Israel based on the Covenant. Because God loved Israel, the Northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians, and the people were tortured, horribly murdered, and transported to different parts of the Assyrian empire. About 150 years later, it happened to the Southern Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar came in three times—God brought them there.
This is what Habakkuk had such a problem with. “Lord, you have to do something about these horrible people here in Judah. They are self-centered, they reject the Law, they are immoral and selfish. You have to do something about them.” God says, “I am. I am bringing the Chaldeans here.” “Wait a minute, Lord, you cannot bring those horrible, unrighteous, idolatrous Chaldeans here.” “Sure I can. That is love. I have to punish the wrongdoers in Judah and have to be faithful to my covenant. That is an act of love. If I am not loyal to the Covenant and execute punishment, then I have violated the Covenant and compromised my integrity.”
All this is how we are to understand the complexities of what love is. Love is not the Hollywood version of Valentine’s Day. There is a lot more to it than that. That is part of it, but love has a lot more dimensions to it. On the one hand, love many times says, “I forgive you,” while on the other hand, you are going to suffer all of the consequences for the wrongdoing that you have committed. They are both true. To love someone does not mean you compromise righteous standards. The two have to go together, or it is neither righteous or love.
We look at the character of God and the 10 basic characteristics: 1) Sovereignty – He rules over His creation. 2-3) His righteousness and justice – the standard of His character and the application of that standard. 4) Love – the expression of that to the human race. 5) Eternal life. 6) Omniscient – He knows all the knowable (He takes into account every single factor in every decision. There is nothing He does not already know, and there are no surprises. His knowledge is perfect.) 7) Omnipresent – present to everything in His creation, so nothing escapes His notice. 8) Omnipotent – has the power to do whatever He chooses. 9) Veracity – absolute truth. 10) Immutability – does not change.
The three elements righteousness, justice, and love of God, along with His truth, comprise the integrity of God. They work together, and they always have to. You minimize one, you destroy the other three. They have to be in a perfect balance. What this means is that God can provide a perfect salvation offered equitably to every human being because it is not dependent at all on anything anybody does. It does not depend on one person having a higher or lower IQ, one person having a greater or lesser motivation. No human factor can enter in to create an inequitable situation.
This is why Paul can summarize this the way he does in Romans 3:27-31. He asks three rhetorical questions in verse 27 in order to drive home the point. A rhetorical question is a question that is asked without expecting an answer because the answer is apparent. So he says, “Where is boasting then?” It is obvious; it is excluded. If it is totally dependent on God, there is nothing for man to crow about. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law?” Now, look at this. I just saw this this afternoon, and I have to work through this and some other passages. Every now and then, you see something and say, “Isn’t that interesting?”
“By what law?” The law of works or the law of faith? Let me ask you a question. Most of you have been around Christianity since you were a small or large child. What is always contrasted with the Law? Grace. The Old Testament is the age of law. We are in the age of grace. Again and again, it is grace vs. law. What do we have here? Faith. Is it the law of works or the law of faith? It is not works vs. grace. It is the law of works and the law of faith. There is still a law operating because the Law establishes the fact that there are external, unchangeable absolutes. It is not a law that is based on works, that is, human effort, but it is a law of faith, depending on God to provide the blessing.
Paul comes to a conclusion in verse 28 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” When we look at this in the Greek, we have a present with an active meaning of the verb LOGIZOMAI. LOGIZOMAI is the word that we will run into when we get into Romans 4:3 “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” It has to do with thinking something through, reckoning something to be true, related to LOGOS. It is a verb form, and it is a thought word.
It begins by saying “Therefore we conclude (we have thought through these issues and come to the only possible conclusion) that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” It is a passive infinitive – “a man is to be justified by faith apart from (without) the deeds of the Law.” He draws this conclusion demonstrating that works of the Law cannot justify anyone, so we have to be justified apart from the works of the Law. It has to be that way, for with God there is no partiality; there is no distinction with God.
This is why in verse 29, he goes back and says the only other option is to have a God of favoritism where He is going to treat the Jews one way and the Gentiles another way. He says, “Or is He the God of the Jews only?” The implication is no, He is not the God of the Jews only. He created all human beings and is also the God of the Gentiles. Because He is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles, the plan of salvation has to be the same for all.
Verse 30 “Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” Both the circumcised and the uncircumcised (the Jews and the Gentiles) will be justified by faith. That first phrase says “God who will justify the circumcised by faith.” There it uses that other phrase the genitive of PISTEUO, by faith. They are saying the same thing “by faith” and “through faith.” They are both based on faith.
When he says this, we go back to the end of the last chapter. Paul had been dealing with the guilt of the Jews and uses circumcision as his point of reference. He says in 2:25 “For circumcision is indeed profitable.” There was nothing wrong with observing the Law. What was wrong was observing the Law for the wrong reason. “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” In other words, even if you break the Law, circumcision doesn’t matter; you are as one who was not circumcised, not a member of the Covenant community. Verse 26 “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?” Who is more righteous? The circumcised person who completely flaunts and disobeys the Law or the uncircumcised who keeps the Law in every jot and tittle. Who is more righteous? His point is that circumcision is not what gets you the grace of God.
That is the same thing he says in Romans 3:30 “Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” The principle of salvation applies equally for every human being.
Verse 31 “Do we then make void (invalidate) the law through faith?” No, the Law had a purpose. The Law was the constitution for Israel. It was designed to show people not how to be saved by their works, but that no matter how much effort they put into it, they could never be saved by their works. By emphasizing faith, it doesn’t invalidate the Mosaic Law. On the contrary, it establishes the Law to be exactly what it was intended to be. It validates everything that was said in the Law which was to point out man’s inability, not human ability.
That wraps his explanation of justification by faith. The illustration begins in Roman 4:1.