Boasting Excluded

by Mike Ratliff

27 Ποῦ οὖν ἡ καύχησις; ἐξεκλείσθη. διὰ ποίου νόμου; τῶν ἔργων; οὐχί, ἀλλὰ διὰ νόμου πίστεως. 28 λογιζόμεθα γὰρ δικαιοῦσθαι πίστει ἄνθρωπον χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου. 29 ἢ Ἰουδαίων ὁ θεὸς μόνον; οὐχὶ καὶ ἐθνῶν; ναὶ καὶ ἐθνῶν, 30 εἴπερ εἷς ὁ θεὸς ὃς δικαιώσει περιτομὴν ἐκ πίστεως καὶ ἀκροβυστίαν διὰ τῆς πίστεως. 31 νόμον οὖν καταργοῦμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως; μὴ γένοιτο· ἀλλὰ νόμον ἱστάνομεν. (Romans 3:27-31 NA27)

27 Therefore, where is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of principle? Of works? No, but through a principle of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith. 31Therefore, do we annul the Law through faith? May it never be! Rather, we confirm the Law. (Romans 3:27-31 a personal translation of the Greek Text from the NA27)

As I translated Romans 3:27-31 I had to do some research on how others had rendered νόμου in v27, v28, and v31. The NASB renders it as “law” and “Law” meaning a principle in the v27, but then as the O.T. Law in v28 and v31. The ESV renders it as “law” in all four cases. As I looked at the context though I could see what Paul was saying very clearly in v27 in his rhetorical questions so I rendered νόμου, “nomou”, “principle, law, the Law” in v27 as “principle.” 

What is this “boasting” Paul is referring to? It is the Greek verb καύχησις, “kauchēsis”, “refers to the act of boasting, distinguished from the result of such action. It can be negative or positive. (e.g., having a sense of legitimate “pride” in a person or “glorifying” in God), καύχησις can be evil (James 4:16), forbidden (Romans 3:27), or the unstoppable result of the truth of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:10), depending on the context and content of the boast.” From this we see that in the passage we are studying that Paul is discussing negative connotation of “boasting.” So what are people boasting of that they should not be boasting of that genuine salvation excludes or forbids?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is god’s gift;  9 not by works lest any should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3 ESV) 

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV)

No one stands before God justified according to works of their flesh. No, all who are justified by God are so by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28). In v29 Paul makes sure to hammer home that no one can claim justification as Law keepers according to their Jewishness.

What does Paul mean that genuine Christianity based upon salvation by grace alone through faith alone does not annul the Law, but instead, confirms it? First, it provides a payment for the penalty of death, which the Law required for failing to keep it. Second, by fulfilling the Law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ (Galatians 3:24) by giving believers the capacity to obey it (Romans 8:3,4).

In my many years as a Deacon in SBC churches I also did my share of teaching, counseling, and witnessing. My brethren, I know that there are vast numbers of good Church going people in churches that, with the best intentions, are attempting to be justified before God according to their works. The burn out rate in those churches that specialize in this sort of works righteousness westernized Christianity is very high and I went through it myself several times though I was in deep denial.

I would work hard and be right in the middle of things then burn out. I would then find every reason I could find to not be there anymore. Then after a period of time I would “repent” and get back onto the works treadmill. This continued right through 2003 and into 2004. It was then that I was drawn by God to quit being religious and “man up” so-to-speak. From January 2004 through August 2004 I spent increasing amounts of my time in prayer, Bible Study and worship and seeking God’s will in every part of my life. It was right in the middle of August that God hit me with a hammer blow or cold splash of water or what ever you want to call it. It was as if I woke up to the fact that I was different and that my life was now totally in the hands of my Saviour and I was his to do with as he willed. How do you describe something like that? In any case, I have never looked back. I know that my part was to simply call on God, draw near unto him and he did the rest as I became a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). I know that all that is good and eternal that came from that is by God’s grace alone.

What’s been the biggest change for me since then? I have absolutely no patience with or taste for Churchianity. I deeply desire to be with God’s people to worship, pray and study the Word, but I will continue to warn the Body of Christ about the trap of works righteousness that has consumed so much of what is we call the visible church. Those mired in that may use good church words to describe their “faith” and say all the right things about Christianity, but when it comes time for them to talk about Justification, it all comes back to what they have done. Sorry, Paul says boasting is excluded.

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “Boasting Excluded

  1. But, since we are hard-wired for works righteousness, trying to do that which is impossible sure does please the flesh! Apart from the indwelling conviction and leading of the Spirit of God, we would hell-bound on the train of works righteousness.

    Excellent reminder, my brother – as we all tend to fall into this trap and need one another for reproof and encouragement.

  2. Hi Mike, it is so easy to fall into the works trap, even for believers. I know I have, and like you recalled, it does burn you out. Of course, as you also said, it’s a subtle error often taught from pulpits, often unintentionally but meaning well. I personally find Galatians 3:2-6 to be some very helpful works-unlocking verses. And I also know I need to remember to have a huge dose of patience patience patience with myself and others as we are shaped and molded by the Master Potter.

    I actually picked up on this in a women’s study once, the study was a works trap. I explained this to the pastor, whose wife was teaching it. The ladies nonetheless went on with the study, but I did not join. Funny, though, the next women’s study was on the topic of defeating insecurity. My husband laughed, saying something to the effect of, of course that’s the next study, the women are all burned out from their works trap and are left feeling very insecure from trying to “measure up”.

    We are fully accepted only in the Beloved, and in that we are wholly blessed! Cease striving and know He is God.

    YSIC
    carolyn

    PS: Your “cold water splash” moment, I know exactly what you mean. The moment I realized evolution was a lie was just like that. I literally sat up in bed one morning and KNEW.

  3. “My brethren, I know that there are vast numbers of good Church going people in churches that, with the best intentions, are attempting to be justified before God according to their works.”

    The more people I encounter and debate online or offline, the more I realize the same thing. It’s really sad because people by the masses are going to hell.

    Take people like Richard Foster and all who think “spiritual disciplines” wins out over the Gospel. They appear so humble and good but all they are doing is trying to polish their dung filled heart and God will have none of it. They actually think -their works based pious life and man-made rules and harsh treatments of the body is righteous enough that God will accept them. What blasphemy! There’s only One righteousness and it is by faith in the finished person and work of Christ. God ALONE is good and He is the only one who is just. Justice is served at the CROSS by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He paid the price we could never pay. Righteousness is by faith-Romans chapter 4.

    I don’t think many understand their true abject condition.

  4. Hi Mike, Linda’s comment on Spiritual Disciplines, yes, that was the leaven that infected that women’s study I mentioned. I understood SD as trying to perfect in the flesh. Hence I rejected attending the study. It’s sad that even believers are being trapped by this falsehood, rather than ABIDING in Christ.

  5. Right Carolyn, Spiritual Formations is another name for it. It is an attempt to sanctify the flesh or become perfect in the flesh instead of simply obeying our Lord in John 15 and listening and obeying what Paul says in Romans 12, et cetera. We can do nothing in and of ourselves and our redemption comes from outside of ourselves. Yes, we are to learn to walk in repentance, but that struggle is what God uses to continually point us to truth that we desperately need his grace and our Lord Jesus for without him we can do nothing.

  6. I’m so joyous for you carolyn! Anytime we have all these rules or steps to do this or not do that then it becomes a trap and a snare of us trying to please God. God is already pleased with his Son. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”-Mat. 17:5. The wrath of God was poured on Jesus FOR our sins and Jesus paid it ALL. we can REST in Christ and whenever we begin to prettify our flesh to somehow please God we can look to Christ and say it’s Finished and I’m fully clothed with the righteous robes forever and ever. We are FREE. We just cannot understand how much God truly loves us as our Father…

    I’m so encouraged

  7. Thanks Mike, Linda. Sigh, I’m glad someone’s encouraged. :) It’s hard for me to see my beloved brothers and sisters stuck in these rule-following snares. Lately this issue has been on my heart, processing the subtle evil of works and legalism.

    Without faith it is impossible to please God.

    Linda, thank you for all those sweet reminders, I myself don’t always process how much the Father loves us and how FREE we really are, and how much REST there is for our weary souls, in Christ Jesus who paid it ALL.

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