Works righteousness and 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 NA28)

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. 31 Therefore, do we annul the Law through faith? May it never be! Rather, we confirm the Law. (Romans 3:27-31 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 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 credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3 NASB)

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NASB)

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, all of this outside of organized church stuff. 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 is to simply call on God, draw near unto him and he does the rest as I keep growing as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). I know that all that is good and eternal that comes 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!

2 thoughts on “Works righteousness and boasting excluded

  1. Just now struggling , yet again, with one of the greatest, more rugged orthodoxies, with remembering traditions that ‘make void the Word’ are naturally and most credibly preached, that even many centuries of persistence at being extra burdens, for all those many generations, are still unnecessary burdens. We more easily lend credibility to those long dead whom, we are told, taught those the most subtle and pernicious errors, of course, the most lasting errors. Being long dead does not add credibility above that of Apostles. It merely removes these further from correcting those among living misinterpreters. Error repeated many centuries is still error.

    I sincerely thank you for the reminder.

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