27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
1901 ASV Translation:
27 Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith.
28 We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Textual Issues:In 3:28, the Textus Receptus has "therefore" and the Nestle/Aland 26 has "for" and the word order of "justified by faith" is reversed.
I. The Issue of "Boasting".
A. That Paul immediately calls for a conclusion regarding "boasting" once the issues of justification are revealed is instructive regarding the seriousness of the human proclivity for bragging about things accomplished and the powerful inclination for the insertion of human-productivity-so-I-can-exalt-myself into the "salvation" processes.
1. It is indisputable that "boasting" is an extremely destructive behavior.
2. It is indisputable that almost everyone does a lot of "boasting"...it reveals the desire for acclaim that undergirds it.
3. Since there are only three major "types" of sin in the world (1 John 2:16), it stands to reason that "boasting" is necessarily related to at least one of those "types". Its most obvious link is to what John called "the arrogance of functional capacity" (i.e., what the translators of the AV called "the pride of life", or what the translators of the ASV called "the vain glory of life"). Boasting is the primary mechanism for the implementation of an agenda; it is the means by which men get others to yield to their plans.
a. In Romans 15:17 Paul wrote of "boasting in Christ Jesus" and explained what he meant in 15:18 -- speaking of things which Christ wrought through him. This is the only legitimate form of "boasting", and it is not without its own "problems" (sometimes men, in their desperation to be in the spotlight, will even "boast of what God has done throughthem" as a way to get into that spotlight). It is the desire to be in the spotlight that is evil, and when that is the motivation, what is done is yet evil, no matter what is done -- even claiming to only be telling what Christ has done.
b. In 2 Corinthians 11:16-13:6 Paul repeatedly claims that "boasting" is foolish and destructive.
B. In our text, Paul demolishes "boasting".
1. He claims that "boasting" is "excluded" (barred from entrance into one's "house of activities"). The word used here means to refuse entrance to some "place", whether physical or metaphorical.
2. His claim is that "boasting" is excluded for one simple reason: it cannot stand the test of the "law of faith".
a. It is crucial, at this point, to understand what the "law of faith" actually is. It is not a "law" in the sense of a "divine demand that is to be met by human obedience". To understand the "law of faith" as simply a different form of "demand/performance" can do nothing to exclude boasting. It is, rather, a basic "principle" by which God's universe operates.
1) The "principle" of "faith" is this: God makes a promise to a man who believes Him. From that point of "faith" forward, all is dependent upon God Who promised. In other words, nothing is done by the recipient of the promise to accomplish the thing promised; all is done by God Who promised. He may use the actions of the recipient of the promise to facilitate the fulfillment, or He may not, as He Himself chooses. But, in every case, He is the One Who produces the fulfillment. The classic illustration is Jesus Himself as the One produced by God to be the Savior of men. God deliberately omitted all male participation in the conception of Jesus so that no man could take credit for being involved. The most any man could claim was to be in the "production line" that resulted in the birth of Mary. But, as Mary was absolutely without the power to conceive Jesus on her own, it is a vain boast to attempt to "get credit" for being in her "line of production".
2) Men are so committed to twisting things around so that they can get the credit that they have even taken the "law of faith" and turned it into a way to take the credit for what God does. This is perverse. But, it is also rampant in the messages of men who tell others both what they have accomplished by faith and what others can accomplish by faith. As long as men are looking for the credit of accomplishment, they are motivated by evil -- the arrogance of functional capacity.
b. The "test of faith" is whether God has acted in order to fulfill His word(s) of promise.
1) If it was God who produced the fulfillment, it was "by faith".
2) If it was man who produced it, the fulfillment was an "Ishmael" -- a fleshly imitation of reality.
C. In our text, Paul deliberately contrasts the "law" of works and the "law" of faith.
1. The "law" of works is also a basic principle: the one who acts is the one who gets the credit for the accomplishment.
a. Under this "principle" it is obvious that "boasting" can easily result from the link between the action taken and the result.
b. The problem with this "principle" is that Paul has already shown that no action of man can result in a good unless God deliberately turns the result into a good.
1) Man's actions are invariably evil if they arise from "man" -- Paul's theology of man is that he is "not good" and, therefore, cannot "do good".
2) God, however, can take the evil of man and generate good from it (Romans 8:28); but this is not to the credit of man who is very likely to argue that we should act so God can bring good to pass (let us do evil that good may come).
c. Even the actions of "believers" are not "good" unless they spring from the indwelling Spirit of Jesus, and if they spring thus from His Spirit, man cannot take the credit.
d. The bottom line is this: any and every use of the "law of works" will invariably result in proof that man is evil because that was the very point of the Law. It was given, not to get man to produce good, but to show he can only produce evil.
2. The "law" of faith is the absolute opposite: God, Who alone is good, is the Producer of every credit-worthy result.
II. The Consequent Question: Does Man Never Get Any "Glory"?
A. The "glory" of man is in being an instrument of God for the production of good.
1. This means that man is not the one who determines what will be done (i.e., what is good).
2. This means that man is not the initiator of what is done.
3. This means that man is the partner of the God Who determines all: what is good; how it will be accomplished; and the accomplishment itself.
4. It is a great glory to be an instrument of God, but he who boasts in being an instrument of God never is a true partner, but a competitor that God uses in spite of himself, not because of himself. The proud boaster is one who does evil that good may come. That God brings good out of evil is not to the credit of the evil doer.
B. The "glory" of being an instrument of God results in exultation and praise to God, not boastful noises to men as to the privilege of "instrumentality".
1. Mary's exulting in Luke 1:46-55 was a response of this type.
a. She was responding to Elizabeth's attempt to "give her credit" ("Blessed is she who believed...").
b. She was not accepting the credit, but was, obviously, exulting in being a real partner to God.
2. It is a soul-fulfilling, spirit-satisfying experience to be an instrument of God for good, but it can easily be twisted by the lust for "glory".