28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.1901 ASV Translation:
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. The textual tradition is mixed; the support for both readings is fairly equal; but the determinative issue rests upon whether Paul was drawing a conclusion ("Therefore") or pulling up support for the statement of 3:27 ("For"). The apostle's argument seems to favor the idea that he is pulling up support because he has already established its factual basis. Thus, he is not "concluding" that a man is justified by faith; rather, he is arguing on its basis that boasting has been excluded. Notes:
This, of course, means that one must understand the "principle of faith" to be what Abraham came to understand it to be as recorded in Romans 4:21 -- that the fulfillment of promises is dependent upon the one making them, not the one receiving them. It seems that one of the most important reasons for making Abraham and Sarah wait until they were too old for any possibility of children was to make this point: the recipient of the promise is not held accountable for the fulfillment of it because the one making the promise is totally responsible for its fulfillment.
To get this clearly in mind, one has to make a distinction between a "conditional agreement" ("if you do this, I will do that") and a "promise". In our modern thought, we take a conditional agreement to be a "promise" in that it is a stated declaration that if one party to the agreement fulfills certain conditions the other party to the conditional commitment will respond by fulfilling his side of the agreement. But, Paul clearly dismisses this as "promise" in Romans 4:4 where he makes the "promise" a matter of "grace". In other words, biblically, "promise" is God's declared intention to do a given thing with no strings attached.
At this point, however, a difficulty arises. Since "justification" is "by faith", what keeps the one who fulfills the requirement of "faith" from being able to "boast" that he has "done" whatever it is that is involved in "believing"? Some have argued that "faith" is a "work" if it is taken to be a condition to be met by man. Others have argued that "faith" is not a "work" because even its "conditionality" is addressed by God Himself in "giving faith to those who exercise it".
This raises this question: is "faith" a "condition"? If so, how is it really any different from the principle of Law (demand/performance)? If not, how is "justification" by it?
To answer this question, we must come to grips with certain inescapable facts.
Thus, as we said earlier, "promise" is God's declared intention to do a thing with no "strings" attached. Therefore, though "belief" is not an "attached string" that calls for the recipient to "drum up confidence (that he does not have) that the speaker actually means what he says", it, nonetheless, must be the response if the intended result is to even be possible. Thus, "faith" is not a "drummed up human response to get God to do what He promised" (He is going to do what He promised in any case), but, rather, simply the human embrace of God's integrity so that the soul settles into peace. Thus, effective "promise" is spoken into the context of a relationship wherein the human is made willing to grant that God has integrity [See Philippians 2:13]. A good contrary illustration of this is found in the conversation of Isaiah with Ahaz in Isaiah 7:3-16. God spoke "promise" into a context of a man who needed to be able to settle into fearless peace of mind (7:4) if he was to live well (God's objective for all of His creatures). However, this particular man was wilful in rejecting the possibility of God's integrity and God warned the man that his wilfulness in rejection of the fundamental reality of divine integrity would make the promise of no (internal) effect for him (7:9) even though every detail of the promise came to pass as promised. In other words, God did exactly as He "promised", but the impact upon the soul of Ahaz was blocked by his refusal to admit to divine integrity. It was not that he "could not believe"; it was that he powerfully resisted belief. He was not working to drum up faith; he was working to resist it.