Paul Commands Us to Uphold the Law

Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! May it never be, on the contrary, we uphold the law.

I scratched the surface of this verse in my blog “Justification vs. Righteousness”, discussing how the justification we have through faith in the Messiah is not contrary to the righteousness embodied in the Law of God given through Moses. We don’t obey and uphold the Law of God for justification or salvation, that’s ridiculous and unsound doctrine. We uphold His Laws in order to “not” sin.

That’s why Paul commands us to uphold the Law and not to make it void or overthrow it…

What does the text say?

Verse 31 above says, “Do we overthrow the Law? By no means!

Very clearly, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul states the Law is not overthrown or abolished or annulled or terminated by our faith!

So why does the mainstream church doctrine teach the opposite of what Paul taught???

It is because he is greatly misunderstood as Peter warned; 2 Peter 3:15-16.

The disconnect is this: because Paul chastises some believers in his letters for “trying to be justified” by keeping the Law (specifically circumcision; see Galatians Part 1: Freedom or Bondage), we have errantly assumed that Paul is telling “everyone everywhere” that keeping the Law is by default “trying to be justified”.

For clarity, let’s look at some of the words that Paul uses in Romans 3:31.

The word “overthrow” is Strong’s G2673, καταργοῦμεν/katargoumen in the Greek. This is the word that Paul wrote to tell the whole world what the Law of God is not. It is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as: to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul, abolish; This is what Paul says the Law of God is not.

What then becomes of the Law?

Paul concisely states “we uphold the Law“!

The word “uphold” in the Greek is Strong’s G2476, ἱστάνομεν/histanomen, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: to stand by, to stand firm, to establish, to keep in place, to uphold, to continue safe and sound. This is the word that the apostle Paul used to tell the whole world what we are to do with the Law of God given through Moses.

This word “uphold”, histanomen in the Greek, is a Present Tense Verb which is Active Indicative and 1st Person Plural; that is:

  1. the tense is present describing action taking place now;
  2. the voice is active meaning that the verb’s subject (“we“) is doing the acting and not being acted upon;
  3. and the mood is indicative which demonstrates true reality;
  4. and the viewpoint of the narrator/speaker refers to or talks about himself together with others.

This is the word used by the apostle Paul to tell us what “we” are supposed to do with the Law of God, “in the here and now; He says we are to – stand by it, uphold it, keep it in place, establish it, stand firm in it! According to Paul, we are to observe and keep the Law of God; not to be justified or to earn salvation, but to walk rightly before God and to show loving faithfulness to our Creator and King.

And lastly, how passionate is Paul about this? How does he respond to this apparent notion that we might misunderstand him or somehow assume that the Law of God might be overthrown or put to an end by our faith?

Paul vehemently says “μὴ γένοιτο”/”mē genoito”, which is literally “never be” and stated by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as: “a formula especially frequent in Paul, Far be it! God forbid!”

Paul never taught that the Law of God was abolished nor had passed away. In fact, he says just the opposite, that faith does nothing to void or abolish or do away with the Law!

The apostle Paul says we are to establish, stand by, continue in and uphold the Law!

And I repeat, the mainstream church of today teaches and preaches the exact opposite of what Paul is taught.

Why does Paul tell us that we are to uphold, follow, observe, continue in and keep the Law of God? Because, as one of the greatest Scriptural scholar of his day, he knew the Word of God better than anyone. Paul knew that the Law of God given through Moses is forever.

What does the text say?

Genesis 17:9-13 9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

Exodus 31:12-13, 16 12And the LORD said to Moses, 13“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you… 16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.

Leviticus 23:14 And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Leviticus 23:16, 21 16You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD… 21And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

Leviticus 23:26-27a, 31 26And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27“Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement…. 31You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Deuteronomy 12:28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 12:32 Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

It doesn’t say “until I send my Son” or “until Paul comes”. It says forever.

Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a liar?

Need I go on?

Psalm 111:7-9a 7The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; 8they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.

Psalm 119:142,144 142Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is truth 144Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:151-152 151But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are truth. 152Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

Psalm 119:160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

  • Side note: the last three verses have something else in common. “Your Law is truth”, “your commandments are truth”, “your word is truth”; sound familiar?
    • Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”. ~ spoken by the Word of God himself, John 17:17. Please read ‘What is Truth?‘.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of mankind.

Malachi 3:6For I the LORD do not change;

Matthew 5:18-19a 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

  • Deuteronomy 30:15-16,19 15See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live ~

Luke 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

  • Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. (NKJV)

And so here we are, right back where we started, at Romans 3:31.

The Lord GOD used “heaven and earth” as witnesses to the covenantal promises that He made regarding His Instruction/Law. Jesus purposefully referred to these two witnesses to emphasize and reaffirm these words; that His Instructions, His Laws, His Words will be valid, current and in effect until heaven and earth have passed away. Take a look outside to verify…

The apostle Paul, clearly and concisely, tells us that the Law of God is not abolished. Paul himself observed and kept the Law of God as given through Moses his entire life. The Holy Spirit inspired James confirms this about Paul, in Acts of the Apostles.

What does the text say?

Acts 21:24b Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself (Paul) also live in observance of the law.

Please read “Paul’s Day in Court” & “You Yourself Also Live in Observance of the Law

Final thought: Heaven and Earth are still here and there’s still much prophecy to be fulfilled. This ‘heaven and earth’ do not pass away until Revelation Chapter 21 and the last thing to be ‘accomplished’ in Scripture is after that.

Are You Grafted In? Part 2: Paul’s ‘Law of Righteousness’

Romans 11:19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

Before you proceed any further, I highly recommend reading ‘Part 1: Not My People’ so you can understand exactly who Paul is talking to, and why. We are going through Chapters 9 & 10 in order to clarify context before we get into the Chapter 11 “Grafted-in” discourse. 

In short, those ‘among the gentiles/nations’ that Paul was addressing in Romans 9 are the “Lost Sheep of the House of Israel”; the “Not My People” that have now become “My People”, from the Book of Hosea.

Paul told us that his heart was for “his brothers/Judah”. His desire was for them to come to the knowledge and belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

Now, picking up where Part 1 left off, we read in Romans 9:30 Paul discussing the Law that Israel pursued. He is going to explain the proper ‘way’ to pursue the Law and its goal’.

What does the text say?

Romans 9:30-32 30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.

First, take note that ‘the Law that Israel followed after’, Paul himself calls it “the Law of Righteousness”. This is exactly how the Greek reads in Romans 9:31.

Secondly, Paul does not say that Israel shouldn’t have followed “the Law of Righteousness”; he states their error was that they did not seek it by way of faith! Therefore, according to the Apostle Paul, the Law that Israel followed after, “the Law of Righteousness”, should be pursued ‘from faith’; not for salvation or justification but for righteousness. That’s precisely why Paul calls it the “Law of Righteousness”. Please read ‘Justification vs. Righteousness’.

How does Paul understand “the Law of Moses” to be “the Law of Righteousness”?

What does the text say? ~

Deuteronomy 6:25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.

Psalm 119:172 My song sings of Your word, for all of Your commandments are righteousness

Isaiah 51:7 Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law;

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be righteous.

Romans 6:16 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

In Romans 9:30 above, we have the words “of faith” and in verse 32 the words “by faith”. However, in the Greek, Paul uses the same words both times; “ἐκ πίστεως”.

The word ἐκ/ ek is Strong’s G1537, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: “from out of, out from, forth from, from”; a preposition denoting ‘origin’. “ἐκ/ ek” (“out of”) is one of the most under-translated (and therefore mis-translated) Greek prepositions. It is often confined to the meaning/translation “by”. 1537 (ek) has a two-layered meaning (‘out from’ and ‘to’) which makes it out-come oriented (out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object).

The word πίστεως/ pisteōs, Strong’s G4102, which Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states to mean: “1.) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; 2.) fidelity, faithfulness”.

“ἐκ πίστεως” is then better stated into English as ‘forth from faith’ or ‘from out of faith’.

The source of pursuing the “Law of Righteousness” should come forth from ‘conviction of truth, belief and faithfulness’; at least according to the apostle Paul!

As Paul stated, the error of the Israelites of his day was that they did not pursue the Law of Mosesout of faith’; this is nothing new.

What does the text say?

Hebrews 3:16-19, 4:2 16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

The writer of Hebrews is teaching us that the Israelites, that came out of Egypt and received the Law of God given through Moses, did not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief”. Then, 2 verses later this is restated as: the “Word” preached to them did not benefit them because it was “not mixed with faith”. [Did you notice how the writer of Hebrews equates ‘disobedience’ in verse 18 with ‘unbelief’ in verse 19?]

In Hebrews 3:19 the word “unbelief” is ἀπιστίαν/apistian, Strong’s G570, and is a cognate of πίστεως/ pisteōs. It is the ‘negative’ form of pisteōs, and Thayer’s Lexicon states this to mean: “1.) unfaithfulness, faithlessness (of persons betraying a trust); 2.) want of faith, unbelief: shown in withholding belief in the divine power”. This is exactly what Hebrews 4:2 reiterates; the Israelites did not mix the Word of God with faith.

In Romans 9:31-32, Paul is telling us that his brothers in Judea, followed/pursued ‘the Law of Righteousness’, but did not do it out of faith. Just like the Israelites at Mt. Zion, who did not follow the Word of God ‘out of faith’, Paul’s Judean brethren have committed the same error.

New generation, same problem…

In verse 32 Paul rhetorically asks “why” they did not attain the “Law of Righteousness”. He then tells us exactly why ~

Romans 9:32-33 32Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

The Israelites failed, not because they “pursued the Law”, but because they did not pursue it ‘out of faith’.  Paul says the reason they did not have faith was because they stumbled. Paul equates ‘stumbling over the stumbling stone’ with ‘pursuing the Law without faith’. Without ‘faith’ (conviction of truth and faithfulness), they rested on their own ‘works’. Paul expounds that they stumbled over a “rock of offense” and then quotes the prophets Isaiah and David ~

Isaiah 8:13-15 13But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear and let him be your dread. 14And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 28:16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

Psalm 118:20-23 20This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

What does a contemporary of Paul’s have to say regarding the stumbling stone”?

1 Peter 2:4,6-8 As you come to him (Jesus), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious… 6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

Peter blatantly describes ‘Jesus’ as the stone of stumbling ~

Act 4:11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. {Jesus proclaimed this of himself in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10,11; Luke 20:17}

The Israelites in Judea, that Paul is referring to in Romans 9:32, perceived that the source of arriving at the Law of Righteousness was their own accomplishments/works. They thought the goal of the Law was their works. Paul tells us here in Romans 9 that they failed, not because they pursued “the Law of Righteousness”, but they failed because they pursued it without the source being faith. They did not have that faith because they stumbled over the rock of offense which is the Messiah; so-says-Paul.

Paul quotes Isaiah, and specifically chapter 8 for a very good reason; he’s tying together this correlation of the ‘scattered House of Israel’ that are ‘among the gentiles’, with the Messiah and the Law.

Isaiah is being told about the imminent overthrow of the House of Israel by Assyria because they have violated God’s covenant and His Law. He is proclaiming that because of their ‘arrogant self-righteousness’, the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim (the House of Israel) is going to be conquered, captured and scattered among the nations/gentiles by Assyria; but a remnant will return.

In Part 1 of ‘Are You Gathered In?’, ‘Not My People’, we saw that Paul quoted Isaiah about the remnant of Israel. Now we have Paul quoting the prophet Isaiah again, just a few verses later in Romans 9:33, and it is in direct context to those in Judea who are not keeping the Law of Righteousness out of faith.

Isaiah 8:13-15 13But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

The LORD of hosts declares, He Himself will become a “Sanctuary” and a “Rock of Stumbling” to both Houses of Israel.

Here is a synopsis of Isaiah, chapters 5 through 8 as it pertains to what Paul is telling us in Romans 9 & 10:

  • Isaiah 5 states: The House of Israel rejected the Law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore, the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people.
  • Isaiah 6 states: Israel hears but doesn’t understand, sees but does not perceive.
  • Isaiah 7 states: A ‘sign’ from the LORD Himself is given, that is the Prophecy of the virgin birth of “Immanuel”, which means “God with us” (He Himself).
  • Isaiah 8 states: The prophecy that “Immanuel” would become a Sanctuary and a Stone of Offense and a Rock of Stumbling to both houses of Israel.

In the next four verses, Romans 10:1-4, Paul ties together Law and faith. Please remember, this is a letter. Paul did not put chapter breaks in his hand-written letter to those in Rome. The context of “Chapter 10” is a continuation of where “Chapter 9” left off.

In Romans 10:1 Paul restates that his heart is broken for his non-believing brothers in Judea. They had no ‘belief’ in the Messiah, their God and Salvation. The ‘source of their belief’ was their own works. Then in verse 2 Paul states that they have ‘Zeal’ for God, which is good, but they lack a critical element; Knowledge ~

Romans 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Now, what does Paul define as the origin or source of “Knowledge”?

  • Romans 2:20 having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—

Verse 3 then tells us pointblank, that they were ignorant of God’s Righteousness, in the very next sentence after he tells us they did not possess ‘knowledge’ (The Law of God). Paul then states, they desired and sought to establish their own righteousness, not willing to “submit” to God’s righteousness ~

Romans 10:2,3 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

These Brothers of Paul sight to bypass God’s Righteousness to establish their own. They had so many man-made rules that they thought superseded the Law of Moses, the had become ignorant of it. By establishing their own works, they did not submit to God’s Law.

Now for the kicker.

What should they have been submitting to? I’ll give you one guess… Verse 4 tells us ~

Romans 10:4 The goal therefore of the Law is Christ into righteousness for all those believing.

Verse 4 has been thoroughly gone through in ‘Is Christ the Ending of the Law?’; but now, in context with the surrounding verses, it is clarified.

If this rendition of Romans 10:4 doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because we have been lied to! The precise Greek translation has been kept from us; whether on purpose or out of ignorance, it is still deception. If you take the time to read all of ‘Is Chris the Ending of the Law?‘, and investigate for yourself the Greek Manuscripts, Concordances and Lexicons you will see this is so.

Final Thought: Remember, Paul did not say anywhere in his discourse that we should not obey “the Law of Righteousness” that Israel pursued, or that it was overthrown and abolished because faith was needed?

What does the text say?

Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Please! Read ‘Paul Commands Us to Uphold the Law’ to truly understand the Greek definitions of the words that Paul uses in Romans 3:31, as well as ‘why’ he makes this command.