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 to “not” sin. Paul commands us to uphold and keep the Law…
What does the text say?
It 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 is this the exact opposite of what is taught by every mainstream Christian teacher?
Why are we being taught the opposite of what Paul taught??? It is because he is greatly misunderstood as Peter warned he could be, 2 Peter 3:15-16. Just 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 Romans 3:31.
The word “overthrown” is Strong’s G2673, καταργοῦμεν/katargoumen in the Greek. This is the word that Paul wrote to tell the whole world about 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.
This word uphold, histanomen in the Greek, is a Present Tense Verb which is Active Indicative and 1st Person Plural; that is:
- the tense is present describing action taking place now;
- the voice is active meaning that the verb’s subject (“we“) is doing the acting and not being acted upon;
- and the mood is indicative which demonstrates true reality;
- 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 and think 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 eradicate or do away with the Law!
The apostle Paul says we establish, uphold the Law!
And I repeat, the church of today teaches and preaches the exact opposite of what Paul is teaching here.
Why does Paul teach that we are to uphold, follow, observe, continue in and keep the Law of God? Because, as the greatest Scriptural scholar of his day, he knew the Word of God better than anyone. Paul knew that the Law of God as 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 Psalms 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
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 3:6 “For 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.
The apostle Paul, clearly and concisely, tells us that the Law of God is not abolished as the mainstream Christian church so wrongly claims. Paul observed, taught, 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.
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.