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.
What does the text say?
It says, ‘Do we overthrow the Law? By no means! We uphold the Law.’
For clarity, let’s look at some of the words that Paul used 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 is not. Katargoumen is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as: to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul, abolish; This is what the Apostle Paul says the Law of God given through Moses is not.
Very clearly, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul stated ‘the Law is not overthrown or abolished or annulled or terminated by our faith’.
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:
- 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.
“Uphold“; this is the word that Paul used to tell us what “we” are supposed to do with the Law, “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 the Apostle Paul, we are to observe and keep the Law; not to be justified or to earn salvation, but to walk righteously, and set-apart to our Creator and King.
How passionate is Paul about this? How does he respond to an ‘apparent notion‘ that we might misunderstand him or somehow assume that the Law 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!”
So, why does mainstream theology teach the opposite of what Paul taught??
It’s because he is greatly misunderstood, as Peter warned in 2 Peter 3:15-17.
I scratched the surface of Romans 3:31 in “Justification vs. Righteousness”, discussing how the justification we have through belief 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 for justification or salvation; that’s unscriptural and unsound doctrine. We uphold His Laws in order to “not” sin. His Instructions (Laws) are His ‘Right Ways’ of living.
That’s why Paul commands us to “uphold” the Law, and not to make it void or overthrow it…
The disconnect is this: because Paul chastised those believers that “tried to be justified” by keeping the Law, we have assumed that he’s telling “everyone, everywhere” that keeping the Law is by default “trying to be justified”; this is a ‘Straw-man argument’, and an utterly false assumption! Please read ‘Galatians Part 1: Freedom or Bondage‘.
Paul never taught that the Law was abolished nor had passed away. In fact, he says just the opposite, that faith does nothing to void or abolish the Law! Please read ‘The Law: Fulfilled or Abolished‘
Again, I repeat, today’s mainstream theology teaches the exact opposite of what Paul taught.
The ‘truth‘ is, we do not and cannot keep the Law of God for salvation, deliverance or justification; that is blatantly obvious, as this is taught nowhere, from ‘Genesis’ to ‘Revelation’. That being said, any assumptions or personal interpretation of a text using our own ideas (eisegesis) beyond that ‘truth‘ is adding to the Word of God. Just because we can’t keep the Law ‘for justification/salvation’, does not mean we shouldn’t keep it at all. If we pluck out part of a verse here, or half of a sentence there from Paul’s writings, without the context of the surrounding verses and chapters (and testing it to the whole Word of God), we can ‘twist the Scriptures to our own destruction’ as Peter warned; 2 Peter 3:15-17.
Paul knew he could be misunderstood and taken out of context. That’s why, after he explained about justification by ‘faith’, he reiterated fervently that ‘faith’ does not void the Law; “By no means is the Law voided by faith“, says the apostle Paul. He deliberately tells us that ‘we are to uphold, follow, observe, continue in and keep the Law’.
As probably the greatest Scriptural scholar of his day, Paul knew the Word of God better than anyone. He 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… 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.[reaffirmed in Leviticus 12:3]
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 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.
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 (set-apart) 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 3:6 “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.
So here we are, right back where we started, at Romans 3:31.
The Lord GOD specifically used “heaven and earth” as witnesses to the covenantal promises that He made regarding His Teachings and Instructions/Laws. Jesus purposefully referred to these two witnesses in ‘Matthew’ & ‘Luke’ above 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 given through Moses for 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.
This study can now be seen on YouTube @ ‘Paul Commands Us to Uphold the Law‘.
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, please see the ‘Page Links’ at the top of this page or blog posts at the bottom. Be a Berean, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”. Please ‘share‘ this study. Thank you for your time!