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The End Of The Way Of Human Achievement

3:27-31 Where, then, is there any ground for boasting? It is completely shut out. Through what kind of law? Through the law of works? No, but through the law of faith. So, then, we reckon that a man enters into a right relationship with God by faith quite apart from works of the law. Or, is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is the God of the Gentiles too. If, indeed, God is one, he is the God who will bring those who are of the circumcision into a right relationship with himself by faith, and those who never knew the circumcision through faith. Do we then through faith completely cancel out all law? God forbid! Rather, we confirm the law.

Paul deals with three points here.

(i) If the way to God is the way of faith and of acceptance, then all boasting in human achievement is gone. There was a certain kind of Judaism which kept a kind of profit and loss account with God. In the end a man often came to a frame of mind in which he rather held that God was in his debt. Paul's position was that every man is a sinner and God's debtor, that no man could ever put himself back into a right relationship with God through his own efforts and that grounds for self-satisfaction and boasting in one's own achievement no longer exist.

(ii) But, a Jew might answer, that might be well enough for a Gentile who never knew the law, but what about Jews who do know it? Paul's answer was to turn them to the sentence which is the basis of the Jewish creed, the sentence with which every synagogue service always began and still begins. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God" ( Deuteronomy 6:4 ). There is not one God for the Gentiles and another for the Jews. God is one. The way to him is the same for Gentile and Jew. It is not the way of human achievement; it is the way of trusting and accepting faith.

(iii) But, says the Jew, does this mean an end of all law? We might have expected Paul to say, "Yes." In point of fact he says, "No." He says that, in fact, it strengthens the law. He means this. Up to this time the Jew had tried to be a good man and keep the commandments because he was afraid of God, and was terrified of the punishment that breaches of the law would bring. That day has for ever gone. But what has taken its place is the love of God Now a man must try to be good and keep God's law, not because he fears God's punishment, but because he feels that he must strive to deserve that amazing love. He strives for goodness, not because he is afraid of God, but because he loves him. He knows now that sin is not so much breaking God's law as it is breaking God's heart, and, therefore, it is doubly terrible.

Take a human analogy. Many a man is tempted to do a wrong thing, and does not do it. It is not so much that he fears the law. He would not greatly care if he were fined, or even imprisoned. What keeps him right is the simple fact that he could not meet the sorrow that would be seen in the eyes of the one who loves him if he made shipwreck of his life. It is not the law of fear but the law of love which keeps him right. It must be that way with us and God. We are rid forever of the terror of God, but that is no reason for doing as we like. We can never again do as we like for we are now for ever constrained to goodness by the law of love; and that law is far stronger than ever the law of fear can be.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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