Romans 3:31. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Praise God we are justified apart from the works of the law. But we are not justified apart from law.
It is really important for us to understand that God did not nullify the standard of the law. He did not overlook it. He did not lessen it. The law’s standard is still God’s perfect standard. The gospel did not change this.
We must never separate God from his law. Yes, God is love. But God is also law. We can only understand God’s love in the context of his law. We can see God’s overwhelming love, only when we first understand his unbending holiness and justice. His total commitment to eradicate evil from this world.
William Newell illustrates it this way: Imagine someone in ancient Israel violated God’s law. What would happen?
a) The law breaker would be let off the hook.
b) The law breaker would promise to do better next time.
c) The obedience of a non-law breaker would be credited to the law breaker.
d) The law breaker would be stoned to death.
Of course the answer can only be (d). All other answers would violate the holiness of the law and the law giver – God. Again, we must never see the gospel as having overthrown the law. Or minimizing the law. The cross does no such thing. The law of faith does not overthrow the law of God. Quite the opposite, it upholds it. The cross proves the sincerity of the law, that the only just punishment for law breaking is death. And so Jesus had to die.
The law’s proper usage then, is to reveal our guilt and our condemnation to death. The law’s work is to reveal all the ways you have violated the first of the Ten Commandments – “have no other gods before Yahweh.” When the law is doing its job it is condemning you of this most foundational of sins. Only after the law does its job can the gospel do its job of creating a new person in place of the old.
This is the death and resurrection of “to live is Christ.” The cross, and our union with the cross by way of our union with Christ, upholds the law by proving that disobedience to the law demands death.
But further, our new life in Christ, the law of faith, also upholds the law because faith will now produce everything that the law demands and much more. Does the law demand love? Faith in the gospel of grace will produce it. Does the law demand holiness? Faith in the gospel of grace will produce it.
What this means is that our union with Christ will never produce something that looks lawless. It will never be less than the law, only more. More love. More worship. More tearing down of idols. More spiritual rest. More honor. More respect. More friendship. More neighboring. More truth. More grace. You get the idea. “To live is Christ” is all that the law demands completed by the power of Christ’s life, not by the power of the law.
Grace always produces what the law demands but could never produce.
This is kind of deep – does your life uphold the law by trying to keep the law, or by faith in God’s grace? How does union with Christ allow our lives to uphold the law (think about how Christ’s life and death both upheld the law)?