Meditation Monday: Keeping Vs Upholding the Law

This post came from a conversation with a friend about the difference between keeping the law and upholding the law. Something that comes up in Romans 3, verse 20 – “wherefore by works of law shall no flesh be declared righteous before Him, for through law is a knowledge of sin”  and verse 31 “Law then do we make useless through the faith? let it not be! yea, we do establish law.” The two seem to be contradictory but in fact they are not.

The problem basically is, since we have been made righteous through faith, why do we or should we “uphold the law”?

It is a bit challenging to see what God is saying in just one chapter of a book, much more, a verse. Romans, in this case,  is an entire book. When Paul wrote the letter, he did not include chapters and verses, rather he wrote a wholesome message as it came out of his spirit. As proof of that, let’s look at some other verses in Romans.

When he starts for example in Chapter 1,

Rom 1:16  for I am not ashamed of the good news of the Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to every one who is believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek. Rom 1:17  For the righteousness of God in it is revealed from faith to faith, according as it hath been written, `And the righteous one by faith shall live,’

The power of God to salvation is Christ. And it is revealed from faith to faith not from work to work.

A little more on chapter one you discover that he decries the faithless, what kind of faithless though? Those who sweep aside the convictions of God – Rom 1:32  who the righteous judgment of God having known–that those practising such things are worthy of death–not only do them, but also have delight with those practising them.

He goes on to talk about the law – for not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be declared righteous: —  The written law here seems to make men righteous but as we continue in chapter 3, he says all have sinned and fall short and no one is righteous.

You will find in chapter 4 that Paul reveals that righteousness is not an attempt at “upholding the law” but in believing the righteous one – who is Christ. Abraham is an example. See chapter 4. Even David dreamed of this. Imparted righteousness instead of imputation of sin. The end of the law is in this righteousness in Christ. It is not a doing as you already know.

Chapter 5 continues with the thought. Rom 5:10  for if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life.

Death and Life/ Adam and Christ. The two are compared. A life in Adam is a life in death. However, the law comes in and in the presence of Christ creates opportunity for life rather than death.

Rom 5:19  for as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners: so also through the obedience of the one, shall the many be constituted righteous. Rom 5:20  And law came in, that the offence might abound, and where the sin did abound, the grace did over abound,Rom 5:21  that even as the sin did reign in the death, so also the grace may reign, through righteousness, to life age-during, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A friend notes that in saying the offence might abound/or sin might increase, it isn’t a literal sin becomes more, rather, sin becomes revealed.

Romans 6 actually somehow addresses the question. Should we continue in transgression so that grace should abound? The idea is there is now way you can cause grace to increase by sinning because you are in Christ. You are not counted as a sinner anyway. Where there is weakness, Christ makes us strong, rather Christ is strong.

And Chapter 7 adds onto this. You’re no longer under the law. You’re dead to it. Divorced. When you ask about upholding the law, you cannot. That upholding you’re talking about is like a demonstration – the whole process shows why the law was needed, not that you’re to “do it” seeing as a life of Christ is empowered by Christ, not by rules. This is explained in Romans 8 – life in the Spirit.

Romans 10 gives some conclusion to the question.

Rom 10:4  For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to every one who is believing,

If you live by the law, you have to keep it.

So, in summary, looking at it from a wider perspective, the verses are not saying “uphold the law” in a manner of do it. You cannot. Uphold refers to a kind of recognising its work and importance in the journey of salvation but not in giving life itself, Christ is the end of the law.In fact somewhere Paul calls the law a schoolmaster. See Galatians 3 for more meaning on this. Wesley’s commentary on Galatians 3:24 notes

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ – It was designed to train us up for Christ. And this it did both by its commands, which showed the need we had of his atonement; and its ceremonies, which all pointed us to him.

All verses are from Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

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