Romans 3:31 says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (NKJV). In order to understand this verse, we need to see that the apostle Paul taught, in verses 19-30, that no one will ever be justified by the Law. Verse 20 states, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law was never meant to justify the sinner; it was given to convict the sinner of his sin. Paul then introduced the truth that God has provided a way to be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. Verses 21-22 confirm this: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believer.” In verses 24-25 he elaborates on this: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith.” And finally, in verse 26 he declares, “To demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

In light of the fact that the Law has nothing to do with the sinner being justified, questions are raised and answered in verses 27-28, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Paul clearly and emphatically proves that justification (which means “to be declared righteous”) is solely through faith and NOT through the works of the law, and thus no one has any reason to boast. This leads to the final question, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” In other words, is the law now USELESS because of the “law of faith”? That is a fair question, for it would SEEM that the Law serves no purpose now because God is justifying the sinner who believes in Jesus. But Paul states unequivocally, “Certainly not. On the contrary, we establish the law.” What does he mean by that? In what way is the law “established?” I believe there are two answers to that question.

  1. The Law is established (or “upheld”) in that it is still used by God to convict a sinner of his sin. We saw in verse 20, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law still has the power to reveal to the sinner his sin, and thus to create in him a desire to be saved. I would encourage you to read Matthew 19:16-22 to see how the Lord Jesus used the law to show a self-righteous young man that he was a sinner incapable of keeping the law. Towards the end of his life, Paul still taught that the law was still serving the purpose of revealing man’s sin. 1st Timothy 1:8-9 reads, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners…” (NASB).
  2. The Law is established by Christ bearing the curse of the Law. The Law demands obedience from the sinner and then condemns him for not obeying it. The penalty for breaking the Law is DEATH, thus all men are CURSED. In love for the sinner Christ came to pay the penalty of the Law; He willingly laid down His life on the cross and bore the curse of the Law. Galatians 3:10 & 13 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse…Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” The Law is thus upheld, in that its righteous demand (of “death for the sinner”) was fulfilled by Christ bearing its curse. (232.3) (DO)