Meditations in Romans : 41: No Room for Boasting
Rom 3:27,28 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Pride is a pitfall for the religious. How easy it is to think you are pious and godly and THEY are worldly and ungodly. Now indeed ‘they’ may have the spirit of the world (see 1 Jn 2:15-17) and indeed they may be ungodly, then so were you once! This is especially insidious for those of us who found a relationship with the Lord when we were young. All we can remember is being a Christian and so we are, surely, superior? No, I would never ask you to abandon your faith so as to see what it is like without it, but the person who becomes a Christian later in life has a much greater idea of what it means to without God, what we are like before we come to Christ. The person who knew the Lord from a young age has the privilege of a much less tainted life, but we are still the same, for without Christ we would still be a wreck and we are Christians not because of our works but because He drew us to Himself and Jesus died for us. The basics are still the same. It is also very easy, when we have known the Lord a number of years and, even more, when He has greatly changed us and used us, to forget what it was like without Christ and to forget that we didn’t do anything to earn this life we now have.
Oh no, Paul is absolutely right; there is no room for boasting. We have seen a number of times in these more recent meditations that when we try to keep the Law, when we try to follow the rules, we can never be sure that we are keeping them all or keeping them perfectly. No, trying to keep the law means doubt at best and guilt and condemnation at the worst. We may be utterly deluded and think we are a good person but we’ve never looked at our lives, our words and our actions in detail and in the light of God’s perfection. We may excuse or justify ourselves but the truth remains the same: trying to keep the rules means doubts at best and guilt and condemnation at the worst. There is no way that we can be a Christian by keeping the rules; that is a path doomed to failure and it is not what the Lord calls us to. So first of all, although that’s not actually what Paul is saying, we have no grounds to boast on the basis of our keeping the Law.
But actually he says something else: there are no grounds to boast because it is all of faith, and similarly to the Law, faith doesn’t leave us any grounds to boast. Why? Well what is faith? It is simply responding to what God has said. Faith comes from hearing the message from God (Rom 10:17). God tells us what He has done through His Son, Jesus and, when we simply respond to that, it is faith. But it isn’t a big thing on our part that gives us grounds to boast, because actually what happens is that we realise what a state we’re in (as we’ve been seeing in recent meditations) as the Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth about us – helpless and hopeless – and we come out of a state of desperation to a place of surrender to God.
We give up all our self-efforts and self-justifying and we confess we are sinners needing to be saved. We don’t actually bring anything of value to the table, just our miserable selves who need God to save them. That is the truth of what happens! We don’t come to the table to negotiate with God for we have nothing of value to put on the table. No, we come empty handed in need and seek God for His mercy and grace which comes through the finished work of Jesus. Have you ever thought, God doesn’t have to receive us? He could utterly reject us and sent us to eternal separation from Him.
The death of Jesus doesn’t force Him to accept us. If there is anything that makes Him act, it is His character, it is His love. He always wants good for us and always looks to save us if we will only come, but when we come it is not with any great fanfare on our part. In fact to the contrary we come with a whimper, we come with humility and sometimes we come with tears. Conviction is not a happy thing; it is not something to boast about. We cannot triumph about ‘our conviction’ because it was simply the Holy Spirit showing us our need. We can’t boast about being in need; it’s not something you boast about, being a needy soul, is it?
So when we exercised faith and responded to God’s word about Jesus, we were simply taking the only way out as we saw it. We saw our need as the Holy Spirit showed us it (as we keep needing to remind ourselves) and so when God showed us a means of meeting that need, we grabbed at it as drowning man grabs at a straw. When a man foolishly goes to close to the edge of the sea wall and falls into the raging sea, and then someone throws him a lifebelt on the end of a rope and he’s pulled in, does he clamber out declaring, “Wow did you see the incredible way I grabbed hold of that lifebelt? Didn’t I do well?” No, it is a very different story. He knows it was his foolishness that got him into a life threatening position to start with and he is just very grateful that someone provided the means to save him and then pull him out.
So, no, there is no room to boast about our faith. It is the way we are saved, not following the Law, but even then it’s 99% the work of God and the 1% that involves us is a ‘clutching’ at God’s lifebelt. Wow!