Romans 3:28 - What Does Saved by Faith Mean?
If one does not read this passage to its conclusion then it would be easy for some to conclude that we do not have to obey the law and are free to disobey the law and hence sin as we please. (1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15) The simple fact is that only one person could keep the law perfectly so if we were relying on keeping the law to save us then we would perish.
Romans 3:28 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Since we cannot keep the law perfectly then we rely on faith in Christ and His redeeming sacrifice to cover our sins. But is Paul saying that this faith makes the law void and that we do not have to uphold the law? I believe it is only those looking for a way to avoid loving obedience to their Heavenly Father who choose to assume this, as the conclusion to this passage is so very clear.
Paul said in the final verse of this chapter, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yes, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31.
And for a little more clarity, here is the verse from the New International Version.
Romans 3:31 NIV “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
Faith in Christ involves a personal relationship with Him and implies an attitude of love and gratitude towards our Saviour. It is also based on admiration of Christ for all that He is and all He has done and a sincere desire to know Him and be like Him. Without this kind of faith there can be no justification as it cannot be separated from the transforming experiences of our conversion and rebirth and subsequent growth. The basis of every false religious system has been the erroneous idea that justification can be obtained purely by obedience to law. The other major problem is that the works of the law cannot atone for all your past sins and so justification cannot be earned for this reason either. So justification can only be received by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This of course as already shown may not be taken to mean that the man who has been justified is free from obeying the law or from performing good works as James discusses in chapter two. The faith by which one has been justified will reveal itself in loving obedience. (John 14:15)
Paul also informs us who the justified are. Romans 2:13 “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”
There will always be those who will try and make scripture say what they want by quoting just one scripture such as Romans 3:28 while avoiding other scripture such as Romans 3:31 that reveals they have it wrong which is known as eisegesis. Thus we should always use Biblical exegesis and ensure we can line up all scripture, and if we cannot do so, then we should have the good sense to know we have something wrong.
So, by observing all relevant scripture, we find Paul was simply saying in Romans 3:28 that we cannot be justified by keeping the law alone as we would fail. Repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ covers us when we accidentally sin. See are we saved by faith alone and not works for more detail on this passage.