Yestserday, I had the privilege of preaching from Romans 3:27-31 in our Sunday morning series. In this passage, Paul drives home the point with crystal clarity that justification is by faith alone apart from any human merit. As Paul has established that all people have sinned against God, he then turns to demonstrate their need for justification—something that they can’t perform on their own. Salvation is not accomplished by sinners—it’s accomplished by God.
Paul begins this section with a question – and it’s one of Paul’s typical rhetorical questions. He writes, “Then what becomes of our boasting?” After spending much of the first chapter dealing with the depravity of the human heart and then moving on to the second chapter to indict the Jews with formal hypocrisy and legalism to finally arrive in the third chapter where he declares that all have sinned—both Jew and Gentile—and all need to be justified. He then asks—”Then what becomes of our boasting?” The answer is obvious—there is no room for boasting.
If we work to please God in our effort – in our religion – in our keeping of the Law – (or in our modern context – in our repentance, church attendance, in the exercise of spiritual gifts, in our baptism, in our giving of money, in our singing, in our preaching, in our serving…) — we could boast. The Jews struggled with pride, and that wasn’t a struggle reserved for them alone. It’s a common sin of the human heart. Pride is the celebration of self and the minimization of God. In short, pride is the trap of Satan to entangle sinners and cause them to take an enemy’s posture against the Creator and Judge of the whole universe.
Paul eliminates any opportunity of prideful arrogance by pointing to the fact that justification is by faith alone—and we know that he points out in his letter to the church at Ephesus that even faith itself is a gift of God. There is no boasting before the Lord of glory. The Jews struggled with this sin—as they boasted in keeping of the Law. Throughout church history, other groups have emerged with a works based system such as the Roman Catholic Church.
The Protestant Reformation was God’s means of saving sinners who were lost in prideful religion. The very idea that you can work in the flesh and please God is a devilish lie. This is the heart of pride – believing that you can please God on your own.
Out of this Reformation time period in church history emerged 5 Latin sayings that helped point people to faith alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. They were known as the 5-solas of the Reformation.
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
The entire point of this historical protest was to point back to the fact that salvation is not by works—it’s by faith alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. To glory in the flesh of humanity is pointless. Salvation from eternity past to eternity future is rooted and grounded in the work of God’s salvation plan. Salvation is of the Lord.
The point of Paul’s definitive statement in Romans 3:28 is that the work of justification is accomplished by God for God and it’s given to man by grace. That’s the point. So, if we boast, we must boast in the Lord—not in our repentance, our exercising of faith, our obedience, our submission, or prayer, or anything else. All of that is by God’s grace. In order for our worship to reach the highest level possible, we must come to recognize that only God can please God in the salvation of sinners. Sinners can’t appease God or satisfy his holy justice. Only God could please God. That is precisely what transpired when God the Son died in the place of wretched sinners and became the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
Justification is a work of God and every last person on planet earth needs to be justified.
1 Corinthians 1:27–31 — But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”