One thing you see over and over by critics is that, “You believe that keeping the Law makes you righteous.” Well, I suppose that keeping the civil law makes you a law abiding citizen, and so in a sense they are right. Does breaking the Law make you righteous? Yet, it is amazing that the logical extension of what some of them teach is exactly that!
There is a problem with the idea that keeping the Law makes one righteous, of course. No one except Jesus Christ has ever really kept the Law. Once the civil law has been broken, you are a criminal. No matter how well you keep the law thereafter, it doesn’t erase the fact that you broke the law. You are a criminal. Likewise, once you break God’s Law you are a sinner. No amount of tithing, Sabbath keeping, holy day attendance, prayer or Bible study will erase what you’ve done.
It should be clear that it is the shed blood of Jesus Christ that justifies us.
9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9, King James Version)
To be “justified” is to be “made just” before God. The Law cannot justify us. The Law can only condemn us, if we break it. The Law does not forgive sins! Therefore, it cannot justify you any more than paying taxes can justify a murderer before a civil judge.
16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16, King James Version)
However, some antinomian types will take it so far as to claim that trying to keep the Law is a sin! Greg Laurie is one who has claimed that Jesus broke the Sabbath. I guess that Greg Laurie is doomed then, seeing as he has no perfect Passover lamb to pay for his sins.
What did Jesus say, though?
… but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
~ Mt 19:17c
Did Jesus break the Sabbath? Did He do away with the Law?
21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21, King James Version)
17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18, King James Version)
“All” is not yet fulfilled. Jesus will yet return. His Millennial rule is yet to be set up. Even then, all will not yet be fulfilled. When will “all” be fulfilled?
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:1-3, King James Version)
The problem becomes when people keep the commandments out of fear. The problem comes when some will lord it over another to keep their interpretation of the commandments out of fear. If we truly love God, we will keep the commandments out of love and out of gratitude for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:2-3, King James Version)
If we are of Christ, we will keep the commandments!
12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12, King James Version)
I fully agree, "The problem comes when some will lord it over another to keep their interpretation of the commandments out of fear"
I wonder is there any room to concider the guidance given in Romans 14 when all of us open our mouths or begin to type. Albeit it would not be too far fetched to believe it's the other person who is weak in the faith. May God help us with that.
When it comes to "some antinomian types will take it so far as to claim that trying to keep the Law is a sin!"
I do believe one root cause for that position, (to take it as far as to confess that the Law is sin) is because in all that type of believing and confessing such thoughts are only confessing NOT to believe(1 Jn 4:2).
When it`s no longer possible to see the instruction to strive to overcome sin anymore as something that is possible(Gen 4:7 NASB). Then there can 'only' be room to have faith in Jesus finished work and not to have the faith of Jesus in a continuing work (Phillipians 3:12-13). The former does allow for 'let us eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die', the latter takes effort.
I believe it could be said, from God's point of view the expression given in the antinomian hope is a confession of having lost hope and being cut off in what Jesus Christ can do. Yet there does remain hope, God is not unjust (Lam 3:31-37).
"Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off on our part. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus says the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, says the LORD." (Eze 37:11-14)
The answer to your title question(?) may depend on what section of Romans you read, and what section you ignore.
There's the "obey the law" definition (2:13).
There's the "righteousness from God, apart from law…. through faith in Jesus Christ" definition (3:21-22, NIV).
Then there's the first part of Romans 10, which may deserve an analysis all by itself.
@Richard: Well, I hope no one, including myself, will ignore any of it! However, forcing the pieces to fit the picture other than intended will wind up with a distorted picture — to say the least.
The point is that none of us are righteous. Like Norbert was saying, that one fact could lead one to say that the Law is irrelevant. Paul compares and contrasts the Law with faith throughout Romans, and he states that the Law cannot make us righteous, as we have already broken the Law.
That's why faith has to be the basis of the relationship. We must have faith in God as Abraham did, and he used that faith to go out and keep God's Laws. We must have faith in the shed blood of Jesus, as that is what justifies us. No justification, no righteousness, no salvation.
You have to have both. You cannot say faith alone. That was the mistake Martin Luther made. That's why he didn't like the Book of James, as James said faith without works is dead. You have to build your house upon the Rock. That house is your righteousness, and that Rock is Jesus.