Does Romans 3:20 mean that Christians do not need to keep God’s law? | Questions and Answers | Tomorrow's World

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Question: The Apostle Paul wrote: "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Does this mean that Christians do not need to keep God’s law?

Answer: Paul is reminding us that not even the most vigilant law-keeping can justify a Christian in God’s sight. Only our acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and His shed blood, can atone for our sins and justify us to God.

We know that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (v. 23). Even if we were somehow to keep the law perfectly, starting today, for the rest of our lives, our perfect commandment-keeping could not pay for the sins we committed in the past. We need Christ’s sacrifice.

What is sin? "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). What is the consequence of sin? Scripture tells us, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Because of the law, we know what sin is, but only through Christ’s sacrifice can the penalty of that sin be removed.

Does this mean that we can continue to disobey God’s law, yet expect to have a place in God’s kingdom? Paul asked: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (vv. 1–2). Rather, Paul reminds us, we "should walk in newness of life" (v. 4).

Jesus plainly taught that we must keep the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17–19). Remerber that Jesus said: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). "Fulfill"—fill to the full—does not mean "eliminate" or "cancel." Christ’s followers keep the law. Can we do this under our own power? No! We obey the law by yielding to Jesus Christ, who lives within us after baptism and the laying on of hands, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians 2:20–21, KJV). True Christians will not "frustrate the grace of God" by yielding to sin, or by trying to keep the law with only their own strength, apart from God.

Jesus instructed His disciples: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). But will we sometimes fail? Yes. And when we do, if we truly love our Savior and are yielded to Him, we will come before Him and sincerely repent. Repentance is not just a feeling of sorrow; it is a willful commitment to turn away from sin, and to obey our beloved Savior (2 Corinthians 7:10).

How do we know we are true Christians? The Apostle John explains: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:3–6).

If Christ is living His life in us and we are living in Him, we will be keeping God’s commandments. We will then be fulfilling the law, demonstrating God’s love: "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10). "The deeds of the law" are the result of a life yielded to Christ; they are not the cause of our justification.


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