“Therefore by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the Law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Rom 3:20-24
In this short paragraph, we learn that one of the purposes of the Law is to give us the knowledge of sin (vs. 20); i.e. it is by the commandments and statutes in Torah, that man learns what is right behavior and what is sinful behavior. John says the same in 1 Joh 3:4. By the Law, we learn that it is wrong to murder or commit adultery. By the same Law, we learn that God considers one day, the seventh day, holy and set apart to Himself and that He considers it right (not sin) when men rest on His set apart day.
Why is Sabbath rest so important that it made it into the Ten Commandments, along with not murdering? I don’t know, but that it is important to God, can be clearly seen by reading, not only the Torah (Exo 16:22-30), but the Prophets as well (Isa 58:13-14). When it comes to the Torah, and the definition of righteous behavior and sinful behavior, my attitude is God is smarter than I am. 🙂
Next Paul brings out that by obeying the Torah, no one can be made righteous (vs. 20), and even that, the righteousness of God is not the same as the righteousness of Torah observance (vs. 21). Jesus taught this. He said (in the passage where He said that He did not come to abolish the Torah, and that whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven) that unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:17-20). The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was the righteousness of Torah observance, or righteousness by Torah observance. They were trying to be justified by the deeds of the Law. Unless, Jesus said, our righteousness exceeds that of their righteousness, the righteousness by Torah observance, we would not enter the kingdom of heaven. What righteousness exceeds the righteousness of Torah observance? The righteousness of God.
In fact, Paul says, the righteousness of God, which is not the righteousness of Torah observance, is free justification for all those who have faith in Jesus Christ. The only way we can become truly righteous, because every one of us has sinned, is to have the righteousness of God imputed to us.
Now Paul goes on to say that the Torah even teaches that the righteousness that is of God is by faith, and not by Torah observance. This is the critical error the scribes and Pharisees made that Jesus referred to. They thought the Torah taught that if you do these commands, you will be righteous. No! Neither the Torah nor the Prophets taught that! The Torah teaches that if you do these commands, you will have blessings that will benefit you in this life, in the life for the physical man.
That the Torah teaches that Torah obedience is to bless the physical man in this life (not the spiritual man for eternal life): Deu 10:12-13, Deu 11:8-9, Deu 11:13-15, Deu 28:1-14, Deu 30:2, 6, among many others.
“Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Rom 3:31
So the mistake that is often made now, is that because the purpose of Torah obedience is not to be justified – made in right standing – before God, then the Torah can be ignored all together. That is not what the Torah or the Prophets or Jesus taught nor the apostles nor Paul. But the Prophets taught that in the New Covenant, the Torah would be obeyed from a new heart by the Spirit (Eze 36:25-27). Jesus taught that not one jot or tittle would pass from the Torah until all was fulfilled (Mat 5:17-20). Paul taught that we do not make void the Law simply because we are justified by faith. And John taught that someone who says that he knows Jesus but does not keep Jesus’ commandments is a liar (1 Joh 2:4). Are Jesus’ commandments different from the Father’s commandments? How can they be if He and the Father are One (Joh 10:30), and it is He Himself who is the Word which contains the commandments (Joh 1:1, 14)?
Jesus said that the two laws of Love summarize the commandments (Mat 22:36-40). The first five of the Ten Commandments show us what God considers loving Him looks like, and the last five of the Ten Commandments show us what God considers loving our neighbors looks like. Paul says the same in Romans (Rom 13:8-10), which we will get to. In fact the Ten Commandments also summarize the 613 commandments which the rabbis have distilled the entire Torah down to. In other words, the entire Torah explains what obeying the Ten Commandments mean (Deu 4:13).
You can obey God and not rely on your obedience to save you! You can simply obey God because you love Him (Joh 14:15)! And because you want His blessing on you in this life for the physical man!