Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. – Rom 3:27
What are the things we boast about? For the Jewish Christians that Paul was addressing, it was their heritage as the original chosen people of God. Sure, Gentiles were now allowed into the fold, but the Jews had always been the people of God and the newcomers would do well to listen to them. How could the age-old requirements of circumcision and law observance, which had been given by God himself, not be required any longer?!
Paul acknowledges that they indeed had an advantage over the non-Jews (Rom 3:2) but being better off didn’t make them better than the Gentiles. He quotes from the Old Testament, their scriptures, to show that they were as guilty of rebellious behaviour as the Gentiles were. v10-14 are from Psalms talking about the Gentiles and v15-17 are from Isaiah talking about the Jews. Thus, both groups were equally in need of Jesus and both were justified by God’s grace and so neither could claim preferential status in the new kingdom. They were not saved by their heritage but by their faith, and so there was no room for boasting.
Sometimes, we are guilty of behaving today like those Jewish Christians did. We think the way we do things makes us better than those who do differently. Those who go to home churches think they are closer to the Acts model and so are better than those who have church buildings. Denominational churches think they have the last word on right theology and think those that differ from them are in the wrong. Those that have women in leadership boast about restoring woman’s pre-fall status of equality as seen in Genesis and so think they are better than the patriarchal churches that don’t allow this. Those that maintain traditions are proud of not conforming to the world and think they are better than those who choose to be contemporary.
This passage reminds us that while there may be genuine advantages to the way we do things, that doesn’t make us better than those that differ from us. None of us are perfect. None of us meet God’s standards. We all need his grace and are saved by faith. Rather than boasting about the things we do, we should boast about what God has done for us and in us. As Paul says in 2 Cor 10:17-18, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
What does our conversation reveal about our attitude to other Christians?