Summary: The difference between salvation by faith in the law and salvation by the law of faith is the difference between “do” and “done”
In his book, Fully Alive, Christian comedian Ken Davis recounted an incident from his college days. His class had been asked to deliver a persuasive speech in which they would be graded on creativity, persuasiveness and the ability to drive home their point in a memorable way.
The title of his talk was “The Law of the Pendulum”. He spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physics principles that govern a swinging pendulum. Because of friction and gravity a swinging pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it is released.
He then demonstrated what he taught by attaching a child’s toy top to a 3 foot string which was attached to the top of a blackboard with a thumbtack. He pulled the top to one side, made a mark on the blackboard and then released it. Each time the toy swung back, he made a new mark until the top came to rest in less than a minute.
He then asked the people in the room how many of them believed the Law of the Pendulum was true. The professor and all his classmates raised their hands.
The professor, thinking the presentation was over, began to walk to the front of the room. But in reality, Davis was just getting started with his presentation. Hanging from the steel beam in the middle of the room was 250 pounds of metal weights attached to four strands of 500 pound test parachute cord. Davis invited the professor to sit with the back of his head against a concrete wall. He then brought the 250 pounds of metal weights to within an inch of the professor’s face.
He once again explained the law of the pendulum and reminded everyone that if what he had said was true when he released the weights they would swing across the room and return short of the professor’s face. He then asked the professor once again if he believed in the law of the pendulum. After a long pause, he weakly nodded and whispered “yes”.
Davis released the pendulum. It arced across the class, came to a brief stop and then began to return, at which point Davis said he had never seen anyone move so fast in his entire life as the professor dove out of the way. Davis then asked the class again, “Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?” The students unanimously answered “no”.
That’s not the end of the story, though. A little later I’ll share the rest of it with you.
For nearly three full chapters, Paul has now been teaching us about the “law of faith.” He has made it clear that no one is capable of keeping the law as a means of being righteous before God and that therefore we all need the gospel. We all need to be justified and redeemed and have God’s wrath satisfied on our behalf by what God has done for us and not based on what we have done. That is the essence of the “law of faith.”
I don’t want to embarrass anyone this morning, so I’m not going to ask for a show of hands. But my guess is that if I were to ask how many of you believe in the law of faith, all of you, or at least nearly all of you, would raise your hands. But, as we’ll see this morning, the real test of whether you really believe in the law of faith is demonstrated by how your respond to it in your day-to-day lives.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 3 and we’ll pick up our study this morning in verse 27. You can follow along as I read:
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. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
(Romans 3:27-31 ESV)
In this passage Paul summarizes everything he has written so far in his letter and draws a sharp contrast between the two possible approaches to salvation. Here is how we could summarize his summary:
The difference between salvation by faith in the law
and salvation by the law of faith
is the difference between “do” and “done”
Our first option is to seek salvation through religion, which is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as:
an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods