31. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
31. Legem igitur irritam facimus per fidem? Ne ita sit: sed Legem stabilimus.
"I came not to undo, but to fulfill the law." (Matthew 5:17.)
And this suspicion regards the moral as well as the ceremonial law; for as the gospel has put an end to the Mosaic ceremonies, it is supposed to have a tendency to destroy the whole dispensation of Moses. And further, as it sweeps away all the righteousness of works, it is believed to be opposed to all those testimonies of the law, by which the Lord has declared, that he has thereby prescribed the way of righteousness and salvation. I therefore take this defense of Paul, not only as to ceremonies, nor as to the commandments which are called moral, but with regard to the whole law universally. 1
For the moral law is in reality confirmed and established through faith in Christ, inasmuch as it was given for this end -- to lead man to Christ by showing him his iniquity; and without this it cannot be fulfilled, and in vain will it require what ought to be done; nor can it do anything but irritate lust more and more, and thus finally increase man's condemnation; but where there is a coming to Christ, there is first found in him the perfect righteousness of the law, which becomes ours by imputation, and then there is sanctification, by which our hearts are prepared to keep the law; it is indeed imperfectly done, but there is an aiming at the work. Similar is the case with ceremonies, which indeed cease and vanish away when Christ comes, but they are in reality confirmed by him; for when they are viewed in themselves they are vain and shadowy images, and then only do they attain anything real and solid, when their end is regarded. In this then consists their chief confirmation, when they have obtained their accomplishment in Christ. Let us then also bear in mind, so to dispense the gospel that by our mode of teaching the law may be confirmed; but let it be sustained by no other strength than that of faith in Christ.
1 The law here, no doubt means, the law of which mention is made in the preceding verses -- the law by the works of which we cannot be justified -- the law that is in this respect opposed to faith. To refer us for its meanng to Romans 3:20 and 21, as is done by Stuart, "is wholly unwarrantable," and to say that it means the Old Testament; for this is to separate it from it's immediate connection without any satisfactory reason. Besides, such an interpretation obliterates an important doctrine, that faith does not render void, or nullify the authority, the use and sanctions of the moral law but on the contrary, sustains and confirms them. Though it does what the law does not, and cannot do, inasmuch as it saves the sinner whom the law condemns; it yet effects this without relaxing or dishonoring the law, but in a way that renders it, if possible, more binding, and more honorable, and more illustrious. It only renders the passage more intricate to include the ceremonial law, (for that has more of faith than of law in it,) to which no reference is made in the context: but there seems to be no objection to include the law of conscience, as well as the written law; for faith confirms both, and the word "law," is here without the article, though this indeed of itself is not decisive. The moral law, then, as well as the law of conscience, is what is here intended: for the authority of both is confirmed and strengthened by faith. -- Ed.