Boasting Excluded:
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 16c of 83

“27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:27-31).

[We saw in the previous instalment of this study that the text we are expounding is actually the apostle Paul’s concluding words to his treatment of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. It has four parts. There is a point of application (v. 27), a point of reiteration (v. 28), a point of restatement (v. 29-30) and a point of clarification (v. 31). We began our study with the second part where we saw Paul’s reiteration that we must be justified by faith, even the faith that was purchased by Christ. In the last instalment, we considered Paul’s reiteration of the doctrine where he indicates that both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith; and his clarification that justification by faith does not make void the law of God. We must conclude now by returning to the point of application as stated in verse 27 -JJL]

4. Application

a. Verse 27 is a point of application. It reads:

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

That is to say: From what you have heard about justification by grace through faith alone, do you find yourself having any grounds to boast? No! None at all! Boasting is excluded from the doctrine! Boasting is excluded from those who understand the doctrine and have received the righteousness of God by faith.

The truly justified man is allergic to boasting. As long as he is dwelling according to the righteousness of God, he cannot boast. As long as his heart is filled with the knowledge that his justification is by grace through faith, he cannot boast. Boasting and the righteousness of God are incompatible.

You know when I was a young child, I loved to drink black coffee and orange juice. But one day I discovered that you cannot drink coffee and orange together. When you drink orange juice and then try to drink coffee, the taste is revolting.

Now in the same way, if you have received the righteousness of God, you cannot boast. If you do, it leaves a terrible taste in your mouth.

So when you see a man who has ceased from boasting, you have an indication that he has received the righteousness of God by faith. But see a man who is boasting. He may boast about his church, his religion, his piety, his faith, his good works, his contributions in anything,—then you know that that man is a stranger to the righteousness of God.

To boast is to ascribe something to ourselves on the basis of which we can claim honour. A man may boast of what he has done; what he has or what he is.

But when we understand the doctrine which Paul is teaching us, we know that there is nothing we can boast about!

We know that we have done nothing deserving praise. We know that we deserve honour for nothing we possess or have acquired. We know that we do not deserve any praise for who we are. We have no basis to boast whatsoever!

The law of faith absolutely excludes boasting. The word ‘law’ in this verse refers to principle rather than the duties required by God. The principle of justification by faith (contra justification by works) leaves us with no reason to boast at all!

The law of works does allow room for boasting. I have done, therefore, I am accepted. I am good, therefore, I am better. I have, therefore, I am one up. But if I am living by the Gospel or the law of faith, I know that I am nothing, I have nothing and have done nothing that deserves praise. I have nothing to boast!

Now, I trust that we all understand this truth as a fact. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith! But let us ask ourselves: do we boast?

No, I am not asking you whether you are proud. If you are proud you will not admit it. Neither am I asking whether you like to brag or show off. I have known professing believers who do so, but they are very rare. I don’t know of anyone in the congregation who would brag or show off unabashedly.

But I am asking whether you boast. I am not asking you whether you boast to provoke you. Neither am I trying to teach you what you should or should not do. I am asking you whether you boast because the law of faith excludes boasting. He who boasts and repents not, has not understood the law of faith. And if he understands not the law of faith, he understands not the Gospel. He is still in the bonds of iniquity.

Now, then, how do we boast? Boasting can be very subtle. It need not be a verbal bragging. It is not our lips but our hearts that Paul is concerned with. But let me give you three of examples of how the boasting of our heart manifests itself.

First, it often manifests itself by thanksgiving or testimonies of piety. The Lord spoke about the Pharisee who prayed:

God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Lk 18:11-12).

Today, a zealous professing Christian may say:

I woke up at 4 am this morning. And I was memorising and meditating on Isaiah 56, and O how refreshed my heart was. I thank God I can do this every morning. I thank God for the many opportunities to bring the Gospel to the destitute and to conduct Bible Studies, and to support a few missionaries with financial help. I thank God I can do all these and more even with my fulltime job.

Need we explain how this is boasting?

Secondly, boasting can manifest itself in prayer requests. A man is going on a short business trip overseas. He comes for the prayer meeting and he says: “Pray for me that I will use my time wisely. I am bringing some books to read in the night.” So far, so good. But then he proceeds to give you an impressive list of books that he is going to bring. And you are left wondering what he wants you to do with the list. Does he want you make reference to all these books in your prayers? Or consider the man who writes an anonymous letter to the Session: “Can the Session please explain why elder so and so does not attend prayer meeting like the rest of us so that we may pray for him!”

Yes, boasting can be very subtle and can be very well disguised!

The third way in which boasting manifests itself is in our relationship with others. Do you notice how often the apostle Paul speaks about the importance of considering others better than ourselves. He mentions it in Romans 12. He speaks about it in Philippians 2. The fact is that it is a very strong temptation to think of ourselves better than others.

Let me put it this way: Whenever I complain about anyone, I am thinking of myself better than the person. I am boasting. Is it not true that when you are upset with anyone, you are thinking that you are better than the person? “If I were him, I would not have done it!”

Now, of course, we should grieve if our brother sinned. And if he sinned, it is our duty to admonish him that he may repent of his sin. But the problem is most time we get upset with a person not because we think he sinned, but because we think he is not up to our standard. Are we not then boasting?

But how can we boast anymore if we understand the law of faith? The law of faith excludes boasting.

Over and over again, the apostle Paul reminds us that we must never boast apart from boasting about the Lord.

· 2 Corinthians 10:17—“But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” The word “glorieth” or “glory” is the same words “boasting” in the Greek.

· Galatians 6:14—“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

· Philippians 3:3—“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” The word “rejoice” here is the same word for “boasting.”

Indeed, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, that even faith is a gift of God so that we may not boast! He says:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9)

This is an important truth! He who knows the law of faith, can no more boast about himself. He who has received the righteousness of God is poor in Spirit. The Lord Jesus himself says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). A man who is living in the righteousness of God, is poor in spirit.

Such a man knows how far short of Christ he is. So he constantly prays, O Lord grant me more grace, more love, more zeal, more compassion; more hatred for sin, and more understanding.

He judges others as charitably as possible because he knows that he himself has nothing worthy. Therefore he dares not justify himself vigorously when someone slanders him. He knows that if the slanderer knows him as God knows him, he could have said far worst things.

So he never dares to boast about what he has achieved for Christ. He is careful not to allow others to hold a higher regard for him than he really is. And he is ever grateful for every good deed done to him because he knows he deserve nothing.

Dearly beloved brethren, are you boasting, or are you poor in spirit? Do you know the law of faith? Are you living according to the righteousness of God in Christ?


We must conclude. We saw four things in this study.

We saw a point of reiteration. We are reminded that our righteousness or justification is by Christ (whom we believe). Our deeds do not make us righteous and deserving of God’s favour.

We saw a point of restatement. We saw that in terms of the need for justification, there is no difference between Jews or Gentiles. Justification by faith is the only way of salvation for all men—Jews or Gentiles.

We saw a point of clarification. We saw that the doctrine of justification by faith does not make void the law. Instead it establishes the law. Christians must never disregard the law.

Finally, we saw a point of application. We are persuaded that those who understand the principle of faith cannot boast. The law of faith or in other words, the Gospel, excludes boasting.

What are these things to you?

Are you a believer? Do you boast? Remember that boasting is an act of the old man. Will you not mortify the old man? Will you not do so asking: Have I truly understood the law of faith? Think of a person who has disappointed you. Are you still bearing a grudge against him or her? If you are, you are boasting of your self-righteousness. Will you not humble yourself before the Lord? Ask Him forgive your debt as you forgive your debtors?

Are you still unconverted, or still unsure of your salvation? Perhaps your heart is crying: What must I do to be justified? Remember that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. Remember that the law of faith excludes boasting. What does this mean for you? It means that you must no more look to yourself. Nothing that you do can justify you. You are not going to be justified by going to church, by keeping the law, by reading the Bible or even by praying and repenting. These things are important, but they will not justify you. Neither are you going to be justified by your resolutions to be a better person or Christian.

What then must I do to be justified? Nothing! Nothing you do will justify you. Shouldn’t I repent? Shouldn’t I pray? Shouldn’t I go to church? Yes, no one can expect salvation if he refuses to do these things. But these things do not justify you. To think that they justify is to think according to the law of works, not the law of faith!

But don’t I have to believe? Yes, all who are saved will believe. But you cannot generate faith, can you? Faith is a gift of God! God gives faith to the elect to enable them to believe. But who are the elect? The Arminians says: “The elect are those whom God foresaw to be willing to receive grace. God looks down the corridor of time and he saw those who will accept Christ. These are the elect,” they say. But that is the law of works, not the law of faith.

The law of faith is this: God is merciful to whom He wills; and whom He wills He hardens. God is sovereign!

The man whom God wills to save will be made to know that he is ungodly, unrighteous and wretched. His heart will be so touched that like the publican in the Lord’s parable he dare not lift up his eyes to heaven. He has no words of boasting. He cries out rather: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13). “Lord Jesus, you said you came for sinners. I am a sinner. Nothing good dwells in me. Save me O Lord!”

Are you such a sinner? If you are, let not your heart be troubled. You must daily confess our sin. You must daily cry out to the Lord to deliver you from sin. But you must not allow your heart to be trouble by your failures. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Nothing shall separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Only live according to the law of faith and not the law of works.

─JJ Lim