Justification is only possible through faith; it is not possible from works or following the law.
Paul says it again: every single person that is justified before God is justified by faith in Jesus. Jesus does the work, not us. This means no matter how many laws we keep it will never be enough. Justification before God comes only one way, and that is by believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus’ shed blood on the cross is the blood of the “mercy seat” that atones for our sins before God.
Over and over Paul states and restates his central thesis: 1) justification before God comes by grace alone, apart from the law, and that righteousness before God is something we receive as a free gift, and 2) that righteousness can be lived out in everyday life only one way, and that is the same way it is received in the first place: by faith.
The theme statement in Romans 1:16-17 continues throughout the entire letter. Righteousness comes through the power of the gospel, and a person who lives righteously does so by faith, from beginning to end.
What is a “work of the law?” It is simply keeping the rules. We as humans are rule makers and rule followers (particularly when it applies to others, not so much for ourselves). No amount of rule keeping can justify us before God because each of us is sinful (verse 23).
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
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