I suppose the logical question to all that Paul is saying is, “If the law can’t make us acceptable before God, can’t we just toss it? I mean, it’s worthless if it can’t do that, right?”
But Paul answers here,
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (31)
What does he mean, “We uphold the law?”
Basically it means that we recognize that it has its proper role in our coming to salvation. It was our “tutor” as Paul would later write in Galatians. What did it teach us? It taught us about God’s holiness. More, it showed us our unholiness.
Paul writes in verse 20,
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (20)
By being made conscious of our sin, we recognize our need for a Savior. If we never see our sin, if we think we’re good enough to be accepted by God, none of us will ever think we need a Savior. And we’ll never understand why Jesus had to die for us.
But while the law can show us our unrighteousness, it in itself cannot make us righteous.
Let’s put it this way: A mirror can show a man the beard on his face, but it has no power to shave it off. Only a razor can do that. In the same way, the law is the mirror that shows us our sin, but it has no power to take it away. God’s grace, however, is the razor by which our sins can be forgiven. We are therefore, “shaved” by grace. (Sorry, terrible joke).
But let’s take this a step further. Just because a mirror can’t shave my face, does this mean I don’t need it? Of course not. I still need the mirror to see where I need to be shaved.
In the same way, the law shows me as a Christian where I’m still imperfect and need to be made whole. And as I look at it, God by his Spirit starts to lead me, and say, “You know where it says here to love your wife? Here’s what you can do to show love to her today.”
Or, “Do you see this area where it says to forgive? Here’s a person that you haven’t forgiven. I know it hurts when you think of this person. But let me minister to that hurt. Let me heal you so that you can forgive.”
So then, the law is no longer a matter of me trying to keep a bunch of rules by my own efforts. Rather, it’s a way of opening my eyes to what God wants to do in my life. And as I look at the mirror, I don’t look at it alone, I see the loving face of my Father looking at it with me, with his razor of grace in hand. It can be a scary thing to see that razor in the hands of another, but if we have the faith to say, “Yes, God,” by his grace, he will shave off those areas of our lives that are hurting us and the people around us.
How about you? When you look into the mirror, do you see only yourself and your flaws? Or do you see the loving face of your Father, working in you to heal you and make you whole?