“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Rm 3:27-28)
The word “boasting” comes from the battlefield. A soldier gets the confidence to advance in battle against his enemies by saying “We’re bigger and stronger than you. We have more men or better weapons than you”
It’s what we see Goliath doing before the Israelites. He boasted about his big body, power, armor and weapons. However, David trusted in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel.
So, boasting reveals what someone really relies on. If you boast about your appearance, you rely on it. If you boast about your wealth and knowledge, it means that you rely on them.
So, what you boast about is what gives you confidence. What you boast about is what fundamentally defines you. It is related to your identity—who you are.
However, in this verse, Paul said that boasting is excluded in faith. Why? Because faith makes us turn our eyes from ourselves to Jesus.
Faith is to understand that there is nothing we can do for our justification. And, if there’s nothing we actively do, there’s nothing we can boast about. In faith in Christ, we can’t boast about anything but Christ because He’s the only one who can justify us.
We can see this by looking at Paul’s own experience.
In Philippians chapter 3, Paul tells us who he was before he became a Christian. Paul said,
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Php 3:4-6)
This was what Paul had confidence in. He had a lot of things to boast about. He boasted of his racial background, heritage, level of education, observance of the law, and so on.
However, Paul says in the following verse, “I consider them garbage” (Php 3:8). Now, he had no confidence in them. He didn’t boast about them any longer.
So, what did he give them up for? He says, “I consider everything a loss… that I may gain Christ” (Php 3:8)
Paul is saying that boasting is the opposite of knowing Christ. We can’t do both. If we truly accept the gift of God freely given through Christ’s suffering and death, we won’t be able to boast about anything but Christ.
Paul said in his letter to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gl 6:14)
This is actually more challenging to us. Paul is saying that we must completely give up our sense of identity and security. We may feel secure when we have a lot of money. However, money really doesn’t guarantee our future.
In faith, all our grounds for self-worth are excluded because we’re made new in Christ. We exclude boasting when we realize that even our best achievements have done nothing to justify us.
If we truly understand the gospel of God’s righteousness, we will never boast because we know that we have done nothing valuable to earn God’s righteousness and that His righteousness is freely given to us as a gift.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Paul also wrote about boasting in 1 Corinthians. He said,
“…No one may boast before him [God]. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1Co 1:29-31)
Now, in Christ, there’s only one thing we can boast about: the one who saves us—Jesus Christ. In other words, in faith, we don’t rely on anything in the world—including ourselves and our good works—but only on Christ crucified.
Christians know that they are saved solely and wholly by Christ’s work, not their own. They take no credit for their salvation—their being reconciled with God. Their boasting is transferred from themselves to their Savior.
If we really know that we are saved by Christ’s work alone, we will have great confidence, but it is not self-confidence in our own works. Rather, it is the confidence in Christ on the cross. We don’t need anything from the world. We don’t have to put our hope in the world because we have Christ.
This transfer of our boasting from us to Christ changes us completely. In fact, a lot of problems in the world are caused by the wrong kind of boasting. Pride in race, social status, or achievement leads to prejudice and hostility. If our confidence comes from our race or ethnicity, it leads us to racism.
Boasting can also make us anxious. When anything we boast about is threatened, our fundamental security is threatened as well. We are easily shaken by the things we boast about. We see how Satan uses this to control people. If we boast about something, we are made vulnerable by it.
However, the gospel creates a completely new mindset in us. When we receive Jesus in our hearts, we’ll be deeply satisfied with the truth that we’re freely justified and that we’re fully accepted by God.
The gospel gives us the power to overcome all bad news surrounding us and even our past failures because the more we see our weaknesses, the more we see how amazing God’s grace and love are.
Moreover, the gospel sets us free from all kinds of anxieties. We know that God is for us. We know that God provides everything we need. Paul says,
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32)
When we have faith in Christ, we can place our worst fears and worries into God’s hands. We cast all our anxieties on God who takes care of us. We commit all our ways and future to God, believing that He will always guide us to a good place.
Then, we won’t boast about anything in the world, but rather boast in God because our hope is in God alone. So as Christians, we need to think about what we’re boasting of the most. If we’re boasting about something other than Christ, we should check to see if we have true faith in Jesus.
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” (Jr 9:23-24)