WHY DOES ROMANS 3:30 READ “BY FAITH” AND “THROUGH FAITH?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith” (Romans 3:30). Why does the King James Bible say, “circumcision by faith” and “uncircumcision through faith?” There is a difference, but why is there a difference? (This distinction is lost in modern English versions such as New Revised Standard Version [NRSV], the Living Bible, and the New Living Translation [NLT].) What is the significance? We will search the Scriptures for the answer.
The word “circumcision” here is a reference to the nation Israel, and “uncircumcision” refers to the Gentiles (nations). But, why this difference of “by faith” for Israel and “through faith” for Gentiles? While not original to me, I will be glad to tell you the best explanation that I have found.
The expression “by faith” emphasizes the means or mechanism, the agency. It is this that is emphatic in Israel’s salvation. In Israel’s program, a Jew needs to positively respond to what God is saying or doing. Remember, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Unbelieving Israel did not have faith. They just had works, and works alone have never saved anyone (in our Dispensation of Grace or in Israel’s prophetic program).
Like so many religious people today, the nation Israel wrongly believed that they could work to please God. They believed their Law-keeping would make them righteous before God. Yet, they had no faith in His Word to them. They worshipped the Mosaic Law and ignored/rejected Jesus Christ whom the Law described. Note the following passages, for example:
- Romans 9:31-33: “ But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;  As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
- Romans 10:1-3: “ Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
- Galatians 3:21-23: “ Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.  But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.”
- John 5:39,46-47: “ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
“By faith” shows Israel that they cannot be saved/justified by their works. They wrongly thought they could (for instance, see the attitude of a Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14).
The expression “through faith” emphasizes the system or process. We are saved by the faith of Christ (emphatic in the Gentiles’ salvation):
- Galatians 2:16,20: “ Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified….  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
- Ephesians 2:8-9: “ 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.”
- Galatians 3:8,14: “ And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed….  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
“Through faith” is the system or process through which one participates in what God is saying or doing. Today, the system of faith is emphasized; the system of our works/Law-keeping is not the issue. Our faith in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork (that crosswork being His faith) is the mechanism whereby God justifies us before Himself.
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» What about those who have not heard?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?