27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. 28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. (RSV)
Evan: This passage makes it clear that one is saved by faith and not by works. This was Luther’s key faith alone text for a reason.
Cait: The boast Paul is refering to here is not boasting in good works, but rather the same boasting he was concerned with in 2:17 and 2:23, boasting in the mere fact of possesing the law. The Jews were not seeking to be saved by moral perfection, but rather through the outward signs identifying them as the chosen people (circumcision, food laws, etc.) while neglecting the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). The question in verse 29 clearly assumes that the “works of law” (or “works of Torah”) being addressed are things that apply only to Jews and not to Gentiles, and so morality cannot be what he has in mind. To see this, consider two ways of paraphrasing the text:
1: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from any good thing he does. Or is God the God of Jews only?”
2: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from becoming a Jew. Or is God the God of Jews only?”
The second one fits much better with Paul’s overall argument, which is why many Protestants, even many who believe in faith alone, reject Luther’s reading of this particular text. Certainly Paul says elsewhere that we do not earn salvation, but that isn’t the point he’s making here.