14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,
Verses 14 to15 demonstrate that, if salvation comes by the law, then that renders both faith and promise null. Faith would not be necessary in a works-oriented salvation. This would also remove the principle of God’s promise, a grace offer.
14 For if [assumed true for the sake of argument] those who are of [characterized by keeping the law] the law are heirs,
Those “of the law” are the problem in Romans. These are people who live by law-keeping as a way of salvation. These individuals are more than Jews; they are anyone who tries to keep law for salvation. There is no salvation that originates in the law. Paul set law and promise in antithesis. If you have one, you do not have the other. God’s standards show people that they can never live up to the expectations of the law. That inability should drive them to the faith principle for salvation.
If Jews by the law obtained a right standing in God’s eyes, then that has a serious effect on how people become Christians. Salvation would be by something other than by faith. That would make void faith, as we see in the next phrase.
faith is made void [remains void, perfect tense]
The Holy Spirit used two strong terms to negate a works salvation: “made void” and “no effect.” There are then two consequences of justification by keeping the law. The first is that it permanently makes faith void.
If we become Christians by the law, that would make void coming to God by “faith.” The Greek word for “made void” is made empty, made without content, rendered invalid. Faith would be emptied of its purpose. The Greek tense indicates that the result would be that faith would remain in an ongoing state of invalidation (perfect tense). Faith would have no value for salvation in that case.
The word “faith” has the definite article “the,” which harks back to Abraham’s faith. His faith would remain permanently invalid under the hypothesis of justification by keeping the law (perfect tense). Any idea that people are justified by works makes faith stand void as a proper principle for salvation. Faith has no value if we accept God’s promises by keeping the law. The law and God’s promise are incompatible means of salvation. All this empties faith of its essential meaning. If God saves people under the law by keeping the law, then there is no place for faith.
and the promise made of no effect [remains of no effect—perfect tense],
The second consequence of salvation by law is that it makes the promise ineffective. The word “promise” occurs four times in verses 13 to 22. Promise does not rest on law keeping. That would negate the idea of an unconditional promise. The next verb “made of no effect” has the idea of made invalid. The law approach to God renders the “promise” inoperative. Any qualification to a promise invalidates the promise; a promise must be unconditional, otherwise it would not be a promise. If we ask anything more than faith in God’s promise, we nullify the promise.
A promise is an unconditional commitment to someone. Faith is trust in that promise. Abraham’s faith was an appropriate response to God’s promise. There are two Greek words for promise: (1) the first carries the idea of a promise entered by certain conditions; (2) the second is a promise made unconditionally, made out of the principle of grace towards people. The second is the Greek word in this verse. God loves us without condition. His love will sometimes make us glad and sometimes it will make us sad, but it is love nevertheless. It is a love that will never let us go. It is a love that does not depend on us or on our merit, but wholly on God’s heart toward us.
The purpose of the law is to reveal our sin, whereas the purpose of the promise is to show God’s grace toward us.
The purpose of the law was not to determine the scope of God’s promise to us but to bring us face-to-face with our transgression of God’s standards. The law shows our utter bankruptcy before God, but the promise shows God’s unconditional grace toward us if we accept it by faith. Both Jew and Gentile stand in need of God’s grace; there are no exceptions.
This shows how God makes saints out of sinners.