Saturday, December 02, 2017

5. Concentrated Romans (3:21-31)

Doing a little summary work on Romans.

1. Romans 1:1-15
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20
Romans 3:21-31
  • 3:21. Given the Jewish background in Psalms, Isaiah, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the first thing someone like Paul would mean when using the phrase, "the righteousness of God" is God's propensity to save Israel and the world.
  • However, is there a double entendre in 3:21? Yes, God has shown his righteousness in a way that is different from the Jewish Law. But does Paul also play on the words? Now God has shown a way to be righteous apart from Law. "Now apart from Law the righteousness of God has been revealed."
  • This righteousness was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. That is, in Scripture. As Paul often does, he glides from one use of "law" to another. He now refers to the Pentateuch, the Law as the first five books of the Scriptures.
  • 3:22. It is God's righteousness, "through faith of Jesus Christ." Paul uses a form of this turn of phrase three prominent times in his letters: here, Galatians 2:16, and Philippians 3:9. You wonder if Paul is starting with a known phrase within early Christianity.
  • The phrase can either mean, "the faithfulness of Jesus Christ" or "faith in Jesus Christ." I suspect it is the former in this verse because 1) otherwise the verse is redundant here and elsewhere, 2) such a concept would be parallel to passages like Romans 5:19; 3) it fits with Paul's theocentric sense of faith in Romans 4; 4) this train of thought seems manifested in 2 Corinthians 4:13.
  • 3:23. "All have sinned." That is, both Jew and Gentile. Although Paul believes all individuals have sinned, his point here is that being a Jew does not get you off the hook. Both Jew and Gentile have sin.
  • "and lack the glory of God." This is arguably an allusion to Psalm 8, especially as used in the train of thought of Hebrews 2. Humanity was created for glory. But all have sinned and lack it. Therefore Jesus became human to lead many sons (and daughters) to glory. We hope for the glory of God (5:2). We will be glorified in the end (8:21, 30).
  • 3:24. "justified freely." Justification is legal, law court language. We will be declared in right standing with God (cf. 4:6-8). We will be "right-ified," deemed right with God.
  • "by grace." It is a gift from God that we have not earned. "unmerited favor"
  • "through redemption." Bought with a price. Freed from bondage of sin.
  •  "in Christ Jesus." A far more common expression in Paul than justification by faith. Our participation in Christ is the means of our life in Christ.
  • 3:25. God offered him as a "hilasterion." Translated variously. Is it "propitiation" as in KJV, NKJV, ESV (satisfaction of God's justice or anger)? Is it "expiation" as in RSV (cleansing, this would follow the use of the word in 4 Maccabees)? Is it "place of atonement" or "mercy seat" as in CEB and Philips translation (following the use in the LXX)? The NIV plays it safe with "sacrifice of atonement." It does seem to allude to the Day of Atonement sacrifice and thus anticipates some of the imagery of Hebrews that compares Jesus' death to the Day of Atonement sacrifice.
  • "through faithfulness." Probably refers to God's faithfulness rather than our faith, given what the rest of the verse, the next verse, and the previous verses say.
  • "by means of his blood." The life of Jesus' blood provides life for us from the death caused by our sins.
  • This demonstrates God's righteousness. The rest of the verse clearly shows that Paul thinks of God's righteousness when he refers to the righteousness of God. By offering Jesus as a sacrifice, God is showing that he is just and righteous even though he is passing over previous sins. 
  • 3:26. God is righteous (dikaios) and the one who "right-ifies" or "justifies" (dikaioo) the person who is "from the faith of Jesus." This is an ambiguous phrase. Does he mean "the one who is [justified] through the faithfulness of Jesus" or "the one who is [justified] through faith in Jesus"? Perhaps he means both.
  • 3:27. No room for boasting because it is God's grace that has effected this. Here we see a hint of the honor-shame background in relation to the gods. Humans should not boast because it tempts the gods to put them in their place.
  • Paul slides to another use of "law" (nomos). Here it seems to mean something like a "rule."
  • 3:28. "A person is justified by faith apart from works of Law." This is Paul's principle of justification, the crispest statement of justification by faith in Paul's writings. I believe he refers to human faith here.
  • "works of Law" is a phrase with a history. In Galatians, it seems to refer primarily to those aspects of the Jewish Law that most separated Jew from Gentile (e.g., circumcision, purity laws, etc). In the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QMMT), the phrase is used of debates between Jewish groups over the specifics of how to keep the Jewish Law.
  • 3:29-30. God is one God, and he is God of both Jew and Gentile. He has one path of justification for both and that is by faith. Jews are not justified by their works of Law. They are justified by faith just as Gentiles are.
  • 3:31 But this does not eliminate the need for "law." Paul walked this tight rope in Galatians. Justification by faith is no excuse to give licence to the flesh. Paul does not advocate sin even though he is teaching that a right standing comes apart from Law. We will hear more about this in Romans 6-8. 

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