Sunday, December 10, 2017

6. Concentrated Romans (4:1-5:11)

Almost done.
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31

Romans 4:1-5:11
A. Abraham as an example (4:1-25)
  • Paul has expressed the basics of justification in the previous verses. "A person is justified by faith apart from works of Law" (3:28). The basis for this right standing is the atonement made possible through the offering of Christ (3:25).
  • 4:1-3. Paul now substantiates that claim with the example of Abraham. What does Genesis say? Was Abraham declared right with God by works he did, like circumcision? Or was Abraham justified by faith? 
  • Abraham was justified by faith: "Abraham had faith in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).
  • The word righteousness (dikaiosyne) and the word justify (dikaioo) are obviously the same root in Greek. To justify is thus to "righteous-ify." The verses that follow here in Romans 4 make it clear that this means to "declare in right standing" with God.
  • The same is true of the word for "faith" (pistis) and "believe" (pisteuo). In some circumstances, "to believe" might be translated "to have faith." 
  • Abraham had no basis for boasting, because it was a matter of God's action. The theme of boasting, one we might be prone to miss, appears throughout this first section of Romans. A self-righteous Jew wrongfully boasts in Romans 2. 3:27 made clear there was no room for boasting. Here he repeats it and 5:11 will make it clear that we can boast only in God. 
  • 4:4-8. These verses more than any other make clear what Paul means by justification. Justification is not something you earn because you are good enough. Justification is a gift--a right standing with God is a gift.
  • 4:5. Faith is "credited" as righteousness. It is not actual righteousness. Debates over whether faith then becomes a work go far beyond Paul or his world. Grace in the ancient world--unearned and disproportionate giving--could be solicited (see John Barclay, Paul and the Gift). Faith is simply the act of soliciting God's grace, in this respect. Attempts to keep faith from being an act on the part of the solicitor are simply overt or covert special pleading (e.g., N. T. Wright). Similarly, ancient grace typically came with informal expectations.
  • 4:6-8. Paul turns to Psalm 32:1-2 to support his case. "David" speaks of sins being forgiven and not being counted against someone. Herein comes the youth slogan: "When I'm justified, it's just-as-if-I'd never sinned." True, although a more precise definition of "to justify" is "to declare in right standing." In our case, forgiveness is necessary for justification. On the other hand, Jesus could be "justified," declared in good standing with God, because he really was (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). To justify can thus be "to acquit," "to pronounce innocent," "to declare 'not guilty.'" The person justified can be so either legitimately (cf. 1 Cor. 4:4) or by declaration (an imputation of sorts).
  • 4:9-12. This is a brilliant argument in response to Paul's opponents who apparently argued the necessity of being a child of Abraham to be in God's people. Paul notes that Genesis 15:6 appears in Genesis before Abraham is circumcised. 
  • 4:11-12. Abraham is thus the father of all those who are uncircumcised and believe (Gentiles) and he is the father of all those who are circumcised and believe (Jews). Abraham thus reinforces rather than contradicts the idea that Gentiles can be justified by faith.
  • Abraham also raises again a question from Romans 1. Are there individuals who have not heard of Jesus who can have faith in God up to the knowledge they have and be justified. Abraham was such a person.
  • 4:13-17. So Abraham did not inherit the promise on the basis of the Law because the Law did not yet exist. The Law simply brings wrath (4:15). The Law only brings the reckoning of transgressions against it (4:15). The Law ignores faith as a criterion (4:14). The Law has nothing to do with promise (4:14; see Gen. 17:5).
  • 4:16. The principle of fulfilling God's promise to Abraham through faith makes God the Father of all who are justified, both Jew and Gentile.
  • 4:17 is the second of three places in the chapter about faith that show Paul thought of it as primarily directed toward God the Father. The first of course are those earlier about Abraham having faith in God. To be sure, Paul can also speak of faith directed toward Christ (e.g., 9:33). But there is no other unambiguous statement about faith in Christ in Romans. 
  • By contrast, 4:17 speaks of God the Father as the one in whom Abraham had faith. 
  • God as Creator is also invoked here. He is the one who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that did not exist. Paul probably is not thinking ex nihilo creation yet, as this is an idea that seems to have arisen in Jewish and Christian circles in the late second century.
  • 4:19 reminds us of Hebrews 11:11-12.
  • 4:24 confirms that Paul primarily sees faith directed toward "him who raised Jesus from the dead," that is, God the Father.
  • 4:25 is a unique statement about salvation that connects Jesus resurrection with our justification. Because Jesus lives, we can rise "not guilty" before God. Jesus was handed over and died for our sins. We are crucified with Christ. We die with Christ. In Christ the Law enacts its verdict on us. But with Christ we rise. We rise innocent. We rise "not guilty." We rise declared in good standing with the Judge. And we rise to new life.
B. The bottom line (5:1-11)
  • We can debate whether these verses end the first sub-unit of Romans or begin the second. The mention of God's wrath in 5:9 reminds us of 1:18, potentially forming a kind of inclusio with the beginning of the sub-unit. At the same time, the mention of glory in 5:1 anticipates 8:18. You might argue that these are swing verses that both conclude one section and introduce the next. Nevertheless, I think they have more in common with the first sub-unit than the second.
  • So 1:18-4:25 have been addressing the question, "Who is justified?" Paul's answer is, those who have faith in God. 5:1 begins from here. "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God." We are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
  • God's grace has made this possible, and so we hope for the glory of God (5:2). "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (3:23). But we have hope of it. God created us for it (Ps. 8:5).
  • 5:9-10. In the meantime, Paul and the Romans would face suffering. But suffering would bring endurance, and endurance character. Character would bring hope. And hope is not be in vain because we have a guarantee of our future inheritance--the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22). The Holy Spirit is God's very love poured out inside us.
  • 5:6-8. Very important verses on the love of God. God loved us when we were his enemies. He loved us so much that Christ died for us. 5:8 is the third stop on the Roman Road, which gives a rationale for choosing Christ (all have sinned--3:23; the wages of sin is death--6:23; now God shows his love by Christ's death for us--5:8).
  • 5:9-11. Justification on the basis of Christ's blood ensures salvation--that we will escape the wrath of God. We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Now we will be saved through his life.
  • That is something we can boast about. We can boast in him.

No comments: