Archive for June, 2022
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law” (Romans 3:28).
The plural language, we, indicates a collective commitment within the church to this transformational, and covenant-fulfilling, spiritual reality. Being justified by faith doesn’t mean the Law wasn’t working so God lowered the bar to accommodate humanity; that God’s grace and your faith is a license to do as you please; that God is no longer interested in his people being a holy people, and his established boundaries can be ignored. Being justified by faith is so much more than just the forgiveness of sin; it is the “righting of the ship” and resets the course of one’s life. Any compromise of, or codicil added to, the foundational precept of justification by faith erodes the gospel and reverts back to a salvation based on works.
“Where then is boasting? It has been excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith” (Romans 3:27).
Any imagined basis for boasting—Jewish privileges, obedience to the law, the mark of circumcision—these things have vanished. In fact, it is a misplaced confidence in such things that masks the overarching spiritual reality; that because of sin, Jews are under the same condemnation as Gentiles. The good news, however, is that the gospel of God, in Christ Jesus, comes as the fulfillment and expressed intent of the Abrahamic covenant—a justification that comes by faith; a faith modeled by Abraham, who believed in the Lord; and He credited it to him as righteousness (Gen.15:6). By faith it is reckoned to you as well.
“whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. The was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished” (Romans 3:25).
Here, Paul, is continuing his thought on the gracious gift of justification that has been received as a result of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Given the Old Testament background of the word “propitiation,” New Testament scholar David Garland holds forth that Paul’s emphasis is upon the shift from where our sins were formerly atoned for, behind a curtain in the temple, the holy of holies, to the cross where Jesus’ blood was publicly poured out. The cross, then, has become the “mercy seat” where we see the power of God’s grace on full display.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
Society seems to evaluate most things, including suffering and hardships, only in terms of the discomfort experienced in the present moment. For those training in the faith, however, the perspective is to wait and see the aftereffects of what God is accomplishing in us. For these, “afterwards” is always more significant than “the moment.”
“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted” (1 Samuel 17:45).
The giants that seek to intimidate, and hold us hostage to our fears, appear as a daunting and threatening presence. When confronted by these foes, our tendency is to ascribe to them more strength and power than they actually possess, while assuming that we are weak and vulnerable. A life lived in the name of the Lord, however, is postured to strike down the challenges that daily taunt us.
“Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
Continuing upon the transitional “But now” (v.21), and the shift from the future wrath of God to the present work of God in Christ Jesus, Paul reveals an unexpected gift of acquittal. Being justified isn’t so much about forgiveness as it is God’s gracious advanced final verdict upon your life as a follower of Christ. Instead of waiting until the end of life to see how your goodness, merit, and religiosity stacks up against the rest, only to discover thatall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v.23), the believer’s redeemed status is predetermined as a result of faith. Choosing the life of faith finalizes God’s verdict.
“But it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction” (Romans 3:22).
Paul now returns to the foundational premise of the Roman epistle, “The righteous one will live by faith” (1:17). This justification by faith (v.24) underscores, once again, that just as God metes out his judgment without partiality (2:11), He extends his grace with no less exception. The work of Christ upon the cross was so complete that no longer is the world divided between Jew and Gentile but, rather, believer and unbeliever, the redeemed and the unredeemed, those who are being saved and those who continue on the course of death. Beware of theologies espousing a salvation that is for some but not others. God’s unfolding salvation history, from Abraham to its full unveiling in Jesus, only gets larger in scope, not smaller in scale. As the Jews failed to understand, God’s plan, from the beginning, was to be inviting to all not exclusive for some.
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Romans 3:21).
“But now” offers a dramatic shift, from the future emphasis of God’s wrath being poured out upon all unrighteousness, to the present benefit of God’s activity in Christ Jesus and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen.15:5; 22:18). If the salvation of God is to be available for all it must accomplished apart from the Law, for only the Jews possessed the Law. And, according to verse 20, the reception of the Law has led only to condemnation resulting from disobedience. Instead of deeming the covenant as a failure and starting afresh, God sent forth his Son, a faithful Israelite, who obediently fulfilled the Law, and as the Messiah of Israel would become a representative of all who live by faith.
“Because by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
The Law is a wonderfully objective teacher of God’s expectations and how humanity is to live, but it is an unrelenting prosecutor at the judgment bar of God. What the Jews had anticipated being their means of escape from the wrath of God, the Law, would become the very thing to indict them. When any of us hold up our works as means of being right with God, the ground beneath gives way to the pit below. There’s a new law in town…the law of faith (v.27).
“Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19).
In the ancient law court, when a defendant completed the offering of his defense, he would cover his mouth to symbolically indicate there was nothing more to be said. In cases where a defendant spoke too long, or in a way that conflicted with the court, a judge or magistrate might order an officer of the court to strike the defendant in the mouth (See Acts 23:1-2). Whether it’s the general revelation of God within the created order and its corresponding moral law, or the specifics of the Mosaic law given to the Jews, Paul has already made it clear that humanity is without excuse (1:20). As such, the only sufficient words aren’t our alibis but, rather, a confession. In this we will find the path to redemption.