Okay, this is a very large section of Scripture.
I think there is a cohesive unity that makes it beneficial to consider as a whole.
Today we examined firstly 3:21-31.
The word ‘But’ represents a massive turning point in a line of argumentation that goes all the way back to Romans 1:18. Even more important is that the focus is on God.
This is accentuated by the similarity in structure of 1:18 and 3:21. In the first instance the wrath of God is revealed, now the righteousness of God has been manifested. (ESV)
There is a structure in this book.
The law, the commands of God do not enable one to be righteous, but point those who understand them to the fact that none is righteous but God and God alone can make one righteous.
We considered some of the words that we were reading and attempted to gain an understanding of what they mean.
Righteousness; Justification; Redemption; Grace; Propitiation/Expiation/Atoning Sacrifice (which have significant shades of meaning themselves); Forbearance.
Righteousness is not simply doing the right thing and not doing the wrong thing. It is a state of being. Consider verse 23: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The glory of God is righteousness.
Justification is being declared righteous. We are not made righteous in justification, it is a declaration that God makes, imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account.
Redemption is purchasing something back. In this case God secures us back from being subject to His own punishment.
Propitiation speaks of receiving God’s righteous anger and punishment, expiation is more confined to punishment for sin and atoning sacrifice could be seen as making some form of restitution or sacrifice in recognition of wrong doing. The word propitiation can be properly used here because we already know that it is the wrath of God which is being dealt with.
Grace is the reception of something underserved, unsought, even unwanted.
Forbearance is patience.
These points help us to understand that as Paul addresses the church in Rome that there are no first and second class Christians. Indeed the Jewish believers should be more humble because they have a greater testimony of human need. The longer someone has been a Christian the more humble they should be and less willing to press themselves as more important.
These points are then evidenced by Paul in Chapter Four in the life of Abraham.
He was not justified (counted righteous) on the basis of obedience, his obedience came after God called him into relationship.
His life was a testmony of accepting God’s promises. The ongoing trust he had in God’s promises was evidence of his acceptance by God. The same is true for all everyone who trusts God.
Abraham received all the promises of God, believing them in spite of not seeing physical evidence of them. He did this before the law was given. His reception of these blessings was of grace, not works. (When Abraham’s life is read in Genesis it can be further seen that it was not a faultless life which qualified him for these blessings.)
We’ll be seeing more of this as we move along.
Hopefully next week’s study will be a little more structured.