The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself

(Rom. 3:21-31)
The Jewish Need for God's Righteousness (Part Three)

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)

(21) But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all those who believe for there is no distinction; (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (24) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (25) whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness because in the forebearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed; (26) for the demonstration I say of His righteousness at the present time that He might be both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus. (27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. (28) For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. (29) Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, (3) if indeed God is One. And He will justify the cirumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith. (31) Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be. On the contrary we establish the Law.

Paul starts out verse 21 with the word "but." This indicates that Paul is taking a new direction in this letter. For the past chapter and a half Paul has been proving his point that first we all need to be made right with God and that none of us are right with Him, including the Jew. He has focused on the Jew (49 verses as opposed to only 15 on the Gentile) because if the most religious man the world has ever produced is wrong with God, then we are all wrong with God unless something changes the situation. Man keeping the Law won't change the situation; otherwise, the Jew himself would have been right with God. God must change the situation, or it won't be changed. The word "but" indicates that a change is exactly what is about to take place.

According to Paul this righteousness has been manifested apart from what (3:21)?

Paul makes this same claim in what verse later in chapter three?

    Here we come to a crucial point in Romans. What does Paul mean by works of the Law? Don't works matter? Apparently they do because Paul later claimed that we are saved for the purpose of good works (Eph. 2:8-10). What does James claim about faith which does not produce works (Jas. 2:17)?

    As C.S. Lewis wrote, once you trust somebody, you take their advice, that is trust results in works:

      "The other set were accused of saying, "Faith is all that matters. Consequently, if you have faith, it doesn't matter what you do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that it makes no difference in the end [so Luther]." The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you call your "faith" in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says, then it is not Faith at all not faith or trust in Him, but only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him" (Mere Christianity, Book 3, chapter 12: Faith).

    Moreover, Paul in Romans will write that his way of righteousness fulfills the Law (Rom. 13:8-10).

    What is being missed is the idea of Law as a Jewish cultural phenomenon. Basically, the Jews had reduced circumcision and dietary laws to being Jewish cultural phenomena, something lacking faith. Instead of faith guiding the Jew to circumcise and observe dietary laws, these had become mere cultural items, much like Christmas and Santa Claus today are mere American cultural icons/events. They are a part of our culture; no faith is required. These things didn't flow out of a faith relationship with God but rather became a a type of check list. "Celebrated Passover: check! Tithed: check! Didn't eat pork today: check! I kept the list of things to do; therefore, God is OK with me!"

    At this point we can feel smug as Catholics, but we need to beware lest Catholicism become cultural or that we reduce Catholicism to a check list, which I fear it has for so many Catholics. Baby is have it baptized: check! It is neat to buy that new outfit for the child going through confirmation: check! Marriage needs to take place in the church: check! All that is fine and good and the person of faith will embrace these in his/her life. HOWEVER, you can do these things without the least bit of faith. It can become just a check list or even cultural. Worship can become ritualistic instead of a dynamic encounter with Christ in the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. Faith guides us to the sacraments and guides us to allow Christ to live His life through us once we receive the sacraments. We receive Christ through the sacraments so that He can live His life through us. THAT is the purpose of receiving the sacraments, a Christ-like life. Anything else perverts the sacraments.

According to Paul whose righteousness is being manifested?

According to Isaiah 64:6 why isn't our own self-produced righteousness good enough?

In verse 21 Paul claims that this righteousness, this way of being made right with God was spoken of earlier. Where else is this righteousness spoken of?

    Paul is dividing up the OT into 2 different parts--the Law and the Prophets. Whenever the OT is divided up this way, the Law refers to the first five books of the OT (those written by Moses), while the Prophets refers to the remaining 41 books. Sometimes though the NT divides the OT up into 3 categories (Luke 24:44): the Law (the first 5 books), the Writings (poetical books like Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon), and the Prophets (the remaining historical and prophecy books of the OT).

    Here is the clincher. The Jews claimed that a person was saved by keeping the Law. Paul is going to show that even the Law itself taught that you cannot be saved by keeping the Law (see Gal. 3:10 which quotes Deut. 27:26). In Rom. 4:1-25 Paul will actually then go to the person of Abraham who is the major figure in the first five books of the OT, the Law, and show that he was saved by faith and not by works of the Law.

According to Paul the specific righteousness he is speaking of is that which comes through Jesus Christ. According to Paul what is the only way we can receive God's righteousness through Christ (3:22)?

According to verse 22 can we receive God's righteousness in any other way? Why not?

According to verse 23 why can we not receive God's righteousness apart from faith in Christ?

    To understand what Paul means by falling short of the glory of God, we need to go back to the story of creation and the NT interpretation of that story. According to Genesis, man was created in the _________ of ___________. According to Paul another way to say that we are in God's image is to say that man is the glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7). In other words his life and character should reflect the life and character of God. According to Paul (Colossians 1:15) who is the image of God?

    In other words being created in the image of God means that we were created to be like this person. To be the glory of God means that we are like this person. According to Romans 3:23 though we have all sinned so that we are no longer like this person. We have not lived up to the purpose God originally created us. Salvation is helping us now once more fulfill the very purpose God created us, to be like this person.

According to verse 24 we are being justified as a _____________ by His _________. Since you cannot earn this righteousness by works, you can get it no other way.

Next Paul uses 3 words to describe the process of salvation, that is God's righteous-making activity. Fill in the empty blanks to find out what those 3 words are.
(24) being _______________ as a gift by His grace through the _______________ which is in Christ Jesus (25) whom God displayed publicly as a ______________ in His blood through faith.

Now write out what these 3 words are.

    The image behind the word "justification" is that of a courtroom in which you and I are the defendants, God is the Judge, Satan is the prosecuting attorney, and Jesus is the attorney for the defense. Even though we are as guilty as sin, God declares us to be "just," i.e. righteous because Christ's death on the cross paid for the penalty of our sin. The cross itself became the place of exchange where God places our unrighteousness upon Jesus and His righteousness upon us (2 Cor. 5:21).

    The image behind "redemption" is that of prisoners of war. We are caught up in a dramatic battle between Christ and Satan in which Satan has taken us a prisoners of war because we have sinned. In order to "redeem" us, that is, buy our freedom, Christ pays the ransom for us. His shed blood on the cross was the ransom, the price He had to pay in order to have us set free.

      R.G. Lee, the great Baptist preacher of the 1930's-1950's shared the story of a young black female slave who was going to be auctioned off in Memphis in the days before the Civil War. News about her beauty spread throughout the South. As the day for the auction approach people came from all over the nation to catch a glimpse of this beautiful young woman.

      The bidding started at an astronomically high price, but the bidding continued. Finally, after a lengthy auction, one single bidder remain standing. After paying the price for this young black woman, the man led her out of the crowd, outside of the city, and sat down with the woman beneath a tree. He took out a piece of paper and wrote on it the only word she knew in the English language, the word . . . "Free." What a beautiful illustration of the price Christ paid for us on Calvary to free us: free us from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and one day from the presence of sin.

    The image behind the word "propitiation" is that of sacrifice. Because we have sinned, God has poured out His wrath upon the sin of mankind (1:18). In order to remove God's wrath from us, Christ who was sinless dies so that God's wrath falls upon Him and not upon you and me. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 Christ became __________ that we might become the ___________________ of God in Him."

    Understanding these 3 terms helps you and me understand the nature of our salvation, what it took to make us right with God.

      In order to "rescue" God, some of our wonderful Christian scholars, who cannot abide the idea of God's wrath, translate the word hilasterion [pron. hill-as-TARE-ee-on] as expiation instead of propitiation. Expiation has the idea of just the removal of sin, whereas propitiation indicates God's wrath is being assuaged. The normal use of this word though is propitiation. Does propitiation mean that God's wrath is whimsical, arbitrary? Does it mean He is ticked off at mankind? No, God loves mankind, but He DOES hate sin because it destroys His creation, especially humankind. In fact He hates it so much that He sacrifices His own Son to remove it from us. Moreover, if God's wrath is upon mankind according to Rom. 1:18ff., then we are still under that wrath if the word only means "expiation."

    All these terms are used in some way or other to indicate the beginning of the salvation process. Salvation though IS a process and not simply one point in time. At one point in time the process begins, but it is nevertheless a process. We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved--even Paul claims this. We are justified, we are being justified, and we will be justified, that is we have been declared righteous and now the process of making us righteous, that is to be like Christ, is continuing. The same applies to redemption. We have been freed from sin because of Christ's work on the cross; however, we should be growing in that freedom. The ultimate result of justification, redemption, and propitiation is the transformation of the individual into either a son or daughter of God by virtue of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an on-going process which will be completed upon the return of Christ. Paul will focus on this element in chapter 8.

According to the end of verse 25 God offered up Christ on the cross in order to demonstrate what?

Why was it necessary to demonstrate this righteousness?

    The cross has an event-like quality to it. For example, a vacation is an event and not just a one-moment-in-time type of happening. Before the vacation begins, you make all sorts of preparation for it: fill the car with gas, pack the luggage, pack food for the road trip, etc. After you go on the vacation, you come back and download your pix, talk to your neighbors and friends about the great time you had on the trip. The vacation affected you before and after it happened.

    In the same way the cross has an event-like quality to it: it affected the world before it happened and it still affects us today (the reason we are able to participate in Christ's sacrifice during the mass). In fact to highlight this, John claims that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; see also 1 Pet. 1:20). As a result, God was just when He "passed over" the sins of people who lived before the crucifixion of Christ even occurred.

According to verse 26 God offering up Jesus on the cross proved 2 things about God. What are they?

    It is important that we retain both elements seen at the cross: the mercy AND the justice of God. When we delete mercy, we make God a vengeful judge. When we delete justice, we make Him an indulgent, doting grandfather. He is neither. He is a righteous God who is love through and through.

    The truth is that whenever a debt (sin) has been incurred, someone must pay the debt: either the one who incurred the debt or the one who is owed the debt. When a person fails to pay the bank back what he owes it, the debt has not been erased; the bank itself has paid the debt. The debt just can't be erased. Even in our relationships. When someone has wronged us, either the person who wronged us needs to pay us back or else we forgive that person. Forgiving that person simply means we have paid the debt ourselves.

Why does Christ's death on the cross do away with boasting? What kind of boasting is Paul talking about?

According to verses 29 and 30 (the NASB version which is quoted at the beginning of the lesson) since we are saved by faith and not by works, what also is true about God? To answer that, fill in the blank: "God is _____." Why does salvation by faith and not by works prove that this is true? In other words, why is that salvation by faith and not becoming a Jew first or having a check list of Jewish-types of works, prove that this is true?

    When Paul says that God is One, he is going back to Deut. 6:4: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One." This is the passage which articulates our belief in monotheism. Now if the Gentiles are saved one way and the Jews another, then one of 2 things is true: (1) either there are 2 gods, one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles, or (2) God is dual, schizophrenic, or inconsistent. Since God is not schizophrenic and saves both the Gentiles and the Jews (since He is God of both), He does not save by the Law, that is the Jewish culture, since the Gentiles did not have the Law.

    Someone might object, "BUT in the OT we don't see the sacraments operating; therefore, if Catholicism is true, then God is divided because His grace didn't come through the sacraments in the OT. If grace is in the sacraments, then God is schizophrenic, acting one way before Christ and another way after Christ." Really? Then why does Melchizedek (a type of Christ) present wine and bread to Abraham (Gen. 14:18)? Paul claims that the Israelites partook of the Eucharist during the Exodus and wilderness wanderings (1 Cor. 10:3-4). Why does Paul equate baptism with circumcision (Col 2:11-12)? Paul himself claims that the Israelites were baptized through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:2). Marriage was the first thing Christ instituted in the Garden of Eden. God worked through the sacraments not only in the NT but also in the OT. God's unity is actually preserved in the sacraments; delete the sacraments and you undermine the unity of God.

    The catechism which teaches us that grace flows through the sacraments also states that God is not restricted to the sacraments to pour forth His grace. For this reason, even the thief on the cross, who was never baptized, could hear the words from Jesus: "Today you will be with Me in paradise."

The Jews claimed that Paul did away with the Law by preaching salvation by grace through faith. Paul rejects this. Instead what does he say he is actually doing? How does his gospel of grace do this?