Bible Reading Plan – October 15-21
Bible Project Reading Plan (October 15-21):
Acts 19-28, Romans 1-4, Psalms 128-134
Romans has been, and will continue to be, one of the most important theological works ever written. It became the center of the Reformation, with Martin Luther’s important insights taking hold throughout the Western world, specifically his thoughts on 1:16-17. While these verses begin the important declaration of Paul’s theology of grace, they find their high-point in Paul’s beautiful conclusion to his opening argument in 3:21-26.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)
Much can, and should, be said about this passage. There is much to debate, including the nature of “God’s righteousness”, and what Paul means by “the faith of Jesus Christ” (KJV) and the terms justification, propitiation, redemption, show. There is much to gain through a detailed study of this passage which seems, at least to me, as the center of the entire book. Yet, as time does not permit such a detailed post, a few insights will have to satisfy:
- The “righteousness of God,” however variously defined, is “for (or better: to) all those who believe.” That is, it is a gift, something that is not simply a quality of God’s person, but rather something that benefits believers.
- Although it may not seem like it in our English versions, this is invariably tied to our justification (v. 24). God’s righteousness is for us who believe, because we all sin and are declared righteous (justified) by the grace of Christ.
- And all of this is nothing new. Paul seems to assume the justification and forgiveness of God. That is why it is now “manifested” not simply “given.” What is shocking is not that God would justify and forgive his people, or even that his righteousness is involved in that action; rather that such justification is not through the law and is available to all, whether Jew or Greek.
- God’s righteousness is publicly demonstrated in the death of Jesus Christ. Here, God’s righteousness seems to be not only his saving actions, but also his faithfulness to his promises and his covenant. He has swore that disobedience would be punished, and at the same time that his mercy is toward his people. These things never seemed appropriately balanced in the OT. God overlooks some sin, even as he punishes some. Therefore, God vindicates his own actions (he “demonstrates his righteousness”) by punishing those various deeds fully in Jesus.
- Therefore, God’s kindness, mercy, and grace do not undo or deny his desire and demand for justice. Where he promised and delivered mercy (due to his rightly upholding the covenant made to Abraham) he also delivered punishment and wrath (due to his rightly upholding the law) in Jesus. In both cases, God’s “right” actions are nothing less than his “righteousness.”
- Because Jesus pays the penalty for our sins, God is both just (enacting the due penalty for sin) and the justifier (declaring innocent even the guilty) the one who has faith in Christ.
- In acting this way, God upholds his own glory which sin defaces; he shows himself kind to those who trust in him; he allows no work or boasting before him (vv. 27 ff.); and he shows himself to be no respecter of person, treating Jew and Gentile alike in Christ.
Everything which comes before this point in the letter seems to be anticipating this paragraph. Everything that follows flows from it. It is a well-spring for those who want to drink deeply from the heart of God. All of God’s love, patience, goodness, kindness, justice, wrath, devotion, righteousness is on display in this one paragraph. And, yet, there is so much more to discover in Romans about the grace and goodness of our God! Friend, trust in this God. Build that trust through reading his word, for it is only here that you will begin to understand the heart of God, and will be built up evermore in him!