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Romans 3 - Exegesis

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INTRODUCTION Adam and Eve, created in an absolutely pristine environment, did what is now in hindsight the most unthinkable thing and disobeyed the only prohibition that they were given. By choosing to satisfy their basic appetites the couple cast the world into a chaos and confusion that has lingered eternally. Their collective action resulted in the introduction of an etymology in which man is forever caught in a whirlpool of selfishness and humanism, where God has become totally and uniquely irrelevant and insignificant; Man became the epitome of himself a being that held no regard for the God of heaven like sheep gone astrayeveryman to his own way. It was God in his sovereignty that set in motion a divine initiative for a redemptive work in history. The books of Exodus through to Deuteronomy are records of the inception and initiation of this action plan to bring man back to himself. It is in these books of the Old Testament that we get a masked picture of the initiative of salvation, sufficient for that time. The centre of this miraculous and historic unfolding surrounds the establishment of the tabernacle of God that was erected at the centre of the camp of Israel. The meticulous nature with which the instructions for this temple were communicated and the care that was given in following the instructions to the T were not only a matter of architectural or engineering significance or excellence, but more importantly, it was a representation of the desire of God to bring back to himself man whom he created and to dwell in his fullness in their midst. It was a demonstration of what would then be revealed in its fullness in the pages of the New Testament. Chapters 26 40 of Exodus testify to the great detail given by God in the construction of this tabernacle a tabernacle finally completed in chapter 40 of the text. Of prominence in this tabernacle was the Holy of Holies, the quintessential representation and resting place of the presence and power of God on earth among his chosen people Israel. It is within the holy of holies, that the high priest made temporary atonement for himself and for the nation of Israel, via the blood

of bulls and rams for sins and transgressions, and it is there before the Ark of the Covenant that God would forgive the sins of his own. Fast forward to the New Testament centuries later and we are presented with a fuller picture of the redemptive work of God in history. Through His son Jesus Christ, God brought to completion his divine prerogative to restore man to himself a salvation that is both complete and continuous. It is in the words penned in Romans 3: 21 26 more than any other location in the book of Romans that the theological intersections of this divine initiative are elucidated by the great orator Paul. Rarely does the bible bring together in so few verses so many important theological ideas: the righteousness of God, justification, the shift in salvation history, faith, sin, redemption, grace propitiation, forgiveness and the justice of God.1 As such the importance and significance of the act of the son of God and the son himself may represent a reformation of the transcendental starting point in this parenthesises called time and redemptive history. The advent of Christ, his death, burial and resurrection represents the establishment of a new covenant under which justification and redemption were no longer garnered through temporary sacrifices as the blood of animals but through the incomparable atoning blood of the Lamb of God. The practices of the Old Testament were brought to fruition in the New Testament, convened by and through Jesus Christ himself.

JUSTIFICATION: THE FREE GIFT THROUGH FAITH3:21 . 3:22 3:23 [ .2 ] 3: 26 , , , , , 3: 24 3:25

1 2

Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary, Romans, (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 125.

Charles John Ruppert, GNT, Online Greek New Testament, [resource on-line], available from http://wesley.nnu.edu/gnt/, internet, accessed 14/04/08.

3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 3: 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished 3: 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (New International Version), NIV.

There are many versions and translations of the original Greek manuscripts part of which is outlined above. The poetical King James Version is very often the version of choice for most readers of the Bible, primarily because it may have been one of the first versions to have been published but also for its poetical language. However, this version may not satisfactorily represent a proper interpretation of the text in Romans outlined above. This version is rather hard to read and uses an antiquated language. There are a number of versions that will be used in this paper the primary one being the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). This is not saying that other versions will not be employed. However, the intention of this paper is to give as close as possible an accurate interpretation of the spirits intention in the text as well as to do justice to the original Greek manuscript. As such this version of the Bible will be used along with translations that may help our cause in this paper in our look at the third chapter of Romans. The book of Romans is the longest and most theologically significant of Pauls letters. The gospel as the righteousness of God by faith occupies centre stage for the first part of the book (1:18 4:25).3 Paul paves the way for this theme by explaining why it was necessary for God to manifest his righteousness and why humans can experience this righteousness only by faith. Sin, Paul affirms, has gained a stranglehold on all people, and only an act of God, experienced as a free gift through faith, can break through that stranglehold. Gods wrath, the condemning outflow of his holy anger, stands over all sinners and justly so. For God has made himself known to all people through creation; their turning from him to gods of their own making renders them without excuse (Romans 1). As such Paul makes a claim that only God can change the tragic state of affairs, and this he has3

D. A Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 2005), 391.

done by making himself available, through the sacrifice of his son, a means of becoming righteous, or innocent, before God. This justification can be gained only through faith. It is with this in mind that Paul penned the words and theological nuances in this the third chapter of his letter to the Romans. Verse 21 26 may represent the heart and the centre of the main division of which it is a part. In fact it may be said that it is the heart of the whole section that spans Romans 1:16b 15:13. Paul continues his earlier discourse which he began in chapter 1, and the gospel he presents expands on the theme of justification by faith. Paul in his discourse takes a detour from the main line of his argument in chapter 1 to show why Gods intervention in Christ was needed and then resumes his argument in chapter 3. An examination of this pericope in chapter three shows that the language of righteousness (3: 21, 22, 25, 26), justify (24, 26), and just (v. 26) dominates this paragraph. All these English words come from the Greek root HMOEM and as such develop one basic theme. Paul in this assertion alludes to the idea that there is a new and different way of being seen as righteous in the eyes of God; this idea of righteous therefore is intimately linked to the idea of justification in light of the discourse. The term justification or justify does not mean to subjectively change into a righteous person but instead means to declare righteous, specifically, to declare righteous upon the act of faith based upon the work of another, the divine substitute Jesus Christ.4 Justification then involves both the forensic, legal declaration of the righteousness of the believer as well as the grounds and basis of their acceptance. The fact is that the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to the believer accounts for the resulting perfection of the relationship between the believer and God. As Romans 5:1 states, therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God that has been imputed to men is as a4

Chad Brand et al, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 2004), 970.

result of God, in the court yards of heaven declaring men to be righteous. Thus we are judged to be not guilty by a decisive divine decision of God himself. But there is much more that is significance about this text than meets the eye. Poignantly this passage stands out in its proclamation of the fact that the one decisive, once for all, redemptive act of God through which was declared righteous and just, the revelation both of the righteousness which is from God and also of the wrath of God against sin, the once for all revelation which is the basis of the continuing revelation of the righteousness (1:17) and of the wrath (1:18) of God in the preaching of the gospel, has now taken place. It shows unequivocally, according to Cranfield, that the heart of the gospel preached by Paul is a series of events in the past. It includes all that God d

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