Romans 3:21-26

Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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. 26 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.

Humility requires confidence.  As Romans 1 strikes me as the root cause of my problem, so Romans 3 begins to build the fulcrum of the solution.  I’ve been waiting for this verse, trying hard to wait – – like a kid who must sleep the night before a trip to an amusement park.  Romans 3:23 – – all.  I don’t want to include you in all.  I’m selfish.  Its not about you – – its about me.  I’m there in the center of all.  Perhaps you are the center of your own all too.  Why be selfish here?  Because the first person under judgment, the only person I am dimly qualified to judge – – is me.  Sin is a difficult word.  Ultimately I believe it is an archer’s term – – not hitting the mark.  Not shooting first, then painting the bull’s eye and concentric circles later.  I don’t hit the mark – – I can’t even reach my own center.  I’m not kind enough, patient enough, generous enough, smart enough, thin enough or rich enough – – the latter two aren’t even laudable goals – – how laughable am I!

Humility requires confidence.  How can I reach for humility from self effacement, worse debasement?  What confidence serves as a foundation?  The confidence that comes from being loved.  The confidence that comes from being valued by another whom I admire.  I live and breathe in America.  It seems so counter-cultural and Philistine that I would derive my worth from another.  Isn’t that what we have risen from?  Isn’t slavery one of the greatest stains on our national conscience?  It is.  So why build humility on vicarious confidence?  I’m getting to know myself as the trail of life winds forward, up and around.  I know that I miss the mark and I desperately want and need someone to walk with me.  Wish fulfillment?  Oh yes – – I wish for one to lead me.  Superman?  Oh no – – Nietzsche was wrong.  I understand this better – – or better, this understands me.

Humility requires confidence in one deserving of confidence.  As I place that confidence in following Christ, I’m able to say that I don’t understand it all.  I’m able to put myself firmly in Romans 1 and not hypocritically assign only others who struggle in different ways.  Am I completely humble, completely gentle?  Dear God – – no.  But I see what you did for me, see how I needed you and what you did in compassion, and I start to see a way forward.  There are two paths to humility – – a destination that I seek.  I’ve known one path – – humiliation.  This is another, and I propose the better.

Pascal

–1:16

8 comments

  1. I’m so glad to see you back in Romans. I know we haven’t even resolved discussions about whether or not the Bible is trustworthy and whether or not it presents a logically coherent argument for God—but I don’t think your answers ever really relied upon syllogisms. For you, the answer is here in Romans and in the way you’ve seen it play out in your life—I can tell by how many dashes you use when you write. These words are from your heart and are written the way that you speak. I’m tired of syllogisms for now—I agree with many other writers here that the God of the Bible is not logically coherent. But what IS he? That’s what you write about here. You still have to wrestle with the arguments in the way you have so faithfully—but do this too. It’s important for you. It’s important to me, too. I’m like a kid the night before an amusement park trip waiting for Romans 9—not because I want to stump you, but because I still need help with it. At this rate, I’ll be in my thirties when we get there! Maybe I’ll see it differently by then. I’m also looking forward to Romans 8—“For I am persuaded…”

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    1. Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, “I Am That I Am” – I wonder why “what God is” or “who God is” is of concern? He simply IS. Perhaps the question as to whether the Bible is true, trustworthy, discrepant etc is a symptom of finite, limited beings expecting that God, who is infinite, can be defined. Worse, the creature expects that the Creator should define Himself to us.

      Too little thinking prevents us from bothering with truth (a-muse-ments do that don’t they?). Too much thinking hides truth (theology – systematic and rational study of concepts of God and of the nature of religious ideas).

      The reassurance of Romans 8 (There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.) follows hopelessness of Romans 7 (O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?). The uselessness of Romans 9 (Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?) icomes before, praise God, we get to the crux of the matter in Romans 10 (That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.)

      It strikes me that rationalizing everything gets in the way…

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      1. Do you think that Romans 9 is useless?—because you seem to be saying the same in your first paragraph.

        I appreciate your comment, but I think I disagree. To clarify, I’m okay with a God who surpasses my human understanding. Actually, I want him to. But I need to be able to trust that it’s his mercy and power and goodness that exceed all comprehension.

        I think the Bible does paint a picture of a God who wants to be known by his creation—it doesn’t stop at a burning bush or the words “I am that I am.” He wraps himself in flesh and comes to dwell among us. “I am”, an untouchable fire, becomes a body broken for us—a body that a beloved disciple leaned against at a meal before he died. He defines himself at every turn. The good shepherd. The living water. The way, the truth, the life.

        I don’t have him here in person, speaking his identity into my life, but I don’t think the God I read about in scripture would fault me for wanting to know him and define him. If he gave me this rational mind, it should give him joy that I would use it to know him. If he is there, I don’t think reason will prevent me from finding him.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I apologize on two counts. First, for the delay in replying. I haven’t yet mastered the art of blogging and commenting. Replies escape my attention, especially those deserving of a response.

          Second, my use of “uselessness” wasn’t aimed at the chapter but at the situation covered (at least in part – verses 19 & 20) in it. Israel has a special relationship with God. They are His chosen people but they squandered the promise and blessings and gave to God what they didn’t value instead of giving Him their best. Everything was flipped around so that, instead of God being at their center, they were at His. Similarly we are in danger of falling into the same trap if we think God owes us – an explanation, a display of His power, proof of His existence, or anything else.

          For me, I am happy in the knowledge that He loved this world enough to send Jesus to die on the cross, rise from the dead, and thus deal with sin that has been a barrier to open and full communion between God and man since the garden of Eden.

          I hope this helps rather hinders, and that I have answered your question.

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          1. Thanks for the clarification. I think I understand what you’re saying, and I could be happy in that knowledge too—if I could have more confidence in it.

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  2. ROM 3:21 “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets”

    Clearly Paul is innovating there, for the law and prophets say:

    Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…

    Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

    Isaiah 2:3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

    Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

    Unfortunately, most Christians are willing to accept the disparity between Paul’s gentile variety of Christianity and James’ idea of Christianity as a reformed Judaism with a simple hand wave.

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    1. This is an interesting comment Linuxgal. You’re comments usually interest me. I don’t see a conflict between Galatians (Paul’s Magna Carta of Christian Liberty) and James’ epistle (Faith without Works is Dead). Rather I see a resonance. The apparent conflict piqued my interest so much that I led a home Bible study on the topic. Is Paul clearly innovating, or did he embellish Christ’s claim that the the law would not be abolished, but fulfilled. It is consistent with Paul’s other writings – – the law makes us aware of sin, but only provides a partial solution.

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