Many of you are well aware that I preached this past week from my exegesis on Romans 3:21-26, well, here is the paper behind that sermon. Hopefully it will be to you as Professor Charette said "a homerun out of the park" sort of deal for you...
Enjoy reading it.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD: AN EXEGESIS OF ROMANS 3:21-26
Being a believer in Jesus Christ is one of the greatest joys in a person’s life. The life and death of Christ Jesus upon the cross is quite profound. In Romans 3:21-26, the apostle Paul addresses the gift of salvation that Christ brings to the world. Discussing the theme of righteousness as it is given to us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, Paul breaks down its concept. He shares with his audience that 1) God is the giver of righteousness, 2) His righteousness is continual, actively available to all who believe in Him, and 3) the righteousness of God is dependent upon Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, so that through Him all man-kind may be justified.
Paul is one of the most well known persons in the Bible, and the vast majority of the New Testament Scriptures come from his own hand. Born in Tarsus as a Roman citizen at around 5AD. With a strong Jewish background, Paul became the one of the most controversial and influential men of his time. Before the time of his conversion experience Paul went by another name, that of Saul of Tarsus. He was best known for his agenda, which was to destroy the Christian church and kill any Christians that stood in the way of the Sanhedrin.
Paul served as the “Pharisee of Pharisee”, with complete devotion to studying and living out Torah, or the law as it is known to be. At the time of his conversion experience, great tension began to build. Paul’s beliefs about the law changed and he began to share it boldly. This caused a great deal of tension amongst the Jewish community, because Jews who live outside the confines of Christ’s resurrection had no understanding of the law’s complete fulfillment. There was no longer a need for the Law to be observed.
Throughout all of Paul’s writings there are significant similarities. One great similarity between his letters is his use of salutation. All of Paul’s bestow a formal greeting and blessing. He found it to be of utmost importance that his audience know who they were hearing from. Even though there have been accusations made by scholars that Paul is not the author of the majority of his letters, this cannot be the case because of the salutations made throughout (Cf. Ephesians, Titus, Philemon, etc).
Themes of Paul’s Writing
Paul’s writings have other similarities like that of salutation that carry forth proof of his authorship. These similarities bring relying themes in which Paul uses throughout all of his writings, not just in one particular letter. Some of the themes found in Paul’s writings include 1) the righteousness of God, 2) the powerlessness of works, 3) justification through faith, and 4) humanity’s hopelessness and eternal peril.
Written in approximately 57 AD, Paul probably wrote this letter from Corinth in during his third missionary journey. In his letter, Paul makes mention of a woman named
Phoebe (16:1-2) and she was likely the person that brought this letter to Rome. She resided in Cenchreae, which was near Corinth and was one of its port cities. Furthermore, Gaius was Paul’s host (16:23) and this is likely the same Gaius who lived in Corinth (1 Cor 1:14). Finally, two fairly early manuscripts of Romans have subscriptions (brief notes that a copyist added to the end of a document) which say that the letter was written from Corinth.
As a letter written to the Church in Rome, Paul knew that there would be a great mix of both Jews and Gentiles. Included within the mix of people were the rich and educated, rabbis, tax collectors, and even servants. Every walk of life would have been in Rome when the letter arrived.
Knowing that he was going to have such a vast array of audience, Paul wrote this letter as a note of encouragement to residing believers. There were two groups of believers during this time, those who were Jewish and the Gentiles. While the Jewish believers followed the law very strictly, the Gentiles and the exceptional few Jewish believers put the law aside to simply follow Jesus Christ. Paul knew that this was going on and wanted the people to understand the fullness of God’s righteousness as it pertains to His sacrifice. The way that Paul expressed this is clear in Romans 3:21-26. He explains to his readers that there was now a new system of justification, which is only obtainable through faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that this was the best way to explain the Gospel in a Jewish influenced society and as time went on more and more Jews were coming to faith in their Messiah.
This was crucial to the spread and rise of Christianity as he Jewish people were being spread around into what was known as the Diaspora, giving the Gospel of Jesus Christ the opportunity to be heard in distant lands highly influenced by mystic religions, Greek thought, and Hellenistic Judaism. Hellenistic Judaism
deeply influenced by classical thought, was the majority Jewish culture of the day. Even within the small area of Judea and the slightly larger area of the land of Israel, which included Samaria and the Galilee, we have evidence of a large number of Hellenized Jews.
Paul’s mission was to reach even them with the Gospel of Christ Jesus by first reaching
the people of Rome.
Summary of the Content of Romans 3:21-26
The people of Israel were seeking after their political Messiah when Jesus comes into the picture. His arrival and ministry certainly rocked the world of those believers in Judea, changing the world forever. Those living in Rome were heavily influenced and controlled by its government that they lived in fear of having their own ideas, thoughts, and even beliefs. When Jesus came with a proclamation of deliverance, the people, although they desired to follow him, because of internal oppression, stood back. They wanted him to overthrow the government with a mighty sword, but Jesus came solely to bring peace to the innermost part of man, his heart, by fulfilling the Father’s plan to bring about righteousness to all who accept Him (Rom. 3:21-26).
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
In the times of the Old Testament, righteousness was something solely obtained through the strict sacrificial system. In order to receive God’s righteousness, a lamb was brought before the priest at the altar and its throat is slit. The blood from the lamb would be used to atone for and cover the sins of one who was sacrificing it. Before this could take place those, there had to be an understanding and recognition of one’s own sin. “The knowledge (or recognition) of sin comes through law, - by (1) its revealing what God approved in man, and what God disapproved and forbade; (2) causing man to undertake obedience; and (3) condemning him for failure to obey.” Unfortunately, the sacrificial system never helped people to see just how hopeless they really were.
Paul, with a brokenness for the people, wanted to share with them that while there is a need for justification of their sins, the new law changes things. Expressing that there was not a reason to be without hope, he “portrays the revelation of god’s righteousness in Christ’s cross, and lays the foundations of the gospel of justification (3:21-26)”. The righteousness of God seems like some unobtainable thing because God is so perfect and we are not. So what is it that has to be done in order to obtain what is unobtainable?
During the time of Noah, God wanted to wipe out humanity because of their sinfulness. In the sixth chapter of Genesis, we see God wipeout the wickedness of the earth, but not without a plan to spare some. In direct obedience with God’s command, Noah builds an ark and a group of people and animals were spared from His wrath. The world would start over again but this time would be different. God was not about to wipe away the world every time sin took over. This time He was going to provide a way for people to receive forgiveness for their sins.
God had created a way for people to be justified. Steven Mosher, author of God’s Power, Jesus’ Faith and World Mission: A Study in Romans elaborates on the fact that because we have Christ, we have a means for there to be forgiveness of sins.
No one is considered righteous because one actually reflects God’s righteousness, as revealed in Jesus. This union with Jesus and his faith - being “in” Christ Jesus – is producing the same faithful and righteous life that Jesus lived. When all were helplessly enslaved to sin, Jesus came to manifest a new freedom from the oppressive power of sin.
Without this sense of obtaining righteousness, we have no hope. Paul was yearning for the church in Rome to understand that all had sinned and therefore, all need to be saved.
In Jewish culture, non-Jewish people who had followed the law were considered a Jewish. Paul, being a Jewish person who had found Christ, found fulfillment of the Law in Christ Himself. This same concept applies to anyone who is not a Jew yet follows Christ. Not only is God fulfillment of the Law, but God is judge. He is a God to be feared because he will condemn those that do not turn their lives over to Him. Although God is to be feared, He is fair and just to those who are in Him (Rom. 3:26).
Justice is one of God’s most important attributes because He proclaims that He is a good God, and that He will be fair in all of his dealings with the world. When people admit openly that they have sinned, they have taken the first step towards receiving the righteousness that God offers to them (Rom. 3). This righteousness is manifested through the law as it bears witness to it but this is different. The propitiation here for the sins of many is now made through the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There was now a constant sacrificial system put into place unlike previously. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they constantly sacrificed animals to God for their sins. This was part of the day-to-day activities of the Jewish people. The death of Christ completely did away with this system because His sacrifice is a once-for-all sacrifice. There is no longer a need for other sacrifices to be made.
This is how God shows that His righteousness is obtainable. The blood of Jesus is the substitute for humanity’s sins, wiping each individual’s slate clean. He is a righteous God because He shed the blood of His own Son for the sins of the world in which we live today.
Schurer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ: Second Division, Volume 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1890. 379p.
Schoeps, H.J. Paul: The theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959. 303p.
Stott, John. Romans: God’s Good News for the World. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1994. 432p.
Nevell, William R. Romans. Chicago: Moody Press, 1938. 590p.
Luedemann, Gerd. Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles Studies in Chronology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980. 311p.
Segal, Alan F. Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. 368p.
Swindoll, Charles. New Testament Insights: Insights on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 342p.
The ESV Study Bible (English Standard Version) Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. 2750pp