Today I continue sharing thoughts from Ramona Jack from Romans 3:21-23. But I also want to add some other comments from Chad Gruizenga who also sent me some comments on the same passage.
Ramona: When you read Romans 3:21-23, it gives a picture of how radically different the Gospel would sound to both Jews and Gentiles. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested … even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe [both Jews and Gentiles]; for there is no distinction [between Jews and Gentiles – wow, if you were a Jew]; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [yes, even us Jews, who thought we were okay!].”
When you read these verses as if you were a Jew, it really shows you why Paul wrote some of the things he did. In what follows, it would have been earth-shattering to be a Jew and then learn that the basis for my salvation had changed, from obeying the Law and circumcision to this new thing called faith. And, that it is a gift from God; not something I earn from keeping the Law as I would have been taught.
What’s the relevancy of this perspective for us?
1) I think contextual background is helpful for us to understand why things are in the Bible and what they meant.
2) As Gentiles, it might be a fresh revelation to know that our salvation and privilege of being a fellow-heir with the Jews is indeed a privilege that wasn’t taken lightly in the 1st century. We shouldn’t take it for granted. It’s humbling.
3) Sometimes we veteran Christians can tend to think the way the Jews did, like we’re doing pretty good compared to the world and “have it in the bag”. We need reminding that the gospel is also for those who are so much different than we are: the drunks, homosexuals, liberals, abortionists, Muslims, terrorists.
Chad: By the time Paul gets to Rom. 3:31, he anticipated the Jewish mind thinking that his teaching on justification by faith was somehow contrary to the law. Jews may have thought Paul was saying the O.T was wrong. Didn’t the O.T say that the law was good and that people should live by it and so forth, but now he is saying all this stuff about justification by faith. Isn’t this contradictory?
Of course, the answer is no! It’s not contradictory at all. Paul’s, and as well as Jesus teaching was not destructive to the law or prophets, but affirmed what it anticipated. The law and the prophets confirmed the gospel message (see Rom. 1:1,2; 3:21).
It’s no mistake that right after 3:31 Paul immediately brings up Abraham to show that the Torah itself taught justification by faith. Even before God delivered the law to Israel, Abraham, who was a revered O.T character believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. So in a nutshell I think that’s what Paul means in 3:31 by saying we don’t void the law through faith, but we establish it, or uphold it. The O.T doesn’t void the message of Justification through faith, on the contrary, it upholds it.
These are deep waters but when I think I see the light, it’s very rewarding!