Day 294 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Romans.
Romans 3 – God’s greatest gift to His people is His “oracles”. This refers to what we call Scripture. For the Jews of Paul’s day this was what we call the Old Testament. Since Jesus’ coming, “Scripture” is both Testaments, Old and New. Later Paul will remind us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Psalm 10:17); this has its counterpart in Moses’ question to Israel: “And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:8).
The word of God forms the people of God, and in all ages this is an incomparable gift. The refusal of some to acknowledge Scripture’s words as divine in origin and substance does not alter the fact of who gave those words and what they are in God’s sight.
The human plight is that “the whole world”, every single person, fails to live up to the moral standard God requires. Paul draws here on all He has said stretching back to 1:18. He marshals grim evidence from various Psalm passages—more “oracles of God” that inform humans of the truth they seek to suppress (Romans 1:18). All mouths are stopped. Deep down, humans know sin and guilt, but they lack the means to evade divine judgment, which requires being “justified” in God’s sight.
If previous verses might lead to despair, Paul now sets forth grounds for rejoicing starting in verse 21. What Abraham set his hope on by faith, so that God granted him a righteous standing (Genesis 15:6), Jesus Christ has accomplished “for all who believe” the gospel promise as Abraham did (Romans 3:22). Yes, the sinful human condition is universal and terminal. But believers “are justified” by God’s “grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The term “redemption” suggests a picture of slaves being purchased and freed. God sent His Son to be a “propitiation”: He satisfied the demands of God’s wrath by His death on the cross in the place of sinners. When He “passed over former sins” prior to Jesus’ coming, God did not merely dismiss the charges against the guilty. Rather, God’s righteous demands were met in Jesus’ death. God proved to be “just” in not overlooking sin, and He also freely chose to act as “justifier” for “the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Our hearts are moved as we marvel at the wisdom of God in providing a righteous way of rescue for guilty sinners that does not in any way compromise His justice and holiness. We marvel, too, at God’s great love in sending His own Son to accomplish this salvation.
The outcome of God’s saving act in Jesus includes the elimination of “boasting” or confidence in human self-sufficiency. There is no religious system or achievement through which any humans, Jew or Gentile, can meet the righteous standards of God’s law. There is one God and accordingly one humanity (both Jew and Gentile) and one way of redemption: Jesus Christ’s perfect work received by faith. Yet far from canceling the Old Testament, saving faith in God through Jesus vindicates the law in its truth, promises, and guidance. The book of Romans confirms this conviction by its dozens of Old Testament citations and allusions. The church through the centuries has agreed with Paul in receiving the whole Bible, not just the New Testament, as God’s inspired Word.
How does this chapter help you see the connection between the Old and New Testaments?
Romans 4 – Paul furnishes an example of how gospel faith is rooted in the good news which “the law” (Romans 3:31; here meaning the Old Testament) conveys. Both Abraham (long before Moses gave “the law” proper) and David (centuries after Moses) found earthly and eternal blessedness in God’s sight. This came about through God granting them righteousness, despite their sin, through their faith in His promises—the promises that would be vindicated in Jesus’ saving work. This action of God’s part “covered” their sin and headed off their condemnation on the day of judgment that all will face.
While God is the heavenly Father of His people, Abraham serves as “the father of all who believe” in the sense that those who hear and receive the gospel message “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had.” Just as Abraham did not earn a righteous standing through some meritorious act or some ritual like circumcision, Jesus’ followers know God’s full acceptance apart from any merit they might try to earn through their own piety, moral achievement, or religious exercise.
Faith, promise, grace: this bundle of words encapsulates the point of Paul’s story of Abraham in Romans 4. Faith (full personal trust) is the right posture for approaching God; promise (the centuries-old pledge to redeem those who are truly His) is God’s invitation to exercise faith; grace is God’s gift of acceptance and new life in full fellowship with Him. All three words are powerful because they tap into Jesus’ work as related in 3:21–26 and restated in 4:24–25. “Faith” is not faith in or from itself but faith in and from God’s saving act through Jesus. To constantly examine whether you have enough faith is to turn faith into its opposite; faith is not looking at yourself at all, but at Jesus.
Abraham is not just a character in an ancient story: he carries world-changing weight for us too. As Abraham received a righteous standing through faith, so do we—not because of Abraham’s greatness but because of “Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.” Faith in Him who died and rose results in “justification”. This means God accounts Jesus’ righteousness to us who entrust our lives to Him. His resurrection life (cleansed of sin and endued with the power of life-giving holiness) becomes our own, not only after this life but right now, as chapter 5 will make clear.
How do you see faith, promise, and grace working in your life?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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