Retelling Romans 3:21-31

And now, God’s justice has been manifested apart from the Bible (though the Bible testifies to it): God’s justice through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus to all who trust. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and lack God’s glory, all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption accomplished in Christ Jesus, whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, accomplished through Jesus’ faithfulness unto the shedding of his own blood. God’s justice was demonstrated through the forgiving of sins which had been previously committed, which, because of God’s forbearance, had gone unpunished. God’s justice was demonstrated in the present time, showing God to be just in acquitting on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ Jesus.

What happens to boasting under such circumstances? It is excluded. What excludes it? It is not excluded by actions which serve as boundary markers of a religious community. The only boundary for the people of God which remains is God’s own faithfulness.

We consider that people are justified through faithfulness, and not on the basis of boundary markers. Is God the God of Christians only, and not also of non-Christians? Yes, there is only one God who is God of Christians and non-Christians, and who will thus justify those within the church through faithfulness and those outside it through faithfulness.

So does this talk of faithfulness undermine the Bible? By no means! In fact, we are establishing the Bible.

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I apologize for the long delay since my last post in this series. As a reminder, and for those who may be coming across it for the first time, I am trying to translate Romans as faithfully as I can while also paraphrasing it to address Christians. My aim is to allow the text to be heard by Christians today in much the same way that it would have sounded to Jews in the time when Paul wrote, a time before the term Christianity was being used (by Paul at least).

  • Marshall

    I see in v.26 you have “the faithfulness of Christ Jesus” in place of the usual “faith in Jesus”. That seems pretty radical to me! I see the NRSV suggests the alternate “have the faith _of_ Jesus”, but still that leaves the faith in “those”. Can you clarify that choice?

    … I personally am a little queasy with the “_all_ you need is faith, grace does _everything_” line (eg Joseph Prince, Andrew Farley, Tullian Tchividjian) but that does seem to be what Paul said??

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I wrestled a bit with how best to render that bit of v26, where it is simply the definite article (singular) that the NRSV renders as “those.” It is a rather compressed formulation, and I found myself wondering whether it could mean not merely “justifies the one who has faith(fulness) like that of Jesus” but, as we might say in English, “justifies/acquits one out of the faithfulness of Jesus.”

      At times, it sounds as though our faith(fulness) is actually quite secondary, and that what matters in the end is the faithfulness of God and of Jesus. And by secondary, I mean not in the “Christ has done it all, but it is like a check, you have to cash it” sort of way popular in some Evangelical circles (which puts faith back in the center, almost as a salvation-earning work, albeit the only one), but in the sense that faith(fulness) is the appropriate but in no sense adequate human response to God having truly reconciled all things to himself in Christ.


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