Many scholars debate the actual central theme or intent of the letter. I tend to side with those who say it is to glorify God alone.
The five verses we are going to discuss are, just that, only five verses. Many in contemporary Christianity today are likely baffled by the idea that it would take more than a few sentences or paragraphs to understand what these few verses mean. It is even more likely that several would result in differing results. These assumptions regarding the state of the average Evangelical churchgoer today lead to the need and mandate the approach, content and, moreover, the Scripture discussed.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 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. 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.
(Romans 3:21-26 ESV)
In discussing the current state with members of the local church it is apparent in short conversations alone that many “good Christians” are in fact theologically anemic, and frankly ignorant of the basic tenants and doctrines of the Evangelical Christian faith. In particular, many are simply misguided, confused or due to the sinful human nature in us all, refuse to accept that somewhere our deeds and works are not evidence enough for our acceptance before God. Some have the understanding that the overwhelming love of God would not let anyone suffer in Hell, and some find it completely unfair that only some will get to rejoice with God in all his glory for eternity. We cannot read this passage with the simplest naïve understandings without needing to confront these ideas.
We will look at the passage in its specific time period as it relates to the occasion in which Paul wrote this epistle, a letter, to the Church at Rome and attempt to gain an understanding of how that influences our conclusions regarding the text. Secondly we will consider how these texts have been presented in their specific period of redemptive history as part of God’s unfolding plan that is being revealed over time. Lastly we will consider what the text means in light of the entirety of God’s revealed plan in scripture. We will close with applications to the reader and short interaction with the presented dilemmas within the church body today.
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