10 September 2022

From Faith for Faith


Men are not set right before God from the works of the law but from the faith of Jesus Christ

Half Dome - Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash
In his letter to the Romans, Paul demonstrates that all men have sinned. Both Jews and Gentiles violate the revealed will of God. Therefore, no one is set right before God “
from the law.” Jews have the Law but fall short of its requirements. Gentiles have the witness of their own conscience yet continue to live in their sins - [Half Dome - Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash].

So, if not one of us is set right before God “from the works of the law,” how are we “justified” before Him? Paul does not leave us without hope. After his opening salutations, he declares that there is a “righteousness of God” that is being “manifested apart from the law.”

  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every man who believes - to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it is being revealed a righteousness of God from faith for faith, as it is written, But the righteous one shall live from faith.

Arguably, this pronouncement is the theme of Paul’s letter and goes to the heart of his message. In Christ, God has provided salvation for all men who exercise faith in it, and it alone contains the “power” to achieve their reconciliation with the Creator of all things.

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS


It is important to note that Paul refers to the righteousness “of God,” to something that the Almighty possesses, and not to some moral absolute or principle that men must attain in their own lives or through their own efforts. Certainly, there are moral absolutes, but that is not the subject under discussion.

In the Greek sentence, Paul uses a progressive present tense verb - God’s “righteousness,” His faithfulness is “being revealed” in the present wherever this gospel is proclaimed. The salvation that commenced on Calvary continues as Jesus is proclaimed before men.

And this “salvation” is being revealed “from faith for faith.” The two prepositions in the Greek clause are specific – “from” (ek) and “for” (eis – or “unto faith”). There is a source (“from”) and recipients of that faith (“for faith”).

And the source is the “righteous one.” Here, Paul uses a noun in the singular number accompanied by the direct article or “the.” He is referring to a specific and known person, namely, Jesus Christ. And, once again, he uses a very specific preposition – “from” or ek.

SET RIGHT BEFORE GOD


This is Paul’s shorthand description of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf in his death. At this point in the letter, the language is cryptic, but this bare framework will be filled in as the letter progresses.

In his declaration, Paul is not talking about how believers live a Christian life day to day. He is describing how they are set right with God in the first place - the basis for their “justification” before Him. Moreover, in a letter in which he stresses that “no one is righteous, no not one,” it would be strange at this point to refer to any man other than Jesus as “righteous.”

Unrighteous sinners who believe the gospel are put in right standing before God. And as Paul writes in the third chapter, the righteousness of God that they receive is “through the faith OF Jesus Christ” - (Romans 3:21-22).

In this last passage, we must note Paul’s use of the genitive case in the Greek clause. If he intended to write “in Jesus,” he would have used the dative case and inserted the preposition en or “in.” But no Greek preposition is present in the clause, and the genitive case signifies something that Jesus possesses.

The Apostle is referring to his faith, the “faith” or “faithfulness of Jesus,” and most likely, he means his faithful obedience “unto death.” And that righteousness achieved by him is now “for [eis] all men who believe” - faith is how they respond to the righteousness “from the faith of Jesus” - (Romans 3:21-22).

We are set right “freely by His grace” that is made available “through the redemption that is in Jesus.”

REDEMPTION


The term “redemption” represents the Greek word that is formed with the preposition apo (“from”), the noun lutron (“ransom”), and the verb luô (“loose, release”). The idea is a “ransomed-release,” a releasing that is accomplished through a paid ransom. The language is metaphorical, and questions about who paid what to whom do not enter Paul’s discussion - (Romans 3:23).

God “presented Jesus.” Paul uses a verb that means to set something forth, to “present” something or someone for public display. And He “presented” Christ as the ‘hilastérion.’ When we debate whether the noun means “propitiation” or “expiation” we overlook the background from Leviticus. The Greek Septuagint version uses hilastérion for the “mercy seat” that was in the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle.

Paul is drawing an analogy from the annual Day of Atonement when the high priest entered the “holy of holies” with sacrificial blood that he sprinkled before and on the “mercy seat” to “cover” the stain of Israel’s sin - (Leviticus 16:15-17).

And the “mercy seat” was the place where the presence of Yahweh met with the priestly representative of Israel, where reconciliation was made by applying the animal blood to it. In Leviticus, the blood “covered” the stains of Israel’s sin that had polluted the “mercy seat” and the “holy place.” The blood was not applied to the Israelites. Thus, in Romans, Jesus is both the place and the means of reconciliation between God and man.

But there are differences between the Levitical ritual and the sacrifice of Jesus. In the Temple, the high priest entered the “holy of holies” alone and out of sight of the people, but God “presented” Jesus as the place of sacrifice openly for all to see. And the high priest applied the blood of bulls and goats to the “mercy seat,” but God applied the blood of Jesus, the “righteous” and faithful one.

Through his faithful act, Jesus became the “mercy seat,” the place of reconciliation, and the means for reconciling us to God. His sacrificial death is also “proof,” the evidence of God’s “righteousness,” of His justice and covenant faithfulness.

AN OPEN DISPLAY


In His “forbearance,” God “passed over” our past sins. By putting off our just desserts until the “day of wrath” He spared us from experiencing the very “wrath” that we so richly deserve. That is, until now, for in Jesus Christ He has dealt decisively with the problem and made provision for our justification.

But this provision has been done “for proof in the present time,” for God has made salvation available to all men through His Son. That is why the paragraph concludes - “To the end, his righteous one, even the one who is being set right from the faith of Jesus.”

To the end” translates the clause eis to einai that Paul uses often to indicate purpose - “to the end, for the purpose.” And here, “his righteous one” (auton dikaion, singular) reiterates his opening proposition that the “righteous one (ho dikaios, singular) will live from faith (ek pisteôs),” only now, the source of that faith is specified – “from the faith of Jesus.” That is, the (now) righteous man is being reconciled to God on the basis of Christ’s faithful act.

Rainbow Panorama - Photo by Andi Kleeli on Unsplash
[Photo by Andi Kleeli on Unsplash]

This understanding is confirmed in the conclusion of chapter 3.  There can be no “
boasting,” no claim upon God because of our faithful law-keeping. We are not justified “from the law” of Moses, but instead, “from a law of faith,” namely, from the “faith of Jesus Christ.”

Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not also the God of Gentiles? Yes, of Gentiles also, if so be that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision from (ek) faith, and the uncircumcision through (dia) faith. That is, just as Paul stated in verses 21-26, the Gentiles are those now justified “through the faith of Jesus,” and the Jews “from the faith of Jesus” – all men are reconciled to God “from the faith of Jesus.”

God justifies Jew and Gentile alike “from the faith of Jesus Christ” whether they are under the Law or not. And He vindicated Christ’s faithful act by resurrecting him (“marked out as the Son of God by power…through a resurrection from among the dead”).

And now, in this “present time,” men are being set right before God by responding to that gracious act with faith in what God has done “through the faith of Jesus.” Thus, the gospel preached by Paul is the “power of God for salvation” to all men and women who believe.



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