Justification, Redemption, Propitiation

Justification, Redemption, Propitiation – Thursday, 28th week in ordinary time – Romans 3:21-30

So far, Paul has shown us how the very condition of human beings without the Gospel calls forth God’s anger on both the Jew and Gentile. In this section he will show that a new period in human history begins with the coming of Jesus Christ. This section of verses 21-30 are the most important part of Romans which formulates the core of Paul’s good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 28 of this text is also the verse which Luther added the words “ONLY” into his translation of the Bible, making this teaching a major reformation issue.

This passage and much of Romans for that matter, reveals an ethnic conflict within the Christian community in Rome (cf. Romans 14:1-15:6).Remember, Paul is addressing a mixed Church of Jews and Gentiles. By the year 54 AD, many of the Jewish Christians have returned to Rome from exile imposed by the Emperor Claudius who has now passed away. They return to find the Gentile Christians now in charge of the Church in Rome and having made some changes to dietary and calendric dates.

There is obviously some tension between the two groups. How should non-Jewish believers relate to the religious traditions of Israel? Can they become linked to the “one body in Christ” if they do not have the same religious sensibilities as others within the community? Paul’s letter addressed this ethnic conflict, which was also a religious one.

Today’s text begins with the words “but now”. These words provide the most glorious transition from the judgment of Romans 3:20 to the justification of Romans 3:21. It marks a new era that is inaugurated, a new covenant that has begun. An era which supersedes the law, circumcision and the promises . It speaks of the newness of God’s work in Jesus Christ – it really is a New Covenant.

For Paul, the law by itself cannot save us, but God reveals his plan of salvation by sending his son Jesus Christ. We will be now made righteousness through Jesus and this is not a novelty; Paul didn’t “invent” it. It was predicted long ago, the Old Testament said this righteousness was coming.

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