10 March 2012

Romans 3:19-31

"Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith." (vv. 23-25)


The laws recorded in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) were given specifically to the Jews, but in turn the whole world was meant to see its wrongdoing and relationship towards God through the Jewish experience. With the coming of Jesus things moved on and the writer refers to Jesus as disclosing the righteousness of God. Jesus shows us what God is truly like better than any rules and no one, Jewish or non-Jewish, comes close to matching the goodness and quality of his life. The unwritten problem is clear: How can anyone get into a good relationship with God? The answer suggested by the writer is that it is given as a gift from God.

Three terms arise in this passage and give us different views of the gift:

  • "Justified" (ie being made right with God) has connotations of a legal term in the sense of an accused being acquitted of any crime and free to leave the court.
  • "Redemption" was used in a society where slavery was common and had the meaning to free a slave through a payment of money.
  • "Atonement" refers to the Jewish practice of animal sacrifices that were made to get rid of and deal with sin.

It is faith, a trusting belief and reliance, in Jesus Christ that makes this work of justification, redemption and atonement possible or effective for the individual.

The gift from God, like any true gift, is given because the giver chooses to give it; it is not a prize for good work. The gift comes out of God's undeserved favour and love towards human beings, summed up in the simple but powerful word, grace.

The person of Jesus Christ brings into clear focus the deep problem for humankind and is also the gift of a solution for everyone through faith in him. It is faith in Jesus then that becomes the focus for all, both Jews and non-Jews. There is no restriction to any particular set of persons: all people are chosen, special and given grace. It is faith in Jesus that is the key.


To Ponder

How do you respond to each of the aspects highlighted of legal acquittal, payment to bring freedom from slavery and religious sacrifice, given for you in the person of Jesus? How can you understand them in your society and culture?

Where do you see grace, or undeserved kindness, at work in your daily life?

In the light of today's passage what does faith in Jesus mean for you?

Bible notes author

Dr Andy Dye

Andy Dye is a mission partner for the Methodist Church in Britain serving with the Methodist Church in Grenada, South Caribbean. He has a background in science, science teaching and mission work.