10 March 2012Romans 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.
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?