3 February 2014

Romans 3:21-31

“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.” (vv. 23-24)


Paul used Jewish religious imagery to explain the difference Jesus made, and how the salvation Jesus offered was for all.

The nature of God (ie the righteousness of God: justice, love, mercy) had previously been shown through the God-given practices of the law (which helped Jews love God and their neighbour) and the words of the prophets. It was now definitively shown in Jesus Christ for those who had faith in Jesus and believed.

It was possible for both Gentile (non Jew) and Jew to have faith and believe in Jesus Christ, and receive salvation. This was because all had sinned and not lived true to their glorious God-given nature. Glory describes God's transcendent presence, splendour and beauty, and humans are truly beautiful when reflecting this glory.

Humans were justified (ie regained their righteousness, beautiful, glorious nature) as a gift from God through Christ. Paul used the image of sacrifice to illuminate this. In the system of sacrifices, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest went through the veil into the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice for the unwitting and unknown sins (hidden injustice, wrong community relationships) of the Jewish people. (For known sins people had to make restitution with the injured party before making a sacrifice to God.)

Paul suggested Jesus was the sacrifice offered for the sins of the people. When an animal was sacrificed, it was believed the offering of the life would bring life to the worshipper. Jesus' sacrifice brought life to those who believed and found themselves vitally connected to God through Jesus.

It meant that no one was able to achieve salvation by their own efforts, by obeying the law or trying to live a good life. Trusting in their own ability could only get them so far, but did not deal with hidden un-godlike individual and community attitudes. They needed to keep the spirit of the law and more! Therefore, salvation was thrown open to everyone; the only condition was that of faith in Jesus Christ.

To Ponder

  • In what ways do you or your church community try to save yourselves and how far does it work? And in what ways does it not work?
  • What might it mean to throw open the offer of salvation to everyone, without expecting them to find it your way?
  • John Newton's hymn "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds" (Singing the Faith322) says Jesus "soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds and drives away our fear, ... 'tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary, rest". What is Jesus to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.