But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Same Version with Biblical and Systematic Theological Tenets and Doctrines Identified
But now the righteousness of God(Soter/Chrst/Theo.) has been manifested(Pneum.) apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God(Soter/Chrst/Theo.) through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe(Chrst/Anthr.). For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned(Anthro/Hamar.) and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by His grace(Soter/Theo.) as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Soter/Chrst.)  whom God put forward as a propitiation(Theo/Hamar/Soter.) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance(Theo/Esch.) He had passed over former sins.  It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier(Theo/Esch.) of the one who has faith in Jesus (Soter/Chrst). ESV
These six verses reveal the core of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Roman body of believers. They most certainly drive the dialogue for any conversations regarding the doctrine of salvation. Nearly every concept of Biblical and Systematic Theology is presented here. Theology Proper (Nature of God); Christology (Christ); Pneumotology (Holy Spirit); Eschatology (Things to Come); Hamartiology (Sin); Soteriology (Salvation); Anthropology (Nature of Man).
The most spiritually loaded phrase is from the first chapter of Romans in verse seventeen where Paul delivers his thesis statement for next fifteen chapters; "the righteousness of God". This four-worded statement provides the gateway to our understanding of entire passage of Romans 3:21-26.
We can all give witness of our personal experience with God that His righteousness is manifested in many ways yet always consistent and never a contradiction to who He is - the nature and character of God. He is righteous. He revealed His completed righteousness in the person and presence of Christ Jesus and His righteousness is contextualized (relevant and applied) in the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith."
The statement righteousness of God is used four times in our passage (3:21, 22, 25, 26). This leads the reader (including us) to the beginnings of understanding that His righteousness is the foundation of salvation. Within the six verses of our passage will be included primary "Paul-isms" that describe the process of salvation. Rather than the order of the text, lets list them in logical order.
One - Christ has given himself as the sacrifice of atonement or “propitiation” for our sins (verse 25), producing in his sacrificial death the atoning work that makes salvation possible.
Two - In so doing, He has provided redemption by making the “ransom” payment that has “freed” us from our sins, guilt, and condemnation (verse 24).
Three - Finally, as sinners (us) respond by faith, we are justified or “declared righteous” by a just God (verses 24, 26).
There is almost a creedal or systematic feel to progression and accomplishment of these tenets that when placed within a doctrinal or theological context sums up the basic gospel as developed by the apostles themselves (the faith once delivered...). The righteousness of God justifies us in our faith and our calling to Him. It is the means by which we who were once lost in ourselves - are now found in Him
Authorship - Date of Authorship
The Epistle or Book of Romans, was written by Paul the Apostle and sent to the Christian believers in Rome before Paul had actually even visited there. He actually wrote the letter while in Corinth preaching and ministering with Timothy. One of the keys to dating New Testament events is the appointment of Gallio as proconsul of Corinth, which we know, because of existing archeological findings of inscriptions, which occurred in A.D. 51–52. Paul was tried by Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:12) at the end of his second missionary journey and then stayed in Corinth a while (Acts 18:18). Afterward he went to Jerusalem and on to Antioch, where he stayed a short time and then began his third missionary journey (Acts 18:22–23). He spent the majority of it in Ephesus, where he stayed about two and a half years before going to Macedonia and back to Greece (staying three months in Corinth), from which the epistle to Rome is logically to have been written. Based on these facts, it is common and accurate to assign A.D. 57–58 as the probable date for his writing of Romans.
Other than non-believing Biblical scholars and academic self-flagellators, there are few who dissent and contest the authenticity of one, the letter of Paul to the Christians in Rome, and two, that the apostle Paul was indeed the author of the letter. Nothing more need be said.
Original Audience and Cultural Context
There is of course considerable speculation and assumption on how and when the church in Rome came about. Mostly, because there is not much historical evidence of exactly who or when the church of Rome was founded. There is however more than enough biblical and historical evidence to conclude who did not. Not Peter, and certainly not Paul. Interestingly enough the seeds of the church in Rome were more than likely planted at Pentecost in Jerusalem just after the ascension of Jesus. Luke the Physician, a biographer of both Jesus and Paul, tells us in Acts 2:10, that Jews and Jewish proselytes from Rome were present at Pentecost – and that some of them were converted there. It is logical that they would return home to tell others of how they had heard of the fulfillment of the ancient prophets foretelling of the Messiah's conception, death, and resurrection. It should be satisfying (in reality) that not any one man can take credit as founder of the church at Rome. Ironically, it is the power of the Holy Spirit, not the skill or will of man that overcomes the persecution of the greatest empire known to man to give birth to the church of Jesus in Rome. (Note to self: Do not focus on the skill or charisma of men – but on having true faith in God, and the power of His will to work in us.) For me it is an encouragement that this church (more than likely) was founded by the sincere faithfulness and genuine love of ordinary Christians like you and I, rather than high profile personalities such as Paul and others like him.
In late ’57 early ’58 Nero is Emperor of Rome and Empire during its peak of power; he unleashes a “hate culture” against both the Jews and Christians. So the letter from Paul were reaching out to connect with a very courageous, and determined group of believers living in a very intense and hostile social climate. At the time of his letter the church in Rome was primarily made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers, but in spite of living on the frontlines of social hostility and in real-time faith-persecution (from the most powerful man in the world), the church in Rome was flourishing and not floundering. This strength and character in the face of extreme adversity is one of the core reasons Paul is attracted to these believers in Rome.
Besides terrorizing its Christian citizens, Rome was an extremely hostile environment for Jews (non-Christian) as well. Ten years earlier Nero’s predecessor Claudius, issued the Edict of Seizure and Expulsion expelling all Jews from Rome during his rule (Acts 18:2). And it would be only a few years after Paul’s letter, that Nero (a paranoid-schizophrenic-sadist) would set his own city on fire, and then blame the Christians for it. The fires took thousands of lives and destroyed ten of the fourteen districts of the original city. Ironically, it was Nero’s private land and the specific district where the largest concentration of Christians were living that were not touched by the devastating inferno. As the ashes settled, the masses were suspicious of both Nero and the Christians. He became so enraged over their suspicions of him that he immediately ordered public gathering and attendance of Roman citizens for the slaughtering and torture of Christians in either one of three places on his three hundred acre estate in the heart of Rome – the public gardens, the circus amphitheater, or on the lawns surrounding his man-made lake.
Nero intended to use the public slaughters to force a confession for the fires and to demand public renunciation of Christian faith and creed. Initially the citizens of Rome were ordered to attend the mass slaughters, but eventually it caught on as amusement, and became the perfect distraction Nero needed to take away any suspicions of him. Many believe that this was his sadistic plan all along so that he could rebuild the great city “Nero-style” (which he previously could not get public or Senate support for), and to gain public support from the masses to justify murdering Christians. Listen to this excerpt from Annals by Roman historian Tacitus written in 109 A.D.
“But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
This was the context and setting at the time of Paul’s writing his letter to the “Brothers” in Rome. It was also the same climate that continued to grow and intensify there, as eventually the apostles Peter and Paul, would lose their lives for the gospel of Jesus in that city. As much as we would like to believe all these years later that they died in some noble form - in reality it was more than likely some despicable act from the sick and sadistic mind of Nero. Whatever it was the Christians of that day were either silent on the details, or their records of what took place were destroyed.
The Literary style and genre of Romans is dualistic in that can be considered both an epistle/letter as we as a theological work for the Church and Christians of all times and places. Whether he intended it, Paul has communicated the theologically rich message of Romans to Christians everywhere, not just to the historical Christians living in Rome. What started out being to and about them, has traveled twenty centuries through a gauntlet of language, culture, the semantical inconsistencies of ancient literature translation, war, religious persecution (800 centuries of attempted extinction by the Roman Catholic Church), three hundred years of anti-Christ political and social ideologies of Marxism, Communism, and the cancel culture of anti-americanism to the worship room of Reunion Church in the summer of 2021. His words are alive in us and are one hundred percent for us.
The difficulties between Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome were similar to those in Jerusalem, Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus and Philippi. Paul wanted to tell both groups that he was not against the law (see 7:7, 12–14, 16; 8:4) and that he believed it was valid for Jewish Christians to live as they did (14:5–7) because it was an expression of their level of faith (14:23). Although it was a weaker level of faith (14:1–2), God honored their conscience so long as their trust was in the cross rather than the law. In other words, legal observance was viable (though not preferable) so long as their true faith was in Christ and it was an expression of their worship of him. This is the difference between the Jewish Christian living in believe of Jesus as Messiah while observing the law and the Judiaizer, who dogmatically made the law a requirement for salvation. According to the Gospel of Christ, this latter view was theologically problematic, for the law virtually replaced the cross in their beliefs. In this sense Paul's letter to Rome provides an important model for Christians today who differ in their theological framework and worship style. Unity and understanding are needed as much in the church today as in Paul’s day.
So while Romans is highly theological, Paul did not write it to be a concise collection of his systematic theology, as some have said. It was a letter to a historical church and was addressing problems in that church. It is true that in it Paul summarizes his doctrine of salvation in a deeper way than in any other epistle, but Paul did so to solve existing problems in the Roman church. Still, it is certainly likely that he went beyond the situation in Rome in order to summarize the gospel for all who read it. Most of the book does not address the Roman Christians as directly as his other epistles address their audiences. Therefore, while he was addressing the Roman church, he intended it to sum up the issues regarding the gospel truth for all churches.
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