Romans 3:21-26

I've done a lot of blogging on what I see the text saying, and not a lot of reacting to the text. Here's the blog where that changes.

So far Paul has tapped into a phenomenon as common as death or taxes: the human confrontation with our own lousiness. We must all deal with the regrets and failures of the life we've led so far. And what are the big failures always about?

  • Our knowledge of condemning others for things we do ourselves.
  • Setting up a standard that we constantly fail to achieve.
  • Continuing to do things that we recognize as harmful to ourselves and others.
All of these are the essence of the sinful state of being. It doesn't matter what your background is - we've all fallen short of the glory of the Creator God.

And the knowledge of our impending deaths is the inertia that keeps us bound into this harmful pattern. We lash out at times in judgment of others, we punish ourselves by trying for an impossible goal, or we lapse into indifference because there is no escape from death. Innocence is no shelter, and neither is experience. The knowledge of death disables us in the struggle against our weaknesses.

However, the sinful life doesn't lead any more inexorably to death than the righteous one. There is no causal link between sin and death. Mentally we may see one, and in times of extreme pain caused by another, we may demand one - we may even wish death on ourselves to end the pain of our percieved sinfulness. But the sinners die and live just as the saints do: time and chance holds sway over us all.

Shall we continue in our lousiness because it doesn't really matter in the end? Well, suit yourself. If being in the grip of lousiness is what makes you happy, how can we argue against it? But there's got to be a better way to face up to death. What good is beating up yourself and others all your short life? Wouldn't it be better to be free of that constant voice of criticism and judgment?

Paul gives us his solution: the faithfulness of Jesus provides a path for freedom from the debased mind. Now you can see what 1:16's through faith for faith means: God's revealed righteousness is provided through Jesus' faithfulness and is for those who are faithful (3:22). This is the engine of Paul's gospel: Jesus was faithful unto death for us, providing a place of safety marked by the blood of his sacrificed life. By taking up that faithfulness, we enter that place of safety from God's wrath. Trusting in this safety, death's inertial power is lifted and the Christian uses that burst of energy to transform this life into a life of peace and righteousness and joy.

Well, that's the idea, anyway. It's imperfectly applied at times. You could lighten up on yourself and make realistic goals while letting people be who they are. But that doesn't get Paul to Spain, does it?