Tuesday, February 24, 2015
A Read-along of Romans, Chapter 3: We are all in the soup together!
Paul, in these first chapters, is dancing a fine line between two parties, the Jewish community he comes from and the Gentile world he is preaching to as he shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the previous chapter, he defined the concept that everyone is subject to God's judgment. Our good and evil being weighed against the God's standard of conduct under the Law will determine our place in God's glory. From there, he answers a challenge for rhetoric's sake: "What advantage has the Jew?" (vs. 1) That's the question...
The assumption is that if God places one people at the head of the line, then that means something of benefit to them. Like being the "favorite child" allows one more assumed access to the parent? Yes...and Paul's response is no, there is no more favor allotted on people or another. That works on a number of levels: A person, good or bad, Jewish of not, does not determine the flow of grace resultant to their own choices and actions. God's grace flows, period. In addition, sin is sin. In sin we all face condemnation, again...period. No one is better off, the Jew of the Gentile. We are all in the soup together...stewing away as we await God's righteousness. We might occupy different places in the line as it advances toward the throne of God's judgment, but make no mistake that we are all in the line and that line advances continually. We all must stand condemned for our sins before the Presence of the One who was, and is, and is to come.
Let's now bring that soup up to a rolling simmer, if not a boil.
We are all dirty sinners, each of us and every one. For those under the law, when we fall short we fall short. For those not under the law, when we fall short we fall short. There's the soup, seen dramatically opined in verse 20: "For 'no human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin."
Ready for the next mine in this treacherous field? It comes right after Paul, having landed us all in the soup, starts to stir in the necessary inclusion that will take us from nasty to blessed. We get a more than needed and very sufficient gift of justification by faith through the presence and witness of the Christ, Jesus. Christ's atonement brings our redemption. Once and for all. Salvation history itself swings on this fulcrum and by it we are lifted up out of the soup and into the light of God's forgiving love.
Mind you, here is the trap...that gift is for ALL...not just some. Also, for it to be valid, it must be cumulative. One covenant can build upon, even clarify the previous one...but none supersedes its predecessors.
Thereby? We uphold the law. We recognize Christ as deliverer and redeemer of all humankind, indeed of all creation. We see in the wake of the grace washing behind by the unities noted above that while all face judgment, all also have access to redemption...and the key is a justification by faith. That faith in God has many faces, as many as there are human beings on the face of the earth. All are beloved in Christ, and all are called to recognize that love reflected in the face of all we meet, Jew or Gentile.
We are all in the soup...and thereby we are rendered one in Christ.