Tuesday, March 03, 2015
A Read-along of Romans, Chapter 5: Justified
Justified: that word has taken on some harsh overtones in today's society. In a world where violence as a commonplace, everyday issue has once again become "normal," when the word "justified" is used on the morning news shows it is usually in reference to a person citing that a shooting, a violent encounter or some other act might be justified due to the circumstances. Justified in that sense means that the choice of action was acceptable due to the situation in which the person in question found themselves enmeshed. Underline the "just" in that, and it sounds like "right" when it might be just (barely) legal.
Justified in the contemporary sense entails that a person's choice of action is somehow vindicated by the exigent circumstances in question.
I don't think that is the point Paul is attempting to make, not at all.
That changes in way we use/see a word in a given sense happen over time is acceptable. The English language is in a perpetual state of flux and words that mean one thing today will mean another in a few years. Thus, when Paul seeks to enumerate what it means to be willing heirs to the promises of God, then we have some patient work to do in order to hold the way we experience "justified" today over and against what Paul seems to intend.
We are not justified by our own choice of action. We are not justified by our nature. We are instead justified by faith, and thus are reconciled to God. Before anyone starts jumping around for joy, assuming that with justification comes some sort of "free pass" out of suffering or the challenges of life, think again. What that sort of justification offers is a reunion with God, Paul defines it as being "at peace with God in Christ." (vs. 1)
From there we launch into an exploration of just how we got to this place of justification. Paul's use of the sin of Adam as "first assumption" of how we all wound up missing the mark is undone when one man, Jesus, in his eyes willingly lays done his life so that all might know salvation. A rhetorical device Paul uses adds emphasis....a logical extrapolation: "If this is true, then how much more so will it be for this to be true...."
That is why, at its heart, Chapter 5 is so important...it defines a word we have trouble with these days, reframing the word justified from "getting out from under" to "included in a peace that surpasses understanding." What Paul is offering up is the bridge that connects God to the span that encompasses both Jew and Gentile alike. Sin and death, law and redemption all knit together in the justification that comes to us, by faith, through Jesus the Christ.
Paul is pulling all the threads together...and from here, things really get interesting.....