Twisting God’s Words
Mighty and Loving Lord, as I receive Your Word today, I want to live it in faith, hope, and love.
Read Romans 3:1-8
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Sometimes God uses us in spite of ourselves rather than because of ourselves. Sometimes, we need to get out of the way so God can work in spite of us.
We return to the Jew/Gentile issue: Paul here speaks in the voice of his Jewish debater, raising a valid question. The Jews had been entrusted with the very words of God. God’s intention from the start was that they were to be a light for the Gentiles (e.g. Isa. 42:6). They had broken that trust, so what was God to do? If he found another way to reach the Gentiles, was he reneging on his promises? This is the moral dilemma that drives the argument from here to the end of ch. 4.
At this point we stumble on one of the tricky issues of this letter. The problem is that the English language has no single word to translate the Hebrew word that dominates today’s reading and much of what follows. This is the word that is translated “righteousness” in most English translations. Paul, thinking like a Jew, and in line with the Old Testament, has in mind the Hebrew word tsedeq, which means “what is right,” “justice.” Unlike our English “righteousness” it carries a connotation of relationship, so that in the Old Testament it frequently means “vindication” or “saving presence.” It implies activity. What it doesn’t mean is abstract moral perfection. To complicate matters still further, Paul uses the Greek word which corresponds to the Hebrew, dikaiosyne. Greek has a verb from the same root, which can be translated “proved right” in v. 4. So when Paul speaks of the “righteousness of God” he means the “saving activity of God.” Later in the letter dikaiosyne will be translated “justification.” It is the same word.
So the question in v. 5 becomes clearer. If the more I sin, the more God saves, doesn’t my sin resound to the glory of God? Paul has brought his Jewish debater to a point where the absurdity of that argument begins to be clear.
Pray for David’s attitude as found in Psalm 51. A broken spirit and a contrite heart are not despised by God, but honored.
Mighty God, I realize how much You’ve done for me. I want to live in a way that beings credit to You. I thank You and bless You.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.