Saturday, September 03, 2005

Romans 5

A few threads back, I gave a whirlwind tour of Rom 1-4, a whirlwind tour not to be confused with an exhaustive or full-scholarly treatment of Rom 1-4 [or anything remotely close to an exhaustive or semi-scholarly treatment of Rom 1-4].

Let's review the structure 1-4 in a brief fashion.

(1) Paul greets the Romans and announces his great desire to come see them and preach the gospel to them. [1:1-15]

(2) Paul states what is clearly the main theme for chapters 1-8, if not the entire epistle: He is not ashamed of the gospel, and this lack of shame in connection with the gospel [and indeed his exultation in connection with the gospel] is due to the fact that the gospel is God's saving power for all those who believe it. And, in turn, the gospel is God's saving power for all those who believe it because in it the righteousness-of-God is revealed, which righteousness-of-God is connected wholly with faith. [1:16-17] I argued in the previous thread that the righteousness-of-God mentioned here is, if we let Paul speak for himself, the conferral of a righteous status on the sinner by God.

Another way of stating the above paragraph is as follows: Because the righteousness-of-God [i.e. the conferral of a righteous status in God's eyes] is revealed in the gospel, it follows that the gospel is God's saving power for all those who believe it. From this, it in turn follows that Paul [and you and me] should never be ashamed of the gospel.

(3) Paul argues that the righteousness-of-God must be wholly by faith:
(a) By pointing out that God's wrath is revealed against non-Jews,
(b) By pointing out that God's wrath is revealed against Jews,
(c) By pointing out that, accordingly all of mankind deserves God's wrath.

In other words, the righteousness-of-God, if it is to be a real possibility for you and me and not just an unrealizable abstraction, must be connected exclusively with faith and nothing meritorious in men because men have nothing meritorious [relative to God's exacting standards] to offer. Point (3) takes us from 1:18 through 3:20.

(4) After summing up the sad state of humanity in 1:18-3:20, which summing up is intended to show that the righteousness-of-God [i.e. the conferral of a righteous status] is wholly by faith, Paul now goes into the positive details of this righteousness-of-God in 3:21-26:

(a) The righteousness-of-God is not a novum relative to the OT, but it is actually borne witness to by the OT [21],
(b) The righteousness-of-God is apart-from-law [21],
(c) The righteousness-of-God is through faith in Jesus Christ for all those believing [22a], and all those believing are freely justified in an act of grace that is none other than the person and work of Christ. [24]
(22b-23 seem parenthetical, as Paul seems to want to uphold the fact that the righteousness-of-God is through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those believing by pointing out that there is no distinction among men --- all sinned and have failed to meet God's standards.)

(5) In 3:27-31, Paul goes into the negative details of the righteousness-of-God:

(a) Any hope of putting a claim on God due to one's deeds, conduct, etc is shut out --- one cannot make God a debtor to one's self relative to earning His approval.
(b) The fact that putting a claim on God due to one's deeds, conduct, etc is shut out not on the basis of works, but by faith.
(c) A man is not justified by works, but instead by faith.

Considering 3:21-31 and the propositions therein, we see that the righteousness-of-God first mentioned in Rom 1:17 is nothing but the conferral of a righteous status on the sinner [this is what we call justification], and this conferring of a righteous status is free, through grace, and by faith [as compared to works of the law].

(6) Paul now turns to an argument [consisting of Rom 4] that is apparently designed to uphold his claim in 3:27 that, for all men, the idea of earning one's righteousness is excluded, by pointing out that Abraham, a case for merit if there ever was one, was not justified on the basis of any meritorious act, but on his faith.

(a) In 4:1-8 Paul mentions Gen 15:6 and claims that Abraham's faith was not a meritorious work, and Paul lists (i) the forgiveness of sins and (ii) the fact that future sins will not be reckoned to one's self as consequences of justification.
(b) In 4:9-12 Paul points out that Abraham's justification came before circumcision, hence one could not claim that Abraham merited his righteous standing before God on the basis of his faithfulness in submitting to God's covenant sign.
(c) In 4:13-25 Paul delineates just what he means when he mentions Abraham's faith.

As Abraham has no merit for his justification, and as Abraham is the best case for merit, then you and me, being far less attractive candidates for meriting our justification, must also be justified by faith [if indeed we are justified] and not by works, hence we cannot entertain the possibility of putting a claim on God.

So, in Rom 1-4, Paul has, among other things, delineated the righteousness-of-God, specified that one is justified by faith and not by works, and shown that, relative to the hope of earning a respite from God's wrath, merit-on-the-basis-of-works is excluded.

There seems to be a major break in the flow of thought at the end of Chapter 4. The next four chapters all present various aspects about what the consequences are for those who have had a righteous status conferred on them through faith in the God who justifies the ungodly.

Chapter 5 in one sentence is best summed up in 5:1: "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ."

It looks to me as if there are two major divisions in Chapter 5: 1-11, and 12-21. A justification for this viewing of Rom 5 into these two divisions will be given as I attempt to summarize/outline Rom 5.

The first division consists of 5:1-11, and this division discusses in some detail the peace with God we have as a consequence of our having been justified by faith. Among other things, we are reconciled to God --- we are His friends.

Paul, in brief, is saying the following in 5:1-11:

Having been justified by faith:
(1) We have peace with God through Jesus Christ [1]
(2) We exult in the hope of the glory of God [2b] (the "glory of God" seems to be, stealing Cranfield's words, the restoration of that divine illumination that mankind lost in the Fall.)
(3) We exult not only in the hope of the glory of God, but also in the tribulations that confront us in our lives. [3a]
(4) We exult in God through Jesus Christ. [11]

These appear to be the four main points of 5:1-11. From being justified by faith, we have peace with God and we exult in the fashions given by (2)-(4); we exult in the hope of the restoration of the divine illumination of man that was lost in the Fall, we exult in the tribulations that confront our lives, and, lastly, but just as importantly, we exult in God.

If we accept this seemingly natural division of Paul's thought, the next question concerns just what function is played by 3b-10? The natural answer, if we are to let Paul speak for himself, appears to be that 3b-10 serve as a large parenthesis that further illuminates (3). That is, verses 3b-10 appear to argue as to just why those who are justified by faith exult in tribulations.

If we go into catechetical mode, the structure of 3b-10 is as follows:

Question: Why do we who are justified by faith exult in our tribulations?
Answer: We who are justified by faith exult in our tribulations because we know that tribulation works steadfastness, and, in turn, steadfastness works provedness, which, in turn, works hope, and hope will not cause us to be ashamed; the hope that arises from the chain

tribulation ---> steadfastness ---> provedness ---> hope

will not prove itself to be false, illusory, or anything less than a hope based on something firm and reliable.

Question: Why will this aforementioned hope not cause us shame?
Answer: Because God's love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

This answer seems like a non sequitur at first, since it is not immediate how Paul is connecting God's love with hope. However, again trying to let Paul speak for himself, the following answer may be given:

Question: How does God's love being poured out in our hearts have anything to do with the hope-that-will-not-cause-us-shame?
Answer: This is the argument of 6-10.

When we were weak and helpless, Christ died on behalf of ungodly men. [As a very important point: we did not help ourselves or meet God halfway or even a fraction of the way. God came completely to us.] Now since it is the case that a man will scarcely give his life up for a righteous man, it would've been a manifestation of God's love that surpasses human expectations if Christ had merely died on behalf of godly men. But Christ died on behalf of ungodly men --- you and me. This act is the maximal possible instantiation of God's love and grace. This salvation-plan --- that of Christ dying on behalf of ungodly men --- is [part of?] God's love poured out in our hearts, and, being based on the will of God Himself, gives the firmest assurance that our hope will not put us to shame.

That this appears to be the correct interpretation of what Paul is tring to say is supported by 8-10: God shows forth his love towards us in that Christ dies for sinners such as ourselves. And, this act being completed [i.e. Christ dying for ungodly sinners], we may argue in a greater-to-lesser fashion that we may also be sure that we will escape God's wrath on the Day of Judgement. In other words, if God purposed for Christ to die on the behalf of the ungodly --- a difficult thing --- then we may surely affirm that God can also do the less difficult thing, namely, save us from His wrath come Judgement Day.

Question:But who says that that God's bringing us through Judgement Day is any less difficult than God's purposing and carrying out of Christ's death on behalf of the ungodly?
Answer: Paul does, in verse 10. "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much moreso then shall we be saved in connection with His [Son's] life!" The Greek of v.10 ["how much moreso" is how I render it] indicates that Paul views our salvation as an "easy" matter for God [relative to the matter of Christ's dying for the ungodly], as it doesn't seem too great a feat [relative to the matter of Christ's dying for the ungodly] to save those whom God has reconciled.

At last, we may summarize and restate [hopefully in a reasonably clear fashion] the argument structure of 3b-10, which purports to justify just why we who are justified by faith and have peace with God exult even in our tribulations:

While we were ungodly enemies of God, God performed a remarkable act of mercy [relative to human standards] by reconciling us to Him through the death of His Son. But this remarkable act of mercy instantiates God's very own love for us, a love that has been poured out in our hearts. But because (i) this love is so remarkable and, even more importantly, (ii) it is based wholly on God's initiative, our hope in God's ultimate completion of his salvation plan is a sure hope --- our hope can in no possible way be a false hope or a hope that will be disappointed. This hope, quite a good thing, is brought about by provedness, which in turn is brought about by steadfastness, which in turn is brought about by tribulation. Therefore, in the end tribuation brings about that sure hope, and hence we [are to] exult in our tribulations. This seems to be a reasonable presentation of Paul's justification as to why those who are justified by faith and thus have peace with God [are to] exult in their tribulations.

[If this argument seems longwinded, please don't blame me...blame Paul for having a hyperactive mind!]

Therefore, we summarize 5:1-11, which states for all of us who are justified by faith that

(1) We have peace with God through Jesus Christ [1]
(2) We exult in the hope of the glory of God [2b] (the "glory of God" seems to be, stealing Cranfield's words, the restoration of that divine illumination that mankind lost in the Fall.)
(3) We exult not only in the hope of the glory of God, but also in the tribulations that confront us in our lives [the justification for this exultation lies in the argument from 3b-10 carefully delineated above]. [3a]
(4) We exult in God through Jesus Christ. [11]

On page 256 of Volume I of his ICC Romans Commentary set, CEB Cranfield makes some profitable points for a student such as myself to keep in mind while thinking about 5:1-11 as a whole:

They (verses 5:1-11) affirm the amazing truth that God's underserved love has through Christ transformed people from being God's enemies into being at peace with Him, being His friends. The reconciliation Paul is speaking of is not to be understood as simply identical with justification (the two terms being understood as different metaphors denoting the same thing), [*] nor yet as a consequence of justification, a result following afterwards [*]. The thought is rather that --- in the case of the divine justification of sinners --- justification necessarily involves reconciliation. Whereas between a human judge and an accused person there may be no really deep personal relationship at all, the relation between God and the sinner is altogether personal, both because God is the God He is and also because it is against God Himself that the sinner has sinned. So God's justification of sinners of necessity involves also their reconciliation, the removal of enmity, the establishment of peace.

[The words marked off by the asterisks above are words that I don't quite buy.]

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Let's now turn to the second part of Chapter 5, namely, verses 12-21, and let's attempt to try to capture the essence of Paul's thought-flow here.

There are a few questions of immediate interest that arise in trying to understand where Paul is going.

(1) At the beginning of v. 12 [i.e. the beginning of this second section of Rom 5] the sentence begins with dia touto: "because of this" and "wherefore" are among the possible renderings.

(a) Does the dia touto look back at part of what Paul has previously said with v.12-21 offering some sort of conclusion, implication, expansion, or clarification of what Paul has stated in whatever previous text to which the reader is referred?

If the dia touto indeed looks back, to what parts of the text does it refer? Just 5:11? 5:1-11? 1:17-5:11? 1:1-5:11?

(b) Or, in contradistinction to (a), does the dia touto look forward?

If the dia touto indeed looks forward, what is there in 5:12-21 that is capable of "picking up" the dia touto?

In reply to question (1), I personally don't find anything after 5:12 on which to hang the dia touto. Neither does Cranfield. Here's Cranfield's description of the role of 5:12-21 [p 269]:

Verses 5:12-21 indicate the conclusion to be drawn from the previous subsection [5:1-11]. The fact that there are those who, being justified by faith, are also now God's friends means that something has been accomplished by Christ which does not just concern believers but is as universal in its effects as was the sin of Adam. The existence of Jesus Christ does not only determine the existence of believers; it is also the innermost secret of the life of every man. Significantly, the first person plural, used throughout vv 1-11, gives place to the third person plural.

On p 271, Cranfield later states:

Dia touto must here refer backward, since there is no following clause capable of picking it up. It has been suggested that it indicates only a loose relations between what follows and what precedes; that it looks back to 5:11; to 5:9-11; to 5:1-11; to 1:17-5:11. Of these suggestions, the best is surely that which takes the connexion to be with 5:1-11 as a whole. Verses 1-11 have affirmed that those who are righteous by faith are people whom God's underserved love has transformed from the condition of being God's enemies into that of being reconciled to Him, at peace with Him. The point of dia touto is that Paul is now going on to indicate in vv 12-21 the conclusion to be drawn from what has been said in vv 1-11. The fact that this reconciliation is a reality in the case of believers does not stand by itself: it means that something has been accomplished by Christ which is as universal in its effectiveness as was the sin of the first man. Paul is no longer speaking just about the Church: his vision now includes the whole of humanity......Dia touto indicates that Paul is inferring Christ's significance for all men from the reality of what He now means for believers. The connexion, then, between vv 12-21 and vv 1-11 is definite and close.

Cranfield's comments seem as appropriate as any, and, on my end, I accept them. If I'm correct in this acceptance, which in turn requires Cranfield's being correct, question (1) is at a close.

Under the assumption that we understand the purpose of 5:12-21 now, the next question is this:

(2) What Paul is trying to say?

Paul may be an apostle and inspired, but he still has a hyperactive mind, it seems. I say this because he begins a thought in v 12:

"Wherefore, as through one man [here, Adam] sin came into the world and, through the entered sin, came death, and hence death came to all men, because all sinned."

So the primary thought in v 12 is this: Just as through one man sin came into the world....

Yet in vv 13-17 Paul seems to be discussing a quite different topic, namely, the topic of the dissimilarity between Adam and Christ.

And in v 18a Paul appears to be picking up the thought he first began in 12: "Accordingly then, as one man's misstep issued unto all mens' condemnation..."
But, unlike v 12, Paul here completes the thought from 18a in 18b: "in this way also the righteous act of one man issued unto the justification of life for all men."

Therefore, putting what has just been said into a more convenient summary form, it appears that Paul, in the order of the text,

(a) Begins the thought "Wherefore as through one man sin entered into the world..." at the beginning of 12 [spending the rest of 12 pointing out that death came through sin, and pointing out that death came to all men because they sinned].
(b) Begins a parenthetical train of thought that doesn't line up with the "Wherefore as through one man sin entered into the world..." in 13-17.
(c) Resumes the original train of thought [or something close to the original train of thought] in 12 as v 18 begins, using different wording: "Accordingly then, as one man's misstep issued unto all mens' condemnation..." but this time he completes the thought in 18b: "Accordingly then, as one man's misstep issued unto all mens' condemnation, in this way also the righteous act of one man issued unto the justification of life for all men."
(d) With the main thought that was started in v12 but then dropped for a parenthesis in 13-17, upon which the main thought was restated and then completed in v18, Paul in v19 amplifies the thought in v18: "For as through the disobedience of the one man [the] many were established as sinners, in this way through the obedience [or obedient act] of the one man [the] many shall be established as righteous." [We note here that with this verse we have another clear illustration of Paul's viewing the righteousness-of-God to be the conferral of a righteous status.]
(e) Describes in vv20-21 the role of the Law in God's salvation-plan.

(3) If my interpretation is correct, what is the role of the parenthesis [vv13-17], which parenthesis breaks Paul's main point in v12 up, forcing him to restate and complete the main point in v18?

The answer to this question seems to be that Paul is trying very hard to safeguard what he mentioned in v12 against the possibility of being misunderstood. In v12 Paul states "Wherefore as through one man sin entered into the world etc," and then Paul goes on in the parenthesis vv 13-17 to delineate just how Christ and Adam are different. Apparently, then, this large parenthesis is Paul's interrupting the thought he began in 12 for the purpose of being sure that readers did not draw the deduction that there were similarities between Adam and Christ beyond the one major similarity Paul does put forth, namely, that the actions of Adam and Christ had universal implications for all men.

Cranfield appears to agree with me, for on p273 he states:

The latter of half of this verse [12b] is a continuation of the protasis [12a]. Paul then breaks off his construction, in order to give a necessary explanation [13f] of what he has said in that continuation of his protasis and to drive home with much emphasis (vv15-17) the vast dissimilarity between Adam and Christ. Finally, instead of just expressing at last the apodosis which he has all along intended, he now, as his parenthesis has become so excessively long (it is five whole verses), repeats the substance of his original protasis in v18a, and then immediately completes it with its proper apodosis in v18b....Paul wants to draw the comparison between Christ and Adam --- and indeed must draw it --- in order to bring out clearly the universal significance of being misunderstood. He is therefore reluctant to complete his statement of the comparison....before he has hedged it about with qualifications emphasizing that this is no comparison of like with like but a comparison of two persons who are utterly dissimilar except in respect of the actual point of comparison....The truth is that he [Paul] desires, while drawing the analogy, at the same time to deny emphatically that there is even the remotest semblance of an equilibrium between them...

What are these qualifications or points Paul raises in the parenthesis? There are two of them:

(a) In v15b, Paul states that while "the many" died by the misstep of Adam, God's grace, manifested through the gift in connection with Jesus Christ, abounded all the more. This is Paul's interpretation of his compressed elliptical expression "But the gift is not as the misstep" in v.15a.

Thus, the first qualification is this: the gift is not as the misstep. How so? Paul indicates that the degree of grace exhibited and manifested by God is a much higher degree than that of the death of the many that necessarily followed. Even put more simply, it seems that Paul is stating that the good that comes from God's grace is "more good" [relative to what is good] than is the bad [relative to what is bad] that came from Adam's primal sin is bad.

(b) In v 16b, Paul states the second qualification, that the judgement from the one sin of Adam resulted in condemnation for all men, whereas the gift comes as a result of the sins of many and issues unto justification, i.e. the conferral of a righteous status. This is Paul's interpretation of his compressed elliptical expression "As is the result of one man's sinning, so is the gift."

Therefore, the second qualification is actually a two-fold qualification:

(i) condemnation came through one deed [i.e. the primal sin of Adam] whereas the gift [i.e. justification] came through the sins of many, and
(ii) the judgement on Adam issues unto condemnation for all men, whereas the gift of God issues unto justification.

Cranfield, p286 has the following words, which words have great devotional value to this student: That one single misdeed should be answered by judgement, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God's free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.

So then, the parenthesis puts forward two points [with the second point having itself two subpoints] that Paul believes are sufficient to keep the Roman Christians from drawing any sort of false common ground between Christ and Adam beyond the mere point of comparison, which point of comparison is merely that Christ and Adam did things that had a universal impact on all men for all time.

(1)-(3) are, for me, the really big questions, and having answered them to a reasonable degree of satisfaction, it is time to try to attempt a big-picture summary of all of Rom 5, which big-picture summary will include the discussion of vv12-21 just concluded:

Attempted Summary of Rom 5

Paul has in Rom 1-4 discussed justification by faith. He now states that the Roman Christians [and you and me], having been justified by faith, (1) have peace with God through Jesus Christ, (2) exult in the hope of the glory of God (the "glory of God" seems to be, stealing Cranfield's words, the restoration of that divine illumination that mankind lost in the Fall.), (3) exult not only in the hope of the glory of God, but also in the tribulations that confront us in our lives [the justification for this exultation lies in the argument from 3b-10 carefully delineated above]and (4)exult in God through Jesus Christ.

From vv 1-11, Paul interest turns to "inferring Christ's significance for all men from the reality of what He now means for believers." [Cranfield pp 271-2] The main inference is this: whereas through Adam's primal misdeed sin entered into the world with death to all men coming as a consequence, the person and work of the one man Jesus Christ, summed up in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, also affected all men, namely it affected all men by issuing unto justification. But Paul, being aware that perhaps people might draw further deductions or parallels between Christ and Adam beyond the fact that Christ and Adam had acts that subsequently affected all of humanity --- something that Paul does want them to do --- Paul delineates some major differences between Christ and Adam [vv 15-17], which differences were [I hope] clearly described in (3)a&b above.

Having inferred Christs's significance for all men from the reality of what He now means for Christians, Paul next discusses the revelation of the Law in vv20-21. The Law came in so that the nature of sin as sin could be made as starkly as possible, but in sin being starkly shown as the rebellion against God that it is, it multiplied, reaching a climax in Israel's willful rejection of Jesus Christ as the messiah. But here, grace superabounded --- from the climax of sin came the master-stroke of God's salvation plan [death and resurrection] --- leading to our justification and promised eternal life.

This then, seems to be the big picture of Rom 5.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jason Engwer said...

We often become accustomed to the gospel and think less of it than we should. Romans 5 is one of the greatest chapters in what I think is the greatest book in the Bible.

I've brought up Romans 5 in discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses in the past, and they react as if they've never even thought much about it. In my experience, Romans 5 is the sort of passage that, although difficult to understand in some places, is so clear in affirming the freeness of justification that advocates of works justification can't think of much to say about it.

Jason Engwer
http://members.aol.com/jasonte
New Testament Research Ministries
http://www.ntrmin.org

Sunday, September 04, 2005 3:11:00 PM  

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