Gospel 8 – Judicial approval

Gospel 8 pardon

Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul has put forward the case that each and every kind of person, of whatever status and class, is under the ruling authority of sin – such that they are missing the mark or stepping over the line. Scripture had divided humanity into groups – Jews and Gentiles – but each and every person in these two groups is in this condition of missing the mark or stepping over the line. Their behavior has earned a ‘wage’ such that everyone is in a state of condemnation from God rather than their behavior earning God’s judicial approval. Even God’s Law – which indicates what God’s preferred wishes are – is not able to deliver those who are under its jurisdiction from this condemnation.

Then, in this section – Romans 3 v 21 – 30, Paul presents the solution to this problem and presents to us the good news of deliverance from this condemnation. Having stated that everyone is condemned, Paul continues:


  Precisely at this time

   Quite separately from the Law

     The judicial approval of God

       Is being made clear and open –

         Being given a good report and borne witness to

                 By the Law

                And by the prophets


  God’s judicial approval

     Is carried successfully across by persuasion

      Given by God,

  That leads to obedient trust

     In Jesus the promised Deliverer….


Judicial approval penetrating into

    Each and every kind of person who is confidently persuaded.

There is no distinction or separation between Jew and Gentile


   Each and every kind of person

     Has missed, is missing and continues to miss the mark,

         falling behind the honor, renown and praise of God)

Being judicially approved

    By the free gift,

        Without payment,

  Carried successfully across by and

      Put into effect by the re-purchasing

         Within Jesus the Deliverer

            Whom God has, is and continues to put forward with the purpose

               Of being a propitiation or sin-offering

 Carrying across through

     Persuasion that leads to obedient trust

         In His blood.

This leads to an obvious display

Of His verdict

    Of thorough judicial approval

    And God’s forbearance

      (with regard to)

   Release from the consequences incurred by

       Sins that have been carried out previously

Leading to an obvious display

    Of His judicial approval in this present fitting moment

Leading to Him being just and righteous

    And judicially approving of

         The persuasion that leads to obedient trust in Jesus


   Where is the boasting about our achievements?

       It has, is and continues to be shut out.

   By means of what law or principle?

       The principle of laboring to accomplish something?


       But through the impetus that leads to

           Persuasion and entrustment


   We are concluding that a person is being judicially approved

       Through persuasion and entrustment that leads to obedience

           Quite separately from

               The principle of laboring to accomplish something

               (Or: of trying to keep Covenant Law)


   Is He the God of Jews only

       Is He not the God of Gentiles as well?

            Yes, He is the God of Gentiles as well.


   This is indeed the case


   God is the One who will judicially approve

        Those who are circumcised (Jews)

           By means of

                  Persuasion that leads to obedient trust


      Even the foreskin (Gentiles)

           By means of

                 Persuasion that leads to obedient trust

The good news of the gospel – of deliverance from condemnation through continuing to be persuaded in one’s heart to the point of obedience concerning the sacrifice of Jesus the Deliverer – applies to both Jews and Gentiles. The previous division between Jews and Gentiles is eradicated in the gospel – as far as the gospel is concerned, there is neither Jew nor Gentile – people in both groups are delivered through the same means – through obedient faith in the sacrifice of the Messiah. Nevertheless, the previous division between Jew and Gentile foreshadows the division between those who are members of the Kingdom, and those who are outsiders – the division between wheat and chaff, sheep and goats or believers and unbelievers, and the coming Judgment of God is in effect a separation of humanity into these two groups. At the moment they co-exist – but this will not remain the case.

This portion of text is Paul’s grand statement concerning the good news of the promised Deliverer and it is typical of his method of writing – he makes a general statement and then he addresses details concerning the general statement that he has made – he anticipates objections, he anticipates misunderstandings, and he dissects his general statement into smaller sections to ‘reason it through’ with regards to establishing the truth of what he has already said in more detail. So what we have here is his general statement concerning the ‘gospel’ or good news, and the most of the rest of his letter to the Romans concerns the implications of what he says in this section.

This of course is a famous piece of text regarding ‘justification by faith’. But I have used an expanded version of the text, making reference to the original Greek text in order to bring out its full meaning – ‘judicial approval from God through persuasion to the point of obedience’. Elsewhere we are told that this faith resides in the ‘heart’. It does not reside in the head – it is not a set of beliefs in the mind, but persuasion and entrusting in the core of one’s being, at the ‘seat’ of a person’s thoughts, affections and will. A person becomes persuaded in the core of their being that what the Apostles and gospels say about the Messiah and His sacrifice is true to the facts and this in turn leads to behavior – to the person entrusting themselves to the Messiah such that they begin to turn away from that which is against God’s preferred wishes and turn to God in obedient service. In short their initial persuasion is evidenced by repentance. Faith or persuasion or belief without this accompanying behavior is ‘dead’ – lifeless and of no effect. So ‘faith’ is ‘persuasion at the core of one’s being that leads to obedience’.

We are told that this persuasion is a free gift – the result of the work of the Spirit of God. The person who is persuaded in this way is ‘born again’ – they are made alive, responsive and sensitive to spiritual realities. On being ‘born again’, the person is released from the consequences – the debts – of their sins, transgressions and failures that they have committed previously, up to that point. They are released from this debt by the means of the shedding of divine blood as a propitiatory sacrifice that serves to completely pay off their debt.

Here it is again: We are being judicially approved as a free gift, without payment, by the re-purchasing in the sphere of Jesus the Deliverer, whom God has, is and continues to put forward with the purpose of being a propitiation or sin-offering. The effectiveness of this is carrying across from heaven to us through persuasion, that in turn leads to obedient trust in His blood.

I want to introduce a matter of grammar – ‘God has, is, and continues to put forward Jesus the Messiah.’ This is usually translated by using the past tense, thus: ‘God has forward Jesus the Messiah’. But Paul does not use the past tense; instead he uses the Aorist tense. The what? Yes I know. But this becomes exceptionally important when we begin to consider the practical realities of the day-to-day Christian life. So what on earth is the Aorist tense? We do not have this tense in English. But it is a simple enough concept even if it looks a little clumsy linguistically. The Aorist tense is an ongoing tense – it basically says: this happened or began to happen in the past, it is still happening now in the present, and it will continue to happen for an unspecified time in the future. The Aorist tense describes a process – something that began in the past, is continuing now and will continue for sometime into the future. Thus: ‘God has, is, and will continue to put forward Jesus the Messiah.’ Like I said, it sounds slightly awkward when written down, but this is the meaning of the text and this Aorist tense becomes vitally important when we go on to consider the practical implications or ‘working out’ of the good news of Jesus in our lives. Here it is again in Paul’s summing up of the position of humanity as we are by nature: ‘Each and every kind of person has missed, is missing and will continue to miss the mark, falling behind the honor, renown and praise of God’. In my posts, when I come across the Aorist tense, you will see it written in this kind of style.

Finally, at the end of this section, most translations have Paul talking about ‘the circumcision’, by which he means Jews under the Abrahamic Covenant, and these are compared with ‘the uncircumcised’, or ‘uncircumcision’, by which he means Gentiles, or those outside of the Covenant. The actual word for ‘uncircumcised’ is ‘foreskin’. That is how Gentile outsiders were perceived – they are the foreskin that is cut away in circumcision. A much more potent image than that produced by the word ‘uncircumcised’ or ‘uncircumcision’.

About Robert Laynton

Robert Laynton likes photography, walking, jazz, reading American Crime Fiction from the 40's, 50's and 60's and vintage comics. He enjoys watching classic films, especially film noir. He lives in England.
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