Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
1901 ASV Translation:
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction;
23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;
Textual Issues: There is one textual variation in 3:22-23 between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The Textus Receptus has the phrase "and upon all" in 3:22 which the Nestle/Aland 26 does not have. Those who have produced the textual commentary on the variants have pointed out that this might actually be the result of an earlier variation in which some texts read "unto all" and others read "upon all", so the Textus Receptus combined the two readings so as to leave neither out. However, this is conjecture. The issue cannot be "resolved" on the basis of the external evidence. But, the reading of the Textus Receptus only does one thing that the Nestle/Aland 26 does not do: it provides a kind of emphatic redundancy. Thus, the only issue is "emphasis", not "meaning".
June 21, 2005
- I. Paul's Explanation of the New/Old Approach to God.
- A. The law and the prophets had borne witness of this "method", but that witness was subverted by the evil in man. Thus, the approach was not "new". What was new was the clarity that had come by means of the crucifixion of the Christ. In the moment of that event, the inadequacy of the sacrificial system of the law was met with great clarity: there is a way to be "just" before God, but not on the basis of anything men "do".
- B. Thus, the "newness" is not a newness of method, but a newness of general clarity.
- 1. This clarity has an old focus: righteousness before God.
- a. In the perverse approach of man in his pride, righteousness before God sprang from man's commitment to, and performance of, "right behavior": a flat denial of the truth of man's depravity.
- b. In the new clarity, righteousness comes "from" God so that the one "before" Him is considered "by" Him to be acceptable "to" Him.
- 2. This clarity has its own "problems" of clarity.
- a. The first issue is Paul's grammatical construction which the translators render "even the righteousness...".
- 1) This translation is possible.
- 2) BUT, the particle translated "even" is atypical for that meaning.
- 3) SO, we are going to go elsewhere...
- a) The particle in question typically introduces some kind of a "hiccup" in the flow of thought. Generally this means that there is going to be some kind of contrast between the ideas in the words. Generally, contrast is signalled by the use of "but"...as in "the house is white, but the shutters are green".
- b) It is the reader's responsibility to see if Paul actually meant to introduce a kind of hiccup by his use of this particle. And, he did. The very same term is used in the preceeding verse, in the phrase "But now...". There it is abundantly clear that Paul wants his readers to understand that "...though the Law was twisted into a method for acquiring righteousness before God, the twist was illegitimate because NOW what was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets is crystal clear." This creates a contrast between that twisted method of acquisition of righteousness and the true method which was given expression in both Law and Prophets. It is my contention that this is the same issue in the present verse: Paul was not saying "even the righteousness..."; rather, he was saying "but [it is] a righteousness from God through faith...". In other words, the concept is so radically different from what has been accepted by the vast majority of humanity that it has to be maintained as "different" so that those who read will ponder the difference sufficiently long enough that it begins to actually take root in their thinking. Thus, Paul created a linguistic "hiccup" to compel this thoughtfulness.
- b. The second problem of clarity is what Paul meant in the words following the "hiccup". Was he addressing the method for acquiring this righteousness that one which is couched in the words of the AV ("by faith of Jesus Christ"), or is it that one which is couched in the words of the ASV ("through faith in Jesus Christ")?
- 1) The AV translates the words as though the righteousness is from God by means of the faith which Christ exercised.
- 2) The ASV translates the words as though the righteousness is from God through the faith which a man exercises in the person and work of Christ.
- 3) This problem is not a "large" one in that both translations are true to the Truth, but the question is one of Paul's meaning in this text.
- a) It is true that man's justification before God is by means of the faith which Jesus exercised without fail as He lived on this earth in total dependence upon God.
- b) It is also true that man's justification before God is through the faith that a man exercises in the accomplishment of Christ, which He accomplished by faith.
- c) But, Paul's words have "a" meaning, not "two" different meanings.
- i. Paul used the typical word for "through", so the likelihood that the AV's use of "by" is suspect.
- ii. Paul's "point" is that, though "Law" provided no foundation for hope that one would be accepted by God, "faith" does. So, if Paul is addressing the issue of the "foundation" for the hope of righteousness, the translation should read "through the faith of Jesus Christ" -- for it was the faith that Jesus exercised on an unfaltering basis that provided for the "innocence" of the "redeeming sacrifice". If Jesus' faith had faltered, He would have slipped into sin just as did the first Adam. If that had happened, there would have been no "innocent sacrificial Substitute".
- iii. That this was his "point" is buttressed by the fact that Paul is consumed by the need to establish man's lack of personal qualification. If the righteousness that God gives does have a root in man -- after all that Paul has said about his bondage to sin -- then the death of pride has not occurred and the laborious attempt to erase it has failed. Thus, to make the "faith" that which was exercised by Jesus Christ is to maintain the independence of justification from man's "production", and, thus, his pride. Just as Isaac was born by virtue of the faith of Abraham and not by virtue of faith exercised by the non-existent Isaac, so also those born of God are so by virtue of the faith of Jesus and not by virtue of their own faith. Once born, their exercise of faith becomes a production of the Spirit given to them, and, thus, the foundations of humility are maintained. Paul's doctrine is that the "seed" are the result of the promise of God and the prior faith of those who came before them, not the result of their own faith. [See Romans 9:7-13].
- d) But Paul continues with his next explanation: the righteousness that is founded upon Jesus Christ's faithful exercise of righteousness is given "unto all who believe".
- i. Does this not "unseat" all that was just said in paragraph (c) above? Not at all. With Paul's "through the faith of Jesus Christ", he laid the foundation; now, with his "unto all who are believing", he extends the "result" of that foundation. Jesus believed God; thus God was committed to Him to bring to pass what He had promised (this is the nature of a relationship built upon integrity and faith -- the One Who promised fulfills His promise to the One Who believed Him). [In this light it is instructive to look into John 17:6, 9, and 12.] But, in order for the process to proceed, faith must be a part of that process. So, both He that believed, and those who are justified by the promise of God to Him, exercise "faith". There is no life where there is no relationship of integrity/trust. To bring those to birth whom the Father promised to the Son without bringing them to faith would be to produce still-born children who could not live. Thus, with the righteousness, comes the necessary faith. The righteousness is extended to "all who are believing". This means that the production of the promised seed is dependent upon the proclamation of the content necessary to faith (the Gospel) and the generation of faith in the hearts of those who hear it. Both are the result of the activity of God's Spirit Who energizes both the proclamation and the confidence required for life. This implies that we need to be careful in our preaching to emphasize what God has done and is willing to do and to de-emphasize what man is responsible for (the Law) because as soon as we make salvation the result of man's response, we resurrect the pride of man.
- ii. Man is responsible to "believe" God. [See John 6:29 in its context].
- iii. But this responsibility is no different in essence from any other of man's responsibilities. That he is responsible in no way signals that he is capable of meeting the responsibility. [See John 10:26 in its context].
- e) Thus, the "righteousness that comes from God" is both "through" the faith of Jesus and "unto" those who are believing the content of that faith.
- II. Paul's Insistence Upon "No Distinction".
- A. Because Paul saw the "Jew" as a microcosm of humanity and not a "special category of godly humanity", he saw no distinction between Jew and Gentile in terms of their essential humanity.
- B. But, he was a minority in his viewpoint. The "Jews" all saw themselves as inherently superior to the rest of humankind. Thus, they saw the salvation of God as restricted to those who possessed that inherent superiority. But Paul says emphatically that there is no such distinction.
- 1. All of humanity has sinned.
- 2. All of humanity has come short (be bereft) of the glory of God.
- 3. Thus, all of humanity is equally enslaved and lost.
- 4. And all of humanity is to be subject to the proclamation of the Gospel so that God can, by the foolishness of preaching, fulfill His promise to His Son of an international Bride with some of every kindred, tongue, and tribe included.