Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 4
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
1901 ASV Translation:
30 if so be that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law.
August 9, 2005
- I. The "Unity" of God and Paul's Argument.
- A. What does the "unity" of God have to do with Paul's argument?
- 1. At root, it is a denial of "polytheism".
- 2. An automatic extension of that root is the application of the character of the only God Who exists to the issue of His relationship to Jews and Gentiles.
- a. The Jews would have had no problem whatsoever with the claim that the "one" God was to be the Judge of all the Earth (Genesis 18:25), Who would bring the Gentiles to account in the coming Day of Wrath. This is nothing more, or less, than the application of the justice of the only true God to the issue of His relationship to all men.
- b. The Jews had huge problems with the claim that the "one" God was also the Savior of all the Earth (1 Timothy 4:10), who would bring the Gentiles to salvation. The problem for them was their reluctance to acknowledge any "love" by Yahweh for the Gentiles. For the Jew, Israel is the people of God and no one else. Even in their "evangelism", their outreach to any Gentile -- if there was even to be any outreach in that direction -- included the teaching that one had to "be circumcised" in order to be "saved". This was tantamount to claiming that only if one became a "Jew" (if not by birth, at least by doctrine) could one be saved. And the automatic corollary to this doctrine was that to "become a Jew" meant to embrace "performance theology" as the way of salvation. The problem with that approach was that, though they were willing to apply the justice of God to the whole earth (in a kind of self-righteously twisted way that excluded them from it), they were not willing to apply the mercy and grace of God to the whole earth. Justice, for them (as well as for Yahweh) was a matter of "necessity", while mercy and grace were matters of divine whim. To retain His integrity, Yahweh has to be "just"; but since no one can demand mercy or grace, Yahweh can "be merciful" if He chooses to be and can restrain His mercy if He chooses to. Thus, Yahweh could choose the Jews and ignore the rest of the whole world without any sacrifice of His character.
- 1) But, there is this problem with this reasoning: it tends to reduce every characteristic of Yahweh to a subservient position under Justice. This is a problem for two reasons...
- a) The "God is Light" doctrine is the claim that all of the divine attributes are "in balance" with one another and there is no "one" attribute that dominates the others unless it be "love" as the attribute which determines what is valuable.
- b) Even the election of the Jews argues that it was as important to Yahweh to be gracious as it was to be just. [Note Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 as evidences of divine "preference" to bring everything into "balance"]. If this were not so, Yahweh would not have been moved to "elect" the Jews -- or anyone else, for that matter. If Justice is God, there is no reason for the display of mercy. Only if Yahweh is both just and merciful is there any basis for the exercise of mercy and grace. And, if Yahweh is both just and merciful, there is just as much "necessity" in mercy as there is in justice. Just as if Yahweh does not ultimately satisfy "justice" in His activities, He is not "just", so also if Yahweh does not ultimately satisfy "mercy" in His activities, He is not "merciful". The problem men have with this conclusion tends to be that men see no "mercy" in "judgment". But that problem disappears once men understand that the issues of judgment and mercy are not matters of a simple one-on-one relationship. Just as "mercy" came to men because of "judgment" upon Christ so that there was both "justice" and "mercy" in the inter-relationships of multiple persons, so also "judgment" can fall upon some men as an actual expression of "mercy" to other men who are mercifully spared the evil of those men upon whom judgment fell. In other words, Yahweh does not have to be merciful to every man in every situation to be merciful, nor does He have to be just with every man in every situation to be just.
- 2) But, does this not still mean that God could have chosen the Jews and let the rest of the world perish?
- a) The short answer is "yes".
- b) But, the longer answer is that because Yahweh is "one" and both Jews and Gentiles are His creatures, the same balance of character that allows Him the freedom to choose the Jews also makes it possible to include the Gentiles. In other words, the Jewish notion of "necessity" (which undergirds both their arrogance and their blindness to the error of performance theology) is non-existent and, thus, the Gentiles may also be just as much an object of the mercy of Yahweh as are the Jews.
- i. Paul's "there is no difference" theology of 3:22 puts everyone on the same "level" -- since all have sinned -- and thus are all on the same "level" when it comes also to the issues of justification.
- ii. Paul's "no respect of persons" theology of 2:11 does the same thing.
- iii. In other words, Yahweh's inclusion of the Gentiles in mercy is no violation of anything and that makes the Jewish exclusivism a matter of pride, not truth in theology.
- B. The "unity" of God does not "require" the application of mercy to the Gentiles, but Paul's argument in this text is that, because it opens that door, God will go through it.
- 1. He writes that God "will justify" both Jew and Gentile. [This is not contrary to the Old Testament revelation of the divine plan for a servant-kingdom in which distinct national identities exist.]
- 2. He makes a kind of distinction in how He will go about that.
- a. The "circumcised" will be justified "by faith".
- b. The "uncircumcised" will be justified "through the faith".
- 3. This distinction is not a difference in "method".
- a. In 3:20 Paul eliminates "works of Law" as the method of salvation for "all flesh". This means no one will be justified on that foundation, Jew or Gentile.
- b. In 3:22 Paul introduces the only alternative method of salvation available: that which is by the faith of Jesus Christ. This alternative, being the only one, is going to have to be the only way anyone is justified, Jew or Gentile.
- 4. This distinction acknowledges a difference in the backgrounds of Jew and Gentile.
- a. The Jews have had exposure to the revelation of God for their entire history, so all they have to come to in order to be justified is "faith" in what they have already had set before them.
- b. The Gentiles, who have had both polytheism and alternative deities as their background, are going to have to come to justification through the process of coming to grips with "the faith" (the content of divine revelation). They will only be justified "by" faith, but that cannot happen until "the faith" has become familiar to them. In other words, they cannot be justified by faith until they become familiar with the content of revelation given by the God Who justifies.
- 5. This distinction also, however, insists that no one will be justified by any "faith" that is not Truth because it says that the Gentiles must come to justification "through the faith". In other words, there is still an exclusivism in salvation; it simply is not the exclusivism of superiority in moral behavior that begets arrogance and conflict. Instead, it is the exclusivism of Truth, without which there can be no "faith". Faith requires a foundation in information. For faith to be legitimate, the information must be true.