Archive for July, 2011

“God’s righteousness has two dimensions.  On one hand, it refers to God’s work in redemptive history manifested in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, the righteousness of God is also subjectively appropriated by faith.  To limit the righteousness of God only to God’s saving action in history presents us with a false dichotomy.  God’s righteousness denotes his saving action in history, but it is also appropriated by faith…God’s righteousness consists both of his judgment and salvation.  He saves those who put their faith in Jesus, and he judges his Son at the cross…In the death of Jesus Christ, therefore, the saving righteousness and the judging righteousness of God meet.” (Thomas Schreiner, Romans)


Read Full Post »

“In seeing salvation in Christ in the context of eschatological fulfillment of OT promise Paul comes very close to Jesus.  But, whereas Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God, Paul speaks rather of ‘righteousness’…It is attractive to suggest that Paul had a broader rather than a narrower intention in using the phrase ‘righteousness of God,’ and various commentators have claimed that Paul meant that the gospel reveals both our justification and God’s own righteousness.  This could sound like scholars trying to transfer their confusion to Paul; however, not only are both ideas important to Paul, but he even has them side-by-side in chapter 3, where he expounds his understanding of justification: The death of Christ was intended ‘to prove at the present time that [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus’ (3:26)…

The picture [promised in the OT] is a very beautiful one–God restoring his people in the context of the nations.  This restoration is the manifestation of God’s justice, covenant-faithfulness, and righteousness, but also, as part of that, it is the clothing of his people with salvation and righteousness.

This surely is the background to (more…)

Read Full Post »

Dikaiosyne is a good example of the need to penetrate through Paul’s Greek language in order to understand it in the light of his Jewish background and training.  The concept which emerged from the Greco-Roman tradition to dominate Western thought was of righteousness/justice as an ideal or absolute ethical norm against which particular claims and duties could be measured.  But since the fundamental study of H. Cremer it has been recognized that in Hebrew thought [‘righteousness’] is essentially a concept of relation.  Righteousness is not something which an individual has on his or her own, independently of anyone else; it is something which one has precisely in one’s relationships as a social being.  People are righteous when they meet the claims which others have on them by virtue of their relationship…So too when it is predicated of God–in this case the relationship being the covenant which God entered into with his people…God is ‘righteous’ when he fulfills the obligations he took upon himself to be Israel’s God, that is, to rescue Israel and punish Israel’s enemies (e.g., Exod 9:27; 1 Sam 12:7; Dan 9:16; Mic 6:5)–‘righteousness’ as ‘covenant faithfulness’ (3:3-5, 25; 10:3; also 9:6 and 15:8).  Particularly in the Psalms and Second Isaiah the logic of covenant grace is followed through with the result that righteousness and salvation become virtually synonymous: the righteousness of God as God’s act to restore his own and to sustain them within the covenant…It is clearly this concept of God’s righteousness which Paul takes over here; the ‘righteousness of God’ being his way of explicating ‘the power of God for salvation’…It is with this sense that the phrase provides a key to his exposition in Romans (3:5, 21-22, 25-26; 10:3), as elsewhere in his theology (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

This understanding of Paul’s language largely removes two issues which have troubled Christian theology for centuries. (1) Is ‘the righteousness of God’ subjective genitive or objective genitive; is it an attitude of God or something he does?  Seen as God’s meeting of the claims of his covenant relationship, the answer is not a strict either-or, but both-and, with the emphasis on the latter…It is God’s righteousness which enables and in fact achieves man’s righteousness.

What marks Paul’s use of the concept off from that given to him in his Jewish heritage, however, is precisely his conviction that the covenantal framework of God’s righteousness has to be understood afresh in terms of faith–‘to all who believe, Jew first but also Gentile.’  It is the fact that man’s righteousness is always to be understood as faith which explains why man’s righteousness is nothing other than God’s righteousness…for Paul justification is always by faith in the sense that the correlative of God’s creative and sustaining power is always the human creature’s dependent truth (faith)…

Does ‘the righteousness of God’ also include the thought of judgment (‘the wrath of God’ [1:18ff.])?  That is less likely in 1:17 itself since it is righteousness as ‘gospel/good news’ which dominates the thematic statement (1:16-17); vv 18ff. go on then to ground the exclusivity of the claim made in vv. 16b, 17.  Yet it should not be forgotten that the very idea of righteousness (i.e. fulfillment of covenant obligation) would preclude any thought of this saving outreach being arbitrary or impulsive in character (cf. 3:26); and ‘righteousness’ is used occasionally for God’s punitive action against offending Israel (particularly Isa. 5:16; 10:22; Lam. 1:18)…

‘The righteousness of God’ would not necessarily be understood at once by all those listening to his letter.  The purpose of the first few chapters, particularly chaps. 3 and 4, is precisely to explain what the phrase does mean for Paul.  But those familiar with the Jewish scriptures, including many of the Gentile converts who had first been proselytes or God-worshipers, would probably understand it as the power of God put forth to effect his part in his covenant relation with Israel, that is, particularly his saving actions, his power put forth to restore Israel to and sustain Israel within its covenant relationship with God…In the gospel as the power of God to salvation such early converts are being given to see the righteousness of God actually happening, taking effect in their own conversion…

The ‘righteousness of God’ is nowhere conceived as a single, once-for-all action of God, but as his accepting, sustaining, and finally vindicating grace.” (James D. G. Dunn, Romans, WBC, pp. 40-48, 97)

Read Full Post »

“Unfortunately, there is a profound difference of opinion among the interpreters of Paul as to the significance of this combination, a difference that has continued up to the present time. For by this righteousness of God some understand an attribute or an activity of God and take the words, that the righteousness of God is now (or has been) revealed, in this way, that God has now revealed himself as the Righteous One, or in his (saving) righteousness. Others see in the righteousness of God the denotation of that which man must have in order to be able to stand in the divine judgment. The revelation of the righteousness of God then intends to say that the time of salvation that has dawned with Christ and the gospel for man brings along with it righteousness, understood in this sense, before God (of from God). We consider it established that the words in Romans 1:17 and 3:21 are intended in this latter sense; that “righteousness” here is therefore not a divine but a human quality and that the righteousness “of God” further defines that quality as righteousness that can stand before God (cf. Rom. 2:13; 3:20), which is valid in his judgment, the righteousness that God attributes to man as opposed to his own righteousness (Rom. 10:3), as it is also called in Philippians 3:9: “not having my righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God, upon the foundation of faith.” (Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, p. 163)

“It is apparent from this explanation that in the concept “righteousness of God” we have to do with a forensic category and indeed in the eschatological sense of the word: it is a matter of what man requires in order go free in the divine judgment…[This] is not only a matter of the great future which is still to be awaited, but as has been revealed with the advent of Christ and in the gospel; as a present reality and as a redemptive gift of God it has been given, attributed, communicated in the gospel to everyone who believes…Whereas for Judaism it was an incontrovertible matter that this righteousness, as the crucial, decisive factor in the judicial declaration of God, was not to be spoken of other than in a future-eschatological sense, Paul proclaims this righteousness as a present reality already realized in Christ.”  (p. 164)

“That the expression ‘the righteousness of God’ is used here (in 3:21ff.) in a twofold sense (first, in vv. 21, 22, as a forensic quality conferred on man by God, which makes him go free; then, in vv. 25, 26, as the vindicatory righteousness of God) cannot obscure the unmistakable meaning of this passage…In Christ’s death God has sat in judgment, has judged sin, and in this way he has caused his eschatological judgment to be revealed in the present time. But for those who are in Christ, he has therefore become righteousness, and the content of the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ can be defined as the revelation of the righteousness of God for everyone who believes.” (pp. 167-68)

Read Full Post »

“[T]he righteousness of God consists most basically in God’s unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory. Thus if God ever abandoned this commitment and no longer sought in all things the magnifying of his own glory, then there indeed would be unrighteousness with God.” (John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23, p. 119)

“The righteousness of God [is] his unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory.” (p. 121)

Read Full Post »

From Soren Kierkegaard’s wonderfully provocative (but often overlooked) essay, “The Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle.”  While Kierkegaard’s focus is specifically on Paul, his insights have far-ranging application for all of us concerning the fundamental nature of the Christian life:

“The genius is what he is by himself, that is, by what he is in himself…An apostle is not born; an apostle is a man who is called and appointed by God and sent by him on a mission.  An apostle does not develop in such a way that he gradually becomes what he is [according to his own inherent ability].  Prior to becoming an apostle, there is no potential possibility; every human being is essentially equally close to becoming that.  An apostle can never come to himself in such a way that he becomes aware of his apostolic calling as an element of his own life-development.  The apostolic calling is a paradoxical fact that in the first and the last moment of his life stands paradoxically outside his personal identity as the specific person he is…By this call he does not become more intelligent, he does not acquire more imagination, greater discernment, etc.—not at all; he remains himself but by the paradoxical fact is sent by God on a specific mission…The apostle did not act as the person distinguished by natural gifts who was ahead of his contemporaries.”

Read Full Post »

“Paul’s gospel has provoked the question whether God has been unfaithful to the chosen people Israel and to the covenant made with them, in short, whether God has behaved unrighteously in the sense that Israel’s God has broken faith, and has not kept the promises made to them…

S. K. Williams at one point in his fascinating article on ‘The ‘Righteousness of God’ in Romans’ seems to want to drive a wedge between the meaning of ‘God’s righteousness’ and plain ‘righteousness’…if the senses of dikaiosyne with and without the qualifying ‘of God’ are too different, too separated, Paul would be guilty of creating considerable confusion (and perhaps suffering from it himself).  It is in fact true that there does exist considerable confusion over the meaning of this language in Paul’s thought, with the competing claims that ‘God’s righteousness’ should be regarded as a ‘gift,’ ‘power,’ ‘powerful activity,’ and the like being hotly contested.  Is Paul largely responsible for this confusion?

However the differences which Williams notes, and the connections between the seemingly different senses which this term may have, may become more intelligible if we bear in mind that (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »