Paul's Preface to His Doctrine of Justification in Romans

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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I had posted the following response on another board to help someone there deal with an argument made by a Roman Catholic apologist. The Roman apologist was contending that, when Paul speaks of being justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law in Romans 3:28 and elsewhere, he was only referring to ceremonial aspects of the law, and not the moral aspect of God's holy law. Some folk on this other board found this explanation helpful, so I thought I would post it here in the hope that it might be helpful to others as well...
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All of Paul's argument from Romans 1:18 through 3:20 sets the stage for What Paul goes on to say in Romans 4. It is very clear that Paul is addressing Jews, in particular (if not before), from Romans 2:17-3:8. Paul addresses both ceremonial and moral aspects of the law, such as ethical commandments and the ceremonial aspects of circumcision. If Paul does not include the moral aspect of the law, then your opponent is going to have to do some theological gymnastics to get around...

Romans 2:21-23
21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?

Paul's whole argument from 1:18 through 3:20 is to demonstrate that Gentile and Jew alike are morally bankrupt before God. In Romans 2:17-3:8, Paul demonstrates that all the special privileges (indeed God-given privileges), in which the Jews gloried, would not save them or provide them with a righteousness before God that He would accept. Paul exposes their hypocrisy because the Jews thought, with all their privileges, advantages, blessings, that God would never judge them, let alone condemn them (e.g. Jer 23). But Paul pursues the Jews into every corner of their retreat, from their boasting of the law without obeying it to their pride in circumcision, and concludes all under sin.

In fact, Romans 1:18 through 3:20 is, as it were, one extended courtroom scene where all humanity (Gentile and Jew alike) is in the dock, and Paul is acting as God's counsel for the prosecution. To miss this reality is to demonstrate one's utter inability to read Romans 1:18-3:20 intelligibly.

That's why when Paul comes to Romans 3:28 and into chapter 4, declaring that a man is justified apart from the works of the law, it will not do simply to beg the whole question of what Paul has labored to set forth for 2 1/2 chapters prior to his teaching in Romans 4. To dismiss Paul's preface here to his doctrine of justification is to miss his entire argument that establishes the need for sinners to be justified by the work of another.

DTK
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Right on. Mike Horton et al make the same points in the latest issue of Modern Reformation.

Something that Dr. Horton drew out, to which you allude, is this whole idea that some Jews had that they were OK because they were in Covenant with God and had this special involiable status before Him that distinguished them, in wrath, from the scumbag Gentiles. But Paul explains at one point:
Rom 2:25
For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
Their disobedience of the Law makes their circumcision of no avail and, on this point of their status before a Holy God, they are as guilty and hell bound as a Gentile. As he teaches elsewhere:
Gal 3:10
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."
What a perversion of the first 3 chapters of Romans that anyone would argue that the issue is ceremonial.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
:up:

In a lecture series on Romans, N.T. Wright made the same (unpesuasive) case that the "law" here is only ceremonial laws, or what he called "Jewish boundary markers," which he defined as "circumcision, the sabbath, food laws, etc." (He always added the "etc." and never gave a complete list, but it sounds like what we reformed would call the ceremonial laws). So I expect you will see the same argument in the NPP stuff, although I have not read much.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by DTK
In fact, Romans 1:18 through 3:20 is, as it were, one extended courtroom scene where all humanity (Gentile and Jew alike) is in the dock, and Paul is acting as God's counsel for the prosecution. To miss this reality is to demonstrate one's utter inability to read Romans 1:18-3:20 intelligibly.

DTK

:amen: Well done, DTK! I especially appreciate the image conveyed by the paragraph above -- it's very powerful.

[Edited on 5-31-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
 
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