Romans

1:16-17

The proposition

The righteous on the basis of faith will live

Argument

In these two verses Paul outlines his thesis, namely:

The righteous reign of God

(his setting all things right)

in justification

(in judging right / setting right a people before him)

out of faith

(based on Christ's faithfulness + our faith response)

apart from the law

(apart from covenant compliance, obedience to God's law)

facilitates God's promised covenant blessings

(the full appropriation of God's promised new life in Christ).

 

"He who is righteous / just out of faith will live", Hab.2:4.

 

A person who is set right with God through faith

possesses the fullness of new life in Christ,

and this apart from law-obedience.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:1-7.

 

ii] Background: The heresy of nomism; See 1:8-15.

 

iii] Structure: Paul's proposition:

Thesis statement, v16-17a;

Supportive text, v17b.

 

iv] Interpretation:

It is clear that these verses establish the thesis of Romans, which thesis is exegeted from 1:18 through to 8:39 (cf., Cranfield). So, these verses serve as "the text of the epistle", Barrett. Note Jewett's division: he suggests that the thesis is developed in 1:18-4:25 and amplified in three units, 5-8, 9-11 and 12-15:13. Of course, there are those who argue that the thesis covers chapters 1-11:36, so Fitzmyer. How nice it would be to simply say "the great thesis of Romans, 'justification by faith alone' is adumbrated in these verses", Black, but life is never that simple.

Paul begins with a simple enough statement; he affirms the gospel because it is God's instrument of salvation for everyone who continues to have faith. The next verse, v17, is anything but simple and has prompted endless debate. It seems likely that Paul makes the point that God's righteous rule, his setting everything right ("the righteousness of God"), is realised / facilitated ("revealed") on the basis of "faith", namely, the faithful submission of Christ on the cross, and its appropriation by an individual through faith (apart from the law). The person who is set right with God on the basis of faith will fully possess the promised blessings of God. Habakkuk 2:4 virtually serves as Paul's proof text. So, Paul's thesis is as follows:

 

The righteousness of God

(God's righteous rule / his setting everything right / his dynamic fidelity to his covenant promises / grace)

 

PLUS

 

Faith

(Christ's faithfulness and our faith in his faithful obedience to the cross)

 

EQUALS

 

Righteousness

(Uprightness / right-standing before God / covenant compliance / justification, it's just-if-I'd never sinned)

 

EQUALS

 

Blessings

(The fullness of new life in Christ / the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant)

 

MINUS

 

Law

(Apart from obedience to the Law / Torah).

 

"By faith from first to last", NIV. The intended meaning of the phrase ek pistewV eiV pistin, "from faith into faith", is subject to debate: "The righteousness that springs from faith and leads to (a developing) faith", Cassirer, or even "a process begun and continued by their faith", Phillips. Dumbrell suggests a salvation history approach such that the person who stands right with the God who is right, the God who acts right and makes right, is the person who trusts God. From the faith of the Jews to the faith of the Gentiles, it has always been the same faith, and will always be so. Hunter opts for the simple "faith from start to finish." We are probably on safer ground if we follow Manson who suggests "from the faithfulness of God to the faith response of people."

Yet, some fine tuning is required. It does seem more likely that the faith / faithfulness of Christ is in mind rather than "the faithfulness of God." Of course, Christ's obedience on the cross derives from the faithfulness of God to his promises. Also, the second pistiV, "faith", is probably not being used of an act of belief in / toward a person, but rather again "faithfulness", a resting upon. The promised righteousness of God in the gospel is realised through the faithfulness of Christ to the cross, and is appropriated by a firm reliance (faith / faithfulness) on its efficacy, contra Barrett. "Christ is the immovable rock established by the immutable God, upon which he invites men to take their stand without flinching", D.W.B. Robinson.

So, the righteousness of God / his saving activity, rests on / derives from the faithfulness of Christ / his saving work on the cross in obedience to his Father, and is appropriated through faith / reliance upon the saving work of Christ. See Notes on Galatians 2:16 for "faith" in the sense of "the faithfulness of Christ." For further study see Cranfield and his collection of twelve possible interpretations for the phrase, 99-100.

 

The new perspective on Paul: The reader will understand that the reformed (Lutheran / traditional) understanding of Romans is presently under challenge by commentators who lean toward the new perspective on Paul. Whereas reformed commentators have handled Romans as a treatise on how an individual is justified in the sight of God, new perspective commentators argue that the epistle is a treatise on how both Jew and Gentile, in Christ, stand equally as members of the new covenant.

A reformed commentator, handling the phrase "the righteousness of God", would argue that it is "a status of man resulting from God's action, righteousness as a gift from God", Cranfield. On the other hand, a new perspective commentator would say it is "covenant faithfulness / fidelity", Dumbrell.

See Romans Introduction for an outline of how these notes approach Paul's letter to the Romans, and go to the link "the righteousness of God" for an expanded study on this difficult phrase.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 1:16

The proposition, v16-17: The gospel is God's saving instrument of salvation for everyone who continues to believe. In it the righteous reign of God / the saving righteousness of God (his setting all things right), is realised out of / on the basis of faith (ie. Christ's faithfulness / obedience to the cross, and our reliance on / faith in his faithfulness), apart from the law, so facilitating the fullness of new life in Christ / the promised covenant blessings. Supporting text: "he who is righteous / just out of faith will live", Hab.2:4.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul is eager to preach in Rome; "because", "for", NJB. "Believe me, I have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel, no indeed!", Bruce.

ou epaiscunomai pres. "I am not ashamed of" - i am not ashamed of. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel [possibly "about Christ", v16, although the reading is uncertain], although what is it about the gospel that does not shame him? Possibly because a "foolish" message concerning a crucified messiah is transformed by a resurrection under the power of God, so Jewett. If this is the case, then treating the clause as a litotes would miss Paul's point, eg., "I am proud of the gospel", Moffatt. On the other hand, Dumbrell suggests that Paul is not ashamed of the gospel "because it always vindicated his ministry"; the gospel effectively saves the lost so Paul can be "proud of the good news", CEV.

to euaggelion "the gospel" - the important message, gospel. Accusative object of the verb "to be ashamed of." Note the specifying article, par excellence, Harvey. Not really "good news", better "important news", given that it's not good news for those who reject it.

gar "because" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, namely, "because ....."

dunamiV (iV ewV) "the power" - [it is] power. Accusative object of the verb to-be. Most often in the NT referring to supernatural power. Here obviously of the Holy Spirit activating the gospel such that it possesses the wherewithal to save the seeker. God's power is often active through the medium of a word.

qeou (oV) "of God" - of god. The genitive is best treated as adjectival, possessive, it belongs to / characteristic of God, is "God's power for salvation", Berkeley, but possibly ablative, expressing source / origin, "from".

eiV "for" - to, into. Here expressing end view, "with a view to", or result, so Schreiner; "resulting in salvation."

swthrian (a) "salvation" - salvation. Given v18, it is salvation from the wrath to come, although it also refers to a past and present state for a believer, both of which prefigure a future eternal state. The ground of salvation is "God's righteousness", namely, his being a right God who acts rightly, ie., keeps his promises, although see below.

panti adj. "of everyone" - to all. Dative of interest, advantage; "for the benefit of all." Emphasising the fact that the benefits of the new covenant apply to all, Jew and Gentile equally.

tw/ pisteuonti (pisteuw) pres. act. part. "who believes" - the ones believing. If we take panti, "all", as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle may be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone", or as a substantive limited by the adjective "all". The present tense indicates durative action, "all those who continue to believe." Belief is the instrument which accesses the gift of salvation, although if we choose not to believe then the gift is no longer ours. The New Testament teaches that disbelief is the only basis for the loss of our salvation. In traditional Reformed theology, and even for Arminius, such a view seems to question the perseverance of the saints, although the reality is that a person who has genuinely puts their trust in Jesus (tasted the good wine) will inevitably persevere to the end; if we hold onto Jesus, he will never let us go.

kai "then" - [both to jews first] and [to greek]. Adjunctive; "and also to the Greek." The dative direct objects "to Jew" and "to Greek" are datives of interest, advantage.

 
v17

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the gospel is God's power for salvation, so establishing the grounds for Paul's statement in v16. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who has faith because it reveals God's righteousness.

en + dat. "in" - in [it (the gospel)]. Local, expressing sphere, metaphorical, or instrumental, expressing means, "by means of the gospel."

Qeou (oV) gen. "from God / of God" - [a righteousness] of god. The genitive "of God" may be ablative, source / origin, "that status of being right with God which comes as his gift", O'Brien; a righteousness which is ek, "out of, from" God, against the righteousness which is ek nomou, "out of, from law." On the other hand, the genitive may be adjectival, possessive, it is "God's righteousness"; "the saving activity of God", Talbert, "God's dynamic fidelity to his covenant promises", Dumbrell, "God's saving righteousness", Schreiner. The second option seems best. We can dispense with the pietistic idea that the dikaiosunh, "righteousness", in mind is a divine morality to be lived out by faith. See The righteousness of God.

apokaluptetai (apokaluptw) pres. pas. "is revealed" - is revealed. Divine passive, God is doing the revealing, while the use of the present tense expresses durative, ongoing action / mission. The word is being used in the sense of "the disclosure of a heavenly mystery", Dunn. The gospel serves as a revelation of God's righteousness; it displays God's plan to gather a people, right with him, through faith. Of course, God's Word is not just spoken, but empowered to complete its intended purpose. The word has a dynamic character such that it is a "divine action to achieve righteousness and salvation", Jewett, cf., Ps.88:2. "God is now seen to be vindicating the right; redressing wrong, and delivering men from the power of evil", Dodd.

ek + gen. "by" - from, out of [faith]. The preposition here is most often taken to express means, "by / by means of", and this in line with the following text from Habakkuk, cf. 3:26, 4:16, 5:1, .... None-the-less, it more commonly identifies source / origin; "out of / from". So:

iThe revelation of God's righteousness is from faith, it comes out of, is the product of, faith.

iSo also the quotation from Habakkuk; "he who is righteous from faith, shall live", Hab.2:4.

Most translations opt for an instrumental sense, "through faith", NJB, but it seems more likely that the sense "from faith", or "based on faith", is the intended sense.

eiV + acc. "to" - to, into [faith]. Expressing end view; "with a view to our faith response."

kaqwV "as [it is written]" - as [it has been written. Comparative. Idiomatic phrase for the introduction of a scriptural reference, in this case Hab.2:4. This quote supports the contention that right standing in the sight of God has always rested on faith. Note order: faith / faithfulness (Christ's and ours) = righteousness = life (as opposed to loss, judgement, death).

oJ ... dikaioV adj. "the righteous" - [but/and] the righteous. The adjective serves as a substantive. The person who is upright in the sight of God, has right-standing in the sight of God, is covenant compliant, that person will live.

zhsetai (zaw) fut. "will live" - will live. Debate swirls on whether it is "he who is righteous / just out of / from / on the basis of faith will live" or, "he who is righteous / just will live ek faith", cf., AV. Commentators divide, with a number holding both options on the assumption that Paul would have been more careful if he intended only one of the two possible meanings, so Manson, Dunn... The weight seems to be with the first option. The person who is righteous by faith "will find eternal life (the fullness of new life in Christ)", cf. BAGD.

ek + gen. "by" - out of, from. Expressing basis / source, origin. See above and ex in Galatians 2:16.

pistin (iV ewV) "faith" - faith. Given the OT context, "faith" here is "faithfulness", both the "faithfulness of the righteous", and "the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God". For Paul's contemporaries, "faithfulness" meant "faithfulness to the law", but for Paul, the faith / faithfulness of a child of God entails reliance on the saving righteousness of God operative in the faithfulness of Christ / his saving work on the cross. Such a person will find life = eternal life, the full appropriation of the covenant promises.

 

Romans Introduction.

Exposition

 

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