A Pause to Regroup

We have now completed the second main section of the book of Romans, and I thought this would be an opportune moment to pause and regroup. The purpose for writing this section was to demonstrate that while humanity, both Jew and Gentile, is in a bad place, being under condemnation from God, there is a way to overcome that bad position: Grace.

To make his case, Paul made three points in his argument: First, that grace provides justification for our sins (Romans 3:21-31). Then he demonstrates that Abraham was found righteous because of his faith (Romans 4). Finally, Paul shows us that our justification by grace through faith is assured (Romans 5).

His first point, in 3:21-31, that grace provides justification for our sins, is backed up by 5 points and thus, his argument looks like this:

Proposition: Grace provides justification for sins. (3:21 – 5:21)

  1. Grace as justification for sin is by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-31)
  2. Grace has now been fully revealed to us through Jesus Christ. (3:21-23)
  3. Sinners are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ (3:24-26)
  4. Sinners are justified apart from works of the Law (3:27-28)
  5. Grace is available to all people (3:29-30)
  6. Law is upheld by the proper working of grace (3:31)

If you look carefully at these points, you will easily see that Paul has made a compelling argument that grace provides us justification for our sins by faith in Jesus Christ. Notice how he really zeroes in on his target here; there are no sidebars or detours in his argumentation. Now, let’s have a look at his second point:

Proposition: Grace provides justification for sins. (3:21 – 5:21)

  1. Abraham was found righteous because of his faith (Romans 4)
  2. Abraham was justified by faith apart from works of the law (4:1-5)
  3. David explained and confirmed justification by faith apart from works of the law (4:6-8)
  4. Membership in Abraham’s family is by faith and not by circumcision which is a work of law (4:9-12)
  5. The blessings promised to Abraham come by faith and not by works of the law (4:13-17a)
  6. Faith means believing God’s promises (4:17n-22)
  7. Those who believe like Abraham are justified like Abraham (4:23-25)

Once again, looking at Paul’s argument, we can see that he is relentless in proving his point that Abraham was found righteous in God’s sight (justification) in spite of his sins, because of his faith. We can also see that in the process of making this argument, Paul has blown up the notion that circumcision is in any way an operative factor in receiving God’s grace. Now, let’s see his last point:

Proposition: Grace provides justification for sins. (3:21 – 5:21)

  1. Justification by grace through faith is assured (Romans 5)
  2. Assurance of personal salvation (5:1-11)

1) Justification by faith is critical to assurance (5:1-2)

2) Trial and tribulation do not nullify assurance (5:3-5)

3) Christ died for us while we were still sinners (5:6-8)

4) Our hope is even more secure now that we are His friends (5:9-11)

  1. The death of Christ is all-sufficient (5:12-21)

1) The sin of one man, Adam, brought sin into our world (5:12-14)

2) Christ and His sacrifice are greater than Adam and his sin (5:15-17)

3) Christ’s sacrifice reverses completely the results of Adam’s sin (5:18-19)

4) Grace triumphs over sin and death (5:20-21)

With point 4) above, the proposition is proven.

Once again, we can clearly see that Paul is writing this to make a particular point, which is another way of saying that he is writing in context. As a further observation, he is using a persuasive structure that is called primacy – recency that recognizes that in any communicative setting, a listener or reader is most likely to remember what they heard first and what they heard last, and that of these two, they are most likely to remember what they heard last. Thus, when you are making a case with three main points, your most important point is the last one you mention, the second most important point is first mentioned, and the least important point is in the middle. Clearly this is in play here, because of all three of his supporting points, the most important is that our justification is assured. In using such a structure as this, the strength of one’s case would be reduced significantly by inserting a sidebar or detour in the middle of the most important point, which is one more reason that I do not believe for a minute that Paul intended to do so in chapter 5.

In any case, if you are new to all of this “interpretation stuff” I hope this little exercise has been helpful; if nothing else you can see how I have reached the conclusions I have written about in these posts.

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5 thoughts on “A Pause to Regroup”

  1. I’d love to camp on “Trial and tribulation do not nullify assurance.” It seems many followers of Jesus today forget this and live in fear. Thanks for this post–really awesome, Don.

    1. Thank you. You’re right; people get stuck on that. Not too many years ago, I had a whole class sort of gang up on me on that very point: It’s too hard… and sometimes it really IS hard. Yet it is seldom as hard as we make it, and if Scripture says we can overcome, then we CAN overcome by the power of grace… if we can simply get out of His way!

  2. Don, I have been focusing on Romans 6, 7, and 8 for a while. In fact, I posted my Part One (Romans 6) and Part Two (Romans 7) a few months ago, and have been lax in posting Part Three (Romans 8). I think Paul hit the core of the Christian doctrine with the Book of Romans, but I find these three chapters very instructive. Grace does not give us license to sin. Whoa, what a concept to have to get into our hearts. Many believers today have God in their heads, but need to get Him into their hearts. We must hide the Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him. This, of course, does not mean we memorize the “law of Moses” and become more and more obedient. The law cannot save us. It is meant to show us that our righteousness is but filthy rags. Paul said his self-righteousness as a devout Jew was like a pile of stinking horse dung! If you get a chance, check out my posts on Romans. Happy belated Resurrection Sunday. Steve (a/k/a The Accidental Poet)

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