When Grace and Justice Met: Notes
When Grace and Justice Met
“All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).
Paul begins the Epistle to the Romans with a strong emphasis on the universal need of sinful humankind to have a right-standing with the God of Perfect Righteousness and Justice. Jew or Gentile, pagan or moralist, atheist or religious – since all have sinned, all have the same essential need. In this section of text, the Apostle to the Gentiles explains how the “righteousness of God” has addressed the sin problem. In terms of human experience, what is the challenge of being upright and just without being harsh? Who do you know to be a person of love and grace who also respects and demands right behavior and accountability?
Remember the popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum? One of the most popular quotes from that book is “Clean up your own mess!” Why doesn’t that advice work with the problem Paul has traced in Romans 1:18 – 3:20? What makes it impossible for us to “Clean up our own mess” when it comes to our sin problem?
Paul affirms that the only solution to the problem that began in Eden is “the righteousness of God” – God’s covenant promise to bring one who would “crush Satan’s head,” be Heaven’s anointed deliverer (Heb, Messiah), and fulfill the promise to Abraham that “all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you.” How is God’s righteousness in keeping those promises through Jesus a complete fulfillment of all these anticipations? Note v.26 in particular, with its claim that Jesus “demonstrates” God’s faithfulness.
Paul insists that God’s righteousness is “apart from the law” (v.21). How do you understand that phrase? What “law” does Paul have in mind? Whatever the law of v.21 is understood to be, why would it be a mistake for anyone to stake his or her claim to fellowship with God on law?
The alternative to a claim based on keeping the law is that Jews and Gentiles together (in keeping with promise to Abraham about “all peoples”) “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (v.24). How have you heard the word “grace” defined? Do you have a personal definition of the word? Can you remember a time when you have been shown grace by another person? How is the work of Christ “grace” to us?
With God’s righteousness “demonstrated” in Jesus, right-standing with God is given to “those who have faith in Jesus”? How have you heard the word “faith” defined? Do you have a personal definition of the word? In what ways does “Faith” go beyond simply believing some propositions or ideas? How is everything about a person’s submission to God “faith” in Christ?
The sermon based on this text is titled “When Grace and Justice Met.” Why do you think that title was chosen for these six verses? Extra Credit: Check out Psalm 85:9-13.
If God can be righteous, just, and upright in all things and still show grace, mercy, and love to sinners, how is that “harmony of incompatible traits” a model for our behavior? How should we be unflinching in our commitment to righteous behavior and still merciful to one another in our failures?