Redemptive Balance

Brothers and sisters:
Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
though testified to by the law and the prophets,
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ
for all who believe.
For there is no distinction;
all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.
They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as an expiation,
through faith, by his Blood, to prove his righteousness
because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed,
through the forbearance of God–
to prove his righteousness in the present time,
that he might be righteous
and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.

What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out.
On what principle, that of works?
No, rather on the principle of faith.
For we consider that a person is justified by faith
apart from works of the law.
Does God belong to Jews alone?
Does he not belong to Gentiles, too?
Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one
and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith
and the uncircumcised through faith.
(Romans 3:21-30)

Scripture Study

3:21 the law and the prophets: The Scriptures prepared Israel for a Messiah who would conquer the devil (Gen 3:15), make atonement for sin (Is 53:10–12), and renew the heart of man (Ezek 36:25–27) through the founding of a New Covenant (Jer 31:31–34).

3:23 all have sinned: Not all without exception (every human being), but all without distinction (Jews and Gentiles alike, 3:9; 10:12). That there are exceptions is clear: Jesus was sinless; children below the age of reason do not willfully commit sin; and tradition holds that Mary, by the grace of God, lived her entire life unstained by sin.

3:24 redemption: A ransom price paid for the release of captives.

3:25 an expiation: A sacrifice that wipes away sin. ● The expression is used multiple times in the Greek OT for the mercy seat, or golden lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:17; Heb 9:5). The high priest of Israel sprinkled blood on the mercy seat once a year on the Day of Atonement to expiate the sins of the people and restore them to fellowship with Yahweh (Lev 16:1–34). For Paul, the mercy seat typifies Christ as the living seat of God’s presence and the place where atonement is made with sacrificial blood (CCC 433). ● Christ, who became an expiation by blood, teaches us to follow his example by the mortification of our members (St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection).

3:28 justified by faith: Faith is a gift of grace that moves us toward God (Phil 1:29). It leads to justification because it leads to Baptism (6:3–4; 1 Cor 6:11). The object of justifying faith is both personal and propositional: it embraces God as well as the revealed tenets of the gospel. Catholic theology holds that faith does not act alone in this process but reaches out with hope for divine mercy and love for the Lord. Faith manifests itself in the lives of believers through obedience (1:5), love (Gal 5:6), and good works (Eph 2:10). works of law: For possible meanings of this, see note on Rom 3:20. ● The Council of Trent decreed in 1547 that man, by his own efforts and works, can never merit the initial grace of justification that makes him a child of God and a member of the New Covenant. This grace is an entirely free gift from Jesus Christ conferred in Baptism (CCC 1987–2011).

3:30 God is one: The monotheistic creed of ancient Israel (Deut 6:4). Paul draws an important lesson from it: because Jews and Gentiles have one and the same God, all are justified in one and the same way, i.e., by faith. 

Scripture Reflection

An ancient Rabbi, Simeon Ben Eleazar said: “Any sinner that has committed a transgression, woe on him! He has tipped the scales to the side of debt for himself and for the world.” This means a sinner takes from one pan of the scales something he has no right to take: so the scale is out of balance. The Holiness of God seeks to have it rebalanced. How do it? If the sinner stole property, he could begin to rebalance by giving it back. If he stole a pleasure, he can begin to rebalance by giving up some other pleasure. But these are only beginnings, for even one mortal sin has an infinity about it: the Person offended, God, is infinite. So if the Father willed complete rebalance, that could be done only by sending a divine Person to become

But these are only beginnings, for even one mortal sin has an infinity about it: the Person offended, God, is infinite. So if the Father willed complete rebalance, that could be done only by sending a divine Person to become man. The Father actually did that, He sent His Son. Jesus fully rebalanced the objective order. Our justification then is by God’s grace, attained “through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ alone.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

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