Romans - Lesson 18

Romans 3:27–4:25

In exploring Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into the core themes of Paul's theology. You understand that faith, not works, is central to justification, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness through faith alone. Paul emphasizes the inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles in God's plan, challenging conventional Jewish identity and highlighting the universal scope of salvation through Christ. This lesson offers a profound understanding of the theological underpinnings of faith and justification in Paul's epistle to the Romans.

Lesson 18
Watching Now
Romans 3:27–4:25

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18–4:25)

A. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18–3:20)

1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18-32)

2. Jews Are Accountable to God for Sin (2:1–3:8)

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)

b. The Limitations of the Covenant (2:17-29)

c. God's Faithfulness and the Judgment of Jews (3:1-8)

3. The Guilt of All Humanity (3:9-20)

B. Justification by Faith (3:21–4:25)

1. Justification and the Righteousness of God (3:21-26)

2. "By Faith Alone" (3:27–4:25)

a. "By Faith Alone": Initial Statement (3:27-31)

b. "By Faith Alone": Elaboration with Respect to Abraham (4:1-25)

Class Resources
  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 3:27-4:25  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 3:27-4:25

Romans 3:27-31: Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded because of what law? Is it that law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.


Romans 3:27-4:25

A. Paul and the Issue of Faith

Let me make a few comments before we come to Romans 4, on the end of Romans chapter 3. In 3:27- 31, you will know from reading the commentary (I realize I am repeating some things you’ve read, but you’ve probably forgotten a lot of what you’ve read, or there is a lot of stuff you’ve read and trying to sort it all out is not easy. So, forgive me for repetition to some extent)  

Romans 3:27-4:25 I take to be a kind of a larger unit where Paul is now picking up particularly the issue of faith from 3:21-26. We saw that in 3:21-26 Paul does talk about a lot of theological issues: justification, redemption, hilastērion (the whole idea of the mercy seat or propitiation), God’s righteousness, justice, and so forth. But it is particularly the issue of faith that Paul now picks up and talks about from 3:27 to 4:25. 

There is a bit of a parallelism here. Romans 3:27-31 and chapter 4 are saying much the same thing. Paul talks about boasting generally (in 3:27-31) and then at the beginning of chapter 4, how about Abraham? What does he have to boast about? 

Then you have the contrast between faith and works (in 3:27-31). Likewise with respect to Abraham, it was in his case, faith rather than works. Faith and works, 3:28, he makes that point and Paul comes back to it in chapter 4 and says, how about Abraham, is he justified by works? No, it was faith in his case as well. 

Then all of that moves to what we might call the Gentile issue or Gentile inclusion. At the end of chapter 3, Paul says that it is by faith. Faith is something that is both for the circumcision and the uncircumcision. God is One, and He is the God who is God of both Jew and Gentile alike. Likewise in Romans chapter 4, Paul goes on in verses 9 and following and says, remember that Abraham was pronounced just before he was circumcised, but he was circumcised So that means that Abraham is the father of all who believe. He is the father of Jewish Christians, and he is the father of Gentile Christians. This is Paul’s concern about including Jew and Gentile together.


B. The Fundamental Issue in Romans:  

Let me pause for a moment there. If you read Wright’s commentary on Romans or James Dunn’s commentary on Romans, they single out this point of Gentile inclusion.

[Recording includes friendly conversational aside between class and Dr. Moo]

Dunn and Wright, typical of their emphasis, are saying that what Paul is really concerned about in Romans is including the Gentiles. And so, they emphasize that. 

My response to them again is yes, that is here, it is important, and it has been neglected. But so is this (boasting, faith and works, etc.) here, and that is where Paul starts, and that is important as well. Again, for me, where the New Perspective interpretation tends toward an either/or - it is Gentile inclusion, not the issue of human beings before God - I want to say no, it’s both. To some extent in some of the dialogue I’ve had with both Dunn and Wright the issue gets to be sort of emphasis, which is the most important or something.

To me, the fundamental issue in Romans is human beings before God, that Paul’s Gospel is about the provision God has made to cure the problem of human sin. In curing the problem of human sin, Paul is curing that human sin for all humans, Jew and Gentile alike, that is important but it is not central. Put it another way, for Dunn and Wright, the problem that Paul addresses in Romans is the barrier between Jew and Gentile. 

I think the fundamental problem of Romans is sin. That is what the Gospel is addressing. That is what Paul is trying to address in explaining how his Gospel handles that problem. So, Dunn and Wright certainly would not deny that sin is an issue, clearly. But again, it is where the emphasis lies. It seems to me that they put the emphasis in the wrong place. 

If you have read, as I have, Dunn and Wright over the years, everything that they have written since 1978 (Wright’s first article) on, it is clear that they have moderated over the years. More and more they are wanting to say, yes, it is a both/and. I welcome that. To some extent, I don’t’ think there is complete agreement by any means, but where you have the New Perspective and the traditional view, I think there has been a coming together, a more of a convergence of the two over the years. So, at any rate, in 3:27-31, Paul is talking about these issues stemming out of his discussion in chapter 3.


C. The Jewish Midrash: 

Chapter 4 we are going to go over fairly quickly. Here is a place where again, be prepared to ask questions that you might have about verses we are moving over pretty rapidly. 

I am not sure about the word “Midrash”; that is why I put it in quotation marks here. Some of you will be familiar with this word; it is the word generally used sometimes to describe the Jewish way of interpreting Scripture. How many Jews in Paul’s day would try to contemporize Scripture because the interpretation that both Paul and his Jewish contemporaries are engaged in, is not academic interpretation. It is very practical pointed application: what do the Scriptures say to our situation? 

If you think about it for a moment, this summarizes a lot of the Biblical interpretation we are all engaged in doing. I am not interested in simply being a New Testament Academic scholar. I know people who are; I know people who are atheists, Jewish, who are New Testament scholars. They study the New Testament like someone else might study the novels of Dickens or an ancient historian, just for the sake of the academic exercise. I am a New Testament scholar because I have a passion to understand what this text is saying to me and to contemporary Christians. It is that move from ancient text to the modern reader that we are all involved in. 

That is very similar to what is going on in Paul’s day. How do you understand Scripture? Who has the right way of reading the Old Testament? What do those promises mean and how are they being fulfilled? Is Jesus the promised Messiah or not? Is the church the place now where God’s promises are being fulfilled, or is it the community of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, or is it the temple in Jerusalem? All of these different Jewish groups are squabbling over the application of Scripture. That is what Midrash is involved in; so, what Paul is doing here in Romans 4 is saying, here is my reading of Scripture. Here is why I think Scripture read rightly talks about what I am talking about, that this idea of justification by faith is something that Scripture does support. In order to make the point, Paul focuses on a single text as a starting point, Genesis 15:6.


D. Abraham, Faith, and Righteousness: 

Remember the history of Abraham, remember the sequence in Genesis. In Genesis 12, God appears to Abram, calls him, and gives him a promise. He is going to make his name great; he will be a blessing to the Gentiles. He will possess this land and have many descendants. In chapter 15, God renews that promise to Abram and in that context, after God makes His promise to Abram again, we have this passage that says, ‘and Abram believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him for righteousness.’ 

So here you have this statement that brings faith and righteousness together for the first time in Scripture, in fact it is the first reference to faith in Scripture, Genesis 15:6. Then you have Genesis 17 where God institutes the rite of circumcision and then Genesis 22, God tests Abram by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. This is kind of the high points of Abraham’s life. All of these became very significant in different interpretations of Abraham. 

Jewish interpretation tended to focus on Genesis 17 and 22. Abraham is the one who is circumcised and the one who showed how he was obedient to God by offering Isaac. So, Abraham becomes a paradigm of someone who was circumcised and particularly someone who was obedient, who did works in response to God’s promise to him. 

Well, what Paul does, obviously, he goes back before those events. Without saying that they aren’t important or significant, he is saying that something preceded all of that. Before Abraham offered Isaac, before he was circumcised, he had a faith that God recognized and accredited righteousness to him on the basis of that faith. That’s, Paul says, why my view of Abraham fits what I am teaching about the centrality of justification by faith, and remember not just faith, but faith alone, faith apart from works. This is exactly the point that Paul makes in verse 3-8. After citing Genesis 15:6, Paul asks what the nature of this faith was. How did God reckon it to Abraham? It was reckoned to him on the basis of faith alone. 

Then, Paul does a very Jewish thing. To support Genesis 15:6, a text from the Law, he cites a text from the writings, Psalm 32. To some extent, he is led to that text because of a common word. There is a single Greek word, a key word,  logizomai that we usually translate reckon or credit which is used in both Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32. This is very common for Jewish interpreters to bring texts together based on common vocabulary. So, Paul is engaged in making this argument that would make sense to Jewish readers of Romans.

Here is how the Old Testament supports my view of what righteousness is. Righteousness is based on faith, not works. 


E. Paul’s View of God’s Work to Justify Jews and Gentiles: 

Then Paul moves to his next point in verse 9, we noted that earlier, where Paul reminds us that Abraham believed and was reckoned right with God before he was circumcised. So, it can’t be his circumcision that was the basis for his righteousness, and the fact that Abraham was righteous while not being circumcised enables him to be the father of Gentiles as well as Jews. 

Here Paul is making a very polemical statement. If you ask Jews, who are you? What is your identity? They would say that we are children of Abraham. He is the Father of Jewish people. He is our ancestor. That is who we are. So, for Paul to say that Abraham is the Father of all who believe, including Gentiles, is a real slap in the face of that Jewish view. It is polemical; it is confrontational. Paul is saying here is how you can read Scripture a little differently than you Jews are. Go back to Abraham and it’s faith and it’s righteousness before circumcision; long before the giving of the Law. That is what is central and that is what I am preaching, Paul says. 

He goes on to develop the point in the rest of the chapter emphasizing that Abraham’s offspring in verse 16 includes Jews and Gentiles alike. He talks about the strength of Abraham’s faith in verses 18 and following, and then in verse 22, he comes back to Genesis 15:6 again, this is why it was accredited to him as righteousness. These words were written not for him alone, but also for us to whom God will credit righteousness. So again, you see the way he is applying Scripture; what is this Scripture really about? Paul says that it is ultimately about us, not about the Jewish people per se, but it’s about what God is doing in Christ enabling Jew and Gentile to become justified and therefore to belong together to God’s new people that he is creating in Christ.