Exposition of Romans 3:29–31 One God for all by faith

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that Jesus did not come merely to save people like us. If we find it easy to be self-absorbed about such things, how much more reason would the Jews have for thinking God cared far more for them than any others. All such exclusivist thinking is wrong!

God’s solution for sin sweeps every shore on which sin may be found.

(ESV) Romans 3:29–31  Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one — who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Paul continues his argument in the style of a theological discussion between himself and a hypothetical Jewish opponent. In context, Paul has just concluded that justification before God is a matter of faith in Jesus Christ and has no relationship to the Law of Moses. Next he argues what the alternative idea entails.

The alternative to what Paul has previously said is introduced by “or” (3:29). Paul says if you do not believe that justification is by faith apart from the law (3:28), then you must subscribe to the idea that God is “the God of Jews only” (3:29). That alternative would not resonate with Jews.

Douglas Moo explains: “To be sure, Jews also believed that God was God of the whole world. . . . [However,] in Judaism, God was God of the Gentiles only by virtue of his creative work, while only the Jews enjoy a meaningful relationship with God.”[1]

Because God is one (Deut. 6:4; Rom. 3:30), a fundamental tenet of Jewish faith, he must be God of both the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul asserts that monotheism is an argument in his favor.

Paul deals with a key objection in 3:31: does his doctrine invalidate the law? After an emphatic denial, Paul says that his doctrine validates the law. How? Paul shows the value of the law in many ways: instruction (2:18), demonstration of universal accountability to God (3:19), awareness of sin (3:20), and awareness of righteousness by faith (3:21). He will expand this list later in the letter.

Of course, Paul and Jesus agree. Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).

Faith is the one rule for all

Faith is not something vague; the faith that saves has as its object Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God.

1. What leads some people to think they are God’s special favorites? How do those factors relate to you?

2. In what ways do Christians sometimes tend to cluster into like-minded groups, perhaps by social status, nationality or other factors, in defiance of the idea that there is one God for all by faith?

Speaking of Jesus, Peter told the rulers, elders and scribes of Israel, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 251.