1:17a. In this section Moo does lots of comparison, and survey of the thoughts of other authors, and deliberation, before making his own conclusions on the meaning of "the righteousness of God."
His conclusion, that it is "the act by which God brings people into a right relationship with Himself" (p. 74) has every bit of what he says is going for it, going for it. I would like to point out some overarching issues of method and context.
What's a commentator on Romans to do? There have been SO MANY commentators on Romans, and humility demands not to think of oneself as the only one who has seen anything. Instead of wanting to "get one's two cents in," one may hope for a quarter of a farthing or a half lepton. And so a commentator "must" check with the landscape of other commentators.
But a Reformer or sola scriptura advocate would be leery of that. Why so? Because whether you're good at not believing everything you hear, or not so good, the history of avoiding the temptation of noticing what others say over what God says is not good, despite the warning of Gal 1:10. Here with Moo and "the righteousness of God" we got a bare smidgeon of a paragraph on the texts which use the phrase (p. 70), before we are launched into pages and pages of the comparison of the views of others (70-75). The texts get touched on, but mostly while considering a set of views.
The context of the sentence containing the phrase "the righteousness of God" here is "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed." Now to explain this is partially to be able to say, how if the righteousness of God is "the act by which God brings people into a right relationship with Himself," how such a thing is contributory to why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Does the act by which God brings people into a right relationship with Himself explain at least partially, why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel?
Not unless you add what Moo forgets: "in it!" If there is "an act by which God brings people into a right relationship with Himself" then does Moo believe or show that it is revealed in the gospel? Then he would make the connection Paul makes! The reason Paul is not ashamed of the gospel is not because there is such a thing somewhere as an act by which God brings people into a right relationship with Himself, but that such a thing, or some other candidate for the content of the phrase, is ... revealed in the gospel!
We cannot be content to substitute "with it" for "in it." The reason Paul is not ashamed of the gospel is NOT because the righteousness of God goes with it. Not enough. Paul is stronger, i.e., says more than that.
Neither does Paul say he is not ashamed of the righteousness of God, because of what that is. Paul says it is the fact that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel that makes him not ashamed. This is especially true when we tack with Moo on "is revealed" meaning revealed by a dramatic act or acts (pp. 69-70).
However, let's assume that Moo captures a good portion of the sense of what the righteousness of God is, that it has an event-feel to it, not a static-substance feel. The righteousness of God as an act. Let's ignore the stipulation that the relationship between the gospel and the righteousness of God must be such, that the righteousness of God is revealed "in it." What is the act? We know that Moo believes salvation is the work of God (p. 68): "Salvation is, from first to last, God's work [emphasis in original]." He would blow us away if he would say that the righteousness of God must be no less than His work, His work of saving, revealed in the gospel. Possibly more.
If we say only that the act is God bringing people into a right relationship with Himself, and that alone, then one objection comes to mind, that comes from restricting the righteousness of God to that. God's righteousness is not impugned for what He does but often for what He doesn't do. We are not aware of God being so much attacked for bringing people into relationship with Himself, but for not doing xyz.
Moo uses the word "vindication" (p. 73) here, as Paul may be said to in Rm 3:4, but doesn't expand on it. Can the righteousness of God which is revealed in the gospel not also contribute to the vindication of God against accusation? If so, would not that heavily contribute to a lack of shame on Paul's or any evangelist's part? Would you not be happier to spread the gospel if you believed that it vindicated objections toward God, which you know you've heard, that without the gospel, you don't have an answer for, but that with it, you do? Of course!
We need only bring up the things that Romans 3:3ff. itself brings up: God vindicated as judge, and God vindicated as faithful to his word, which includes promises.
So how is the gospel, and particularly, the fact that in it the righteousness of God is revealed, contributory to Paul's not being ashamed of it in his ministry? Is God bringing people into right relationship with Himself in the gospel contributory to that? Of course. But there is more, but only as long as the revelation of this act is "in it," i.e., in the gospel. The gospel may also vindicate the Lord against accusation, making us unashamed of the gospel, to say the least.
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