We are studying Romans 3:21-31 for Sunday, May 5. This is Paul’s proclamation of the good news that “a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” (Romans 3:28) We’ll definitely be talking theology on Sunday. [Study notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions we might want to consider before or in class:
It would probably be a good idea to see if we can restate what Paul is saying in our own words, noting any places where we’re not entirely sure what he means. Comparing our notes would give us a good sense of what parts seem straightforward to us, and what parts of the text we need to think about a little more.
Do we have any past experience with this text? What is that experience? [e.g., memorizing key verses in Sunday school; sermons we’ve heard; conversations with other Christians, or non-Christians …] How important has that experience been for us? Would we describe it as positive, neutral, negative? Why?
Do we have a “relationship” with this text, or with the theology in this text? What is that relationship? What do we appreciate most about it? What do we appreciate least about it? Why is that?
[Maybe a different way to think about this: how central would we say this text is to our own Christian faith, to what it means to be Christian? Why is that, do we think?]
Verse 21 seems to imply that before “now,” the “righteousness of God” was disclosed in or through law. Do we see how law would, or could, disclose the righteousness of God? How would we explain that?
Does the “righteousness of God” disclosed “apart from the law” seem different to us in any way? That is, does it give us different thoughts or feelings about God, or about God’s righteousness? How are they different? Why, do we think?
Do we think of God as being “righteous”? Or do we think of God in other ways? When we come to think of God as righteous, what thoughts and feelings do we have? Why is that, do we think? How does Paul’s message here reinforce those thoughts and feelings, or modify them? Why?
What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?
Verse 23 is often quoted alone. If we had to memorize Paul’s whole sentence, we’d have to memorize verses 23-25. Does the language in verse 23 sound different or take on a different meaning for us in the context of the rest of the sentence? How?
Would we call Paul’s message that “we are justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” an “equalizing” message? Who does it “equalize”? How was it “equalizing” for the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Paul’s 1st century audience? Is it equally “equalizing” today? Is there any way that this message could be seen as not “equalizing”? How?
Would we call this a proclamation of “the good news?” Why, or why not?
[Maybe more personal: could we share this message with others ourselves, in our own words? Would we? Why, or why not? How vital do we feel this is? What concerns or reservations do we have about it?]