Reading Romans Through Lent – Romans 3.21-31

Read: Romans 3:21-31 - STEP Bible, Bible Gateway

It is only faith that matters now. That could be the motto for Paul’s Letter to the Romans!

Whatever the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles might have been before – the Jews had a special relationship with God which was symbolized by works of the Law, the Gentiles didn’t – whatever the distinctions might have been before, everything changes with Jesus. With Jesus, the one Jew who ever did perfectly keep the whole Law and maintain the special relationship with God – in Jesus, the doors of the special relationship with God have been thrown open to everyone who seeks it.

St Paul insists: it was never adherence to the Law that saved the Jews. (That is just as well, because the Jews, excepting Jesus, never managed to keep it.) If anything saved the Jews, Paul says, it was that they trusted that, even though they themselves couldn’t keep the special relationship with God from breaking down, God would maintain it anyway. In other words, Paul says, insofar as the Jews have ever been God’s people, it is actually because they knew they couldn’t keep the Law and trusted in God to love them on through their failure anyway.

Now, Paul says, that same trust in God – faith – isn’t something you have to be a Jew in order to possess any more. Admittedly, it was previously possible only for Jews to trust in God, because they were the only ones who knew anything about him. But in Jesus, God himself became a human being, and lived and died and rose again for us. So now, anyone who is human can learn about God, because anyone who is human can learn about Jesus Christ. And so anyone who is human can have faith in God, because they can know God through Jesus.

If it is faith in God’s grace, and not anything they do (or don’t do) that saves the Jews, and if through Jesus those of us who are not Jews can also have faith in God’s grace, then it is possible for anybody to be saved, to be made righteous, to belong to the people of God. And that is a really remarkable thing, and the ground of our hope as Christians.

Paul doesn’t think that Jew and Gentile cease to be important categories. He doesn’t believe all people collapse into a mush of oneness just because all people can now have faith in God. He thinks still that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians have faith in God in different ways, because of their history. But from an eternal perspective, it is only faith that matters now. Let us pray that God will reinvigorate our faith in his grace this Lent, as we contemplate just how kind he has been in sending his Son to die for our sakes.


These devotions were originally written for the parish of All Saints, Ascot and we are grateful for permission to republish them on Fulcrum.

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