June 23, 2011

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The New Perspective on Paul-- A Pastoral Explanation, Pt. 3: "The Righteousness of God" [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 3 of a 4-part series. It would be critical to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series first.] In Part 1 we discussed how the New Perspective takes a fresh look at Judaism as "covenantal nomism" rather than a religion of legalism. In Part 2, we explored how the translation of the Greek phrase pistis Christou could be read the "faithfulness of Christ" instead of simply "faith in Christ." Now, in Part 3, we will explore another phrase that has been at the center of the NPP discussion: the phrase, “the righteousness of God”, or in Greek, dikaiosune theou. The Reformed tradition has typically taken this to mean God’s moral righteousness, and it is related to the notion of a “treasury of merit” that Christ stored up on our behalf that can now be transferred—“imputed” is their preferred word—to us. But many advocates of the New Perspective on Paul argue that dikaiosune theou can be seen as God’s covenant faithfulness. N. T. Wright writes: “The main argument for taking dikaiosune theou to denote an aspect of the character of God himself is the way in which Paul is summoning up a massive biblical and intertestamental theme, found not least in Isaiah 40—55 which I have argued elsewhere is vital for him. God’s dikaiosune, his tsedaqah, is that aspect of his character because of which, despite Israel’s infidelity and consequent banishment, God will remain true to the covenant with Abraham and rescue her none the less.” (From www.ntwrightpage.com) This interpretation makes sense with Paul’s line of reasoning in Romans 3. The question that Paul is asking is, roughly, “How can God keep His covenant with Israel to bless the nations through them despite Israel’s unfaithfulness?” The answer, Paul says, is by sending Jesus as...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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