Summary: This message is from my expository series through the book of Romans.
“The Divine Conjunction”
October 19, 2008
Ah, the joys of a 13-year-old daughter! She had me at “hello”, on that cold February morning when she awakened her mom 22 days earlier than the doctor said she was supposed to, announcing that she was ready to make her debut in the world. I tell people that she just couldn’t wait to meet her dad. She’s had me wrapped around her little finger pretty much ever since. Now, she’s developed a little way of getting around just about anything; here’s how it works. I’ll call attention to something she has failed to do, like clean up her room, or clear the dinner table, or what-have-you, and she’ll respond by looking deep into my eyes and saying, “but I love you!” As if that makes up for it! Of course, sometimes it works…I’ll refer you to the “wrapped around her little finger” comment I made earlier…
“But”…a little word with great power. I decided to look up its meaning on Dictionary.com, and I was surprised that that little word had so many different shades of meaning:
• “on the contrary”
• “without the circumstance that”
• “otherwise than”
• “that not”
• As an exclamatory expression – “but I love you!”
• One little word…so many meanings!
The meaning for the Christian, though, is literally life-changing, this little word “but”, the “divine conjunction”, leading us from the darkness and death of sin to a life lived in the freedom God intends!
Last week, we talked about the fact that the predominant theological issue of Paul’s day, among pious Jews, was the question of God’s righteousness. What did that mean? That God’s righteousness was tied to His faithfulness was not at issue, but many Jews believed that they themselves were the first object of His faithfulness, and that nothing in Heaven or earth would cause God to allow a single Jew to face eternal judgment. Paul takes a different position, though; God’s faithfulness is first to His own character and nature. Today, Paul expands upon that theme of “the righteousness of God”. Further, the words “just” and “justify” are here as well, and the interesting thing is that in the Greek, all of those words come from the same root. This is a theme that we’ll explore for some time. So you know, we’re going to be “camping out” in this passage for several weeks; there is much to unpack!
Leon Morris calls today’s passage “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written”. Luther called it “the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.” Paul here is picking up the theme that he began, before a two-chapter parenthesis on the sinfulness of man. Note the parallel between 1:17 and 3:21: