This week, we'll cover the letter to the Romans and then both letters to the Thessalonians. Romans is the most theological of all the letters of Paul but is written with his mission and desire to get to Spain in mind. The Thessalonian letters carry some practical exhortations as well as Paul thinking about eschatology, a big word meaning what happens in the end times.
Today's reading contains what some have called the most important paragraph in the Bible. After a brief explanation, you might agree. And before some get their dander up, what's not being said is that the others aren't more important. But in light of understanding the major thrust of the NT especially, this is one place to turn and get it succinctly and powerfully.
God's righteousness has come to us apart from the Law, though the Law and Prophets speak of it (v.21). This is good news because both Jew (Law-oriented) and Gentile (no Law) are sinners (v.23) but can be made righteous apart from the Law through confidence in Jesus Christ.
This is possible because God put forth Jesus as the propitiation for sin (v.25). Propitiation is a huge Bible word that means a sacrifice that pays for sin and placates God's wrath against sin. So when Jesus died, He died in my place with my sin (2 Cor. 5.21 and 1 Peter 2.24). His death counts for mine. His resurrection is mine too. I am no longer under God's wrath but under grace because my confidence (faith!) in Jesus Christ means God counts Jesus' obedience as mine, His sacrifice as a payment for my sin, His offering of His life as the placation of God's wrath against my sin, and His right-standing with God as my own.
In this way, God is both just - because He punished sin - and the justifier of the person who has confidence in Christ (v.26).
It's powerful. It's succinct. And it's probably as much a revelation of God's heart as anywhere in the NT - the place where His love is demonstrated and His righteousness defended.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...