by Barry Newton
Although Paul did not write in a code, at times it may seem like he did. Even Peter described Paul’s letters as sometimes being hard to understand.
Can the letter of Romans provide clues as to what the apostle meant when he wrote “out of faith unto faith” in Romans 1:17? If Romans 1:16-17, is the opening thesis statement it is claimed to be, we might expect it to be restated and amplified upon later. It is. Furthermore, if we pay attention to Paul’s usage of Greek prepositions, the case for what he meant seems to be signed, sealed and delivered.
In a paragraph serving as a first waypoint unpacking his earlier condensed thesis, Paul expanded upon “faith to faith” when he wrote, “through (dia) faith of Jesus Christ unto (eis) all those who believe” (Romans 3:22). Accordingly, he proceeds to explain that the basis of our salvation is “through (dia) the redemption in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
While Jesus’ sacrifice has made salvation possible, the individual appropriates this gift “through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). Thus, what Jesus’ faithfulness in going to the cross has made possible becomes available “unto all those who believe.”
If it were not clear enough that Paul intended to argue that our salvation began with Jesus’ faith, this paragraph closes with a fuller restatement of “out of (ek) faith” from Romans 1:17. To shorten Paul’s lengthy sentence ranging from Romans 3:21 to 3:26, we discover that the good news, which exists apart from the Law and Prophets but to which they testified, includes the revelation that God is righteous and makes people righteous “out of (ek) faith of Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
In this watershed letter, Paul seems to argue that God has remained just in providing a universally accessible salvation which began with Jesus’ faith. Jesus’ faith led him to be a sacrifice of atonement on the cross. Our faith leads us to wholeheartedly obey the good news resulting in our being set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).
No wonder this apostle to the Gentiles was not ashamed of the good news. Proclaiming the gospel could lead both Jew as well as Gentile to respond with the “obedience of faith,” whereby God could justly use his power to save them (Romans 1:5,16; Romans 16:26).