Untitled Sermon (8)
To be sure, Jews also believed that God was God of the whole world. But the limitations they placed upon this concept illustrate the radicality of Paul’s argument. For, in Judaism, God was the God of Gentiles only by virtue of his creative work, while only the Jews enjoy any meaningful relationship with God; this is expressed in later Jewish text: “I am God over all that came into the world, but I have joined my name only with you [Israel]; I am not called the God of the idolaters, but the God of Israel.” Only by accepting the torah could Gentiles hope to become related to God in the same way as Jews. In this paragraph, and in many other places in Romans, Paul makes clear that the torah no longer functions as the “dividing wall” between those who are outside and those who are inside the sphere of God’s people.32 In the OT, while the law was not the means of salvation, it did function to “mark out” the people of God; and in Judaism, it became an impenetrable barrier. But for Paul monotheism, as he has come to see it in Christ, means that there can be no such barrier; all must have equal access to God, and this can be guaranteed only if faith, not works in obedience to the Jewish law, is made the “entrance requirement.”
Verse 28 states in summary form Paul’s basic premise—by faith we are justified quite apart from keeping the law (cf. Gal 2:16). To show the universal scope of this basic truth, Paul asked, “Is God the God of Jews only?” (v. 29). No Jew of Paul’s day would have denied that God was the God of all people in the sense of being their Creator and Judge. The companion question, “Is he not the God of Gentiles too?” expects an affirmative response. Since there is only one God,28 he must be the God of all. Only if one subscribes to the cavalier position that God has no interest in or connection with all the non-Jewish people in the world could it be said that he is not the God of the Gentiles as well. God is one, and his redemptive concern reaches out to all. All those whom God will justify, both Jews and Gentiles, will be justified in the same way. Faith, and faith alone, is God’s way of setting people right with himself.