Friday, May 03, 2013

Book Review: Christ, our Righteousness

My downstairs study contains a lot of books - roughly 800. My upstairs overflow library contains about the same. In consequence, there are lots of books that have sat on my shelves for a long time and have never managed to be read. Slowly, gradually, I'm getting round to reading through some of them at least - and perhaps some day will complete them all! Within the 'big' theology section there's a series of books under the IVP / Apollos logo entitled 'Studies in Biblical Theology' and from that, this book by Mark Seifrid make it onto my reading list.

'Christ, our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification' is a study of what Paul means when he writes about justification in the pages of the New Testament. Within the cultural background of the so-called New Perspective on Paul, Seifrid is eager to return to the scriptures to understand Paul properly.

He begins by examining Paul's conversion, and how Paul describes his experience of moving from Judaism to Christianity. 'He does not mince his words concerning the revaluation of his values.' You see, we need to understand Paul's Judaism to see what he means by justification - and why Christ was needed to achieve that result. While there was an unresolved tension between the election of Israel and the demands of the law; 'in Christ the demand of the law and the fulfillment of promise meet.' It is because Christ justifies the ungodly that Paul finds hope and purpose - because his works and his background were fallen flesh and unrighteous.

For the bulk of the book, Seifrid guides the reader through the argument of Paul's letter to the Romans, as the various sections and developments occur. The unrighteousness and injustice of idolatry is exposed, which rightly and justly brings the wrath of God. God is therefore entirely just and righteous to punish wickedness. Yet, as he continues, the cross is the means by which God is seen to be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. The exposition of the letter and the themes arising is first class, and warms the heart - just as good theology should do!

From there, the reader is treated to an exploration of the themes of justification by faith in Paul's other letters, as well as the relationship between the righteousness of God and the law of God. Another very helpful chapter was on the justification of ungodly Israel and the nations. Here, Seifrid argues against what appears to be an all too common approach to 'those' chapters of Romans 9-11, the bit which most people don't know what to do with... He demonstrates that, far from an ellipsis, certainly not a random topic wedged into the middle of the letter, these chapters are a continuation of the very point and heart and message of the letter. This was helpful to think through and see demonstrated by his argument.

The closing chapter is therefore a call to preach this gospel of justification by faith to a needy world. He applies his conclusions to the dialogue between Protestants and Roman Catholics, suggesting that there is still a vast difference between what is meant by the two groupings.

All in all, this is a great book which helps to clarify (biblically) what Paul means by justification, and what the believer gives praise and glory to Jesus, who is our justification and our righteousness. Christ, our Righteousness is available from IVP.

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