Many steps are involved for any study as it gathers information and outlines itself as new thoughts emerge and challenge former conclusions. I have mentioned that several of these happened when I was translating books. Even beginning students translate phrases and sections of simple Greek. As we get into second and third year Greek, much time is spent in trying to wade through grammar problems and attempt to search though more complex structures. ONE of the things which amazed me was the new insights which didn't demand a new translation but a fuller understanding of the general translations right in front of me. When Jesus claimed to BE The way, The Truth, The Life - it didn't take a fresh translation, but rather an acceptance of the plain words translated into simple English. The same is true of many passages in Romans and Galatians. Problem was - at the three churches I spent time with, not one had actually had a thorough study of the basic text. Overviews have left many woefully lacking in true textual meaning.
One brief example - I had heard Romans 3:23 "partially" quoted probably 300 times. Being forced to translate it changed my pilgrimage from learning what HAD been taught to what the TEXT teaches. The SUBJECT of the context is God's NEW way of righteousness which is APART from law - and focuses on faith in Jesus Christ. "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" is the well known partial verse. That phrase was meant to be part of the teaching that ALL are justified freely by His grace as a gift. In other words, the emphatic part of the verse got left out entirely. The whole context is about a focus on a new kind of righteousness - GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS (verse 21) which comes about through faith in Jesus Christ. The phrase about all persons sinning was actually an axiomatic statement which led up to teaching that God has an answer for all who have sinned - salvation by faith in Jesus Christ - apart from law.
Another little phrase is ignored or missed in the same regard a few verses later in Romans 3. Paul asked in Romans 3:27 - "what then becomes of our pride and boasting? It is EXCLUDED." Abram is the example of the template for being declared righteous in God's presence. He simply believed God (that in a dream message)and THAT was counted to him as righteousness. Paul discussed the concept all the way from 3:32 through chapter 5. That section is not studied enough. But - to get to my point - Paul taught that IF Abram had done any works for his righteousness then he had something to boast about.(By the way - since there was no Law of Moses yet - that kind of works is not our subject - but ANY works.) BUT - even then he wouldn't be able to boast before God. See chapter 4:1ff. The point is made however, that Abram's righteousness was a gift in response to his faith - period. Part of our problem here is that faith simply means to trust another entity's PROMISES. Christendom has re-defined faith to be people centered instead of God focused - serious error it seems to me.
Result - the concept of boasting is rampant among much of Christendom - mostly innocently - but to close for today, notice two concepts: (1) boasting is not available for all who come to God. The idea of boasting is simply a self-focus. God leaves us NO GROUNDS for a self-focus. (2) Even the intelligentsia of the day - the Greeks (check 1 Corinthians 1:21-31) cannot find their way to God by their "wisdom" -they as well are left to come to God with a simple focus on His Promises - or more directly on His Promise - Jesus Himself. To them, that is FOOLISHNESS - but it is Truth. To those who think they can do GOOD WORKS - sorry it is EXCLUDED. Good works DO get done by Christians - but they are the result of God being at work in us to will and to work - Philippians 2:13. As Ephesians 2:10 teaches us - we are HIS workmanship - we are worked on by God as we are His project.
Conclusion - Paul taught me much I did NOT understand correctly as he claimed that Jesus came, lived, died and raised so that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sakes died and was raised - 2 Corinthians 5:15. The focus is NOT us, but rather it is JESUS. - More to come