So I've finally read enough to be able to present a bit more of a summary of what NT Wright is bringing to the table. Focusing specifically on Paul's discussion of Justification in Galatians, we find it has a LOT to do with the differences (or lack thereof) between the Jews and Gentiles - in a newly inaugurated existence brought about by the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It's tempting then, to write it off, as something important for the Jews to realize, and important for the Gentiles (both Greek and other) of their day, but of little importance for our "salvation". But Paul emphasizes these elements so much throughout his New Testament letters, it forces us to take a look at what he's actually saying beyond simply "removing an ethnic division".
So how do we recognize that when Paul mentions Justification, he probably isn't referring some sort of internal transformation or even "imputation of God's righteousness"...but at the same time is not simply referring to an ethnic broadening?
"It should be obvious that this is not merely a statement of what we now call "private religious experience"......The point is that what happens to the Jew who believes in Jesus the Messiah is a dying (to the old identity defined by the Torah, and thus separated from the Gentiles), and a rising into the new identity defined by the Messiah himself, whose faithfulness unto death has brought his people out of the "old age" and into the new. This event is an objective reality for all who believe in Jesus the Messiah and are baptized into him, whatever it "feels like" at the time."
So justification/righteousness as NT Wright is talking of it here involves three things:
1. Being given the judgment of "right" in regard to a "lawcourt" scenario. (as opposed to somehow seeing the concept as "morally good character", it is a status of a judge finding in ones favor, now extending to both Jew AND Gentile)
2. That involves God being faithful to covenant He has made with His people. (to reach all humanity and even all creation through them)
3. That covenant is pointing toward the ultimate "making right" of all things. (Eschatological Justice)
And all of this is finding it's home in the life/death/resurrection/spirit of Jesus Christ. The one who is, literally, the "seed" of Israel. Both a descendant of, but also - containing everything about God's covenant to God's people towards the New Creation that is to come.
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