Quick notes on Romans
Here Paul cuts away any claim to merit, innocence (actual or due to ignorance), or status which could be made in their favor by humans. This is done to drive home his chosen text, “The righteous shall live by faith”, and to set us up for chapter 10, “faith comes by hearing”. Having left no human claim in place or available (something he does early and continues to return to), Paul demonstrates that living can only be by faith (later in the book going deep into one of faith’s puzzles: some hear and believe, while others hear and do not), while at the same time spending much time on what it looks like to actually “live by faith”, and what it is to be someone who has been brought from death to life.
The stress in Romans on the exclusion of human works (of whatever sort) from having thing one to do with salvation shines brightest in Paul’s discussion of Adam and Christ: there is no gray area, there no no man’s land is to be found. The New Perspective’s constant gnawing on Paul’s use of the phrase, “the works of the law” (Rom 3.20, 28, ἔργων νόμου) simply misses that that is but one more patch of weeds cut away in Paul’s relentless scything away of human attempts at self-defense before God.
Even in the earliest days of the Church, life together as Christians was one of the greatest challenges.