Romans 3:21-31

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Observation

  • God is righteous.
  • God’s righteousness is demonstrated separately from the law.
  • Both the law and the prophets bore witness to the righteousness of God.
  • Faith in Jesus Christ reveals the righteousness of God.
  • There is no difference between people. We are all sinners.
  • Everyone has sinned.
  • Everyone falls short of the glory of God.
  • Everyone who is justified is justified by God’s grace.
  • Justification is a gift.
  • The gift of justification is received by faith.
  • The gift of justification is through redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
  • Redemption is in Christ Jesus
  • God presented Jesus’ death to appease His wrath against our sin.
  • The wrath of God is appeased by the blood of Christ Jesus.
  • Our redemption is received by faith.
  • The appeasement of God’s wrath is received by faith.
  • God presented Jesus’ death to show His righteousness.
  • God passed over former sins because of His divine forbearance.
  • God justifies everyone who has have faith in Jesus.
  • God is just.
  • God is the justifier.
  • Since everything about our justification is from God we have nothing to boast about.
  • We are justified by faith separately from the law.
  • We are justified by faith.
  • God is god of both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Both Jews and Gentiles are justified by or through faith.
  • Justification by faith upholds the law.
  • We do not live in a post law time. The law is not overthrown.

Interpretation

Up until this passage in the letter to the Romans, Paul has pointed out we are all sinners. We all justly deserve the God’s wrath. As the saying goes, which is usually said in mocking, “We have been very very bad. And God is very very mad.” That summarizes the first 2 2/3 chapters of Romans. Paul does this because the gospel does not make since unless we understand our condition. The law condemns us because we do not and cannot keep it. But, now Paul brings the good news. God’s justice required a payment for our sin. God could not simply over look and forgive our sins and maintain His justice. Therefore, He sent Jesus Christ, His son to propitiate or appease His wrath, which comes from His justice.

When Paul is talking about the law he is referring to works, all works. This is not just the ceremonial aspects of the law. He excludes from our justification morally good works and those which we do instinctively. He even excludes works which can only be performed by the faithful. Paul includes all works without exception. The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law i.e. works.

The law promises life to those who do what it commands. “Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’” (Galatians 3:12) “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:5) But here is the rub. The law requires not only an outward or external performance of deeds or works; it also requires a sincere love towards God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) So no matter how many good external deeds we do, we break the law if we do not love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Therefore it follows, that in the righteousness of faith, the merit of works plays no role.

When Paul talks about faith being the means of our justification he always mentions the name of God. By doing so, he makes God both the founder of our righteousness and the approver of it. Righteousness comes from God alone but manifests itself to us in Christ. We have no righteousness of our own. Just as Paul stated earlier in this chapter, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (v10)

But we know there are those who do good things. Can we not say they contain at least a degree of righteousness? Paul addresses this. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are several analogies we can use; I will try this simply one. Sin is a like bear that is charging at you and is going to eat you. You shoot at the bear and miss. It does not matter how close you came to hitting the bear, because you missed the mark and you will still be eaten. Paul says we all fall short. We all miss the mark. So, God’s righteousness has been manifested apart from the law.

We fall short so often and it is such a common occurrence we even have a ready-made excuse. “No one is perfect.” According to the teaching of the Apostle there is no righteousness except where there is perfect and absolute obedience to the law. To use another analogy; if you have a barrel of sewage and add a tablespoon of milk you still have sewage. If you have a barrel full of milk and add a tablespoon of sewage you have sewage. Even if there were such a thing as partial righteousness the sinner would still be deprived glory because there is no righteousness where there is sin until Christ removes the curse. This is what Paul says in Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’”

Putting Paul’s discussion of salvation in terms of Aristotle’s categories of causality, the glory of God is the formal cause of our salvation that is why it happens. God’s mercy and grace are the efficient causes of our salvation this is the stuff out of which it occurs. Faith in the word of God is the instrumental cause that is the instrument by which it is received. We contribute nothing to our salvation. Some would claim that the faith is what we contribute. But Paul says we are justified freely to show we contribute nothing. Even our faith is from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8), “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29) Even our faith and belief is a gift from God. We contribute nothing to our salvation.

But God out or pure mercy provided a means to fulfill the requirement of His justice and reconciles us to Himself. This demonstrates His righteousness. Jesus is our justifier. And since Jesus is the Son of God, that is, God Himself, God is both the just and justifier for those who have faith in Jesus.

Since we play no role in our justification, there is nothing to brag about. You are not smarter, or more holy than your neighbor who does not trust in Jesus. You are saved by the faith which itself is a gift from God. The deeds of the law will not save us. We are not saved because our parents were Christians. We are not saved because we of the church we attend. We are saved by the grace of the God through faith.

But in the final analysis we are saved by works and fulfillment of the Law. Christ, the second Adam, fulfilled the works of the law and is righteous. His righteousness is imputed to us. Therefore, salvation by faith does not abolish the law. It fulfills it.

Application

So we ought to think of our justification and righteousness in these terms. First, we measure our righteousness or goodness by God’s righteousness not by comparing ourselves to other men. Righteous is perfect and absolute obedience to the law. No one, except for Christ, has obtained that standard. Therefore no one, except Christ, is righteous. Second, Christ alone is just. Therefore it is Christ alone who can come to our aid by transferring to us His righteousness. The righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ. When we are justified the mercy of God is the efficient cause, the instrumental cause word of God in connection with faith. Faith is said to justify because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is conveyed to us. Once we are partakers of Christ we are not only just but our works are counted just before God. Whatever imperfections they contain are obliterated by the blood of Christ. The conditional promises are also fulfilled in us by grace.

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