Summary: Man can be made right with God, but not on his own terms or in his own power. We can be saved only by the provision of God’s grace. Only by the cross of Christ can man find God’s justification & righteousness.
ROMANS 3: 21-26
GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST
All human beings, of every race and rank, of every creed and culture, the immoral and the moralizing, the religious and the irreligious, are without any exception sinful, guilty, inexcusable and will be speechless before God. That is the terrible human predicament described in Romans 1:18-3:20. There was no ray of light, no flicker of hope, no prospect of rescue.
With the words “but now” a new section of the book begins with God Himself intervening on behalf of sinful, rebellious man. But God’s grace must be consistent with His righteousness. How can a mere human being have a right relationship with God who is perfect, holy, infinite, and just? Scripture makes clear that there is a way to God but it is not based on anything men themselves can achieve or merit. Man can be made right with God, but not on his own terms or in his own power. All men are equally incapable of coming to God in their own power. They can be saved only by the provision of God’s grace. Only by the cross of Christ can man find God’s justification (CIM).
I. A Righteousness of God, 21-23.
II. Righteousness by Grace, 24-25a.
III. Righteousness Demonstrated, 25b-26.
The finale for redemption by the righteousness of God begins in verse 21. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,”
“But now” (emphatic transition), after all this bad news about our sinfulness and God’s condemnation, here begins the wonderful news. At that very strategic moment in redemption’s history (Gal. 4:4) “a righteousness of God has been revealed.” God’s righteousness is not subordinated to or derived “from the Law.” This righteousness has God as its the author, because it comes from Him, He gives it, and consequently is acceptable in His sight. [Charles Hodge. Romans. Banner of Truth.]
The fallen condition of man is dark and dismal. His depravity and despair is hopeless and universal. It envelopes one and all. Then suddenly a light shines. Hope revives. This light, this ray of hope, does not come from within man but from God. God reveals the way to be righteous before Him. His righteousness comes to man’s rescue. God now comes to save those who have made themselves completely unworthy of being saved. Yet God must save unrighteous man without sacrificing His righteousness or removing the witness or demands of the Law and the Prophets, or the Old Testament Scriptures (Mt. 5:17; 7:12; Lk. 16:31; Acts 13:15). Even before the coming of Christ the Law and Prophets “testified” that the method of bringing man into right relationship was by faith and not by law (4:1-25; Gal. 3:1-20).
Why God performed this mystery of redemption by faith we cannot fully understand. Such love is infinite and incomprehensible. For God’s grace made a way to be declared not guilty and verse 22 proclaims it. “Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for (into) all those who are believing, for there is no distinction;”
With great emphasis and joy the apostle repeats the thought of 1:16b. “God’s righteousness” is “through faith.” His righteousness is received and appropriated by faith “in Jesus Christ.” “God’s righteousness” is granted to all those, and only those, who put an active faith or “for all those who are believing (pres active ptc) in Jesus Christ.” God has made available to mankind a right relationship to Himself “through faith in Jesus.” Trusting means putting our confidence in Christ to forgive our sins, to make us right with God, and to empower us to live the way of faith in Christ and His Word.
Justification, or settling accounts with God, is offered to all on the same terms. It makes no difference our background or behavior, whether a person is good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, educated or uneducated, Jew or Gentile. All need God’s solution and it is available to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ, in His death on the cross, and in the power of His resurrection.
Verse 23 sums up the reason “there is no distinction.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
“All,” there is no distinction, “have sinned” (timeless past tense). The whole human race is gathered up into one all-inclusive and all-conclusive statement. We have all missed (present tense - we keep on missing) or fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God is His perfection. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus declares God’s expectation for us. “Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s law demands perfection and no one is perfect in God’s sight. [The glory of God is seen in man as he was in Adam before the fall, in man as he will be in heaven, and in the divine likeness that God intends for man to have now.]