Summary: In Romans 3:21-25a, Paul gives us seven elements of the righteousness that God divinely imputes to those who trust in his Son. This sermon looks at the second and third elements.
In his commentary on Romans, John MacArthur notes that centuries ago Job asked the most important question ever asked: “But how can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2b).
Throughout the Bible—and history—many have asked the question: “How can anyone be right in the presence of God?”
The Apostle Paul answers that question in our text for today. Let’s read Romans 3:21-25a:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21-25a)
Dr. Johnny V. Miller, formerly the President of Columbia International University and currently the Senior Pastor of Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA, said that when he was a was a teenager, he became fascinated, appalled, and grieved by the Holocaust. One scene that haunted him was a picture from Auschwitz. Above the entryway to the infamous concentration camp were the words, “Arbeit Macht Frei.” (The same words stood above the entryway to the camp at Dachau.)
“Arbeit Macht Frei” means, “Work Makes Free.” What the Germans were communicating to the prisoners is that work will liberate and give freedom.
But it was a lie—a false hope. The Nazis made the people believe that hard work would equal liberation, but the promised “liberation” was horrifying suffering and even death.
“Arbeit Macht Frei.”
Johnny Miller said the reason that phrase haunted him is because it is the spiritual lie of this age. It is a satanic lie. It is a religious lie. It is a false hope—an impossible dream for many people in the world. People believe that their good works will be great enough to outweigh their bad works, allowing them to stand before God in eternity and say, “You owe me the right to enter into your heaven because of my good works.”
It is the hope of every false religion—Arbeit Macht Frei, Work Makes Free.
But it is not my work that makes me free. It is Christ’s work that makes me free.
In our text for today the Apostle Paul answers the question, “But how can a man be in the right before God?” And he makes as clear as he possibly can that it is not our work—our righteousness—that makes us right before God. But rather, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone that makes us right before God.
In order to help us understand Romans 3:21-25a I am using material from John MacArthur. In Romans 3:21-25a Paul gives us seven elements of the righteousness that God divinely imputes to those who trust in his Son, Jesus Christ. This righteousness is:
1. apart from the law (3:21a),
2. built on revelation (3:21b),
3. received through faith (3:22a),
4. provided for all who believe (3:22b-23),
5. given freely through grace (3:24a),
6. accomplished by redemption (3:24b), and
7. paid for by an atoning sacrifice (3:25a).
Last time we saw the first element of God’s righteousness.
I. Righteousness Is Apart from the Law (3:21a)
First, the righteousness that God divinely grants is a righteousness that is apart from the law (3:21a). The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:21a: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.”
Except for the introduction (1:1-18), this letter so far has portrayed an utterly dark picture of our sin and hopelessness apart from God. Now, after backing all sinful mankind, Jew and Greek alike, into the totally dark and seemingly inescapable corner of God’s wrath (1:18-3:20), Paul begins to open the window of divine grace that lets in the glorious light of salvation through the righteousness that God himself has provided.
First of all, Paul says, the righteousness that God imputes to all Christians is apart from the law. That is, not one of us can perfectly obey the law of God and therefore meet his perfect standard. And so the righteousness that we need to get in to heaven is something that God himself gives to us. It is in fact the perfect righteousness of Jesus that God credits to us. It is Jesus’ righteousness alone that is acceptable to God.
Today, I want to continue with the next two elements that Paul gives in Romans 3:21-25a concerning the righteousness that God divinely grants to those who trust in his Son, Jesus Christ.
II. Righteousness Is Built on Revelation (3:21b)
Second, the righteousness that God divinely grants is a righteousness that is built on revelation (3:21b). Paul says in Romans 3:21: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”