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Summary: God’s righteousness manifested through His wrath

Romans 3:21-26

John Shearhart

June 6, 2010


The more I study Scripture, the more I realize the certainty of one particular truth: everything God does is for the demonstration of His own glory.

In the first 2½ chapters of Romans we’ve read about God’s judgment on pagan Gentiles and on religious Jews. For five weeks I’ve preached on the damnation of men who’ve rejected God’s truth and traded it for something of their own making. They deserve, and they will receive, hell.

Now I hate to admit this, but sometimes there’s a part of me that wants to categorize the wrath of God as a “necessary evil.” I want wrath to be the last option—“God wants to save you if you’ll repent, but if not, then wrath.”

But as I studied the text this week, it occurred to me that the emphasis has nothing to do with our repentance; God’s glory has nothing to do with whether or not you or I come.

My only real regret tonight is that I don’t have more time to study this passage before delivering this sermon. I know I’m not going to do it justice. But my prayer is that God will open the eyes of your heart so that you too will see what I have seen.

The longer I study theology the more I realize just how seriously I’ve misunderstood and underestimated the eternal purpose of God. I know as long as I’m in the flesh I’ll never understand, and I don’t think I’ll ever really comprehend our infinite God, but I’m waiting for the day when sin and selfishness don’t cloud my understanding.

In the meantime we have to learn all we can while warring with the old nature. And so, tonight I want you to pay extra careful attention to these six verses that I think could drastically change the way you see the cross, the wrath of God, and your own salvation forever.

Romans 3:21-26

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

Let’s begin with the first two words: “but now.” As we noted in the introduction, the previous chapters are almost entirely hopeless. Every man has turned away from God and fallen short of His glory. The pagan is judged for his outright rejection of God and for suppressing the truth he fully knows. The religious man is judged for not following the Law of God—we end with the stunning conclusion that “no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom 3:20).

So what now? Do you realize what this means? “No flesh”? No one is justified?

“The righteousness of God has been manifested.”

I used to think that “but now” were the greatest words in this passage, but now I’m thinking that “the righteousness of God has been manifested” is infinitely better.

This righteousness is manifested “apart from Law.” The Law and the Prophets witnessed to God’s righteousness, but they couldn’t produce it. The Old Testament explains and reveals God’s righteousness, but it isn’t produced.

Think of an encyclopedia—we can look up the entry for an apple tree and learn all about it; we can see how it grows and learn its seasons. We can see the type of fruit it bears and learn what it looks like. But for all our study we won’t have an apple tree. The encyclopedia isn’t meant to “manifest” an apple tree; it’s only meant to bear witness to the facts about the apple tree.

In the same way God’s righteousness is witnessed by the Law and Prophets, but it’s only recently made manifest apart from these.

22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

This righteousness is defined specifically as the righteousness of God. The emphasis of this verse and this whole passage isn’t that we received righteousness, but that the righteousness is from God.

In fact, the King James and the NET Bibles translate this a little differently:

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe (KJV).

Namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe (NET).

This seems to fit the context of the passage—we’re all totally depraved; we’re dead men unable to even realize our state. But Jesus humbled Himself to obedience to the will of the Father (Phil. 2:8) and it’s through His faithfulness (or by His faith) that God is able to impart righteousness.

We’ve all fallen short of His glory and none of us is able to produce a righteousness of our own, so again, the emphasis is on Him even as He’s contrasted to us.

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