Romans - The Gospel of God The Heart of the Gospel - Justification by Faith P1 Chap 3 vs 21-31
The Righteousness of God in the Gospel - vs 21-26 The Revelation of a Righteousness from God - vs 21-24
Outline 1. The Righteousness of God in the Gospel vs 21-26 a. The Revelation of a Righteousness from God vs 21-24 1. Righteousness apart from Law v 21 2. Righteousness through Faith vs 22-23 3. Righteousness by Grace v 24 b. The Vindication of the Righteousness of God vs 25-26 1. Christ, a Propitiation v 25a – What it Means 2. Christ, a Propitiation vs 25b-26 – What it Proves 2. The Elimination of Boasting through the Gospel vs 27-31 a. The Principle of Faith vs 27-28 – Boasting Excluded b. The Commonality of Faith vs 29-30 – One God, Same Faith c. The Outcome of Faith v 31 – the Law Upheld
1. The Righteousness of God in the Gospel vs 21-26
a. The Revelation of a Righteousness from God vs 21-24
As Paul stated in his introduction at chapter 1 v 17, the gospel reveals a ‘righteousness of God’. Having established man’s need of this righteousness, he now explains how it has been revealed and the only way it can be received. It is His gift by grace to the repentant sinner. Since ‘there is none righteous’ – v 10 and ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ – v 23 this righteousness from God can only be received as a gift by grace (v 24). It is a righteousness that gives us standing before and acceptance with God. It means we conform to His righteousness. The sinner who believes in Jesus is acquitted of their guilt, forgiven of their sins and stands in Christ fully accepted in all the value of His Person and work and in righteous relationship with God. Says Paul, God is ‘just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ – v 26. As Paul will show in chapter 4 through the example and experience of Abraham, justification is and has always been by faith. There has ever only been one way to be right with God. As pointed out previously in these studies in Romans, the gospel is not new revelation, rather it is full revelation. It is the full revelation of how and why God can righteously justify the ungodly through Christ and that is what Paul now directly addresses.
1. Righteousness apart from Law v 21 – The Witness of the Old Testament & the Coming of Christ
So Paul writes: ‘But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets’ – v 21. The Law of Moses revealed God’s standard and requirement of righteousness with regards to how His covenant people Israel should live. It could not and did not impart righteousness nor by doing it could someone be declared righteous by God – v 20. It was never given by God for that purpose, rather, as previously stated, it was the life standard of a redeemed and believing people in covenant relationship with Jehovah. Sadly, for the most part, while Israel was a redeemed nation, their history shows they were not a believing people. When Christ came to this world He found Himself among an incredulous, yet self-righteous generation (John 1:11). Paul sums up the problem with his brethren, his ‘countrymen according to the flesh’ – Romans 9 v 3 when he writes that they ‘being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God’ – Romans 10 v 3.
So when Paul says, ‘but now’ he is emphasizing that there is a new dimension, a greater revelation in contrast to what was known by the law. There is a new dispensation, a new era and it has brought the full revelation of the gospel and in this revelation God’s righteousness as a gift of grace has been made fully known ‘apart from the law’ through the Lord Jesus. That is to say besides or independent of the law which testified of it. Jesus Christ rather than the law is the means of righteousness from God.
The witness of the law and prophets to ‘the righteousness of God’ is twofold. First, the law and prophets ‘witnessed’ to the coming of Christ. This statement reflects Paul’s opening words to his epistle: ‘Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord’ – Romans 1 vs 1-3. The Lord Jesus said to the Jews during His ministry: “Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me”. He went on to say on the same occasion: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” – John 5 vs 37 & 46. Stephen reminded his killers before his martyrdom: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” – Acts 7 v 52.
The law and prophets witnessed to the coming of Christ who brought the full manifestation of all that is involved in the gift of divine righteousness. The basis for justification and the focus for faith have been fully revealed in Him. But it is also true that the law and the prophets testified of righteousness apart from law keeping as the example of Abraham and the statement of David in chapter 4 show as does also the text of Habakkuk 2 v 4 which Paul is effectively expounding in this epistle (Rom 1:17).
So when Paul says a ‘righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets’ we understand two things; righteousness revealed through Christ and righteousness received through faith as Paul confirms: ‘Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe’ – v 22.
2. Righteousness through Faith vs 22-23 – Righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ offered to all.
This righteousness, according to v 22 is ‘through faith in Jesus Christ’ or as the New English Translation (NET) reads – ‘through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ’. Most translations opt for the former objective sense, ‘through faith in Jesus Christ’. Young’s Literal Translation gives: ‘through the faith of Jesus Christ’. There is no question about the truth of faith in Christ as v 26 shows, but it is helpful to consider the possibility that Paul is making a subjective statement with reference to the faith or faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It is because of His life of faithfulness to the extent of the Cross (v 25) and it is because of His faithfulness at God‘s right hand (Cp Rom 8:33 & 34) that every believing sinner is assured of justification. Moreover, His faithfulness points to the fact that as a faithful Saviour He is a worthy Saviour deserving of our trust in Him.
This promise of righteousness is ‘to all’ and comes ‘on all who believe’. The Jew has no exclusive claim or right to it and the Gentile is most certainly not excluded. The gospel is to and for all people whoever they are and wherever they are and all will know divine blessing in the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ.
It comes equally to all because there is one great levelling truth which Paul has demonstrated in the opening chapters of the epistle – ‘For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ – vs 22- 23.
The only other time we read the expression ‘all have sinned’ or ‘all sinned’ is at chapter 5 v 12. There the reference indicates that ‘all sinned’ in that all have fallen in Adam and therefore all share in the universal condemnation of sin which is death. It is reasonable to interpret with the same sense here. Therefore no distinction between Jew and Gentile exists for all are fallen in Adam and thus sinful. Paul states this as a summary fact by use of the aorist tense and then emphasizes the continuing outcome by use of a present passive verb, ‘fall short’. A fallen sinful humanity individually, collectively and continually ‘fall short of the glory of God.’ On the other hand, ‘all have sinned’ may here have the meaning of all sin or all practice sin and by this statement Paul is summing up what he has previously proven and that is, the collective guilt of man demonstrated by his rebellion against divine light.
Whatever way we look at the statement the outcome is the same; all people are sinners before God. But to what does the ‘glory of God’ refer? A prominent view is that God’s glory was given to Adam in original Creation when He made him in His image and according to His likeness (Gen 1:26). As a created rational, moral and spiritual being he was given dominion and authority as God’s representative to and over Creation (Gen 1:26-28; Psa 8:5-6), but as a result of the fall, he lost the glory of God with which he was endowed as well as the dominion he was given. The image of God in man was marred and defaced by sin as he came under divine censure and condemnation (Rom 5:12). Therefore, ‘fall short of the glory of God’ can be interpreted as lacking or being without or being in want of the glory of God which was lost by sin and which no one can ever regain or obtain by their own efforts.
In light of this, it is worth mentioning at this point that the glory of God in and to man is presently and will be ultimately restored and realized through the redemptive work of ‘the last Adam’, our Lord Jesus (v 24). Paul writes in Colossians 3 v 10, ‘and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him’ and he says in Romans 8 v 29: ‘For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son’. He also reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4 v 4 that the god of this age is blinding minds to – ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Because of all we have in Christ, the believer ‘rejoices in the hope of the glory of God’ – Romans 5 v 2 and anticipates ‘the glory that shall be revealed in us’ – Romans 8 v 18.
Another way of understanding ‘the glory of God’ is that it refers to God’s perfect standard of righteousness for man which He made known through the law for as Mr W. E. Vine says: ‘His righteousness was revealed in the Law, the decrees of which were an expression of His own character’ and he goes on to say that the glory of God ‘stands for the moral glory, the perfections of His character, which present a standard, with its requirements, for man, who has been made in the image of God’ (The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine, Romans). God’s law to Israel highlights just how far short the entire world has fallen of His glory. God’s moral law provides a ‘benchmark’ by which to understand just how and why man is a sinner (v 20) and in his sinfulness, despite his best efforts, can never possibly please God or attain to the divine standard of righteousness; he will ever ‘fall short of the glory of God’.
Others suggest that the standard of the perfection of God’s glory has been revealed in Christ. They refer to what the apostle John writes in his gospel: ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ – John 1 v 14 and John also goes on to write: ‘No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’ – John 1 v 18. It is certainly true that the great revelation of God’s moral and spiritual glory has come in the person of His Son who possesses absolutely all the attributes of deity. In incarnation He united them to holy humanity. Thus as we look at Jesus we are looking at the perfect man in whom was revealed the glory of divine and sinless perfection.
Yet another way of understanding ‘the glory of God’ is in the sense of how the word doxa, glory, is used in John 12 v 43 where we read regarding the Jewish rulers that they ‘loved the praise of men more than the praise of God’ or as the English Standard Version translates: ‘They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God’. Paul in Romans 2 v 29 also talks about ‘praise’ that ‘is not from men but from God’. This would mean Paul is saying here that no man is worthy or deserving of God’s praise or glory as in His commendation or approval ‘for all have sinned’ and ‘fall short’ of it.
Finally, Paul’s statement is also interpreted in the sense that man has failed to honour and glorify God whose glory has been revealed through His Creation and in His Law. Paul speaks about His glory revealed in Creation and how Gentiles responded: ‘Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things’ – Romans 1 vs 20-23. Then challenging the Jew he says, ‘you who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written – Romans 2 vs 23-24.
Any of these interpretations mentioned above make sense and present us with a number of possible options in understanding Paul’s point of reference. Personally, in the context of chapters 1-3, I lean toward the idea that all humanity having sinned in practice are continually falling short of God’s righteous standard revealed in the law which reflects His character of holiness, righteousness, and truth and thus as a result all humanity stands guilty before God.
The sun shines its powerful rays of light and radiates its intense heat on this earth from a distance of 93 million miles. Truly it is very far away from every one of us no matter where we are on earth. It makes no difference whether we are standing on the top of Mount Everest or on the shore of the Dead Sea, it is ever far out of the reach of man. So it is with the glory of God.
3. Righteousness by Grace v 24 – the freeness & cost of justification by faith.
Paul having emphasized what he has so clearly proven, ‘all have sinned’ he now states the grounds of justification: ‘Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ – v 24.
We are justified freely or gratuitously by divine grace. Undeserved and unmerited it is extended to us because God is love. Moreover this blessing of justification is free, absolutely free to us, but while this is so by God’s wondrous grace, it cost Christ everything. He paid the price of redemption by the sacrifice of Himself. This is the first of two times we get the noun redemption in the epistle; the other being chapter 8 v 23. We are being reminded of what the Lord Jesus has accomplished by His Cross. He paid the price of ‘eternal redemption’ – Hebrews 9 v 12 to set us free from the guilt of our sins, liberate us from the bondage of sin, free us from the certainty of God’s wrath and bring us into relationship with God as sons and servants of righteousness (Rom 6:18; 8:14).