Romans 3:21-26 ESV
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. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 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.
In this great letter, the apostle Paul explains the message of salvation. After some introductory remarks and stating the theme of the letter (1:16-17), he sets forth the need that all people everywhere have for the good news of salvation. The picture he paints in 1:18-3:20 is very dark. But after the deep darkness comes the brightest light.
All the Bible is God’s word to us, but certainly the explanation of how to be right with God (3:21-5:21) is essential.
I. The character (description/definition) of this salvation
A. It is openly displayed since Christ has come and the full price paid (3:21)
1. “But now” is one of the most joyous phrases in the NTS. We now are no longer in the age of shadows and pictures but in the age of substance and reality, because redemption has been accomplished in Christ.
2. We must understand this correctly. The “now” does not mean that the OTS are not in harmony with this teaching. Indeed, the apostle will take great pains to show that believers before the cross were saved just as we are: by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rm 4). Justification by faith and redemption in Christ were not afterthoughts but were the eternal plan of God (cf. 1 Pt 1:20; etc.) The “but now” emphasizes that Christ has already secured eternal redemption for all who trust in him.
B. The good news is that we can be declared right with God (3:24).
1. Although we had no righteousness of our own, God legally declares us righteous in Jesus Christ when we trust in him. His perfect righteousness is credited to our account before God.
2. We are not made righteous in our character, but we are declared right. This changes our legal position, not our moral condition. Never confuse justification with regeneration or transformation, which are actions of the Holy Spirit in the condition of those who believe in Christ Jesus. The Spirit gives us new life (regeneration) at the same time we believe and are justified. Then we begin the long process of transformation or growth in grace.
3. Notice that justification is a present reality—“are justified” (3:24). It is true of everyone who believes in Christ. And if you are justified, you can never be condemned (Rm 8:1, 33-34).
C. The righteousness that is credited to us is “God’s righteousness” (3:21-22). It is from God and meets his full approval.
1. It is not our (or yours or mine or any other sinner’s) righteousness but God’s righteousness. No sinner has any such righteousness (3:10).
2. Since it is God’s righteousness, it is suitable to everything he requires!
II. The channel (not the cause) through which we receive this righteousness.
How do we access God’s righteousness? It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A. Christ is the object of faith (3:22; cf. Jn 3:15-16).
1. Faith is not the Savior; Christ is! The Scriptures do not say “because of” or “on account of” but “through or “by”. Also, it is not simply faith, but faith in Christ.
2. So then, we are not saved because of any righteousness we might suppose we have, but it is God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t look at your own character or record, but at Christ and his righteousness. What joy and liberty this gives!
Apply: Have you turned from your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. If you haven’t, I have good news. Today, you may be saved, for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rm 10:13).
B. This includes all believers in Jesus (3:22-23).
1. This is the emphasis of the text. Since all have the same need, the same remedy is applicable to all. We are all sinners; we miss the mark. We all fail to reflect God’s image (1 Cor 11:7) correctly. As all sinned and do not show the glory of God, so all who believe are declared right with God.
2. So then, salvation is offered to all people everywhere without distinction. This is a great reason to engage in telling others the good news of the Lord Jesus.
Apply: What five people are you striving to win to the Lord? Pray for them; build your friendship with them; look for opportunities to talk with them about Christ and salvation.
III. The cost of this salvation
A. To God, it was redemption in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
1. The price had to be paid; there was no other way (1 Pt 1:18-19; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:15). Since only the Lord Jesus was able to pay the price to redeem us and to set us free, we should understand why it must come freely to us. Christ alone was sinless and fully obedient to God the Father; he alone is both God and man. Since he is man, he could represent us. Since he is God, his sacrifice had infinite value to redeem a world of sinners.
2. His redeeming payment releases us from bondage to the law, to sin, and to Satan. It answers the problem of being “under sin” (3:9). We are set free!
B. To us, it is free.
1. It is not by any works performed by us, including any works of the law. No regard is taken to any of our supposed obedience to the law (3:21).
2. It is absolutely, totally, fully, entirely, wholly, utterly, and completely by grace (3:24). Even the faith to receive the grace is a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9; Ph 1:29). Freely excludes anything in us as the cause or condition of justification.
3. Notice that it says “his grace”. If something is a free gift of grace, it means that you have not earned it and that the giver was not required to give it to you. It is the outpouring of the love of God in Jesus Christ to you.
Apply: Are you right with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.