“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
These have to be some of the most hopeful verses in all of Scripture, especially in light of what Paul had written previously –
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
Paul wrote that Jews and Gentiles were both condemned and faced the awesome justice of an Almighty God. Then Paul wrote – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed.”
Righteousness Through Faith in Christ
There is hope, Paul wrote, for Jews and Gentiles. There is a righteousness of God apart from the Law and God has revealed it to Jews and Gentiles. What is it?
“… even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”
Romans 3:21 – 5:21 takes us into a new realm of understanding. Jesus Christ is the HOPE of Jews and Gentiles. There is a righteousness that God readily accepts and it is the righteousness that comes “through faith” in Jesus Christ – “to all and on all who believe.”
Here are some outlines of this section of Romans that may help as we dig deeper –
The New American Commentary Volume 27 – Robert H. Mounce – B&H Publishers, 1995
- THE RIGHTEOUSNESS ONLY GOD CAN PROVIDE (3:21–5:21)
- Received through Faith in Christ (3:21–31)
- Abraham, the Great Example of Faith (4:1–25)
- The Results of Faith (5:1–21)
- Peace and Hope (5:1–8)
- Reconciliation (5:9–11)
- The Gift of Righteousness (5:12–21)
The Epistle to the Romans – J. Vernon McGee – Thru the Bible Radio, 1983
Revelation of the righteousness of God, Rom 3:21—5:11
Righteousness of God defined — not the character of God nor self-righteousness of man.
a. Justification by faith explained, Rom 3:21-31
b. Justification by faith illustrated, Rom 4:1-25
c. Justification by faith — results derived, Rom 5:1-11
Exegetical Guide To The Greek New Testament, Romans – John D. Harvey – B&H Academic, 2017
- God Reveals His Righteousness Apart from Law (3:21-31)
- God Reveals His Righteousness in Response to Faith (4:1-25)
The Scofield Study Bible, New King James Version – Oxford University Press, 2002
Justification by Faith in Christ (3:21 – 5:21)
- Nature of Justification (3:21 – 4:25)
- Results of Justification (5:1-11)
- Justification Versus Condemnation (5:12-21)
The Ryrie Study Bible, New Testament, New American Standard Version – Charles C. Ryrie – Moody Press, 1976
Righteousness Imputed; Justification, Salvation (3:21 – 5:21)
- The Description of Righteousness (3:21-31)
- The Illustration of Righteousness (4:1-25)
- The Benefits of Righteousness (5:1-11)
- The Applicability of Righteousness (5:12-21)
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets”
νυνι δε χωρις νομου δικαιοσυνη θεου πεφανερωται μαρτυρουμενη υπο του νομου και των προφητων
νυνι δε χωρις νομου (nuni de chōris nomou) “now however apart from law” .. nuni means “already, at present, now”.. chōris means “apart from, separately from, without”
δικαιοσυνη θεου πεφανερωται (dikaiosunē theou pethanerōtai) “the righteousness of God has been revealed” .. dikaiosunē means “justice, justness, righteousness” .. pethanerōtai means “make known, make clear, make visible, manifest”
God made known, visible and clear two-thousand years ago that He had a righteousness, a justice, that He would accept apart from, without, the Law. That is a remarkable statement and one that has brought great comfort and hope to millions of people since the 1st century AD.
We are reminded here of Paul’s introductory thematic remarks –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
As we read through Romans 3:21 – 5:21, Paul’s strong commitment to the Gospel of Christ becomes clear.
μαρτυρουμενη υπο του νομου και των προφητων (marturoumenē hupo tou nomou kai tōn prophētōn) “being borne witness to by the law and the prophets” .. marturoumenē means ” give evidence, testify, give witness”
That’s a fascinating statement that may seem strange to some people. How can the Law give witness, evidence, to a righteousness of God that is apart from the Law? How can the Prophets, who were under the Law, give witness to a righteousness of God that is apart from the Law? Does that make sense?
What was the hope given to Jews and Gentiles in the Law and Prophets? That they could achieve a position of righteousness through their personal efforts, their good works, their obedience? If those were the criteria for righteousness, no person would be able to attain to it. Moses wouldn’t have made it. Joshua wouldn’t have made it. David and Solomon wouldn’t have made it. Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah wouldn’t have made it. Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah wouldn’t have made it. The Old Testament gives overwhelming evidence and testimony to the inability of human beings to obey God and live righteously.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20
So, what was the hope found in the Law and Prophets? That our gracious and merciful God would send a Savior to the world with a special righteousness that was acceptable to God.
That’s what Jesus Christ did for everyone who would believe in Him.
“even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference”
δικαιοσυνη δε θεου δια πιστεως ιησου χριστου εις παντας και επι παντας τους πιστευοντας ου γαρ εστιν διαστολη
δικαιοσυνη δε θεου δια πιστεως ιησου χριστου (dikaiosunē de theou dia pisteōs iēsou christou) “the righteousness moreover of God through faith of Jesus Christ” .. pisteō means “faith, belief, trust, confidence”
εις παντας και επι παντας τους πιστευοντας (eis pantas kai epi pantas tous pisteuontas) “toward all those believing .. pisteuontas comes from a root word that means “to be persuaded” .. the idea is of someone who is persuaded of a truth and trusts it
ου γαρ εστιν διαστολη (ou gar estin diastolē) “no indeed there is distinction” .. diastolē means “difference, separation, distinction”
The righteousness of God is given to people who believe in Jesus Christ – Jew and Gentile. It’s as simple as Paul’s statement in Acts –
“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Acts 16:30-34
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
παντες γαρ ημαρτον και υστερουνται της δοξης του θεου
παντες γαρ ημαρτον (pantes gar hēmarton) “all indeed have sinned” (missed the mark)
και υστερουνται της δοξης του θεου (kai husterountai tēs doxēs) “and fall short of the glory of God” .. υστερουνται means “fall behind, lacking, fall short, suffer need, am inferior to” .. δοξης means “honor, renown, splendor, glory”
A man who became a dear friend shared this verse with me while I was still an atheist. Because I had investigated evidence for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible and the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I heard that verse in a new way. I knew I had sinned against a holy God and fallen short of His glory, His splendor, His honor. I was without doubt a sinner in need of saving.
“being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
δικαιουμενοι δωρεαν τη αυτου χαριτι δια της απολυτρωσεως της εν χριστω ιησου
δικαιουμενοι δωρεαν τη αυτου χαριτι (dikaioumenoi dōrean tē autou charti) “being justified freely by the of him grace”
What a remarkable statement! God offers justification “freely” based on His amazing grace. In light of all that Paul wrote in Romans to this point, how can God do that in a righteous fashion?
δια της απολυτρωσεως της εν χριστω ιησου (dia tes apolytrōseōs tēs en Christō Iēsou) “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” .. απολυτρωσεως means “a release effected by payment of ransom, deliverance, redemption”. It carries the idea of buying back something that was previously lost.
When I came to the realization that I was spiritually “lost,” I was ready to be “found.”
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.” Amazing Grace by John Newton
I was lost, but now am found!
What does it mean that God “found” me? It means that He “redeemed” me. I belong to God. He paid the price for my life; that price was the death of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are there any benefits to being redeemed? You betcha!
- eternal life
- forgiveness of sins
- freedom from the curse of the law
- deliverance from the bondage of sin
- righteousness before God
- peace with God (reconciled to Him)
- adoption as God’s child
- ____________________________ (add your favorites to the list!)
Christians are blessed beyond measure, yet we often take so much of what God has done for us for granted as we go through our day-to-day routines. How good it is to read these verses and be reminded of the great price God paid for our justification – the death of His Son – and what He has given us. This blessing has come to us through God’s grace and great love. We have all that we have that will last into eternity because of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here are other views from commentators you may find helpful –
“The righteousness God provides comes as a free gift. It cannot be purchased or earned. In either case it would no longer be a gift. One of fallen humanity’s most difficult tasks is to accept righteousness as a gift. With every fiber of their moral being, people want to earn God’s favor. From a human perspective this sounds both reasonable and noble. The hidden agenda, however, is that it would provide a basis for boasting. God neither needs nor desires our help in doing what we could never accomplish. We underestimate the hopelessness of our sinful state. At best, any righteousness by works would be desperately inadequate. By God’s grace we are granted a right standing with him. The basis for this redemptive process is Christ Jesus. The gospel centers in the atoning work of God’s unique and only Son. Redemption is found in him and him alone.” The New American Commentary Volume 27
“The notion of ransom contains in itself the triple idea of a bondage, a deliverance, and the payment of an equivalent as the means of that deliverance. The bondage is the state of sin and of guilt, with the expectation of punishment; the deliverance is the removal of this state, and the opening out, in its stead, of a prospect of eternal happiness and glory; the equivalent paid by Christ is the shedding of His own blood. This last is the pivot upon which the whole idea of redemption turned. It is therefore clear that the redemption of the sinner is an act wrought objectively, and, in the first instance, independently of any change of condition in him, though such a change is involved in the appropriation of the efficacy of that act to himself. It cannot be explained as a purely subjective process wrought in the sinner through the influence of Christ’s death. The idea of dying and reviving with Christ, though a distinct aspect of the atonement, cannot be made to cover the whole of it. There is implied, not only a change in the recipient of the atonement, but also a change wrought without his co-operation in the relations between God and man. There is, if it may be so said, in the death of Christ something which determines the will of God, as well as something which acts upon the will of man. And the particular influence which is brought to bear upon the counsels of God is represented under the figure of a ransom or payment of an equivalent. This element is too essentially a part of the metaphor, and is too clearly established by other parallel metaphors, to be explained away; though what the terms “propitiation” and “equivalent” can mean, as applied to God, we do not know, and it perhaps does not become us too curiously to inquire.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“Freely – δωρεὰν dōrean. This word stands opposed to what is purchased, or which is obtained by labor, or which is a matter of claim. It is a free, undeserved gift, not merited by our obedience to the Law, and not that to which we have any claim. The apostle uses the word here in reference to those who are justified. To them it is a mere undeserved gift, It does not mean that it has been obtained, however, without any price or merit from anyone, for the Lord Jesus has purchased it with his own blood, and to him it becomes a matter of justice that those who were given to him should be justified, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 2:9. (Greek). Acts 20:28; Isaiah 53:11. We have no offering to bring, and no claim. To us, therefore, it is entirely a matter of gift.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
“… through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus—a most important clause; teaching us that though justification is quite gratuitous, it is not a mere fiat of the divine will, but based on a “Redemption,” that is, “the payment of a Ransom,” in Christ’s death. That this is the sense of the word “redemption,” when applied to Christ’s death, will appear clear to any impartial student of the passages where it occurs.” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
“The meritorious cause of justification is, the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: redemption supposes a former state of captivity to sin, Satan, and the law, in which God’s elect were by nature, and is a deliverance from it; it is of a spiritual nature, chiefly respects the soul, and is plenteous, complete, and eternal: this is in and by Christ; he was called unto it, was sent to effect it, had a right unto it, as being the near kinsman; and was every way fit for it, being both God and man; and has by his sufferings and death obtained it: now, as all the blessings of grace come through redemption by Christ, so does this of justification, and after this manner; Christ, as a Redeemer, had the sins of his people laid on him, and they were bore by him, and took away; the sentence of the law’s condemnation was executed on him, as standing in their legal place and stead; and satisfaction was made by him for all offences committed by them, which was necessary, that God might appear to be just, in justifying all them that believe: nor is this any objection or contradiction to the free grace of God, in a sinner’s justification; since it was grace in God to provide, send, and part with his Son as a Redeemer, and to work out righteousness; it was grace in Christ, to come and give himself a sacrifice, and obtain salvation and righteousness, not for angels, but for men, and for some of them, and not all; and whatever this righteousness, salvation, and redemption cost Christ, they are all free to men.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
We will continue with Paul’s powerful presentation of the great Gift God has afforded to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Join us for the next part of our study in Romans – The Gospel of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.