True Righteousness is Available for You

Greg Wetterlin February 17, 2020 Romans 3:21-31
Outline

“I’m 24 and I have never known contentment, I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing…In one hour’s time I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor 4 feet wide with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I? I have known the fear of losing, but now, I am almost too frightened to win.” Harold M. Abrahams

Isaiah 6:1-4 - In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

Isaiah 6:5 - Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Habakkuk 1:13 - Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor.

“He [Paul] knows that we cannot appreciate the good news until we thoroughly understand the bad news.” Douglas Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans (Baker: Grand Rapids:2002), 56.

1. The immoral are lost – vv. 1:18-32

2. The moral are lost – vv. 2:1-16

3. The religious are lost – vv. 2:17-29

4. Everyone is lost – vv. 3:1-20

“The most important single paragraph ever written.” Commentator Leon Morris

5 characteristics of God’s righteousness that rescues humanity from the just wrath of God

I. God’s Righteousness Is Provided by Him and Not Performed by Us – vv. 21-22

Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

A. This is apart from the law

Romans 3:21a - But now apart from the Law therighteousness of God has been manifested…

“But the apostle’s main point is the same, whichever of those senses he had in mind for Law. He is declaring that the righteousness God gives to believers is entirely apart from obedience to any law, even God’s own revealed law. God’s righteousness is in no way based on human achievement, on anything that man can do in his own power.” John MacArthur

B. However, the law pointed to God’s righteousness

Romans 3:21b - …being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets…

Romans 1:1-2 - Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures

Isaiah 6:6-7 - Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

John 5:39 - You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…

II. God’s Righteousness Is Needed by the Immoral, the Moral, and the Religious – v. 23

Romans 3:23 - …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

A. All have sinned

B. Fallen short of the glory of God

“Literally, verse 23 says: ‘All have sinned and lack the glory of God.’ We were made in God’s image to bring Him glory and enjoy the glory of His praise (2:29). In our sin, we have lost this glory; we cannot live in the presence of God, enjoying his approval.” Tim Keller, p. 80

III. God’s Righteousness Is Given As a Gift Through Faith – v. 22, 24

A. You can be declared righteous as a free gift through redemption

“Righteousness is a major theme of the book of Romans, appearing in one form or another more than thirty times. Other terms from the same Greek root are usually translated ‘justified,’ ‘justification,’ or the like. Together they are used more than sixty times in the book of Romans.” John MacArthur, p. 182

“The gospel, as we know from 1:17, reveals a ‘righteousness from God’ (3:21), or ‘the righteousness of God’ (ESV). It is a righteousness displayed; but it is also a righteousness granted. Our translations sometimes obscure this, but the words ‘righteousness’ and ‘justified’ in these verses are all the same word: dikaiosune. So, verse 21 could read: But now a justification from/of God has been made known; verse 24 could be translated: and are righteousnessed freely.” Tim Keller

“Dikaioō (justified) means to declare the rightness of something or someone, not symbolically or potentially but actually. To be justified does not mean, as is often said, ‘to be just as if one had never sinned.’ God is not playing theological games, pretending that a saved person was never sinful. When a sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is declared to be righteous, because he now possesses God’s own righteousness as a gift of His grace. God does not considera believer to be righteous; He makeshim righteous.” John MacArthur, p. 208

2 Corinthians 5:21 - He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Romans 3:24 - …being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…

“Apolutrōsis (redemption) is a strengthened form of lutros̄is, which carries the idea of delivering, especially by means of paying a price. It was commonly used of paying a ransom to free a prisoner from his captors or paying the price to free a slave from his master. Because of man’s utter sinfulness and inability to bring himself up to the standard of God’s righteousness, the redemption of a sinner could come only by that which is in Christ Jesus. Only the sinless Savior could pay the price to redeem sinful men.” John MacArthur, p. 208

v. 24 – …being justified as a gift by his grace…

B. Placing your faith in Jesus Christ changes everything

v. 22 – …faith in Jesus Christ…

v. 24 – …which is in Christ Jesus...

“Righteousness-receiving faith has one subject: Christ. President Eisenhower is reputed to have once said that America was ‘founded on a deeply-felt religious faith – and I don’t care what it is.’ This is a typical view today; any other is seen as dogmatic and undemocratic. But it is the object of belief, rather than the belief itself, which is the crucial issue. I may have great, unshakable faith in the ability of feathers strapped to my arms to fly me from the US to the UK; but I have put my faith in the wrong place. Equally, I may have just barely enough faith to board a transatlantic flight, trembling nervously as I do; and yet the object of my faith will accomplish what it promises. It is not faith that saves; it is not even faith in God that saves; it is faith in Jesus Christ.” Tim Keller, p. 80

“Righteousness is a validating performance record which opens doors. When you want a job, you send in a resume. It has all the experiences and skills that make you (you hope!) worthy of the position. You send it in and say: Look at this. Accept me! Your record has nothing on it that disqualifies you from the job; and it has (you hope!) everything that will qualify you for it. Every religion and culture believes that it’s a moral or spiritual record. You get out your performance record and if it’s good enough, you’re worthy of life with God and you’re accepted. And then Paul comes along and says: But now… For the first time in history – and the last – an unheard of approach to God has been revealed. A divine righteousness – the righteousness of God, a perfect record – is given to us. No other place offers this. Outside of the gospel, we must develop a righteousness, and offer it to God, and say (hopefully and anxiously): Accept me. The gospel says that God has developed a perfect righteousness, and he offers it to us, and by it we are accepted. This is the uniqueness of the Christian gospel; and it reverses what every other religion and worldview, and even every human heart, believes.” Tim Keller

IV. God’s Righteousness Satisfies His Justice – vv. 25-26

A. “Propitiation” is the satisfaction of God’s wrath

“Hilastērion (propitiation) carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction. In ancient pagan religions, as in many religions today, the idea of man’s appeasing a deity by various gifts or sacrifices was common. But in the New Testament propitiation always refers to the work of God, not of man. Man is utterly incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile Him to man had to be made by God. For that reason, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). He appeased the wrath of God.”

Romans 3:25 - …whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood…

1 Peter 1:18-19 - …knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

“There can be no gospel unless there is such a thing as a righteousness of God for the ungodly. But just as little can there be any gospel, unless the integrity of God’s character be maintained. The problem of the sinful world, the problem of all religion, the problem of God dealing with a sinful race, is how to unite these two things.” The Death of Christ, Tasker; London: Tyndale, 1951, p. 98

Romans 3:26 - …for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Psalm 85:10 - Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

“God does not set His justice aside; he turns it onto Himself. The cross does not represent a compromise between God’s wrath and his love; it does not satisfy each halfway. Rather it satisfies each fully and in the very same action. On the cross, the wrath and love of God were both vindicated, both demonstrated, and both expressed perfectly. They both shine out, and are utterly fulfilled. The cross is a demonstration both of God’s justice, and of His justifying love.” Tim Keller, pp. 83-84

B. God’s forgiveness of all people at all time was based on Christ’s work

Romans 3:25 - …whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed

Hebrews 10:10–12 - By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…

C. God is righteous in dealing with sin and not simply overlooking sin

Romans 1:17 - For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous manshall live by faith.”

Romans 3:26 - …for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

“‘God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself. Let it be counted folly, or frenzy, or fury, whatsoever it is our comfort, and our wisdom; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned, and God hath suffered; that God hath made himself the son of man, and that men are made the righteousness of God.” Richard Hooker, The Works of Richard Hooker, p. 341, 16th c English minister

V. God’s Righteousness Results in the End of Our Struggle for Validation – vv. 27-31

A. Where is the boasting?

v. 27 – Where is the boasting? It is excluded.

“If you understand the gospel of righteousness received, you will never boast. Or rather, you will never boast in yourself, but you will boast only in someone who is not in you, and exclusively about something you did not do; Christ, and Him crucified. Paul says he will ‘never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14). Christians know they are saved solely and wholly by Christ’s work, not their own. They take no credit for their standing with God, not for their blessings from God.” Tim Keller, p. 88

B. Humanity is “one”

Romans 3:29-30 - Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

In 1976, a movie was release that inspired a generation of movie goers and seven follow up sequels.

When Rocky Balboa went the distance and defeated Apollo Creed in 1976 audiences cheered! The movie became an immediate American classic telling the story of a man down on his luck who rose to great heights.

Do you remember, however, what was Rocky’s reason for wanting to go the distance with Apollo Creed?

  • Take a listen to this clip.
  • What could I do to prove to my family…or my friends…or my co-workers…or my friends…that I am not a bum…
  • “10 lonely seconds to justify my existence.”
  • —the deep longing to justify oneself –“I am not a bum”
  • —the pursuit of proving that “I am somebody”
  • —the never ending effort to show that “I am acceptable”
  • We are looking for significance, meaning and acceptance in this world whether we recognize it or not.
  • Our drive for it might not be as apparent as Rocky’s or Abraham’s, but it’s there nonetheless.
  • This incessant pursuit takes us back all the way to the garden of Eden. God created man perfect, but we chose to rebel and have fallen from the “perfect” state and relationship with the Lord.
  • Ever since then we’ve been pursuing every way possible to get back to that perfect state…to stop being a bum…and to justify our existence…
  • - How do you prove to that kind of perfect, holy God that you’re not a bum??
  • He immediately got the point. There is no justifying his existence before a God like that. So instead of defending himself, he declared the appropriate judgment on himself…”unclean…”
  • In the words of Rocky, “Bum…”
  • In Romans 1:18–32, he took down the immoral…those who suppress the truth about God.
  • In Romans 2:1–16, Paul took down all the moral people with their good standards, because they cannot perfectly fulfill their own standards! Forget God’s holy perfect standards…sinful people can’t even live up to their own rules!
  • In Romans 2:17–29 Paul shows that the Religious person…the one who has God’s law and “follows” the law, they cannot rest on their religious activity…so even the religious…even the church goers…the people like you and me…
  • Then in case we didn’t get it the first time Paul takes one last whack at everyone in Romans 3:1–20 …Jews, Gentiles, moralists, immoral people and religious people…EVERYONE and ANYONE before the holiness of God is completely and utterly lost.
  • But what Paul did before he unpacked how the righteousness of God is good news…he unpacked how “God’s righteousness” is manifested in his just punishment and wrath of sinners!
  • So does “law” mean the law in the OT (i.e. the Bible)…OR does law mean our legalistic/moralistic tendencies to a set of rules and do’s and don’ts when it comes to achieving a righteousness of our own that we can offer to God?
  • So I think in v.21, “law” is short hand for “works of the Law”, which means that no person will be able to achieve a righteous standing through adherence to the OT law…
    • But because the OT law is the highest standard and embodiment of the righteousness of God, it follows that there is no other standard that we can hold ourselves to in order to have a righteous standing before God.
  • When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, did God say, “you’re a bum…just work harder until you justify yourself?”
  • - The Scriptures don’t testify about proud, lifeless, impotent self-righteousness…they testify about something far greater!
  • How come she gets to stay up and not me? That’s not fair!
  • Or how come he gets a bigger piece of cake? That’s not fair!
  • Why can’t I have the front seat…that’s not fair!
  • all have sinned…and fallen short of the glory of God
  • This is a word that takes us back to the Old Testament. In the OT, much like our society today, it was pretty easy to get into debt. It really didn’t take much to get into debt quickly and back in that society essentially the way to pay off that debt was to sell yourself into slavery. So although it wouldn’t take much effort to get into debt, it could take a long time—even a lifetime—to get out of debt. That’s why in Leviticus 25:25, God made a provision for a kinsman redeemer who could purchase them back and free them from their slavery.
  • Paul uses this word, not to describe our monetary debt…but to describe our debt of sin that has made us slaves of sin and death…Romans 6 is where Paul will really unpack that idea of being a slave to sin…
  • But suffice it to say here, that everyone is born a slave to sin and death, and we need a redeemer…we need someone with the resources to purchase us out of slavery…
  • We chip in nothing…nothing!
  • Have you let the bad news of Romans 1:18–3:20 bring you to a place where you’re ready to stop trying to be good enough and instead let God declare you righteous through faith in Jesus Christ?
  • We get justification through the redemption in Christ Jesus…
  • The word “propitiation” helps us understand what payment Jesus made on our behalf…
  • - Why has Paul spent so much time mounting the argument that every single person is unrighteous and justifiably under the wrath of God?
  • - He’s done that to prepare us to ask the question, “What hope is there if we stand condemned before God?”
  • James Denny Quoted in Moo’s commentary- J. Denney, The Death of Christ (ed. R. V. G. Tasker; London: Tyndale, 1951), p. 98.
  • Do they get into heaven on a lower standard?
  • Or do they miss out because they were born on the wrong side of history?

Did you hear that? -- If I just go the distance and I still standing when the bell rings, then I will know for the first time in my life that I am not a bum.

Have you ever thought that?

That same theme came up in another great movie – Chariots of Fire…

Jewish runner Harold Abrahams says before his most decisive race,

“I’m 24 and I have never known contentment, I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing….In one hour’s time I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor 4 feet wide with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I? I have known the fear of losing, but now, I almost too frighten to win.”

Both of these examples capture the heart of man’s dilemma

You know, this same effort exists not just between humanity and humanity…but between humanity and his greatest audience— the God of the universe…God.

  • How, will I show God, “I am not a bum” and be acceptable in His sight?
  • How, can I justify before God my whole existence?


These don’t just make for interesting and exciting movie plots. This is actually the very plot of humanity as a whole and each of our lives individually.

If we step back and think about this plot theologically, why is it that we are dead set on “proving we’re not a bum?” Or looking to “justify our existence?”

The problem is, as we’ve seen throughout the first 3 chapters of Romans is that our efforts don’t get us any closer to not being a bum or being able to justify our existence.

Take the example of Isaiah for instance…

Isaiah 6:1–4

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

Can you imagine coming face to face with the white hot holiness of God?

Listen to Isaiah’s argument in response…Isaiah 6:5

5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Not exactly Rocky…he didn’t say to himself, if I can just stand the heat of his holiness just a little longer, then I’ll be somebody…no!

That’s essentially the argument that Paul has made from Romans 1:18 all the way up through Romans 3:20.

So the question becomes, how can Celebrate God’s Truth? That’s our annual theme this year…if no one can actually “go the distance with God” and prove themselves to be somebody, then what is there to celebrate?

Friends, we can celebrate because our passage today begins with the grace filled, theologically loaded word “but”…

Leon Morris, among other commentators has called this “The most important single paragraph ever written.”

But before we could appreciate the good news of this paragraph we needed to “thoroughly understand the bad news.” – Douglas Moo, Encountering Romans (Baker: Grand Rapids:2002), 56.

Today we’re really starting the celebration because true righteousness is available to you.

We’re looking at Romans 3:21–31…and we’re looking at 5 characteristics of God’s righteousness that rescues humanity from the just wrath of God.

Romans 3:21–31

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousnessof God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justifiedby faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Did you know all the words and references to righteousness in this passage?

It all starts with the declaration in v.21 that…

God’s righteousness is provided by Him and not performed by us (v.21–22)

I realize our heads might be spinning from the last 4 weeks in Romans…and add to the mix a really full week of serving with the BCTC, so we may have forgotten that this is the topic that Paul raised all the way back in Romans 1:16–17.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

Did you notice it’s the same phrase as 3:21? “The righteousness of God.”

We cannot meet God’s righteous standard, no matter what strategy we take.

That’s why it’s such good news that “the righteousness of God has been manifested” apart from the law.

This is apart from the “the law”

We have to make an interpretative decision about what “the law” actually means here.

I think the proper definition of “law” comes from 3:20 which says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…”

John MacArthur made the point that “…whichever of those senses he had in mind for the Law…He is declaring that the righteousness God gives to believers is entirely apart from obedience to any law, even God’s own revealed law. God’s righteousness is in no way based on human achievement, on anything that man can do in his own power.” John F. MacArthur Jr., Romans(vol. 1; MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 202.

The phrase, “apart from the law” highlights a significant salvation-historical shift from the old covenant to the new covenant. It’s hard for us to understand how significant this shift is…however, lest we overplay the difference between those under the old covenant—meaning those before Jesus Christ—Paul quickly balances it by saying, that the law pointed to God’s righteousness.

However, the law pointed to God’s righteousness

Romans 3:21b – being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.

So although there is a difference, this was also anticipated and pointed to in the OT.

That’s where Paul began this letter. In Romans 1:1­­–2 he said he was “an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…”

So for example, we can see this good news being pointed in the passage from Isaiah that we quoted earlier this morning from Isaiah 6…

Isaiah 6:6–7 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

Isaiah wasn’t justified by working harder…he was justified by the initiative and intervention of God represented by the angel and the burning coal on his lips…

All throughout the OT the gospel is mapped out for anyone that has eyes and ears to hear!

Think about what Jesus told the legalistic Pharisees who were threatening to kill Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath day…John 5:39“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;

And why do we need something greater? Because everyone has fallen short of God’s righteous demands…the immoral, the moral and the religious all need God’s righteousness!

God’s righteousness is needed by the immoral, the moral, and the religious (v.23)

For those of you who have had children or for those of you with young children in the home right now, I’m sure you’ve noticed how concerned they are with “what’s fair”…

Have your children ever said things like…

Here in at the end of v.22 and through v.23, which probably most of us in the room have memorized at some point in our life is God’s statement to us of “IT IS FAIR!”

Why is it fair? Because God shows no partiality and there is no distinction…in what way?

All have sinned

Fallen short of the glory of God

The point is, we all stumble in that race of “ten lonely seconds to justify our existence…”

So instead of “running harder”…instead of “stumbling” and then getting up to just stumble again, what is the answer?

The answer is what follows in our passage…that “God’s righteousness is given as a gift through faith.”

God’s righteousness is given as a gift through faith (vv.22, 24)

This is critical for us to understand…and our entire understanding of salvation and the gospel rests in understanding this point.

God’s righteousness is GIVEN as a gift…

You can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption found in Christ Jesus!

You can be declared righteous as a free gift through redemption.

One of the words, that dominates this passage is the word “righteousness.” Even though in English we can see the word “righteousness” show up in vv.21–26 four times, the Greek root word for righteousness shows up all over this passage…

It was pointed out last week that Righteousness is a major theme of the book of Romans, appearing in one form or another more than thirty times. Other terms from the same Greek root are usually translated “justified,” “justification,” or the like. Together they are used more than sixty times in the book of Romans (John MacArthur, p. 182).

Romans 3:21–31

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

So understanding these words is crucial to our understanding of Romans as a whole and of the gospel.

Tim Keller explains that – The gospel, as we know from 1:17, reveals a “righteousness from God” (3:21), or “the righteousness of God” (ESV). It is a righteousness displayed; but it is also a righteousness granted. Our translations sometimes obscure this, but the words “righteousness” and “justified” in these verses are all the same word: dikaiosune. So, verse 21 could read: But now a justification from/of God has been made known; verse 24 could be translated: and are righteousnessed freely.

Now the question becomes, how can God declare me righteous? How can I be righteoussed freely? I’m not righteous!

That’s why every word in v.24 is critical…

This justification from God comes through the “redemption” that is in Christ Jesus (v.24).

This is our next big theological word that we need to understand…”redemption” which is the Greek word ‘Apolutrōsis’.

Friends, our only hope is Jesus…

Because of man’s utter sinfulness and inability to bring himself up to the standard of God’s righteousness, the redemption of a sinner could come only by that which is in Christ Jesus. Only the sinless Savior could pay the price to redeem sinful men (John MacArthur, p. 208).

That’s really good news…at least to those of us willing to let someone else pay our debt…

Did you notice how much we chip in to get out of our debt?

v.24…by his grace as a gift…

Now, in order to be justified and redeemed by Jesus we must place our faith in Jesus alone. But notice that simply by placing your faith in Jesus Christ…everything changes!

Placing your faith in Jesus Christ changes everything.

Paul introduced us to this back in Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

He emphasizes that again in v.22, 24 and expounds on what salvation by faith alone means and doesn’t mean in vv.27–31.

Tim Keller made an important point about why faith, SPECIFICALLY in Jesus changes everything.

Righteousness-receiving faith has one object: Christ. President Eisenhower is reputed to have once said that America was “founded on a deeply-felt religious faith—and I don’t care what it is.” This is a typical view today; any other is seen as dogmatic and undemocratic. But it is the object of belief, rather than the belief itself, which is the crucial issue. I may have great, unshakeable faith in the ability of feathers strapped to my arms to fly me from the US to the UK; but I have put my faith in the wrong place. Equally, I may have just barely enough faith to board a transatlantic flight, trembling nervously as I do; and yet the object of my faith will accomplish what it promises. It is not faith that saves; it is not even faith in God that saves: it is faith in Jesus Christ."[1]

Friends, I have to ask…what are you putting your faith in? What is the object of your faith that you’re hoping is going to present you righteousness before God?

Keller wrote in his commentary that…

Righteousness is a validating performance record which opens doors. When you want a job, you send in a resumé. It has all the experiences and skills that make you (you hope!) worthy of the position. You send it in and say: Look at this. Accept me! Your record has nothing on it that disqualifies you from the job; and it has (you hope!) everything that will qualify you for it.

Every religion and culture believes that it’s the same with God. It’s not a vocational record; it’s a moral or spiritual record. You get out your performance record and if it’s good enough, you’re worthy of life with God and you’re accepted. And then Paul comes along and says: But now … For the first time in history—and the last—an unheard of approach to God has been revealed. A divine righteousness—the righteousness of God, a perfect record—is given to us.

No other place offers this. Outside of the gospel, we must develop a righteousness, and offer it to God, and say (hopefully and anxiously): Accept me. The gospel says that God has developed a perfect righteousness, and he offers it to us, and by it we are accepted. This is the uniqueness of the Christian gospel; and it reverses what every other religion and worldview, and even every human heart, believes.[2]

This is the point of a great verse like 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Because of what Jesus has done, we can become the righteousness of God! That’s the good news justification by faith…

But there is still one more critical part of God’s righteousness that is wrapped up in the gospel. Yes, he justifies us and declares us righteous as a free gift through Jesus Christ…but how can God declare guilty people righteous and not compromise his perfect, holy character?

That brings us to our fourth point…God’s righteousness satisfies his just wrath.

God’s righteousness satisfies His justice (vv.25–26)

That’s what the word propitiation means.

“Propitiation” is the satisfaction of God’s wrath.

And this concept is closely linked to “redemption.” Because v.24 says, we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…

And that’s why v.25 says that “God displayed [Jesus] publicly as a propitiation in His blood..

Hilastērion(propitiation) carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction. In ancient pagan religions, as in many religions today, the idea of man’s appeasing a deity by various gifts or sacrifices was common. But in the New Testament propitiation always refers to the work of God, not of man. Man is utterly incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile Him to man had to be made by God. For that reason, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). He appeased the wrath of God.

Praise the Lord for Jesus Christ who took the wrath that we deserved!

There are a number of commentators and Christian denominations that take objection to this very point. The idea that Jesus Christ took the full wrath of God that was justifiably on us is quite a controversial idea.

Ideas put forth for the meaning of “Hilastērion” usually remove the idea of God’s wrath being satisfied. They remove the idea that God’s wrath…but that is linguistically unjustified as we just looked at, but furthermore, it is contextually unjustified!

You see for the gospel to be good news, there must be really bad news first.

James Denny who is quoted by Doug Moo said,

“There can be no gospel unless there is such a thing as a righteousness of God for the ungodly. But just as little can there be any gospel unless the integrity of God’s character be maintained. The problem of the sinful world, the problem of all religion, the problem of God in dealing with a sinful race, is how to unite these two things. The Christian answer to the problem is given by Paul in the words: “Jesus Christ, whom God set forth a propitiation (or, in propitiatory power) in his blood.”[3]

That what Romans 3:26 means – for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

That is God’s divine solution to the righteousness problem…and all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ should rejoice and cheer at the perfection of God’s plan for our redemption…

Psalm 85:10 - Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

God does not set His justice aside; he turns it onto Himself. The cross does not represent a compromise between God’s wrath and his love; it does not satisfy each halfway. Rather it satisfies each fully and in the very same action. On the cross, the wrath and love of God were both vindicated, both demonstrated, and both expressed perfectly. They both shine out, and are utterly fulfilled. The cross is a demonstration both of God’s justice, and of His justifying love” (Tim Keller, pp. 83-84).

Now, if you’re tracking with the argument this morning, then you might be asking the question, “Well, what about the OT saints?”

God’s forgiveness of all people at all time was based on Christ’s work.

Romans 3:25 - whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

One of Paul’s points up to this point in Romans is that no matter who you are, we’re in trouble before God. That’s still his point. The OT people were in trouble. Us NT people are in trouble.

God didn’t lower his standard of righteousness in the OT. Instead, for those who trusted in God, he chose to patiently pass over their sins until the sacrifice of Christ.

That shows just how incredibly comprehensive and powerful the work of Christ is.

Hebrews 10:10–12 - By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,

See how powerful his sacrifice was? Once for all time! Jesus doesn’t have to offer himself anymore…just the one time and it was done!

And his once for all sacrifice was once for all for the OT saints too..

Hebrews 9:15 says it this way…

15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

God is righteous in dealing with sin and not simply overlooking sin.

All of this demonstrates and shows God’s righteousness in dealing with sin and not simply overlooking it.

So where does this good news of justification through faith in Jesus Christ by his redeeming, propitiatory death leave us?

It leaves us in a place where we don’t have to struggle for validation anymore!

God’s righteousness results in the end of our struggle for validation (vv.27–31)

Paul asks the question in v.27 – where then is boasting?

Where is boasting?

The answer…it’s excluded!

If you go back to what Pastor Viars spoke about a couple weeks ago…religion makes you proud, the gospel makes you humble!

We only exclude boasting when we realize that our best achievements have done nothing to justify us! To boast in them is like a drowning man clutching a fistful of hundred-dollar bills and shouting: I’m OK! I’ve got money!

If you understand the gospel of righteousness received, you will never boast. Or rather, you will never boast in yourself, but you will boast only in someone who is not you, and exclusively about something you did not do: Christ, and him crucified. Paul says he will “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Christians know they are saved solely and wholly by Christ’s work, not their own. They take no credit for their standing with God, nor for their blessings from God. (Keller p.88)

Another reason we do not boast is because, this good news of God’s righteousness is available for anyone…

Humanity is “one”

Romans 3:29–30 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

It doesn’t matter what kind of home you came from, where you born, the language you speak, the education level you have or how much money you earn…nothing but the righteousness of Christ applied to a person through faith will matter in the end…

If we cued the Rocky theme song or the Chariots of Fire theme song in your life, what would be revealed as the “justification of your existence?”

I hope that your answer would be only faith in the redemptive, wrath satisfying death of Jesus in my place.

If that’s true I hope that what Paul wrote is becoming more and more true of us…

Romans 1:16–17 (NASB95PARA)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

[1]Timothy Keller, Romans 1–7 for You (ed. Carl Laferton; God’s Word for You; The Good Book Company, 2014), 80.

[2]Timothy Keller, Romans 1–7 for You (ed. Carl Laferton; God’s Word for You; The Good Book Company, 2014), 79–80.

[3]Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 219.

Greg Wetterlin

Roles

Pastor of Men’s Ministries - Faith Church

Director of Restoration Men's Ministries - Restoration Men's Residential Program

Bio

B.S. - Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Greg Wetterlin and his wife, Erika, joined the Faith staff in July of 2016. Greg’s responsibilities include oversight of Restoration Men's Ministries as well as shepherding and teaching in Faith Church.