Romans 3:21-26b

Romans 3:21-26:           “But now the righteousness of God without the Law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all who believe[2] –  for there is no difference [1]; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – being justified freely[3] by His grace [4] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth[5] to be a propitiation[6] through faith in His blood[7], to declare His righteousness[8] for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier[9] of him with faith in Jesus.”[10]

Paul has said many things in this short summary paragraph; it’s easy to focus on some points and possibly miss others. What has he said?

1.         There is no difference – the reference is to the ‘all’ to whom and upon whom, having believed upon Christ, the righteousness of God is accounted. There is no difference, whether they are of the Jews and born under the Law, or of the Gentiles, and born outside of the Law. Why is there no difference? As Paul has just previously explained, all have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile, whether under the Law or outside of it. All have sinned, all come to God soiled, corrupted, and condemned. We all come short of God’s glory, we all have been found guilty, we are all under the judgment of death.

2.         But there is also no difference in our redemption; for we are all justified freely by His grace, through His accounting off righteousness – His righteousness – to all and upon all who believe. As we all have stood and do stand before God guilty, we all have access to His justification for our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. This redemption was testified by the Law and the Prophets throughout history, and now it was revealed to mankind through Jesus Christ.

3.         All who believe are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. We are justified freely – it costs us nothing. We do not work, we pay no fine; we simply receive what God has offered when we received Jesus Christ in faith. We receive because He has bought us back. We were condemned to die, and He purchased our lives back from the grave. He has bought us back; Jesus Christ has paid for us, and we are set free because of His payment of our debt. Our account is cleared; there is nothing left for us to pay. Our freedom costs us nothing – nothing but acceptance of Him Who purchased it on our behalf.

4.         Justified freely by God’s grace. What is ‘grace’? Grace means the extension of benefit or favour to which the receiver has no entitlement at all. How can a criminal be justified? If we have all sinned, we are all unjust, and justice demands an equal and appropriate consequence to our rebellion. Rebellion against the authorities merits expulsion by the authorities. When the Authority is the God of all creation, the just recompense is death. But God has extended a means by which we may be made right with Him when what we deserve is to be left to the penalty of our sin. He has extended a benefit to us completely contrary to what we have earned through our sin.

5.         God sent Jesus Christ. God’s highest creation, man offended God, rebelled against God, refused to hear God, refused to trust God, refused to love Him. When man sins, he rebels against the universal Sovereign, interrupting the character of His creation and the outworking of His purpose for it. But God sent Christ Jesus. God made His plan, He executed His plan, and He initiated reconciliation. The offended Sovereign reached out to an humanity hopelessly bound by condemnation for their sin, with His gracious offer to allow men to return, to be reconciled to Him against Whom men initiated insurrection. God Whose right would be justice, exercised grace – He extended to the guilty an offer of salvation for which the Anointed Saviour YHWH became the covering for our sin. Had God not sent, we would be without hope; we would remain lost and condemned for the sin of which ‘we all’ are guilty.

6.         God sent Jesus Christ to be a propitiation – ‘propitiation’ is a big word that makes people uncomfortable. It means the atonement or ‘covering’, or means of reconciling. Christ is the ‘covering’ for our sins, the only One through Whom lost sinners may be reconciled to God. Christ’s life was taken in place of ours. He was executed as a criminal by the highest authority in the land, as payment of the sins of every criminal against the Highest Authority in the Universe.

7.         The propitiation, or covering of our sin, is through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. We receive His atonement only if we believe and trust in Him. We must accept that there is nothing we can do, no rules to follow, no rituals to observe, that can make us right with God, but only trust that, as God has declared our sins covered by Christ’s blood, it is true, and humble ourselves before Him in faith and love.

8.         In sending Christ to atone for our sins, God declared His own righteousness. Many people accuse God of being ‘unfair’, or of doing something wrong either in judging men’s sin or in forgiving the sin of men who are not perfect. But God has rebuked and refuted these accusations in His provision of Christ: A righteous judge must always judge rightly. God has judged sin and condemned it. A righteous judge must sentence rightly; we have already seen that the penalty for rebellion against the highest authority is banishment from the jurisdiction of that authority; rebellion against God necessarily requires the death penalty. Again, God is righteous in His sentencing. But as a God Who knows men’s makeup, and knows our enemy seeks to lead us astray and cause us to fall, He has also made a way for us to have our sins remitted – removed from upon us – if we will submit ourselves willingly to His rightful sovereignty, while ensuring that the penalty for sins already committed has been paid. Christ covered our debt – justice has been served – and we can be set free. What grace! What mercy! What love!

9.         That He may be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus. Justice is the appropriate and proportionate consequence of an action – good for good, bad for bad. It would not be just for God to simply ‘write off’ the penalty of sins committed by someone who later turned from them; they would still have an outstanding debt. But without being made just, we could never go free, as our crime deserved death. But God in His wisdom executed justice when He took our debt upon Himself in the body of Jesus Christ Who died on the cross in our place. Now we who turn from sin to the Living God in faith and love may be made just, having our debt paid by the Lord Himself, and receiving the benefit of that grace in our becoming ‘just’ – our criminal record is cancelled in heaven’s courts, never to be recounted against us for all eternity. God, both Just and the Justifier of those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

10.        He who is justified is he who has faith in Jesus. Faith – the state of being completely convinced of the trustworthiness of the object of our faith. What is involved in ‘having faith in Jesus’? We must believe that He is, we must believe Who He is, and we must believe what He says, and believing, we must respond consistently, by submitting our lives to Him in complete trust and love.