“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” (Romans 3:21)
I’ve always enjoyed the classic story, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. There have been many movie adaptations of this timeless masterpiece and most of them, too, are very enjoyable. My favorite part of the whole story is when the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, awakens after his horrifying night of ghostly visitors to discover that only a single night has elapsed and everything is much the same as it was the day before. Everything around him is still the same, but he is very different from how he was when he laid down to sleep the previous night. “Young man”, he calls down to a young boy in the street below his window, “What day is this?” The boy responds, “Why it’s Christmas, sir.”
The joy that Scrooge feels is overwhelming with the realization that the power to change his destiny remains firmly in his grasp. The utter despair and agony that he had been left with at the departing of the Ghost of Christmas Future; the hopeless regret of opportunity squandered and a life wasted which had manifested itself to the man as he looked upon the vision of his own gravestone: uncared for, unvisited, its occupant unmourned and unremembered; were now replaced with unbridled bliss at the prospect of living a new way.
While “A Christmas Carol” is a work of fiction, it paints a vivid portrait of all who have been given a second chance, a new lease on life. Like the young woman, afflicted with a terrible terminal illness who is suddenly cured; or the young man, sentenced to a life in prison whose verdict is overturned and his innocence proven, Scrooge is a picture of the man doomed to an unspeakably horrific fate who is afforded another chance to change his own destiny.
Romans 3:21, what a beautiful verse of Scripture this is! For we, too, have been given a very real and vivid glimpse of the destiny that awaits each of us in the previous passages of the Book of Romans. We have stared directly into the face of what lies at the end of our own lives and the judgment that is coming upon all who continue in their rejection of God. We have been shown, unequivocally, how God views man and the coming wrath upon those who cling to their unrighteousness. Imagine if that were the end of the story? What if the Book of Romans ended with Romans 3:20? The Lord would remain perfectly just and holy even if He were to allow us all to forever perish in our sins. But God is a good and loving God Who has provided the Way for us to be justified with Him, the Way for us to be made right with Him. Much of the remainder of this epistle will go into detail about what this means exactly, but for now, we are given a brief overview defining what the Righteousness of God involves:
It Is From God
Back in Romans 1:17, we considered that the expression “The righteousness of God” might be better rendered: “a righteousness from God.” We are not talking about God’s own holy attribute of being a perfect and righteous God, but rather a righteous condition that He provides. This is a righteousness which Christ clothes those with who have come to faith in Him. Lest there remain any doubt, we must remember that God is the only One Who can provide this righteousness, we cannot (Rom. 10:3). We are either clothed in the white robe that God provides, or we are still wearing our own sin-stained garments.
It Is Apart From The Law
Romans 3:21 goes on to tell us that this righteousness is “without the law” or apart from it. This righteousness has nothing to do with the Law of God or our ability to keep it. Verse 28 will go on to say that it is apart from the deeds of Law that we are justified.
It Is Foretold In The Old Testament
“Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
While the details are never spelled out in the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets witnessed that God’s Salvation would come apart from Law. There are countless references, allusions, foreshadowings, and portraits in the Old Testament that point directly to what God would do through Christ, reconciling sinners to Himself. The Lord Jesus stated that the Old Testament Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39). Salvation has never come through the keeping of Law and obedience of commandments, it has always been through grace by faith. In the next chapter of Romans, Paul is going to demonstrate that even Abraham and King David were saved, not by their works of righteousness, but by a righteousness of God imputed by grace.
It Is By Faith In Jesus Christ
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ…” (Romans 3:22a)
Two wonderful truths are really being disclosed in this statement: 1.) The righteousness God gives is secured by faith and, 2.) That faith must be in Jesus Christ. Faith is a term that has taken on certain mystical and magical qualities in certain Theological circles, particularly in modern times. Some speak of faith and describe it in much the same way the character Yoda describes the mysterious power of The Force in the “Star Wars” movies. But faith is nothing more than our taking God at His Word and reaching out to accept what He is freely giving. True faith has been described as nothing more than the hand of the beggar reaching out to receive the alms being extended to him. It is comforting that our role in receiving God’s Salvation is only to believe that He is offering it to us and to “extend our hands” to receive it. But we must do that if we are to obtain it. Imagine a beggar refusing to hold out their hand to receive the offering of someone standing right before them!
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
In our day and age of “political correctness” gone to the extreme, there are a lot of people espousing and teaching that there are “many paths” to God and many ways to come to Him. Even some very prominent names in Evangelical Christianity, when pinned down on the topic, state that man does NOT need to come to the Father through Jesus Christ nor does he need to trust in the Lord Jesus in order to receive Salvation. Yet the Bible is very clear on the fact that Jesus is the only way to come to God. Having faith, even a strong faith, is not enough. Our faith must be in Christ if we are going to receive eternal life from God.
It Is Available To Everyone
“…unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:22b)
Because all are guilty of sin and come short of God’s glory (v. 23), God has made Salvation available to all people. It does not matter if we are Jewish or Gentile, man or woman, dark-skinned or light. Our nationality, our background, our language, and our circumstances are completely irrelevant; if we are a human being, then God’s Salvation through Christ is available to us. The Universalist teaches that all will be saved. The Bible does not teach this, but it does teach that all can be saved. God has done everything in order that we can receive eternal life, all we have to do is believe it and trust Christ!
It Is Free And By His Grace
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24)
“Freely” is translated from a Greek word meaning, literally, “for no reason.” Not only is it without cost, it is wholly without ulterior motive or expectation. In John 15:25 when the Lord Jesus said, “They have hated me without a cause“, the same word is used. God saved us for no other reason than He loved us. Not because of who we are or what we can or will do for Him. Not because we have obeyed His commandments, but because He loves us. God saved us “for no reason”, He saved us “without a cause.”
God’s wonderful Salvation is a gift that He has given without cost to us. It is a gift that we can never be able to pay for. But we can live lives in thanksgiving and gratitude for what He has given us. May we do so always.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,