The Incarnation and Our Power Over Sin.

Children who grow up without a father suffer various negative repercussions. The presence and approval of a father is a natural need. Spiritually, every person has been estranged from the Heavenly Father of our own choice. Through sin, God's children have abandoned Him and His natural affection for them. Various religions and efforts of good works try to devise ways back to God, but there is only one way that relationship can be restored.

As one author commented, "Scripture makes clear that there is indeed a way to God, but that it is not based on anything men themselves can do or achieve or merit. Man can be made right with God, but not on his own terms or under his own power. In that basic regard, Christianity is distinct from every other kind of religion. As far as the way of salvation is concerned, there are therefore only two religions the world has ever known or ever will know: the religion of divine accomplishment, which is biblical Christianity, and the religion of human achievement, which includes all other kinds of religion by whatever names they may go."

Though we have estranged ourselves from Him, God searches for us (2 Chronicles 16:9). We do not seek God (Romans 3:11), but He has gone to infinite lengths to restore His estranged children to Himself. He uses Creation, the human conscience, catastrophe, Scripture, Christian examples, and the Holy Spirit; and He gave Himself in the form of a baby (Philippians 2:7-8).

Romans 3:21 begins the section of Romans that offers hope to estranged mankind. Paul begins explaining the way back to a relationship with our Creator, but first we need to know the reality of our separation.

The Predicament of Man

Romans 3:22-23 sum up the sinfulness of every person. "There is no distinction" is hard to hear. By God's perfect standard, we are all guilty even of murder and adultery in our hearts (1 John 3:15, Matthew 5:27-28). James 2:10 says that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point ... has become guilty of all." We are not judged by our own standards but by God's.

The Person of God's Righteous Standard

The word "righteousness" is repeated four times in Romans 3:21-26. God's righteousness is different from ours in source, essence, and duration. It is divine and self-authenticating. It is everlasting. It is perfect, displayed in Jesus' perfect obedience. He fulfilled every precept of God's righteousness and satisfied the penalty of God's righteous standard (1 Peter 2:24).

The Plan of Redemption

Restoration is not possible through adherence to the Law, obedience to God's Word, or any good thing we can do. But there is one way back to God which was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. God's righteousness is available "through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe" (verse 22). Not even our faith can earn merit for us; it simply allows us to receive God's gift.

It is never said that men are saved on account of their faith in Christ, a construction that might encourage the notion that faith makes a contribution and has some merit. On the contrary, faith is simply the hand of the heart. It takes what God bestows but adds nothing to the gift. All recipients of salvation are completely shut up to faith.

To justify has two shades of meaning, to acquit and to declare as righteous. The latter is the primary meaning in the New Testament. This is a legal term that deals with one's position and status, not condition or character. "To be justified includes the truth that God sees the sinner in terms of his relationship to His Son with Whom He is well-pleased." God justifies us freely, as a gift. There is no basis in us, but the cause is exclusively God's love and grace.

If freely is the manner in which justification operates, and grace is its basis, the redemption that came by Christ Jesus is the means a gracious God employed to achieve this boon for mankind. The benefit that redemption brings is the life in Jesus Christ first and then the forgiveness second.

Application Points

  • Do you know about Christ only in your head? Salvation requires more than intellectual assent. Have you yet to accept Him as Lord and Savior? Submit your heart and will to Him.
  • Are you an estranged child of God? Do you need to restore fellowship with the Lord?
  • If you are born again, review the truth above and worship God for the opportunity to be restored to Him through His righteous standard-bearer, Jesus Christ.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Luke 19:10 – The purpose of Jesus' birth.
  • Philippians 3:4-7 – Our righteous effort cannot save.
  • Psalm 119:42, Isaiah 51:8, Daniel 9:24 – God's righteousness is everlasting.
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-15 – Scripture speaks of God's plan of redemption.
  • Philippians 3:8-9 – Salvation is not of our volition but God's initiation.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Joy to the World"

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.