The Righteousness of God Revealed.

The world likes to ask why bad things happen to good people, but the more appropriate question is why good things happen to bad people. Romans 1-3 comprehensively shows that all unbelievers are equally lost, whether they are religious, moralists, or irreligious. Those who think they have some good in them are actually the most wicked in God's eyes. No one can be saved unless they believe themselves to be the worst of sinners.

The second major section of the book is Romans 3:21-8:39. This section answers the question, How does God save sinners? The answer is through Jesus Christ.

The Righteousness of God Revealed

This section can be divided by the following broad outline:

  • Justification – how we are made righteous (Romans 3:21-5:21)
  • Sanctification – how we are made holy (Romans 6-7)
  • Preservation – how we are kept secure in Christ (Romans 8)

The first sub-section discussing justification is what we will begin to study today.

In Romans 3:9-20, the words "all" and "none" are repeated to drive home the point that mankind is completely fallen. Beginning in verse 21, the words "righteousness," "justify," and "faith" are repeated as Paul communicates a flood of good news. Romans 3:21-31 deals with our right standing with God. It is described in verses 21-22, required in verses 22-23, presented in verse 24, and announced in verses 25-27. The section concludes with three questions and answers in verses 27-31.

Romans 3:21 echoes the book's theme from Romans 1:16-17: God's righteousness is continuously revealed in Jesus Christ, as His wrath is also continuously revealed against sin (verse 18). Yet there is always an invitation available for those who would be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Let's study Romans 3:21 one phrase at a time.

"But now"

This phrase indicates a shift in thought as Paul continues rehearsing the truths of the Gospel to prepare the Roman church for planting and persecution.

"apart from the Law"

The Greek word for "apart" is also used in Hebrews 4:15 to describe Christ's separation from sin. He is completely without even a hint of sin. Salvation is just as separate from any human ability to do good works. No law-keeping, even of the rules of a church, can earn us any favor with God.

"the righteousness of God"

This righteousness is sourced in God's infinite perfection.

"has been manifested,"

This phrase is in the perfect tense. In Greek, this indicates an event that happened at a point in the past, yet continues to have just as much influence, with emphasis on its effects today.

"being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets"

This righteousness is attested to in the whole of Scripture. The Old Testament sacrificial system required an alien righteousness for sinners. Isaiah 53 is the clearest prophecy that God's righteousness would be imputed to sinners. Abraham was counted righteous even before the law, as was David (Romans 4:3-8).

Application Points

  • Even those in the church can fall into the trap of "good works righteousness" through legalism. Be careful that you do not rely on external expectations and think that fulfilling them causes God to view you more highly.
  • The righteousness of Christ is quite sufficient to save your soul.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Corinthians 2:2 – Nothing but Jesus can give us favor with God.
  • Hebrews 1:2-3, John 10:30, 14:7-11, Titus 2:11-14 – Jesus Christ completely and exactly displays God's righteousness.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness"

Jesus, your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Lord, I believe your precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
Forever does for sinners plead,
For me, even for my soul, was shed.

Lord, I believe, were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
You have for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.