Sermon: The Righteousness of God Shown in Christ Romans 3:21-26

The Righteousness of God Shown in Christ

Romans 3:21-26

Truth Taught- The Righteousness of God is Revealed Through His Law and Through Christ 

Introduction

Through these first couple of chapters in Romans, we have really been convicted of a truth we already knew. The truth is that all have sinned and are under God’s wrath.

-God rescues All believers, but only believers

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV)

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 for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

-This is because He is rightly angry with everyone else

Romans 1:18 (ESV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

– He is angry with religious insiders (Jews and even those today who have Bibles).

– So religious insiders and irreligious outsiders…in other words everyone outside of Christ are under God’s wrath.

Romans 3:10–18 (ESV)

10 as it is written:

       “None is righteous, no, not one;

11        no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

12    All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

13    “Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

       “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

14        “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

15    “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16        in their paths are ruin and misery,

17    and the way of peace they have not known.”

18        “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The Apostle Paul has painted for us a very dark but accurate picture. Through his divine call as an Apostle writing God’s Word, God has proven beyond any doubt that all people are under or enslaved by sin and are subject to God’s just wrath.

So, let’s leave mankind enslaved to his sin and under God’s wrath for a minute…

There is a word that appears four times in our text and over sixty times in the Book of Romans and that’s the word Righteousness.

God’s Righteousness is a somewhat difficult term to define because, for God, it sort of works backwards. What I mean is that for us there is a standard of righteousness, which is God, Himself. However, for God there is no standard except, again, Himself. We could say that God is righteous when He acts godly and we know that is all the time because that is who God is. For us, as fallen sinners, it is impossible to achieve God’s perfect standard of righteousness even for a second and yet to be right with God that is the minimum requirement.

How doe we know what God’s righteousness is?

God’s righteousness is revealed in His Law. In the Law of God we see what God is like. All the commandments and statutes that make up His Law show us God’s very character. When He says, for example do not steal or covet, He can demand those things because He never stole or coveted. His commands are simply demanding that we be like Him.

His covenant people are required to be like Him in many ways and so His law found in the Bible is God’s good and holy standards. So His righteousness is revealed to us in His Law. The bad news is that we cannot live up to God’s standards of righteousness. Because God is God, He cannot relax His standards to allow us access to Him based on something less than whom He really is. His standards are the minimum and we all fall infinitely short.

Now, Paul transitions from one mode of God revealing His righteousness, namely, the Law to another mode…the Gospel.

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV)

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 for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We have some examples of those people in Scripture who were confronted by God with their sin. They know within their conscience that God has righteous demands, which they cannot meet. Notice the response of a sinner confronted with their sin…

Acts 2:37 (ESV)

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Acts 16:30 (ESV)

30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

John 3:4 (ESV)

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

John 3:9 (ESV)

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Job also when confronted with the holy God cried out…

Job 9:1–3 (ESV)

Then Job answered and said:

   “Truly I know that it is so:

But how can a man be in the right before God?

   If one wished to contend with him,

one could not answer him once in a thousand times.

So we see the reality God’s standards are perfect and unwavering.

We also see man’s dilemma, God’s standards are unattainable so then All people left to themselves will be rightly condemned.

Human Need

We must have God’s righteousness to be right with God. Our dilemma is there is no righteousness within ourselves or in this world to help us. True God accepting righteousness is only found through faith in Jesus Christ. The reality is that we are so far gone that we think a good deed or two will make up for some sin. Remember only God’s level of righteousness is sufficient.

Romans 3:21–26 (ESV)

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  1. God’s Righteousness Manifested Apart from the Law (3:21-22a)

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

The reality found in all the Bible is that while mankind is ruined in sin and cannot achieve any real righteousness, there is a righteousness available but it comes from somewhere outside of man; it comes from God through Jesus Christ.

This section begins with: But now. But now, the fullness of time or after the sinless Savior died, the righteousness we need is available to mankind on God’s terms, which are through the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The present time is New Covenant language.

Notice the Law and the Prophets testify to it really looking to the day or anticipating the day when the Law is fulfilled in Christ and in us. What Paul is getting at is that now, after the perfect sacrifice of Christ, all who belong to God will no longer be slaves to sin and someday when we are glorified we will no longer need the Law of God because God is writing it on our hearts. In other words, the Law will be internal. No one will need to tell us do not murder, like in the OT because it will someday be impossible for God’s people to murder or to sin in any other way.

God takes care of the sin problem for His people through the cross of Christ.

The central idea of this passage is the righteousness of God. In this short section it is mentioned 4 times. What is also important to us is that Paul doesn’t simply say that God is righteous but he speaks about how God has shown it to us.

21 righteousness of God has been manifested

21 the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it

25 in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward

25 This was to show God’s righteousness

26  It was to show his righteousness at the present time,

Through the Gospel God is manifesting, showing, displaying, and testify to His righteousness.

Let’s consider a few things about the righteousness God demands…

First, God’s righteousness is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not a standard that we either meet or don’t meet but it is given to us. God takes His very own righteousness and gives it to us as a free gift. Absolutely no works are involved on our part.

Next, God’s righteousness is unique in its power. His righteousness not only makes us holy in His sight by fulfilling the Law’s demands, but it also, reaches back in time to cleanse all our past sin before we were declared righteous. The perfect righteousness of Christ, which has been given to us, pays the penalty of our past sin, removing the wrath of God. So, the penalty is gone. It also, from the day it has been given to us makes us entirely righteous before God.

Finally, the righteousness of God is eternal righteousness.

Psalm 119:142 (ESV)

142   Your righteousness is righteous forever,

and your law is true.

God’s righteousness given to us in Christ is everlasting. We can’t really comprehend this. We might obey a portion of the Law for a time but what God gives in Christ is complete and eternal righteousness…once we receive it, it never goes away or ceases to work for our good and God’s glory.

  1. Those Who Need God’s Righteousness

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The saving righteousness of God is only transferred to us as we believe or have faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s clear in how Paul puts these verses together that because ALL have sinned and because God does not show favoritism, then ALL who receive saving righteousness (the righteousness He requires to be in a right relationship with Him) comes only in God’s prescribed manner, which is through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is no distinction or no partiality between Jew and Gentile. Carrying through Paul’s argument the context is in the realm of Jew and Gentile for the ALL statements. ALL have sinned and God will save ALL who believe, but only those who believe. God shows no partiality as He draws His people from ALL the nations to Himself.

  1. The Only Place God’s Righteousness is Found

24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood

All who believe are placed in right standing with God. All who believe are declared righteous. Still based on the fact that All have sinned we see that to be just in God’s sight must come from somewhere else. To be justified by God comes from something God does not a work of man.

Galatians 2:16 (ESV)

16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

God justifies us (declares us righteous) through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other place righteousness that God accepts can be found.

Jesus Christ has redeemed us. To redeem is to buy or purchase out of slavery. In the ancient world sometimes folks would suffer financial trials and the only option was to sell themselves into slavery to pay off the debt. We have sinned against God and offended Him beyond what we could ever pay. Jesus has made payment on our behalf to redeem us, to buy us out of our slavery to sin.

A sacrifice that turns away wrath is called propitiation. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for sin God’s attitude toward us changes. He’s not longer angry and at enmity with us but through the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf His anger is appeased and now for us.

Among some of the amazing things contained in the Gospel is the fact that Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation.

Propitiation means to make a sacrifice in order to appease an offended party. Again in the ancient world, consider a person who was about to make a long and dangerous sea voyage. In paganism, they would give an offering to Neptune, the god of the sea in hopes that Neptune would be favorable. That was a sacrifice of propitiation or to gain Neptune’s favor for the journey.[1]

Notice what is odd in our verse…

25 whom God put forward as a propitiation.

Do you see it? God puts forth the sacrifice of propitiation to gain God’s favor for sinners. God does it all. We are so sinful and enslaved to sin that we could never offer anything that God would remotely accept as payment. It took someone other than us to make the payment to God.

Do you see what the currency was? by his blood

Who was it that offered Jesus to us? It was God Himself. All of salvation including the plan of salvation and the perfect Sacrifice of salvation and everything else in salvation comes from God to us as a free and eternal gift.

Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)

10    Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

       when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

       the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

  1. God is Just and the Justifyer

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Divine forbearance and the fact that God passed over former sins could cause people to think God is not just. How could He just Passover certain sins and still be just?

First, the sins He has passed over are not the sins of the world but the sins of His people.

For example, Abraham was a sinner the same as everyone else. However, something happened to Abraham’s sin.

Genesis 15:5–6 (ESV)

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

In as much as God revealed to Abraham, he believed. So, for a few thousand years Abraham’s sin had been passed over until the cross. Abraham’s sins were paid for by the death of Jesus the same way all of us who are in Christ.

God is Just because ALL sin meets with His wrath either the sinner suffers judgment or the Savior suffers judgment.

So, God can maintain complete perfection and holiness because Christ came to save us by His death and He came to vindicate God’s holy name.

So, God is just and right and fair to judge sinners in their sin and forgive sinners who believe.

A proper understanding of the sacrifice of Christ is that it is first to vindicate God’s holy name and secondly about our salvation.

Application

When we walk away from this passage we must feel the weight of all God has done in Christ to clear His name and save His people. It literally took God to suffer the curse of His own covenant to save us. He made the covenant with His people and said these things will happen and yet because of sin ALL of His people failed to keep their part of the covenant. So, in order for God to maintain purity, He places Himself in the place of the sinner and takes the sinners punishment so that the covenant promises will come to pass.

Do we sense to eternal and even cosmic ramifications of the salvation event we call the cross? The cross keeps God’s promises and saves His people at the same time. When Jesus said from the cross, It is Finished…His eternal mission was accomplished.

To God be the glory!

 

 

 

 

Sources…

John MacArthur’s Commentary

Christopher Ash on Romans

ESV Study Bible

 

[1] Example given by D A Carson

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