So far Paul has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that every human being has the same basic problem: our actions have made us guilty before God. This guilt is called unrighteousness. It means that when we die, we shall be judged by God, found guilty and be sentenced to hell. It also means we shall endure hell on earth as we have life without a relationship with the living God.
It has not been the most positive experience reading and studying Romans up until this point. This is why many Christians can quote Romans 5 and Romans 8 a great deal, but they simply do not understand the context. The context is this: Paul shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that you cannot be righteous yourself either by a good life or by religious rituals.
So when Paul now introduces a new way of becoming righteous – a new way of becoming accepted by God and declared not guilty; a way of going to heaven when you die and enjoying heaven on earth – when Paul introduces this new way of being righteous we jump at it.
The only way we will jump at righteousness by faith is if someone takes the time to explain and prove to us that we cannot be righteous by works.
Ray Comfort explains this by using the analogy of an aeroplane. If you give someone on a plane a parachute and make him wear it for the journey, he probably will not because it will be uncomfortable and make the journey more difficult. If however you take the time to explain to the person that the plane is about to crash and is completely unreliable, he will put the parachute on and be glad to wear it.
If you convince someone to put their faith in Jesus Christ for righteousness, without first showing them that their righteousness by their works and rituals and self-opinion is utterly worthless then they will eventually backslide right out of a relationship with Christ.
Before you tell a person to accept Christ by faith for righteousness, for entrance into heaven, you first must show them that their righteousness is worthless as Paul has done in Romans 1-3. Some people are already convinced – they know that nothing good dwells in them. People like that you simply share the gospel with and encourage them to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Other people still think that God owes them a favour or that God will judge their deeds with a giant set of scales and they think that the scales are tipped in their favour. These people need to hear the message of Romans 1-3. But once they have realize that they are unrighteous and nothing they could ever do will make them righteous, they will ask just one question – though it might be expressed in different forms: how can I be righteous? how can I be saved? how can I know God?
21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
After Romans 1.18-3.20, Paul is convinced that people will have realized that they are unrighteousness, that they are guilty before God. So now, he explains the good news: there is another way to be righteous. A way that has nothing to do with obeying the law of Moses. In fact, in v. 21 Paul claims that this way is actually found in the law and the prophets – the Old Testament – which it is if you read it carefully. Perhaps after we have run through Romans, I will show where the gospel is found throughout the Old Testament. It is an interesting study to say the least.
22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
This is the revelation that Paul has being building up to – the crescendo of all the evidence that we are unrighteous and cannot be righteous by works – the fact that we can have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ. If we place our faith in Jesus Christ, irrespective of our actions, our sins, our lifestyle, we become righteous. We can stand before God as if we never sinned, as if we lived a perfect lifestly. We can stand before God and be declared innocent. We can go to heaven when we die and enjoy heaven on earth. And it does not come by working for it, it comes by faith.
23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Nearly every Christian knows Romans 3.23 and knows that our sin, which everyone has committed, mean we fall short of the glory of God. Very very few Christians know Romans 3.24 which says that we are justified (made righteous) freely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
Our sin cut us off from the glory of God. Jesus Christ has now made us righteous if we believe in him, and we are now plugged back into the glory of God.
25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
This is some of the much powerful and beautiful truths in the Bible. The word propitiation means: a sacrifice that deals with wrath. Can you understand how powerful this is? Jesus’ sacrifice has completely dealt with the wrath of God. The wrath of God is the element of the justice of God that demands that every act of unrighteousness must be punished. Jesus, on the cross, bore the entire wrath of God, the entire punishment for the unrighteousness of every single human being in the entire world.
If you believe in Jesus you are declared completely righteous – no matter whether you have been religious or not, no matter your background, your history or anything.
26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Remember that the word just means the same as the word righteous. This verse paraphrased is saying: God is righteous and if you believe in Jesus, God will make you righteous too.
This is not a process. This is an instant event the moment you place your faith in Jesus Christ you become totally righteous. You become as innocent as God. You become as right with God as Jesus was, as right with God as someone who has never sinned. You will go to heaven when you die, and start to enjoy heaven on earth.
27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
People who are self-righteous, the people Romans 2 was aimed at, boast. They are people Jesus referred to who pray at night “I thank you I am not like…”. But people who know the truth that they could do nothing to become righteous, but that they have received perfect righteousness by believing in Jesus don’t boast.
28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
This is Paul’s argument and something that every Christian needs to meditate on: you are not right with God because of any deed or action, but only by faith. Many Christians still feel that God does not love them because they have acted a certain way – rubbish! You are righteous because of Jesus, not because of your actions.
Many Christians are striving to do this and do that to make God love them, hoping that God will receive them. Waste of time – God loves you and receives you on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus, and only on the sacrifice of Jesus. You are righteous because of Jesus. When you lay hands on the sick, don’t think “well, I have done this wrong this week, and lost my temper this week and done this and that, so God won’t come through” – that is nonsense. Rather think, “I am right with God because of what Jesus has done, I can live in victory because of what Jesus has done, I can ask and receive because of Jesus.”
The devil and your own flesh will accuse you and pressure you. To be a good Christian, to get your prayers answered you have to live right, you have to do this and that, and not do that and this. It is all a lie. The truth of the gospel is that you are loved and accepted by God and declared and made righteous, totally innocent before God, because of Jesus. There is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you less; there is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you more.
It has nothing to do with your actions: you are righteous right now if you believe in Jesus. His shed blood has made propitiation and satisfied God’s wrath. You cannot and will not be punished in any way for any sin you have committed or will commit. You are righteous.
29Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
This process of being justified – made and declared right and innocent – is available to the Jew and to the Gentiles. Whether you have been religious and a goody-two-shoes all your life, or whether you have been the most selfish scumbag who ever lived, you need and have access to the grace of God through Jesus Christ that makes you righteous before God.
31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Does this mean the law is now useless? No – it means the law is in its right place. It is not there to show you how to live right, it is there to show you that you cannot live right. It is there to condemn you and show you that you are unrighteous no matter how religious you are. It is there to shut your mouth and shut up all your bragging about how wonderful you are and to make you realize that you, just like me, just like every human on the planet, need a new way of being righteous. The way of faith.
Tomorrow we will follow Paul’s argument as he convinces us from one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament that your actions have nothing to do with your right standing with God. You are righteous due to the work of Jesus Christ. You are completely righteous the moment you believe in Jesus and that cannot be added to or taken away from by what you do.
If you realize this truth, the truth will make you free. Free from striving, free from fear, free from condemnation, free from feeling yucky, dirty and defeated. Free to walk in truth and love. Free to pray and know your prayer will be answered. Free to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Free to be as bold as a lion. Free to enjoy your relationship with God. The price has been paid, the wrath has been satisfied. You are declared innocent.
You will be in heaven when you die and enjoy heaven on earth. Not because of anything you have done or ever will do. But because of what Jesus has done on the cross 2000 years ago.
Praise His name forevermore!