The bible makes this point over and over again that only repentance and faith in Jesus, will save us from spending eternity in hell and ultimately in the lake of fire. If you are not a Christian and you are reading this message, you will realize by the end of it that by rejecting Jesus, you have no hope of ever entering heaven. This message is for you and hope you repent as a result and put your faith in Jesus. If you are a Christians, who has been told that on top of repenting and putting your faith in Jesus, you must also obey the law to be saved, this message is also for you.
Paul is the author of Romans and he wrote this letter from Corinth around AD 56-58, most likely AD 57. Paul was at this stage facing a lot of opposition from those who did not agree with him, and even those who believed that Paul’s preaching was affecting their livelihood. By the time Paul wrote the letter, there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. However, Gentiles were in the majority. The purpose of writing this letter was threefold.
- Paul wanted to explain his gospel to those in Rome so that they may support his trip to Spain
- Paul was writing a defense of his gospel to the Romans as a rehearsal for his defense in Jerusalem
- Paul was writing to unify Jews and Gentile Christians in Rome
In summary, the section from chapter 1 verse 18 all the way to chapter 3 verse 20 (1:18-3:20), can be summarised by saying that Paul has successfully argued that every single human being knows that God exists, and are all sinful before God, and are all under His wrath, and not even the law, can save them. The next logical question is what then can save us for God’s wrath and the section that follows, begins to deal with that question.
We will look at Romans 3:21-24. We will look at 3 main points:
1. Righteousness revealed (v. 21)
2. Righteousness defined (vv. 22-23)
3. Righteousness that justifies (v. 24)
Righteousness revealed (v. 21)
Romans 3:21 (ESV)
21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
With the words “But now” at the beginning of verse 21, not only does Paul introduce a new section but, he is also moving from one era, that was characterized by sinners who were under constant condemnation from the law, and had no way of saving themselves, to a different era. This is a transition in Paul’s exposition of the gospel and of salvation history, as he shifts focus from the old covenant era of sin’s domination, to the new covenant era of salvation, a shift from those justly condemned, helpless under the power of sin, and powerless to escape God’s wrath, to the new era for all those who respond in faith to God’s intervention through the cross of Christ. A move from an era where to be righteous, one needed to obey the law 100% from birth to death, which no one could do, and therefore everyone stood condemned, to an era where our righteousness is found only in the finished works of Jesus Christ. The law could not rescue Jews or anyone else from the power of sin because compliance with its demands to the extent necessary to secure justification has not been—and cannot be—forthcoming. You will be surprised that despite the conditions that the Jews were under, during the old era, that there are some today, who still insist on the old era. In Acts 15 verse 10, Peter describes this era as a yoke on their neck that they could not bear, and yet others still insist on this yoke.
Paul says but now the righteousness of God has been manifested. By the righteousness of God, Paul refers to God’s way of putting people right with Himself. This is the standard by which God makes every single human being right with Himself. This is a method, a process, a plan, a means by which God makes people right with Himself. This is how God justifies, how He declares people not guilty before Him. So, the righteousness of God, refers to a process that God has put in place, by which He can justify sinners. It is very important to take note that this righteousness comes from God. This is God’s way, and not your way or my way or the world’s way, but this is God’s way and it comes from and belongs to God. It is not negotiated with anyone and it will not be negotiated with anyone. You want to be right with God, you want to be declared not guilty before God, this is the only way.
The question at this stage is that are you right with God? Are you right with God according to God, and not according to you. A lot of people have rejected God’s way of making people right with Him, and chose to design their own way. They are saying to God, listen, we reject your way, we are not going to follow your way, and you will accept our way, because you will declare us not guilty before you, our way, got it? And God is supposed to say yes sir or yes mam. It does not work that way unfortunately. You as the one created, cannot tell the creator what to do and how to do it. If you are not right with God, in God’s way, then you are not right with God. If you are right with God according to your way, then you are not right with God and you are deceiving yourself. Until you understand that God as the creator, has the ultimate authority to determine how to become right with Him, you will continue to deceive yourself if you think that you can reject His way and still get away with your way. It is either you follow God’s way or you spend eternity in the lake of fire being tortured day and night for your sins. If you say you are right with God, you better be sure that it is according to God and not according to your way.
Paul says this righteousness of God, has been manifested. This is a perfect passive verb that means to become disclosed or revealed clearly. The perfect passive tells us that this righteousness was revealed or disclosed at some point and it continues in that state of being disclosed. It was hidden at some point and now it is no longer hidden and it is now clear for everyone to see. What Paul says here adds even more charges, to those who despite God revealing His way of making people right with Him, continue to use their own way and somehow expect God, to accept their way. Why is it adding charges? Because Paul says that God’s righteousness is not hidden, in fact, it has been disclosed, it has been revealed, and it has been revealed clearly so that anyone can know it. No one can ever say, I was not aware or I did not know. This righteousness has been revealed such that every single human being knows about it. The whole world knows about it. Therefore if you reject it, you have no excuse. Therefore, I am pleading with you, yes you, you who have rejected God’s way and designed your own way that you will be guilty before God. You will not have an excuse, you will face His wrath. Repent from your ways and follow God’s way.
Paul indicates that the righteousness of God that could never be attained through the works of the law, has now being revealed apart from the law. The word “apart from” means independent of or separate from, aside from, excluding, besides. That means the righteousness of God has been revealed independent of or separate from the law. By saying that this righteousness is apart from the law, Paul is emphasizing what he also stated in Gal 2:16 that, we are not justified by the works of the law. By works of the law, no one will be justified, and also what he said in Phil 3:9, that righteousness that comes from the law is not from God. Paul is therefore saying that righteousness of God will not be found in obeying the law. No one will be justified or declared not guilty before God, through obeying the law. Apart from the law means that the righteousness of God excludes obedience to the law, it is separate from obedience to the law, it is besides obedience to the law, it is independent of obedience to the law. The law is not involved in anyway in becoming right with God. You do not need to obey the law to become right with God at all.
I am aware that there are churches that are teaching that you must obey the law to become right with God. Those churches are clearly in conflict with Paul and therefore with God. Anyone who tells you that you must obey the law to become right with God, must explain what Paul is saying here. Does it mean Christians don’t have to obey the law? No, Christians must obey the law but, Christians don’t obey the law so that they can become right with God but, because they are right with God. No human being alive or dead, could ever obey the law of God 100% without fail, even once, and therefore, no one can ever be right with God by obeying the law.
Paul continues to say that this righteousness of God, that has been revealed apart from the law, has been revealed although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it. Paul says this righteousness of God has been revealed apart from the law, despite the law and prophets, referring to the Old Testament, anticipating and predicting this righteousness of God. The Old Testament looks forward to, foretells, prophesy and predicts this righteousness of God. Now, even though the Old Testament anticipates and predicts this righteousness of God, it is still revealed apart from the law. Paul addresses this issue of adding the law of God to the requirements to be saved in the letter to the Galatians. One of the letters where Paul does not even starts with his normal way of opening a letter but goes straight to the issue where some Jews were telling Christians they needed to obey the law of Moses to be saved. He calls the Galatians fools for accepting Jesus plus the law, in fact he tells them that if they do, they have fallen from grace. So, I want to urge you not to follow the path of the Galatians who were severely rebuked by Paul for adding obedience to the law as a requirement to be saved.
Now, I want to ask you today to rethink your relationship with God in light of what Paul has revealed to us. If you are currently not right with God according to God, it is time to repent and place your trust in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross and rose again for sinners like you and me, so that we don’t have to face the wrath of God, so that we don’t have to spend eternity in the lake of fire. But, the only way to avoid that is to be right with God according to God, and the only way is through faith in Jesus. I urge you to pray and ask God for mercy. Ask God for the gift of repentance and faith. Turn away from your sins and from your way, and follow God’s way. Wil you do that today? Will you do that now?
To be continued…….