Describing Godís Righteousness

Romans 3:21-31

Jerry A Collins




*      How does a person receive Godís righteousness?

*      What does it me for God to be propitiated?

*      What is it that our faith excludes from our lives?


Imagine an uncrossable chasm stretching out before you. It could be a deep canyon or a wide body of water meeting the horizon in front of you or an insurmountable mountain range impossible to penetrate. There it is with absolutely no hope whatsoever of passing onto the other side. A great chasm like that exists between Romans 3:20 and 3:21. A vast canyon, a wide gap separating our condition and Godís character. Me a sinner and God Holy. Through 3:20 we have been told of our sinful condition before God that has rendered all of us lost, condemned, guilty, plagued and judged. Hopelessly and helplessly alienated from God. How can we ever hope to bridge this gap between our sinfulness and Godís holiness? How can we get from this side to the other? We cannot. We stand at the precipice and our next step will be into death and judgment. But when God justifies us we find ourselves suddenly on the other side! God brings me there and He tells us how He does that in these verses.


For three chps we have learned of our sinful condition and inescapable conclusion is that we are guilty; but now the righteousness of God is manifested.

(1) What kind? A righteousness without the Law 21a. The righteousness of God here refers to Godís method of bringing people into a right relationship with Himself. That method is apart from the Law. A righteousness that is not secured by means of the law. He says that this righteousness has been manifested. It is already out in the open.

(2) Itís history: the Law & Prophets 21b. This phrase is a summary for the entire Old Testament. The OT points to the righteousness of God that would one day be manifested in Christ Himself (Gen 15:5; Ps 32:1-2; Hab 2:4). So this manifestation is not some new phenomenon (Jer 23:6; Isa 53:11). Itís like the OT was watching this righteousness of God manifest itself. Referencing the law & Prophets prepares way for Rom 4 discussing Abe and David representing these sections of OT. Only the physical event of death of Christ is there anything new & unique to be seen.

(3) Means of righteousness: faith 22a. Not Law-keeping. Not works. Not privilege. Not religion. A person possesses Godís righteousness thru faith in Jesus Christ. The object of faith is introduced for 1st time. Faith simply takes what God gives. Faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ is Godís answer to our sin problem. The Bible tells us with deafening repetition that faith alone in Jesus Christ is the way of salvation.

(4) Extent of righteousness: to all who believe 22b-23. There is no difference with regard to wealth, education, nationality, status. Since all are under sin vs 9, 23, salvation is also available to all on an equal basis and all receive salvation the same way, by faith. Noone excluded from condemnation. Not only did all sin but all fall short continually meaning not one human being measures up to the glory of God. It would seem that God intended people to share in His glory. To put on display the nature of God possibly to the glory that man had before the fall in the garden (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 8:5-6; Eph 4:24). Why so much material on subject of sin? A subject that we avoid but also salvation is salvation from sin before it is anything else! The seriousness of sin and then the greatness of salvation. Now for the good news!


(1) The plan: justification of sinners 24-25. It is all who believe not all sinned who receive justification. Justification is an act not a process and is something God gives not man. In view of our sin God has stepped in and provided righteousness. Justification takes us into the courtroom. A legal term meaning Ďto declare righteousí. And it is done here on single condition of faith in His Son. Instantaneously in courts of heaven. Moment we believe we are on other side of judgment day. Not guilty! Acquitted. Free. Jesus righteousness in place of our wretchedness. Jesus righteousness means I am innocent, pure, clean. First, justification more than forgiveness. You can lie, then admit wrong, be forgiven but still guilty. Justification removes that guilt. Second, more than a pardon. Judge offers no pardon for future crimes. Justification deals with past, present & future sins. Third, itís not a change in character. Itís a change in position. The justified still sin. Sanctification deals with changing the believer (6-8). (1) Justified on what basis: grace 24a. A free gift without payment, completely undeserved. (2) By what method: redemption 24b-25b. Redemption takes us to the slave market. The release of a slave by paying a price. (a) In Whom 24b: Jesus supplied the payment our sin required (Matt 20:28; Titus 2:4; 1 Pt 1:19, Eph 1:7 We have redemption thru His blood). (b) By Whom 25a: Propitiation takes us to the temple. The satisfaction of Godís wrath aroused by our sin. By Jesus death Godís holy demands were satisfied. Godís justice requires an eye for eye and somehow death of Jesus is the eye for eye of our sin. God has set sinner free thru Christ but has not done so by setting aside the rules. 1st purpose of the cross not Godís love, it is His righteousness. This is the starting point and it releases us from 1. Fear of death and 2. Guilt of sin. (c) To what end 25b: To justify Godís character and this was necessary because God had not finally dealt with sins committed before Jesus died. He had shown forbearance, not overlooked their sin, since He planned to provide final sacrifice in future at cross. Blood of animals covered over temporarily like payment with a credit card. The bill came due later and Jesus paid the balance off entirely.

(2) The vindication of Godís righteousness 26. Godís purpose was to be seen as just and the one who justifies, declares righteous one in faith. While displaying His grace, mercy and love He also restored alienated, rebellious, condemned to Himself. So this enables God to declare every believing sinner righteous.


1. Faith excludes boasting 27-28. Since justification is by grace, thru faith, boasting because of oneís accomplishments or supposed privilege is ruled out. Doing works is no basis for pride for Law cannot justify. Thatís not itís purpose v 20.

2. Faith eliminates distinctions 29-30. There are not two ways to salvation, one for Jews of works and one for gentiles by faith. God deals with everyone on same basis.

3. Faith establishes the Law 31. The Law has value, to convict people of their inability to earn acceptance with God by their own works. It fulfilled itís purpose. Namely, that faith is essential to become righteous not works. ††1. Noone can make themselves acceptable to God. Only Jesus righteousness can do that.2. That righteousness of Jesus is applied to us by God when we believe. 3. Religion cannot supply rightouesness essential for acceptance with God.†† Do vs done.