I just want to share my reflection on Romans 3:21 to 26. I chose these verses for my reflection today because it highlights what Christ has done to us for us to be in the right with God. I think this is really important because our standing before God determines whether we will spend eternity with Him or not. So, I think one of the biggest questions in life is: “Am I just before God?”
As I’ve said being just before God is to be with Him eternally. To be otherwise, is to be not with Him eternally. If an unjust person will be with God then that person will just pollute and destroy the beauty and majesty of heaven.
That’s why I think the more interesting question is: “How can I be just before God” or “How can I be made in the right before God?” To begin with, we cannot answer whether or not we are just before God if we don’t know how God will declare us as just or righteous.
This is the main reason why I chose Romans 3:21 to 26 because of its relevance in answering the how question. Kindly refer to the passage below.
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.“
Foremost, I think it’s best to know our condition apart from the saving grace of God. That is, left to ourselves, what is our standing before God? That’s why Paul starts this verse with the word “but” because the verses that precede Rom. 3:21 indicate the bad news that is brought about by our sin problem.
It’s stated in the preceding verse that we’re all under sin (Rom. 3:10). That is, in and of ourselves, we’re sinners. Our hearts are “more deceitful than all else and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9) and “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
We’re sinners at the core of our being. We need a heart change. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19) It’s really bad news. Is it not? And there’s nothing we can do with it because our actions are directed by our sin nature. We’re held in the bondage of sin.
Left to ourselves, we’re sinners at the core. Our heart is wicked so everything that comes or flows out of it – thoughts, emotions, and will – is also naturally evil. We have this sin nature that determines our desires and our desires determine our actions.
We do what we want to do. Sadly, the things that we want to do run contrary to the things that God wants us to do. That is, the desires of our sin nature do not correspond to the things of God. That’s why we don’t do what is pleasing to God because the things that we are pleased to do are not pleasing to God.
Left to ourselves, we’re sinners before God. Our verdict is that we’re all guilty. We deserve to be punished. So, if we’re thinking that the answer to the how question of being just is our good works then all of us are hopeless in attaining a righteous standing before God.
And not only that, the standard upon which God will measure us to declare us as righteous or just is His commandments. If we are to assess ourselves base on the 10 commandments then we’re all guilty of breaking it.
In and of ourselves, we’re sinners. If God is to judge all of our thoughts, words, and deeds then we’d be all guilty. We’re hopeless.
That’s why the only means that could save us from the impending wrath of God because we violated His commandments is Someone outside of us. The good news is that God has provided a way. God is gracious to give us something that is undeserved and is never required of Him. Yet, He gave it anyway, out of His love for His people.
Romans 3:21 says that there’s this righteousness that comes from God apart from the law. It’s apart from the law because the purpose of the law is not for us to be made right before God but for us to know that we have violated the commandments of God (Rom. 3:20). The purpose of the law is to condemn us as guilty before God (Rom. 3:19).
The law points us to our need of a righteousness that is not our own. And this righteousness are “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Rom. 3:20). The “Law and the Prophets” is a euphemism for the Old Testament. So, the Old Testament also points us to this righteousness.
In verse 22 of Romans 3, it is stated that this righteousness of God is transferred to our account through faith in Jesus Christ. The reason why it is by faith is because it doesn’t make any sense if it is by works “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Faith means trust. Faith is also God’s work within us. That’s why it’s stated in Eph. 2:8 that faith is the “gift of God”. It means that we trust in what Christ did on the cross for us.
In verse 24 of Romans 3, it is stated that we are justified as a gift by his grace. The word justify has two meanings. It could mean: to made in the right or to show that you’re in the right. In a legal perspective, it could mean that one is declared righteous or one is shown to be righteous. The former is a verdict while the latter is a confirmation of what already is. In this verse, latter meaning is used. Thus, we are declared to be righteous by the Judge – God. This declaration is a gift – unearned or undeserved. It is not paid for. Grace simply means that we receive or have something that we do not deserve. It means that we did not contribute something to God in order to attain this justification. In this case, that something that we don’t deserve is the declaration of God that we’re righteous in His sight. The verse further states that this declaration is achieved by the redemptive work of Christ. Redemption means to set free or to deliver someone or something from bondage or captivity. Since, we’re all under sin. We’re good as slaves of sin for we do the things that our sin nature wants to do. We do what our master (sin) wants us to do. The consequence of being held under the bondage of sin is death. That is to be eternally separated from God. That’s why it’s stated in Romans 6:23 that the “wages of sin is death.” Punishment in hell is something that we deserve from God but in His grace, God justifies the ungodly through faith in Christ.
In verse 25 of Romans 3, it is stated that God displayed Christ publicly as a propitiation or propitiatory sacrifice in His blood. God poured out His wrath upon Christ before all the universe but Christ’s blood satisfied the wrath of God. Also, God put forward Christ as an atoning sacrifice for our sins to demonstrate that He is righteous. He passed over sins previously committed prior to the cross of Christ. God’s forbearance might cause people to think: “Is God really a just God? Why is He not punishing sin?” Thus, He demonstrated that He still is just, righteous, and holy at the proper time wherein He poured out the full weight of His wrath against sin on His Son Jesus Christ.
In verse 26 of Romans 3, it states that God passed over their sins to demonstrate His righteousness. The purpose of God why He allowed sin to be left unpunished by the full extent of His wrath is for His Son to be the object of His wrath because it’s only Jesus who completely absorb God’s wrath. So, we can say that the reason why God overlooked sins previously committed before the cross of Christ is because it’s the plan of God to prove His righteousness by pouring His wrath on Jesus Christ on behalf of us.
God treated Christ as though He treated us.
God punished Christ as though He punished us.
And He’s just in doing so for Christ took the sins of His people.
God sent His Son – Jesus so that He’d still be just. That is He didn’t leave sin unpunished but He poured His wrath on His Son when Christ bear the sins of His people in His body. He’s not only just but He is also the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ. How can God justify the ungodly? God declared as righteous the sinner who has faith in Christ because through faith in Christ the righteousness of God was transferred to the account of the ungodly who trusts in Christ.
At the cross, there’s a double transfer that happened. The sins of God’s people are transferred or laid upon Christ. Thereby, causing God to be pleased in crushing Christ by the full extent of God’s wrath. Christ propitiated God’s wrath. Christ took away from us the anger of God by His blood. He satisfied God’s anger by His atoning sacrifice. This is the first part of the transfer.
If there’s just only one part of the transfer then Jesus would’ve gone out to the cross and died in behalf of us for our sins to save us from the wrath of God. Why did He not do it? That’s because it’s the life of Christ that causes us to be righteous before God. Jesus did not only die in behalf of us for our sins to save us from the wrath of God. He also lived a life of perfect obedience to God. He kept the law perfectly and did not break anyone of it. He never had an impure thought, never said any false accusation and slandered anyone, and never did anything wrong in the eyes of God. He met the perfect standard of God. He’s the only One who measured up to the standard of God. This makes Him a sufficient substitute for us. Not only that – Jesus earned what we could never earn – perfect righteousness. And this is the righteousness that God transfers in the account of the ungodly through faith. That is, faith is the instrument upon which we receive the righteousness of Christ. That’s why God justifies the ungodly. God sees that the ungodly are clothed in the robe of perfect righteousness of Jesus. That’s why God declares them righteous. That’s why God justifies them.
If you’ve never come to Christ by faith. Come to Him. He’ll never cast you away. He’ll give you rest – eternal rest.
Soli Deo Gloria.