January 7, 2024


Passage: Romans 3:21-31

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.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
— Romans 3:21-31, ESV

The New Testament begins with four Gospels.  Then comes the chronicle of Acts, detailing how the gospel spread from Jew to Gentile, from Jerusalem to Judea to the uttermost parts of the known world.  Then comes the greatest explanation of the gospel ever written, Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Up to this point in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, the gospel has been a promise for Paul to preach with great conviction and courage (1:1-17).  He does so because the gospel is the only thing that can save the cavernous pit of sinners, who lack the ability to save themselves, and unsaved each one will face the wrath of God (1:18-3:20).

“But now,” (3:21), the flag of salvation is unfurled.  The remedy for the wrath of God is  revealed.  “The righteousness of God has been manifested.”  In other words, we now come to the place where God makes the gospel our own, where sinners are saved, through the divine decree of justification.

In Romans, justification is explained (3:21-31), exemplified (4:1-25), enjoyed (5:1-11), and earned (5:12-21).  Then, it crosses over to the lands of sanctification (6:1-7:25) and glorification (8:1-39).  In glorious detail, Paul chronicles the journey of salvation, stopping at each of these doctrinal destinations of divine importance.  Let us begin with an explanation of justification.

Justification Meets Our Greatest Need

The gospel is the theme of the book of Romans and “the righteousness of God” is the goal.  The goal is to be right with God, acceptable to God, in fellowship with God.  This can only come by being perfect or being forgiven.

“The righteousness of God” is not obtained through innate goodness or religious achievement.  It is “apart from the law,” for God’s commandments cannot be perfectly kept by mortal man.  However, the written word of God, “the law and the prophets,” show another way.  It shows a promised Messiah, the Son of God, perfectly keeping the law, then laying His life down as the ultimate sacrifice for sin on the cross.  This was to answer His own prayer, “Father, forgive them” (ref. Luke 23:34).

Therefore, man’s greatest need is to obtain the righteousness of God through the forgiveness of sin by the divine decree of God.  Justification is this decree, bestowed not on everyone, but only upon those who truly believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Justification is God’s Greatest Provision

Justification comes about not by what we do for God, but by what God has done for us.  We are the sinners, He is the Savior.  We are lost, He chooses to find us.  We are unjust, “It is God who justifies” (ref. 8:33).

God justifies by providing us with grace.  All who come to God “are justified by His grace as a gift.”  Grace is one-sided, unmerited gift.  Grace is God’s sovereign choice to convict you of sin and give you faith necessary for salvation.  It is not your decision, it is God’s provision of grace that makes you justified.

God justifies by providing us with redemption, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Redemption is like a bail bond, paid by God to get you out of jail, even though you are guilty.  But then God goes one further, He cancels the debt.  He, in Christ, pays the price for you.  God justifies by providing us with a perfect sacrifice, “a propitiation by His blood.”  It is not your work, it is God’s provision of Christ’s work on the cross that justifies.

Justification is not acting, it is receiving.  It is not getting paid for good work, it is being forgiven of sin.  It is not a end in itself, but a glorious new beginning which leads to sanctification and ultimately glorification.  Salvation is God’s gift, and when actually received becomes your greatest possession.

Justification is Our Greatest Possession

Abraham Maslow was spot on in identifying human need.  The Jewish psychologist spent his life studying how people are driven, broken, or fulfilled by the pursuit of a hierarchy of physiological, physiological, personal, relational, purposeful, and transcendent needs.  Others too up his work and constructed a pyramid to guide people in building a good life, from the bottom up.

While I would not argue against Maslow’s assessments, I believe the way to build a good life, a great life, a godly life is from the top down.  You can have the finest food, the biggest house, and the finest clothing and be absolutely worthless.  You can be stronger than an ox and smarter than Einstein, and still not achieve or know anything of great value.  You can find transcendental peace, at least temporarily, in a variety of religions and substances, and still be lost.

But if you have justification, a right relationship with God, you possess a transcendent gift that transforms every other area and meets every other need of your life.  You have purpose, to know God and make Him known.  You have people, the imperfect yet priceless church which Jesus purchased with His own blood.  You have relationships and resources which will last beyond this lifetime.  And you are told never to worry about your physiological needs (ref. Matthew 6:25-34).

Nothing else in this life matters as much or is more valuable than your justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Justification Accomplishes God’s Greatest Goal

On the heels of this awesome explanation of justification, Paul warns, “Then what becomes of our boasting?”  In other words, if you are a Christian, saved by grace, justified by faith, righteous in God’s eyes, don’t you dare take a stitch of credit for it.

People who boast in their testimonies preach a false gospel.  If you are saved because you did something, you gave up the bottle, you walked the aisle, you decide to follow Jesus, etc., then salvation is by works or by law.  Don’t boast.

People who boast in their heritage preach a false gospel.  Jew or Gentile means nothing anymore in this New Covenant.  Rich Catholics and self-righteous Baptists cannot enter Heaven through indulgences or legalism.  If you can be saved because of who you are or what you have done, you would be your own Savior.

God’s greatest goal is not to save you.  God’s greatest goal is to make His name great, His glory spread, His sovereignty rule.  Take your justification, get to work on your sanctification, and you can confidently expect glorification.  As you receive and live this new life, you will shower others with God’s grace, influence them to have faith, and find some will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  God then gains more followers, more worshippers, more glory!

This is justification explained.  It is your greatest need, to be right with God.  It is God’s greatest gift, given freely by grace through faith in Christ.  It is your greatest possession, to be shared with fellows of justification in your church, then taken to a lost and dying world.  It gives God all the glory, now and forever.  “But now,” are you justified?

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