Romans 3:21-31

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 16, 2015 0 comments
by Katie Erickson

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
(Romans 3:21-31)

This is one of those times where I feel like I could write a whole bunch of blog posts on all of the different ideas in this passage, but unfortunately I’m limited to just one. This is a pivotal passage in the book of Romans and of Paul’s line of reasoning through this letter. Last week he established that all are sinners and cannot be saved by just the law, and in this passage he emphasizes that again along with a number of ideas: God’s righteousness, justification, salvation history, faith, sin, redemption, grace, and forgiveness. I’m going to try and briefly explain all of those theological themes for you, because there is so much in here.

Paul tells us that God’s righteousness is made known apart from the law. He goes on to say that this is through faith in Christ Jesus. Well, what is righteousness? It is most simply defined as being completely right or holy; it is the opposite of being sinful. We know that God is holy, and that we are not. God’s righteousness is demonstrated through the work of Jesus, that He came to save all people from all of our sins.

Justification is one of those “churchy” words that can be pretty complex in meaning. I encourage you go to read this post for a little more on it. This passage in Romans lays out the idea of justification pretty well: we don’t deserve to be called righteous or holy, but through the work of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him, we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes. That process (of becoming made right even when we’re sinful) is called justification. In the Greek that this letter was originally written in, the words “righteous,” “righteousness,” “justify,” and “justification” are all from the same root. The original readers of this letter would more easily recognize the relationship between these words and ideas.

Paul gives us salvation history in a nutshell in this passage. God’s plan for humanity to be saved has gone through a number of stages, and a new one is introduced through the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul references that the Law and the Prophets testify to this, as a reference to the previous stage, and then he goes on to explain what Jesus did to provide salvation.

In verse 22, Paul brings up the idea of faith. He had already made this point back in Romans 1:17, but it’s worthwhile to bring up again. The righteousness of God is only available to us through faith; there is no other way we can be in right relationship with Him. The reason we need to have faith is because of our sin that has separated us from God.

Because of this sin and separation, we need God’s redemption. Jesus is the only one who is worthy to be our savior and our redeemer. Without Him, we have no hope of becoming right with God again and being justified.

But how do we know that God even wants us to be in relationship with Him? We know this because He lovingly extends to us His grace. We do not deserve God’s love and grace, but He gives it us anyway because we are His creation and He loves us. We still sin because we are still human, but God will forgive us for those sins when we’re sorry for them.

After all that deep theological stuff, in verses 27-31 Paul gives us an introduction to faith that he’ll expound on more coming up in Romans 4. We see in verse 28 that a person is not justified by the law, but by faith. God is the God of all people, so all people are welcomed to having faith in Him.

Honestly, it’s difficult for us to understand all that is going on in this passage. Paul is trying to explain the mystery of the salvation that God gives us through Jesus. What it boils down to is this: God loves you even though you have sinned to separate yourself from Him, and He desires that you have faith in Him so you can experience a right relationship with Him again. Where are you at on that? Do you have that faith, or are you longing to experience that relationship with God? Please reach out to any of us in the Worldview Warriors ministry if you would like to know more about salvation through Jesus Christ!

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