Thursday, November 30, 2006

Romans 3:21

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

We change subjects within Paul’s letter now, as we look at verses 21-31 of chapter 3 and forward. Remember, Paul spent the past 63 verses, from Romans 1:18-3:20, talking about the bad news, the sinfulness of mankind. Now, for the first time since verse 17 of chapter 1, Paul returns to the topic he introduced in his thesis: a righteousness from God revealed in the gospel.

But now, a righteousness from God has been made known in the gospel, apart from the law, as attested in the Old Testament. Paul jumps back to what he said in his thesis statement: chapter 1 v.17. He had to diverge for a moment to explain why the gospel matters at all, and remember that his conclusion was that God will justly and righteously unleash his wrath on sinners; since everyone is a sinner, we need the gospel. Understanding our need for the gospel, for salvation, Paul assures us that we can have faith in the gospel, not only because it is the power of God for salvation, but also because in it, a righteousness from God is made known. And remember, it is God’s righteousness that has us in trouble. God cannot simply overlook sin. He can’t just say, “It’s okay, I forgive you.” Sin is not okay. God must punish it. In His original covenant with Adam and Eve, He promised that the sinner will die. And what amazed Paul about the gospel is that God has made a way to save people without compromising His justice. He punished His Son to ensure His justice. And Paul is assured that he is saved, because God would be unrighteous to punish him for his sins, if He has laid those sins on Christ. God cannot demand that Paul be given the death penalty if Christ has already received the death penalty in Paul’s name. This is a righteousness from God displayed in the gospel. And Paul is amazed that God can righteously acquit the guilty. It’s called grace. And it’s amazing.

What is grace? It’s more than “unmerited favor.” It’s not only that we didn’t deserve favor. It’s that we deserved eternal damnation. So God’s grace is more than, “God forgives us.” God’s grace is His favor freely bestowed on those who deserve His condemnation at the cost of His Son. G.R.A.C.E. = God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense

The words “But now” declare the change that took place when we went from “under wrath” to “under grace.” We were not “in Christ,” but now we are. We were lost but now are found. The words “But now” also are used by Paul, I think, to remind us of the work of God in history.
Before Christ, everything was B.C., and now, after Christ, everything is A.D., the Year of Our Lord… Paul makes a temporal distinction between what God had been doing in preparation for the fullness of time in the days of the old covenant, and the fulfillment of those old covenant promises and prophesies and types as represented by Christ and the new covenant. The old covenant was then…But now we have the new covenant. It is finished.

Second, Paul says that God’s righteousness has been revealed “apart from the law,” apart from our works of the law, apart from our doing anything, apart from our obedience. Paul is saying that God’s righteousness is displayed in us in such a way that nothing we do contributes to it. There is absolutely nothing we bring to this display of God’s righteousness. It is an alien righteousness, provided by God, and received by the channel of faith. It is not something in us or from us.

Third and finally in this verse, Paul is telling us that he is not giving us a new teaching, but that this truth of the gospel and justification by faith is demonstrated in the Old Testament itself. The Old Testament clearly witnesses to it and testifies of the truth of the gospel and justification by faith. In fact, in Romans 4, the place that Paul will go to show the proof of the gospel from Scripture is from Genesis and the story of Abraham. You know, often times we ask this question, “Salvation is by grace through faith in the New Testament, but was it the same way in the Old Testament?” Paul would have never asked that question. He might have asked, “Salvation is by grace through faith in the Scriptures (the Old Testament), but is it still that way since the Messiah has completed His work (in the New Testament)?” Paul knew that the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone was both old covenant and new covenant reality. In the old covenant, people had to look forward to the coming promised Messiah; in the new covenant, people have the completed glory of Jesus Christ.

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