The Marrow of Theology – Romans 3:21-26

We must memorize Romans 3:21-26 or if you prefer, the shorter text, Romans 3:23-26. If we know the meaning of this text, we have the Gospel in short. And if we can explain these verses to others we will answer Peter’s quest to provide “to every man that asks … a reason of the hope that is within” [1 Peter 3:15].  Let us take this portion verse by verse and include the King James Version, which I recommend for memorization. 

  1. And now the righteousness of God has appeared without law being witnessed by the Law and the prophets.

And now – The promise of the Savior goes back to Adam [Genesis 3:15], and He is at last here! He has come and was crucified! And He is risen from the dead and alive. 

Without Law  The promise of Salvation was not by law but by grace [Romans 6:15]. Salvation is by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:7-9] but it was 

Witnessed by the LawThe sacrifices all were types of the Savior. [Hebrews 8:5; 10:1] and

The Prophets – The miracle of Scripture is the Gospel message clothed in the language of Old Testament prophecies.  The Old Testament is the New concealed; the New is the Old revealed [Isaiah 53; Luke 24:27].

  1. Furthermore the righteousness  of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all who believe; for there is no difference.

Furthermore, that is, to further explain

The Righteousness of God – the Covenant Faithfulness of God, He fulfilled His promise of Salvation 

By Faith –  The Reformers, Luther, Calvin, etc. said faith alone which Paul will illuminate in Chapter 4. But for now, we are not required to do anything for salvation other than accept it. Theories of the Atonement abound while scholars ask questions with answers hidden still in Heaven’s vault of grace. God does not require a theological understanding or any knowledge other than this: Jesus died for my sins to reconcile me to God—if I want Him. …and I do. [Romans 10:9-10]. Jesus is building us a place in His kingdom and will return to get us.  How is this possible? What more do I need to know to accept this truth?  John 14:1 “You believe in God,” Jesus said, “then believe in me!” Nothing more.

Of – in Jesus Christ. The language is different from what we expected to read. John 1:12 and 1 John 5:13  read “believe on His name;” Romans 10:14 says “believe in Him.” The word in and on speak of a trust in relationship with Christ. Scholars prefer to see the word of as the word in.

 Unto all and upon all – Scholars think this is redundant; that “unto all” is sufficient in the text. But it seems that, if this be so,  a copyist’s eye raced ahead to see the words 

No difference – Paul was thinking of Jews and Non-Jews [Gentiles]. All come by way of faith.

  1. For all have sinned and lacked the Glory of God.

All have sinned – Jews and Non-Jews [Gentiles]. All  “in Adam” were declared by God liable and guilty. [Romans 5 and 6]. The verse that I cherish here is Galatians 5:22, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” And Paul adds Romans 11:32 “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” God wanted to show us His mercy and He wanted us to be reconciled to Him by faith alone. If we were not declared sinners, these provisions of Calvary would not be available to us. We would have to come on our own merit which was not possible because we                                   

Lacked the Glory of God -.We were not holy! We could not relate to Him; A relationship with Him was not possible because His world was spiritual and ours natural;  He is holy but we were carnal.

  1. Being freely declared justified by His grace  through the redemption that is in Christ;

Justified Freely– Some say “being made righteous or being sanctified” which meaning is only disallowed on grammatical grounds. This is the word righteous which has to speak also of the covenant relation we have with God in Christ. In anticipation of our transformation into His image [Romans 8:29] He has already vacated our sentence of death [Romans 8:1].

Grace  Gift. God’s gift is that of Himself! (John 3:16). The gift of reconciliation, of relationship, of righteousness. 

Redemption – a deliverance from the bondage to sin  [Romans 6]  through a ransom [the payment of Jesus’ shed blood [Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6].  “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” [1 Peter 1:18-20]. And if we were purchased by Him, we belong  now to Him! [Ephesians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9]. 

Redemption is from the curse pronounced on Israel upon the reading of the Torah [Deuteronomy 27-29].  Galatians 3:13 speaks of Israel’s being redeemed from this curse. 

In Christ – Paul never calls Christ our redeemer but our redemption. He, His death, is the means by which the curse is fulfilled at Calvary.

  1. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God

Appointed – set forth – “Jesus Christ, whom God settled before hand as the means of propitiation on the condition of faith, through the shedding of his blood.” – Godet

Propitiation – This word used to mean the place where God’s wrath was appeased. Scholars thought it grammatically more sound to say “the means by which God’s wrath was appeased.” Paul’s word is used only here and in Hebrews 9:5 where it literally refers to the “Mercy seat” in the Holy of Holies. So, Wycliff translated it by a new word, “atonement” meaning reconciliation [from the Latin]. Jesus as our redemption was “the means” or the one who through His death would “appease” or deal effectively and totally with sin—as He promised to do [Daniel 9:24].

The propitiation does not represent a change in God’s sentiment (heart) toward us but a change in our relationship with Him, “a higher form of intimate communion.” – Godet

The commonly held view is that propitiation (Christ’s sacrificial death) was “….the indemnity offered to God’s justice to purchase the pardon granted by love” – Godet. but this asks too much of the word.  How was His death propitious? God’s justice was satisfied [Isaiah 53:11].

Through Faith – Solely by trusting Him for Salvation [Romans 4].

In His Blood – “Propitiation does not take place except through faith on the part of the saved, and through blood on the part of the Savior.” – Godet. cp. Revelation 12:11 where “their testimony” reminds us of Romans 10:10 “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

To Declare -to demonstrate [verse 26 explains]. God makes Christ’s death public, broadcasting the news through the ministry of His church [Acts 8:4].

His Righteousness – Covenant Faithfulness and His justice since both are part of His righteousness.

The Remission of — not forgiveness but the word means to pass over or ignore. God tolerated sin without punishing it . “The concept of His holiness was in danger of becoming dim, if not extinct.”

Sins Past – original sin as well as all sins committed before Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

  1. In God’s forbearance toward the demonstration of His righteousness  in the present time to be just and the justifier of him who has  faith [believes] in Jesus.

The forbearance of God – not forgiven but overlooked through forbearance. Forgiven is not at issue, the Covenant is [Leviticus 26:25; Number 14:20]. Christ died not to forgive us but to reconcile us (although I will never argue against forgiveness since it is not reasonable to think God would reconcile us unto Himself without forgiveness). 

Demonstration – to declare or demonstrate His justice and covenant faithfulness. God manifested justice in the Savior’s death. This means He made sure Jesus’ death and resurrection was not done in some private or hidden way. The Cross was on the most public display for all the world to take notice.

“The demonstration of His justice” is a manifestation of Divine Justice. When God manifests, He reveals. It is a revelation [Matthew 16:17]. “You are blessed, Simon; no person shared this insight with you, My Father in Heaven told you this” [Matthew 27:54] 

God presented Christ- Put His own Son on public display—not by accident or mistake but—purposely and being determined before the world was created. “But [we are redeemed] with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” [1 Peter 1:19-20].

But how was Calvary a manifestation of God’s justice? Five reasons why Jesus’ death had to be on public display. 

  1. Because Satan’s defeat must not be a hidden truth. Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.” 
  2. Because God wants all to have opportunity to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 “From His cross there rose the most perfect honor rendered to the righteousness of God. How could His death for our salvation, for the atonement of the world, not be public!? “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The Jewish law is now replaced by a new life in Christ. This needs to be heralded as a public proclamation in the town square. 
  3. Because the harvest is plenteous. Matthew 9:37 The Lord needs laborers. The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few. 
  4. Because God commands or requires repentance for all and He shows no favoritism Acts 17:30 “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent.” 
  5. Because salvation is good news through Christ only. Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” If Salvation is not publicized, how shall the world hear? Romans 10:13-15 And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” “For four thousand years, the spectacle presented by mankind to the whole moral universe was, so to speak, a continual scandal. With the exception of some great examples of judgment, divine righteousness seemed to be asleep…..” Our verse confesses, “God passed over the sins “ But now, Hear ye! Hear ye!! He that hath an ear , let him hear! 

Of His RighteousnessScholarship has put forth great mental effort to define this word in context here, where there is disagreement. Godet argues that if Paul meant: Holiness, grace, truth, faithfulness, or goodness, He would have used these words. Godet defines righteousness here as Justice, which Wright, perceptively and astutely, has tied to the New Covenant. Christ righteousness, as Paul has been saying, is God’s faithfulness to, now, the New Covenant in Christ.

That He might be Just– They He might show Himself faithful to His Word and fair.  Paul explained that we were all considered unfaithful [held in unbelief] so that God could show us His mercy [Romans 11:32]. To be fair God now fulfills His promised to be merciful by Jesus’ death and resurrection. I have no difficulty believing that God’s prescience, knowing Adam and Eve would plunge the human race into sin, planned for our salvation beforehand  [Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4].  

And the Justifier – Calvary was a penal substitution. Jesus died in our place. Therefore Christ’s death was said to be punitive.  In Romans 8:1 the word condemnation is a term of jurisprudence referring to the sentence of death. Believers will not be sentenced to this punishment because Christ was. Christ suffered, not merely on our behalf and for our good, but also in our stead, and bearing that penalty of our sins which we otherwise must ourselves have borne.” [Hebrews 2:9; Titus 2:14; I Timothy 2:6; Galatians 3:13; Luke 22:19, 20; I Peter 2:21; 3:18; 4:I; Romans 5:8; John 10:15.  In all of these verses Christ is said to have died in our place.]

Of Him Which Believes in Jesus – But Salvation requires a trust in the Savior to fulfill this promise. Faith is our part in a covenant relationship with God in which the heart participates by accepting trust and the mouth participates by confessing not denying Christ [Romans 10:9-10].

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