by Mike Ratliff
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:21-26 ESV)
This morning in Church I heard an incredibly succinct description of how a preacher is to correctly preach. Those who do it right read out loud to their hearers what the Word of God says. Then they exegetically expound to them what it says. All of this is bathed in prayer in total reliance on the moving of the Holy Spirit to move people to obey God’s Word. Those who do it this way do so in obedience to their Lord while those who seek to entertain and never offend anyone are in unbelief and are actually in disobedience to their calling. In fact, if we obediently preach God’s Word then there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. What we must do is make sure that we fear God instead of man and that we obey Him in proclaiming His Word rather than seek to please men because if we do the latter we prove we are actually ashamed of the gospel.
The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can be broken down into two main parts. First there is the bad news, which is, “No One is Righteous!” Second there is the good news, which is that there is, “The Only Way of Salvation!” First, the bad news.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20 ESV)
There are only two groups of people in the world according to Jewish theology. There are Jews and Gentiles. In v9 above Paul referred to these Gentiles as Greeks. However, according to Christian theology, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. As we see in vv10-20 there are 14 indictments against all people regardless of their race or heritage or their religiosity. No one is exempt. The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul tells us the rugged truth about ourselves. In v10 we learn that none of us are righteous without exception. That means that none of us, in and of ourselves, are righteous enough to be acceptable to God to escape His judgment against all sin. God is Holy and Just and He cannot even look upon sin. As we go through these indictments think of the 10 Commandments and how there is not one of them that any of us have been able to keep. Remember, in His Sermon on the Mount our Lord raised the bar considerably by equating lust with adultery and hatred with murder.
In v11 we learn that the natural man does not understand God’s truth nor does anyone seek after God to learn His truth. In v12 the Holy Spirit makes it clear that not one us has been able to keep the Law for we have all turned aside. Because of this, all of us are worthless and unprofitable and unfit for the Kingdom of God. None of us does good, not one of us for even when we try to do good, what we do becomes tainted with sin. In v13 the Holy Spirit gets more personal and shows us how what comes out of our mouths is full of death and deceit. We are liars full of poison. In v14 we learn that our mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. In v15 we see that all of us guilty of hatred and therefore, murder. In v16 we see that because of all of this the way of man will never be free from destruction and misery. In v17 we see that our utter depravity means that peace is impossible. Lastly, we see in v18 that there is no fear of God before our eyes.
Our hearts are idol factories and even when we think we are being religious enough to please God all we are doing is worshipping what we want in rebellion against God because the natural man has no fear of Him. In our day when we preach what God’s Word says there is always a howl of protest from very religious people who insist on flexibility and compromise. They say that the heart of the Gospel is the love of God for man and that Jesus just loves everyone. However, that is not the heart of the Gospel. The Heart of the Gospel if found in Romans 3:21- 26, which is good news indeed!
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 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. 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. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)
21νυνι δε χωρις νομου δικαιοσυνη θεου πεφανερωται μαρτυρουμενη υπο του νομου και των προφητων 22δικαιοσυνη δε θεου δια πιστεως [ιησου] χριστου εις παντας τους πιστευοντας ου γαρ εστιν διαστολη 23παντες γαρ ημαρτον και υστερουνται της δοξης του θεου 24δικαιουμενοι δωρεαν τη αυτου χαριτι δια της απολυτρωσεως της εν χριστω ιησου 25ον προεθετο ο θεος ιλαστηριον δια πιστεως εν τω αυτου αιματι εις ενδειξιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτου δια την παρεσιν των προγεγονοτων αμαρτηματων 26εν τη ανοχη του θεου προς την ενδειξιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτου εν τω νυν καιρω εις το ειναι αυτον δικαιον και δικαιουντα τον εκ πιστεως ιησου (Romans 3:21-26 WHNU)
Never forget my brethren, the only ones who will spend eternity with our Lord in Heaven will possess the righteousness of God. V21 begins with the Greek words νυνι δε or “now but.” This is the turning point from all of the bad news we just read in vv9-20 that make it clear that not one of us possesses this righteousness. We prove it succinctly by it NOT being manifest in us naturally. Instead, the best we can ever do is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) when compared to the purity and cleanliness of this righteousness, which is is the requirement for citizenship in Heaven. The words translated here as “the righteousness of God” are δικαιοσυνη θεου. I prefer to understand this as “righteousness from God.” This righteousness is the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. It is unique because God is its source (Isaiah 45:8) and it fulfills both the penalty and precept of God’s law. In v21 we read that this righteousness from God has been manifested [πεφανερωται] apart [χωρις] from the law [νομου ]. Remember, if any of us are judged by the law or our righteousness is gauged by how well we have kept the law, we stand no chance. However, the good news is that righteousness has been manifested apart from the law.
What is the criteria for receiving it? We have our answer in v22. The manifestation of the righteousness from God is through faith [πιστεως] in Jesus Christ for all who believe [πιστευοντας] with no distinction of race or religiosity or social status or how well the law was kept, et cetera.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
What makes this possible? We have our answer in vv24-25. Here they are again.
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 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. (Romans 3:24-25 ESV)
I have bolded the two key words in this passage that I would like for us to examine a bit more closely. The first is redemption [απολυτρωσεως]. This word gives us the picture of a ransom being paid in full in order to redeem one in some sort of permanent bondage like a slave. The act of redemption was made as our Lord Jesus Christ was put forward as a propitiation [ιλαστηριον] by his blood… This word in Greek was borrowed from Hebrew. It refers to the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant viewed as a substitute for the sins of the people as the High Priest would sprinkle it with the blood of the atoning sacrifice. Christ is the propitiation for those He has redeemed with his blood. At this propitiation, He took the wrath and judgment of God upon Himself on the Cross as the substitute for those He came to redeem, to save. Who is saved by this? It is only those who receive this gift by faith.
The bad news is indeed very bad. All of us are guilty before God and have no ability to redeem ourselves nor any desire in ourselves to do so. We are dead in our trespasses and sins with no ability to even understand our situation. However, God, being rich in mercy has provided the one and only way to salvation and that is through faith in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour. This is how believers receive this free gift.
I ask right now that all reading this examine themselves. Have you broken God’s law? If you have, and we all have done so, then you are guilty of the whole law. Are you depending upon your religiosity to be an acceptable sacrifice to atone for your sins? Are you depending upon your good works to be an acceptable sacrifice to atone for your sins? Do you believe that you are “good enough” that you will be accepted by God and He will not judge your sins because of that? If you are in any of these boats then you are in severe trouble because the only righteousness that is acceptable to God is His, which comes from Him. Who has it? Only those who have received salvation as a gift through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in complete recognition that they are undeserving sinners and that the righteousness they are receiving is that of their propitiation. Examine yourselves my brethren. If you are being convicted that you are lost and separate from God then please fall before Him now in prayer to plead for your soul. Ask Him to save you and then receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. I have prayed to God that all who are lost who read this will be saved through His Mercy and Grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!