How can a holy and
righteous God be just and holy and at the same time
allow sinful man to come into His presence?
The Bible clearly teaches
that God is holy, and in His holy character, He will
not allow sin in His presence.
It also teaches that man
is a sinful creature. In fact, he is dead in his
sins and trespasses. Our moral attitudes and
behaviors separate us from God. All sinners must pay
a terrible penalty. "The wages of sin is death . .
." (Romans 6:23a).
Romans 3:21-26 is
"possibly the most important single paragraph ever
written." In it Paul brings out something of the
grandeur of Christ’s saving work. He views salvation
in three ways: as justification (imagery from the
law court), as redemption (imagery from the slave
market), and as propitiation (imagery from the
averting of wrath of God).
Why is such a question
critical for us today? It is because our eternal
destiny hinges on an accurate understanding of the
answer. Where will you spend eternity? On this
subject we had better make sure we have the right
answers. Our sacred opinions, and philosophies, or
religious undertakings won't do. What does God say?
WE HAVE ALL SINNED
There are no double
standards with God.
By His own character, God
must be perfectly consistent with Himself. He cannot
break His own Law nor violate His own nature. This
truth is explained in the first three chapters of
the Apostle Paul's letter to Rome. "The wrath of God
is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men . . ." (Romans 1:18).
There are no
distinctions with God.
Both Jewish and no-Jewish
people have fallen short of the glory of God.
Everyone in the entire world has sinned and fallen
short of or lacks the glory of God. God’s law
demands absolute perfection. No one is perfect in
God’s sight. Man has no merit at all; his sin has
disqualified him in the heavenly court.
No one can base his hope
for acceptance with God on his own goodness. We are
all guilty before Him.
Then the question
naturally comes to our mind, How can God be both
"just and the justifier" of those who are sinners?
FROM GOD (3:21-22)
God came to the
God does this without
sacrificing His righteousness. The gift of God is a
righteous standing with Him.
God did it out of love.
God loves the sinner. Romans 5:6-8 says, "For while
we were still helpless, at the right time Christ
died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a
righteous man; though perhaps for the good man
someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates
His own love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us."
goes into effect apart from the law (3:21-23).
"But now apart from the
Law the righteousness of God has been manifested,
being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus
Christ for all those who believe; for there is no
distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God" (Romans 3:21-23).
It is not something you
can earn; it is a gift. You cannot earn it by being
obedient to God’s law. You cannot earn it by doing
your best to please God. There is no way you can
measure up to God's standards. It is a righteousness
"apart from the works of the law." It is apart from
the law of any kind. It is a gift of grace.
It is important to keep
in mind the law could demand perfect righteousness,
but it was powerless to produce the perfect
righteousness that God demands. The reason is
because man is sinful at the very core of his
nature. Depraved sinful man cannot produce
righteousness in God’s sight no matter how many laws
Paul can hear the
emotional plea of some of his readers: "What about
those of us who have tried hard to please God by
means of our effort to live in harmony with God’s
law? You don't suggest this is in vain, do you? Are
we no better than those who do not obey the law? Is
there no distinction been them and us? Why this is
There are those who
believe that saving grace depends upon what the
penitent does or fails to do, be it in ever so
refined form. They teach not only grace but also
good works contributes to justification. The
problem, however, is this is teaching a salvation by
works. It goes completely against the main thrust of
the Scriptures which stresses salvation by grace
through faith in Christ alone.
Our spiritual equation
goes like this: Christ + _____________ =
righteousness with God. You fill in the blank.
Christ + "my virtue," or Christ + "my good works of
righteousness," or Christ + "my baptism," or Christ
+ "my church membership," etc.
The correct equation is:
Christ + nothing = a right relationship with God.
The Bible clearly teaches
that salvation is a gift from God that is received
by faith in Jesus Christ. Look up in your Bible and
study Romans 1:17; 3:28; 4:3, 6-8; Galatians 2:16,
21; 3:10-13; Ephesians 2:9; Philippians 3:9; II
Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5.
The Law and the prophets
testified to the gift of God. The Law provided a
system of offerings and sacrifices that men could
bring to the altar in the Temple. This system looked
forward to and pictured the death of Jesus as "the
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world"
JUSTIFICATION IS BY
GRACE THROUGH FAITH (3:22, 24-25)
Paul now tells us how we
can receive this gift from God.
There is only one way to
receive it and that is through faith in Jesus
Christ. It is by faith in Christ that you come to a
right standing with God. He is the Savior. He alone
saves us. It is a living relationship with Christ.
What is faith?
Faith is not trying to
obey and fulfill some kind of law. It is not working
ourselves up to a certain emotional level. It is not
doing our best to try to live up to some religious
or moral standard. Trying to live up to someone's
law, no matter where it comes from, is not faith.
That is living by works. Faith is not expecting God
to accept you because you have tried your very best
to live a certain way. God does not love and accept
you because you have tried hard to do what you think
God’s righteousness comes
to all who exercise faith in Jesus Christ (3:22).
The object of Paul's
faith is Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:21; John 3:16; 14:6;
"Righteousness is granted
to all, and only to those who put their faith in
Jesus Christ. Even the righteousness of God through
faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for
there is no distinction; for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God" (vv. 22–23).
God grants this righteous
relationship as a gift, without payment made by the
one who receives it. It is granted without any human
merit. By His grace beautifully expresses Paul's
idea of salvation as a gift. Read at your
convenience First Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4.
The basis of
justification by faith (vv. 24-25).
Paul continues, "being
justified as a gift by His grace through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God
displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood
through faith. This was to demonstrate His
righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He
passed over the sins previously committed" (vv.
Justification is a
forensic term meaning to declare righteous. It
stands over against condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33,
34). However, God did not declare man free without
doing something about his sins. Remember that God
had to be true to His character. He is holy, and His
holiness demands that He deal with sin.
The Apostle Paul tells us
God redeemed through the death of Jesus Christ.
"Redemption" indicates deliverance by means of the
payment of a ransom. God removed the barrier of the
wrath of God against sinners by the payment of the
propitiation. The wrath removing sacrifice of Jesus
turned the wrath of God away from the guilty sinner.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the
word for "propitiation" indicates the
blood-sprinkled lid of the Ark of the Covenant, or
The important thing to
bring out in this word is that what God did in
Christ averted the divine wrath from sinners.
God's righteousness is
satisfied by the death of Christ. The death of
Christ is a "propitiatory sacrifice." God's justice
is satisfied in the death of Jesus. Now God can
declare, "There is now no condemnation for those who
are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
satisfaction. God's holy wrath is satisfied by the
death of Jesus as a payment for the penalty of our
sin. God's justice is satisfied. Christ's death is
the only sufficient payment for sin. My sin debt has
been paid in full.
The sacrifice does not go
into effect automatically, however. Sinful man must
trust in Christ. The believing sinner is justified
by faith in Christ.
Justification is the
sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous
the believing sinner while he is still in his sinful
condition. It is a judicial act whereby God declares
the sinner acquitted. In a divine act God declares a
sinner who believes on the atoning sacrifice of
Christ absolutely acceptable to God from the moment
he trusts in Christ's payment for his sin.
Since the Father is
satisfied with His Son, He is also satisfied with
those who believe in His Son. By faith we have
identified ourselves with Jesus Christ. If God is
satisfied then why can't we be satisfied?
God imputes (reckons,
charges to the account) the sinner’s guilt to Christ
and His righteousness is imputed to the sinner
(Psalm 32:1, 2; Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 5:18, 19; II
Corinthians 5:21). Imputation is the reckoning or
"charging to the account" of one what properly
belongs to the account of another. Because of the
redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, God imputes
or credits our sin to the person of Jesus Christ and
imputes His righteousness to our account through
faith in Him. The word used is the verb logizomai
which means "to count, reckon, credit, charge to the
account of another."
Paul tells us in Second
Corinthians 5:21, "He (God) made Him (Christ) who
knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him." Jesus
Christ had no personal experience with sin. He was
morally free of sin. He was not a sinner. However,
God "treated as sin" the one "who knew no sin." No
wonder He cried from the cross, "My God, My God, why
hast Thou forsaken Me?" He was the sinless One dying
for the condemned sinner who is worthy of the death
penalty. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans
6:23a). All of our sins were imputed to Christ who
was sinless. He died representing the guilty sinner!
No wonder David can cry out in his psalm, "How
blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose
sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the
LORD does not impute iniquity" (Psalm 32:1–2).
Moreover, Paul goes on to
tell us the purpose of Christ's death, "so that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him." This
is the only way we can obtain God's righteousness.
God imputes Christ's righteousness to our account
the moment we believe on Him. This is the only way
sinful man can ever have a right relationship with
LET ME ILLUSTRATE FROM
THE OLD TESTAMENT (4:1-25)
The Apostle Paul says,
"Let me illustrate this fact. Here is an example
from the Old Testament."
"For what does the
Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was
credited to him as righteousness." Now to the one
who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but
as what is due. But to the one who does not work,
but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his
faith is credited as righteousness, just as David
also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God
credits righteousness apart from works:
"Blessed are those whose
lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins
have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the
Lord will not take into account" (vv. 3–8).
Jews supposed Abraham was
justified by works or the works of the flesh
Paul declares faith saved
him (vv. 3-5). Paul is referring us back to Genesis
chapter fifteen. God appeared to Abraham one clear
night and showed him the sky full stars. "Look up at
the sky, Abe." The sky was full of glory with stars
blazing from horizon to horizon. God said, "If you
can number the stars, you can number your
descendants. They will number far more than all the
stars of heaven." The Apostle Paul said, "Abraham
believed God, and it was reckoned to him as
righteousness" (Cf. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).
Abraham believed God.
Abraham received the gift
of righteousness 430 years before the Law was given
to Moses. The object of your faith is the important
thing. It is not a question of how big or how little
your faith is, but in whom you have fixed your
faith. The question is how big is your God?
Abraham's faith grew over
a 25–year period. He came to realize that God is the
One who raises the dead! (vv. 17–18). He is the God
who makes dead things live. He calls into existence
the things that do not exist. He is the Creator.
Abraham fixed his faith on God. He looked at his
sexually dead body and remembered that God raises
the dead. He is the God who calls into existence
that which does not exist. Is there anything too
hard for God when He says He will do it? Do you
worship a God who can rise the dead and call into
existence that which does not exist?
The key word in Romans
chapter four is "reckoned" (vv. 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9,
11, 22, 23, 24). It means to charge to his account,
to credit something to someone's financial account.
Abraham believed God would do what He said He would
do. God transferred righteousness to Abraham's
account. Works earns a wage; believing receives a
Jesus Christ fulfilled
all the promises that Abraham would have a heavenly
seed as well as earthly seed. Christ rose from the
dead as a living Lord to give life to men and women
thus fulfilling the promise to Abraham. Abraham
believed God's promise about the seed and was
Did Abraham earn that
righteousness? Verse five says, no. It was a gift
from God. If you work for something, then it is
never a gift. It is what you have earned. You get it
because of your labor. It is an obligation to you. A
gift is never an obligation.
King David is
justified by faith (4:6-9).
David is another
outstanding Old Testament saint who comes to Paul's
mind. David was a good, upright, righteous,
law-abiding citizen, wasn't he? Didn't keeping the
law save him? No, he wasn't; he was an adulterer and
a murderer with blood on his hands. He was guilty.
Then how in the world would God save Him?
He was lost in his sins
and "God reckons righteousness apart from works"
(vv. 6-8). He was the recipient of God's grace. He
humbled his heart and asked God to forgive him of
his transgressions. He believed God's word.
Abraham's being a
Jewish person did not save him (4:10–12).
Romans 4:9-13, 16
clarifies this point for Paul. Abe was circumcised
14 years after he believed the promise! Besides, the
circumcision was only a sign of righteousness that
he had already received by faith. The Jewish people
thought that circumcision was what made a man
acceptable to God. We have many today who think that
baptism is what makes a man acceptable. Neither
circumcision nor baptism does. Abraham was a Gentile
when he believed the promise of God! The sign of the
covenant came years later.
Was it because he
fulfilled the Law? No, the law was given to Moses
430 years after Abe lived!
ARGUMENTS FOR JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE (VV.
In regard to the promise
God gave Abe that he would have the son of the
promise, Abe for all practical purposes was a dead
man. He was 100 years old, and his body was now dead
in its ability to produce children. Sarah's womb was
barren. He was too old to have children, but he took
God at His word. He believed God. He is the One who
calls into existence that which does not exist. He
gives life to the dead (vv. 17-22).
Our sin debt has been
paid in full by Jesus Christ (vv. 24-25). Jesus took
the bill and paid it in full on Calvary. The payment
was His own blood. Jesus rose from the dead and
presented the bill as paid to His Father who stamped
it "Paid in Full" and gave it to His Son. The Son
has the receipt to prove it.
Salvation comes by faith
alone in Jesus Christ. The Lord says to us, "Take
it. It is free. I have paid the cost for you." There
is nothing you can do, but receive it by faith. Take
God at His word and rest securely on it.
The justified sinner is
still a sinner and not without personal sins, but he
is still viewed and treated as righteous by God and
justly so because of the gift of Christ’s
righteousness by imputation. The believer stands in
the righteousness of Jesus Christ and his sins are
not imputed to him.
Justification does not
mean "to make righteous." Justification means that
God accepts us and views us as righteous in Christ
even though in our experience we will commit acts of
sin or unrighteousness. We will not be perfect in
our daily condition until the day we see Jesus
Christ in heaven. But we are saved sinners.
The Bible says, "As many
as received him, to them he gave the power to become
the sons of God (John 1:12). Has there come a time
in your life when you opened your life to Christ and
asked Him to be your Lord and Savior? Romans 10:9–11
says, " that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as
Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him
from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart
a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and
with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him
will not be disappointed.'"
Salvation is not
universally and automatically applied to people. You
are saved when you personally believe on Jesus
Christ. Faith is the hand that receives the gift
that God freely offers. You must receive it by
faith. The moment you add works, or merit, or church
membership, or baptism, you destroy the grace of
God. God freely, completely, and wholly saves us. It
is His work alone. We do not contribute anything to
it. We are "justified freely by His grace."
There is only one sin
today that can keep a person separated from God and
lost. It is the sin of rejection of Christ as your
Let's suppose for a
moment that I died tonight and stood before the LORD
God who is the Supreme Judge of the Universe. No
doubt He would ask me, "Wil Pounds, why should I let
you into my heaven? You are a guilty sinner. How do
My response would be, "I
plead guilty, Your Honor."
My advocate, Jesus
Christ, who is standing there beside me, speaks up
for me. He says, "Your Honor. It is true that Wil
Pounds is grievous sinner. He is guilty. He deserves
eternal punishment for his sinfulness. However,
Father, I died for him on the cross and rose from
the dead. Wil Pounds has put his faith and trust in
Me and all that I have done for Him on the Cross. He
is a believer. I died for him, and he has accepted
Me as his substitute."
The Lord God turns to me
and says, "Is that true?"
I will respond to Him,
"Yes sir! That is the truth. I am claiming the shed
blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse me of all my sins.
I have put my faith in Jesus to save me for all
eternity. This is what You have promised in your
word. Jesus said, 'For God so loved the world (and
this includes Wil Pounds), that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should
not perish, but have everlasting life."
The Lord God responds:
"Acquitted! By order of this court, I demand that
you be set free. The price has been paid by My Son."
The truth is we all "fall
short" in our effort to attain a relationship with
the holy God. We need someone to rescue us and set
us free. That person has to be a substitute for us
because sin requires the death penalty. We need
someone who is holy and just in the eyes of the LORD
God. Only He can satisfy the holy eyes of God. God
in His rich mercy toward us sinners provided
Acts 4:12; John 3:17-18,
36; 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9
We don't receive God's
forgiveness just once for all. It is something we do
repeatedly. It is the very basis on which we as
Christians live. We constantly take the fresh
forgiveness from the hand of God. It is something we
do daily. It is His gift to us who believe. It is
already paid for. All we have to do is receive it by
faith. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and
just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us for
all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Our Savior stands
ready to forgive us right now and renew our
fellowship with Him. If you have put your faith in
Him you are his dear child and that will never
change! Claim your inheritance in Christ.
Want to know more about
your position in Christ? Try these Bible studies
In this passage of
Scripture it is crucial for us to bear in mind that
we have been describing the Christian life. It
begins with a spiritual birth. If you are not
bearing fruit it may be because you have never been
born again. That is where this kind of life begins.
We are always ready to help you put your faith and
trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Here
is where you can find out how to trust in Christ as
your Savior. How to Experience Peace with God
. If you need help in
becoming a Christian here is
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3:21-4:25 Abiding in Faith
Life in Romans