Justification and the Righteousness of God (Romans 3:21-26)

Rom 3:21-26 is regarded by scholars and theologians as "the center and heart" of Romans as as "possibly the most important single paragraph ever written."

Rom 3:21-26 is loaded with key theological terms, and the phrase "the righteousness of God" stands out. This is a great text where Paul brings together so much, which is central to his presentation of the gospel. This passage has almost unparalleled power, not so much in its individual elements but the fact that Paul brings so many things and key ideas together: Our standing before God, how God secured that through Christ on our behalf, the importance of faith, what God did on the cross. (Douglas Moo  The Epistle to the RomansNICNT, 1996. 3:21-23 17 min; 3:24-26 27 min.)
  1. The noun "righteousness" {δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē)} occurs 4 times (Rom 3:21, 22, 25, 26).
  2. The verb "justify" {δικαιόω (dikaioō)} occurs 2 times (Rom 3:24, 26).
  3. The adjective "just" {δίκαιος (dikaios)} occur once (Rom 3:26).
Three significant themes where Paul plays on the language of: [1] righteousness/justify/just, [2] faith (Rom 3:22, 25), [3] universality (Rom 3:23-24). The inclusive nature of faith alike.

The balance of Romans is seen in Rom 3:21 - apart from the law, testified to by the law and the prophets. Continuity and discontinuity. Outside the confines of the law/old covenant. Confused Jews. Trying to put Jesus within the law, like putting new wine into old wineskin. On the other hand, the tendency of some of the Gentiles was to cast Christ loose from the law/OT. This is one big plan of God's salvation history, but divided into 2 stages (old and new).

Righteousness here as in Rom 1:17 is to put people in the right before God comes through the redemption.

Redemption. Paul is a man of the Jewish world and of the Greco-Roman world of his day. We Christians have a foot in the church world and also in the secular world. Redemption is a word used when slaves would purchase their freedom. Slaves were not slaves for life. They could pay a price for their freedom. This is called redemption. Problem: Man's problem is under sin (Rom 3:9). Solution: We need redemption. Man's problem is not just that he does wrong things. If so, he just needs a teacher. Man needs a liberator, redeemer.

Grace is one of Paul's theological axioms. It is one of Paul's worldview where he does not think that he needs to argue for. The very nature of God is that he is not constrained by human beings. God acts toward us in freedom, not forced to give us anything.

  • Sacrifice of atonement (Rom 3:25, NIV; Rom 9:5): the "mercy seat" as the place where God takes care of sin. Also translated "atonement cover."
  • Expiation (Rom 3:25, RSV): "wiping away" sin.
  • Propitiation (Rom 3:25, ESV): "shielding sinners from God's wrath."

1st view becoming increasingly popular (Heb 9:5). Paul is engaging in a typology. The place (mercy seat) where God and his people met on that 1 significant day of the year. God has now set Christ as the new counterpart, where once and for all God deals definitively with human sin.

Rom 3:25-26. On the cross God answered the problem of how to forgive human sin. In God's own justice he could not simply overlook human sin, and must react in wrath. Jesus fully takes on himself God's wrath against sin.

Rom 1:18-3:20 is the preceding section that has amply demonstrated in detail just how much sinful human beings--both Jews and Gentiles, both the religious and the irreligious--are in desperate need of this righteousness.

Rom 3:21-26 falls into four parts:
  1. (Law) The revelation of God's righteousness as it relates to the OT (Rom 3:21).
  2. (Faith) All human beings, equal in sin, have equal access to God's righteousness through faith (Rom 3:22-23).
  3. (Grace) The source of God's righteousness is the gracious provision of Christ as an atoning sacrifice (Rom 3:24-25a).
  4. (Justice) The atonement not only provides for the justification of sinners but also demonstrates the "just-ness" of God throughout the process (Rom 3:25b-26).
"Righteousness of God" in Rom 3:21-22 refer to the justifying act of God, while in Rom 3:25-26 it refers to the "integrity" of God, his always acting in complete accordance with his own character.

Rom 3:21-4:25 (John Stott)
  1. God's Righteousness Revealed in Christ's cross (Rom 3:21-26). This lays the foundation of the gospel of justification.
  2. God's Righteousness Defended Against Criticism (Rom 3:27-31). Defense of this gospel against Jewish critics.
  3. God's Righteousness Illustrated in Abraham (Rom 4:1-25). Abraham was justified by faith and is in consequence the father of all who believe.
God's Righteousness Revealed in Christ's Cross (Rom 3:21-26)

I. The Source of Our Justification: God and His Grace.
II. The Ground of Our Justification: Christ and His Cross.
  1. Redemption.
  2. Propitiation. (1) The need. (2) The author. (3) The nature.
  3. Demonstration.
III. The Means of Our Justification: Faith.

God's Righteousness Defended Against Criticism (Rom 3:27-31). Three Questions:
  1. Where, then, is boasting? (Rom 3:27-28)
  2. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? (Rom 3:29-30)
  3. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith (Rom 3:31)

Romans 3:21-31. Sam Storms.