“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)
“Orthodox Christianity has insisted that the Atonement involves substitution and satisfaction in taking God’s curse upon Himself. Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s holy justice. He received God’s wrath for us, saving us from the wrath that is to come (I Thessalonians 1:10).” Dr. R. C. Sproul
No examination of the atonement by Jesus Christ, the Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), on behalf of sinners would be complete if the student of Scripture did not examine the Apostle Paul’s treatment of the doctrine. While the apostle testifies of the doctrine of atonement in all of his writings, one of the most profound statements concerning substitutionary atonement, and a personal favorite, is found in Romans 3:21-26. It is from this text that our study of the atonement will arrive to a fitting and profound conclusion.
The Epistle to the Romans begins by setting forth the truth that all mankind are condemned before God as sinners and are under His divine wrath (Romans 1:18-3:8). The Apostle Paul brings this truth home in a series of quotations from the Old Testament in Romans 3:9-20 where he concludes, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
The wonderful news of salvation from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence in the believer’s life begins with the first two words in Romans 3:21: “But now.” The conjunction “but” introduces a contrast to what the Apostle Paul has previously said. The adverb “now” means that the apostle is prepared to share some new information that he has yet to reveal. What wonderful news it is.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—.” Paul labored to explain that fallen man is guilty before God. God declares the sinner unrighteousness in His sight (Romans 3:20). However, there is a righteousness which God alone possesses and which He has chosen to make known.
This righteousness belonging to God is separate from the law. In other words, this righteousness is independent of the law. No good works of our own, or our obedience to the law, can procure or acquire this right standing before and with God (Rom. 4:15; Gal. 2:16; 3:10–11; 5:1–2, 6; Eph. 2:8–9; cf. Phil. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5).
However, while the righteousness of God is not obtained by the law, the law does testify and declare the truth of God’s righteousness. Paul spoke of this in Romans 1:1-2 which says, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,”
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Paul’s Jewish antagonists accused him of preaching a revolutionary new message unrelated to Judaism (Acts 21:28). But the OT is replete with prophecies concerning Christ and the gospel (1 Pet. 1:10–12; cf. Matt. 5:17; Heb. 1:1). This righteousness is unique: 1) God is its source (Isa. 45:8); 2) it fulfills both the penalty and precept of God’s law. Christ’s death as a substitute pays the penalty exacted on those who failed to keep God’s law, and his perfect obedience to every requirement of God’s law fulfills God’s demand for comprehensive righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; cf. Heb. 9:28); and 3) because God’s righteousness is eternal (Ps. 119:142; Isa. 51:8; Dan. 9:24), the one who receives it from him enjoys it forever.”
Thank you Lord for your righteousness which you have imputed and credited to this fallen sinner. You have done this by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Amen!
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!