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6. Justification: A Divine Perspective (Romans 3:21-26)

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 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; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.102

Preview

The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel (1:17). His righteousness is demonstrated in His judgment of sin (1:18–3:20). It is also demonstrated by His provision for man’s salvation—when the penalty for men’s sins was borne by our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered God’s righteous wrath in man’s place (3:21-26). All men, both Jews and Gentiles, are unrighteous sinners, with no human hope of entering into God’s kingdom to delight in the glory of God for all eternity. The righteousness God requires for eternal life, which all men lack, God has provided in Jesus Christ. In His provision of righteousness and salvation for condemned sinners, God’s righteousness was publicly demonstrated.

As men, we see God’s provision of righteousness from a human point of view. As fallen men, we distort even what we see in God’s provision of His righteousness by looking at it merely from a human perspective. Romans 1:18–3:20 is thought of in terms of our need for righteousness, and Romans 3:21-26 is seen as God’s provision of righteousness to meet our need. Although true, this is not the primary emphasis of our text. Here Paul examines the doctrine of salvation from God’s point of view. Man’s salvation through God’s provision of righteousness becomes here a secondary theme. The primary theme is the demonstration of God’s righteousness, through His provision of righteousness for sinners. God is in the spotlight, not men.

Introduction

One of my college professors served in the armed forces during World War II. While he and a handful of men were stationed on a remote Pacific island, they suddenly were surrounded by thousands of Japanese troops. There was no fight. The American troops only managed to sabotage some of their equipment before the Japanese troops overpowered them. Eventually my professor was taken to a remote location in Japan as a P.O.W. It was many months before the war’s end and his release. Determined to keep their minds active and alert, he and other P.O.W.’s organized classes and discussion groups. One class, taught by the captain of the Queen of England’s royal yacht, held many interesting stories of the royal family. Another class, American History, was taught by a British professor, from a British point of view.

Each of us views life from a certain perspective. That perspective is shaped in part by our experiences, our decisions, and our character. Certainly a British subject would view American history from a different perspective than an American. North Vietnamese and American historians would see the history of the Viet Nam war quite differently; yet a different perspective would be held by a Swiss historian as his country was not involved in the conflict. Our perspective has everything to do with the way we understand history.103

The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary is the most important event in all of human history. The cross of Calvary is understood in many different ways, even by Christians. As men, all of us tend to view the work of Calvary differently than Paul presents it here in Romans 3:21-26. We think mainly of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead. Yet in our text, Paul speaks primarily of the first Person of the Godhead, God the Father. We think mainly of God’s provision of that righteousness which we lack and which we need for eternal life. Yet Paul speaks primarily in this passage of the righteousness of God which is demonstrated in the redemption of fallen sinners. While we see the cross from a human point of view, Paul’s words here enable us to view the cross from God’s point of view. The way we live as Christians is greatly influenced by this significant difference in perspective. A life-changing truth is taught in this marvelous text. Let us consider it carefully, and diligently seek to understand our salvation from God’s point of view.

The Context

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:21 begins a new section in the Book of Romans. Our study must start by reviewing what Paul has already taught which prepares us for his new line of thought. After his introduction in 1:1-17, Paul lays a foundation for his epistle by establishing man’s sinful condition, resulting in divine condemnation. Paul summarizes man’s condition in these words: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man’s unrighteousness is evident in his rejection of the revelation of who God is, of what He is like, and of His standards for man’s conduct. God’s righteousness is evident in His response to man’s rejection of the truth and his rebellion against God; God’s righteousness is manifested in His wrath toward sin.

Because man rejects or distorts that which God reveals about Himself in creation, and chooses to worship something other than the Creator (1:18-32), all mankind stands guilty of sin. Paul is not willing to stop here; he is not content to speak only in general terms of man’s sin and condemnation. He is all too aware of the pride and self-righteousness of his Jewish brethren, according to the flesh. While more than willing to acknowledge and condemn the Gentile’s sins, many Jews were unwilling to admit their own sin. Some even boldly admitted their sin, while still expecting God’s blessings despite their condition and conduct. In chapter 2, Paul charges the Jews with hypocrisy, as they fail to live by the same standard they hold in their judgment and teaching of others. Paul deals in chapter 3 with some of their objections (3:1-18), turning to the Old Testament Scriptures to show that both Jews and Gentiles fall under divine condemnation as sinners (3:10-18).

Paul seeks to silence once and for all the self-righteous Jews. His words are intended to prevent them from offering any further objections or excuses for their sin. The two closing verses of his first major argument (verses 19 and 20) turn the Jews’ attention to the Old Testament Law, the Law in which they take great pride, believing it will make them righteous while it condemns the Gentiles as sinners.

If man’s rejection of the revelation of God in creation is sufficient to condemn the Gentiles, the Jews’ rejection of the Law brings even greater guilt and condemnation. The Jews used the Law as a standard for judging and condemning the Gentiles, failing to live by this standard themselves (see 2:1ff.). Paul now reminds the Jews that the Law “speaks to those under the Law,” so that every mouth may be shut and every man be shown to be a sinner (3:19). The Law speaks to the Jews and not to the Gentiles. The Law speaks to those under the Law and not to those without the Law. The Law condemns the Jews and renders them speechless and defenseless before a righteous God. To the Jew’s list of guilty sinners, which included all the Gentiles, Paul adds all the Jews, condemned by the very Law in which they take great pride. All the world now stands condemned before God.

Contrary to Jewish thinking, the Law did not provide them with a means of earning righteousness. Paul teaches that the Law served only to demonstrate man’s lack of righteousness and his need for a righteousness obtained apart from law-keeping. The Law was not meant to save but to condemn. Thus, salvation does not come through the Law but “apart” from it. Paul proves precisely this in Romans 3:21–5:21.

As we reach this new section in Romans 3:21, the righteousness of God now becomes evident in salvation. God saves men by judging their sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. God provides the righteousness of His Son, received by faith, so that men may be justified in His sight. The relationship of Paul’s argument in Romans 3:21–5:21 to what he has already taught in Romans may be summed up this way:

  • Paul’s calling, the gospel and this epistle (1:1-15)
  • The righteousness of God in the gospel (1:16-17)
  • The righteousness of God in His judgment of sin (1:18–3:20)
  • The righteousness of God in His judgment of His Son (3:21–5:21)

 

The Righteousness of God
Demonstrated in Justification by Faith
(3:21-26)

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith104 in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 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; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The key phrase of verse 21 is “apart from the law.” According to Paul’s words, the105 righteousness of God is “now” evident is some new and different way, “apart from the106 Law.” The “apartness” from the Law, Paul informs us, is not a total “apartness.” The righteousness of God “now” revealed is that to which the Law and the Prophets bear witness. There is then a clear relationship between the righteousness of God and the Law. Precisely what the relationship is between the righteousness of God now revealed and the Law must be carefully determined and defined. The following statements concerning the demonstration of the righteousness of God and the Law serve to define this relationship.

(1) The present demonstration of the righteousness of God is that to which the Law bears witness. Righteousness is defined by the Law. Because it defines righteousness and unrighteousness, the Law condemns all mankind, for no man will ever meet God’s standard of righteousness as laid down in the Law. Furthermore, while the Law informs men of their inability to attain righteousness by their own works, it promises a righteousness God Himself provides (see, for example, Deuteronomy 5:29; 9:4-6; 18:14-19; 29:4; 30:1-20). When the righteousness of God was revealed through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the standard which the Law laid down was met. The Law continues to bear witness that Jesus is righteous, and that He is the Righteous One whom God promised would come to save His people from their sins. Jesus could rightly appeal to the Law as His witness, as proof of His identity as Messiah. The Law therefore defines true righteousness and declares that this righteousness would be manifested apart from the law-keeping of the Israelites, in God’s time.

(2) The demonstration of the righteousness of God is not accomplished by law-keeping. Keeping the Law cannot justify men or reveal the righteousness of God. While the Law defined righteousness and declared that it would come, the Law did not produce this righteousness. The Law’s function is something like the role of the Olympic judges. The judges recognize the best performance and announce the winner, but the winning performance is achieved apart from the judges. The judges cannot perform that which they praise; they can only identify that which is praiseworthy. The judges can take no credit for the excellence of the performer.

(3) The righteousness of God was manifested “apart from Law” and thus independently of Judaism. Judaism did not contribute to or produce the promised righteousness of God. The Jews boasted in their possession of the Law. They should not have done so. It made them neither more righteous nor better than the Gentiles. A standard far too high for any Jew to live up to, the Law condemned the Jews as sinners just like the Gentiles. Paul emphasizes this in verses 19 and 20. But here, Paul shows that the demonstration of the righteousness of God has come about independently of the Law, so far as its accomplishment is concerned.

God’s righteousness was not being revealed for the first time. His righteousness is evident in everything He does. God’s righteousness is evident in His giving men over to their sin, as a present manifestation of His wrath toward sin (see 1:18ff.). But now, with the earthly appearance of Jesus Christ, God’s righteousness is revealed in yet another way. It is revealed in Jesus Christ and in His work of redemption.

While this present manifestation of God’s righteousness in Christ is new in terms of time (“But now,” verse 21), it is not utterly new in kind. In the past, God’s righteousness was revealed by His wrath toward sin as it was poured out upon sinful men. The present manifestation of God’s righteousness is revealed by the outpouring of His wrath on His only Son, who bore the sins of the world.

Paul emphasizes not only that God has supplied the righteousness which all men lack, but he emphasizes the way in which God has supplied it. God’s righteousness has been provided in a way that is righteous. In Paul’s own words, “… that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26b). The words “just” and “justifier” are both renderings of the root term for righteous. And so we could render Paul’s words, “… that He might be righteous and the One who makes the one who has faith in Jesus righteous.”

The righteousness which God provides for sinners is not bestowed with partiality, as many Jews supposed. God’s righteousness is given to men as a gift, on the basis of faith, and not on the basis of works. It is offered to all men, because all are sinners, both Jews and Gentiles. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “All” men, without distinction, are condemned sinners, and consequently, they have no human hope of heaven (“the glory of God,” see Romans 5:2). Since no man can justly be declared righteous on the basis of his performance, righteousness is freely given, by grace, on the basis of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ (3:24).

God has established and declared His standards for men. He has defined both the conduct which He declares to be righteousness and its rewards. He has also declared that conduct which is sin, the penalty for which is eternal judgment:

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:5-11).

All men fail to meet God’s standards for righteousness. All men deserve God’s wrath. For God to save men righteously, the penalty for their sins must be paid, and the righteousness they lack must be provided. This has been accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ. He was without sin, yet He bore the sins of men. He endured the righteous wrath of God on Calvary. He offers men His righteousness as a free gift, apart from human merit. His death redeems fallen men, because He paid the price; He suffered the penalty for man’s sin.

Redemption” (verse 24) refers to the price that was paid and the debt that was canceled, due to our Lord’s sacrificial death on Calvary. “Propitiation” (verse 25) refers to the satisfaction of God’s righteous anger, so that He can now deal with men graciously and benevolently. The concepts of “redemption” and “propitiation” are used to demonstrate and draw our attention to the justice of God. God has set the sinner free through Christ, but He has not done so by setting aside the rules. He has set the sinner free in Christ by satisfying the demands of God’s justice in Christ. Due to sin, a penalty was to be meted out and a price was to be paid. Christ paid that price and suffered that penalty (“redemption”). God’s divine wrath had to be appeased, due to man’s sin; Christ has appeased that wrath (“propitiation”).

The penalty which our Lord endured on the sinner’s behalf was suffered publicly:

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; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).

God had passed over many of the sins of men. He did not immediately execute the death sentence, though men deserved to die. Had he done so, all opportunity for guilty sinners to be saved would have been lost forever. Thus, God withheld His full and final punishment in order that some might be saved (see Romans 9:22-23). His passing over sin is seen in various times and places (see, for example, Genesis 15:12-16; 18:22-33;107 Acts 14:16; 17:30). The most dramatic illustration of this passing over of man’s sins is seen in the annual Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16), when punishment for the sins of the nation Israel was delayed yet another year (see Hebrews 9:1–10:18).

God publicly demonstrated His righteousness in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, in the sinner’s place. In the Person of Christ, sin was publicly punished so that the righteousness of God might be demonstrated, for all to see. So too the final judgment of the world will be very public. Since the demonstration of God’s righteousness was God’s purpose, no private execution of our Lord was possible.

God provided men with a righteousness which would result in their salvation, and He did so in a way that demonstrated His righteousness. God spared nothing, not even the incomprehensible suffering of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in providing a salvation for men. At Calvary, righteousness was much more than provided; it was demonstrated.

The Emphasis of the Text

Here, I believe, is the heart of Paul’s message: the demonstration of God’s righteousness. Careful consideration of our text brings amazement at what is emphasized and what is not. Now that salvation is in view, one would expect that God the Son would be the most prominent Person of the Godhead. Such is not the case. God the Father is referred to in our text approximately twice as often as God the Son. Paul is emphasizing the demonstration of God’s righteousness, through the Father’s provision of His righteousness for men, in His Son. The cross of Calvary is indirectly alluded to in our text but never specifically mentioned. Neither is the resurrection of our Lord referred to in this passage.

Two prominent concepts are repeatedly mentioned and emphasized: (1) the righteousness of God; and, (2) the visible, public demonstration of this righteousness.108 Paul’s emphasis falls not so much on the righteousness which God has provided in Christ as the righteousness which God has demonstrated through Christ. This distinction may seem subtle, but it is one of great significance.

Conclusion

When we choose to look at salvation from a merely human perspective, we see salvation from the standpoint of what it does for us. God becomes the One who “meets our needs.” While God does meet our needs, the focus is all wrong. At its core, this focus is selfish and self-centered. God as the Giver should not be our focus, but God as the Gift. He is to be our great reward and not just our rewarder (Genesis 15:1, NASB, margin).

The Jews lost their perspective of that salvation which God was to provide and began to see it from their own point of view. Thinking salvation belonged only to them, they determined to keep it for themselves, not sharing it with others, with undeserving sinners. Like Jonah of old, they did not want to see the heathen blessed with God’s salvation. They wanted the wicked to perish. And in the process, they forgot that they too were sinners, just like the Gentiles. They forgot that they must receive God’s salvation just as the Gentiles, by faith, rather than by works. Mistakenly, they supposed that their possession of the Law was their assurance of possessing God’s salvation, a confirmed reservation for entrance into God’s kingdom. They, like Jonah, assumed God was obligated to bless them, even when they were disobedient. They saw salvation and God’s blessings as their right and not as His grace.

Israel was given the Law of God as a stewardship. They did not own it; it was given as a sacred trust. They were to use the revelation of God to them to demonstrate His righteousness. This they were to do by believing, and obeying, God’s revelation in the Law. They were also to proclaim the good news to the lost. How could the Jews become so twisted in their thinking? How could they view God’s salvation as something they alone possessed which they could withhold from Gentile sinners?

Paul’s words of warning for the Gentiles in Romans 11 strongly suggest that we today are in grave danger of repeating Israel’s error. We may begin to see God’s gracious provision of righteousness in such a way that we think more of our righteousness than of His. Christians too have been given God’s revelation. The revelation we have received is full and final. It is a stewardship with which we have been entrusted. We must first believe God’s Word and obey it, and then we must proclaim it to sinners.

As faithful stewards, we must view all of life through the eyes of our Master. We must understand God’s purposes and then act in the light of them. We must seek to fulfill God’s purposes in a way consistent not only with His causes but with His character. We must pursue God’s goals in ways consistent with God’s character. It is impossible to be a good steward unless we view our task through the eyes of our Master. Paul thus portrays God’s provision of righteousness from the divine point of view, fixing our attention on God’s purpose for saving men: the demonstration of His righteousness.

Christians say things which greatly disturb me, because they sound all too much like the thinking of the Jews. I hear Christians say, “If I were the only person on earth (to receive it), Christ would have died for me.” What Scripture teaches this? Why do we look at God’s salvation in such a self-centered way? Do we see God’s work of salvation as though it were only for us? Such thinking is alarmingly similar to that of the Jews in Paul’s day. It turns men from an awareness of God’s grace and from a response overflowing with humble gratitude. It inclines us to think of God as showing us some partiality. We delight in seeing and thinking of ourselves as special, rather than as sinners. God has not chosen us because we are special,109 but because we are lost. There is no basis for boasting in this.

“God loves me and saved me, just as I am,” some foolishly say. No, He does not! God condemns us, just as we are. God cannot be righteous and accept the unrighteous into His kingdom. God is righteous, because He condemns the unrighteous. God does not even accept us in spite of who we are. God accepts us because of who Christ is. If we are truly saved, we have been punished for our sins, in Christ. If we are saved, we have died, been buried, and raised from the dead, in Christ. We are what we are, in Christ. We are accepted by God, through Christ, and not because of anything we are or anything we have done in and of ourselves.

When we view salvation from a merely human perspective, we distort it and abuse it. We begin to look at salvation as though God accomplished it primarily for our benefit, rather than for His benefit. How then do we explain the fate of all those whom God did not purpose to save, those whom Paul refers to as “vessels of wrath” (see Romans 9:21-23)? Are we saved because we are better than they? Are they condemned because they are worse than we?

To illustrate, suppose I am a passenger on a ship bound for New York City. My ship explodes deep within its hull and sinks. I alone survive, floating helplessly in the ocean with only my life jacket to sustain my life. I know it will only be a few hours, and I will die. I can do nothing to save myself. I am doomed. A ship suddenly appears on the horizon. Somehow, someone on board that ship spots me, floating helplessly in the ocean. The ship turns from its course and stops to rescue me.

I should be grateful that I have been spared. No matter where the ship is bound, I should be overjoyed to be alive and to land there. But should I begin to believe that the ship’s main purpose and duty was saving me, then I will begin to think that the ship should sail in the opposite direction to take me to New York, even though it is bound for Europe. I may even have the gall to expect the captain of the ship to accommodate me. Because I am focusing on myself, I have lost sight of the purpose of that ship and of the small part I gratefully have in the ship’s purpose.

We fail to grasp the great purposes of God! We have reduced God to the status of being the servant of men, a God whose principle purpose is to make us happy, and not a God actively displaying His righteousness. We forget the purpose for which we have been saved.110 We have succeeded in looking at salvation as “our salvation” and as God’s primary task. It is not! It is but one part of His eternal plan and purpose to display His splendor, His glory, to all of creation, including the heavenly hosts.

In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul speaks to Christians of the salvation God has graciously bestowed upon them. But at the very outset of this epistle, Paul is emphatically clear that God’s primary purpose in history is the demonstration of His splendor and majesty, of His glory:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

I now understand Paul’s introductory words, contained in the first 15 verses of Romans, to be an illustration of the great truth he is teaching us here in Romans 3. Paul does not view his salvation as the incorporation of God into his life, but as God incorporating him into His eternal plan and purpose. Paul views his conversion as a dramatic turning point in his life. Until the time of his salvation, Paul was religious, but he sought to “use God,” while believing he was serving God. Now, after his salvation, Paul sees himself as being saved by God, to be used by God as God chooses. Paul’s life was turned inside-out and upside-down, so that he now sought as his compelling mission fulfilling God’s purposes in the world. He had not added God to his agenda; God had added him to His agenda, for which Paul would eternally praise Him. To the Christian, this fundamentally different mindset is the result of our perception of God’s salvation. The believer must see his salvation as the demonstration of God’s righteousness and himself as subservient to His plans and purposes. When we see our salvation as God’s meeting our needs, we see God as subservient to us. The distinction between these two perspectives is fundamental and crucial.

I wonder, were Christians to see salvation as Paul does, would there be a debate over the issue of “lordship salvation”? Were believers to understand that God’s purpose in the world is to demonstrate His righteousness, would we dare to think it does not matter to God whether or not we live righteously?

God condemns men to eternal damnation, to demonstrate His righteousness. Likewise, God saves men from damnation, to demonstrate His righteousness. The determining factor in God’s choices and actions is not man’s salvation, but the declaration of His righteousness. God’s righteousness is displayed in everything He does and in everything He does not do. When we make our salvation the focus, we take the focus from God and put ourselves in His place. We take the sun from the center of the solar system and make earth the point around which all of the solar system revolves.

Only when we see the demonstration of God’s righteousness as primary, and man’s salvation as secondary, can we see our salvation from God’s point of view. Let us earnestly seek by God’s grace and by His Word to change our own thinking and preferences to those which conform to God’s ways.

The wonder of it all: that God would choose to save any of us, for we are all deserving of His wrath. For those who are truly convicted of their sin and of their desperate need for righteousness, God’s provision of righteousness will be gratefully received, even though it is not flattering to us. We will gladly receive His grace, knowing that it suits and serves His purposes. Will you receive that righteousness which God has provided in Jesus Christ? If you do, your salvation will be a demonstration of His righteousness. If you do not, your condemnation will be a demonstration of His righteousness. God’s righteousness is not at stake. Your eternal destiny is. If you have already received that righteousness which God has provided in Jesus Christ, is the demonstration of God’s righteousness central in your life? It should be.

While the resurrection of our Lord is not mentioned in our text, it too is a demonstration of God’s righteousness.111 Consider these words, spoken by our Lord and recorded in the Gospel of John:

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-11).

We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is not only a fact of history, it is a truth with profound significance. Among the implications and applications of our Lord’s resurrection is the demonstration of our Lord’s righteousness. The empty tomb of our Lord continues to testify to His righteousness. Our Lord’s resurrection, like the condemnation of some deserving sinners and the salvation of some undeserving sinners, is a demonstration of the righteousness of God. Is the demonstration of God’s righteousness central in your life? It should be.


102 I believe Paul’s areas of emphasis in this text are: 1) the public demonstration of 2) the righteousness of God. Verses 19 and 20 are included because they are a vitally important reminder of the context of Paul’s words here.

103 History, ironically, has everything to do with our perspective. Apart from a divine perspective, we would be hopelessly trapped by our own experience.

104 The original text literally reads, “through the faith of Jesus Christ.” This is the way in which the translators of the King James version understood and rendered it. Is the faith of Christ the emphasis here, or is it the faith of the believer? Paul’s precise wording would suggest the former, the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It was Israel’s unfaithfulness which was the problem. It was Christ’s faithfulness which was the solution. In chapter 4 Paul will turn to the matter of men’s faith in Christ, but that does not seem to be the thrust of Paul’s words here.

105 The definite article is not present in the text. Thus, the text could be rendered, “a righteousness of God.” The sense of the statement does not change significantly, regardless of the translation. In the light of what Paul is about to say, however, it may be best to render the expression normally: “a righteousness of God.” From Paul’s teaching and perspective, the righteousness of God had been revealed before “now” in His condemnation of sin. His righteousness is “now” being revealed in a different way, through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross of Calvary.

106 Technically, the definite article rendered “the” is not present in the original text. Thus, it should perhaps be rendered, “… apart from law a righteousness of God has been manifested …”

107 Here, it is very clear that God would have delayed His judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in order to save a handful of righteous men. The judgment of the wicked is delayed for the salvation of the righteous, just as Paul says in Romans 9:22-23.

108 Two emphatic themes are evident by the emphasized words and phrases in our text, as found at the beginning of this lesson.

109 A thoughtful reading of 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 is indeed humbling, because far from teaching us that God chose us due to something special in us, He chose us because of our particularly pitiable and weak condition, thus bringing praise and glory to Himself.

110 For additional study, see 2 Corinthians 5:14–6:10.

111 I heard another “Christian” song this week which was incredibly off course in its theology. It had to do with the resurrection of our Lord. It did not attribute our Lord’s resurrection to His holiness, or to His righteousness, but to God’s love for us. It went something like this: “If God did not love us so much, Christ would still be in the grave.” How self-centered. How sad. How unbiblical.

Related Topics: Regeneration, Justification