Through Our faith In Jesus Christ –
We Are Counted Righteous By God
So Paul is teaching that our solution to reaching heaven is by obtaining the righteousness of God. But naturally, the next question we should ask is how does one obtain God’s perfection, especially after we’ve already lived a life of sin? How is this even possible? The detail explanation to those questions are found in chapters 4 and 5 of Romans which we will explore in upcoming posts, but for now we have Paul summarizing the answer in Part 3 of the seven parts of the passage we began with in the previous post. Here it is again to refresh our memories.
Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV) **
God’s Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now God’s righteousness apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely (it’s a gift) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
In verses 21-22 Paul says God’s righteousness is revealed to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Give particular attention of Paul’s choice of preposition: through. The preposition “through” emphasizes the word “manifested.” It explains how we came to know we obtained God’s righteousness. In Heaven God grants a person His righteousness as an act of His grace and mercy. Then His heavenly decision was manifested (i.e., made known, revealed) THROUGH a person’s faith in Christ.
So then, faith becomes the instrument through which we come to know God’s righteousness. Theologians refer to this process as imputed righteousness. The word imputed means to attribute to an individual the actions or qualities of another individual as a result of the other’s actions. For example, when a child is adopted, that child is imputed with a new family name. The child received the quality of the parents because of an action taken by the parents. The child did nothing to acquire the parents’ family name. But by the actions of the parents, the child was imputed a new name. And so it is for those who receive God’s mercy. God imputes His righteousness to us. God assigns us His spiritual nature (i.e., His righteousness) because of an act of another. We didn’t obtain that righteousness for ourselves; it was given to us. And the act that made it possible wasn’t our own either; God acted to bring it about.
So once God imputes His righteousness to us, how do we become aware of it? Paul says the righteous of God has been manifested to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul never teaches that we obtain righteousness because of our faith in Christ. Saying that would imply that our action of believing is a “switch” that led God to impute His righteousness to us. And that flips the narrative of scripture by suggesting we initiated our process of our salvation. It would be like saying that an adopted child first took for himself a certain family name, which then led that family to adopt the child.
Remember, Paul has already established from scripture that we are all lost, without an understanding of spiritual truth and do not seek God. So, if the process of our salvation did depend on us taking the first step, no one would ever be saved because by our fallen nature, we have no inclination to take that step. It would like offering a comatose patient with the cure to his condition…he can’t respond to the invitation. So Paul says righteousness comes through (or sometimes Paul says “by”) faith to indicate that faith is the means God uses to deliver us His mercy. Like a man who receives a telegram announcing he has received a large inheritance on the occasion of his uncle’s death. The man became an heir the moment his uncle died, but it waited for the arrival of the telegram before the man became aware of that grant. So we could say that the uncle’s grant of inheritance was manifested or revealed through a telegram message.
Now Paul moves to part 4: this grant of salvation is for all who believe, there is no distinction. Paul’s emphasis in Part 4 is on the word “all”, meaning both Jew and Gentile. God’s plan of salvation will be manifested in everyone by the same means: belief, that is faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Jews didn’t receive it one way to heaven while Gentiles received it another. All saints, whether Old Testament or New Testament, have always been granted God’s righteousness through the same means. And this makes sense, Paul says in verse 23, because all (both Jew and Gentile) have the same problem. All people have sinned and therefore all have fallen short of the mark required to enter Heaven. Once again, Paul says that the standard for entry into Heaven is to share in the nature of God. It’s not enough to say we have no sin; we cannot even have a nature to sin. We must be as perfect as God is perfect, and anything less is to fall short of the glory of God. If all men are in the same predicament, then all men need the same solution.
So God’s manner of saving men from their sin has never varied over time. What has varied is the degree of that plan that God has explained in His word. In early times, the need for God’s mercy and a provision of His righteousness was evident. But what was unknown was exactly how the Lord would make that provision for us. But now that plan is fully known, as the writer of Hebrews explains:
God’s Supreme Revelation
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world;
The next question we might ask Paul is how can God grant us His righteousness just because we believe in Jesus Christ? How can God overlook our sin and wipe the slate clean? Paul’s fifth point answers that question in verse 24. We are justified as a gift of God’s grace because Christ Jesus has redeemed us. Let’s look at three important theological ideas in that verse.
First, we are justified
The word is a legal term meaning acquitted. To be acquitted means to be declared innocent, as when a defendant is acquitted by a jury at trial. Remember, to be acquitted doesn’t mean we are actually innocent. Rather, it’s a declaration made by a court. And the effect is to relieve the person from paying any penalty. That’s why our judicial system declares a person “not guilty.” rather than innocent. So God’s means of assigning us His righteousness begins with God’s court rendering a verdict of not guilty for us.
Secondly, Paul says this verdict is a gift given to us by the grace of God
Notice that the gift of God is a declaration of our innocence. The gift is not the opportunity to be declared innocent. The gift is a declaration already made for us
so that the decision to enter that verdict was a decision God made as a result of His grace toward us. Grace means undeserved favor, with an emphasis on the word undeserved . God’s favor toward us was not triggered by anything we said or did. God determines to declare us justified simply as an act of His grace, like a defendant appearing at trial only to learn that the judge has already decided to acquit him.
Furthermore, justification is an act, not a process. A defendant is declared innocent (or not guilty) in an instant, and there is no process for bringing this to pass. The declaration is true instantly and forever remains true, never again can the decision be revisited. Our jurisprudence includes a concept of double jeopardy which ii finds its source in the biblical idea of justification.
Finally, God’s actions to acquit are valid and lawful because another has
redeemed us before the Law
Paul says Jesus has redeemed us. Redemption is also a legal term and it means to have paid a ransom to free one in bondage. So a slave could be redeemed from a debt owed to his master. Or a prisoner could be redeemed from prison by payment of a bond to the court. Similarly, all men and women are under bondage to sin, in debt to God’s court for our lifetime of sin. That debt must be paid or else a verdict of innocence would be a miscarriage of justice. We know God is perfect, without sin Himself, and therefore He can only declare us innocent of our sin should our debt be paid. Paul says our justification is legally possible because Christ paid our price redeeming us from the penalty we rightly deserved. Speaking personally, we as believers should say the following:
God declared me righteous, not guilty of my sins, apart from
anything I’ve said or done, merely because of His grace
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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