Romans 3:21 23

The survey of human sinfulness is distressing. As you consider the case which
G0d has against you, it destroys any hope you may have nurtured of ever being able to be just before God. It is
into such a scene of darkness that the words "But now" burst like a ray of heavenly sunshine. Though all have
sinned; though none seek after God; though none are righteous; though they have all forsaken God's way,
something has happened that gives hope. In this great passage before us, the Apostle shares with us what God
has done to make it possible for guilty, unworthy sinners to be righteous before him.

The word that sums up this divine activity is "justify". God has found a way to declare guilty sinners righteous
before Him. He does this primarily by presenting to these sinners as a gift "the righteousness of God." It's being
"of God" indicates that God is the source of this righteousness. Since man has found it utterly impossible to
make any righteousness that God will accept, God has taken the initiative in providing for man an acceptable
righteousness. This righteousness enables a man to gain the ap¬proval of Holy God and to be accepted in the
presence of Holy God.

Two basic qualities of this righteousness which God provides are set before us by Paul in these verses. Since
these qualities are so important for us to understand, we will consider them this morning. As we consider them, it
might help us if we thought of this righteousness under the figure of a garment. This is the suggestion of the
expression that it is "unto all and upon all". Several places in Scripture use the figure of a garment. The
righteousness of God then is the garment which God provides for man, which is all that man needs to gain
entrance into the presence of God and to be approved of God.

"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested." The expression without the law refers to the
nature of the righteousness and not to the manner of the revelation of the righteousness. The manifestation of
this righteousness is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is permanently set forth before men by God. But this
righteousness which God sets forth is "without law", or “apart from law". This statement is consistent with the
purpose of the law which has just been stated by Paul. The law does not impute righteousness, but rather it
reveals the need of righteousness. The law is a mirror to un-cover the need of cleansing, but not a basin in
which a man can wash himself clean. The law thunders the demands of God to men, but it does not enable him
to meet those demands. The Galatians were reminded by this same Apostle that the law was a schoolmaster to
bring us to Christ. This was God's basic purpose in giving the law  it was to bring men before God with a deep
sense of personal need and guilt. It was given to convict of sin  not to remove sin.

This does not mean that the law of God is in conflict with the righteousness of God. We are assured that the law
and the prophets bear witness to the very righteousness of God that has been revealed. The law and the
prophets stand up to give their personal wit¬ness to the fact that the righteousness of God is apart from the law.
By "law and the pro¬phets" all of the Old Testament Scriptures were meant. They bear this witness by
provid¬ing us with examples of men who became righteous before God apart from the law. The fourth chapter of
this epistle will present us with one such notable example. They also bear their testimony by urging upon us the
necessity of a blood sacrifice. If the law could have pro¬vided righteousness, why did it insist upon man bringing
his animal sacrifices to be slain? Why did it include such elaborate provisions for dealing with the consciousness
of sin? Why did the prophets speak so hopefully of one who would come to bear the iniquities of the people?
These are a sure witness that the righteousness of which man needs is a right¬eousness which is apart from
the law. The law is totally incapable of providing man such a righteousness.

It is important to know this. This was shattering to that first century religious man who was imagining himself to
be righteous before God because he had sincerely sought to live by the law of Moses. He had the product of his
human effort confused with this right¬eousness of God. Many confused men in our own generation have made
the same tragic mistake. Their knowledge of religious things consists primarily of a general knowledge of the
Ten Commandments. They have vainly imagined that if they made these commandments the pattern for their
lives they would be assured of full divine approval. Others had taken that summary of the law which Jesus gave,
which we call the Ten Commandments, and have thought that using this as a motto for their lives would be
enough. Not so! The righteousness of God is apart from law.

Many times when witnessing to people, I will ask them the question, "If you were to die tonight, and were to go to
stand before God, and He were to ask you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?' what would you say?"
Probably the most common answer is, "I do not know." But another very common answer is, "I would tell him that
I have done the best. I knew how. I have tried to do what I thought was right." This answer is a reflection of the
very thing our text is denying. Such an answer is built upon the idea that the right-eousness that God wants is
something that we do, it is our response to our understanding of right, our response to our understanding of His
law. This is utterly false! The righteous¬ness of God is apart from the law. It is apart from the religious and good
deeds of man.

This is a quality of this righteousness which the Apostle will greatly expand in this Roman letter. It is absolutely
basic in understanding how God justifies sinners, how sin-ners come to be righteous before God.

"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for
there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". Obviously there is a contrast
between "law" and "faith". Later in this great passage the Apostle will conclude, "Therefore we conclude, that a
man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Therefore we need to understand that faith is not a work
with some merit in it. Rather it is simply and only a guilty sinner placing his trust in Christ Jesus alone for
salvation. Faith is reliance and trust and confidence.

The object of this faith which receives the righteousness of God is critical. The Apostle is specific. It is "by faith
of Jesus Christ". This means that Christ Jesus is the object of this faith. This means that this is not a reference
to some vague confidence in a supreme being. So many have confused this faith with such. Also it is not simply
a faith that there was once a Jesus Christ who lived. It is not faith "about Jesus" that is under consideration. It is
not even a faith in the Bible as the Word of God. One can give firm assent to the trustworthiness and
truthfulness of the written Word of God and still be void of this faith. This is a faith that has the Christ who died
upon the Cross and the Christ who now lives as its object. It is a trust in Him, and Him alone. It is reliance upon
Him and Him alone. It is confidence in Him as your personal Lord and Savior.

This aspect of the righteousness puts it within reach of each of us. It is "unto all and upon all them that believe".
The Apostle then adds, "for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and have come short of the glory of
God." Does the "no difference" point toward the sinfulness of man or to the fact that all must believe. It probably
points both ways. There is only one way that man can receive the righteousness of God. Every man who
receives this gift of righteousness will receive it by faith. There is no difference in men as to their need before
God. Since all are of the same need, they must all have that need met the same way.

This is a comforting truth to those laden down with a sense of sin. If you realize your sinfulness and sense your
helpless position before God, take courage my friend. You are no different from the rest of the human race. All
of your brothers in the flesh share your need. Your recognition of this need in your life means that there is
available to you God's righteousness. This righteousness is offered to all who will believe upon the Lord Jesus
Christ     regardless of their background or their failures.

This brings to light an important thing about you. It is not your sin that is keeping you from having the
righteousness which God approves  it is your refusal to rely upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Jesus spoke a parable that helps us realize the need for this garment of righteous¬ness which God provides.
He spoke of the great day in terms of a wedding feast. The Lord of the feast who was giving the feast in honor
of his son provided a wedding garment for all of the invited guests. On this occasion one guest deliberately
entered without the provided wedding garment. When the Lord of the feast entered, this guest stood out from
the rest. Immediately the Lord called for servants to bring him. When he questioned him about why he had
entered without the required wedding garment, the condemned guest was speechless. Since the garment was
freely provided, he was left without any excuse. How many are going to find themselves in that sad situation at
the last day?

Do you want to receive this gift of righteousness which God provides? Then you must be willing to cast off any
old garments of righteousness you have patched together yourself, garments that smell of the corruption of
human pride and sin. Then you must be willing to receive as a gift from Jesus Christ alone His own
righteousness to be worn before God. Do you want to be righteous before God? Then receive what God freely
and graciously provides!