20 “For no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it,
22 The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction;
23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption, which is in Christ Jesus,
5 whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:20-25
These six verses are the heart of the Epistle to the Romans. In order for us to appreciate the wonder of these verses we need to understand the role of the moral law in God’s dealing with us.
There are basically four aspects or purposes of law in the Scripture. First of all the law exhibits the moral perfection of God. Through the law we see the character of God, but not all the character. It would be a mistake for us to think that the character of God is the Ten Commandments only. A quick read of the Sermon on the Mount would quickly dismiss the idea that God can be reduced to Ten Commands.
He is all knowing, all-powerful, all caring, all loving, all giving and all wise. He can speak in a still small voice, or speak worlds into existence. He is Spirit, yet can pass before Moses in such glory that only His back could be seen. This leads to the second understanding of the law.
The law provides a standard by which human society is, at least imperfectly, governed. The reason groups like ISIS are so repugnant to a civilized world is because they live without the law. While all nations of the world, whether they realize it or not, live under the directives of the law in the fact they don’t allow murder, stealing, etc., ISIS lives totally by their own rulebook.
Many times when talking about the law people will say to me, “but if the law isn’t what we are judged upon then do you think it’s all right to rape, murder, etc.” What these people are doing is confusing redemption that is free of law with the civil aspects of law as a standard of society.
The third use of the law is that it provides a guide to how we could best please our redeemer God. When we come to Christ our lives change. There can be no denying this. Anyone who has a genuine conversion soon realizes that his or her life is changing, and changing for the better. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit we begin a maturing in our character that was not there before. We find that we are sliding away from self-centeredness and becoming more caring, loving and compassionate.
While many Christians define this growth in terms of living more in harmony with the law (the Commandments of God), the New Testament sums up this character growth in terms of love. We find our life, as believers, revolves around wanting to be closer to God, know Him better, have a deeper relationship, and share His goodness and love with others. God’s ultimate act of love was carried out on Calvary’s cross where Jesus died as our substitute for sin, death, guilt and shame. He lived and died the life that we could not and offered all the benefits of His perfect obedience and love to us as a gift.
The result is that as a Christian I don’t murder because I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t murder because each person in the world is my brother and sister and my dream for them is to see them in the Kingdom of God. I hope this makes sense to you.
Now to the fourth purpose of the law is the way that it is used in these verses. The law reveals the inexcusable guilt of man and convicts us that we are hopeless sinners. (v. 20) There is no doubt that the law reflects how we can best serve God, but the reality is that we don’t follow the law anyways near how we should. As a result the law condemns us because it points out how short of the standard we have fallen.
Let me give us an example. In the Ten Commandments it tells us that we should not murder and we might all live out our entire lives without literally murdering someone. But, when we come to the Sermon on the Mount Jesus redefines what it means to murder someone. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment, but I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:21,22
So how are we doing with the law now? Have you never been angry with someone? If you have, God equates that to murder and the result is that we are all murders in a spiritual sense and therefore fall far short of keeping the law.
Now let’s look at our verses in Romans 3 again. The first thing we are told in verse 20 is that, “no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law.” This is also the entire point of the book of Galatians so all you people trying to be perfect need to understand even though it might be a nice gesture, it is only that. All your works, striving and living to impress God with your own goodness is not going to cut it. The reason is you are encumbered with a sinful nature and even your best deeds are contaminated with the residue of sin and selfishness. There is no justification in law keeping.
As a result the law actually condemns us. “Since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (v. 20b) When we stand face to face before the law we cannot help but be driven to our knees in despair. Like Paul in Romans 7 I find the things I want to do I don’t and the things I don’t want to do I do.
Those of us who are determined can gain victory over certain things in our lives, but being free of the desire and constant temptation may be something all together different. So doesn’t that victory count for something with God? It may be a significant help in your growth as a Christian, but it does not add merit to your standing before God or make God love you more. It is only what it is, a victory over a gnawing sin that crushed the life out of you and now through the Spirit has been tamed.
No the law points out, even when I am victorious in something, how far short of the norm I fall. So what is the answer? If I cannot please God by striving, struggling and self-sacrifice how do I enter into relationship with Him? “But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it.” Romans 3:21
Notice, redemption comes down to us in verse 21. “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” Paul is telling us redemption comes from outside of us. This is the heart of the Gospel. We are not the creators of our own redemption, we are not the source of salvation through our actions, it is something much bigger, grander, and more wonderful than we could ever work up. The righteousness of God is not manifested through our law keeping but it is presented in Jesus, “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Romans 3:22
We will pick up the rest of this section next post, as there is just too much to fit in this one blog.
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…