The Righteousness Of God:
1st & 2nd Beams
In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 15a of 83


21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 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: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;   26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

The book of Romans is like a beautiful painting. The apostle Paul is painting this picture. It is entitled: “The Just shall live by faith.” Paul begins this picture by painting the background as most painters do. But the background of his picture is a very dark one. His pot of black paint is almost used up.

We have been looking at the dark background for many weeks. And last Sabbath we saw Paul covering the last bit of canvas left with his black paint. We saw that man is by nature totally depraved. There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understands. There is none that seeks after God. There is none that does good, no not one.

This is the sad state of man. All men descending from Adam by natural generation are sinners deserving God’s wrath. And none of us can help ourselves in any way at all,—for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. That is, we cannot do anything to make ourselves righteous. To be just is to be righteous. It is the same word in the Greek. To be justified is to be made righteous.

The prospect of fallen man is dark and grim. Our condition seems hopeless and helpless. We are doomed for damnation! Has this truth sunk into your heart? If it has, you would have cried out with Job: “How then can man be justified with God?” (Job 25:4a). You might have echoed with Bildad, his friend: “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). Like those who heard John the Baptist’s fearful denunciations, you might have exclaimed: “What shall we do then” (Lk 3:10). Like the crowd at Pentecost, who heard Peter’s sermon, you would  surely have cried in your heart: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37); “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

But look! Paul is now giving us the answer. He is painting the sunshine into his picture!

Beginning with the little word ‘but,’ Paul is adding the sunshine. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…”

The Lord helping us, we want, in this continuing study, to appreciate this burst of sunshine that Paul is painting.

Look! Is it not painted with one broad stroke? Our text is one sentence! But this burst of sunshine has seven sunbeams. Paul is describing God’s righteousness with seven beams. He is in other words teaching us the doctrine of justification in seven points. Justification is about how to be just in God’s sight, or how to obtain a righteousness which is acceptable to God.

In the first sunbeam he teaches us that God’s righteousness …

1. Arises Not from Law-Keeping

21a But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested,…

The apostle is answering the question: “How can a man be justified with God?” Or how can he obtain a righteousness that is acceptable to God? Paul is talking about this righteousness. This is the first thing he wants us to know. This righteousness, which is acceptable to God, is without the law.

To be without the law is to be “without the deeds of the law” (v. 28). The law, indeed, shows the righteousness of God. Many of the Jews thought that they could obtain righteousness by keeping the Law. The apostle Paul used to think that way that too.

But after his conversion on the road to Damascus, the truth came upon him powerfully. The law cannot be used to obtain the righteousness of God. By the law is the knowledge of sin. By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified!

Sinful man simply cannot make himself righteous in God’s sight by doing the deeds of the law. It does not matter whether He does according to the law of Moses or the work of the law written in the heart! He simply cannot make himself righteous in God’s sight by the deeds of the law.

If the righteousness that is acceptable to God is obtains by works, we are doomed. Thank God that a righteousness acceptable to God, without the deeds of the law, is now clearly manifested. This righteousness, was, secondly,…

2.  Already Witnessed by the Law and the Prophets

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, 21b being witnessed by the law and the prophets; …

Make no mistake. The righteousness, which is acceptable to God has not changed. It was not that in Old Testament days, the people obtained righteousness by the deeds of the law. No, no; when Paul uses the term ‘manifested’, he is saying that it is now made clear. In Old Testament days, the people saw the truth in shadows and types. But the truth has always been the same. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Paul is not teaching something new. The Law and the prophets (or the entire Old Testament), are unanimous in affirming the same thing: No man can obtain righteousness by keeping the Law.

And not only so, but the law and the prophets also point to the “righteousness of God” that Paul is now painting for us. The Lord Jesus was affirming this fact when He told the Jews:

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (Jn 5:39)

Some of the Jews in the days of the Lord misunderstood the law and the prophets. They thought that righteousness could be obtained by obedience to the law. But the Lord corrected them. If you search the Scripture honestly (without pharisaical lenses), you will see that God’s righteousness is without the law.

The law and the prophet was a candlelight to show this righteousness. It could be found in the Old Testament days, though you will have to squint hard to find it using the candle light. But today, the Light of the world has come! The Sun of righteousness has risen! The righteousness of God without the law is now manifested!

 

… to be continued, next Issue

JJ Lim