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Romans 3:19-28

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, 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 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

13 comments on “Romans 3:19-28

  1. My favorite description of justification is “freedom from the guilt of sin”; sanctification is “freedom from the power of sin”; the two cannot be separated.

    I am reminded of the account of the woman taken in the act of adultery (John 8:3–11). I found excerpts from an article by S. Michael Houdmann, the Founder, President, and CEO of Got Questions Ministries, the parent ministry for GotQuestions.org to be helpful:

    When the woman’s accusers brought her before Jesus, expecting Him to pronounce judgment, He told them that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone. One by one, the condemning crowd left. Then Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (verse 11). She had been caught. She was guilty. She did deserve stoning according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). But the religious leaders who had dragged her there had no concern for holiness. They were trying to trap Jesus into saying that the Law did not matter (verse 6).

    Jesus often reminded those religious leaders that He had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He, as God, was the Author of the Law (2 Timothy 3:16). The Pharisees focused on the letter of the Law but missed the true spirit of it, which is given in Galatians 5:14: “The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” When Jesus refused to condemn the woman, He was not minimizing the importance of holiness. He was offering her the same kind of forgiveness He offers every one of us (Acts 3:19).

    In saying, “Go and sin no more,” Jesus was not speaking of sinless perfection. He was warning against a return to sinful lifestyle choices. His words both extended mercy and demanded holiness. Jesus was always the perfect balance of “grace and truth” (John 1:14). With forgiveness comes the expectation that we will not continue in the same path of rebelliousness. Those who know God’s love will naturally want to obey Him (John 14:15).

  2. “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

    Three of the most powerful verses in the Bible… If John 3:16 if the Gospel in a nutshell these three verses could be the Bible in a nutshell. The whole Scripture points to Christ; the sinful nature of humans, the penalty we deserve, God sending His Son to save us, God’s grace to us being free through faith. As John Madden would say “Boom! that’s it.”

    • 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift…

      It is said that “the best things in life are free”. Several things come to mind, such as hugs and advice and sunsets. But the greatest free gift, bar none, is God’s grace. It is the gift that keeps on giving in spite of my unworthiness.

      Thank-you God, for your faithfulness. Amen.

  3. Propitiation… pro-pish-i-a’-shun: a funny word. I have never heard anyone use it outside doctrine class or a deep Bible class. What exactly does this word mean?
    When the last part of verse 24 and the first part of verse 25 says “…justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood,…” what is God saying here by using the word propitiation?

    The word is used twice in the New Testament meaning appease, reconcile, make right, etc.

    It is translated as “propitiation” in Romans 3:25 and as “mercyseat” in Hebrews 9:5 “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat…”

    Mercyseat? The mercyseat is also called the Propitiatory. That doesn’t help much…

    Well, the mercyseat/propitiatory was the lid on the Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament the ark sat in the Holy of Holies and blood was sprinkled all over it on the Day of Atonement- when the sins of all the people were paid for / made right (expiated) through the blood sacrifice by the High Priest.

    Through Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice we have propitiation, God’s wrath and judgment is appeased, our broken relationship is made right, our punishment paid for.

    • So what does this faith that receives the gift of grace look like?

      Bill Loveless defines faith as “allowing God to do what only God can do in my life.” God initiates in grace, and our part is to receive His grace in whatever form it might come. In other words, faith says, “God, I believe that You are who You say You are, You will do what You promise to do, and I am giving You permission to accomplish Your work in my life.”

      Bill goes on to say, a critical part of faith is starting with two words, “I can’t!” We must admit to God that we can’t change it, fix it, handle it, control it, solve it, or make it work. When it applies to us or others it translates into, “I can’t change me/them, I can’t fix me/them, and I can’t transform me/them.” If I can arrive at “I can’t, but God can,” then I have opened the door for God to accomplish what He only He can accomplish. The one critical thing that many believers have missed is that man was never designed to change, fix, control, or solve anything. It has been God’s responsibility from the beginning! You and I are designed for dependence. This is why the Lord in Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” God never intended for us to do what only He can do.

      I struggle with the Gallery Furniture billboards that say “If it is to be, it is up to me”, This seems to contradict the concept of “I can’t, but God can”. Perhaps its just me.

  4. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting?

    “So what happens to boasting?” asks Paul. Excluded! There can be no boasting in Torah or in ethnic, cultural, or national identity (or anything else), because God has accomplished humanity’s rectification through the faithfulness and atoning death of his Messiah. In the words of Frank Matera: “In light of Christ’s shameful death on the cross, it is apparent why Paul insists that there is no place for boasting before God. If God has justified humanity on the basis of Christ’s death, in which all of humanity was complicit because of sin, then no one can boast before God. Paul’s affirmation that there is no place for boasting, then, becomes the way in which he affirms that redemption is God’s work”. Or if there is to be boasting, then let it be a glorifying of the Crucified: “As for me, God forbid that I should boast–except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

    So when I boast about my salvation, it must be a glorifying of Christ crucified, and not anything that I have done. Likewise, boasting about my spouse, my children, my grandchildren, my church, my pastoral staff… etc should be a glorifying of God’s grace, and not anything that I have done.

  5. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

    As I did some research, I came across a third law, the law of Christ:

    “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2

    By the law of works is meant the law of the ten commandments, as the covenant of works. By the law of faith, the gospel, or covenant of grace; for justification being the point upon which the apostle there states the opposition betwixt these two laws, it is evident that the former only is the law that doth not exclude boasting; and that the latter only is it, by which a sinner is justified in a way that doth exclude boasting. By the law of Christ, is meant the same law of the ten commandments, as a rule of life, in the hand of a Mediator, to believers already justified, and not any one command of the law only; for “bearing one another’s burdens” is a “fulfilling of the law of Christ,” as it is a loving of one another: but, according to the Scripture, that love is not a fulfilling of one command only, but of the whole law of the ten commands, (Rom 13:8-10).—”He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” It is a fulfilling of the second table directly, and of the first table indirectly and consequentially: therefore, by the law of Christ is meant, not one command only, but the whole law.

    In summary, the law of works is the law to be done, that one may be saved (impossible); the law of faith is the law to be believed, that one may be saved (justification); the law of Christ is the law of the Saviour, binding his saved people to all the duties of obedience (sanctification).

  6. We had a very interesting discussion this morning in Steinke’s sunday school about how Luther’s understanding of grace is that we receive God’s all-forgiving grace, fully on the day of our baptism or conversion. Also, that we don’t have to, and aren’t capable of doing anything to earn it, it is a free gift, no strings attached.

    Part of the topic was whether or not it made perfect sense. Not if true or not, but sensical. Many said quite rapidly that it makes perfect sense to them. I must say that although i believe it, and understand the concept, it doesn’t make sense to me.

    Why would someone do this for me? I get that its because He loves me, and understand the biblical ramifications, i just can’t fathom it. I surely would not sacrifice one of my children for one of you. How could someone love ME that much? Boggles the mind and shakes me to my core. I don’t see how any human mind can truly understand and digest the full weight of what Jesus did for us. To me, in order to understand something, one has to have a frame of reference. I do not have any experiences of selflessness even in the ballpark of His sacrifice and gift of grace to me.

    Anyway, it was an interesting discussion and great bible class. Great way to start the week.

    • Amen, brother Jeff. Great way to start the week knowing that we are forgiven even if/when we can’t make sense of it. Martin Luther wrestled with forgiveness and struggled to find peace with God. He eventually resolved that we are justified by grace alone. This is what Luther said on the wonder of the forgiveness of sins:

      “This is wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside of ourselves. I am justified and acceptable to God, although there are in me sin, unrighteousness, and horror of death. Yet I must look elsewhere and see no sin. This is wonderful, not to see what I see, not to feel what I feel. Before my eyes I see a gulden, or a sword, or a fire, and I must say, ‘There is no gulden, no sword, no fire.’ The forgiveness of sins is like this.”

      Thank God for theologians like Martin Luther. At the risk of boasting, I am proud to be associated with the Lutheran church.

  7. To me this passage means that God set His law is a “high bar” as an absolute minimum for righteousness. No matter how gifted we are or how hard we try, the bar is too high for any person to meet. We may inwardly compare and grade our own “achievements” at reaching the bar based by what we see from others, but this is fantasy on several fronts. God is no concern in what we see of others or how we compare ourselves with others – any comparison we can make is “an empty boast”. In Truth we all fall miserably short. HOWEVER, when we go to the bar as a believer in Christ after our final earthly breath (or Judgement Day, which ever may comes first) – God lifts us to meet the bar. God’s law is the high bar, God’s grace is the gift of the lift. Its all God’s so that no man can boast.

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