Romans 3:21

The Bible presents us with three pictures of man's condition and character. They are very different, and yet they are all true pictures. There is the picture of man before the Fall, as he walked with God in primeval innocence of heart and sinless purity of life. There is the picture of man after the Fall, with the Divine image marred and stained by sin. And then there is the picture of man renewed again - man an object of Divine mercy, man a subject of Divine grace, man prepared for sharing once more the Divine glory. Two of these views of human nature concern man as he is now. The one humbles, the other exalts him. On the one hand, man is put before us as he is by nature - fallen, sinful, lost. On the other hand, he is put before us as God wants him to be, and as God has done all he can to make him - a pardoned sinner, a holy character, an heir of everlasting life. These two views are brought together in these verses. The apostle speaks of the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe (vers. 21, 22). And then he adds, as a reason for this broad, all-embracing statement, "For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (vers. 22, 23). There is no difference as to the fact of universal sin. And there is no difference as to the fact of universal mercy: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (ver. 24). There is no difference as to the need of salvation. There is no difference in the way of salvation. Christ is the Saviour of all men who come to him in faith.

I. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THE FACT OF UNIVERSAL GUILT. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." This is not a mere cynical statement. The Bible is not a cynical book. It does not look down with contempt upon human nature. But it deals with facts as they are. And yet, if it speaks of human nature as sinful, it is in terms of pity and compassion and desire to save. You will often meet with cynical views of human nature. You will meet some who will tell you that all men are equally bad, or that one man is as good as another. You will meet some who will sneer at the idea of virtue, or unselfishness, or honesty being found in any one. They will tell you that no such thing exists. They will tell you that selfishness is the ruling principle of human nature, and that, if men or women are honest, or virtuous, or charitable, it is because it is their interest to be so. Now, it will generally be found that those who speak thus of human nature have not a very high moral character of their own. They judge others from their own standpoint. They look at everything from a selfish point of view, and they think that every one else does the same. But this is not the way in which the Bible speaks of human nature. It paints it very black, it is true - because it paints it in its true colours. But it speaks of human nature as it is, not to depreciate it, but to elevate it. Moreover, it allows for the good that is in human nature. It meets human nature half-way. It recognizes that there is sometimes even in the most fallen nature a desire for better things. It represents the poor prodigal as coming to himself and saying, "I will arise, and go to my Father." Jesus says," Him that cometh to me! will in no wise cast out." The Bible is no cynical book. And yet it says that "all have sinned." This does not mean that all are equally bad, that all have committed sins of the deepest dye. But it does mean just what is said, that all have sinned - that there is sin in some degree in all, sin enough to condemn, to destroy. How humbling this is to human pride! And this was just how the apostle meant it. His whole desire in these opening chapters of Romans is to show the need of a Saviour, of a perfect righteousness. He first of all showed that the heathen needed a righteousness. Then, turning to the Jews, whom he knew so well, he saw at once their self-righteous spirit. They made their beast in the Law, and yet all the while they were transgressors of the Law. And so he proves that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin (ver. 9). "For there is no difference: for all have sinned." It is amazing to see how one professing Christian can look down upon another, just because the other is of a humbler class in society or wears a poorer dress, when, if they were true Christians, they would remember that they are all sinners saved by grace. Yes; the Bible is a very democratic book. It teaches that God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the earth. It teaches that the rich and poor meet together, and that God is the Maker of them all. But it does not, like many democratic leaders, give the people a false idea of themselves. It does not say, as I once heard a popular speaker say in Glasgow, that "the democracy is always wise and true and just." It places all men upon a common platform, as sinners in the sight of God. It says, "There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

II. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THE OFFER OF UNIVERSAL MERCY. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." It is when we come to look at the cross of Jesus that we can see how God looks at human nature. It was certainly no depreciation of human nature that caused the Son of God to come and die upon the cross. It was no desire to depreciate human nature that caused God to give "his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Ah no! When we speak of the depravity of human nature, of the fall of man, of universal guilt and sinfulness, some persons would charge us with taking low views of human nature. They are Bible views, at any rate; and the cross of Jesus shows us that, if God looks upon human nature as fallen, he does not look upon it with contempt. No! He looks upon it with infinite compassion. He looks upon it with redeeming love. He looks upon it, helpless, sinful, fallen; and as he looks, he stretches down the hand of mercy to save, to save for ever! On the porch of an old house in England is this inscription cut in stone, "Dextram cadenti porrigo (I stretch out my right hand to him that is falling"). That is just what God does. He stretches out the strong hand of mercy, and not only to him that is falling, but to him that is fallen. He does not exclude the profligate, or there would have been no place in the kingdom of heaven for St. Augustine or John Newton. He does not offer salvation only to his friends, or where would the Apostle Paul have been? There is no difference. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." How, then, is this, that the guilty sinner is an object of Divine mercy? He is guilty, and yet God not merely pardons, but justifies him, declares him just. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (ver. 24). It is on account of what Jesus did and suffered that the sinner is accepted in God's sight. This is to be remembered, that Jesus not only bore our punishment (which one human being might do for another), but he bore our guilt. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." It is thus that the sinner is looked upon as justified in God's sight. Thus God's righteousness is shown: "That he might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (ver. 26). And hence there is no difference. It is no merit in man, no penances, no good works of his own, that obtain his justification, his salvation. It is free grace. It is the righteousness that is in Jesus Christ. What large-hearted charity, what universal brotherhood of Christians, this large view of God's universal mercy ought to teach us! "The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." How this view of the universal mercy, the universal love of God, should break down all narrow views of creed and party and class! The day is long in coming, but surely, under the influence of this Christian gospel, it will come at last -

"When man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that." Yet it is to be observed that there is a great difference in man's treatment of this universal offer of mercy. Some accept the message. The goodness of God leads them to repentance. The love of Christ melts their hearts. Some reject this message. They put it away from them. They neglect it. They are too much occupied with other things - with pleasure, money-making, and the like. Now, this difference in the way in which men receive the offer of salvation will make a vast difference in their condition throughout eternity. How could it be otherwise? If Christ died to save those who take him as their Saviour, it must be a sad but stern reality that those who do not believe on him must perish. There is no difference in the universal guilt. There is no difference in God's universal offer of his mercy. But there is a difference in man's treatment of this offer. And there will be an awful difference throughout eternity. - C.H.I.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.
I. PREPARED BY GOD. Devised; approved; conferred by Him.


III. SECURED BY CHRIST. Free grace; redemption; propitiation.

IV. DESIGNED FOR ALL. All need it; all are creatures of God.

V. RECEIVED BY FAITH. Without merit; without works.


(J. Lyth, D. D.)

The apostle shows —

I. THAT IT IS A DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS, not a human. That righteousness which we had lost in Adam was but a human thing, finite like him who lost it; but that which we gain is Divine and forms an infinite compensation. It is called the righteousness of God, because it is —

1. Provided by Him.

2. Founded on the doings and sufferings of the Son of God.

3. Provides such a compensation for human unrighteousness, that it not only takes it all away, but brings in a new and far higher and surer footing for the sinner to rest on.

II. THAT IT IS A RIGHTEOUSNESS WITHOUT THE LAW. Not an unlawful righteousness — one not based on law, or one in providing which law has been set aside, but one which, in so far as we are concerned, has nothing to do with law at all. It is not a righteousness which asks any doing or obeying on our part to complete it, for then it would cease to be "the righteousness of God," and would become "the righteousness of man." In so far as God and Christ are concerned, it has everything to do with law, but in so far as we are concerned it has nothing to do with it.

III. THAT IT HAS BEEN "MANIFESTED." It is not a thing hidden from view. God has been at infinite pains to bring it forward both on our account and on His.

IV. THAT IT IS A RIGHTEOUSNESS WITNESSED BY THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. It is not something now come to light for the first time; it is something which has been proclaimed from the beginning. To this the eye of every saint, from Abel downward, has been directed — on this the feet of every saint have stood, this every type and prophecy and sacrifice has set forth.

V. THAT IT IS A RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS BY THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST. It is not our faith that is our righteousness. If it were so, then faith would be a work, and then should we be justified by our own acts. It is by believing that we are identified with Christ, so that His doing becomes ours; His suffering ours; His fulfilling of the law and obedience ours.

VI. THAT IT IS A RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR THE UNRIGHTEOUS. "For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It is our unrighteousness that fits us for this. How foolish, then, to say, "I am too great a sinner to be forgiven." It is like the sun. It is one sun, yet it is enough for and free to everyone.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

In various places this phrase signifies either that holiness and rectitude of character which is the attribute of God, or that distributive justice by which He maintains the authority of His law; but where it refers to man's salvation it signifies, as in ver. 21, that fulfilment of the law or perfect conformity to it in all its demands, which, consistently with His justice, God has appointed and provided for the salvation of sinners. This implies that the infinite justice of His character requires what is provided, and also that it is approved and accepted; for if it be God's righteousness it must be required and accepted by the justice of God. The righteousness of God, which is received by faith, denotes something that becomes the property of the believer. It cannot, then, be here the Divine attribute of justice, but the Divine work which God has wrought through His Son. This is, indeed, the righteousness of God, for it has been provided by God, and from first to last has been effected by His Son Jesus Christ, who is the mighty God and the Father of eternity. To that righteousness is the eye of the believer ever to be directed; on that righteousness must he rest; on that righteousness must he live; on that righteousness must he die; in that righteousness must he appear before the judgment seat; in that righteousness must he stand forever in the presence of a righteous God (Isaiah 61:10). This righteousness differs essentially from all other righteousness —

I. In its AUTHOR, for it is the righteousness not of creatures, but of the Creator (Isaiah 45:8).

1. It is the righteousness of God in the sense in which the world is the work of God. The Father created it by the Son in the same way as by the Son He created the world; and if the Father effected this righteousness because His Son effected it, then His Son must be one with Himself (2 Peter 1:1).

2. It was during His incarnation that the Son of God wrought out this righteousness. Before He acted as the Creator and Sovereign of the world — but afterwards as a servant. Before that period He was perfectly holy, but that holiness could not be called obedience, for it was exercised in making the law, and by it governing the world. But in His latter condition He became subject to the law, and in our nature conferred more honour on the law than the obedience of all intelligent creatures, and more honour than it had received of dishonour from all its transgressors (Isaiah 42:21).

3. The obedience of Jesus Christ magnified the law because it was rendered by Divine appointment (Zechariah 2:10, 11). It is impossible therefore to entertain too exalted an idea of the regard which God has for the character of His holy law.

II. In its NATURE this righteousness is two fold, fulfilling both the precept and its penalty. This, by any creature the most exalted, is impossible. The fulfilment of the precepts is all that could be required of creatures in their sinless condition. But the state of the Second Man was essentially different. Christ was made under the law, but it was a broken law; and, consequently, He was made under its curse (Galatians 3:13). Justice, therefore, required that He should fulfil also the penalty. A mere creature may obey the precept of the law, or suffer the penalty it denounces, but he cannot do both. But Jesus was capable at the same moment of suffering at the hand of God, and of obeying the precept to love God. This was made manifest during the whole period of His incarnation as well as at His death. By the sufferings of Christ the execution of the law was complete; while no punishment which creatures could suffer can be thus designated. It is He only who could put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. By enduring the threatened punishment He fully satisfied justice. In token of having received a full discharge He came forth from the grave; and when He shall appear the second time it shall be without sin — the sin which He had taken upon Him and all its effects being forever done away. But if nothing beyond the suffering of the penalty had taken place men would only have been released from the punishment due to sin: It they were to obtain the reward of obedience its precepts must also be obeyed; and this was accomplished to the utmost by Jesus Christ.

III. In its EXTENT. Every creature is bound for himself to all that obedience to his Creator of which he is capable. He is under the obligation to love God with all his heart, etc., and beyond this he cannot advance. It is evident, therefore, that he can have no superabounding righteousness to be placed in the way of merit to the account of another. And, besides this, if he has sinned, he is bound to suffer for himself the whole penalty. But the obedience of Jesus Christ, who is Himself infinite, as well as the punishment He suffered, being in themselves of infinite value, are capable of being transferred in their effects without any diminution in their respective values.

IV. In its DURATION. The righteousness of Adam or of angels could only be available while it continued to be performed. The moment, therefore, in which they transgressed, the advantages derived from all their previous obedience ceased. But the righteousness of God, brought in by His Son, is an "everlasting righteousness" (Daniel 9:24). It was performed within a limited period of time, but in its effects it can never terminate (Isaiah 51:6, 8; Psalm 119:142; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 9:12).

V. In its INFLUENCE. It is the sole ground of reconciliation of sinners with God, and of their justification, and also of their intercession (1 John 2:1). It is the price paid for those new heavens and that new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Man was made lower than the angels, but this righteousness exalts him above them. The redeemed people of God stand nearest to the throne, while the angels stand "round about" them. They enter heaven clothed with a righteousness infinitely better than that which angels possess, or in which Adam was created.

(J. Haldane.)

A poor man who had spent a life of ignorance and sin was found by a London clergyman apparently dying in a miserable garret. He was in great anxiety of mind from an apparently accidental cause. A stray leaf torn from a Testament met his eye. It was part of this chapter. He had read the vivid description of a sinner and had applied it to his own ease. But where was the remedy? where the gospel? Alas! the paper ended, "But now the righteousness of God without the law is"... "Is what?" said the anxious man. "Do the next words give any hope for such a sinner as I am?" The remainder of the chapter was read and explained to him, and the good news was as cold water to his thirsty soul.

(W. Baxendale.)

There is not a more interesting episode in English history than the story of the siege of Calais by Edward III. The king had beleaguered the town for a year, when the garrison surrendered, and the incensed monarch demanded that six of the principal citizens should be sent to him with the keys of the town, having halters about their necks. Six brave men volunteered to go on this cruel embassy, and were instantly ordered to execution. Queen Philippa, however, strenuously interceded for them, obtained their release, entertained them, and dismissed them in safety. Now compare this much vaunted instance of human clemency with that of God and then you will confess how unlike His ways are to our ways, and His thoughts to our thoughts. Those burgesses deserved not to suffer, and the king only granted them their lives in sullen submission to the importunity of his queen. And she did not make them her friends, but only dismissed them in a manner honourable to herself. With how much greater love has our offended God dealt with us! We appeared before Him as culprits condemned, and if He had ordered our instant execution we could not have impugned His justice. Not waiting to be moved, He was the first to ask us to be reconciled; and then forgiving us our sins He receives us as children. Note —


1. God is a great King; and we all are His natural subjects. This is quite independent of our choice or suffrages. A person born in England finds himself hedged about with laws which were neither of his devising nor of his adopting, yet to which he is bound under penalty to conform. By a like anterior necessity he is born under a system of physical laws. From that which is human and political we can escape; but from that which is Divine and natural there is no escape. Now just as you are of necessity born into the midst of these two systems of laws, so are you also born under subjection to a third, possessing a higher and more awful character. You are amenable to God's moral laws, which are more searching in their application, more stringent in their requisitions, more tremendous in their sanctions, more enduring in their operation than the other two. You may get away from the coils of national law by journeying to another country; and you will be released from physical laws when death shall transfer you to another world; but you will not even then escape from the control of God's moral law.

2. The whole world is proven guilty in God's sight.(1) We resorts His authority and feel submission a hardship, simply because we are conscious rebels before Him. Ours are the feelings of culprits who hate the laws which they have broken, and the breach of which has brought them into trouble. This is true of all mankind, without limitation or exception. This is the truth which St. Paul demonstrates in chaps, 1 and 2.(2) But another mode of reasoning is adopted in chap. Romans 5. There Paul boldly announces, as a fundamental principle of God's dealings with mankind, the organic unity of our race. Therefore, if any part be naturally foul and vile, all is so too; if one be guilty before God, all must be the same. We are a sinful race as inheriting the sin of Adam.

II. Such being the case, let us ask, "HOW CAN A MAN BE JUST WITH GOD?" The answer constitutes the very marrow and pith of the gospel. And what we learn is —

1. That God can save us from our sins and recover us to His favour.

2. That He can do this by freely and generously forgiving us all our sins, and absolutely remitting their penalty.

3. That this forgiveness of man's sins is not a wanton and arbitrary act of the Divine clemency which might outrage His own holiness and dishonour His law.

4. Nor is it the reward, merited or unmerited, of works of righteousness and legal obedience, which we can render in the future as a counterbalance and set-off against our transgressions in the past.

5. But it is rendered possible by the sacrificial sufferings and death of His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for our souls.

6. That this benefit accrues to us simply and solely on the condition of faith or trust in the blood of Christ, assuming only that we have a true knowledge of sin which leads us heartily to repent of it, and to seek deliverance from the curse of a broken law.

7. That thin is a mode of making us righteous in God's sight in complete harmony with His own perfect righteousness of character and law.

8. That this method of justification appertains alike to all mankind, for as there is no essential difference in their sinfulness, so there is none in the way of their recovery to holiness and life.

9. That this plan of mercy leaves no ground of boasting to man, but ensures all the glory to God.

10. That it is the same which has existed from the beginning, being spoken of, however dimly, by both Moses and the prophets. The inference is plain that none need despair; that all may he saved; that the blame of any man's being lost, to whom the word of this salvation is sent, must rest with himself and not with God; and that it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation to proclaim a free and full and present salvation to everyone that believeth.

(T. G. Horton.)

This passage contains the pith and kernel of the whole Epistle. All that precedes just clears the ground for it. All that follows is related to it as explanation, illustration, confirmation, or application.

I. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE GREAT END OF THE GOSPEL. This is taken for granted throughout the Epistle.

1. With inspired insight Paul surveyed the condition of mankind, and put his finger at once on its great root evil. This was not poverty, pain, death, but moral corruption. He saw that that was the greatest gospel which could lift men out of the mire of wickedness and set their feet on the rock of righteousness.

2. Their righteousness is real righteousness — not the covering of the leper with a fair robe, but the curing of the leprosy. The righteousness of the gospel is indwelling goodness out of which all virtues flow. Nothing short of this will satisfy —(1) The requirements of God. He will not endure sham goodness. The God of truth, hating all lies, cannot see a man to be righteous who is not righteous.(2) The ends of redemption. That would be a most immoral gospel which promised remission of the penalty leaving the disposition of wickedness uncorrected. The true purpose of the gospel is (Titus 2:14).(3) The needs of our own souls. Ever since the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent began, mankind has felt that sin was misery, and righteousness blessedness. The hunger and thirst for righteousness may be stifled with morbid cravings for evil things. But in our better moments it wakes up, and then we feel that it is not enough for the skin to be safe if the heart is diseased. We do not want merely not to be hurt. We want "to be good."

3. Paul sometimes uses "righteousness" in the "forensic" sense, i.e., to treat as righteous rather than to make righteous (Romans 4:1-3; Romans 5:1). But he knew that "to justify" meant both to make righteous and to forgive; and so he passes from one to the other with little apparent discrimination, because he sees that they are only two faces of the same fact. On the one hand, the act of forgiveness is the most powerful inducement to a change of character. They who are forgiven most love most. Thus justification produces righteousness. On the other hand, since God is aware of this influence of forgiveness He must confer the pardon with a reference to it. He must see that in forgiving the sinner He is taking the best step towards destroying the sin.

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS A GIFT OF GOD. St. Paul has demonstrated the impossibility of man's acquiring righteousness by himself. Night cannot produce day. Water will not rise above its level. Marah will never sweeten itself. We cannot grow righteous by natural development, since you can only evolve what has been previously involved, and we have all lost the goodness of original innocence. History has proved that the best of laws could not secure this end. Law is good for detecting wickedness. It is the standard by which we are measured, but it has no power for lifting us up to that standard. Now we can see the value of the great promise of the new dispensation, of a righteousness of God — made by God, given by God. This is the essential idea of the religion of grace. Therefore the great requisite is to be in such relations with God that we may receive the gift. If we are far from or at enmity with Him, we are shut out from it. We therefore need to be reconciled to God. Consequently —

III. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RECEIVED THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST. This faith is not the mere belief in a doctrine, but active trust in Christ, practical reliance on His grace, obedient loyalty to His will (John 15:10).

1. By faith in Christ as the sacrifice for sin we are reconciled with God. Christ having offered Himself to God on our behalf we are called to look to Him as "the Way" to the Father. If through pride or unbelief we think that we can dispense with a Saviour, we must not be surprised if God rejects our overtures towards reconciliation (Acts 13:38, 39). The offering of Christ not only secures forgiveness, but through this cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).

2. By faith in Christ as the revelation of God we grow into the Divine image. Christ is the pattern man because He is the Son of God. To be righteous is to be like God, like Christ. When we trust to Him faithfully, we shall walk in His footsteps in the irresistible desire to be near Him, and thus we shall unconsciously grow up into the likeness of Him and share His righteousness.

3. By faith in Christ as our Lord and Master we are led into obedient loyalty to His will. He who trusts Christ must trust Him in all His relations. Thus the faith which is reliance on a Saviour becomes loyalty when it turns to a King. Then the righteousness which refused to come at the cold, stern bidding of law springs forth as a very passion of devotion.

(W. J. Adeney, M. A.)


1. No man has done the deeds of the law.

2. The law, when brought into contact with the deeds of men, always discovers sin and pronounces condemnation.

3. The law is law only; a rule of life merely, and in no sense or manner a means of restoration to a blameless state.


1. God designs; the plan is of His devising.

2. God provides; the preparation of it is of His working.

3. God confers; the bestowal is of His grace and sovereignty.

4. God approves; He accepts it as complete in His sight, and will accept it in the last day. It is a blamelessness, righteously —



(3)Regarded as perfect blamelessness.

III. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS "WITHOUT THE LAW"; entirely distinct from it and its purposes, belonging to another province altogether.

1. It is not provided for by the law.

2. It derives no aid, direction, efficiency of any kind from the law.

3. It has no reference to, or connection with the law, except as the law shows the necessity which is to be met.

III. IT IS WITNESSED OR TESTIFIED TO AS A DIVINE PROVISION, both by the law which reveals the sin, and by the prophecy which denounces it.

1. As being needed. The law, in the book or in the heart, gives silent assent to its necessity, by being dumb with regard to any other means of justification.

2. As being possible. In all the voice of the law, as God has spoken it, there is mingled an intimation of a possible pardon, not from the law, but from the mercy of God.

3. As being provided. In all the written law and prophecy of the Old Testament free pardon, as righteousness of God, is formally announced. The "righteousness" of the gospel pardon —(a) Is no new thing. Obtained by Abel, Enoch, Abraham, without the law.(b) Is manifested now in the means of its provision, the fulness of love that provides it, the signs and seals of its Divine approval, and the completeness of its restoration to favour and privilege.(c) Is in perfect harmony with the law, though belonging to another sphere; since it recognises, respects, and meets the claims of the law, and provides for its maintenance as a righteous rule of life; so the law readily witnesses it.

IV. THIS "RIGHTEOUSNESS" HAS ALWAYS BEEN OBTAINED BY FAITH (see chap. Romans 4). Now by faith which rests not only in God as the pardoner, but also in Christ as the procurer of pardon. Faith —

1. Assents to the necessity and sufficiency of this righteousness.

2. Consents to its bestowal.

3. Relies on the work of Christ and the word of promise.

4. Claims, seeks, grasps, and holds this righteousness.


1. The need is universal; so the remedy.

2. No distinction in the condemnation (see Romans 2:6-11); none in the justifying.

3. Faith a condition of which all are capable; and the only thing of which any are capable (ver. 23).

(1)All have actually transgressed.

(2)All have thus "fallen behind in the race" for the Divine approval, or giving of glory (Romans 1:10).

(3)All have made it impossible that they should be justified by law.

(4)God, therefore, since the provision is as large as the need, puts it within the reach of all.

(W. Griffiths.)

Of all the subjects there is none so important as — How can man be just with God? and yet there is none as to which men are so easily deluded. Conscience tells the man that he has sinned, and yet, when asked, How do you expect to obtain future happiness? — he either evades the question, or shelters himself in some refuge of lies. And the reason is that the man is utterly blind to his true condition, he knows not the malignity of the disease, and cannot, therefore, apprehend the remedy. Ere a sinner can even understand the gospel, he must see and realise his own true position under the government of God. His position is plainly this: he has transgressed the law, and lies under sentence of death. How, then, can he be restored to the favour of God? How can the government of God remain unchangeable whilst this creature is saved? To this question you have the answer, that the sinner is justified and saved by means of a righteousness. This appears from the text, and from the nature of the case. It was righteousness that God required of man at first, it was failing to yield it that he lost his title to life; and as the character of God is unchangeable, it is only when he can plead a righteousness ample as the demands of the law that he can be restored to favour.

I. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT THE SINNER'S OWN, BUT THAT OF ANOTHER (see also Romans 1:17, 18; Romans 3:20). And yet, in the face of this, multitudes seek to enter heaven by a door which their own sins have closed against them. Ask that man of the world what is the foundation of his hope for eternity, and his answer is, that he has never yet been guilty of open, flagrant transgression. Ask that sensualist, and his answer is that he trusts his charitable deeds will atone for these infirmities. The professor of religion answers that he does his best, that he is sincere, and that he trusts God will take the will for the deed. But ye who would be justified by your obedience to the law, have ye really considered what the law requires? It demands perfect obedience, and condemns the least transgression. Have you such a righteousness as this? Is it not, therefore, clear, that if ever the law relaxes its hold of you, the reason must be not your righteousness, but the righteousness of another?

II. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN ONLY BE KNOWN BY REVELATION. Being a righteousness provided by God, none but God can discover it. It was revealed at first in Eden as the ground of the sinner's hope — the Jewish ritual was a continued revelation of it — the prophets bore testimony to it, speaking of Him who should magnify the law, and make it honourable, and the whole New Testament is a bright revelation that God has provided a righteousness, through which He can be just when He justifies the ungodly. An awakened conscience tells the sinner that he has no resources of his own wherewith to meet the demands of a violated law; and, if he looks around and puts the question to all creation, How can God be righteous, and I be saved? Creation remains silent, and is covered with darkness. But a voice comes from the Bible which saves him from despair (Romans 10:6-9).

III. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS WAS WROUGHT OUT IN HUMAN NATURE. The circumstances rendered this necessary. It was on earth that God was dishonoured, and on earth therefore must He be glorified. "The children were partakers of flesh and blood," and their Redeemer therefore "must take part of the same." The first revelation of this righteousness, accordingly, was made in the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and, in due time, this promise was fulfilled in the Second Adam, standing in the room of His people as their representative and head (Romans 5:19). He who was thus born of a woman, was "made under the law"; that is to say, He met the law as His people's surety, and fulfilled to the uttermost all its demands against them.

IV. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. True, the Redeemer was a man; but under that veil of humanity, faith beholds Jehovah. Without this were the case, the salvation of His people was impossible. He had to make atonement for their sin, but the righteousness of a mere creature would have been utterly insufficient, for a creature owes to God already all the obedience he can yield. The righteousness, therefore, through which the sinner is justified is the righteousness of a Divine person. You accordingly read that this is the name wherewith He shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness. It is the righteousness of the Mediator, of God manifest in the flesh, of Him who is God and man in two distinct natures and one person; and as such it answers, yea, more than answers, all the demands of a violated law. For what higher honour can the law receive than that God Himself became its servant, and obeyed all its commands?

V. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS "IS UNTO ALL." It is so completely put within the sinner's reach, that if he once hears of it he cannot perish, without putting it from him and rejecting it. The brazen serpent was God's free gift to all — all were commanded to look to it; and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so has the Son of Man been lifted up, etc. The cities of refuge were open to every manslayer. And so it is with the righteousness of Christ; every sinner who hears of it is invited and commanded to flee for refuge.

VI. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS UPON ALL THAT BELIEVE. The believer is clothed and covered with it. Being one with Christ by faith, Christ's righteousness is his own; he is dealt with as one who obeyed when Christ obeyed, as one who suffered when Christ suffered, as one who is, therefore, as righteous as Christ is.

(A. M. McGillivray.)

Paul, Romans
Although, Apart, Bear, Bearing, Borne, Law, Manifested, Prophets, Revealed, Revelation, Righteousness, Testified, Testify, Witness, Witnessed
1. The Jews prerogative;
3. which they have not lost;
9. howbeit the law convinces them also of sin;
20. therefore no one is justified by the law;
28. but all, without difference, by faith, only;
31. and yet the law is not abolished.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Romans 3:21

     1403   God, revelation
     2354   Christ, mission
     2422   gospel, confirmation

Romans 3:19-23

     5851   excuse

Romans 3:19-24

     6512   salvation, necessity and basis

Romans 3:20-22

     6679   justification, results

Romans 3:20-23

     6677   justification, necessity

Romans 3:20-24

     8774   legalism

Romans 3:20-28

     8157   righteousness, as faith

Romans 3:21-22

     1125   God, righteousness
     1444   revelation, NT
     7797   teaching

Romans 3:21-24

     5362   justice, believers' lives
     6669   grace, and salvation
     8822   self-justification

Romans 3:21-26

     2072   Christ, righteousness
     2424   gospel, promises
     2426   gospel, responses
     5110   Paul, teaching of
     6661   freedom, and law
     6712   propitiation

Romans 3:21-30

     8022   faith, basis of salvation

No Difference
'There is no difference.'--ROMANS iii. 22. The things in which all men are alike are far more important than those in which they differ. The diversities are superficial, the identities are deep as life. Physical processes and wants are the same for everybody. All men, be they kings or beggars, civilised or savage, rich or poor, wise or foolish, cultured or illiterate, breathe the same breath, hunger and thirst, eat and drink, sleep, are smitten by the same diseases, and die at last the same death.
Alexander Maclaren—Romans, Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)

The Law Established through Faith
Discourse I "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law." Romans 3:31. 1. St. Paul, having the beginning of this Epistle laid down his general proposition, namely, that "the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;" -- the powerful means, whereby God makes every believer a partaker of present and eternal salvation; -- goes on to show, that there is no other way under heaven whereby men can be saved. He speaks particularly
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

God Justified, Though Man Believes Not
"For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."--Romans 3:3,4. The seed of Israel had great privileges even before the coming of Christ. God had promised by covenant that they should have those privileges; and they did enjoy them. They had a revelation and a light divine, while all the world
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 38: 1892

Justice Satisfied
WHEN THE SOUL is seriously impressed with the conviction of its guilt, when terror and alarm get hold upon it concerning the inevitable consequences of its sin, the soul is afraid of God. It dreads at that time every attribute of divinity. But most of all the sinner is afraid of God's justice. "Ah," saith he to himself, "God is a just God; and if so, how can he pardon my sins? for my iniquities cry aloud for punishment, and my transgressions demand that his right hand should smite me low. How can
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 5: 1859

"That the Righteousness of the Law Might be Fulfilled in Us. "
Rom. viii. 4.--"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." God having a great design to declare unto the world both his justice and mercy towards men, he found out this mean most suitable and proportioned unto it, which is here spoken of in the third verse,--to send his own Son to bear the punishment of sin, that the righteousness of the law might be freely and graciously fulfilled in sinners. And, indeed, it was not imaginable by us, how he could declare both in the salvation
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

How Christ is the Way in General, "I am the Way. "
We come now to speak more particularly to the words; and, first, Of his being a way. Our design being to point at the way of use-making of Christ in all our necessities, straits, and difficulties which are in our way to heaven; and particularly to point out the way how believers should make use of Christ in all their particular exigencies; and so live by faith in him, walk in him, grow up in him, advance and march forward toward glory in him. It will not be amiss to speak of this fulness of Christ
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life

How Christ is Made Use of for Justification as a Way.
What Christ hath done to purchase, procure, and bring about our justification before God, is mentioned already, viz. That he stood in the room of sinners, engaging for them as their cautioner, undertaking, and at length paying down the ransom; becoming sin, or a sacrifice for sin, and a curse for them, and so laying down his life a ransom to satisfy divine justice; and this he hath made known in the gospel, calling sinners to an accepting of him as their only Mediator, and to a resting upon him for
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life

The Necessity of Other Preparatory Acts Besides Faith
1. HERETICAL ERRORS AND THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH.--Martin Luther, to quiet his conscience, evolved the notion that faith alone justifies and that the Catholic doctrine of the necessity of good works is pharisaical and derogatory to the merits of Jesus Christ. This teaching was incorporated into the symbolic books of the Lutherans(811) and adopted by Calvin.(812) It has been called one of the two basic errors of Protestantism. The Tridentine Council solemnly condemns it as follows: "If anyone saith
Joseph Pohle—Grace, Actual and Habitual

"Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."--Rom. iii. 24. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that true conversion consists of these two parts: the dying of the old man, and the rising again of the new. This last should be noticed. The Catechism says not that the new life originates in conversion, but that it arises in conversion. That which arises must exist before. Else how could it arise? This agrees with our statement that regeneration precedes conversion,
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Certainty of Our Justification.
"Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."--Rom. iii. 24. The foregoing illustrations shed unexpected light upon the fact that God justifies the ungodly, and not him who is actually just in himself; and upon the word of Christ: "Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John xv. 3) They illustrate the significant fact that God does not determine our status according to what we are, but by the status to which He assigns us He determines
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

'Being justified freely by his grace.' Rom 3:34. Q-xxxiii: WHAT IS JUSTIFICATION? A: It is an act of God's free grace, whereby he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone. Justification is the very hinge and pillar of Christianity. An error about justification is dangerous, like a defect in a foundation. Justification by Christ is a spring of the water of life. To have the poison of corrupt doctrine
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

A Great Deal for Me to Read Hast Thou Sent...
1. A great deal for me to read hast thou sent, my dearest brother Consentius: a great deal for me to read: to the which while I am preparing an answer, and am drawn off first by one, then by another, more urgent occupation, the year has measured out its course, and has thrust me into such straits, that I must answer in what sort I may, lest the time for sailing being now favorable, and the bearer desirous to return, I should too long detain him. Having therefore unrolled and read through all that
St. Augustine—Against Lying

Nuremberg Sept. 15, 1530. To the Honorable and Worthy N. , My Favorite Lord and Friend.
Grace and peace in Christ, honorable, worthy and dear Lord and friend. I received your writing with the two questions or queries requesting my response. In the first place, you ask why I, in the 3rd chapter of Romans, translated the words of St. Paul: "Arbitramur hominem iustificari ex fide absque operibus" as "We hold that the human will be justified without the works of the law but only by faith." You also tell me that the Papists are causing a great fuss because St. Paul's text does not contain
Dr. Martin Luther—An Open Letter on Translating

This Conflict None Experience in Themselves, Save Such as War on the Side Of...
7. This conflict none experience in themselves, save such as war on the side of the virtues, and war down the vices: nor doth any thing storm the evil of lust, save the good of Continence. But there are, who, being utterly ignorant of the law of God, account not evil lusts among their enemies, and through wretched blindness being slaves to them, over and above think themselves also blessed, by satisfying them rather than taming them. But whoso through the Law have come to know them, ("For through
St. Augustine—On Continence

V. The conditions of this attainment. 1. A state of entire sanctification can never be attained by an indifferent waiting of God's time. 2. Nor by any works of law, or works of any kind, performed in your own strength, irrespective of the grace of God. By this I do not mean, that, were you disposed to exert your natural powers aright, you could not at once obey the law in the exercise of your natural strength, and continue to do so. But I do mean, that as you are wholly indisposed to use your natural
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Christ is represented in the gospel as sustaining to men three classes of relations. 1. Those which are purely governmental. 2. Those which are purely spiritual. 3. Those which unite both these. We shall at present consider him as Christ our justification. I shall show,-- I. What gospel justification is not. There is scarcely any question in theology that has been encumbered with more injurious and technical mysticism than that of justification. Justification is the pronouncing of one just. It may
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

We come now to the consideration of a very important feature of the moral government of God; namely, the atonement. In discussing this subject, I will-- I. Call attention to several well-established principles of government. 1. We have already seen that moral law is not founded in the mere arbitrary will of God or of any other being, but that it has its foundation in the nature and relations of moral agents, that it is that rule of action or of willing which is imposed on them by the law of their
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Its Evidence
In Romans 3:28 the Apostle Paul declared "that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," and then produces the case of Abraham to prove his assertion. But the Apostle James, from the case of the same Abraham, draws quite another conclusion, saying, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). This is one of the "contradictions in the Bible" to which infidels appeal in support of their unbelief. But the Christian, however difficult he finds
Arthur W. Pink—The Doctrine of Justification

The Impossibility of Failure.
"But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward His name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister. And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end: that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to
Thomas Charles Edwards—The Expositor's Bible: The Epistle to the Hebrews

What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for our sin? Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means, whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption. I begin with the first, faith in Jesus Christ. Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.' Rom 3: 25. The great privilege in the text is, to have Christ for a propitiation; which is not only to free us from God's wrath, but to
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Christian Behavior
Being the fruits of true Christianity: Teaching husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, etc., how to walk so as to please God. With a word of direction to all backsliders. Advertisement by the Editor This valuable practical treatise, was first published as a pocket volume about the year 1674, soon after the author's final release from his long and dangerous imprisonment. It is evident from the concluding paragraph that he considered his liberty and even his life to be still in a very
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The Gospel the Power of God
'I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.'--ROMANS i. 16. To preach the Gospel in Rome had long been the goal of Paul's hopes. He wished to do in the centre of power what he had done in Athens, the home of wisdom; and with superb confidence, not in himself, but in his message, to try conclusions with the strongest thing in the world. He knew its power well, and was not appalled. The danger was an attraction to his chivalrous
Alexander Maclaren—Romans, Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)

The Loftiness of God
ISAIAH lvii. 15. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. This is a grand text; one of the grandest in the whole Old Testament; one of those the nearest to the spirit of the New. It is full of Gospel--of good news: but it is not the whole Gospel. It does not tell us the whole character
Charles Kingsley—The Good News of God

The Pharisee and the Publican
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican, standing afar off would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.-- Luke, xviii. 10-13. In the beginning
John Bunyan—The Pharisee And Publican

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