May 5, 2024

God’s Righteousness Received by Faith in Christ

Pastor: Allen Snapp Series: The Summit Of Our Salvation Topic: Justification, Redemption, Faith Passage: Romans 3:19–26

The Summit of Our Salvation

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

May 5, 2024


God’s Righteousness Received by Faith in Christ

Last week Walt did a wonderful job unpacking the bad, bad news in chapter 3 verses 1-20. I want to backtrack just a couple verses to help us see the good, good news that God has for us starting with verse 21. So let’s pick up in verse 19.

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 will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.


I love a good courtroom drama, especially when a sharp attorney steps up to present compelling evidence and make a clear argument for an innocent person wrongly accused. IJanice and have been watching a show on PBS called Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office based on a true case of miscarriage of justice when in 1999 the Post Office installed a new computer system called Horizon and over the next decade hundreds of British Subpostmasters would be wrongly accused and prosecuted for theft, false accounting, and fraud that actually were the result of a software bug in Horizon.

Lives were torn apart, marriages were torn apart, many lost all they had, others were thrown in prison, and some even committed suicide over the next nearly two decades. Alan Bates formed the Justice for Submasters Alliance and finally an attorney named James Hartley stepped forward to represent 555 subpostmaster victims. I got excited as episode 3 ended with Hartley hearing about what was going on with the Post Office on the radio and made a call to Alan Bates saying he thought he could help.

Paul says when we stand before God on Judgment Day we will be silent. The whole world will be silent. Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived will be silent – no attorney will step up to present evidence that we aren’t guilty because we are all guilty, and while we may not know it or believe it now, we will on that day. This is the state of both Gentiles and Jews. No human being will be justified by what they did – or didn’t – do. We will all be guilty with no James Hartley/attorney stepping up to make our case for innocence. That’s the dark picture Paul has been painting these past three chapters. Paul wants to bring us all to this point of desperation but he doesn’t leave us there.

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,  Rom. 3:19-24a

The word “but” reverses the statement that comes before. No human being will be righteous or justified by anything they do or don’t do, “but!” Things aren’t hopeless at all, in fact there is a brilliant hope! We can’t be justified by our goodness, we can never reach the standard of righteousness God demands, “but!” But a righteousness has been revealed – a righteousness that is disconnected from the law even though the law and Prophets spoke of it. That righteousness is the righteousness of God granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

  1. God’s righteousness is given to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ

Paul has made the case for universal sinfulness. No one is righteous, no not one. On Judgment Day we will all be silenced and all stand condemned – no exceptions…”but”. Just as all are unrighteous in God’s sight, all – Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, powerful, powerless – all will be made righteous who believe in Jesus Christ. There is no distinction – all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and all have the gift of righteousness available to them as a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are justified by His grace as a gift (vs. 24). A gift isn’t something you earn. It’s not something you attain to. A gift is something freely given, no strings attached. So if all people have the same gift of righteousness and salvation offered freely to them, then the only reason someone won’t be saved is that they reject that gift. When they stand silent before God on that day, they will know they had been offered the gift of salvation and they didn’t want it. On that day it will be too late to receive it. We need to receive it now. How do we receive it? Someone might say, “by faith” but that’s not entirely accurate.

Sometimes people say the important thing is to have faith. Doesn’t matter what your faith is in, what’s important is that you have faith. But that’s not true.

Someone can have strong faith in the wrong thing, and someone else could have weak faith in the right thing. One person could strap feathers on their arms and be 100% confident they will be able to fly from the United States to the United Kingdom. Another person could step onto a transatlantic flight full of fear and doubt. The issue isn’t how much or how little faith one has, the issue is the object of our faith. The righteousness of God isn’t received by faith. It’s not even received by faith in God. The righteousness of God is received by faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Jesus Christ redeems those who believe by being the propitiation for our sins

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. Rom. 3:24b-25

We don’t hear or use the word “propitiation” much today, but in many ancient religions and even today it meant to offer a sacrifice to appease angry gods. The Bible uses propitiation with a slightly different meaning. The God of the Bible isn’t a capricious, vengeful god needing to be appeased. He is a just God and His righteous justice has to be satisfied. Jesus’ blood (meaning his death on the cross) satisfied God’s requirement for justice, making it possible for us to be redeemed (or bought back). Jesus purchased our souls back to God.

These verses help us understand how Old Testament people could be forgiven and not condemned for their sin. God showed divine forbearance by passing over their sins – not overlooking them but patiently waiting until their sin, just as our sin, would be paid for by Jesus Christ.

John Piper has used the example of David’s adultery and murder. He took Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and got her pregnant and then to cover his sin had Uriah murdered. But when he confessed and repented, the prophet Nathan said, “the Lord has put away your sin.” What? Adultery, lying, murder, and the Lord just puts away his sin as if it didn’t happen? As Piper says, tell that to Uriah’s mother!

God passed over David’s sin at the time because He knew Christ would one day in the future die as a propitiation for David’s sin, absorbing God’s wrath for that sin – wrath that God patiently held onto too until Jesus willingly absorbed it on David’s behalf. How was David forgiven and saved? The same way Uriah and Uriah’s mom was saved: by trusting in God’s future Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

One objection people raise to Christianity is that it’s too exclusive. They’re right it’s exclusive. Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jn. 14:6 It’s exclusive because no one else in all creation could save us. The debt we owed was too great for anyone to pay. No one else’s blood was powerful enough to cover our sins or pure enough to satisfy God’s justice or precious enough to buy us back to God. God didn’t set aside His justice, He turned it on Himself. The cross displays the perfect justice of God, the ferocious wrath of God, and the measureless love of God – all at once! The gospel is exclusive because only God could save us from God.

And that leads right into the next truth Paul unpacks.

  1. In Christ God the Judge also became the Attorney for the Defense

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. Rom. 3:26

Through God’s amazing plan of the cross, God upheld His justice and at the same time justified (or made righteous) those who had violated His justice. God the Judge became the attorney for the defense.

I said earlier that on that day when we stand before God silent, there will be no attorney stepping forward to make our case, meaning no one from the fallen human race because we will all stand silent with nothing to say. But God in the Person of Jesus our Mediator will step forward as our Attorney and represent us to Himself. God the Judge will be our Defense Attorney on that day.

On that day there will be no bravado. No explanations, no rationalizations (well, God, I did more good works than bad), no justification (if I hadn’t been born with the parents I had, or the disadvantages I had, or with more money, I wouldn’t have sinned. It’s your fault really God when you stop and think about it!). None of that. But if I can speak on that day, if I can break the silence, there will be one thing I say. It won’t be “I was a pastor!” or “I read the Bible and prayed and gave to Compassion to help a little girl in Kenya” or anything else like that. It will be simply “Jesus is my Savior, I trust in him.” That’s it. We receive a righteousness from God through faith in Jesus Christ.

What is faith? In closing I want to quote Tim Keller:

Faith is simply the attitude of coming to God with empty hands. When a child asks his mother for something he needs, trusting that she will give it, his asking does not merit anything. It is merely the way he receives his mother’s generosity. This is crucial because, if you come to think that your belief is the cause of your salvation, you will stop looking at Christ and start looking at your faith. When you see doubts, it will rattle you. When you don’t feel it quite as clearly or excitedly, it will worry you. What has happened? You’ve turned your faith into a “work”! Faith is only the instrument by which you receive your salvation, not the cause of your salvation. Tim Keller

Faith is simply the attitude of coming to God with empty hands. Empty hands and silent mouths. No good works, no rationalizations, no excuses, just empty hands relying on and receiving His gift of righteousness. And that is more than enough. Let’s pray.

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