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Romans Series #28
Title: “The Righteousness of God”
Text: Romans 3:20-31
Subject: The Righteousness of God
Reading: Romans 9:31-10:13
Date: Sunday Morning—September 14, 2014
The title of my message is — “The Righteousness of God”. The phrase, “the righteousness of God,” is used repeatedly in Holy Scripture (Romans 1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 10:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21; James 1:20; 2 Peter 1:1). Everytime that precise phrase is used, it refers to the righteousness of God by which we are saved, the “everlasting righteousness” accomplished and brought in by the Lord Jesus Christ. This phrase, “the righteousness of God,” does not refer to God’s attribute of righteousness, but to God’s work of righteousness, by which he saves sinners. Understand this and you understand the gospel. Miss this and you miss the gospel…
Proposition: Sinners are saved by “the righteousness of God”.
Yes, sinners are saved by “the righteousness of God”. How I wish the preachers of this day would learn this! Sinners are saved by “the righteousness of God”. That’s my subject. — “The Righteousness of God”. You have my text before you in Romans 3:20-31.
“Therefore” — Since all are under sin, since all Adam’s fallen race is dead in trespasses and in sins, since every man, women and child in this world is totally depraved and spiritually dead, without any inclination, desire, or ability to do good, since none can obey God’s law, since none can do good, since “every imagination of the thoughts of every man’s heart is only evil continually” (Romans 1:1-3:19; Genesis 6:5), Paul says, “Therefore…”
· Since the law can only identify sin, condemn, and kill,
· Since the law points to righteousness, but can never produce righteousness,
· Since the law requires righteousness, but can never reveal righteousness… “Therefore…”
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Then, when he gets to verse 21, Paul comes to the subject he has had in mind from the beginning of this marvelous epistle. — “The Righteousness of God”. He mentioned it in chapter 1.
Romans 1:15-17 (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation because the gospel is the revelation of “the righteousness of God.” That has been the thing on the Apostle’s mind all along. But now, God’s word was “in his heart like as a burning fire shut up in his bones,” and he could forbear no longer (Jeremiah 20:9). This great subject, “The Righteousness of God,” was just popping in his soul, bursting to get out! He had to declare what God the Holy Ghost had burned into his soul and written upon his heart.
Romans 3:20-31 (20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (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. (27) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. (28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (29) Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: (30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. (31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Four times God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to speak of “the righteousness of God” in this short passage of Holy Scripture. Obviously, “the righteousness of God” is the subject and message of our text.
“Without the Law”
The first thing the Apostle tells us in this passage of Scripture is this: — The righteousness of God by which we are saved is “without the law” (v. 21). “The righteousness of God” by which we are saved and our works and acts of obedience are completely and totally disconnected.
Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
This is a fact so obviously manifest that all questions and debate concerning it are beyond absurd and arise only from man’s pride and rebellion, which makes him go about to establish his own righteousness, refusing to submit to the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 9:31-10:4).
Romans 9:31-10:4 (31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (1) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Both the law and the prophets joyfully give their united testimony to the complete and full justifying righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ. They gladly proclaim their own nothingness and Christ’s all-sufficiency for the justification of sinners before God.
By the law is the knowledge of sin. Yes, the law teaches and shows us what sin is; but it does not and cannot show a righteousness which may save us from sin. This the gospel alone proclaims. Both the law and the prophets give witness to the blessedness, fulness and completeness of it “the righteousness of God” revealed and proclaimed in the gospel (Psalm 85:10-13; Isaiah 53:10-11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:16; Daniel 9:24; Romans 4:25).
Psalm 85:10-13 (10) Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (11) Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. (12) Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. (13) Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
Isaiah 53:10-11 (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (5) Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. (6) In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jeremiah 33:16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.
Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
“By Faith of Jesus Christ”
Look at the next verse (Romans 3:22). — The second thing we are told is this: — The righteousness of God by which God has saved us is “by faith of Jesus Christ.”
This righteousness by which we are saved is not by our works; and it is not by our faith. It is “the righteousness of God.”
The righteousness by which we are saved is entirely of God’s providing and God’s doing.
This righteousness of God was accomplished and brought in “by faith of Jesus Christ,” by Christ’s faithful obedience to the triune Jehovah as our Surety and Substitute.
We receive this righteousness, “the righteousness of God,” by faith in Christ; but out faith has no part in and makes no contribution to “the righteousness of God” that justifies us. — Our faith is not our Savior. — Christ is our Savior! It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us and gave itself for us, that bore our sin in its own body on the tree, or that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Savior is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound the two. Christ is our Savior. Christ is our Righteousness, “The Righteousness of God.”
· Faith receives righteousness from him.
· And the faith by which we receive that righteousness is, like the righteousness itself, is the gift, operation, and work of God.
Now, hear this, and rejoice. — The righteousness of God our Savior is a righteousness universally suited to our needy souls. Whether young or old, rich or poor, weak or strong, male or female, black or white, learned or unlearned, it is unto all and upon all that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether babes in Christ or fathers or mothers in Israel, whether strong in faith or weak in faith, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus is unto all and upon all that believe, for there is no difference.
Calculate, if you can, the immense blessedness of what is here declared to us by the Spirit of God. — The highly favored soul, who is made the rich partaker of this blessed righteousness of God…
This righteousness, we are told, is “unto all and upon all that believe, for there is no difference.” — Free righteousness, free justification, is equal righteousness and equal justification! How I thank God for those four words: — “There is no difference!” God loves all his elect equally and gives righteousness equally to all. He and justifies all with an equal freeness of grace. It is blessed, very blessed, to have a large hand of faith to receive the large portions of the grace, to enjoy the Lord’s blessings of every kind with great fullness. But our enjoyment is one thing, and the Lord’s righteousness which justifies is another. He who has but little faith and is in Christ is as completely justified by Christ as he who has the largest portion of faith. By him, all who believe, whether strong believers or weak ones, whether babes in Christ, or fathers in the strength of Christ, are justified from all things (Acts 13:39).
There is no difference, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; 3:9-19; 5:12; Psalm 14:1-3).
Psalm 14:1-3 (1) The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (2) The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. (3) They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
“Through the Redemption”
Here is the third thing we are taught in our text.
And, third, “the righteousness of God,” and that justification that comes to us by “the righteousness of God,” are freely bestowed upon sinners “through the redemption that is in Christ” (vv. 24-26).
Romans 3:24-26 (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.
Here the Apostle was inspired by God the Spirit to declare something of the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice and the greatness of God’s grace set forth in the wonderful ordination of it before time began. Eternal grace is and must be free, unconditional, unqualified, immutable, and permanent grace!
The triune Jehovah justifies all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, while preserving his own glory and maintaining the full perfection of his righteousness, justice, and truth. He does this by our crucified Christ, “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation.” Notice the words “to be” are in italics. Omit them, and you have a clearer sense of Paul’s message. — “Whom God hath set forth a Propitiation.” This Propitiation is received by faith, but it Christ is the Propitiation set forth by the triune God in the everlasting covenant (Proverbs 8:22-23; Revelation 13:8). The blood of Christ, by which we are redeemed is eternal blood upon God’s altar, eternally and perpetually effectual! By his blood, through the merit, power, and efficacy of his precious blood, “the righteousness of God” is ours now and forever; and “the righteousness of God” is yours, now and forever, by the blood of Christ, if you believe! Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that wonderful? — This is free justification!
Romans 8:1-4 (1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:31-34 (31) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Ephesians 1:3-7 (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
We meet with the word “propitiation” only three times in the entire Bible (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). The same word is translated “mercyseat” in Hebrews 9:5. The fact is, you cannot separate God’s Sacrifice from the Mercyseat, because Christ is both.
Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
Truly his name is Wonderful! All the attributes of God meet in him and shine forth in the splendor of his glory, as all our sins meet on him and are all completely washed away by his blood. How I thank God for Christ our Propitiation, in whom and by whom we are redeemed, justified, sanctified, and perfected forever (Colossians 2:9-10; Hebrews 10:9-14).
Colossians 2:9-10 (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Hebrews 10:9-14 (9) Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. (10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.
Fourth, let me wrap this message up by calling your attention to three questions, by which Paul was inspired of God to silence every objection men might raise against the gospel declaration of free justification by “the righteousness of God” (Romans 3:27-31).
Romans 3:27-31 (27) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. (28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Every sinner who is justified by the free gift of God’s grace gladly acknowledges that he has nothing of which to boast before God or man (1 Corinthians 4:7).
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
“Boasting excluded, pride I abase!
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!
(29) Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: (30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
God is no respecter of persons. He is the God of both Jew and Gentile. If salvation is by grace, if salvation is free, if the righteousness of God is freely bestowed upon sinners without them doing anything, then there is hope for me!
(31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
It is the joy of all the redeemed, in heaven and on earth, that by the obedience and death of Christ, the Son of God in our nature has done more to magnify and make honorable God’s holy law than could have been done by the unsinning obedience of the whole creation of God to all eternity.
That is the gospel revelation and declaration of “the righteousness of God.” Will you bow to it and receive it?
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.