Romans 3:21-26

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 15, 2008


Paul has been building his case that every human being is facing condemnation as a sinner.

The Gentiles who don’t have God’s Word are accountable because they have all of creation around them telling them there is a Creator God (Rom. 1).

The Jews have God’s Word, the Law, which doesn’t prove that they’re better than anyone else, the Law only proves that they too are sinners.

We’re now going to get to Paul’s answer to this great human dilemma – we are all sinners.

We’re going to look at one of the apostle Paul’s longer sentences (it covers verses 21-26)

Read verses 21-26, then take them apart, then read them again.

:21-26 God’s righteousness through faith

:21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

righteousnessdikaiosune – in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting

If I were to pick a key word in this passage, this would be it.

The passage (vs. 21-26) is really one long sentence, and yet this word or related forms of this word are found SEVEN times in a single sentence.  Circle the word.

It comes from dike – right, just; it is used to describe a lawsuit; it is used to describe the court proceedings to determine who is “right”

In this verse, it is used to talk about the quality of being right with God.


Getting right

“Right-ness”.  Here’s the issues:
God is right.
We are not.
How can we be made “right”?  This is what Paul is teaching us…

is revealedphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown; the verb is a “perfect” tense, meaning that it is something that has happened in the past, but the results continue on into the present.  It’s not just something that’s done and is over with, but something that still impacts us today.

There are passages in the Old Testament that tell us that God’s righteousness can come to men, and it comes without the Law.  For example.

Isa 53:11 He shall see the labor of His soul, [and] be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

We’ll be looking at the example of Abraham in coming weeks – a man who was declared “righteous” because of his faith, not because of his works.

:22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

righteousness (dikaiosune) – second occurrence, circle it.

throughdia – through; the ground or reason by which something is or is not done; by reason of

The righteousness of God comes through the act of putting your faith in Jesus Christ.

no differencediastole – a distinction, difference; of the different sounds musical instruments make

God doesn’t make a distinction between whether you are Jewish or whether you are Gentile.  If you believe, you receive God’s righteousness.

:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

This is why there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile when it comes to salvation.  We’ve all sinned.  We’re all on the same boat.

the glorydoxa – opinion ; in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor, and glory; splendor, brightness.  The phrase could be talking about several things:

This could be talking about “reputation”, God has a great reputation and we certainly fall short of it.  When Jesus heard about His friend Lazarus being sick …

Joh 11:4 When Jesus heard [that], He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
God’s reputation was going to be lifted up with what was going to happen.

This could be talking about light, God has “glory”, He shines, has “brightness” and “splendor”.

(1 Tim 6:16 NKJV)  who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light…
(1 John 1:5 NKJV)  …God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Perhaps it’s talking about God’s very presence.  Where God’s glory is, God’s presence is there.

God hung out at the Tabernacle, it was filled with “glory”
(Exo 40:34 NKJV)  Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Moses wanted to see God’s glory, God responded by saying:
(Exo 33:20 NKJV)  But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

Moses only got to see the back side of God as He passed by Moses.

I think the word is talking a bit about all three ideas.  And we fall short of all of them.

have sinnedhamartano – to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin; aorist tense

In medieval times, the term was used in archery contests.  If you didn’t hit the bull’s-eye, you “sinned”.

Here the idea is that to get to heaven you have to hit the target called “God’s glory”.  The problem is that we’re all horrible shots.

fall shorthustereo – behind; to come late or too tardily; to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; metaph. fail to become a partaker, fall back from; to fail, be wanting; to be in want of, lack

The word is translated “lack” when Jesus confronts the Rich Young Ruler:

Mr 10:21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor…

It’s translated “to be in want” in the parable of the Prodigal Son:

Lu 15:14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

It’s translated “ran out” at the wedding in Cana:

Joh 2:3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
When it comes to the glory of God, every single person “lacks” it.  Every single person is “in want” of it.  Every single person has “run out” of it.


Let’s say that heaven was located on Catalina Island.  Let’s say that all you have to do to get to heaven is to jump to Catalina Island.  We’re going to “fall short” of that mark.

Some people have this idea that when they stand before God that they are going to give God a piece of their mind.

I don’t think so.

Several of the prophets had visions of God’s glory.

(Isa 6:1-5 NKJV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. {2} Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. {3} And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" {4} And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. {5} So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
(Ezek 1:28 NKJV)  Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
(Rev 1:17 NKJV)  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.


We are all sinners

I don’t quite know why people have a hard time understanding this.  Even the TV executives understand it …
FOX recently premiered “Moment of Truth,” a TV show that wrestles with whether or not anyone is ever willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Contestants are hooked up to a state-of-the-art lie detector test in order to determine whether or not they are spinning lies while asked a series of questions. If contestants tell the truth, they’ll win $500,000. To add a little drama, the show mixes spouses, significant others, family members, friends, and co-workers into the audience. Here are a few of the questions that have been asked in recent episodes:

Have you ever lied to get a job?

Do you like your mother-in-law?

Have you ever stolen anything from work?

Would you cheat on your spouse if you knew you could get away with it?

As one person on the show noted: “This is the first game show where you already know all the answers!” But despite their foreknowledge, contestants find the game difficult. This is the genius of the show—FOX executives know that humans are depraved and lack integrity.


Face the truth

The sooner we learn to admit the truth that we are sinners, we can move forward.
Do you ever feel that if anyone found out the truth about you, you’d be finished? Do you go through life basically trying to convince others that you are something you’re not—that you’re cool when you know you’re not, that you’re confident or skillful or good-hearted when you know it’s not so?
John Corcoran knows what that’s like. During grade school he never learned to read or write, but he caused a lot of trouble and somehow kept getting promoted to the next grade. He got to high school and mastered new skills. He says, “I started cheating by turning in other peoples’ papers; [I] dated the valedictorian and ran around with college prep kids. I couldn’t read words but I could read the system and I could read people.”
He received an athletic scholarship to Texas Western College and cheated his way through there as well, getting a degree in education, of all things. Somehow he got a job as a teacher and for the next 17 years taught in high school without being able to read or write. He says, “What I did was I created an oral and visual environment. There wasn’t the written word in there. I always had two or three teacher’s assistants in each class to do board work or read the bulletin.”
Finally he left teaching and became a real estate developer. Later in life he learned to read and write and became an advocate for better educational systems.
In a sense, we’re all like John Corcoran. Most of us don’t have to fake reading and writing, but we live our lives trying to persuade ourselves, persuade other people, and persuade God himself that we are good people. Deep down inside, though, we have a growing awareness it’s not true.
Charisse Yu, “Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48,” (posted 2-11-08)
The truth is, without Christ we are all hopeless sinners.  Even as Christians, we still struggle and wrestle with that sin nature of ours that is going to stay with us until be die and go to heaven.
Maturity comes when we learn to face the truth about who we are.  Stop hiding from the truth.
(Psa 32:1-5 NKJV)  Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. {2} Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. {3} When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. {4} For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah {5} I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
It’s horrible to keep the secret.  Stop hiding from God.  Admit your sin to God.  He is ready to forgive.

:24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

justifieddikaioo – to show or declare someone to be “right”.  This is the third occurrence of the word. Circle it.

We have kind of perverted this word in English.  When we talk about someone “justifying” their actions, we’re thinking they’re going to make up some kind of excuse why they weren’t so bad in doing what they did.

We use this word when we’re typing on the computer.  When you “left-justify” your text, you are making all the text line up on the left side.

With this Greek word, it doesn’t mean you were “right” to begin with.  It might mean that you were wrong, but somehow you were made to be “right”.
It’s like your text was all over the page, but something happened to make it all line up right.

Some look at this word as “just-as-if-I’d never sinned”. 

I was really wrong.  God made me really right. Sounds good to me.


A man who lived in England came over to the United States to go to a resort for several months. He wanted to bring along his Rolls-Royce for the trip, so he had it carefully packaged and shipped overseas. While visiting the U.S., something happened to the car—a mechanical failure of some sort—so he called over to England and explained his problem to the company. Rolls-Royce told him, “That’s fine. Within 48 hours, we’ll have a mechanic with the auto parts there to fix it for you.”
They put a mechanic on a plane with the necessary car parts and flew him to the United States. He worked on the car in the parking lot of the resort, fixed it in good time, got on a plane, and flew back to England. The man happily drove his Rolls for the rest of his time in the U.S. Then he packaged it back up, put it on a ship, and sent it to his home in England.
Nearly a year after the man returned to England, he discovered he had never received a bill from Rolls-Royce. So he wrote the company a letter, saying, “This date last year there was something wrong with my Rolls-Royce and you flew a mechanic over to help me. You fixed it, but I’ve never received a bill. If you should find that bill in your office, I’ll be happy to pay for your efforts at fixing my car.”
He received a letter back from Rolls-Royce that simply said: “In the files at the headquarters of Rolls-Royce, there is no such account saying anything has ever been wrong with a Rolls-Royce anywhere that you speak of.”
Now that’s justification.
Mac Brunson, “The Purpose of the Passion,” Preaching Today Audio, No. 282

For us, we’re that car that’s broken down.  God flew in His mechanic and fixed us up, and there is no record of the charges.  We’ve been “justified”.

freelydorean – freely, as a gift; from doron – a gift, present

Our being justified didn’t happen because we worked hard and earned it, it happened because God gave us a gift in Jesus.

The true concept of something being a “gift” is that it was unearned.  There might be some parents who are cruel and make their kids feel they have to “earn” their birthday presents, but this is not God’s idea of a “gift”.


David Neff writes, “This morning I received the latest promotional e-mail from a clothing provider I really like to patronize: L. L. Bean. I read the subject line with interest: “Double Coupon Dollars: Our Gift to You.”
“The old sales trick worked. The promise of something free compelled me to open the e-mail. But the first words I read from the e-mail itself gave me a different message: “Earn Double Coupon Dollars.” Wait. Didn’t the subject line say it was a gift? Now they want me to “earn” their gift?
“Theological spirit that I am, I lost interest in L. L. Bean’s promotion and instead began thinking about all the ways throughout history that churches have pulled that same “bait and switch” trick: Salvation is God’s free gift; here’s how you earn it.”
David Neff, editor in chief and vice-president, Christianity Today International

gracecharis – (1) as a quality that adds delight or pleasure graciousness, attractiveness, charm; (2) as a favorable attitude; of what is felt toward another goodwill, favor, kindness, helpfulness; from chairo – to rejoice, be glad

This is one of the main words in the book of Romans.  The word “grace” is only found 4 times in the gospels, but it is found 24 times in the book of Romans.

I think one of the key components of “grace” is that of being a “gift”.

We think of “grace” as being “unmerited favor”, something not earned, something not deserved, but still given.

We talk about a person being “gracious”, usually thinking about a person who is nice, someone who is forgiving and merciful, someone who is giving.

The ultimate demonstration of grace is God giving His Son for us.

(John 1:14 NKJV)  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
God didn’t have to give His Son for us, but He did it because He is gracious.

redemptionapolutrosis (“from” + “ransom”) – a releasing effected by payment of ransom; from lutron – the price for redeeming, ransom; paid for slaves, captives

The picture is that we’ve been captured and are being held for ransom by this thing called “sin”.  It is promising to destroy our life unless the ransom is paid.


Pastor Steve Yeschek, Crystal Lake, Illinois, lost his sister, Judy, after a five-year battle with cancer. She was a woman who, as Steve described her, was a party animal—a big drinker with a self-contented lifestyle. She was someone everybody loved, because she exuded excitement and a thrill for life.
When Steve tried to share Jesus with her over the years, she would laugh it off and keep partying. But at the age of 44, her world caved in. She found out she had breast cancer. She later learned her husband had cancer, too. Adding to the devastation of these two blows, she discovered her husband was having an affair. He subsequently announced he didn’t love her anymore and left her.
It was in that context that she began to ask eternal questions and soon prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. From that time until her death, Jesus and his Word and purpose became her priority. With the same gusto she lived life as an unbeliever, she now approached her new life in Christ. Her greatest aim was winning others to Christ. She boldly shared her faith even as she was undergoing surgery after surgery, praying for a miraculous healing from the Lord.
Judy ultimately came to see that the greater miracle would be for her friends and family to come to know Christ. Even as she struggled for every breath, she talked her way out of the hospital about ten days before her death so she could be baptized and publicly proclaim Christ as the only way of salvation.
Judy invited everyone she knew to come to her baptism service. Under the Spirit’s anointing, she powerfully and urgently shared her testimony. Her 84-year-old father came to faith in Christ that night and was baptized—along with her ex-husband, a number of nieces, a college roommate who was a New Age cultist, her aunt, her sister, and others.
Ten days later, Judy died. Even still, more people came to know the Savior. When Steve read the message she had prepared for her own funeral service, another 100 people prayed to receive Christ that day.
From a sermon by Pastor Bob Page, Crystal Lake, Illinois

Some might say that Judy “redeemed” herself by turning her life around.

No, the “redemption” we’re talking about is how Judy was “redeemed” because she found out that Jesus died for her. She found out that Jesus came to set her free from the bondage of her sin.  Because Jesus redeemed Judy, she was able to turn her life around.
Jesus has paid the ransom to set us free from our sin.

:25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,

set forthprotithemai – to place before, to set forth; to expose to public view; of the bodies of the dead; to let lie in state

God has “set forth” His Son, put Jesus out in front of the world as …

propitiationhilasterion – a word that has some hefty English words attached to it:  propitiation, expiation.  It comes from the word hileos, “merciful”. It is used in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) for the “mercy seat”, the solid gold cover for the ark of the covenant.  It was to be a picture of the throne of God.  God sits on the mercy seat.

The concept has to do with God’s forgiveness.  Once a year the high priest would sprinkle blood on the “mercy seat” and God would forgive the sins of the nation of Israel.  The sacrificed animal was paying for the sins of the nation.

Forgiveness doesn’t come just because God loves you.  Forgiveness comes because God made sure that somebody paid for your sins.  God made sure that all the wrongs were made right.

In our relationships we often get confused and think, “If you love me you’ll forgive me”.  In our relationship with God it works a little differently.  God hasn’t ever stopped loving us.  But for God to forgive us and not pervert justice, a payment has to be made.

Jesus made the payment for us by putting His own blood on the throne of God, the “mercy seat”.

Because Jesus paid for our sins, God can forgive us because justice has been met.
(Heb 9:11-14 NKJV)  But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. {12} Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. {13} For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, {14} how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

I hope you have a better understanding of this important word.  This and related forms of the Greek word are used in:

Heb 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like [His] brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1Jo 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.
(1 John 2:1-2 NKJV)  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. {2} And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Lu 18:13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise [his] eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
The word the tax collector used was a word speaking of sacrifice, of God covering his sins, of God paying for his sins.

through faith – this work of propitiation through the blood of Christ takes place when we put our faith in Jesus Christ.


Take advantage of what Jesus has paid for

Jesus wants you to be forgiven.
(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
A beggar stopped a lawyer on the street in a large southern city and asked him for a quarter.  Taking a long, hard look into the man's unshaven face, the attorney asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" "You should," came the reply.  "I'm your former classmate.  Remember, second floor, old Main Hall?"  "Why Sam, of course I know you!" Without further question the lawyer wrote a check for $100.  "Here, take this and get a new start.  I don't care what's happened in the past, it's the future that counts." And with that he hurried on.
Tears welled up in the man's eyes as he walked to a bank nearby. Stopping at the door, he saw through the glass well-dressed tellers and the spotlessly clean interior.  Then he looked at his filthy rags. "They won't take this from me. They'll swear that I forged it," he muttered as he turned away.
The next day the two men met again. "Why Sam, what did you do with my check?  Gamble it away?  Drink it up?"  "No," said the beggar as he pulled it out of his dirty shirt pocket and told why he hadn't cashed it.  "Listen, friend," said the lawyer.  "What makes that check good is not your clothes or appearance, but my signature.  Go on, cash it!"
You may not feel worthy of the price that Jesus paid for you, but He’s paid it.  Go ahead and receive it!

to demonstrate His righteousnessdikaiosune –Fourth occurrence of the word.  Circle it.

God not only wants us right, but He has shown that He is “right” in forgiving us because our sins had been paid for by Jesus.

forbearanceanoche – toleration, forbearance (in the Greek text, this is actually at the beginning of verse 26)

passed overparesis – passing over, letting pass, neglecting, disregarding

sins that were previously committed – I think Paul is talking about the sins of the people who lived before Jesus, the people in the Old Testament.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament were meant to be pictures of the coming ultimate sacrifice.  God was tolerant and forgave sins in the Old Testament because there would be a day when Jesus would come and die for all their sins.

:26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

righteousnessdikaiosune – the fifth occurrence, circle it.

justdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws; innocent, faultless, guiltless.  Here’s the sixth form of the word.  Circle it.

justifierdikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be.  Here’s the seventh time Paul uses a form of this word in a single sentence.  Circle it.

When God forgives us, He is “just” – He is still making sure the sins are paid for because He paid for them when His Son died for us.

He is the “justifier” in that He makes us “right” before Him by forgiving all our sins.

Reread the passage.