But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (Romans 3:21-22).
1. The Cross Declares the Word of God - sola scriptura (scripture alone)
The Bible is the only authoritative Word of God, though traditions; counsels; creeds; and catechisms have their place, they are not inspired writing. Only Scripture is absolutely sufficient for all matters of life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is both perspicuous and self-interpreting (Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89); more important than our daily food (Job 23:10-12); to be treasured above earthly riches and more desired than this world's sweetest delicacies (Psalm 19:10-11). It is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). We are to hide it in our hearts so we wll not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). How can a young man keep his way pure? By taking heed according to God's Word (Psalm 119:9). It is inerrant, infallible; and the Lord Himself has exalted His Word even above His name (Psalm 138:2).
It is THIS Word that the Apostle begins to unfold a theology of the cross. And he begins by first saying that the cross declares the Word of God.
3.21 "But now…"
That is - at this present time (Roms. 3:26, 5:9); at this very strategic moment in the history of redemption salvation has come. It is what the Apostle calls in Gal. 4:4 "the fulness of time." And for what purpose? That the "righteousness from God has been revealed." This righteousness is realized and authenticated in the life of the believer "apart from the law." Now this means that it was not and cannot be earned by men's obedience to God's law. Law-keeping is an effort in futility; for salvation and acceptance by God through obedience to the law requires a perfect obedience--which sinful man is completely incapable of doing. If we break one part of the law, we break the whole of the law (James 2:10) So the perfect righteousness of God is obtained "apart from the works of the law." (Roms. 3:28, 4:6-8, Gal.2:16, 21; 3:10-13; Eph. 2:9; Phil. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5).
Is Paul presenting a new doctrine here - something never heard of before? No. He is speaking about "a righteousness attested by the law and the prophets." Paul already referred to Hab. 2:4 in Romans 1:17 "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith."
So the cross confirmed and declared the Word of God in Christ fulfilling the law and all righteousness in His sinless life and perfect, once for all sacrifice on the cross (see Psalm 22).
For example: "Now He [Jesus] said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" (Luke 24:44).
Paul must have had in mind some other passages as well: I.e. Gen. 15:6 - "Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." Psalm 32:1-2 - "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!" (see also Roms. 4:3, 7-8).
Two Kinds of Righteousness
The righteousness mentioned here in vs. 21-22 is not the judging righteousness as mentioned in Romans 3:5. This is the saving righteousness of God; this is the gospel which reveals God's saving righteousness apart from the Law and is obtained through faith. How? Again, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the demands of the law and all righteousness in His sinless life; and its penalty and requirements in His perfect sacrifice (His active and passive obedience) and our justification was secured by His resurrection (Rom. 4:25).
The Lord also declared the Word of God after His bodily resurrection from the dead. Luke 24:24-27 says, "And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." 25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning with aMoses and with all the bprophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
Also in Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He awas explaining the Scriptures to us?"
And again in verses 44-47, "44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and cthe Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then He aopened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that arepentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to ball the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."
Acts 26:22-23, 27, "And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day atestifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was 3to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim clight both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." 27 "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do."
1 Corinthians 15:1-4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins caccording to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was araised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
The declares the Word of God.
2. The Cross Defines Salvation as the Work of God - sola fide (faith alone)
Salvation comes through faith alone. It is God's grace-gift to us to believe. We are not saved by works - even works done in righteousness (Titus 3:4-7). All our works are rubbish, dung, worthy only of the manure pile. This is the great reformational truth: faith alone, sola fide. Christianity is absolutely unique in this claim. All other religions promise the hope of heaven by human achievement. Only Christianity promises the hope of heaven by divine accomplishment.
This is the means of grace; salvation comes by grace through faith, and that faith is not of ourselves, but is itself the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is by faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Neither the church, Popes, Mary, bishops and priests nor any other religious figure can add to the finished work of Jesus Christ. He alone stands as the way, the truth, the life--and no man comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). And that is by faith.
As the Apostle Paul said previously in Roms. 1:16-17, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."
And here in Galatians 3:11, "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith."
But here in Romans 3:22 he now points out that the object of this faith is the Lord Jesus Christ: "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe."
This saving righteousness can only be obtained through faith in the Jesus, in and through Whom the One Triune God reveals Himself (John 1:1, 14, 18; 14:9). This faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9) and comes from hearing the Word of Christ - the gospel (Roms. 10:17). And it is faith that gives us access to God and relationship with Him (Heb. 11:6).
As the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly states:
"Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God." -WCF Ch 11On the cross of Jesus Christ, every sin that would ever be committed by everyone that would ever believe has been punished; the penalty of sin atoned for; the guilt of sin expiated; God’s wrath propitiated; His holiness reverenced; His justice satisfied; His law fulfilled; His grace exalted; and sinners reconciled. Salvation is not through ourselves in any way, neither by our own merit nor our own efforts. It is through faith in Christ alone. Jesus Christ, plus or minus nothing. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
Sola fide means then that all our works are dead works, and has nothing to do with genuine regeneration and new life in Christ. Only that which is by faith - forsaking all I trust Him.
Roms. 4:3-11 really makes this abundantly clear:
"For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." 9 Is this blessing then upon 1athe circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness." 10 How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he areceived the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them."Paul speaks of this access to God and the surety of that truth when he says, “in whom we have access with confidence through faith in Him” (Eph. 3:12).
After the Tabernacle was built, and later the Temple, strict boundaries were set. A Gentile could only go into the outer confines and no farther. Jewish women could go beyond the Gentile limit, but not much farther. And so it was with the men and the regular priests. Each group could go nearer the Holy of Holies, where God’s divine presence was manifested, but none could actually enter there. Only the high priest could enter; and that only once a year and very briefly. And that priest could lose his life if he entered unworthily (Lev. 10:1-3). Bells were sewn on the special garments he wore on the Day of Atonement, and if the sound of the bells stopped while he was ministering in the Holy of Holies, the people would know he had been struck dead by God (Ex. 28:35).
But Christ’s death ended all that - and aren't you grateful? Through His atoning sacrifice, He made God the Father accessible to any person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ alone, through faith alone. That is why the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
To illustrate forever this profound truth, when Jesus was crucified, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” by God’s power (Matt. 27:51). His death forever removed the barrier to God’s holy presence that the Temple veil represented. Commenting on that amazing truth, the writer of Hebrews says,
“Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22).There is therefore no distinction... Both Jew and Gentile through faith in Jesus Christ have access to God and are given His righteousness by faith to all who believe. What a great hope and security we have this day if you have received Christ Jesus as Lord of your life. And this is by faith alone.