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“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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” Romans 3:21-22

 

The man who has heard the sound of God’s alarm in the Gospel against his sin, who has been awakened to his lost condition, having striven to come to God in his own strength, yet found it useless, finding the law of God to be beyond his keeping – only condemning even his righteousnesses as filthy rags before God – is, through this, by the work of the Holy Spirit, brought to know the conviction of his sin before God.

 

In such a state, feeling the wrath of God to be revealed against all his unrighteousness and ungodliness, knowing himself to be guilty before God, having been given a knowledge of his own sin by God’s holy law as impressed upon him inwardly by the Holy Ghost, such a wretched, convicted sinner may well be brought to cry out in desperation with Job of old… “How shall man be just with God?” Job 9:2

 

Well… how shall man be just with God?

 

How, when our sins condemn us? How, when the wrath of God is revealed against our sins?

How, when our every attempt to keep God’s law ends in utter failure?

How, when even our best deeds, our righteousnesses, are as filthy rags? (Isaiah 64:6)

 

How? How shall man be just with God? … when God requires perfect righteousness? When our sins can only separate us from a holy God?

 

How?

 

This is the very question which Paul begins to answer with the glorious ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21. That wonderful turning point in the revelation of the Gospel in which Paul proceeds from Romans 3:21 through to chapter 5 to set forth the good news of the Gospel and the answer to man’s greatest need – to be made just before God!

 

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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” Romans 3:21-22

 

Paul opens the epistle to the Romans by first introducing to us the glorious Person of Christ in Romans 1:1-4. Then, having painted, as it were, on a canvas the bad news of man’s condition before God from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20 Paul begins in Romans 3:21 to set against this backdrop the good news of the work of Christ in the Gospel. Having shown what man has done in his rebellion against God… what you have done… what I have done… Paul now proceeds to show what God has done in Christ to save His people from their sins.

 

Here we see that work by which God justifies His people, how He redeems them, ransoms them. Here is that work of faith which brings in the righteousness of God, which quenches the wrath of God against the sins of His people. That work which propitiates, silences, puts out, that wrath … completely!

 

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:6-8.

“…If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead: Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” Romans 4:24-25

Yes, man stands guilty before God, yes, the law condemns him, yes, the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness, yes, man lacks the strength, the will, the desire to turn to God…. yes…. But now!!

 

But now…. Though all men have sinned in Adam, though all have fallen short of the glory of God, though all have gone astray, though all lack understanding, though none seeks after God, nevertheless now, but now, we see Another Man, the Second Man, the Last Adam, One who never sinned, One who lived in perfect righteousness, One who was just, One who walked by faith. One who being both God and man could reach from heaven to earth, from time to eternity, from God to man, from the heights of Glory to the depths of despair, from Light unapproachable to the darkest corners of the earth – to the lowest, to the meanest, to the weakest and the most vile, yea, to the chief of sinners, to reconcile such poor, lost, wretched creatures unto their God and Father, not just for a moment but for everlasting, not just for time but for eternity! Here we see Jesus Christ – the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners… Yes, that was then. But now….

 

But now… we see the righteousness of God manifested. The very righteousness of God in Himself. Not simply the righteousness that God demanded of man in order to continue his mortal existence in this world, that righteousness of the law, as commanded of Israel and delivered by Moses – that was righteousness under the law. But now, we see another righteousness altogether manifested – the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel. That righteousness, and that revelation, by which the Gospel becomes the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). For without righteousness no man can be just before God, no man can approach unto God, but here, here in the Gospel, God brings in a righteousness acceptable not only to the demands of the law, as given by Moses, but acceptable to God Himself in His very Being, as One who dwells in light unapproachable. But now, the righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested, “being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ”. This righteousness was witnessed by the law and the prophets – they pointed to it, foretold of it, foreshadowed it – but not until the coming of Christ in the Gospel, not until God revealed this righteousness in judgment at the cross to be imputed to all who believe on the Son, not until the ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 did it finally come to light, was it finally revealed, finally manifested in fulfilment of all that had been promised. But now, by the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God, Divine righteousness, without the law, is manifested!

 

What is this righteousness? What is the “righteousness of God”? Well, firstly, it is “without the law” or “apart from the law”. Romans 3:21 makes that clear. That is not to say that it is against the law, or contrary to the law, but that it is brought in on another footing, another basis, another principle altogether. This isn’t the righteousness of the law, nor even the righteousness of Christ by the law, but it is the righteousness of God without the law. It is not merely righteousness demanded of men, but Divine Righteousness given to men! (Hence scripture always uses the term ‘the righteousness of God’ in order to emphasise its divinity, the ‘righteousness of Christ’ being a phrase never actually found in Holy Writ). This righteousness was brought in not by the works of the law, but by “the faith of Jesus Christ” (3:21). This is not “the righteousness of Christ with the law…. Even the righteousness of Christ by the works of Jesus Christ”, but “the righteousness of God without the law… even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”. It is by faith, not by works, being referred to in Romans 10 as “the righteousness of faith” as contrasted with “the righteousness of the law”. Nor does this refer simply to how this righteousness is received by the faith of the believer, but it refers to how it is established or brought in to the account of the believer in the Gospel – “by faith of Jesus Christ”, “for therein” (in the Gospel) “is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”. 

 

But if this righteousness of God, manifested in the Gospel, is described as “without the law” does that mean that it is contrary to the law? Not at all, for it was “witnessed by the law”,
that law having been given to man by God, having set forth God’s holiness, justice and goodness.
Both the law and the gospel have come from the same God, they both reveal His holy character and justice. It is simply that the righteousness of God as revealed by the faith of Jesus Christ in the Gospel is so much greater, so much more glorious, so much more wide-reaching, than anything revealed by the law of Moses could ever describe or set forth. This righteousness of God, as revealed by the faith of Christ, as exemplified by Christ Himself, is the full revelation of God’s righteousness as He is in Himself. It is that righteousness which we need in order to be just with God, in order to stand before Him in perfection, at peace, at one with God the Father. This is a righteousness which not only fulfils the law in every aspect but which completely transcends it, soaring up from man to the very character of God in His infinite Divinity….  Think of the light of the sun: the law, as summarised by the Ten Commandments, was like having that light shining through the lattice of the window, through ten panes of glass, as it were. The light emanates from the sun but is obscured by the lattice, and the darkness of the walls around obscure the full light that shines through the lattice of the window. But stand outside, stand under the midday sun and what a contrast there is! How much brighter, how much more dazzling, how much more glorious is the light!

 

Well, the Gospel, and the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel, is like the shining of the midday sun! With the law taken out of sight the full glory of God’s righteousness is seen in Christ in the Gospel. The same God is behind both the law and the Gospel, it is the same Sun from whom the light shines (for God does not change)…. But now, what was shrouded under the law, what was concealed, what was behind the veil, what was seen in types and shadows is now fully manifested, now made fully known in Christ… But now… the righteousness of God without the law is manifested… even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” John 1:17-18.

“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” 1 John 2:8

 

Romans 1:18 declares the revelation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. From 1:18 to 3:20 Paul proves all men, both Jews and Gentiles to be under sin, he brings them in guilty before God. He shows that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified” in God’s sight, because “there is none righteous, no, not one”.

 

None righteous, no not one. Not you, not I, no one. There is none righteous. Not in Adam, no. But thank God for the ‘But now’ of 3:21! For God has brought in righteousness for His people, by Another Man! “Even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”.

 

And to what end? To deliver from unrighteousness! To deliver from the wrath to come! To justify the ungodly, not by ignoring their sins, but by righteously judging them in Another. “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

 

Yes, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…

 

But now… God has revealed His righteousness, by the faith of Jesus Christ, to propitiate His wrath against the sins of His people. To quench it, to answer it, to pacify it. God’s justice rightly burns against all the sins of mankind, all its rebellion, all its hatred, all its enmity, and justice must be satisfied, it must be answered, wrath must be poured out, justice must be exacted upon every transgression, every breach of God’s law, every deviation from God’s righteousness. Having opened the door to the full fury of God’s wrath against his own sin, mankind stands helpless under the revelation of the wrath of God, awaiting the coming of the Last Day and the meting out of judgment against every sin and every sinner who remains in unbelief. That Day fast approaches with relentless pace, and mankind in blind stupidity, sheer foolishness, shuts both its eyes and its ears to the dreadful truth of the Judgment to come.

 

Yet, those whom God has taught, those whom God has awakened, those whom God has convicted, those who sense the fury of God wrath’s against their sin, cry out in desperation: “How shall man be just with God?”… Yes, they cry out… for mercy!

 

…Have you? Have you really? 

For here, in the Gospel, is God’s answer for such heart-broken, such contrite, sinners – “I have found a ransom”, “A price has been paid”! By whom? Another Man. Here we hear of One who has stepped into the breach. Of one “who was delivered for our offences” (Romans 4:25), who, “while we were yet sinners”, died for us who believe. For when they were yet enemies, God reconciled His people to Himself “by the death of His Son” Romans 5:10.

God’s wrath raged against the sins of His people. But now the righteousness of God is manifested, Christ has been set forth as “a propitiation through faith in his blood” (3:25), by which God’s wrath is quenched, propitiated, by having been poured out, in its entirety, against every sin, every transgression, of every one of His people, upon the One who suffered and died in their stead, the One who redeemed them by His own blood, the One who justified them, the One who ransomed them, the One who owned their offences as His own, the One who took away their sins, blotting them out, having them judged according to the very righteousness of God in His own body, that righteousness which He brought in through judgment to their account, as He looked by faith to His Father, whilst yet stricken, forsaken, and cast out as the Substitute of sinners, accursed on their behalf, nailed to a cross and lifted up above the earth to suffer unimaginable torment and anguish on behalf of those whom He loved. This is how God’s wrath was propitiated, this is how His righteousness was brought in for all who believe, and this is how God justified His people “freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 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; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”!

Yes this is how God manifested His righteousness, how He justified His people – through the death of Christ. All is at the cross, all is in Christ’s death. United to Christ all God’s people died with Him, their sins became His, and God judged every one in the Saviour according to His own  righteousness, His own perfection – and those sins, and that sin, all being entirely blotted out and taken out of the way, the wrath of God from heaven having being silenced for ever against them, nothing remained, nothing was left to be seen, but the righteousness of God in Christ which all His people became in Him –  as justified before God: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” 2 Corinthians 5:21. From that very point that righteousness is “unto all” that believe (Romans 3:22), and “upon all”, when, by the work of the Spirit, they are born again from on high, quickened from death to life, translated from darkness to light, and granted faith to trust in the One who washed them from their sins and made them the righteousness of God in Him. For all for whom Christ died will be brought to faith, the righteousness of God being both unto all and upon all them that believe – “for there is no difference”. A people who were once unrighteous, deceived, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners.

 

“And such were some of you”… But now…ye are washed… ye are sanctified… ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Corinthians 6:11.

Oh, praise God for this ‘But now’, by which righteousness is brought in for those who were unrighteous, by which sinners are justified, sins are remitted, wrath is propitiated, forgiveness is made known, the dead are brought to life, and God and men are reconciled…. And all through the glorious work of Christ, who by faith saved those who are brought to  faith in Him alone for salvation, the Saviour who by grace sought and saved those who sought Him not…

 

For,  HE’S done it all!!

 

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8

 

Yes, praise God for the ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 in the Gospel of God!

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…..

But now…..

 

(Read this in Portuguese)

 

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“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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Abraham Believed God

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” Romans 4:3

 

HAVING presented the work of God in justifying sinners “freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”, Paul goes on at the close of chapter 3 to present three hypothetical questions which some may be inclined to ask in response to such doctrine and to such an emphasis upon faith in the work of God alone. With three brief, yet unequivocal, answers Paul affirms the truth of justification by faith in reply to such doubting opposition. 

     “Where is boasting then? It is excluded”

     “Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also”

     “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

     It is these three questions, and the answers to them, which Paul proceeds to open up, to expound more fully, throughout chapter 4. Using the life of Abraham as an example he illustrates the total contrast between justification sought by the works of the law, and the free grace of God by which God justifies undeserving sinners through faith. All grounds for boasting are set aside, the blessedness of sins forgiven and righteousness imputed are set before us, the scope and scale of God’s mercy to both Jews and Gentiles is demonstrated, and the law is shown to be established through the righteousness of faith given to all of the seed of promise, all those “of the faith of Abraham”.

 

Boasting excluded by the Law of Faith… (Romans 4:1-8)

Paul begins by asking, what did Abraham find? What was he taught? (4:1) What did God teach Abraham regarding salvation, regarding justification, that we also need to see before ever we’ll know the blessedness of sins forgiven?

     Abraham was taught “as pertaining to the flesh”, that his own works, his own efforts in religion could do nothing to save him – absolutely nothing. They were but ‘filthy rags’ before God, the very best of them being tainted by sin. Such works, such ‘good deeds’ might appear worthwhile and commendable to other men, they might give Abraham something in which to glory in before man, “but not before God” (Romans 4:2). Before God Abraham stood as with all men as a sinner, as ungodly. Yet to be justified before God demands righteousness, but in the flesh, by our own efforts, neither Abraham nor we can produce such perfection.

     Abraham discovered that he needed a righteousness provided for him and that justification must be through faith resting in that righteousness. Justification must be the work of God, it must be by grace – else we’d forever remain in our sins. And if of grace then all glory must be to God, and not to man. Then where is boasting? It is excluded.

     Notice in Romans 3:27 how Paul answers this question. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith. He refers here to the Gospel, and that faith which is at the heart of the Gospel, as a law, as a principle, in order to contrast it with the law of works. Paul does this to emphasise the contrast between faith and that which characterises the law – works. Hence the Gospel itself is referred to as a law, but a law characterised by faith. Here is a law fulfilled not by working, but through believing! This is a law which brings in righteousness, not by works, but by faith – the “righteousness of faith”.

     This righteousness is brought in by God to the account of His people. It is imputed to them. It is altogether outside of them and it owes nothing to their own merit or efforts. This righteousness was wrought by the faith of Christ and is received by the faith of the believer, as the gift of God. Hence all boasting is excluded – and with all the efforts and works of man set at nought – this is how God saved Abraham. Not by works, but by grace. Not through the law, but through faith. If Abraham was justified by works he would have had something to glory in, and salvation would be simply a reward for his works. He would have merited it, he would have earned it, and he would deserve it (4:4). But how could he when he was ungodly?

     No, what Abraham found, what Abraham came to believe was that salvation is, and must be, by grace alone, that whilst in his sins, that whilst being ungodly, God justified him, his iniquities were forgiven and his sins covered (4:7), his faith being counted for righteousness (4:5). Now of course, this does not mean that Abraham’s faith itself is righteousness, but that God counted it for righteousness, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, because of the righteousness of God in Christ which Abraham looked unto and rested in by faith, that righteousness which Christ brought in to the account of His people when He suffered and died in their place upon the tree, taking their sins as His own, suffering the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, taking away sin, and covering His people with His precious blood shed for them. This was how Abraham was justified and this was what his faith rested in.

     Having brought Abraham to such belief, having opened his eyes to the truth, to his own state before God and his need of having his sins forgiven, God then greatly blessed him. Abraham entered into that very same blessing of which David spoke and rejoiced in Psalm 32:

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit is no guile.”

     Oh the blessedness of sins forgiven! To be just before God – forgiven! To be counted righteous before a Holy God!

     Yet, this is the very blessing which both Abraham and David knew and believed.

     Do you know it? Has God shown you this blessing?


From those of that faith of our father Abraham… (4:9-12)

From 4:9 through to 4:12 Paul deals with the question of just whom does God justify? Does this blessing come upon the Jews only or the Gentiles also? Those who are circumcised or those in uncircumcision?

     The answer is emphatic. Not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also. Though this answer was perhaps astounding to the Jew – despite the testimony of the prophets to this blessing of the New Covenant (Hosea 2:23, Zechariah 10:9) – Paul goes on to prove this by showing that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, not when he was circumcised but before, whilst yet uncircumcised. Circumcision, seen by the Jews as representative of their law (though the law was delivered 430 years later), and of their special relationship as a nation with God,  was in fact given to Abraham as a “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised”. Abraham was not justified by the works of the law, nor because of his natural birth, nor even by his obedience to the command of God regarding circumcision, but through faith in the work of God. It was God who justified him, through the death of His Son in Abraham’s place, a death which brought in that righteousness which God freely imputed to Abraham and to all his seed, who believe in the promise, and who are brought, like David, to know the blessedness of iniquities forgiven, or righteousness imputed.

     This seed, this people, are those of the faith of Abraham, both of Jews and Gentiles, he being the “father of many nations”, a countless multitude. A people with this in common: they are all found in Christ, that One true Seed of Abraham, the firstborn of many sons, the One who through His death brought in the inheritance of promise, the blessing of Abraham, to all those who believe, of both Jews and Gentiles. As we read in Galatians 3:11-18.

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but,

The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

     What marks out such a people? They “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had yet being uncircumcised” Romans 4:12. They believe God, and it is counted unto them for righteousness (4:3).


Who establish the law by faith (4:13-25)

From verse 13 of chapter 4 Paul turns his attention to the third and final question raised at the end of chapter 3, “Do we then make void the law through faith?”

     Oh, how important this is to answer! Having already dealt with such a disbelieving question in the firmest manner with the reply “God forbid: yea, we establish the law” Paul now seeks to demonstrate from the example of the promise made to Abraham, and the faith of Abraham, that faith does indeed establish the law.

     In verse 13 Paul affirms the truth of the Gospel by taking us right back to the first book of the Bible and reminds us of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 17, and that everlasting covenant of grace. There God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, to establish a covenant with him and his seed, to be his God, and to give him the land wherein he was a stranger as an everlasting possession. It is this promise and its precursor in Genesis 15 which Abraham was given faith to believe in, faith which God counted unto “him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Was this in circumcision? No, in uncircumcision, for it wasn’t until after these promises were made that circumcision was instituted as a “seal of the righteousness of faith which he had yet being uncircumcised” Romans 4:11.

     Hence the promise was not “through the law”, circumcision, figurative of the law, yet having been instituted, “but through the righteousness of faith” (4:13). The promise, and the blessings of that promise, as fulfilled by Christ in the Gospel, as the Seed of Abraham, came not by works, but by faith, not by law but by grace. But what was that promise? On the face of things it would seem to refer to the inheritance of the land of Canaan in which Abraham was a stranger, and to that physical nation of Israel which sprang from Abraham’s loins. Yet all that was merely a figure, a shadow, of what the promise truly referred to. Physical Canaan never was, and never will be, the everlasting possession of Abraham or the Jews. But what it pictures, what it represents, will forever be the eternal inheritance of all those who are the true children of Abraham, the heirs of the promise. For what it represents is that eternal inheritance of the world to come of which Abraham and his seed would be heirs, not “through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (14:13), and not in time, but in eternity, in resurrection glory! A world in which all God’s people, purchased by the blood of His Son, risen again in newness of life in Him, raised incorruptible having put on incorruption in the resurrection to come, with glorious spiritual bodies, will ever live in righteousness in the new heavens and the new earth! (See 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). This is the inheritance spoken of here, this is what will be brought in when Christ returns for His people, and this is the promise made to Abraham of which he was heir. By works? No, by faith!

     For Abraham believed God, knowing that God would bring in this inheritance through death. In this Abraham was taught in the trial of being asked to offer up Isaac, the son whom God promised him. Abraham obeyed his Lord, believing not only that God was able to rise up Isaac from the dead, but knowing that this figure pointed to One who was to come, far down through the ages, who would be raised again from the dead in order to bring in the inheritance promised to His people. For an inheritance is always brought in by death, and it is by the death of the promised Seed that the promise of the world to come is brought in to all found in Him. This was what Abraham’s faith believed, and this faith is what God counted for righteousness. (See Hebrews 11:8-19)

     This is the promise made to Abraham, and if by faith, then not by law. But does that make the law void? God forbid – it establishes the law. Yea, it establishes the law by the death of Christ, who took upon Himself the full penalty and demands of the law against His people, suffering the wrath which they deserved, dying the death which they should die, being made a curse for them, to deliver them from the curse, from judgment, from captivity, from sin. By such a death Christ brought His people through the rivers of death into everlasting life the other side of death, from this side of Jordan into the promised land, from time into eternity, and from the bondage and rule of the law (as being the other side of death and out of its reach) into the life and liberty of the Gospel – from the reign of death into the reign of grace. This established the law, satisfying its every demand, fulfilling its every penalty, and bringing in everlasting righteousness for all the seed of promise – and nothing else does. And this is what faith lays hold upon – justification by the blood of Christ.

     Does faith make void the law? In verse 14 Paul turns the tables on his hypothetical questioner of chapter 3:31. Far from faith making the law void the very opposite is true. Whereas faith, and the righteousness brought in by faith, both fulfils and establishes the law (fulfilling every promise of which it pointed in type and figure, and establishing that righteousness which it demanded, to be imputed to all those who believe) those who would turn to the works of the law to establish their own righteousness do in fact make faith void and the promise of none effect! Far from bringing forth righteousness from those found under its rule the “law worketh wrath”, it condemns the sins of those under its rule and places them under a sentence of death. Far from being a ‘rule of life’ the law shows itself to be a “ministration of death”, and a “killing letter”. The law owes nothing to faith, it doesn’t demand it, nor depend upon it (Galatians 3:12). The law demands works from all those found under its rule, works which they have neither the means, nor the ability to render. Far from bringing in the promise, the truth is, as Galatians 2:21 tells us, that “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” – Indeed, “faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”

     But Abraham was taught otherwise. He knew that the promise could only come by faith, only by the work of God on his behalf, only by grace. He knew that righteousness could not be attained to by his own strength, for he lacked any strength by nature, being dead in trespasses and sins. He knew that righteousness must be brought in by God, must be put to his account – imputed to him – while yet in his sins and that the inheritance could only come through the death of another. Twice over God taught Abraham the need for resurrection. Having promised Abraham and Sarah a child that child was only brought forth, at the command of God, when both Abraham and Sarah were both ‘dead’ naturally speaking, when Sarah was way past the age of child bearing (Romans 4:19). Yet, when at such an age, past all natural hope, when faith was tested to the limit, then, and only then, God rewarded the faith of Abraham, “who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18) and God gave him the child He had promised. Yet again, God taught Abraham about the inheritance to come in the resurrection, when he commanded him to offer up Isaac. And as we have seen Abraham believed God, being “fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was also able to perform” (4:21), counting him “able to raise [Isaac] up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Hebrews 11:19 A figure of what? Of the raising up from the dead of Jesus our Lord …

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” Romans 4:25.

     This is what Abraham believed, which God counted unto him for righteousness, having brought in righteousness by the faith of Jesus Christ to be imputed to all who believe, that righteousness of faith which both established and fulfilled the law.

     And this is what every child of God, every child of Abraham rests in by faith: “For we do not make void the law through faith. God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

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“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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In Romans 3:21 we read of the revelation or manifestation of the righteousness of God in the Gospel – the glorious ‘but now’ of Romans 3. This wonderful, foundational, truth of the Gospel through which the sinner is justified by having the very righteousness of God imputed to him as a result of the death of Christ on his behalf is expounded from Romans 3:21 to 26. In verse 22 we read of just how the righteousness of God is brought to light in the gospel.

 

 

 “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”

How was this righteousness manifested? How did God reveal His righteousness in the Gospel? He revealed it by the “faith of Jesus Christ”. It was the faith of Christ which brought the righteousness of God to light in the Gospel. A glorious truth – but one so often overlooked and neglected by many. This phrase “by faith of Jesus Christ” is very significant, and is one that we find repeated in several other passages of scripture in various forms. For example in Galatians 2:16, a passage which also refers to our justification through the work of God in Christ, we read the following:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

But what is the ‘faith of Jesus Christ’ and just how did that manifest the righteousness of God in the Gospel?

Mistranslations considered

Well, before answering that question, sadly we need to take some time to brush aside the obscuring of this glorious truth in many modern translations of the Bible. Not all translations have rendered the phrase with the same accuracy as the Authorised Version of the Bible, and for this reason quite a degree of confusion has been caused regarding the truths brought out in these passages. Indeed rather than revealing the righteousness of God in the Gospel through the faith of Jesus Christ, these mistranslations of the Bible have all but hidden it!

 

Most modern ‘translations’ of the Bible, including the NIV and the NKJV, have altered this vital phrase to read ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ which gives a very different meaning to the verses. But why have the translators chosen to alter the passages in this way?

 

Well it is difficult from merely examining the Greek grammar or syntax alone, when the phrases are taken in isolation, to be entirely sure of the translation and this has perhaps led to some of the differences in translation. However when the context of the passages is considered it is quite clear that the Authorised Version of the Bible and its predecessors such as The Great Bible, or Tyndale’s Bible have rendered the passage correctly. The Holy Spirit in these verses is speaking of the faith of Christ, not of our faith in Him.

 

But it isn’t so much differences regarding the contextual meaning of the phrases in the Greek which have led to the modern mistranslations, but theological interpretation. This, more than anything else, has affected how these verses have been translated in most modern Bible ‘versions’. This, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence from the Greek resting entirely on the side of translating the phrase as ‘faith of Christ’. In the original Greek wording, for example, it may be contended that there is a certain ambiguity about the words which might lend themselves to be understood in more than one way. But such an understanding is only retained if the passage is translated using ‘of’. The English phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” could be understood more than one way, for example as Christ’s personal faith or faithfulness, or that faith we have which comes from Jesus Christ. However if translated “faith in Jesus Christ” only one understanding is allowed for – our faith in Jesus Christ. Hence those who have translated the passage in this way have forced upon it their own interpretational decision of what the phrase means which effectively rules out the reading of the passage as meaning the personal faith (or faithfulness) of Christ. In such an instance interpretation has come before the translation of the text, rather than interpreting the meaning of the text after translation.

 

This sets a dangerous translational precedent which is destructive to the truth which the Holy Spirit sets forth in these, the most doctrinal of passages. Few passages of scripture call for more careful, faithful, discerning and Spirit led wisdom in translation than Romans 3:22 or Galatians 2:16. Do these modern translations which have altered the rendering of these passages, casting doubt upon their meaning, demonstrate such wisdom on the part of their translators? It would appear not.

 

The accurate and faithful translation of these passages is certainly to render them as the ‘faith of’ Christ, as it was always translated in the various English versions of the Bible up to the 19th century, including the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Tyndale’s Bible, and the Authorised Version (KJV). It is the modern versions, influenced by erroneous theological thought (which places justification as conditional upon our faith, rather than being surely accomplished by God in Christ for all His people), which have switched to rendering ‘of’ as ‘in’. But a translation should translate what the original says! Interpretation of the result should then follow, as guided by the Holy Spirit. But Bible translations should be just that – translations of the words in the original language which the Holy Spirit wrote.

 

The original Greek from which the English is translated is the phrase ‘Pistis Christou’, which is a genitive, and in the context, a subjective genitive, meaning that the faith spoken of is that belonging to the subject, even Jesus Christ. It is His faith which is in view here. The evidence for the wording being a subjective genitive, referring to faith belonging to, and personal to, Jesus Christ, is backed up by similar grammar used elsewhere in the New Testament. There are many other verses referring to things which are personal to Christ or to God (eg. The ‘hand of God’, the ‘face of Jesus Christ’, etc.) which are worded in identical grammar in the Greek as with ‘Pistis Christou’ (the Greek construction used in Romans 3:22 and Galatians 2:16, meaning “faith of Christ”). Few would question those translations but when it comes to “faith of Jesus Christ” doubt is cast upon it. Why? Because the theological leanings of a number of modern ‘scholars’ prevent them from comprehending just why these verses refer to Christ’s personal faith. They think the writer must mean our faith in Christ. But in this they have stumbled, and rather than translating the text they have interpreted it, and obfuscated the truth from the readers of their mistranslations, and in so doing have shifted the focus away from that objective truth in the Gospel to that which is subjective in relation to it. But the text should be translated “faith of Jesus Christ”, for it is by the faith of Christ that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel.

 

Faith or faithfulness

So, having considered the correct translation of the passages themselves, let us begin to consider the meaning of the phrase itself. What is to be understood by the phrase in these two verses? Does “faith of Jesus Christ” refer to faith which comes from Christ, or to Christ’s personal faith, or even to His faithfulness?

 

Firstly, Romans 3:22 is not referring to faith which comes from Christ, or that we have in relation to Him. Whenever the Apostle Paul wanted to refer to our faith or our believing he was very specific in the Greek he used. He knew perfectly well how to speak of our believing, or our faith in Christ, in contrast to the faith of Christ Himself. Compare in the AV/KJV verses such as Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:15, Colossians 1:4, or even the phrase “we have believed in Jesus Christ” in Galatians 2:16 in contrast to “the faith of Jesus Christ” in the very same verse. The underlying Greek differs, and it differs for a reason. When Paul writes “faith of Jesus Christ” he is not referring to our faith in Him, whether that faith originates from God, from Christ, or not. He is referring to Christ’s own faith in God.

 

What about the translation of the Greek word ‘pistis’? Does this refer to Christ’s faith or His faithfulness? The same Greek word can be translated into English with either meaning but whilst theological bias again leads some, who might concede that the AV has translated the passage correctly, to speak of Christ’s faithfulness in regard to Romans 3:22, the fact remains that virtually all English translations render the word as faith, just as they do when speaking of a believer’s faith. Not only this, but given that faithfulness has to do with obedience, with works, whereas faith has to do with belief, trust and submission, the contrast demonstrated in Galatians 2:16 between the works of the law and the faith of Jesus Christ points to the fact that it is not faithfulness but faith which is in view, which is being contrasted with works. The AV/KJV has translated the phrases correctly. Romans 3:22 refers to the “faith of Jesus Christ” – ‘pistis’ usually being translated as faith elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

The righteousness of God revealed

So if the correct translation of Romans 3:22 is  “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”, what does this phrase actually mean? Does it really mean that the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22)? That we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)?

 

Yes. That is precisely the meaning of the passages. It is the faith of Jesus Christ which brought to light the righteousness of God, by which we are justified. The righteousness of God was manifested, revealed, brought to light, by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But one may answer that we are justified by the blood of Christ, by His death on the cross. And that is quite true – we are. But Christ’s death on the cross, His blood-shedding was a work of faith, an act of faith. It was the “obedience of faith”. Not obedience to the law, but the obedience of faith. The law didn’t demand that one lay down his life for another – but Christ’s faith revealed such love for His people, that while they were yet sinners He laid down His life for them. It is this which we see in the Gospel. It was by faith that He lived (“The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:17) and by faith that He died (Hebrews 12:2). Hence we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ. By that substitutionary death which He died as an act of faith on behalf of those people whom He loved and gave Himself for (Galatians 2:20).

 

Likewise the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ, because it is through the manifestation of this righteousness that we are justified, made righteous, before God. Christ lived a perfect and sinless life. His life which He lived from conception and birth unto death was characterised by faith. He lived a life in constant communion with the Father, doing the will of the Father, not His, in perfect and willing submission. He completely submitted to the Father, trusted in Him for all things, looked to Him in all things, and walked before Him with His eyes fixed upon God. Christ was the “Just One” and “the just shall live by faith”. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), yet Jesus pleased his Father in all things that He did (“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”). Romans 14 tells us that “what is not of faith is sin”. Clearly then, Christ, the sinless one, lived by faith, for He never once sinned. It is by faith that He pleased God, by faith that He lived, and by faith that He died.

When He died, Christ’s faith looked to God to lay upon Him the sins of all His people, to make Him to be sin for them, and to judge those sins according to the righteousness of God in order to blot out all the sins, and all the sin, of His people, that they might become the righteousness of God in Christ. In so doing the righteousness of God was manifested and God the Father rewarded the faith of His Son by justifying His people, purifying them as His Bride, a Bride without blemish, fit for a King.

 

The righteousness of faith

Romans 10 contrasts two types of righteousness: the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5), which is about ‘doing’ (“Do this and live”), and the righteousness of faith, which springs from believing (“…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” Romans 10:9). It is this ‘righteousness of faith’ which is revealed in the Gospel – the “righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”. This righteousness springs from faith. Through it is the fulfilment of all the law’s demands but it is characterised not by legal obedience but by the obedience of faith. Faith characterises it. And Christ revealed it in the Gospel through His faith. For we are justified not “by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Hence in Paul’s statement about the Gospel of Christ in Romans 1:16-17 he says:-

 

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

What a summary of the Gospel! It is the power of God unto salvation. Why? Because therein, in the Gospel, is the righteousness of God revealed. How is it revealed? From faith to faith. But what does that mean? Well, once the fact of Christ’s own faith be recognised, this phrase ‘from faith to faith’ which has puzzled many a commentator (*) becomes much plainer to understand. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith – but whose faith? It is revealed to faith – but what faith is this?

 

The meaning of Romans 1:17 is this. It means that the righteousness of God was revealed from, or out of, Christ’s faith, unto our faith. Christ manifested the righteousness of God by His faith (Romans 3:22), and we come to see and believe in that righteousness (and that one great act of righteousness which Christ did in laying down His life on the cross to justify many by His blood) through faith. God gives us faith to see the righteousness of God revealed by Christ’s faith, within the Gospel.

 

It is this revelation, this manifestation of the righteousness of God which is described in Romans 3:21-22. For the righteousness of God is not simply revealed by the Gospel to our faith subjectively, but it is actually revealed in the Gospel objectively. It is that revelation, objectively in the Gospel, by the faith of Christ, out of which the righteousness of God is revealed to our faith subjectively: “from faith to faith”. Hence we can see the importance of the correct translation of these passages in the scriptures and how the mistranslations of modern versions undermine the truth here, because they seek to take that revelation of the righteousness of God which is objective in the Gospel, and make it merely subjective to the faith of the believer. Yet the scriptures plainly state that the “Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation” because therein, in the Gospel objectively, “is the righteousness of God revealed”. Yes, this revelation is in the Gospel. How? Firstly by Christ’s life. His very life exhibited the righteousness of God. But secondly, in His death when He brought that righteousness to light in judgment against the sins of His people as He looked to His Father by faith whilst suffering upon the tree. This is what revealed the righteousness of God – The faith of Jesus Christ – And it is this revelation of righteousness in the Gospel which God’s people are brought by faith to believe in. Hence Paul writes that the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”.

 

This phrase “The just shall live by faith” is absolutely central to the Gospel. It characterises it. It is at the heart of it. The just shall live by faith. Christ lived by faith. He justified us by His death, by His faith. His death was an act of His faith. And by it He justified His people, hence they too live by faith. By Christ’s glorious act of faith at the cross dead sinners are brought to life. That justifying work later to be brought home to these people in their experience, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who gives them faith to believe it. Their lives then follow, as it were in the footsteps of Christ, as those who live by faith. The ‘just ones’, who like the ‘Just One’ before them, live by faith.

 

Who can question that Christ’s life was lived by faith? Or that He died as an act of faith? Psalm 22 describes His sufferings and the whole language of that psalm is of faith, of trust in God. Likewise from Hebrews 10:38 through to Hebrews 12:2 we read an exposition of the same phrase taken from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by his faith”. Hebrews 10:38 quotes that and the next chapter goes on to define faith, to show that “without faith it is impossible to please God”, and to enumerate many wonderful instances of lives lived by faith. What made the deeds of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab and others pleasing to God, was that they sprang from faith. By faith!

 

Christ, our forerunner

That chapter brings us to Hebrews 12:2, where it reaches its focal point, its summit: Christ. Here the attention is centred on that great forerunner of faith, Jesus. It is not simply that He is the object, or end, of man’s faith, but He is the “Just One” who ran before us, living by faith. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith”. ‘Our’ here has been inserted by the translators. Also ‘author’ and ‘finisher’ are merely two words used to translate Greek words which have much fuller meanings. A better, more descriptive, translation might be “Looking unto Jesus the chief [or captain] and end [or object] of faith”. We look to Jesus who is the ‘end’ or object of [our] faith, but He is also the chief of faith, the captain or forerunner of faith. He is the One who went before us, who lived by faith, whom we follow.

 

And what did Christ do by faith? We read in chapter 11 of what Noah did by faith, of what Abraham and others did ‘by faith’, but what main thing did Christ do ‘by faith’? We read “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

That is what Christ did by faith – He endured the cross, despising the shame. Why? “For the joy that was set before him”. What joy? To justify all those whom the Father had given unto Him from before the foundation of the world. To be united in resurrection life with His bride, the church. To live for ever in eternal bliss with all those justified by His blood. That was His joy, His satisfaction. “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11.

 

In laying down His life for sinners Christ trusted His Father with complete trust, complete knowledge (“by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many”), complete faith, counting Him faithful who had promised. He believed that God would lay all the sins of His chosen people upon His Son and that in Christ’s bearing them and taking their just punishment that those people would be really, truly, justified through His death. Christ had perfect faith in His Father and in that covenant they made before the foundation of the world. When in Gethsemane the Son of God was faced with the cup which He would soon drink, though such an awful prospect awaited Him, His faith did not shrink from it, but He willingly submitted to the Father’s will. And when, on the cross, He drank of that very cup, bore the sins of His people, and was beaten and bruised by the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, forsaken of Him in whose bosom He had dwelt, did Christ’s faith fail Him? No, He endured to the bitter end. He had perfect faith, perfect trust, that on the third day God would raise Him from the dead, and on the third day, rise from the dead He did in triumphant victory having justified His people for ever! Yes, Christ’s death was the most wonderful work of faith there has ever been. Perfect faith, from the perfect man, the Last Adam!

 

Justified by the faith of Christ

Finally, take another look at Galatians 2:16:-

 

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

How is a man justified? By the works of the law? No. By the faith of Jesus Christ. Not by faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith doesn’t justify us, it is Christ’s death by which we are justified. Then ‘by the faith of Jesus Christ’. Why? Because His death was an act of that faith.

 

And what is a result of being justified by Christ’s death, by His faith? The result is that “we have believed in Jesus Christ”. Our belief doesn’t justify us, it is a result of our justification, inwrought by the Spirit. Our belief brings us to an experimental knowledge of our justification before God subjectively in which God declares a sentence of justification in our hearts, but it is God that justified us objectively in the Person of His Son, who shed His blood for His people. And when Christ shed His blood for that people the righteousness of God was unto all of them from that very moment, to be applied by the Spirit upon all of them when they believe, “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”. For we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ

 

“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 Oh, may God give us grace to both see the glory of His work in Christ, that work of faith by which He justified His people for ever, and believing, to walk by faith, looking unto Jesus, “the author and finisher of faith”. 

Amen.

 

…….

 

(* One common interpretation of the phrase ‘from faith to faith’ in Romans 1:17 is that it refers to the believer’s faith which, it is said, goes from one measure of faith to another, greater, measure. The problem with such an interpretation, however, is that the subject of Romans 1:17 is not the believer or his faith, but the righteousness of God, and how that is revealed in the Gospel. It is the revelation of the righteousness of God which is ‘from faith to faith’, and, as is shown in this article, this righteousness is revealed from (by, or out of)  the faith of Jesus Christ unto the faith of the believer.)

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