Let’s start by summarizing what we have learned so far. A careful reading of Romans 3:19-20 reveals that:
- God’s Law applies to everyone, Jew and Gentile.
- Both Jews and Gentiles are “guilty before God” as lawbreakers.
- No amount of human effort, good works, righteous acts—all referred to as “the deeds of the law”—can “justify” us before God or solve the sin problem.
- By the law comes “the knowledge of sin.”
If you question these points, simply read Romans 3:19,20 again carefully. Based on these facts, it cannot be stressed strongly enough that “the law,” while it certainly cannot save or justify us, nevertheless remains in full force in New Testament times and has a definite place in the biblical message of righteousness by faith. As Romans 3:19 states, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Thus it is “by the law” that we discover our sinful condition, our need of a Savior, and the very reason why Jesus Christ died—which was to pay the just penalty for those very sins. When professed Christians reject the law “in the name of Christ,” what they are really doing (without realizing it) is destroying the truth about the reason why Jesus Christ died in the first place —which again, was to pay the price for our sins of breaking the law (compare 1 John 3:4 with 1 Cor. 15:3). In Romans 3:19-26, Paul rejects this distortion by placing the law and the message of Jesus Christ together in their proper relationship.
Now for the next step: Paul continues, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Romans 3:21). This verse is jam-packed with vital information, and should be analyzed carefully. First, Paul’s focus is “the righteousness of God.” God’s righteousness is what we sinners desperately need—not our own, which is filthy rags. This righteousness is “now” being “revealed,” which means that the knowledge of it and the message about it is “now” coming to you and me. This righteousness is “apart from the law,” which means it does not come from “the law” itself, but from another place. Yet make no mistake about it: such righteousness is “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, “the law” witnesses or testifies to that righteousness and fully agrees that it is in perfect harmony with itself.
In other words, if the law could talk, we might hear it say, “I require righteousness, and all sinners fall short of it. But ah! There is another place where the exact righteousness that I require can be found, and I will accept it completely. It satisfies me fully.”
As we will see in Part 6, that other place is the unique Person of Jesus Christ, “our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6), whose “righteousness” is “now” being “revealed” as being available to each of us as a free gift!
The best is yet to come!