But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul explained that God’s righteousness is not a reward, but it is a gift to those who trust in the redemptive work of Christ. Beginning in Romans 3:21, Paul develops that truth to show the reality of God’s gift.
Paul said that God’s righteousness is offered as a gift. “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; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:21-23).
In Romans 3:12, Paul used a Greek word to describe our righteousness that said it was like rancid sour milk: putrefied and worthless. That is the way your righteous acts and my righteous acts are before God. Isaiah said our righteousness–the best we can do–is like a filthy rag to God (Isaiah 64:6). We cannot earn God’s righteousness, but Paul said God offers His righteousness as a gift. When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God wraps us in the righteousness that belongs to Christ Jesus. And when God looks at us, He no longer sees our unrighteousness; He sees the perfection of His Son. That is why Paul prayed in Philippians 3:8-9 that “I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” That is what Paul was talking about in Romans 3:21. He said the righteousness God offers is apart from the law. It has nothing to do with keeping the law.
Not only is the righteousness that God offers apart from the law, but it is a righteousness that is “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (3:21). Some people believe that in the Old Testament people were saved by works, and in the New Testament people were saved by faith in Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth. Salvation has always been offered as a gift, not a reward. This plan is nothing new; it was witnessed by the law and the prophets.
For example, think about the first book of the Bible. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they felt ashamed, so they manufactured an inadequate covering of fig leaves, thinking it would cover their guilt. What did God do? He killed an animal, took the skin of that animal, and made a covering for Adam and Eve, thereby telling them–and all of mankind–that we are inadequate to prepare a covering for ourselves. We need an innocent to cover our sin for us. In Genesis 3, God gave us a picture of the fact that salvation would be a gift, not a reward.
In Romans 3, Paul explained that it has always been God’s plan that His righteousness would not be a reward but a gift from Him.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “And Now for the Gospel” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.