“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” —Romans 3:21
After the apostle has just recited scripture after scripture from the Old Testament in the previous ten verses, from Psalms 5, 10, 14, 36, 140, and Isaiah 59, to absolutely prove that every man, woman, and child, since the fall of Adam, are condemned in the sight of a holy and just God, he writes, “But now…” The Greek expression used here is used four other times by the apostle in this letter to the Roman Christians.
“But now…” he says, emphasizing that he is speaking of the present time, not the past; “But now…” he says, emphasizing a transition that is currently taking place; “But now…” he says, noting that this emphatic expression should alert us to the emphasis God is placing upon the truth that immediately follows these words…
1. “…the righteousness of God… is manifested” That is, God’s righteousness is not merely “revealed” supernaturally from faith to faith (Romans 1:17), but it is also declared apparently and set forth visibly. How? It is manifested through the Person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. This manifestation was apparent and visible by Christ’s sinless, holy life fulfilling the Law of Moses both actively and passively. Jesus Christ was completely righteous, ever obedient to His heavenly Father’s will and completely pleasing to the Father’s delight.
God’s righteousness, His “justice-ness” was also manifested (openly displayed) in the very Presentation of the crucified Lord, when God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, hung upon a tree of wood as the Substitutionary atoning Sacrifice. God’s holy wrath and judgment against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men was never more openly displayed than it was in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Power of God’s righteousness was also manifested in the resurrection of Christ bodily from the dead after three days and nights in the tomb.
The Perfection of God’s righteousness was also manifested in Christ’s ascension to the right hand of Majesty on high; and additionally manifested in His sending the promised Holy Spirit as the pledge of His promise to return.
To sum it up, God’s righteousness was openly displayed and manifested in the:
Person of Christ
Presentation at the Cross
Power of Christ’s resurrection
Perfection in Christ’s ascension
2. God’s righteousness was manifested and openly displayed “…without the Law…” or in other words, “apart from the Law.” How are we to understand this? Jesus Christ fulfilled the law completely, as mentioned above, so we could not say that the righteousness of God is made apparent apart from the law, apart from holy scripture; therefore, this clause indicates that what is spoken of here is that God’s righteousness was openly displayed and made manifest apart from sinful man’s obedience to the Law; which is what we’ve studied verse by verse for the last three chapters in this blog.
3. The manifestation of God’s righteousness, by divine inspiration prior to the event on Golgotha, was “…being witnessed by the Law and the prophets.” This explains that God’s righteousness is NOW manifest because that was the testimony of the Old Testament scriptures; that the manifestation of God’s righteousness would come from God, by God, and through God, for His own name’s sake and not because sinful man obeyed His commandments (because they couldn’t).
“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 3:22). The righteousness of men must come by the righteousness of God, as explained in Romans 3:21; and that, by faith; that is, unto all those who believe savingly. Who are the “all” of belief? That would be to those with whom God makes no distinction: of all believing Jews and all believing Gentiles, “…for there is no distinction.” Why does God make no distinction between these two groups? We are told in the next verse:
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Read the previous article in this series, “All Have Sinned” (Romans 3:23).