21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. 22 The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
On May 24, 2010, the last original episode of Law & Order aired after a 20-year run. The show continues to thrive in syndication and through its spin-offs and many imitators. While most hour-long dramas are lucky to last a handful of seasons—maybe as many as 10—this criminal procedural etched itself into the minds of a generation. Law & Order made an undeniable impact on the television landscape.
Have you ever stopped to think about why we like shows like this? Quality writing, good direction, and memorable characters certainly add to the appeal. But what if our interest in shows like Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, and others strikes at something much more foundational? These shows almost always end with the bad guy in custody. Justice has been served over the course of an hour. Inside all of us there is a desire for justice and to be justified, to know that everything is all right.
And this what has been given to us in the gospel. Paul frequently refers to the righteousness of God that has been given in the gospel. The word “righteous” in the original language of the New Testament refers to a judicial standing.
Notice that Paul said in verse 21, “Apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed.” “Apart from the law” is an important phrase to consider. God gave His law through the prophets, but as Paul has just described in Romans 1:18-3:20, the law has condemned us. We have been convicted as guilty and sentenced to death. We are on the wrong end of the law. If we got the justice we so desire to see, we would be separated from God in our sin. However, through the gospel, we have been made righteous “apart from the law.” We couldn’t keep the law, but Jesus did on our behalf.
By the end of a criminal procedural, the evidence is mounting against the suspect. Before the gospel, this was where we found ourselves. God, who is holy and who sees every single thing we do, saw our sinful state—and we were condemned. Yet instead of condemning us, He took us off the hook and acquitted us of all the charges. Paul called this process justification (see verse 24). Justice has been served and has been expended upon Jesus. Because Jesus took what you deserve, you can have right standing before God through faith.
You don’t need a solid defense. You don’t need a list of good works to outweigh your bad. Nothing we could offer God could overturn His just sentence. But what Jesus offered God was successful where our feeble attempts at righteousness failed. Jesus presented His perfect life and sacrificial death to God on our behalf. When we believe this message, turn from our sin, and trust in Jesus, Christ’s righteousness is given to us and applied to our lives. Now we are righteous because Christ is righteous. No matter what you’ve done, Jesus gives you salvation through faith.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Have you ever believed this message through faith? Are you right with God by believing in Jesus by faith?
- Why should what has been done for us in Christ lead us to live bold and sacrificial lives?
- Take a few moments to reflect upon the gospel of grace and meditate upon how God is applying the gospel to your life.