Romans 3–4: Righteousness & Faith

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 2: Sunday

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets
Romans 3:21 LSB

Sunday’s reading is Romans 3–4. Today begins Week 2 of Read the Bible in 2023. I hope you decide to read through the Bible this year. Use whatever Bible reading plan works best for you and start anytime! I’ve listed several in the post. If you want to see what I’ve written about any passage, you can use the search box or look in the header menu for Read the Bible in 2023 and the different quarters of the year. There are old posts under Read the Bible in 2011.

I’m using Michael Coley’s plan that divides Bible readings into one category for each day of the week. I like the change from one book to another, and seeing how one part of Scripture gives insight into another. There are no dates, and I think that helps take off some of the pressure of keeping up. If you miss a reading, you can go on to the next day of the week and catch up with the other reading later.

You know, different parts of Scripture are dear to me for different reasons. I love Philippians because it brings me back to focus my life on Christ, I love Galatians because it’s Paul’s line in the sand to stand in the freedom of Christ, I love Hebrews because of the encouragement to keep going and trust and believe Christ, I love Ephesians because of the overflow of the riches of Christ that are so evident in it—but Romans—Romans is my rock. I became a Christian through Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter defines me. My sin and my Savior are all written within its heart. The power of God for salvation explodes from Paul’s words.

In Romans 3:10–18, Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah 59, to drive home the fact that “there is none righteous, not even one,” and the entire world is accountable to God.

Before I knew that Paul had used Isaiah 59 as part of his indictment of our sin, the summer I became a Christian I was reading that very chapter and found words in the passage that astonished me because they described exactly how I was feeling in my search to know God.

In The Finished Work of Christ, Francis Schaeffer writes:

“The person who doesn’t have the Bible is judged by the perfect standard of God on the basis of his or her own condemnation of others, as we saw in 2:1. No one can ever say, “I have perfectly kept the standard by which I have judged others.” But then along comes the Jew, saying, “Yes, but we have the Bible.” And God says, “Yes, and you haven’t kept it either.” So, the conclusion now is all blackness. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh [ever] be justified in [God’s] sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

“We have come to the end of Paul’s presentation of the “first half of the gospel. Paul has taken most of the first chapter, all of the second chapter, and a lot of the third chapter to show us that we all need salvation. He hasn’t yet told us how to be saved.

“…Christianity differs radically from existentialism, and this is why people react so strongly to Christianity, but not to existentialism. Existentialism says man is a zero and he is hopelessly damned. Christianity says man is damned, not because of what he is but because of what he has freely chosen to do. If a man is damned because of what he is, you can’t say that he’s wrong—he’s just pathetic. But Christianity says that man is not pathetic. In fact, man is a marvelous creation of God. But he is also a rebel against God, and as such deserves God’s wrath. Man is not pathetic, man is a rebel…he is caught in a net, all right, but he is there by choice. And if men and women are caught in this net by choice, says the Bible, then there is something more involved: They must accept the responsibility, the guilt for being there.

“And that brings us to the second half of the gospel.”1

Those who have acknowledged their sin, who understand they are without ability to ever justify themselves before God, and that they stand as a guilty rebel under His judgment, are ready to hear the second part of the Gospel. Now we hear the hope—“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.” The righteousness of God has been revealed.2

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, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:21–26 LSB

At the end of chapter 3, Paul lists questions and objections that some may make about what he has just said. In chapter 4, Paul begins to answer by turn to Genesis and the covenant God made with Abraham recorded in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17.

After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
And Abram said, “O Lord Yahweh, what will You give me, as I go on being childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no seed to me, behold, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, saying, “This one will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”

And He brought him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your seed be.” Then he believed in Yahweh; and He counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:1-6 LSB

In the last part of Genesis 15 is the solemning cutting of Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham. Notice that Abraham is called Abram in this chapter. When does his name change? Not until years later in Genesis 17. That is when God again tells Abram he will be the father of a multitude of nations, changes his name to Abraham, and tells him circumcision will be the sign of this covenant. It is only then, in Genesis 17, that Abraham, and all the males of his household are circumcised.

In Romans 4 Paul goes back to these two chapters in Genesis to establish what he has just said in Romans 3, that no one is justified by works: God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles, and He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about⁠—but not before God! For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS COUNTED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Romans 4:3 LSB

Paul points out that Abraham had not been circumcised in Genesis 15 when he believed God, and God counted it to him as righteousness. Paul also points out the promise made by God to Abraham was made not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

At the end of Romans 4, Paul concludes by explaining that when Abraham believed God, it was not only for his sake God counted it to him as righteousness, but also for our sake.

Now not for his sake only was it written THAT IT WAS COUNTED TO HIM, but for our sake also, to whom it will be counted, as those who believe upon Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over on account of our transgressions, and was raised on account of our justification.
Romans 4:23–25 LSB

In college we used to sing, “Father Abraham had many sons, I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.” In Romans 4:16, Paul tells us that Abraham is the father of all, whether Jew or Gentile, who believe.

Another favorite song of mine is an old one by Nancy Honeytree, Clean Before My Lord.

We either stand before God under His judgment, or through faith in Christ, we are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and we stand clean before Him in joy and wonder.

Where do you stand? Repent, and believe the Good News. And sing that ‘living song’!

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Offspring promised to Abraham: Jan van’t Hoff. Gospel Images. Romans 4:3 cf Genesis 15:5–6.
1Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 70–71.
2My pastor, Mike Braun, when preaching through Romans, titled the first part of the letter, “God’s Righteousness Revealed.”

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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