A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
This Righteousness Is Witnessed to By the Law
It is a righteousness that is without the law but the law witnesses to it, and also the prophets. The whole sacrificial system bore witness to the righteousness of God in Christ. When a man took his sacrifice as a sin offering to the temple, laid his hand upon the animal, confessed his sin, then killed the animal, he witnessed by that very act to the fact that he had faith in a righteousness that was not his own; and by faith he looked forward to the Cross of Christ where the righteousness of God was manifested.
How do the prophets witness? The prophet Isaiah says, "All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). So the prophets as well as the law bear witness to this righteousness, though they have nothing to do with bringing it. It is without the law.
In Romans 4:3 Paul proves that this righteousness is without law. "For what saith the scriptures? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." We read about Abraham in the law.
The sixth verse of the same chapter refers to David, one of the prophets: "God imputed righteousness without works, saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." As one of the prophets, David knew something about this righteousness, just like Abraham did in the law. Paul proves what he is talking about.
This Righteousness of God is Manifested
The ASV reads, "hath been manifested"; the KJV says, "is manifested." It is that peculiar Greek tense, the perfect tense, which refers to something that was done in the past, the effects of which abide right up to the present. So both renderings can be considered right. God manifested His righteousness at the Cross nineteen hundred years ago. He hath manifested; but the righteousness of God is still manifested today, because the Cross is eternal in the sense that its effects last forever. The righteousness of God has been and is yet being manifested.
There is quite a remarkable contrast between this statement and the one in 1:17: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." The verb "revealed" in this passage is present tense; that is to say, in the gospel the righteousness of God is being revealed all the time. Every time the gospel is preached, God's righteousness is revealed. But here (3:21) he is not talking about the preaching of the gospel, but the fact that God manifested His righteousness in the Cross.
Righteousness Which is by Faith in Jesus Christ
A lot of folks wonder why Paul said "unto all and upon all," seeming to repeat himself. "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (3:22). They ask, "Doesn't the righteousness of God in Christ come to every last man that lives? Isn't it universal? Isn't it for everybody?" Certainly. "Does it 'save' everybody?" No! Whom then does it save?
A Righteousness Upon All That Believe
It is "upon all," with a condition: "Them that believe." The precision of language at this point is significant. God's righteousness is for all men, IF THEY WANT IT, but it only comes to "rest upon" those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Verse 23 and the last phrase of verse 22 constitute a parenthetical interjection. It is therefore possible to move from the word "believe" in verse 22 right down to verse 24. But Paul introduces the statement here because he cannot let the people forget that they "need" God's righteousness. Man needs righteousness for three reasons: 1. because "there is no difference"; 2. because "all have sinned"; 3. because "all... come short of the glory of God."
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 34) - "There is No Difference")