Thoughts on the Epistle to the Romans (64)

Painting of Isaiah by Antonio Balestra

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.

Romans 3:21.

No-one of the heathen nations has led such a righteous life that he could stand before God. The Jews had God’s law, which demanded righteousness, but it only revealed that they, too, were not righteous but equally guilty. Honest, upright Jews admitted it, as we read in Isaiah: “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (ch. 64: v.6). But the same prophet indicates that there is hope. He points to a righteousness coming not from men but from God. Admittedly, he says that God’s righteousness reveals itself in judgment: “When your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (ch. 26, v.9). But Isaiah knew of God’s righteousness as it brings salvation: “I bring my righteousness near; it shall not be far off; my salvation will not linger.” And “My salvation is about to come and my righteousness to be revealed” (ch. 46:13; 56:1). Here we have a righteousness coming from God that is for mankind, not against him!

In the law there had already been indications that righteousness and grace could go together. For inadvertent sins animal sacrifices were designated to be substitutes. They could, of course, not take away the sin, but they pointed to the one vicarious offering, Jesus Christ. He became God’s salvation in Person. This explains the words “but now” in today’s verse. In the good news of Jesus Christ God’s righteousness is revealed now for the salvation of lost sinners (cf. Romans 1:17).

Image: By Antonio Balestra – The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 569354, Public Domain,