Today’s sermon, Romans 3:21-31

In Josh McDowell’s book More than a Carpenter he has a dialogue with a group when he says he hates religion to which they respond and he writes:

“I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ!” She pointed out something I had never known: Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus Christ.[1]

Religion is works based.

Ray Ortlund Jr writes:

We were married to Mr. Law. He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness. He came home every evening and asked, “So, how was your day? Did you do what I told you to? Did you make the kids behave? Did you waste any time? Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?” So many demands and expectations. And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect. We could never satisfy him. We forgot things that were important to him. We let the children misbehave. We failed in other ways. It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings. And the worst of it was, he was always right! But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow. We didn’t, because we couldn’t.

Then Mr. Law died. And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace. Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day. Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, “I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our hearts melt. We don’t understand such love. We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well. We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be “fully pleasing to him” (Col. 1:10)!

Being married to Mr. Law never changed us. But being married to Mr. Grace is changing us deep within, and it shows.[2]

Christianity is all about Jesus. As we have looked at Romans we see that we have all broken the law. Last week we looked at a list of sins and a passage showing that we have all messed up. So, now there is a transition and Romans 3:21-31 is all about how we are made right by Jesus.

Theme: Jesus came to freely make us right with God


We must only trust in Jesus, not our own hard work in order to be right with God.

Let’s read Romans 3:21-31:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

  1. Let’s briefly look at the passage: Let’s look at verses 21-24:
    1. Verse 22-23:
    2. This is about the righteousness of God.
    3. How does this righteousness come?
    4. For all those who believe—- through faith in Jesus Christ.
    5. For there is no distinction.
    6. This means that there is no distinction in who can be saved.
    7. Verse 23 is like a tag line: for all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.
    8. Verse 24:
    9. Justified: just as if I never sinned. This is a legal term. It means that God looks upon us and sees Jesus’ righteousness and not our sinfulness. This a legal term mixed with an accounting term that means that God adds our full sin debt to Jesus which He paid in full at the cross and then Jesus gives a full credit of purity, righteousness and holiness to us. To God we are holy. To God we are perfect. To God it is as if we never sinned. This is a loaded term. Notice this verse says that this happened as a gift, by His grace. Grace means unmerited favor. We are all justified freely. This is by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. To redeem means to buy back.
    10. It is like buying back a slave. This passage is full of terms that are legal and have to do with salvation. AMEN!!!
    11. We could not earn salvation!!! Jesus gave it to us. Remember chapter 3:1-20 and what a mess we were all in? Now look what Jesus gifts us with?
  2. No boasting allowed, we are saved by God’s grace.
    1. As we get into verses 25-31 Paul writes about boasting. Can we boast in our salvation? No way.
    2. This passage meant that the Jews cannot boast by being Jewish.
    3. This is all about Jesus.
    4. Imagine that someone out there is the child of a millionaire. As the child grows up he has a lot of pressure on him, but also a lot of privileges. So this young man is raised with the best of an education. He has the best college and grad school. After school he is very successful. He might have worked hard, but can he boast? No, he cannot. His father gave him advantages. His father gave him freely the best education.
    5. I was once talking with a family and a woman said, “My husband would say, ‘I worked hard for what I have.’” That may be true, but there are others in other countries or places in the U.S. who work just as hard for less.
    6. This is all about Jesus.
    7. Romans could end here. The rest of the book of Romans is illustrating and defending the idea of salvation for all by grace.
  • Give glory to God
    1. How do we respond? Give glory to God.
    2. Do you ever think about God’s Glory?
    3. The term is used some 340 times in the Bible we see
    4. verses such as:
    5. Exodus 14:4: (see also 14:18; 16:7,10; 24:16; 24:17; 28:2; 28:40, etc.)
      1. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”
    6. We fall short of God’s glory. We always will, there is no way that we cannot fall short of
    7. God’s glory, we always sin. So, Jesus made a way.
    8. We serve a God who is to be glorified and IS full of Glory.


I have shared this before but it fits so well:

In his best-selling book The Reason for God, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, shares the story of a woman in his congregation who was learning how the grace extended to us through Christ’s work on the cross can actually be more challenging than religion. He writes:

Some years ago I met with a woman who began coming to church at Redeemer and had never before heard a distinction drawn between the gospel and religion [i.e. the distinction between grace and what is often a works-based righteousness]. She had always heard that God accepts us only if we are good enough. She said that the new message was scary. I asked why it was scary and she replied: If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with “rights”—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by grace—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”

She understood the dynamic of grace and gratitude. If when you have lost all fear of punishment you also lose all incentive to live a good, unselfish life, then the only incentive you ever had to live a decent life was fear. This woman could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had an edge to it. She knew that if she was a sinner saved by grace, she was (if anything) more subject to the sovereign Lordship of God. She knew that if Jesus really had done all this for her, she would not be her own. She would joyfully, gratefully belong to Jesus, who provided all this for her at infinite cost to himself.[3]

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1] McDowell, Josh D.; Sean McDowell (2011-08-17). More Than a Carpenter (Kindle Locations 193-195). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ray Ortlund, “Who are you married to?”The Gospel Coalition blog—Ray Ortlund (2-15-15)

[3] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Riverhead Books, 2008), pp. 189-19

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