Romans - Lesson 13

Romans 3:21-23

In Romans 3:21-26, Paul intertwines key Gospel elements, stressing God's righteousness given through faith in Jesus Christ to believers. He navigates the Old Covenant's limits, affirming Christ's surpassing righteousness. Paul urges recognition of Law and Prophets' testimony on God's righteousness. Christ's righteousness serves as salvation's axis, open to Jews and Gentiles by faith. He challenges Jewish and Gentile views, emphasizing Christ's Old Testament fulfillment and God's consistent salvation plan. 


Lesson 13
Watching Now
Romans 3:21-23

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18–4:25)

A. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18–3:20)

1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18-32)

2. Jews Are Accountable to God for Sin (2:1–3:8)

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)

b. The Limitations of the Covenant (2:17-29)

c. God's Faithfulness and the Judgment of Jews (3:1-8)

3. The Guilt of All Humanity (3:9-20)

B. Justification by Faith (3:21–4:25)

1. Justification and the Righteousness of God (3:21-26)

2. "By Faith Alone" (3:27–4:25)

a. "By Faith Alone": Initial Statement (3:27-31)

b. "By Faith Alone": Elaboration with Respect to Abraham (4:1-25)

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 3:21-26  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 3:21-26

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (dikaiosyne) has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness (dikaiosyne) is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified (dikaioō) freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 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 justice (dikaiosyne) because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice (dikaiosyne) at the present time, so as to be just (dikaios) and the one who justifies (dikaioō) those who have faith in Jesus.


A.  Dikaiosyne, dikaioō, and dikaios:  

Romans 3:21-26 is this great text that Paul brings together so much that is central to his presentation of the Gospel. That is what gives this passage its almost unparalleled power; not so much its individual elements, but the relationship of the elements to one another, the way in which Paul brings so many things together here. Not only our standing before God but how God secured that through Christ on our behalf, the importance of faith, what God did for us on the cross and the nature of that work, so many of his key ideas are brought together here. 

I want to illustrate a couple of things as you look at the passage as a whole. I have highlighted some of the key words here; it might be worthwhile working through the passage, so we all get a good sense of it. 

‘Apart from the law the righteousness’ – (here is this word dikaiosyne) -  ‘of God has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness’ (same word) ‘is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified' (here again, this issue in English we talked about where we move from righteousness to justified, two completely different English words but the same Greek root is involved here again.) ‘All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 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 justice’ - dikaiosyne – ‘because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate his justice’ same word again ‘at the present time, so as to be just’- dikaios - ‘and the one who justifies’- dikaioō – ‘those who have faith in Jesus.’


B. Dikaios, Faith, and Universality: 

So, what I have tried to do here is highlight first of all, the language of righteousness, justified, justify, justice, justice; five times you get that single Greek root in our passage Second, you have the emphasis on faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and faith in Jesus. Third, you have the emphasis on universality again, ‘all who believe,’ ‘Jew and Gentile.’

So, there are the three very significant themes that are woven throughout our passage. Paul using this language of righteousness and justified and playing on it; talking about the importance of faith, and then talking about how faith is something available to both Jew and Gentile alike, the inclusive nature of faith in Christ. 

There are a number of emphases here that we want to talk about, and I will come to that in a moment. 

First of all, the balance of Romans is seen again in verse 21 where Paul says on the one hand, God’s righteousness is made known apart from the Law, but it is testified to by the Law and the Prophets. Continuity and discontinuity in the plan of God in salvation history.  

On the one hand, what God has done in Christ in making His righteousness known to us happens outside the confines of God’s Law. We could almost say that it is outside the confines of the Old Covenant. This was the mistake that a lot of the Jews were making in Paul’s day. They insisted on trying to fit Christ into the Old Covenant, tried to fit Him into the Law, rather than recognize how He had broken out of the boundaries of that framework. We think of Jesus’ illustration of the foolishness of trying to put new wine in old wineskins. This was the mistake many of the Jews were making in Paul’s day. They saw God’s Law as sort of absolute, God’s final word, and anything that God did had to be understood within the confines of that Law. So, you understood Christ within the Law rather than Christ apart from the Law. That was the mistake the Jews were making.

On the other hand, the mistake or tendency of some of the Gentiles in Paul’s day was to cast Christ loose from the Old Testament entirely. I can understand Gentiles taking this kind of attitude; saying, I am all for this Christianity thing, I believe in Jesus but what is all this Jewish stuff? I am not becoming a Jew; I am becoming a Christian. Why do I need the Old Testament? So, to counter that problem, Paul says remember that this righteousness of God is testified to by the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament as a whole. 

So, in a sense what Paul is presenting us with here is a single salvation history. It is one big plan of God, the righteousness of God manifested in Christ is part of that history to which the Old Testament points forward. But it is a single plan divided into two stages: the old stage with the old covenant and its Law is now past with the coming of Christ; a new stage, a new context as it were, has been introduced and inaugurated. 

We have talked about the righteousness of God already, and clearly in verse 21 and 22, God’s righteousness means exactly what it means in chapter 1, verse 17: God’s promised action to put people in the right before Him. What is again particularly important for Paul is to emphasize this matter of faith. God’s righteousness is not simply to Israel, but it is for to everybody who believes.


C. Faith in Jesus Christ versus the Faithfulness of Christ:

Let me comment, if I may, on the phrase, ‘through faith in Jesus Christ.’ I talked about this this morning when we looked at Romans 1:17 This way of construing Paul’s Greek here takes Christ as the object of human faith: our faith directed toward Christ. But the other way to take it is to understand Christ as the one who is doing the believing or exercising the faithfulness, because the Greek word faith, the Greek word translated faith, can also sometimes be translated faithfulness. 

So, as I mentioned this morning, what has become a very popular option, and it is increasing in popularity almost every year, is to understand this phrase to mean not given through faith in Jesus Christ but given through the faithfulness exercised by Jesus Christ. Those who argue that view among other things say it makes excellent sense here because otherwise Paul would be repeating himself. Whereas if the first reference is to Christ’s faithfulness and the second is to our faith, then that makes a very neat two-sided picture that Paul may want to present to us: that of our standing with God, God’s righteousness is manifested through Christ’s faithfulness; Christ, who in obedience to the Father went to the Cross on our behalf. So, God’s righteousness is manifested through Christ’s faithfulness to His mission and activated by all of us who believe. 

Theologically, to me this is unobjectionable; there is no question that Christ’s faithfulness is important as a means by which God has brought His righteousness and His salvation to us. I continue to think that the traditional reading is superior, however. Again, I don’t think a lot rests on this, I think you could go either way on this one, theologically each is fine. 

The particular phrase Paul uses here, in the Greek is a genitive. It is by its nature somewhat ambiguous. Probably the best way to translate it would be ‘Christ’s faith’ How do those two words function together. Think of some English parallels here: firehose. How do you know the way those two words function together? A firehose is a hose used for the purpose of putting out fires.  Someone is asking you who doesn’t know English very well, what do you mean by that phrase? Another word, pencil-holder; well, it is something that holds a pencil in it. There are many other examples. 

The best illustration that I can think of is a personal example; I really enjoy photography, as some of you know. I had a student up in my office one day and he was looking at my photographs. I said to the student, doesn’t that remind you of the famous photograph of Ansel Adams? The minute I said it I thought, oh there is a critical ambiguity there. I think it’s a good illustration.  If you would just hear that phrase by itself “a photograph of Ansel Adams,” you would bring your knowledge to bear on that phrase and assume what was meant, was “a photograph taken by Ansel Adams.

In fact, in this situation, I was pointing to a photograph in my office as I am standing on top of my pickup truck with my camera on a tripod taking a photograph, and thinking of the famous Ansel Adam’s photograph, some of you may have seen it, of Ansel Adams standing on top of a station wagon in Yosemite with his tripod and his big 8 by 10 inch view camera up there.  I was thinking of a photograph in which Ansel Adams is the subject of the photograph, not the taker of the photograph. 

I thought, that is kind of an interesting way to think about the way this phrase works then, when we’re thinking of moving from the Greek to the English; the way we construe it is through the information we bring to the phrase. Syntactically, the same phrase, “a photograph of Ansel Adams;” “a photograph of Marilyn Monroe.” Take those two phrases: a photograph of Ansel Adams and a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. They are exactly the same construction- “of” - in each case but the information we bring to it would normally lead us to think a photograph taken by Ansel Adams and a photograph in which Marilyn Monroe appears. 

So, when we come to the phrase like ‘the faith of Christ,’ my argument would be because Paul talks so often about our believing in Christ, never talks about Christ actually believing as the subject of that verb, that we would expect that phrase then to be unpacked, the faith we humans put in Christ rather than the faith or faithfulness Christ is exercising.

So, that would be one way in which I would want to argue for the traditional view here. Again, I want to say this is not a matter of orthodoxy versus heresy Certainly, to talk about Christ’s faithfulness as instrumental in securing our righteousness is appropriate and biblical, but I am just not sure that is what Paul is saying here though. You will see this view appearing quite a lot


E. Student Questions

Student question: 
Are there a lot of places in the New Testament where faith means faithfulness? 

Dr. Moo: 
It certainly is debated how many there are, there are certainly some. How many would maybe be a debated question.

Student question: 
Enough to warrant (?)

Dr. Moo: 
Oh sure.  Take a look at Romans 3:3 ’what then? If some have disbelieved, will their unbelief nullify the pistis of God?’ The Greek word there, clearly is not the faith of God, but it is the faithfulness exercised by God. 

So here advocates of the faithfulness of Christ, would say right here in the context of Romans 3, you have a reference to the faithfulness exercised by God. No doubt that that is a possible way to understand it. 

Interesting again, two of the most prominent New Perspective advocates are on opposite sides on this one. Tom Wright is a strong advocate of the faithfulness of Christ interpretation; James Dunn is an equally strong advocate of the traditional our faith in Christ. So, this just shows that on this one that the dividing lines are not neat between the different viewpoints. It’s just a matter of interpretation.

Student question: 
So, if we take the traditional reading then really it is for emphasis’ sake? Is the emphasis going to be on the word “all?” 

Dr. Moo: 
Yeah, again, this is so important for Paul as we have seen to talk about that. He goes on to explain that all who believe, here in this famous verse, it is for all who believe, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, all sin, all fall short that is why it is for all who believe as well. You have to view it as sort of repeating the same idea for emphasis. It is through faith, and it is for all who have faith.