The law of Moses reveals God’s righteousness and man’s unrighteousness. In verse 21, Paul states that there is a way separate from the law by which man may know God’s righteousness. Before examining this way, let us consider the specific audience which the apostle is addressing. It is Jewish believers -— individuals who were rooted in the law of Moses. They were individuals who possessed knowledge and understanding of the law and believed upon Jesus. It is to this audience that Paul declares the righteousness of God is apart from the law but is witnessed by the law and by the prophets.
The righteousness that the law reveals is that it is impossible for man to keep the law at all times. The prophets reveal that man is wanting and must look to God to do that which man cannot. Moses and the prophets reveal the means by which man can escape the consequence of failing to keep the law. Moses prophesied of a prophet like unto himself to whose words men must harken. The prophets testified of the things which the promised prophet should do. The promised prophet radiates the righteousness not revealed in the law.
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. The Old Testament gives witness to the same righteous God who is more clearly revealed in the New Testament. Devout, but unbelieving, Jews of today know of God’s righteousness through the law. Faith, not knowledge of God’s righteousness, separates the Christian from the Jew. A Jew believes that his best will overcome his failure to keep the law. Christians know better. We know that the redemptive work of Christ alone removes the barrier separating man from God.
In verse 22, Paul states that the righteousness of God is revealed by faith, a faith dependent upon believing Jesus is the Messiah, the promised prophet. The righteousness by faith of which Paul speaks is that of which the law and the prophets bear witness. The Jewish believers in the church at Rome accepted Jesus as the Messiah because they believed the prophets.
The Holy Spirit reveals truth to all believers. The Holy Spirit does not reveal one thing to the Jews and something else to the Gentiles. There is no difference.
What does the Holy Spirit reveal? Look at verse 23: “. . . all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The truth is naked. It is totally revealing; all have fallen short of God’s righteous requirements. The revelation given to believers does not terminate with the knowledge that all have failed to meet God’s standard. In verse 24 and 25, the Spirit through Paul declares that Christ Jesus has done for men that which all have failed to do for themselves. Believers are justified by God’s grace through faith in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus whom God the Father set forth to be a propitiation to declare God’s righteousness.
A propitiation is an act that has been prescribed. Christ is God the Father’s prescription to remedy man’s failures. This prescription, when believed, produces a 100% success rate in the remission of past sins. The cure (remission of sins) is activated by faith in the blood of Christ (His sacrifice). God the Father set forth His only begotten Son to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins. The Son declared the Father’s righteousness by satisfying every requirement of the law.
The righteousness of God which is make known through the Son was witnessed by the prophets. Believers of every era rejoice in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall proper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:10, 11). Believers rejoice because believers are justified.
It is with consideration of that which God the Father has declared through God the Son that Paul asks, “Where is the boasting then?” One does not boast of failure. The law of Moses testifies of man’s failure. The law of faith excludes boasting because faith is rooted in believing God.
God declared the justification of many, not because of their works, but because many would believe in the righteous works of His Son. There is no boasting in believing God. God states that all have come short. Being a single unit of all who have come short of God’s glory is nothing to brag about. God states that He will count the righteousness of the Son for all who believe. Again, there is no cause for man to boast in himself. God has done it all.
Justification requires men, both Jew and Gentile, to believe God. There is no difference in the faith required.
In verse 31, Paul asks if faith invalidates the law. The apostle supplies the answer: “God forbid!” Faith establishes the law. The reason that faith establishes the law is because faith is counted for righteousness. Without faith there is no righteousness because all have sinned.
God has removed the sin barrier which separates believers from Him. God has revealed through the Son that righteousness is through faith.