March 22, 1998
by Alistair Begg
Drawing on Paul’s discussion of mankind’s sinful state, Alistair Begg addresses the question that we all ultimately face: How is it possible for people to be put in right standing with God? Many people think they know the answer already, believing that a good God will receive decent people who are trying to do their best. Yet, as Romans 3 makes clear, our “good” is never good enough; true righteousness comes from God alone.
1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”
5But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16in their paths are ruin and misery,
17and the way of peace they have not known.”
18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being3 will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.