Verses 19 and 20 sum up the things that Paul has said concerning Jews and Gentiles. All are guilty of sin. All are without excuse. None can open his mouth in his own defense or claim any righteousness, but everyone must acknowledge guilt before God. Paul then proceeds to the conclusion he meant to draw from all this: there is NO JUSTIFICATION of any before God by works or the deeds of the Law. The Law reveals sin; it cannot relieve sin.
(Vs. 21) "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested." "The righteousness of God" is one of the most important expressions in the Scriptures, and it signifies both the PRECEPT of the Law and the PENALTY of the Law. That is, the Holy Law in every jot and tittle must be honored; and where there is the least offense, justice must be satisfied. We are not talking here of God's own personal holiness, but of that righteousness He has (by His grace) provided for and imputed to guilty sinners through His Son (Romans 10:1-4).
"Without the Law;" not without perfect obedience to the Law (for this Christ did) but without regard to the sinner's obedience to the Law. If there is no imputation of Christ's obedience, no one will be saved (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 5:20).
"Now is manifested" in the gospel. Why is the gospel the power of God unto salvation? Because THEREIN is the righteousness of God revealed! (Romans 1:16-17.) Christ fulfilled it for us and reveals it to us (Romans 5:19).
Moses and all the prophets testified of this righteousness in Christ (Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 85:10-13).
(Vs. 22) This perfect righteousness whereby we are sanctified, justified, and received in God's presence as holy and without blame is not imputed to us on account of any work of our own; but it is received by faith. Faith is not a part of that righteousness, but it is through faith that it is received. Before we can have a part of anything in Christ, we must be one with Him; and this union is accomplished through faith (Romans 4:11-13: Philippians 3:9; Romans 4:20-24).
This righteousness of God is unto all and upon all that believe, of every tribe, nation, and tongue. There is no difference made between Old Testament people and New Testament people, between Jew and Gentile, between male and female.
(Vs. 23) Why is there not one way of life for one and one way for another? Because all have sinned and come short of God's commandments, requirements, and glory! (Romans 3:9-11; Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 5:12.)
(Vs. 24) The blessing here is JUSTIFICATION which stands opposed to accusation and condemnation (Romans 8:31-34). We have the holiness and righteousness of His Son as if it were our own (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:6-7).
The CAUSE of this blessing is the FREE GRACE OF GOD. He chose us, redeemed us, and called us according to the good pleasure of His own will (Ephesians 2:4-7).
The SOURCE of this blessing is the REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS! Christ, as our Redeemer, perfectly obeyed the Law, bore our sins in His own body, was buried and rose again. He sits at the Father's right hand as our Mediator. In Him we are complete (Colossians 1:19-23).
(Vs. 25) The word "PROPITIATION" signifies the mercy-seat (Hebrews 9:5), which was a type of Christ. Christ is the propitiation to God for our sins. He has reconciled us to God by His obedience and sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17; II Corinthians 5:19).
"The sins that are past" means that God pardoned the sins of believers under the Old Testament dispensation by the atonement of Christ. They were persuaded of the promises in Christ and embraced them by faith (Hebrews 11:13). It was due to God's forbearance that He did not immediately destroy them but passed by their sins till His Law was honored and His justice satisfied by Christ.
(Vs. 26) "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness;" or to manifest that perfect righteousness provided by Christ for every believer (Romans 5:19; II Corinthians 5:21). We are not only innocent but have the righteousness of God in Christ. God saves men in such a way that His justice and truth are not compromised or violated. He is a just God and a justifying God (Psalm 85:10).
(Vs. 27-28) There is no room or reason for boasting by Jew or Gentile. All boasting is cast out! By what principle is boasting excluded? By works? Certainly not! Our sins are revealed and laid bare by God's law. We are deprived of all glory. The principle of faith destroys boasting, for faith receives all from God and claims nothing for ourselves (I Corinthians 1:30-31). The conclusion stands firmjustification is by faith without the works of the Law.
(Vs. 29-30) It is further confirmed that Jews and Gentiles are on the same level with respect to their state before God. He is the Lord God of both; and He justifies both in the same waythrough faith in Christ.
(Vs. 31) The Law is abolished as a covenant of works. It is fulfilled by Christ in its administration, and it is destroyed as a yoke of bondage; but the Law remains unchanged in the hands of Christ, where it is honored, established, and fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-20).