As we come to Romans 3, we start to feel our gut churning a bit as we realise that there’s hardly anybody who has ever been able to keep God’s law. In fact, as we read chapter 3, we see there is no one who is righteous – not even one – not even you or me.
Many people believe the false idea that the way to be declared righteous before God is to obey the law. I have encountered many people who are striving to justify themselves before God in this way. They know that they haven’t always obeyed God, but they think that if they obey the law from this point on, they will be able to justify themselves and earn a ‘new’ righteousness. “My good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds” is what they say and believe.
But in Romans 3:20 we see that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law!” That is not the function of the law – that is not its purpose. Rather, the law makes us aware of our sin and holds us accountable to God.
One of my favourite passages in the Bible is Romans 3:21-23:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known … This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21–22 NIV)
Though we are not righteous, God gives us “the righteousness of God”.
Ponder this for a moment.
In Matthew 5:20 Jesus said that unless our righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the Pharisees, we will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven. How on earth could anyone get a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees? This seems an impossible requirement. However, Romans 3 tells us we can get a righteousness that far supersedes that of the Pharisees – we can have the righteousness of God! Oh! What a wondrous truth!
So, how do we receive this righteousness? “By faith in Jesus Christ” (verse 22). Faith in Christ is the single requirement that God requires in exchange for the gift of His righteousness. There is no other way that we can be reconciled to God!
God requires that we are righteous, but it is impossible for us to be righteous through our own efforts or achievements. The only way we can be righteous enough for God is to have His own righteousness. And this is only accessible through faith in Christ and His sacrifice of atonement.
So take courage today and remember and rejoice that you are justified and reconciled to God, not because you are righteous, but because you have received the righteousness of God through FAITH!
And if you are still trying to achieve your own righteousness by obeying the law, stop it! Stop this futile effort. Rather believe in Jesus and receive the gift of the righteousness of God.