From mid-way in chapter 1 on, this letter has been bad news: For God’s wrath is revealed; Therefore God delivered them over; This is why God delivered them over; Therefore you have no excuse; So what advantage have the Jews?; What then – are we any better? For no one will be justified. And that brings us to our text for today:
Romans 3:21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed. Finally some good news! Of particular interest to the Jews, but of importance to all men – the righteousness of God is revealed to man through something other than the law; whether the Law of Moses or the universal law. What is revealed of God through the law cannot reconcile sinners to Him. The law, as Paul has been explaining and will continue to explain, brings knowledge of sin and condemnation, leading some to cry out for mercy and others to seek out escape routes, as W.C. Fields is said to have done on his deathbed while flipping through a Bible. Apart from the law righteousness is revealed, from faith to faith as Paul wrote in chapter 1. In declaring, “But now,” the apostle is drawing the line between the hopeless estate of fallen men apart from Christ and the sure eternal hope of those in Christ.
Lest we think the Old Testament was useless, this verse reminds us that the gospel is present in all of Scripture as the Law and the prophets bear witness of it. Let us not fall into the trap of writing off the Old Testament as if it has no relevance to us. Some of the most glorious revelations of Christ are found in the types and shadows of those earthly things that bore witness to the heavenly things. I love the gospel presented in the great flood, wherein we see salvation of those God called into the boat at great expense.