Romans 3: Justified by Faith Alone
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.” Romans 3:23-25
In the second chapter of Romans, Paul had explained that having the law or being circumcised would not save a Jewish person, but then he starts Romans 3 asking what advantage the Jews had or what benefits were there of circumcision.
The Jews had an advantage because they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. They were to believe, have faith in, and trust in these words. It was the most important privilege (vs.1-2). Paul presented the question of asking if some of the Jews did not believe, did their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? “Absolutely not,” Paul told them. Jewish unbelievers did not make God unfaithful or wrong. The Jewish people had rejected the Gospel, but it didn’t negate God’s faithfulness to His chosen people.
God must be true, even if everyone is a liar (v. 4). Charles Spurgeon said of this verse, “If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false.” The objection was then raised, if their unrighteousness highlights God’s righteousness, is God being unjust if He inflicts His wrath? Paul, again, tells them, “Absolutely not!” How would God judge the world? God will use the unrighteous to accomplish His glory. That gives no freedom to do evil, thinking good will come of it, that was a twisting of the Gospel and their condemnation would still be deserved (vs. 5-8).
Paul pulls writings from the Old Testament Psalms to describe the state of all men. Jew and Gentile, alike, are under sin’s influence. All are a slave to sin. There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. There is no one who does good. There is no fear of God. The depravity and guilt of man can be summed up in these few verses. All men fall short, all are full of sin, and all are condemned (vs. 11-18). There is a clear understanding that there is nothing we could do to save ourselves; we are completely incapable of it.
We cannot be justified by the works of the law, but the law gives us knowledge of sin. Through the law, we see we are sinners. Through the law, we see that we could never follow it point by point. We are very weak, and we will fail. We are all guilty before a Holy God, and we will never meet His requirements in the law. The law reveals to us our desperate need for the Gospel. The law only condemns us; it will never save us (vs. 19-20). For the Jews reading his letter, this meant the law was not the way of salvation.
Paul transitions from the previous verses, speaking of condemnation and judgement, to justification, presenting to them the true way to salvation apart from the law. The Law and the Prophets witnessed to this. Justification is through the work of Christ alone. All have sinned, all have fallen short of God’s glory, and we are all in need of salvation. This righteousness does not come through the law, but it comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. It’s not something earned.
We could never earn righteousness, not even by our faith. We are given righteousness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s what is freely given to us, by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Jesus as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus (vs. 21-26).
Jesus Christ bought those of us who are saved. We belong to Him. He was our substitute sacrifice, sparing us from God’s judgement. At the cross, our sins were fully paid for. His death satisfied God’s justice.
Can we boast about this? No, we can’t. We cannot take the credit...we cannot pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves, “Job well done!" We are justified by faith alone, apart from the works of the law (v. 27). This is where the term Sola Fide from the Reformation comes from: justified by faith alone.
Paul ends his letter explaining God was for both Gentile and Jew. God will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. This righteousness is available to both, and He justifies them both the same way: by faith alone and through faith alone. Also, the law is not canceled out by this faith; the law was to still be upheld. Salvation by faith does not wipe out the law, it fulfills its original purpose: to show our incapability of obeying it and directs lost people to Christ (vs. 28-31). It is a tutor to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).
Such good news we read in Romans 3! God’s righteousness provided justification for us, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
“For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." Romans 3:28
About the Author
Kelly Smith is one of our devotional writers and also a writer for Women’s Hope Project. Kelly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She works full time as a virtual business manager. Her hobbies include writing and baking. Kelly has a passion for studying the Word of God, doctrine, theology, and sharing what she learns with women around her. Kelly lives in Florence, Alabama, with her husband of 15 years and her rescued fur babies!