Topic: Introducing the Good News of Justification by Faith

Text:    3:21-31


Having established the need for a Saviour in the previous section, Paul in Rom 3:21-29 explains his initial statement that salvation is through Christ by faith alone. The key term in this passage is therefore Justification. The other related words that are helpful in our understanding of what it means to be saved by faith are sanctification, propitiation and redemption. Thus in addition to justification, these terms will be looked at in this lesson.

Negative Condition of Justification

Being Justified does not depend on the Law. In this case, Romans 3: 21 can be paraphrased: But now, in this age of grace, a righteousness ( a new kind of righteousness) has been revealed, but not one that depends on the Law. This grace-righteousness was however, seen in the Old Testament. Abraham, for example, was declared righteous because of his faith (Gen. 15:6).

Positive Condition of Justification (vv. 22-26).

Positively, Justification is available through Christ. In vv. 22-26, Paul introduces several important terms that explain that justification is available through Christ.

  1. The meaning and nature of Justification (vs. 24)

It is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross. That is, declared righteous in God’s sight through the merits of Christ, secure in our position in Christ before the throne of God.

  • Justification is thus God’s righteousness imputed – put to our account.
  • Justification is an act, not a process. There are no degrees of justification; each believer has the same right standing before God.
  • Justification is something God does, not man. No sinner can justify himself before God.
  • Justification does not mean that God makes us righteous, but that He declares us righteous.
  • Justification is a legal matter. God puts the righteousness of Christ on our record in the place of our own sinfulness and nobody can change this record.


  1. Explaining Sanctification

Sanctification is righteousness imparted or lived out in our daily lives. It is the process whereby God makes the believer more and more like Christ. Sanctification may change from day to day. Justification never changes. When the sinner trusts Christ, God declares him righteous, and that declaration will never be repealed. God looks on us and deals with us as though we had never sinned at all.

What then constitutes the price for our salvation?

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Three words express the price God paid for our salvation:

  1. What is Propitiation (v.25)?

It has to do with sacrifice of atonement, the metaphor that was taken from the temple cult referring to animal sacrifices that were offered to appease God’s wrath so that he might turn aside from human sin. Christ’s sacrifice satisfied God’s holy law, thus making it possible for God to forgive sinners and remain just Himself. God’s justice has been satisfied; He may now look with kindness and grace upon a lost world.

In human terms, Propitiation means appeasing someone who is angry, usually by a gift. But this is not what it means in the Bible. Propitiation means the satisfying of God’s holy Law, the meeting of its just demands, so that God can freely forgive those who come to Christ.

  1. The meaning of Redemption (v. 24)

Redemption has to do with deliverance from sin and its penalties, by the payment of a price. This was originally simply a very common, ordinarily metaphor, this time taken from the world of the slave market. Redemption was the ransom price that was paid to buy back a slave’s freedom, to make him or her free person.

In our salvation, the price was Christ’s blood on the cross. The word Blood tells us what the price was. Jesus had to die on the cross in order to satisfy the Law and justify lost sinners. The best illustration of this truth is the Jewish Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16.  In the Old Testament period, the blood of animals could never take away sin; it could only cover it until the time when Jesus would come and purchase a finished salvation. God had “passed over” the sins that were past (Rom. 3:25, literal translation), knowing that His Son would come and finish the work. Because of His death and resurrection, there would be redemption – a purchasing of the sinner and setting him free.

It is important to observe that though it doesn’t cost the believer anything to be saved, but it costs God the life of God’s Son. Paul in Rom 3: 26 then explains how God  can be both just and justifier. Here the answer is the cross. When Jesus died, He bore our sins in His own body (I Peter 2:24) and thus paid the price that God’s law demanded. But He arose again! Thus, He is alive, and able to save all who will believe!

Concluding Commentary – Accepted by faith (vv. 27-31)

The Jew has nothing to boast of, because all sinners are justified by faith and not by the works of the Law. If justification is by the Law, then He is a God of the Jews only, because only Israel had the Law. But God is also the God of the Gentiles. Therefore, both Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way – by faith. And this simple means of salvation does not cancel the Law, for the Law demanded death for sin, and Christ died for our sins. Thus, the Gospel establishes the Law. God’s Law reveals my need of grace, and God’s grace enables me to obey the Law.


  1. What does it mean to be justified and how is it different from sanctification?
  2. Explain the term propitiation.
  3. Discuss the statement that, Salvation is free but not cheap?
  4. What is the price that has been paid for in our salvation?
  5. To whom has the price of our salvation been paid?


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