Shortly before he was martyred, the Apostle Paul wrote the Philippians from a Roman prison: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” Philippians 3:8 – 9.
Many years before this, Paul wrote the third chapter of Romans, encapsulating the doctrine upon which this statement is based. The “all things” Paul counted as loss was what he at one time trusted for righteousness; he was “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;” Philippians 3:5. But he subsequently learned from the Lord Jesus Christ and documented in Romans that all the things he had counted on for his righteousness were worthless and the only thing that counted came through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Faith is the touchstone/nexus in mankind’s relationship with God; the point at which mankind can meet God – “But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. It is through faith that God gives us salvation by His grace, Ephesians 2:8.
As pointed out in our last study, faith on man’s part is passive, i.e., ours is to believe God’s Word. “…faith by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” Romans 10:17. (Believing is to have faith.) On the other hand, God is the active/operational agent in faith, “…. the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. God will do what He promises. The third chapter of Romans teaches the depravity/unrighteousness of man and uses the word “faith” 9 times demonstrating how God counts as righteous anyone who believes His Word:
- We studied the first occurrence of faith in Romans 3 last week: “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: let God be true, but every man a liar…” Romans 3:3 – 4a. This teaches that the lack of belief, i.e., faith, on the part of mankind has no effect on God’s promises. God’s side of faith is active, He will accomplish what He promised; that which is hoped for and cannot be seen, Hebrews 11:1, regardless of whether men/women don’t believe, i.e., have faith.
- “Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19 – 20. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:21 – 23.
“But now” was the point in time that God revealed to Paul His righteousness without the law and that His righteousness was “witnessed by the law and the prophets.” The Law and the Prophets are the Old Testament (OT) scriptures; and the OT witnessed to the righteousness of God. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23. Both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, Romans 3:9b; there are none righteous, no not one, Romans 3:10; all mankind is totally depraved; Romans 3:11 – 18. These verses quote various OT passages, e.g., Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalms 14:1 – 3; 53:2 – 4; Isaiah 59:7 – 8, to list a few.
But in spite of mankind’s depravity/sinfulness, they can be righteous before God: “ … by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe:” Thus we learn it is by the faith of Jesus Christ that the righteousness of God is accounted to anyone who believes (has “passive” faith).
- “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” Romans 3:24 – 25.
These verses teach that believers living before the cross were subsequently “justified freely by his (God’s) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” The Greek word translated “propitiation” (G2435) is only found twice in the New Testament (NT), here in Romans 3:25 and in Hebrews 9:5 where it is translated “Mercy Seat.” The Mercy Seat was the cover of the Ark of the Covenant housed in the Holy of Holies, first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple.
Under the Law, the High Priest entered once a year and sprinkled the blood of sacrificial animals on the Mercy Seat for both his and the people’s sins, Leviticus 16:14 – 15. This pointed to the true Holy Place in Heaven where Christ entered one time with His blood (that applies forever), propitiating, i.e., expiating or purging the sins of all who believe, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:11 – 14. The preposition “through,” in the phrase “through faith in His blood” indicates the idea of proceeding from and passing out. The preposition “in” as “in His blood” denotes being or remaining within. Thus, the propitiation/expiating/purging of sins is “through (proceeding from and passing out of) faith that rests in (being or remaining in) Christ Jesus’ blood.” The Ark of the Covenant held three items: 1) mana; 2) Aaron’s rod that budded and 3) the Law, Hebrews 9:4.
Mana was the food God provided Israel to maintain life, Exodus 16:15; Aaron’s rod signified God’s power to judge, Exodus 7:8 – 12 and the authority of his Priesthood, Numbers 17:5 – 10; and God’s Law pronounced His required righteousness for how mankind was to live. This pointed to the fact that the propitiation of Jesus Christ’s blood gave: 1) life eternal to believers; 2) Jesus Christ the right to Judge and 3) the atoning sacrifice for every believer’s violation of the Law.
The phase in verse 25 “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” means God forbear the sins of those who believed His specific Word to them prior to the cross until Christ’s blood was shed at which time it was applied to them.
- Whereas Romans 3:25 speaks of the declaration of God’s righteousness for the remission of sins that were past; Romans 3:26 goes on “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The word translated “believeth” in the original Greek is the same word translated “faith” elsewhere. Thus, Romans 3:26 teaches that God’s righteousness was declared at “this time,” i.e., at the time it was revealed to Paul, that God might be just and the justifier of all who have had faith in Jesus thereafter, i.e., for the last almost 2000 years. So, “him which believeth” refers to the believer’s “passive faith” in Jesus’ blood since Paul.
- “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” Romans 3:27. The “law of faith” is the doctrine of a sinner’s justification by faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
- “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. No one can boast they kept the law perfectly except Jesus Christ. It is only by the faith of Jesus Christ that anyone can be righteous. This is where God’s active faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen meet mankind’s passive faith, i.e., believing God’s Word.
The 7th, 8th and 9th occurrences of the word “faith” appear in the last 3 verses of Romans 3, as follows: “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith (7), and uncircumcision through faith (8). Do we then make void the law through faith? (9) God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:29 – 31.
- God justified those Jews who lived prior to the cross of Christ who were Jews inwardly with the circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise was not of men, but of God, Romans 2:29. They were justified “by faith,” Romans 3:30a. They obeyed the law, understanding it demonstrated they were sinners, needing to offer the sacrifices required by the law for their sins, by faith that God forgave them in doing so.
- God has justified Gentiles since the cross through faith; Romans 3:30b, that is, we are justified through, i.e., that which proceeds from and passes out of faith that rests in (being or remaining in) Christ Jesus’ blood (His death). Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption at the cross and it is through His faith that God justifies believers.
- The Law was not voided through faith, on the contrary, it was established, Romans 3:31. The Greek word translated “established” (G2476) occurs over 150 times in the NT but is translated “establish” only 5 times. It is most frequently translated “stand” or “stood,” the first time being in Matthew 2:9: “… the star, which they (the wise men) saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” Thus, the thought of the text is: “do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law (make it stand).” Romans 3:31. While on earth, Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it and that not one “jot or tittle” of it would pass till all was fulfilled, Matthew 5:17 – 18, and He did fulfill the Law perfectly and “…. by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:12.
Thank God for His Gift of righteousness to us, as we look forward to eternal life: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:19 – 20.