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How Can I have a Righteous Relationship with God? (Romans 3:20-31)

Pastor Heo, Romans: The Righteousness of God, Sermons

How Can I have a Righteous Relationship with God? (Romans 3:20-31)

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How can I have a Righteous Relationship with God?

Romans 3:21-30 (Pastor Heo)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Righteousness Through Faith

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.


I recommend you read and reread today’s passage more than 100 times.

  • In Romans, chp 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…”
  • Chp 3:19 “All mouths will shut before God for no one understands nor seeks God. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

After a LOOOOOONG journey about our sinfulness, wickedness, total depravity, now, today, finally, we see WONDERFUL news about how to be declared “not guilty” by trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior – to forgive our sins, empower us to live the lives God wants us to live. This solution is available to ALL of us regardless of our background or past behaviors.

v. 21 “But now!”

This is a signal of HOPE. A big turning point.

The theme of Romans is the Righteousness of God. (or from God)

In today’s passage, can you see how many times this keyword is repeated? (x10 in 12 verses)

  • v. 20 “righteous”
  • v. 21 “righteousness”
  • v. 22 “righteousness”
  • v. 24 “justified”
  • v. 25 “justice”
  • v. 26 “justice, just, justified”
  • v. 28 “justified”
  • v. 30 “justified”

As we know, in the sermon of sermons of Jesus (Beatitudes) – Jesus mentions this word also several times (Matthew 5-7)

  • “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” –
  • “Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” –
  • “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” –
  • “so seek **first** his Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

There are 2 types of Righteousness of God

  1. Attributed righteousness of God
  2. Declarative righteousness of God

Attributed righteousness = his ABSOLUTE unconditional righteousness = He is the FINAL standard of what is “right” – so whatever he does is “right” – this is applied in his dealing with all Creation. (Ex: punishing the wicked, forgiving the penitent, fulfilling his Promise given to his children, his governing/ruling all Creation)

Declarative Righteousness = as righteous judge, supreme judge, his judgment on a person (“you are not guilty”, “you are innocent”) – this is his declarative righteousness to us

Whether Attributed or Declarative, this righteousness is revealed on the cross.

Today’s definition involves both meanings. Today’s topic gives an answer to this question: How can we be justified? (declared righteous, receive righteousness)

This is the Act of God where God declares a sinner “you are righteous” – this is not from the works IN us, but something declared OF us.

As I mentioned, regardless of who you are, your background, past behaviors, TODAY we can be justified, declared righteous, have a right relationship with God, receive righteousness from God. HOW?

#1 Negatively: We CANNOT be justified by our actions, the works of the Law

  • v. 20 “Therefore, no one (including me) will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the Law.”
  • v. 24 “But now a righteousness from God apart from the Law”
  • v. 27 “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On that of observing the Law? No.”
  • v. 28 “For we maintain that a man is justified apart from observing the Law.”

This is repeated 4 times.

NO ONE can have a righteous relationship with God by your works, effort, power.

There are 3 Positive Points.

#1 Positive: We CAN be justified only by God’s grace

“Only by grace” do not forget.

If you are a real Christian, we must say all the time, “It is only by the grace of God that I am what I am today.”

  • v. 24 “and are justified freely by His grace”

Justification = ONLY by the grace of God

It originates in the heart of God – realizing not only our lack of righteousness and our powerlessness to attain it, God decided to provide a righteousness FOR us. It was by his own grace and thoughts that he provided this for us. He is under no obligation to give us grace.

Obligation is not grace.

That’s why “grace” is called “grace” – because it is “gracious” – not under obligation.

God has his attributes (who he is) and characteristics (how he relates to his Creation). “God is love” – and when he acts in His love and mercy, it becomes grace.

  • He does not give what we deserve to receive. (mercy)
  • He gives what we do not deserve to receive. (grace)
  1. Mercy = no wrath, no punishment for our sins, no hell
  2. Grace = life, eternal life, righteousness, forgiveness of sins

“It is only by the grace of God that I am who I am, I am what I am.”

#2 Positive: It is by the blood of Christ

Blood means not only “death” but also “resurrection”. Blood is symbolic of not only death, but also life.

  • v. 24 “redemption” – “and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption”
  • v. 25 “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement” (propitiation = atoning sacrifice)
  1. Redemption
  2. Sacrifice of atonement (propitiation)
  3. Blood
  • Q: “How much did you PAY to receive this salvation / justification?”
  • A: Nothing.

It is FREE, but not CHEAP.

Why FREE? It is TOO EXPENSIVE to receive. We can never pay the full price of justification. It is literally price-less.

These three words:

  1. Redemption
  2. Propitiation
  3. Blood

shows the price that God has paid.

  • Propitiation = appeasing someone who is angry by giving a gift. (We may appease a crying baby with candy – but this is not the same as the biblical term – propitiation satisfies God’s wrath.)
  • Blood = Jesus had to die on the cross in order to satisfy the righteous demand of God and rescue the sinner

Leviticus 16 : this is a symbol / type / shadow of this (The Day of Atonement)

This was one of the biggest national festival days in Israel. There were two goats presented at the altar.

  1. 1. Chosen by lot to be sacrificed as a sin offering. It was killed and its blood was taken into the Most Holy place and sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant and covered the two tablets – this meant that the blood (temporarily) satisfied the righteous demand of God.
  2. 2. The second goat – the priest placed his hands on the goat and confessed the sins of the WHOLE people. Then, the goat was sent out into the desert – symbolically carrying AWAY the sins of the people.

“As far as the east is from the west, so God has removed our sins from us.”

Actually, the blood of animals cannot TAKE AWAY the sins of the people, but it TEMPORARILY covered the sins of the people – until the Day when Jesus Christ came into the world and took away the sin of the world – perfectly, completely, eternally – once for all – and purchased FINISHED salvation. This is a miracle.

  • v. 25 “God presented Him as the propitiation for our sins because in his forbearance (long patience), he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (the OT sins).”

God “passed over” or overlooked the sins of the Old Testament time until Jesus came in the flesh to finish the task. That’s why Jesus said on the cross: “It is finished.”

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is redemption (the purchase of the sinner and setting him free).

We have nothing to do for our justification because we have no power and Jesus has already done ALL things necessary for our salvation and justification. So, we can say, “The blood of Jesus and his death and resurrection is the foundation for our justification.” This means, the blood of Jesus is the foundation for ALL blessings we enjoy in this world and the world to come.

Are you enjoying some blessing? Any kind of blessing = the basis for this foundation of blessing is the blood of Jesus Christ.

#3: Positive: Justification is by faith

We can see this repeated x9

  • v. 22 “this righteousness comes through *faith* in Jesus Christ to all who *believe*”
  • v. 25 “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through *faith*”
  • v. 26 “those who have *faith*”
  • v. 27 “No, but on that of *faith*”
  • v. 28 “a man is justified by *faith*”
  • v. 30 “since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised by *faith* and the uncircumcised through that same *faith*”
  • v. 31 “do we nullify the word by *faith*? No.”
  1. Romans 5:1 “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God”
  2. Romans 10:10 “it is with your heart you believe and are justified”
  3. Gal 2:16 “Know that a man is justified only by faith in Jesus Christ, not by observing the Law…”

Remember: Faith is only a condition of justification – it is not a meritorious (merit) ground for justification.

  • Faith is not the PRICE for justification.
  • Faith is the METHOD for justification.

“It is by grace you have been saved, not of yourselves, but a gift of God, so that no one can boast.”

  • Faith is only RECEIVING. This does not mean we understand everything Jesus has done, but it means we BELIEVE Jesus has done everything necessary.
  • Faith also removes the pride of human action.
  • Faith is not something we DO.
  • Faith extols what Jesus has done for us, not what we have done.
  • Faith admits we need God’s help.
  • Faith in Christ is based on our relationship with God, not on our performance nor achievements.

v. 29-30 “Is God the God of Jews only? … of Gentiles too! Since there is only one God” (Deut 6:4) “Hear O Israel, your God is only one God, so love him with all your heart, soul, strength.” (This is Trinity monotheism) – if you believe in two Gods, this means you don’t believe in God.

There is no difference in the matter of condemnation, salvation, justification – because there is only ONE God – a universal, global God, the Creator of all things.

“God is a missionary God.”

If this is true, it means we also have a mission.

Last verse: “we uphold the Law by faith”

I need some time to explain the meaning of this sentence, so I will explain more next time.

May God bless all of us with this wonderful justification. How can we be declared righteous and justified? How can we have a righteous, right relationship with God? How can we receive the righteousness by God?

  1. By God’s grace
  2. By the blood of Christ
  3. Through faith

“Not FOR faith, but by/through faith.”

Let’s pray.

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen
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