Romans 3:21–24 – Justification as a Divine Gift


Romans 3:21–24


God’s gift of Christ brings people into a right relationship with God.


In Romans 3:9–20, Paul states that no human being is righteous and that no one, in fact, can be made righteous by observing the Law. Romans 3:21 marks a dramatic turn in Paul’s argument by declaring that now, in Jesus Christ, God’s righteousness has been revealed. The “righteousness of God” (Romans 3:21–22) refers to God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection frees people (i.e., redeems them; 3:24) from the power of sin that alienates them from God and brings them into right relationship with God. This relationship is what it means to be “justified.” It is a divine gift that people enter into simply by trusting what God has done in Christ. Paul’s repetition in Romans 3:23 of his claim in 3:9 that all have sinned (both gentiles and Jews) emphasizes that God’s saving activity in Christ is a pure gift that is on behalf of all people. People cannot free themselves from the dominion of sin—this requires an act of God.

Although Paul declares that God’s righteousness is now manifest apart from the Law (Romans 3:21), he nonetheless affirms that the Scriptures witness to the revelation of God’s righteousness in the saving work of Christ. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ fulfills the expectations of Scripture.