Romans 1-2 paints a very clear picture of mankind’s need for righteousness. Those living unrestrained, licentious lifestyles (Romans 1.18-32) and those living restrained, legalist lifestyles (Romans 2.1-29) have one thing in common: the need for righteousness. Romans 3 punctuates this need by stating that there is none righteous. The character of the human race is defective (Romans 3.10-12). The conduct of the human race is depraved (Romans 3.13-18). Therefore, the need for God’s righteousness is decided. We must have redemption which is freely found in the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Romans 3.21 brings us back to the vehicle by which we receive the righteousness of God:
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3.21-26).
Righteousness is revealed through faith in Jesus Christ. It comes to all and on all who believe. God justifies (makes one righteous) freely by His grace through faith. The grace of God is expressed in redemption found in Christ Jesus. He is the full and satisfying payment for sin (propitiation). His perfect blood was shed for our sins. We receive redemption (loosing from sin) and propitiation (wrath of God fully satisfied) through faith.
This passage clearly teaches that God is just and the justifier of the one (He is righteous and makes righteous the one) who has faith in Jesus. God gives grace only to those who believe. God does not believe for them. The text says that those who are justified are those who have faith in Jesus. Clearly, faith is tightly intertwined with justification. Saving, point-in-time faith is neither a gift nor a work; rather, it is the act of receiving God’s gift and work. If one fails to receive God’s gift and work, then he is fully culpable for the judgment to come. God’s integrity is not impugned. His sovereignty stays high and lifted up. His love and mercy reconcile with His justice even though we may be unable to understand how.
Faith is believing something is true. It is closely intertwined with repentance. Repentance is a word which means to change one’s mind. The moment I stop resting or trusting in myself or some other person, religion, or thing and start trusting in the shed blood of Christ is the moment I am saved and put right with God. It is at that moment I receive ALL that I will EVER need to be right with God (see John 5.24; 6.47).
All of salvation is a gift from God (Ephesians 2.8-9). It is all of God’s grace. We cannot boast at all. However, I must receive Christ. This is the crux of faith. I receive all that God gives. This is what the Bible teaches. God may grant the avenue of faith, but I must take it. If I don’t turn to Him, I will be lost. That is, when I believe, it is I who believes. God does not believe for me or cause me to believe.