A Journey Through Romans (7) – Romans 3:21-5:11


  1. Ch 3:21-31- The Basis of Justification by Faith.
  2. Chapter 4 – The Background of Justification by Faith.
  3. Ch 5:1-11 – The Blessings of Justification by Faith.

This is a thesis within a thesis.


This section of the doctrinal division of Romans (ch 1- 8) addresses the second reason advanced by the apostle in chapter 1:17 for not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: For therein, righteousness which is of (from) God is revealed on the principle of faith and in response to faith. The point here is that the moment the repentant sinner turns from all merit and works of his own and relies only on Christ and His sacrifice for acceptance with God, in that instant, righteousness is credited to his account while sins are totally forgiven. It should be self-evident, then, that the emphasis in the Gospel is dual. First, the inability and unworthiness of the sinner in relation to blessings from God, due to sins. Secondly, the salvation-bringing grace of God through the redemption in Christ Jesus – even His shed blood and resurrection. These are the core themes of the Gospel. What a joy to see them illustrated, typified, preached, prophesied, and expounded throughout Scripture. Brethren, preach the Word!

1) The Basis of Justification by Faith (Ch 3:21-31).

In a previous article, we noticed that the Basis of justification by faith is the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

2) The Background of Justification by Faith (ch 4).

The series of questions raised at the end of chapter 3 are answered here in chapter 4.

1) Verses 1-8, Justification by faith without works.

In chapter 3:27, the question is “Where is boating then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” In these eight verses of chapter 4, “works” are mentioned four times.

V 2, – “Works” include boasting.
V 4, – “Works” exclude grace.
V 5, – “Faith without works” brings righteousness.

1) Vs. 3, 6-8, – The above principles are illustrated in Abraham and David’s experience of receiving righteousness through faith, without works (Gen 15 and Psa 32).

2) Vs 9-12 justification by Faith without circumcision (religious rites).

In chapter 3:30, God justifies on the grounds of faith irrespective of circumcision (Jews) or uncircumcision (Gentiles). The point is forcibly made that Abraham received the gift of righteousness (Gen 15) before the rite of circumcision (Gen 17). The fact is that circumcision was given as an outward evidence of his faith (Rom 4:11). It follows in the NT that external “religious rites” or ordinances (baptism, the Lord’s supper, sister’s long hair and head covering, men’s public gift participations) are outward evidences of faith in God and His Word. Conversely, the practice of religious rites cannot bring righteousness to the sinner.

3) Justification by faith without law (keeping).

Chapter 3:28, – “A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In Genesis 17, God confirmed His covenant with Abraham and changed his name from Abram (great father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). This covenant and name change were connected, both promising and earmarking Abraham as “heir of the world”. And the point is made here that all this is based on Abraham’s faith, and preceded the dispensation of law. For the Jew, the promise of “heir of the world” under Abraham is very real. But, says Paul, this promise was made long before the law was given. Therefore, the principle stands (v 14), they who seek to obtain righteousness by law-keeping cannot obtain the “heirship” blessing, promised to Abraham on the basis of faith.

The character and reality of Abraham’s faith is emphasized in verses 18-22, as he “against hope believed in (based upon) hope” and “staggered not at the promise of God, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God and was (being) fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”

4) Vs 23-25, – Justification by faith for all who believe the Gospel.

Here Paul applies the OT background to NT revelation. Faith is now in God, “who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (v 24). This is a parallel to Abraham’s faith in the God of resurrection when his faith overlooked the deadness of his own body and the deadness of Sarah’s womb and he believed that God would give him a son out of this “deadness”. Therefore we see the oneness in the salvation plan of God between the cross work for our offenses and the resurrection for our justification. He must die as the righteous answer to God for our offenses, but He must live to justify each one who believes in Him. “By the knowledge of Him shall My righteous Servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).

The Blessings of Justification by Faith (Ch 5:1-11).

Because believers are justified by faith, we have:

  1. Peace with God (v 1), the past,
  2. Access into this grace-standing (v 2a), the present,
  3. Hope of the glory of God (v 2b), the future,
  4. Joy in tribulations (pressures) (vs 3-5a),
  5. Love shed abroad in our hearts (v 5b),
  6. The Holy Spirit (v 5c),
  7. Salvation from wrath (v 9),
  8. Reconciliation to God (v 10a),
  9. Salvation in (the power of) His life (v 10b),
  10. A boast in God (v 11).

The above list of blessings underlines the greatness of a faith-justification, versus a struggle to obtain God’s favour by works. How would we ever know if we had done or paid enough, or if God was sufficiently satisfied if our righteousness depended on us? But there is an assurance of victory and rest in these blessings, all because they issue from faith in what Another has done, even God’s beloved Son.

Notice in this section the involvement of Deity in our justification:

Ch 3:24 – justification is by grace, showing the sovereign plan of God the Father,

Ch 5:1- Justification is by faith, showing the power of the Spirit in awakening and revealing, bringing the sinner to faith in Christ,

Ch 5:9 – Justification is by blood, showing the provision of the Son at Calvary.

Again, to be justified by grace says that I was unable to obtain, and unworthy to receive the gift of righteousness. Our inability is seen in the language of verse 6, “without strength”. Our unworthiness is seen in the words, “ungodly” (v 6), “sinners” (v 8) and “enemies” (v 10). To be justified by faith says that I rely totally on what Another has done:

“Christ died for the ungodly” (v 6);
“Christ died for us” (v 8).

To be justified by blood refers to God’s righteous demands first being met, that is propitiation made. On that ground alone can God justify the sinner who believes in Jesus.

God could not pass the sinner by,
His law demands that He must die,
But in the cross of Christ we trace,
His righteousness, His wondrous grace.