Romans 3:21-23: Righteous by faith

You are locked away in prison for your faith, and you are handed one page of the bible to take with you into solitary confinement, what page would you want? I would choose the page that has the next ten verses in Romans 3, v21-31. Many have called this portion that heart to the letter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and perhaps even the greatest portion in the whole bible. We have had a short break from the book of Romans because I was away in Fiji, but as we return to it we return at a key point in the structure of the book of Romans. You will remember that the book of Romans, in order to be best understood, must be approached in terms of its structure. Once you see the big picture in Romans, most of the details will neatly fall into place. After the introduction 1:1-15, we had a short summary of the Gospel in 1:16-17. The thought flow went something like this: Paul desired to preach the Gospel in Rome, why? V16-17, he is not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. This pre-empted the beginning of the first major section in Romans which spans 1:18-3:20. The first section is best seen as an answer to this question, ‘Paul why do we need the Gospel?’ Paul’s answer is that all people are sinners, and he goes on to prove this at length showing how both Jews and Gentiles are sinful. As we looked at that section you will remember the many mentions of judgement, and the penetrating exposure of our sinful condition. And it was all brought to a climactic crescendo in 3:19-20, ‘Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.’ Let’s just stop here for a moment and really let the thought of this verse sink in.