21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Have you ever been home and lost power at night for hours on end? Or have you been camping in a remote area on a cloudy night without a fire? If so, you know what total darkness is like, and how suffocating or burdensome it can feel. Few things make light such a wonderful thing for us to behold as hours in total darkness.

In Romans, an extended dark section begins in verse 1:18 and ends in verse 3:20. It’s there that Paul laid out the depth of sin and the universal nature of sin that is evident in both Jews and Gentiles. No one can escape. However, the conjunction “but” begins the most complete explanation of the gospel in the Bible from 3:21-8:39. Paul explained the depths of the riches of the gospel and what it has done in our lives. Apart from the law—apart from our good works (which would never be enough)—righteousness from God has been presented and is available to us in Jesus Christ. God no longer makes distinctions between who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done. If you come to Him in faith, you are His child by faith.

The gospel recognizes that all have sinned and fail to meet the standards of God, which is how we ended up under His wrath. However, the same person now under God’s wrath can come under the protection of His righteousness through faith in Jesus. To be justified means to be in right standing with God. There is nothing billed against you anymore. God has freed you from judgment by grace (in other words, without merit). We now enjoy the freedom and benefits of our salvation in Him.

• Using this passage, how could you explain the gospel to someone?

• Why is it important to see the depth of our sin (Rom. 3:23) to better understand the fullness of God’s grace?

• Thank God for saving you apart from anything that you’ve done. Pray that God would reveal areas where you have sought to cover yourself with an appearance of holiness. Ask for the remembrance that Christ is the only One who can truly cover your sin.