The transition from law to grace

February 27, 2024

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.
Romans 3:21-22

The book of Romans is one of the most pivotal books in the entire Bible. In it, Paul succinctly lays out one of the most fundamental transitions in all of history: the transition from law to grace; the transition from imperfect, works-based righteousness to perfect, grace-based righteousness made available through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Before: Judgement according to deeds

In the first two chapters of Romans, Paul establishes that a day of judgment is coming upon all men. Each one will have to give an account for their lives before God who will reward the guilty with His wrath and reward the righteous with eternal life.

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "WILL RENDER TO EACH ONE ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Romans 2:5-11

Before: Jew and Gentile alike under law

It is the Law that establishes each person’s guilt or innocence. For the Jew, they will be judged by the Law of Moses. But judgement is based not on how much law they know, but on how much law they keep.

Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU," as it is written.
Romans 2:17-24

But is it only Jews who are under the Law? Even Gentiles, who don’t have a written law, will be condemned or acquitted by their conscience, described as the law written on their hearts.

for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Romans 2:14-16

So regardless of each person’s religious background or affiliation, it was the law, that from Moses or of the conscience, which determined whether a person was righteous or not.

Finally, Paul finishes this section on the law by declaring the utter failure of man to earn his righteousness by doing the good deeds of the law.

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:20

But Now

In the very next verse, Paul shows the sharp contrast between the old way of righteousness under the law and the new way of righteousness under grace. He begins to explain the new way of righteousness that does not involve the law at all, starting with two import words: “But now.”

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.
Romans 3:21-22

Before, under the Law of Moses, righteousness was according to your works. But now, a new righteousness is revealed. But now, righteousness is according to grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t always this way, but now it is.

The rest of the Book of Romans is all about this new way of righteousness. Defending it, explaining it, and exhorting believers to receive it, walk in it, and not go back to the law.

But when exactly is this NOW, that Paul speaks of? The exact moment is difficult, if not impossible to nail down, but we do know that this momentous transition occurred in conjunction with the ministry of this man who authored Romans, whose name became Paul and was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Nathan Rambeck is a full-time husband, father and software engineer; and a part-time Bible teacher and pastor. He lives in the Dayton, Ohio area with his wife Jamie and 7 children. (Facebook)


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