3:22 Jesus is the object of faith and the means of obtaining the gift of the righteousness of God. The gift is for both Jews and Gentiles who believe.
3:22 through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. The righteousness of God must be received now that it “has been manifested” (v. 21). To believe, for Paul, involves knowledge of the gospel’s content, mental assent to its testimony about Christ (10:14), and obedient trust and reliance on Him as Savior and Lord (1:5). The righteousness of God is exclusively for those who have faith (“there is no distinction: for all have sinned”), whether Jew or Gentile (3:22–23).
3:22 faith in Jesus Christ The Greek phrase here could mean “faith in Jesus Christ” or “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” Paul could have had both meanings in mind.
all who believe Emphasizes the inclusive nature of the gospel message. See 4:18–25, where Paul uses the circumstances of Abraham’s life to describe the nature of faith.
there is no distinction The gift of righteousness applies to all who have faith in Christ, without any distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
3:22 This right standing with God is available to all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile. On the righteousness of God, see note on 1:17.
3:22 Verse 21 told us that this righteous salvation is not obtained on the basis of law-keeping. Now the apostle tells us how it is obtained—through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith here means utter reliance on the living Lord Jesus Christ as one’s only Savior from sin and one’s only hope for heaven. It is based on the revelation of the Person and work of Christ as found in the Bible.
Faith is not a leap in the dark. It demands the surest evidence, and finds it in the infallible word of God. Faith is not illogical or unreasonable. What is more reasonable than that the creature should trust his Creator?
Faith is not a meritorious work by which a man earns or deserves salvation. A man cannot boast because he has believed the Lord; he would be a fool not to believe Him. Faith is not an attempt to earn salvation, but is the simple acceptance of the salvation which God offers as a free gift.
Paul goes on to tell us that this salvation is to all and on all who believe. It is to all in the sense that it is available to all, offered to all, and sufficient for all. But it is only on those who believe; that is, it is effective only in the lives of those who accept the Lord Jesus by a definite act of faith. The pardon is for all, but it becomes valid in an individual’s life only when he accepts it.
When Paul says that salvation is available to all, he includes Gentiles as well as Jews, because now there is no difference. The Jew has no special privilege and the Gentile is at no disadvantage.
3:22. The first part of this verse is not a new sentence in the Greek; it is an appositional clause, and could be rendered, “a righteousness from God through faith.” These words reminded Paul again of the Jewish insistence on their special position before God. As a result he added, There is no difference (cf. 10:12), introduced in the Greek by the word “for” to tie it to what precedes. Any prior privilege the Jews had is gone in this Age when God is offering a righteous standing before Him to all sinful people on the basis of faith in Christ alone. Since all are “under sin” (3:9), salvation is available “to all” on an equal basis.
3:22. First, Paul says that faith is the key to receiving God’s righteousness. Do not forget to connect this verse, and what Paul is declaring, with his original statement about the “righteousness from God” in 1:17. Think of it this way: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith (1:17) … [and by the way, all are in need of this righteousness, whether Jew or Gentile (1:18–3:20)] … This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (3:22).”
That is the essence of what Paul has said in Romans so far. Looked at another way:
I am writing, and coming to visit you, to minister the gospel to you.
The gospel reveals what the world needs more than it needs anything else: righteousness. The human race has forfeited its own righteousness (more about that in Romans 5) and can only look to God to regain righteous standing before him.
Contrary to the sanctimonious attempts of the Jews, and the bungled religiosity of the Gentiles, the only way to gain this righteousness is by faith in Jesus Christ. Forget everything else—faith is the key to standing on righteous ground before God.
And who can receive this righteousness? All who believe. There is no difference. We know that this is true when we look ahead to the closing chapters of the redemption story and see people “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9; see also 5:9; 14:6). The church of Jesus Christ should be the greatest force in the world for breaking down racial and ethnic barriers—and often it is. Unfortunately, the stories of the love of God pulling down centuries-old walls of division often go unheard. Instead, the news is filled with years of strife between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, or uneasy truces between black and white Christians in the American South. But Paul says that there is no difference. None is better than another. All receive righteousness the same way, through faith in Jesus Christ.
All men and women are made equal by three things: first, our equality in need (all are guilty). Second, our equality in what we receive (redemption is one gift; the same for all). Third, our equality in how we receive redemption (by faith; everyone receives it the same way). Equality in Christ represents a radical message from one who formerly prided himself on his rung on the ladder of racial respectability.
Combining Paul’s words here (and in Rom. 10:12 and 1 Cor. 12:13) with those in Galatians (3:28), Colossians (3:11), and John’s in Revelation (5:9; 7:9; 14:6), here are the differences common in Paul’s day which the gospel ignores: Jew, Gentile, circumcised, uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, male, female, language, ethnicity, racial stock, and tribe (people group). To these, we could add the differences that have become important in our day: weak, powerful, educated, uneducated, rich, poor, economically developed, economically deprived, sophisticated, or plain. Why do none of these distinctives matter in the eyes of God?
3:22 “through faith in Jesus Christ” This is literally “through faith of Jesus Christ.” This is a GENITIVE construction. It is repeated in Gal. 2:16 and Phil. 3:9 as well as a similar form in Rom. 3:26; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22. It could mean (1) the faith or faithfulness of Jesus (SUBJECTIVE GENITIVE) or (2) Jesus as the object of our faith (OBJECTIVE GENITIVE). The same grammatical construction in Gal. 2:16 makes #2 the best choice.
This shows the main aspect of God’s justification. It is the righteousness of Christ made operative in one’s life by God’s free gift through Christ (cf. 4:5; 6:23), which must be accepted by faith/belief/trust (cf. Eph. 2:8–9) and lived out in daily life (cf. Eph. 2:10).
© “for all” The gospel is for all humans (cf. v. 24; Isa. 53:6; Ezek. 18:23, 32; John 3:16–17; 4:42; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 4:14). What a great truth! This must balance the biblical truth of election. God’s election must not be understood in the Islamic sense of determinism nor in the ultra—Calvinistic sense of some vs. others, but in the covenantal sense. Old Testament election was for service, not privilege! God promised to redeem fallen man (cf. Gen. 3:15). God called and chose all mankind through Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5–6). God elects through faith in Christ. God always takes the initiative in salvation (cf. John 6:44, 65). Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 are the strongest biblical passages on the doctrine of predestination which was theologically emphasized by Augustine and Calvin.
God chose believers not only to salvation (justification), but also to sanctification (cf. Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:12). This could relate to (1) our position in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) or (2) God’s desire to reproduce His character in His children (cf. Rom. 8:28–29; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 2:10). God’s will for His children is both heaven one day and Christlikeness now!
The goal of predestination is holiness, not privilege! God’s call was not to a selected few of Adam’s children, but all! It was a call to God’s own character (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13). To turn predestination into a theological tenant instead of a holy life is a tragedy of human theological systems. Often our theological grids distort the biblical text!
See Special Topic: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance at 8:33.
© “who believe” Jesus died for all humans. Potentially all can be saved. It is mankind’s personal reception that makes Jesus’ righteousness applicable to their lives (cf. 1:16; John 1:12; 3:16; 20:31; Rom. 10:9–13; 1 John 5:13). The Bible presents two criteria for imputed righteousness: faith and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:31 and see note at 1:5). This text clearly reveals the universal scope of salvation, but not all will be saved.
© “for there is no distinction” There is only one way and one Person by which humans (Jews and Gentiles) can be saved (cf. John 10:1–2, 7; 11:25; 14:6). Anyone can be saved by faith in Christ (cf. 1:16; 4:11, 16; 10:4, 12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).
The righteousness of God is for all who believe (v. 22)
The righteousness of God is God’s saving activity now being revealed in the world (v. 21) through the message about Christ. But to whom is it being revealed? Verse 22 expands on verse 21. God’s ‘righteousness’ is being revealed to those who believe his message.
… the righteousness of God is being revealed
… to all who believe …
These words match exactly those given earlier, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe’ (see on 1:16). Clearly believing is the critical human response to God’s saving act and his saving word.
Paul’s words, ‘the righteousness of God through faith of (literally) Jesus Christ’, have inspired discussion. There is word-play but also ambiguity. Does ‘the faith of Jesus Christ mean (1) the faithfulness of Christ in doing the will of God for us, or (2) our faith directed towards Christ? Both views have their advocates.
Perhaps, though, we don’t have to decide. Paul may have been making two points by one ‘shorthand’ statement: that Christ’s faithfulness towards God and our faith in Christ are inseparable and basic to the revelation of God’s righteousness in the world.
Christ’s faithfulness towards God expressed obediently as, ‘Not my will but yours be done’ (Mark 14:36), brought him to Jerusalem and ultimately to Golgotha for our salvation. There his enemies mocked his faithfulness to God: ‘He trusts in God; let God deliver him now …’ (Matt. 27:43). The salvation won for us by Christ’s ‘faithfulness’ is ours as we direct our faith towards him.
The words ‘all who believe’ (v. 22b), are important. It is not that the Jews will be saved by ‘doing’ the ‘works of the Law’ and the Gentiles by ‘believing’ the gospel (see on v. 30). There are not two ways of salvation, one for Jews another for Gentiles. ‘For,’ as he immediately adds, ‘there is no distinction; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ That ‘all’ includes ‘all’ the descendants of Adam, both Jews and Gentiles, as the previous chapters have shown. God’s ‘righteous’ work of saving people only applies to those Jews and Gentiles who give themselves in faith to the Son of God.
for there is no distinction;
all have sinned
and are falling short of the glory of God.
But why does Paul say ‘all have sinned’ rather than ‘all are sinning’? The latter option is true, but our present sins and our present ‘falling short’ flow from the ‘original sin’ of the first man, the fountainhead of the race, who set all his descendants on a pathway of rebellion against God (see on 5:12). Paul was thinking of Adam when he wrote that we have ‘borne the image of the man of dust’ (1 Cor. 15:49). When Adam sinned, God’s image in him was marred, as it has been since for all his descendants, Jews and Gentiles. This is another way of saying that humankind then lost access to the tree of life and gained death in its place (Gen. 3:23–24; see on 5:12).
Ver. 22. The righteousness of God which is by the faith of Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.
This righteousness is—
- Divine in its nature.
- Free in its dispensation—unto and upon all them that believe.
III. Unlimited in its offer—there is no difference. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
God’s grace abundant:—God’s grace resembles a flood of water, which not only reaches to believers, but comes upon them like the waves of the sea, to cover all their unrighteousness and drown all their guilt. Their sins sink into its depths like stones in the midst of the ocean, to be remembered against them no more for ever. (T. G. Horton.)
For there is no difference.
All involved in the same peril:—When the ship is wrecked what difference does it make that some should be drowned far out at sea, and others come nearer land, and there be lost? or even that one is within arm’s length of the shore when he sinks for ever out of sight? What does it avail? They are all lost. This world is a wrecked world; the strongest soul cannot reach the haven of a perfect state of being in his own strength. We are all helpless against the storm of lightning and wind and waves. “There is no difference, for all have sinned.” (H. Elvet Lewis.)
The right platform:—1. The truth laid down here and in ver. 23 is of immense moment. You must take your right position if you wish to journey in a right direction. At a great railway junction the main thing is to get on to the right platform for the station you want to reach. So with all who wish to reach heaven. But what is that platform? That of self-condemnation. It is the laying aside of every self-righteous, self-excusing plea, and taking the place of a sinner in God’s sight. 2. The Old Version, “There is no difference,” scarcely puts the truth so clearly as the New. There is a wide difference between one and another as to the measure of responsibility and the amount of guilt. Great is the difference between an Englishman and an Arab; between a youth yielding for the first time to some subtle temptation and the hoary-headed sinner who has been the means of stumbling to multitudes. 3. But in spite of these differences “there is no distinction.” There is not one who has kept the law. “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” At a match in archery many try their skill and some come nearer than others; but the only matter of importance is whether any one actually hits the eye. If otherwise all alike fail. In the matter before us perfect holiness is the end of God’s law. But who has reached it? No doubt some may come nearer than others, but where is one who has never failed? 4. Own this before God. Do not put in any claim for arrest of judgment. Do not try to lull conscience to sleep by imagining yourself no worse than others. One sin is enough to prove you guilty, how much more thousands? 5. Therefore learn the lesson. Stoop and take the lowest place—willing to be saved on the same footing as a criminal. “God be merciful to me a sinner” must be your only plea. Then you are in the right direction. Keep on that line and you will reach your journey’s end. (G. Everard, M.A.)
22. Through faith in Jesus Christ. Lit. ‘through faith of Jesus Christ’, where the genitive is objective: Jesus Christ is the one in whom faith is placed (this is confirmed by the unambiguous wording of verse 26: ‘who has faith in Jesus’).
There is no distinction. As here there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (or between any other opposed categories of mankind) in respect of sin, so in 10:12 ‘there is no distinction’ between them in respect of the mercy of God.
22. Even the righteousness of God, &c. He shows in few words what this justification is, even that which is found in Christ and is apprehended by faith. At the same time, by introducing again the name of God, he seems to make God the founder, (autorem, the author,) and not only the approver of the righteousness of which he speaks; as though he had said, that it flows from him alone, or that its origin is from heaven, but that it is made manifest to us in Christ.
When therefore we discuss this subject, we ought to proceed in this way: First, the question respecting our justification is to be referred, not to the judgment of men, but to the judgment of God, before whom nothing is counted righteousness, but perfect and absolute obedience to the law; which appears clear from its promises and threatenings: if no one is found who has attained to such a perfect measure of holiness, it follows that all are in themselves destitute of righteousness. Secondly, it is necessary that Christ should come to our aid; who, being alone just, can render us just by transferring to us his own righteousness. You now see how the righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ. When therefore we are justified, the efficient cause is the mercy of God, the meritorious is Christ, the instrumental is the word in connection with faith. Hence faith is said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is conveyed to us. Having been made partakers of Christ, we ourselves are not only just, but our works also are counted just before God, and for this reason, because whatever imperfections there may be in them, are obliterated by the blood of Christ; the promises, which are conditional, are also by the same grace fulfilled to us; for God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by free pardon.
Unto all and upon all, &c. For the sake of amplifying, he repeats the same thing in different forms; it was, that he might more fully express what we have already heard, that faith alone is required, that the faithful are not distinguished by external marks, and that hence it matters not whether they be Gentiles or Jews.
3:22 righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe … Jew and Gentile. One of the two contrasts that Paul touches upon is that whereas the stipulation of the old covenant was the law of Moses (3:21), the stipulation of the new covenant is faith in Jesus Christ (3:22). The second contrast is that the old covenant pertained only to Jews, but the new covenant includes Gentiles (3:23–24). But Paul seems to dig deeper when he makes the two contrasts: the new covenant does not include the old covenant (contrary to the Old Testament, which seems to have anticipated the incorporating of the old covenant in the new covenant), and the conversion of the Gentiles precedes the restoration of Israel, even replaces it to some extent. (Though, as Rom. 11 will make clear, Jewish Christians represent a partial restoration of Israel in the present, yet it is also clear that the remnant in Paul’s day did not constitute the majority of the church, as the Gentile believers did.) Yet we see here how fair God is in all of this: all have sinned before him, but all can be saved through faith in Christ (see sidebar).
3:22 / Paul repeats his leitmotif again in verse 22. Righteousness from God is not simply an attribute of God or an idea, a theological truth, or even a religious dogma. It is present in a person, Jesus Christ; and because Jesus is the personal manifestation of God’s righteousness, righteousness must be received through a relationship of faith in God’s Son.
The concept of righteousness is the seminal idea in this passage, and perhaps in all Pauline literature. The English nouns “justification” and “righteousness” (as well as their adjectival and verbal forms), all translate the same Greek word, dikaiosynē. Paul’s use of dikaiosynē is guided by the same model which informs the Greek writers as well as the Hebrew ot (e.g., Ps. 98:2; Isa. 43:9), namely, a court of law and the absolute righteousness of God’s judgments. The niv correctly translates the Greek original, dikaiosynē theou, as righteousness from God (see particularly Phil. 3:9), i.e., righteousness not as God’s attribute (which no one doubts), but righteousness which comes from God to guilty humanity, effecting a condition of righteousness in it. God as judge pronounces a verdict of acquittal upon a guilty party, thereby reckoning or imputing to that party a quality which it does not possess on its own, nor can it possess apart from God’s pronouncement. This is primarily a forensic or covenantal understanding of righteousness rather than a moral or ethical understanding, for it begins with God’s treating humanity in a way which its unfaithfulness and wickedness do not warrant. When God acquits a sinner or restores a faithless covenant partner on the basis of trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, the forgiven party is at the time no better or worse than it was before. It is a righteousness utterly independent of merit, otherwise the reward would be a payment or obligation of God (Rom. 4:4). As it is, righteousness from God is a gift, wholly unmerited and freely given, which is motivated by grace and received by trust or faith (Rom. 4:5).
Lest the voltage of this truth dissipate into sentimentality, we must recall that a judge who hands down a lenient sentence to a guilty party (not to mention acquittal) has done a monstrous thing at law. In so doing the judge violates the one thing judges are obligated to do—to mete out justice by matching punishment with wrongdoing. Is then the justification of sinners an injustice on God’s part? It might be regarded as such if the discussion were divorced from 1:18–3:20. Three times in 3:25–26, however, Paul declares that righteousness by faith demonstrated God’s justice. How can this be? Moral outcries against injustice arise from parties desiring redress (i.e., from innocent parties which have been wronged), but they are never heard from guilty parties. Whether one is the wronged or the wrongdoer makes a vast difference in one’s attitude towards the decision of the judge. The party in the right expects justice, a “therefore.” The party in the wrong hopes for mercy, a “nevertheless.” But Paul has shown in 1:18–3:20 that all people stand justly condemned by God. Neither Jew nor Gentile is innocent; both are guilty. What to the morally faultless is a travesty is to the sinner grace. There is thus no “injustice” in God’s imputing righteousness to sinners—at least humanly speaking—for as sinners all humanity stands under God’s wrath, and justly so. The only injustice might be to God’s nature, but, as Paul will explain in verses 24–25, Jesus Christ has satisfied the requirements of justice by his “sacrifice of atonement.”
God’s righteousness cannot be earned (v. 28), nor is there anything one can give in return for it. It can be received only through faith in Jesus Christ as a gift of which one is absolutely unworthy. Faith is an attitude and action of pure receptivity. Paul does not say “the faith,” in reference to faith as a creed or formula. Faith as an affirmation of certain truths in order to merit God’s acceptance is really but a substitute for works. True faith is a response of trust in Christ and a confession that in oneself one has nothing to bring to God.
Verse 22 concludes with an emphasis on the universality of righteousness by faith, to all who believe. There is no difference (see also 10:12). It had been Paul’s purpose in 1:18–3:20 to show that all stand under God’s wrath; it is now his purpose to show that all are objects of God’s grace. “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (11:32)! The gospel is the universal answer to universal need.
How might righteousness by faith have been heard in first-century Rome? In the introduction we suggested that the polarities between Jew and Gentile, which were extreme in the best of circumstances, were likely exacerbated in Rome due to the expulsion and return of Jews surrounding the edict of Claudius. This would have been due, in part, to the fact that the church, which had grown out of the Jewish synagogue, had become increasingly Gentile after Jews were expelled from Rome. Upon their return, perhaps in a.d. 54, it would be surprising indeed if friction and divisions had not developed. In light of this, Paul’s protracted strategy in 1:18–3:20 must have been read as more than an abstract theological exercise. The guilt of both Gentiles and Jews is underscored, and the right of either to judge the other is undermined. Moreover, God’s righteousness is offered to all who believe. There is no difference. We can well imagine the reconciling and healing effect which the doctrine of justification by faith must have had for Jews and Gentiles in such circumstances.
22 God’s righteousness becomes operative in human life “through faith in Jesus Christ.” This statement is more explicit than the initial mention of faith in connection with the gospel (1:16–17), since it specifies the necessary object of faith, even Jesus Christ. Much discussion has been given to the phrase “through faith in Jesus Christ.” Is pisteōs Iēsou Christou (lit., “faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ”) to be understood as a subjective or objective genitive? If the phrase is taken as a subjective genitive, in view would be the faith of Jesus, or more precisely, his faithfulness (which is also one of the meanings of pistis, GK 4411) in fulfilling his mission (for an example of the same genitival construction [tēn pistin tou theou] understood as a subjective genitive, see 3:3, “will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”; cf. 4:16). On the other hand, if the construction is taken as an objective genitive, it would mean, as commonly translated, “faith in God” (for an example that requires this meaning, see Mk 11:22). The same construction is found in Romans 3:26; twice in Galatians 2:16; and also in Galatians 2:20; 3:22; and Philippians 3:9. In all of these instances, there is a degree of similar ambiguity. In Galatians 2:16 we find the identical phrase, “by faith in Jesus Christ,” followed by the explanatory statement, “we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus.” In this present instance, it seems that the objective genitive (so NIV, “faith in Jesus Christ”) is to be preferred.
It is worth noting that it is never said that people are saved on account of their faith in Christ, a construction that might encourage the notion that faith makes a contribution and has some merit. Rather, it is through faith that salvation is appropriated. Faith is simply a mode of receptivity (“the hand of the heart,” as Frédéric Godet puts it). Faith receives what God bestows but adds nothing to the gift. As all are under the curse of sin (v. 9), so all recipients of salvation depend on its appropriation through faith, “for there is no difference” (10:12).
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