The Old Testament Jews were the only ones under “the law” (3:19). So how’d the law shut “every mouth” and find “all the world” guilty? Well, God had already found the Gentiles guilty in Genesis 1-10 and gave them over (Rom. 1:28) at the tower of Babel. Then He created a new nation (Gen. 12:1). Then to prove they were no better than the Gentiles, God gave them a law. When they showed they couldn’t keep it, every mouth was stopped, and all the world was found guilty
To be “justified” (3:20) is what men need if they are not just, which means to do what is right (Ezek. 18:5). None of us have always done what’s right, and God requires the past (Eccl. 3:15). So we need to be made just—justified! The Jews thought they were justified just by having the law, but Paul said no (Rom. 2:13). No one could give a law that men could keep (Gal. 3:21). Saved Jews knew this (Ps. 143:2).
So why’d God give the law? To give men “the knowledge of sin” (3:20) and get them to trust the sacrifices that the law told them to bring rather than trust their own deeds. If a Jew brought a “sacrifice of righteousness” under the law (Deut. 33:19) as God said to (Ps. 4:5), he could be made righteous. “But now” (3:21) “the righteousness of God without the law” was manifested. Today we don’t trust sacrifices of righteousness, we trust the righteous sacrifice that Christ made on the cross! When we do, we’re made righteous (II Cor. 5:21).
But how was this new way of getting righteousness without the law witnessed by the law (3:21)? Well, God told the Jews in the law to circumcise their hearts (Deut. 10:16), i.e., cut off the sins of the flesh. Knowing they couldn’t do that, God promised them in the law that He would do it for them (Deut. 30:6) so they could “live” eternally. The prophets witnessed the same thing (Ezek. 18:31; 36:26).
The law also witnessed that someday men would get righteousness without the law when Moses vailed his face so the Jews wouldn’t see the glory of the law fade or be “abolished” (II Cor. 3:13). Then when the Jews showed they couldn’t keep the old covenant of the law, God promised them a new covenant in the prophets (Jer. 31:31-34). The only way we can get the righteousness without the law that the law and the prophets witnessed is through that covenant (IICor. 3:6).
But for us to trust Christ’s sacrifice, He had to be faithful to make it, which Paul says He was (Rom. 3:22). That’s why Paul wanted to be found in the righteousness that comes “through the faith of Christ” (Phil. 3:9). It used to so that this was only offered to Jews, “but now” it is offered “unto all” (Rom. 3:22). But it only comes “upon all them that believe.” There used to be a big difference between Jews and Gentiles (Deut. 26:4:7,8;18,19), “but now” there “is no difference” (Rom. 3:22 cf. 10:12), “for all have sinned” (Ro. 3:23).
The Jews couldn’t argue with that, for their own Bible said the same thing (Eccl 7:20). “The glory of God” (Ro. 3:23) is that He’s never sinned, and even Jews fall short of that, though someday they will be the glory of God (Isa. 46:13).
“Grace” (Rom. 3:24) means gift (I Pe. 4:10). Under the law, justification was by expensive sacrifices and thrice-yearly trips to Jerusalem, “but now” it is “freely by His grace.” But Paul adds “through the redemption that is in Christ” because it had to be paid for by Christ. To redeem means to buy or purchase (Ps. 74:2). We are His purchase (Eph. 1:13,14).
“Propitiation” (Rom. 3:25) means to appease someone’s wrath by atonement. Christ appeased God’s wrath, but His atonement must be “received” (5:10) “through faith in His blood” (3:25), not faith in the blood of animals. This even propitiated God for the sins of men in the “past” (Rom. 3:25). “Forbearance” means to hold back (Jer. 20:9). God held back His wrath on David’s sin knowing Christ would atone for it.
Throughout the Old Testament, it wasn’t clear how God could be “just, and the justifier of him which believeth” (Rom. 3:26). It looked like He was breaking His own law (Pr. 17:15). But at the cross, God made Christ “wicked” when He put our sins on Him and then condemned the wicked. Then when you believed on Him, He took His righteousness and put it on you and then justified the righteous. But that wasn’t “declared” until Paul (Ro. 3:26)!
Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Law’s Condemnation and Solution – Romans 3:19-26