But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;…
Of all the subjects there is none so important as — How can man be just with God? and yet there is none as to which men are so easily deluded. Conscience tells the man that he has sinned, and yet, when asked, How do you expect to obtain future happiness? — he either evades the question, or shelters himself in some refuge of lies. And the reason is that the man is utterly blind to his true condition, he knows not the malignity of the disease, and cannot, therefore, apprehend the remedy. Ere a sinner can even understand the gospel, he must see and realise his own true position under the government of God. His position is plainly this: he has transgressed the law, and lies under sentence of death. How, then, can he be restored to the favour of God? How can the government of God remain unchangeable whilst this creature is saved? To this question you have the answer, that the sinner is justified and saved by means of a righteousness. This appears from the text, and from the nature of the case. It was righteousness that God required of man at first, it was failing to yield it that he lost his title to life; and as the character of God is unchangeable, it is only when he can plead a righteousness ample as the demands of the law that he can be restored to favour.
I. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT THE SINNER'S OWN, BUT THAT OF ANOTHER (see also Romans 1:17, 18; Romans 3:20). And yet, in the face of this, multitudes seek to enter heaven by a door which their own sins have closed against them. Ask that man of the world what is the foundation of his hope for eternity, and his answer is, that he has never yet been guilty of open, flagrant transgression. Ask that sensualist, and his answer is that he trusts his charitable deeds will atone for these infirmities. The professor of religion answers that he does his best, that he is sincere, and that he trusts God will take the will for the deed. But ye who would be justified by your obedience to the law, have ye really considered what the law requires? It demands perfect obedience, and condemns the least transgression. Have you such a righteousness as this? Is it not, therefore, clear, that if ever the law relaxes its hold of you, the reason must be not your righteousness, but the righteousness of another?
II. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN ONLY BE KNOWN BY REVELATION. Being a righteousness provided by God, none but God can discover it. It was revealed at first in Eden as the ground of the sinner's hope — the Jewish ritual was a continued revelation of it — the prophets bore testimony to it, speaking of Him who should magnify the law, and make it honourable, and the whole New Testament is a bright revelation that God has provided a righteousness, through which He can be just when He justifies the ungodly. An awakened conscience tells the sinner that he has no resources of his own wherewith to meet the demands of a violated law; and, if he looks around and puts the question to all creation, How can God be righteous, and I be saved? Creation remains silent, and is covered with darkness. But a voice comes from the Bible which saves him from despair (Romans 10:6-9).
III. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS WAS WROUGHT OUT IN HUMAN NATURE. The circumstances rendered this necessary. It was on earth that God was dishonoured, and on earth therefore must He be glorified. "The children were partakers of flesh and blood," and their Redeemer therefore "must take part of the same." The first revelation of this righteousness, accordingly, was made in the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and, in due time, this promise was fulfilled in the Second Adam, standing in the room of His people as their representative and head (Romans 5:19). He who was thus born of a woman, was "made under the law"; that is to say, He met the law as His people's surety, and fulfilled to the uttermost all its demands against them.
IV. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. True, the Redeemer was a man; but under that veil of humanity, faith beholds Jehovah. Without this were the case, the salvation of His people was impossible. He had to make atonement for their sin, but the righteousness of a mere creature would have been utterly insufficient, for a creature owes to God already all the obedience he can yield. The righteousness, therefore, through which the sinner is justified is the righteousness of a Divine person. You accordingly read that this is the name wherewith He shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness. It is the righteousness of the Mediator, of God manifest in the flesh, of Him who is God and man in two distinct natures and one person; and as such it answers, yea, more than answers, all the demands of a violated law. For what higher honour can the law receive than that God Himself became its servant, and obeyed all its commands?
V. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS "IS UNTO ALL." It is so completely put within the sinner's reach, that if he once hears of it he cannot perish, without putting it from him and rejecting it. The brazen serpent was God's free gift to all — all were commanded to look to it; and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so has the Son of Man been lifted up, etc. The cities of refuge were open to every manslayer. And so it is with the righteousness of Christ; every sinner who hears of it is invited and commanded to flee for refuge.
VI. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS UPON ALL THAT BELIEVE. The believer is clothed and covered with it. Being one with Christ by faith, Christ's righteousness is his own; he is dealt with as one who obeyed when Christ obeyed, as one who suffered when Christ suffered, as one who is, therefore, as righteous as Christ is.
(A. M. McGillivray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;