Blood of Jesus Christ 2
By Dr. Derek Thomas
Donald Grey Barnhouse, I am told, drew in his personal Bible a heart in the margin next to this passage because, he said, it is the heart of the Gospel. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in his exposition of Romans (and I've always considered his exposition of chapters 3 and 4 especially to have been of the very best of those expositions), he says “This is undoubtedly one of the greatest verses in the Bible” and he's speaking particularly of verse 21. “It is a statement that can be compared, he said, to John 3:16. It is a perfect synopsis of the Christian faith.” Leon Morris calls it perhaps the single most important paragraph ever written. Cremfield says of it, “It is the center and heart of the main section of this letter.”
Paul is dealing here from verse 21 through to the end of chapter 4 and into chapter 5; he's dealing with the grand truth of justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The article of the standing or falling of the church, as Luther said, and nothing has changed that. It remains the article of the standing or falling of the church.
How is a man and a woman made right in the eyes of a holy God? That is still the central question that needs to be answered. In verse 21, Paul is picking up something that he began to reflect on in chapter 1, verse 18. When Paul had made that grand statement of the Gospel, that he's not ashamed of the Gospel because in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. Of course, it was Luther's great issue. How is the righteousness of God revealed?
Paul has digressed in order to demonstrate that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. There is none righteous, no not one. The Jews, Israel, the old covenant people of God, with all of their advantages, to them are given the law and the prophets and the covenants and the glory of God, and yet all have fallen short of God. There is none righteous, no not one. God's wrath is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. All have sinned. It's Paul's devastating critique. It's his analysis of the human condition.
There is none righteous. There is none that does good. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Paul has taken away hope and self-justification. Every false religion is a variation of some sort or another on self-justification. No matter what it is that we are saved by: human effort or human wisdom or human insight or human motivation or human potential. Find the inner strength that lies within you, as a famous TV evangelist says over and over again. It is but a variation on self-justification that the resource that the solution, to the problem and predicament of man lies within us and Paul has taken all of that away.