Romans 3:16 — There Is No Difference
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
Romans 3 establishes the parameters the judge has set in which the trial will take place. Paul begins chapter three with the introduction of the judge. Verse four describes God as true and just. Verse five describes God as righteous. In other words, God conforms to His own standard of holiness. Paul establishes God’s authority in verse seven, describing God’s sovereignty even over the sins of men. God is so powerful that He can overcome man’s sins to bring glory to Himself. From verses ten to twenty, Paul presents the evidence of man’s sins, and the weight of evidence against man is staggering.
Sometimes, believers forget their beginnings. They have lived in love with God for so long that they can begin to look upon those who are non-believers in a different light, forgetting that they were once sinners. The believer is not better than a non-believer. The only difference is that Christ has redeemed the believer. Whenever a believer uses his or her life as the benchmark by which the lost are measured, he becomes self-righteous. Romans 3 reminds the believer of the same thing Paul was reminding the Roman church. You are no better than the lost, and, because of that fact, you must declare God’s righteousness. Forget your righteousness; trust only in God’s righteousness.
Paul presents the evidence of man’s sins. He writes in verses ten through twelve as if he were a prosecutor making his opening statement, “10as it is written, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” Not one individual who has ever lived has willingly sought God. Not one individual has ever stayed on the narrow path of God’s holy love. No one can do good apart from God. We call this total depravity. Man’s depravity touches every aspect of his being, and is evidenced in all of man’s actions.
Paul points to the results of the depraved heart. Ruin, misery, lack of peace, and lack of respect for God may all be found in man’s depraved heart. How many people have you known who have ruined their lives? How many people do you know who are miserable at work, at home, and everywhere else. How many people do you know are always bickering or fighting with someone else? They always seem to be upset at someone. There is always someone who has ‘gotten their goat.’
We were born fighting against God, ruining ourselves spiritually. Not one individual can be found to be righteous. A person may reform his behavior, but until the heart is transformed, his behavior will never permanently change. Any change will not be genuine because the heart is still wicked. For a person’s actions to change genuinely, his heart must be transformed by God’s righteousness.
Paul says in verse twenty-one, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.” (ESV) How was the righteousness of God revealed? Verse twenty-two tells us that Jesus is the demonstration of God’s righteousness.
Paul’s next phrase is interesting. There is no difference. This means several different things. First, it means that there is no difference between God’s righteousness and Christ’s righteousness. Christ is God, thus there is no distinction between God and Christ. Second, one man’s unrighteousness is no different than any other man’s unrighteousness. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory. Third, there is no different way to approach man than through the demonstration of God’s righteousness. Man must believe in God’s righteousness in Christ.
Paul makes the following conclusion about God’s righteousness. God revealed His righteousness in Christ whom He gave to cover man’s sin and guilt. When a person believes in Christ, he is given Christ’s righteousness as his own. God removes the penalty of man’s sins to forgive him. God declares the believer to be righteous as a judge would bang his gavel and declare a defendant to be not guilty.
Paul tells us that Christ’s death declares God’s righteousness. Verse twenty-six says, “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What does this mean for the Christian? We are given the responsibility to declare the righteousness of Christ. We must tell a lost and dying world that their works will not get them to heaven. We must tell them that there is no difference in man or his actions, but there is a difference in Christ. To make a difference, you must be different, and Christ was different because He is perfect. He provided the only perfect sacrifice to cover man’s unrighteousness. You must be different from the world in order to make a difference in your world. You must tell others by your words and your actions that Christ is the only way to give glory to God. You must declare that Christ is the only way that a person can be considered righteous. You must tell others that they must stop relying upon their own behavior and trust that Christ’s behavior is all that is necessary to enter heaven.
What are your thoughts on this verse?
What is the difference between man’s righteousness and Christ’s?
What does it mean to walk in a life of destruction and ruin?
How does the believer fulfill his responsibility to declare the righteousness of Christ?