But now. So begins what some teachers say the most important paragraph in the entire Bible (Romans 3:21). Now what does it say.
First of all what was before “but now.” Before this was the time the law of Moses governed human behaviour. But the law could not make anyone righteous or perfect in God’s eyes. Paul says through the law we became conscious of sin. It told us what is sinful behaviour. That is what it did. It could do nothing more.
But now. Paul says God made known to us a righteousness which does not depend on the law. Instead it comes from God to all who believe in Jesus and has faith in the shed blood of Jesus.
Why all? Because we all have sinned. We all have fallen short of God’s unchanging moral standards. So God himself took the initiative to make us right with him.
Paul then uses three terms: Justification, redemption, and atonement to describe what faith in Jesus and his blood does for a believer.
Justification is a legal term. It means God declares you not guilty of all your sins when you believe in Jesus. He sees you through the lens of Jesus and his blood.
Redemption is a term from the slave market. It is as if someone bought a slave at a price and then set.him free. Jesus paid the price of our sins on the cross by his blood and set you free.
Atonement is a term of sacrifice. The blood of goats and bulls do not take away sin. When they were offered as sacrifice, the sins of people were only covered. But now with the death of Jesus those sins were also dealt with. (Read also Hebrews 10:1—10).
All these benefits came freely. Because God is just. He punished sin but brought back those who trust in the blood of Jesus into a right relationship of love with him.
What the law could not do and what man could not do for himself, God did for us.
What a gracious God we have!
[Based on Romans 3:20, 21–26]