These small group studies of Romans contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Romans 3:21-31 Inductive Bible Study


21. Now the righteousness of God has been shown to us apart from the Law, but witnessed of by the Law and the Prophets. Hebrews 4:15

22. This righteousness from God comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ to everyone who believes. There is no discrimination. 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6-7,12-13 (Practical Righteousness), Romans 5:19, Romans 4:24 (Positional Righteousness)

23. All people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

24. But we are justified freely because of His grace through the redemption we have in Jesus Christ.

25. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement [to make a amends for a sin or fault, set straight], through faith in his blood. He did this to show his justice, because in His patience he had not yet punished the sins committed beforehand. Revelation 7:14

26. He did it to demonstrate his present justice, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27. So can we boast? There is none. On what basis? Because of serving the law? No, but because of faith. Ephesians 2:8-9

28. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from keeping the law.

29. Is God only God of the Jews? Or is He also God of the Gentiles? Yes, also of Gentiles.

30. because there is only one God, who justifies the circumcised and uncircumcised based on the same faith. 1 John 5:20

31. So then, do we make the law void? Definitely not! Instead we establish the law.


Righteousness of God

Shown in Jesus (verse 21)

Received by Faith (22-24)

Justly Sacrificed (25-26)

Only by Faith (27-28)

Universally available (29-30)

Establishes the law (31)

Discussion Questions:

What is the main point of this passage?

21. How has the righteousness of God been manifested? How does Jesus show Gods’ righteousness?

What does it mean that this is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets?

What are some examples of the Law and Prophets testifying about the coming Christ?

22. Can a sinful person get God’s righteousness? How? So if someone has faith in God, but still sins, did they get God’s righteousness?

We learned before that God will not show partiality when He is judging. How about when he is saving? Have you ever shared the gospel and have someone ask you a question like, “Will God save a murderer for believing while a good person is judged?” How would you answer them?

23. How far short do we fall of God’s standard?

24. So if we fall so short of His standard what hope do we have? What does it mean to be justified? How about redeemed? If salvation comes apart from the Law, what would you say to a person who says that they have faith and don’t need to do works?

For many of us, this concept of justification by grace through faith is not a new concept. Is it useful to review it in passages like this? Why? What can you get from a primarily review passage like this?

25. In what way was Jesus displayed publicly? Why did God display Jesus publicly at Calvary instead of dealing with it privately?

What does propitiation mean?

What does it mean that God passed over the sins previously committed?

27. Why is this grace free? Do we have any cause to boast? Instead boasting what attitude should we have?

29. A little off topic, but what would you say to the person who says Christianity is great for the West, but not for Chinese?

31. How does faith establish the Law?

Verse by Verse Commentary:


For the last two and a half chapters Paul has hammered home his main points that all are sinners and have no way to earn salvation through themselves. Every person if left to their own resources will fail God and eventually spiral down into worse and worse sin. There is none righteous, not not one. Why is it necessary to talk so long about sin and judgment and our failures? To show us that we need Christ. Paul begins this passage with “But now”, showing a shift in his focus. This is the all important “but”. After describing the bad news and painting a bleak, dark picture, Paul begins contrasting this with the good news. The good news is there is hope. We can never get this righteousness he first talks about in 1:16-17 on our own, but we can get it from God. One of the main themes of Romans is justification by faith apart from works. Martin Luther studied Romans and became a key figure in the Reformation. This doctrine is all important and foundational. Why is this doctrine so important? It is the basis of salvation. It allows us to rely completely on God and not on ourselves. It motivates us to righteous living. It motivates us to be grateful.

Most of the things we will be learning in this passage are not new. But we still need a review from time to time. The Bible is interesting in that it is a thick book that repeats the same themes again and again and again. This is because we need reminders. We are quick to forget, or even if we remember in our heads to stop following in action. Many people who go to church still don’t grasp this basic concept that justification is by faith alone. They think they can still somehow earn it either in the pre-saved or post-saved period. But we can’t. All we can do is throw ourselves upon God’s abundant mercy.

1. Jesus shows us the righteousness of God in flesh. Whereas the Law is principles and guidelines and not always specific, Jesus showed us what the righteousness of God looks like in action. For example, we know we are to love others. Jesus showed us what that is both through His actions towards the poor and needy and with His teaching such as the Good Samaritan. We know we are to resist the devil and Jesus showed us how with Scripture. We know we are not to return evil for evil; Jesus showed us how when He forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. Jesus was the ultimate example to us. 1 Timothy 1:16, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Cor 11:1 God is unseen and so is His holiness. People might think that God doesn’t understand or even face the same issues that we do on earth. But Jesus did. The Bible says that He sympathizes with us because He faced all the temptations we do, except without sin. Heb 4:15 A few years ago there was a fad of wearing WWJD bracelets. This works because Jesus came as a man. We can know normally what He would do, because He already showed us. If there were WWGD bracelets before Jesus came, although they would know what God would do they wouldn’t be able to point to a specific example many times.

2. The Law and Prophets testified ahead of time about the coming Christ. This was God’s plan from eternity past. Many prophecies in the OT told them specifically what this Christ would be like and how He would be righteous.

3. We can have this same righteousness through faith. This process is called imputation and is closely related to justification. The imputation part means that Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us when we have faith in Him. You might think, I believe in Christ, but don’t feel that righteous. Biblically, there are two kinds of righteousness. The first is positional. It means that when God looks at us He sees Christ as our substitute instead.Our slate is wiped clean, but we are not even neutral after that. The dirty, filthiness is gone and holiness replaces it. Remember the example I gave of the prince and the pauper and their clothes? Our beggar clothes are replaced with royal ones. Why does our practical righteousness not always match our positional righteousness? We are still used to being a beggar. Our position should motivate us to righteous living so that that gap shrinks day by day by day as we are sanctified. What a great inheritance we have! Christ imputes or puts His righteousness onto us so that when God looks at us He sees Christ’s righteousness. Positionally from the moment we trust in Christ we are just as righteous as He is. There is no difference. Practically when we trust in Christ we are freed from slavery to sin and have the power to live victorious lives.

4. God is not partial to who He saves. That means God is willing to save anyone and that means anyone. Some people take issue with this because they think it is not fair God may save a mass murderer while a relatively good person will be judged. But we learn in the very next verse that all fall short of God’s glory, His standard. The mass murderer and ‘good’ person are both relatively the same short of God’s standard (jumping to Japan example). God is willing to save anyone no matter what they have done in their past. This is a very comforting doctrine. It reinforces that fact that we can’t earn salvation, but shows it is available to everyone. There is always hope for salvation up until the moment of death, just like the thief who believed in Jesus right before he died. Just as God is not partial when He judges, He is not partial when He saves. Money, position, influence, or education can’t buy it.

5. Justification. What does it mean? It means that we are declared righteous by the Judge. In being declared righteous it is just as if we have never sinned. It is not like when a husband says he forgives his wife for something, but every time there is an argument pulls it back out and holds it over his wife’s head. Bringing a sin back up is not forgiving. God will put our sins away as far as the East is from the West. Psalms 103:12. The imputation is the putting righteousness on us while the justification is the judicial removing of the crime. It is a gift. Tell story of Napoelean and the criminal’s mother. “If he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy.”

6. Explain redemption. This passage has many theological words explaining the process of salvation. These are helpful for understanding the issues at stake in our salvation and the process by which God saves us.

7. Jesus was displayed publicly on the cross for all to see. Because Jesus was the representative of humankind it was not something best done behind closed doors. His sacrifice was for all to see and His shame was for all to see as well. It was in the open because God had nothing to hide and also wanted it to be well documented, witnessed, and verified, a historical fact.

8. Propitiation. This is the aspect of satisfying God’s holy wrath. Sin must be punished. A sacrifice or payment must be made. God’s wrath must be satisfied. The only thing that could properly satisfy it is Jesus on the cross.

9. God is a patient God. He could have immediately destroyed Adam and Eve when they sinned and with them the entire human race, but He didn’t. Passing over the Old Testament sins doesn’t mean that they weren’t punished. Every sin is punished. It means that He didn’t immediately deal with them or with those who committed them. He was patient with the human race, waiting until the right time for Jesus to come.

10. Explain the no boasting. Ephesians 2:8-9. 1 Cor 1:31, 2 Cor 12:9, Gal 6:14. We must not boast or consider that we are better than others. Any gift or ability that we have is through God’s mercy.

11. God is universal and so is His gift of salvation. A little off topic, but what would you say to the person who says Christianity is great for the West, but not for Japanese? God is over all the world. He is not only a God of America or India, one culture or another. He is not only God of the Jews, or of the Western world. But instead there is one ultimate, mighty, powerful, God over all the universe, over every region of the world. God is consistent. The way of salvation (even for the Jews in the OT), has always been and will always be faith. Paul will explain that with Abraham in the coming passage.

12. MacArthur explain that faith in Christ fulfills the Law in three ways. 1. It provides payment for the penalty of sin, which the law required for failing to obey it. 2. By fulfilling the law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ. 3. By giving believers the capacity to obey it.

Key Words

Righteousness- This is referring to the righteousness of God, which enabled Jesus to live the sinless life. Apart from Christ we act totally the opposite. But with Christ He gives us the strength and the ability to live in victory. Christ freely gives us His righteousness when we put our faith in Him.

Faith- Faith is the ONLY way we can have the righteousness of God. It is the gift of God. This faith is available to all the people of the earth regardless of ethnicity, culture, or language.

Law- Keeping the law is contrasted with faith. Keeping the law is not enough to bring us God’s righteousness. Only a relationship with Him established by faith will do this.

Study Romans 4:1-12
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