The Bridge Between Sin and Righteousness

Discussion Guide for Romans 3:21-31

Read Romans 3:21-31

Our last sermon series on the first 3 chapters of Romans should have put to rest any theory that there is any human action or status that might allow us to be right with God.

With religion or without religion, we are still powerless to attain the righteous demands that God places on us. If any of us are going to be righteous, our only hope is for that righteousness to come from God.

Romans 3:21 jumps directly into this conundrum.

“But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law (religion)…”

There is a bridge that exists between God and man. But, it was not built from the human side of the chasm.

The Key to Everything is the Gospel

Gospel is a word that gets tossed around a lot in Christian circles. And its meaning tends to get lost with each new toss.

To get a clear definition, we must let the Bible tell us what the word Gospel really means.

1 Corinthian 15:3-5 gives us the precise definition:

“that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared….”

The Gospel is that God himself has provided atonement, or payment, for us in the death, resurrection, and appearing of Jesus. Our effort has no place in being justified. Justification is a gift by grace through faith made available by the Gospel.

Taking Our Place

The key doctrine of faith being taught by passages such as Romans 3:23-26 is the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. The Westminster Confession describes Christ’s atonement this way:

“The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.” (Westminster Confession VIII.5)

This doctrine is controversial and unpopular in western culture today.

Many theologians try to say that the meaning of the cross is something other than “a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25) Christians who believe in the Gospel by grace alone, however, must insist on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, no matter how bloody or primitive it may sound to modern ears.

Editor Mark Galli of Christianity Today wrote a short article on the importance of penal substitutionary atonement.

It Doesn’t Get Any More Personal

BTW, I highly recommend subscribing to this magazine.

Discussion Questions

  • How does the theme of Romans change between 3:20 and 3:21?
  • Would today’s passage have the same impact if you did not first understand Romans 1:1-3:20?
  • Has the reality of Romans 3:23 ever affected your heart?
  • What does the word “gift” mean in Romans 3:24?
  • What does the word “propitiation” mean in Romans 3:25? This article may help.
  • Why is the word “propitiation” important in Romans 3:25?
  • How does the cross demonstrate the righteousness of God?
  • How does the cross eliminate human boasting?

Pray for Missions

Take time in your group to pray for an unreached people group such as the Gurung People of NE India. Visit for more information about them.

Also take time to pray for your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers with whom you are sharing the Gospel.

Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

Jonathan Pugh

Associate Pastor: Life Groups & Church Partnership
Jonathan Pugh

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