What does Romans 3:21 mean?
ESV: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
NIV: But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
NASB: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
CSB: But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets.
NLT: But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.
KJV: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
NKJV: But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
Verse Commentary:
The words "but now" that begin this verse may be two of the most important words in all of the Bible. Paul has just said in the previous verse that "by works of the law no human being will be justified" in God's sight. Nobody can keep the law perfectly, and no person lives a life worthy of God's righteousness (Romans 3:10). Things sounds bleak for us. If even law-followers cannot escape God's angry judgment, what hope do any of us have?

Finally, Paul turns the corner to the main point of Romans: "But now." Something crucial has changed in human history. The thing none of us could live up to—God's righteousness—has now been manifested, or "made known," apart from the law. In other words, Paul will go on to say, there is hope. There is a path to the righteousness of God which does not require us to keep God's law.

Paul adds that this new thing has not been unexpected. The Law and the Prophets have been pointing to God's righteousness all along. In fact, it was always God's plan to arrive at this "but now" as a way for humans to be saved. Paul describes how to come into this righteousness in the following verse.
Verse Context:
Romans 3:21–31 finally introduces the ''good news'' part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Up to this point, Paul has shown that even following the law cannot spare us from being judged by God for our sin. Now Paul announces that, through faith in Christ, we can be made righteous in God's sight. Entirely apart from the law, we can be redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ's blood, willingly shed for our sin. This gift of God's grace instead of wrath is available to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike. This is truly good news!
Chapter Summary:
Romans 3 begins with a question-and-answer scheme. These are responses one might expect from someone opposed to what Paul wrote in Romans 2. Next, Paul quotes from a series of Old Testament passages. These Scriptures show that those writers also agreed that nobody, not one person, deserves to be called righteous. Paul declares emphatically that no one will be justified by following the works of the law. Finally, though, he arrives at the good news: righteousness before God is available apart from the law through faith in Christ's death for our sin on the cross.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter explained that God's judgment on sin will come to all men, whether or not they understand the literal law. Faith in God, in the heart, matters more to God than rote obedience. At the start of this chapter, Paul answers a series of questions from an imagined objector to those teachings. Next, he quotes a series of Old Testament passages which support His teaching that human beings are by nature sinful. Each of us turns away from God. Nobody can be justified by the law, Paul insists. Fortunately, it is possible to attain God's righteousness: but only by His grace, through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sin on the cross. We must come to this by faith, and it is available to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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