Presently, for my local church, I’m in the midst of a preaching series on the book of Romans, called All Roads Lead to Romans. And the next sermon is on one of my three favorite passages in Romans: chapter 3:21-31. Without going into too much detail, I want to highlight the “turning point” phrase in Paul’s argument. That phrase is just two words:
This phrase is found right at the beginning of the passage; it’s the first two words of Romans 3:21. I call it the “turning point” because, well, it represents the moment where Paul allows the case he’s been building from 1:18 to 3:19 to, finally, unfurl.
His case, up to this point, goes something like this: human righteousness has signally failed—both Gentile and Jewish righteousness. His concluding verses in the case—the verses that appear just before the crucial “But now” phrase—read like an irrefutable summation of human history and endeavor:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (3:19-20).
Jesus immediately and permanently changes the most hopeless of human situations.
Note the language carefully: under the law, every mouth, all the world, guilty before God. Paul is not mincing words here; the world—the whole world—is in trouble and in trouble deep. He’s painted a bleak, desperate picture of human righteousness and of any hope built on that righteousness. He summarizes his argument with a picture of a person in an ancient courtroom who has been presented with irrefutable evidence of his own guilt: he would cover his mouth. Why? Because there was nothing that could be said in his defense; he was guilty, he was condemned.
Then our phrase, our hope-filled, destiny-changing phrase: But now.
And the short version of Paul’s argument in 3:21-31 looks like this: But now, Jesus!
Jesus immediately and permanently changes the most hopeless of human situations. Jesus reverses our history, rewrites our present, and forges our future. Jesus’s faithfulness changes everything for you, for me, and for the world. He is the great “But now!”
Let Jesus rewrite your story, beginning right now, with that same grand phase: But now, Jesus!