21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)
Paul used the universal application of the law as a set up for the universal application of the gospel. Just as he started the last section on law with “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven,” he transitions now with “the righteousness of God has been manifested (revealed) apart from the law.”
Apart from the law. The law brings wrath, faith in Christ bring grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forth as a propitiation. People are always trying to find a means of propitiation with God. This used to be in great part what sacrifices were about for people. Trying to ingratiate oneself to God, or the gods they would sacrifice animals to get right with God. Today the sacrifices tend to be of another sort. Much of modern society is built upon trying to satisfy and get right with the wrong God, but Self can be a much crueler task master, especially as Self is usually bowing to the gods of other Selfs, and very concerned about what they think. We talk about trying to find ourselves, get at peace with ourselves. And in bipolar fashion we find ourselves lashing out at others and withdrawing into ourselves, and then trying to find approval from others, validation etc from the very same people we claim not to care about. It’s no good. Trying to ingratiate ourselves to God himself can be even harder in ways. The lines of communication are perhaps muddied. So we are never sure if we have done enough. At least with our friends and family we can see we put a smile on their face. We never see God’s face, we look through a glass darkly. We never get back direct feedback, at least not the kind of direct feedback a person who sets off to appease God wants to have. We do have his word. He speaks to you concretely there. And there he confirms that the ache at the bottom of your soul perpetually hints at, you haven’t managed. You attempts at satisfaction, your attempts at ingratiation, your attempts at propitiation have not been good enough. They have failed. But God makes his own act of propitiation on your behalf, he puts forward his Son Jesus Christ. Here is a sacrifice born by love that fulfills the law, a love that has loved you more than it loved Self, a love that completely emptied itself on your behalf before God. Here is our propitiation before God, our satisfaction. Here is the end of all our attempts to ingratiate ourselves to God. Here God shows his grace to us, redeeming us from our bondage to sin death and the devil through his son Jesus Christ. Now nothing else matters, here is a peace that surpasses all understanding, because it is not fickle like the peace between bipolar sinners trying to keep themselves and others happy. Here is a peace that never ends, a peace God made with sinners when sinners were unable to make peace for themselves.